W. CAITLIN SMITH

DOULA, PILATES, YOGA, DANCE, ART, TRAIL RUNNING

Monday, June 24, 2013

Joy

Just a few days ago Sam and I were out running on Skyline Blvd in Oakland. A car came quickly around the corner and not expecting us, it swerved into the other lane. I heard a bunch of cursing from behind us and soon realized a bicyclist had been in that other lane. She started rudely attacking and lecturing Sam and I as if we had been in the wrong. Sam being the nice guy he is tried to make sure she was okay. She continued ranting at us about being out running. I couldn’t keep my mouth shut. I didn’t want to curse, so in the most sarcastic voice I could find I told her to “have a GREAT day!” She yelled back in a sarcastic voice, “YOU TOO!”

Even though Sam and I passed two other pleasant guys on our run that rude lady wouldn’t get out of my mind. That’s the kind of thing that pisses me off about moments like that they can ruin your day. One small rude moment distracts you from all the good ones. I refused to let that happen, but still we’ve all had moments where it has. The same thing can happen with racing. One small rough patch can stand out more than all those good moments. My goal for Grandma’s Marathon was to find those small joyful moments and try to ignore those uncomfortable ones.

I found several: the simple sound of people’s feet on the pavement, when I almost cried just hearing someone blare Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah from a boom box, getting encouragement for Laurie Knowles as she saw me struggling around mile 23, seeing only a few feet of Lake Superior as the rest was lost in a blanket of fog, my breathing, being held afloat by a volunteer as I teeter-tottered at the finish line, and being greeted with my sweat bag and a carnation from a girl that couldn’t have been older than ten.

Before Grandma’s Marathon on Saturday the inevitable 18 mile mark was my biggest concern. And there is no doubt that I struggled in those last 8 miles, but I wasn’t going to drop, I wasn’t going to walk, and I wasn’t going to be disappointed. I was going to power through trying to stay in the moment, focused on doing the best I could do, and trying to keep the sense of joy I felt in the first 18 miles. Not easy, but it got me to the finish line. It is a little bit of a blur when I look back on the race. I had my fueling down (I highly recommend a 5oz soft flask mixed with two GUs). I had good company until the half-marathon mark with Laurie Knowles and two other evenly paced guys. Then I ended up in a no man’s land, surprise, surprise. I felt anxiety creep up as I approached mile 15, 16, and I tried to focus on my breath. But then my feet started to hurt. Ignore them. Keep running. Oh no, the calves… my calves are tightening. Mile 17. Oh shit, there are my hips… the hips are tightening. Keep running, keep moving. I did everything I could to just keep the focus on getting to the end even if I knew my stride was shorter and slower. Even in the last stretch I tried to surge, but that was it. I gave what I could. But damn those last 8 miles!  

When I got across the line I teeter tottered and I was held afloat by a volunteer’s shoulder. She helped me walk off the lightheadedness. Then as quickly as I could I got my sweats on and walked back to the hotel. Showered as quickly as I could and then off to the airport to catch a flight to North Carolina in hopes of catching the tail end of a wedding reception. Flights were on time and the next thing I knew I was at a wedding reception and sipping on champagne. Just a few hours later I almost forgot I had run a marathon that morning. The discomfort I felt in the last bit of the race had dissipated and I was in disbelief that I was in humid Chapel Hill. But, regardless I kept thinking about those last 8 miles.

In the big scheme of things they were difficult and I persevered. Those last 8 miles have been a continuous weak spot, both mentally and physically. I may not have hit a PR on Saturday or figured out those final miles, but I learned to run with joy again. That’s what carries me regardless of the negative moments in both life and running. And I can’t help but sense a breakthrough soon. 

I’m very grateful to several people who helped me get to that finish line on Saturday. I am lucky to know Greg Hexum, a fellow Salomon athlete, who lives in Duluth, MN. He gave me a tour of the course, he drove me to the airport post race, and he was even thoughtful enough to get me lunch. When we were out touring the course he had mentioned something about running with joy. Thanks for that reminder, over the last 10k I might not have looked very joyful, but I was over those first 20 miles and inside I was still beaming even when it hurt. My coach, Mark McManus, has assisted me with my training and focus. I was able to take the pressure off myself in those last 8 miles and focus on shortening the race into fragments because of our pre-race talk. My boyfriend, Sam Robinson, helped me break through my rough patch in racing. Without his continued support and rabbit duties in Traverse City, Michigan, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to push through. Of course friends, family, and everyone else who believes in me often more than I do, thank you!

Thanks to Grandma’s Marathon for an amazing event. The volunteers and organization was absolutely incredible. Thanks to Infinite Running for supporting my road racing. Thanks Salomon for my favorite rain jacket and gloves. They came in handy in the foggy, rainy weather in Minnesota!

Now onto more joyful moments!

  

Photo Courtesy of Robert Schroeder Photography

2 comments:

willgotthardt said...

Fav pic.

R Brillantes said...

Congratulations, coach Caitlin on your win and CR yesterday at La Sportiva Table Rock! (I was a vol.) Congrats Will on the finish and also GG win last week. Cheers, Rosanna