What a month it's been.
In early March, our family was crammed into a house that was wonderfully spacious when my husband and I moved into it in 1998. It was just the two of us, and our furbabies-our chocolate lab, Wilson, and our dalmatian, Dots. The space was huge compared to our postage stamp sized house up in Carbondale, and we didn't know what to do with ourselves. Four children and ten years later, though, and you had a different story.
I was also getting ready for my second half marathon at Canyonlands in Utah. My oldest daughter was also making her "long" race debut in the 5-mile sister race. My winter consisted of many late-night treadmill runs at the gym down the street-not something I particularly enjoyed. I'd rather be running outdoors any day, but between short daylight hours and family activities, I did what I had to do.
Fast forward ahead about a month. Here we are in our new house, which is almost twice the square footage as the home from which we moved. Moving was an adventure, to say the least. Anything that could go wrong did seem to go wrong, but most of these problems were worked out in time. Internet was hooked up, satellite was finally installed correctly after four botched attempts. The kids, who hated sharing rooms at the old house, suddenly thought it was neat to have sleepovers in one sibling or another's room, and begged for group shower parties in our new master shower. It was strange to see these children, who thought they just wanted to be alone, going out of their way for togetherness time.
Our dogs came over to the new digs, as well, and it was exciting to offer them a place with a dog run on the side of the house, separate from the yard, and a nice, temperature controlled garage where they could eat meals and then sneak out the side door to said dog run. It was great to give them space if they wanted it, where they wouldn't have to be hounded by the kids if they just wanted somewhere to retreat to.
That warm fuzzy feeling didn't last long, though. Dots had dealt with a serious infection a few months back, but after a second opinion from a local veterinarian, we were able to get him on medication that allowed him to get somewhat better. Shortly after arrival in the new house, though, we watched our previously spunky and mischievous dog go into a rapid deterioration, losing weight, stopping eating, and eventually being unable to move. Just months before, he'd been about as active and healthy as you'd expect an older dog to be, but on our son's fourth birthday we were forced to put down our much loved dalmatian, who was literally wasting away in front of us.
I know it was the right thing to do, but the fact that this forced good-bye came upon us so quickly made it exceptionally tough to take. He was supposed to ride out his years here in our dream family house and going for walks on the trail right across the street. Instead, I've been having to explain to the kids that Dots got very sick and died, and that we couldn't even wait for them to be home from school to say good bye because it would have been cruel to force him to suffer another minute. We're just trying to find solace in the fact that he's now somewhere living out a pain-free existence, not sick or hurting.
As far as happier good-bye's go.....I have said sayonara to the treadmill for the season. Hamster wheels don't exactly inspire me nor do they provide breathtaking backdrops to keep one's self going during a difficult run. I do have to say that because I hated the treadmill so, I often pushed myself harder so that I could be done faster.
All that winter treadmill work paid off the day I ran my second half marathon in Moab on March 8th. I ran my first half marathon last fall at a pace that was too conservative for the first half, and then decided to go for it, running the second half at a pace that I was surprised to be able to maintain. This time, my strategy was better (not that I even had a strategy the first time). Go out hard, maintain the pace as long as possible, and aim to finish sub-1:50. That would be a huge chunk off of my first half, but I knew the faster course lended itself toward my goal if I could have a good race.
This time, I was flying solo, unlike in October when I participated as a Team Tiara member, fundraising and running for our local Girls on the Run council. Various health issues, schedule conflicts and life in general meant that none of my regular training partners were doing the race, so I rode the bus solo to the start, shivered and waited to get moving on that frigid, overcast day.
I also thought about my oldest daughter, who was a lucky lottery winner (they draw participants for Canyonlands), and starting half an hour ahead of me, down the road, in the 5-miler. She's young, but seems to love getting out there to race as much as I do. I hoped that this would be an enjoyable experience for her. She was running with a good friend of ours from the running club, a 74-year-old cancer survivor who is in damn good shape for anyone of any age, and seems to consistently pace within a few seconds of her at local races.
I put myself into a whole new world of hurt at this race. Maybe it was the cold that sent me off to an exceptionally fast start, maybe it was the downhill course. Who knows. It felt good, though-and I decided to stick with it as long as I could, figuring that if I couldn't stick with it, I'd still have a positive net gain time-wise.
Miles 1-10.5 were great. Not easy, not comfortable at all, but I was doing it and holding pace. The last 2.5 miles are a different story, though. I fought and struggled to keep going, and dropped off the pace somewhat. I was loudly talking to myself during the last tenth of a mile. The time clock was visible and my time goal was within reach but I didn't know if I was going to be able to sneak in. I must have looked like a nut but it's what I needed to do to keep going. When I crossed the finish line with a gun time of 1:49:XX and a chip time of 1:47:XX, I was DONE. I couldn't have gone another ten feet. I did it, though! Ten minutes off my PR. Within minutes, I felt great-the pain of finishing was a distant memory already, and I'd completed this training cycle with my goal achieved.
I'm looking ahead now in this time of transition. Most of my running friends and some of my regular friends know that I will soon register for the 2008 Marine Corps Marathon. Years ago, my goal might have been to "just finish" the event. There is certainly NOTHING wrong with that goal, and I believe that the huge boom in running and marathoning in this country is a GOOD thing when we're the fattest nation on the planet. It's a major accomplishment, no matter the time, and something that each marathoner should take pride in completing.
MY goal, however, is not to "just finish." I'm not spending early mornings or late nights away from my family and friends, nor are we all going to travel across the country by airplane for me to just finish. My goal is to earn a trip to the 2009 Boston Marathon in a little over a year by finishing my first marathon in 3:45:59 or less, the maximum allowable Boston qualifying time for a 35-39 year old female. I add the :59 grace seconds because I need ALL the help I can get-extra seconds, the descent from Colorado to sea level-heck, wind to my back would be greatly appreciated on top of what is going to be a very demanding training plan that I have chosen.
A Boston qualifying marathon time sounds like a crazy goal for a woman who in late 2006 was sporting an extra 50 pounds, and exhausted after jogging 30 seconds. Somewhere along the way, though, I started believing in myself, and thinking this was something I COULD achieve if I applied myself, trained hard and stayed focused on my goal. I NEVER in a million years thought I could be one of "those runners" and there's no guarantee that I'll ever qualify for Boston-but it's invigorating and satisfying to know that I said good bye to that girl who lacked confidence and used to say what she couldn't do. Now I look ahead saying "I'll try my best and work my hardest to achieve that goal."
That's all one can really do in life, anyway....while I might not achieve that goal, I'm looking forward to beginning marathon training, and the journey ahead, with stops in Washington, D.C., and hopefully the starting line in Hopkinton MA. And while I am sad and feeling empty inside without Dots here, I also feel so lucky that he was with our family for ten years. He was there when my kids began their life's journeys, and while we're beginning a new chapter of our lives without him, it still enriched our lives to have him in our family as long as we could.