As previously announced, my marathon-induced excitement in June led me to register for the VB Half-Marathon scheduled for Sunday, September 6, two days after my 34th birthday. I think this was a fitting ending to my sporadic attempts at “Year to Live” (started in part because 33 struck me so strange), because a marathon was certainly one of those accomplishments that I had running (HA!) around in the back of my head as something I would do before I died, and, moreover, the introspection of “Year to Live,” though I stopped posting as such sometime last winter, led me to the realization that the drinking had to go once and for all. And it did.
So, how would I live my life with only a year? I ran a marathon. And then a half marathon. I ran the second with one of my dearest friends and the person who is most responsible for marathon becoming a part of my working vocabulary. I arrested the worst of my habits (drinking) and began work on the other (that of being quick to anger). I spoke of my alcoholism openly with a family member for the first time (thank you, Rikki) and learned that honesty about myself and my failures is indeed a valuable and beautiful feature of this existence. I’ve met charming, strong-willed, hilarious people who inspire me to do better and to cheer them on in their endeavors. I met a dog and a kitten who have added themselves to my herd and charmed their way into my heart. I met my hero (Hi, Duff!), who called my writing inspirational (?!) and called me “Fuckin’ Kris” (yeah, that rocked).
33 was not all wonderful news. I was broken, depressed, panicked, struggling, and scared. But, hell, I’m still here.
Let’s just say that 33 was a fuck of a year and be done with it, shall we?
I’ve clearly turned a corner of sorts, as evidenced by my birthday gifts: Body Glide (best stuff on earth), a new training log, new running socks, and a new running gear bag (as my duffel looks a bit, um, ruined, these days). No, no marathon, but close.
Two days after surviving 33, I ran a half-marathon in the closest place I have to a hometown, Virginia Beach, VA. While the city’s denizens showed their asses almost from the get-go (ah, so good to be welcomed home by pricks), the city is beautiful–tree-lined streets, huge beach…it really is lovely, and I tend to forget that when I am away. When I originally mentioned the run here (was it here?) or somewhere online, my buddy Madeline said she’d run with me. And, she did. Fabulously, I might add.
The race course was, as advertised, flat and fast; though, really, you’d have to work your ass off to find hills in VB,* so flat isn’t that much of a stretch there. The route begins at the Virginia Beach Convention Center,* which, so far as Madeline and I could figure, is intended to look like a rolling wave, heads out toward Croatan (the pink hats were fabulous, neighborhood!, though I’m afraid that Harbor Point’s faux-Rastafarians were a bit more fun, AND, they had hoses), through the residential part of Camp Pendleton, and then back to the Oceanfront and onto the Boardwalk (which was awesome). Good scenery, excellent organization with the hydration stations, and a remarkably uncluttered run, given that we were running with about 22,000 15831 (that’s the number who finished the race. I’m not sure how many started, though they said 22,000 repeatedly. It was still a whole wad of folks, either way) people (though, as Madeline rightly observed, we probably logged an additional 13.1 miles going AROUND people).
I beat my goal time of 2:30 by about 44 seconds (2:29:16), which makes me quite happy, and, better, Madeline and I ran each split faster as the race went on, going from 11:50 by the first split at the 5K point to 11:24 as we headed into the final stretch. I’m very pleased with the results, and I totally owe Madeline here, since her presence kept me from sliding into the Gremlin-mind that has hampered me since I fell in July.
We ran the sucker, save for the hydration stations, which we walked, in part for survival purposes and in part because, quite frankly, running while drinking isn’t such a pretty combination for me. In fact, walking and drinking isn’t such a good idea, but it gets the job done (if somewhat messily).
I met Madeline something in the vein of 14 years ago, when we were undergraduate students at Norfolk State University. She often accuses me of being responsible for her graduate studies (as in, it’s my fault she got into that racket), and while I probably do bear a bit of that weight, she always struck me as the one of the two of us who really belonged in grad school. I can’t count the number of times something she said sent me off into research mode, trying to chase down whatever rabbit she’d set in front of me. Everything I knew about Irish protest fasting came from Madeline, and, let me tell you, it was a godsend when I got to grad school and took a course in Modern Irish Literature. If that was the most memorable of them, it was certainly not the only rabbit I chased. She read my terrible poetry, and even did so with kindness. She listened (and how) and dreamed and was one of the most substantial influences in my undergrad years–and then into grad school, though we followed quite different paths there. When Madeline blogged about marathoning several years ago, I was awestruck and terribly jealous, assuming I could do no such thing. But, her posts about running and the importance of running to her stayed with me, and when the time came for me to grab hold of something external to pull myself out of the self-induced tailspin, those posts and the marathon memories she shared provided the rope I badly needed.** In other words, I hold her ENTIRELY responsible for the marathoning–and I owe a huge debt of gratitude as a result, so, thank you, Mad, from the bottom of my heart.
Last night, as I nursed my sore hamstrings and did my first post-race yoga workout (another Mad inheritence for me, if memory serves correctly), I found myself far more physically strong than I still give myself credit for. I still assumed that some of the asanas that I’ve historically struggled with would remain out of reach–and some were–, but the majority, in fact some of the ones I have struggled with most, were not. And this was with post-race and post-drive home stiffness!
And then there were the 110 crunches: new goal 500/day. Working toward it.
So, onward and forward. I’m taking a bit of a breather from training and doing more cross-training for a while, in order to strengthen and not get bored. I’m signed up for a 5K on Halloween, and I expect to do other races here and there, but I am on the lookout for the next big one–probably not Phoenix (need to decide one was or the other) for the marathon, but maybe the half there (or Nashville) and perhaps the Shamrock Marathon in March. Definitely VB again in September 2010!
Until then, here’s to running my way through a new year. Wonder what kind of trouble I can find in 34????
* Seriously. It is pancake flat there–they built the only hill of any substance out of trash. Check out Mt. Trashmore if you’ve never seen it. Quite a cool place. Ignore, however, the remark about trail maps on the link. Such are really unnecessary.
**Jokes about rope and it’s ability to pull or hang are perfectly appropriate here. I got lucky with this one.