It’s been a while since I’ve updated my blog. Since April 2, 2012, I’ve set a new marathon PR in Maryland, visited the South of France, run a 50K trail ultra-marathon in Oregon and training with some of the greatest folks through lululemon Chicago. Why am I updating now? One word: SeaWheeze. Back in May after I’d come back from vacation, I received an e-mail reminder about the lululemon SeaWheeze half marathon. The more I thought about it, I figured why not so I signed up.
Weeks had passed and something that I vowed wouldn’t happen at my current job started to occur again. I began to become consumed with work. My weeks had more travel packed in them, my mind became occupied with what I needed to pack, where my reservations were that week, expenses, laundry, dry-cleaning, meetings, juggling customers, deadlines. I still kept up with running and my run group, but felt something was missing. It finally came to me; it was my post marathon depression. Being a compulsive person drives me to push myself and put 100% into whatever I need to achieve. For months leading up to the Potomac River Run Marathon, I trained hard and achieved my goal, a new marathon PR of 3:12. I went on vacation directly after my marathon but after the vacation, it was getting that fix to start training and racing again. I still had my 50K coming up in July in Ashland, Oregon. A 50K trail ultra through the mountains was definitely something challenging right?
My long runs, training runs and everything in between leading up to the 50K had come and go, the days had gotten closer and before I knew it, July 12th had come. As I landed in Portland, I said this is it; this is exactly what I need. I was away from it all, no laptop, no internet connection, nothing. The five hour drive from Portland to Ashland was nothing short of beautiful. A stop was made in Eugene to get a little inspiration at Hayward Field. Once we arrived in Ashland, we were amazed. No buses, no traffic, just nature and the opportunity to take it all in.
The next morning during the drive to the race, I didn’t have the pre-race jitters I usually have. 7000 feet atop Mount Ashland I could see for miles. The start of the race was small, no more than about 300-400 people. As 6:30AM hit, we all took off running for the hills, 50K of single trail, elevation and some tough terrain. Ultra marathons are very solitary and reflective. There aren’t crowds to cheer you on, aid stations are 5-6 miles away, and all your senses are heightened. For me it’s a period of self-reflection, almost like an active meditation if you will. Even though I was out in the middle of beautiful wildlife, I knew that after this was all done, there was that lingering personal rut I was in.
For the next five hours, I thought hard about what I needed to do to get out of it. Towards the end of the race it hit me, why not run the SeaWheeze three times? I wasn’t even done with my race and I was already thinking of the next one. In my mind doing something even more extreme would help because for me, running is cathartic. This would help me get out of my rut and start working towards something new. I could treat my 50K as a training run and start gearing up to run 39.3 miles in Vancouver. Perfect, this is exactly what I need, or so I thought. I didn’t lose mind of my 50K though, it still was tough and I felt a great sense of accomplishment finishing it. Spending time with my friends and Mary, before, during and after made the race worthwhile. As soon as I got home from my 50K I emailed the SeaWheeze race directors about my idea to run race three times. I began training to run 39.3 miles and focused on August 11, 2012 in Vancouver. After a couple of weeks, the SeaWheeze team got back to me. Unfortunately, they couldn’t accommodate my request this year. I was definitely discouraged. What was I going to do now? I had been training for 39.3 miles and now what? I convinced myself that there’s always next year to do it and that was my consolation.
The weeks leading up to the SeaWheeze were full of intense travel, it was business as usual and my priorities followed. Thursday August 9th was a long day, it started 5:00AM AST in Phoenix, connected to Chicago 12:15PM CST for a four hour repacking layover, back to O’Hare at 4:00PM for a 5:55PM flight that was delayed for two hours and finally got into Vancouver 10:20PM PST. By the time I hit the bed at the hotel I had nothing left. I woke up the next morning like I hadn’t slept. It was one of those sleeps where you close your eyes; open them and its five hours later. We headed to the expo early to avoid the mass chaos. By the time we arrived, there were already large crowds picking up their packets and huge lines for the expo store. Even with all the people, we were able to find a friend from Chicago, Shenna, at the expo. From that point on, the mood changed; we all made an effort to not to try, not to plan, not to control, and just to live in the moment.
We walked around Vancouver and explored everything it had to offer. The theme for the day was outdoors; anything we did, we made sure it was outside. The day consisted of water taxis, lunch outdoors, fresh seafood sandwiches, sangria, beer, walking around Granville Island, more water taxis, the lululemon Lab, exploring Gastown, the best deviled eggs, bottles or rose and more beer. We did more in one day than most people would do in a weekend of visiting Vancouver. The last thing on our mind was the half marathon the next day; it was about living in the moment.
I haven’t woken up more refreshed and ready for a run. At the race start, it was a relaxed mood, my mind was right and everything was in place. The energy at the start of the race was amazing. As soon as the race started, something was different. I didn’t have that sense of urgency to finish, that feeling to try to run harder than the last race. Even though I had run 26 marathons and 7 ultra-marathons, something was definitely different. I truly set a goal just to have fun, to find that happiness and solace that I found in running. I realized I hadn’t lost it; I just spent too much energy trying to find it again. For 13.1 miles, I high-fived everyone that I could, hugged everything dancing fish, chest bumped every dancing beaver, stopped to pet an English bulldog, jumped and tapped my heals in front of every camera; basically I had more fun with a race than I’ve had in a long while. This race was for me, it wasn’t about setting a PR, pacing someone else, it was to make the run for me. For once I didn’t focus on my Garmin or my splits; when I crossed the finish line I stopped my watch right at 1:30.
The rest of the day was just as great. The concert after the race was with Hey Ocean and FUN. The concert venue was a postcard view along Vancouver Harbour with Whistler in the background. I had a chance to meet the winner of the half marathon, connect with some ambassadors from across the country, make new friends and most importantly bond with Mary. Afterwards, we met up with the rest of the Chicago crew and hit the town. As everyone talked, ate, drank and laughed, I thought to myself this is what it really is about. Before, I was trying to find something in 39.3 miles. I was trying to push myself to get to that next level and find validation. In the end it really was simple, sometimes it isn’t about the next PR, the next big race, how far your can run, it is just about living in the moment. All it took was a half marathon to realize it.