Tonight we leave for Steamtown. It's a long drive, so we are going up halfway, using my parents' house a hotel (thanks Mom and Dad!) and then continuing on to Scranton on Saturday morning.
Two weeks ago, I felt like I was going to kick the crap out of this race.
Today, I am feeling extremely anxious.
My right knee is bothering me, which is really disturbing. Neither of my knees has ever ached in the way that it has been for the past 10 days or so. I can only hope that it holds in there until I cross the finish line on Sunday. After that, it can crap out if it wants to.
I'm discovering that coordinating the needs and wants of a group of five runners headed to an out of state marathon is kind of stressful. I, for instance, have discovered that red sauce and pasta are just not a good idea for me the night before a long run. Guess what they are serving at the Pasta Dinner? Therefore, I need to fall back on my old pre-race staple of a steak and baked potato... but that doesn't work for everyone either.
That's just one example.
This work week has been incredibly busy and stressful - and the next three weeks are looking the same. I haven't been able to focus on a game plan, write a packing list, or anything else. If it wasn't for the fact that I have my crew constantly reminding me that the marathon is this weekend, I would have forgotten. I hope that worries about work don't affect my mindset over the weekend.
BUT it's not all bad news bears.
The weather forecast is looking pretty decent. Partly sunny, low of 42 and high of 62. Pretty prime running weather.
Even though it seems stressful to coordinate everyone, I know having the crew together at the race will be a great experience.
I'm really looking forward to the course - I expect that it is going to be just beautiful and a joy.
Despite my wonky knee, I do think I am in the best shape I've ever been in. As long as I can put that out of my mind (or it settles down), I think I can PR this race.
This morning, Sensei and I had one of our transcendental morning runs at Belle Isle. We stopped at my favorite overlook spot in all of Richmond just in time to catch the sunrise. At first the sky was blue and clear, and then suddenly everything became warm and pink - like being inside of a lovely spool of pink cotton candy.
Just looking at the photos gives me goose bumps again. I'm so thankful for that run this morning - as always, a Belle Isle sunrise reminds me of all of the gifts that this sport has given to me and makes me grateful for it.
I have tried to not worry too much or puzzle over strategy, the course, or trying to obsess over every detail of the coming task. At this point, the cake is in the oven and there is nothing that I can do to dramatically change what is going to happen on Sunday. The hard work has been done, the training cycle finished. 26.2 miles are waiting in Pennsylvania and all I have to do is show up and put one foot in the front of the other until I'm finished.
All that remains is pulling the cake out on Sunday and taking a big old bite to see how it turned out.
So, what are my goals for Steamtown? Well, I'd love to PR. I think it is possible. I have a secret audacious time goal that I am not going to share publicly until afterwards. I don't want to jinx myself. So my public goal is to beat Richmond's 3:57:24.
Strangely, I want to suffer at Steamtown. As in, I want to know that I gave the race my all. It sounds crazy, but Richmond was far too pleasant last year. I ran conservatively (as I should have for my first marathon) because I was afraid of the unknown. Raleigh was horrible because of factors beyond my control, but gave me some grit and showed me that marathons can be really NOT fun. I certainly put forth more effort in Raleigh, but I didn't push myself to suffer unnecessarily.
At Steamtown, I want to do my best to restrain myself and not burn up my legs on the downhill, then run hard for the rest of the race. I want to feel spent. I want to push myself and see what I can really do when I put in all of my effort. I want to cry with relief when I see the finish line - not only because I'm becoming a marathoner again, but because I have used every last bit of energy in me and need to stop.
I need to run selfishly and I want everyone else to do the same. Even though it is hard for me to do, I need to run my own race and not feel compelled to stay at a pace (whatever it is) that isn't mine. There's nothing I love more than finishing with one of my friends beside me, but this time, I need to see what I am capable of.
I'm not sure what will happen in Steamtown, but I know two things: that my friends will be with me and that means that I will be ok no matter what and that I will learn something important about myself too.
Let's hope it's not that I have a bum knee and that Steamtown turns out to be a delicious cake indeed.
I'll close with the pun that has defined my training season:
FULL STEAM AHEAD.
See you all on the other side.