Well, the weekend was great and satisfying in several ways. Going into it, I really wanted to see my blog-mates face to face after so much online bonding. I wanted to finish that race and put it behind me. I wanted a break from what’s going on at home. I wanted a little trip away and some perspective. I feel like I reached those goals and more.
The race was interesting and also torturous as races usually are for me. My blog-mates and I discussed the competitive urge as it appears in these circumstances, and my competitive nature certainly comes out when I start a race. I used to be much more competitive in most areas of my life, but now, it is mostly contained in the arena of board games (which I rarely play because no-one will play with me anymore) and running. I think one of the reasons I prefer to run alone is because that way, I only compete with myself. It feels good to push myself toward a specific goal I’ve set and dedicate myself to reaching it. Before the race, I felt the usual obsessive anxieties coming on. I had been trying to downplay the race in my mind, but I knew I was going to be disappointed if I didn’t reach my goal. I was unsure about my clothes, my legs felt tight with soreness in my quads, and the rain threw me off completely. I was worried about all sorts of things, from not knowing the course to dealing with the large crowd to going out too fast to falling or getting injured. I wanted to settle down and go with the flow, but not having any experience at this distance made me feel all a-flutter. Kristen and her friend S. were great as they were so calm and collected at the start and so positive and encouraging. It felt wonderful to feel like I was part of a team.
When we started the race, I quickly found myself in a tight spot, and I started to panic as I felt very pinned in by the crowd around me. I have always noticed how, in races, I tend to end up being a lone runner between two groups ahead or behind me, but it wasn’t until this moment of feeling stuck that I realized I probably subconsciously seek this separation out in some subconscious way. After about a half mile, I needed out, and so I made a desperate jerky move to get out of the middle of the pack and to the side of the road, where I finally felt like I could breathe. I didn’t care whether I had to speed up or slow down; I just knew I had to find a little space where I wasn’t going to get knocked down or hurt someone else by accident. Once I had a little space, I picked a woman who seemed to also be seeking space, and I followed her for most of the race. She seemed pretty consistent in her pace and a little faster than I would have felt comfortable running, so it was a good mental challenge for me to set my sights on, well, keeping her in my sight.
That woman helped me keep going; other runners came and went, but she and I did a little dance together, with her leading for most of the race except for one mile where she slowed down and let me take the lead only to reclaim it once the rain eased up a bit around mile 8 or 9. I lost her somewhere around mile 11 or 12, when I struggled the most as I had no sense of how much farther I had to run. The course mile markings were a little unpredictable, and I was not checking my splits along the way, so that woman–and knowing the 2:00 pacers hadn’t yet passed me–were the only things keeping me on track. At the end of the race, I felt very good to have finished; there was nothing left in me, as evidenced by my sudden urge to vomit once I stopped moving. The urge passed quickly, but it did make me feel sure that I had indeed done my very best. I have a new appreciation for marathoners, as I am sure there is no way I could have run another quarter mile, let alone another 13.1 miles.
Once the race was over, the real Richmond experience could begin without all my unnecessary running angst. I could relax and be with the Kristens and T. and with the two little girls, E. and A., whose innocent, joyful energy was exactly what I needed to get me out of my head and into the present moment. I relished watching and listening and taking in the scene at the house; it was lovely to feel absorbed into the flow of the household and witness how the family unit worked as well as how the Kristens related to each other. I found myself noting how much more comfortable and supportive we women of a certain age are than we might have been just 5 or 10 years ago–how easy it was to be open and relaxed with each-other. It was so nice to be spoiled with great food and attention–to let go of any agenda other than to catch up and re-connect.
One thing I did notice is how far I’ve come in my own sense of well-being since I last visited Kristen. At that time, I remember being impressed and feeling wistful about how well she had managed to organize her house, home life, and work/family relationships. I think it was at a time when I was heading into divorce; I remember feeling like I was so very, very far away from finding the sense of stability and order that I sensed at Kristen’s home. This time, I was able to appreciate that same sense of peace and note it as a familiar feeling now, one that I’ve cultivated in my own way with Newman and our children.
All in all, I loved hanging with the ladies and having some solid down-time. If I’d had more energy on Saturday night, I might have pushed a little harder to get our drinking/dancing selves to come out a little more, but I think we were all too satisfied with the great meal and having the run behind us to drum up any crazy party energy, a la Michael Jackson move-busting. That’s what I like about being almost 40; whether you party hard or hardly party, it’s all good. It’s great, in fact.
I cannot tell a lie; I am glad to be taking a few days off running and to turn the mileage down a notch in the next few weeks. I do plan on keeping up a training plan, though. I actually missed not being able to run today!
I will get back to regular runs and freewriting soon, but for now, I just feel satisfied at having had a really wonderful visit with my friends. And for today, that is more than enough.