Monday, June 23, 2008

A Reflection on the Weekend

The Moose Crew

More Moose

Thankfully this post was prepared on the 6 hour flight back from Anchorage. After a crazy and wonderful weekend up north, the trip back gave me a little time to reflect - and it wasn't until then that I had a chance to digest experience a little more. My thoughts came to me in the form of bullet points, it wasn't a chronological reflect. So my apologies for the disjointed recap - its the only way I have understood the trip.

Alaska Mountains

As I sit on the plane and write this, I struggle to believe that I have just spent four days up north. It seems surreal, and I can't quite pinpoint why. Maybe its the 23.5 hours of daylight that the city offered, or the 50 degree weather. I don't know. Maybe it was the break in my militant routine. Whatever the reason, it was relaxing.

Three quotes come to mind and provide a little structure...

Luck is when preparation meets opportunity - I think it's a Buddhist saying

We left Anchorage on Thursday at 7am. I was at the airport at 4:30am, frantically blackerry-ing my bosses until 10am (before and during our layover in Salt Lake), and by 2pm AK time (one hour behind Los Angeles), I was finally on vacation.

Friday was dinner at the Sour Dough Mining Co. Lots of breaded goodies and an excuse to carbo load.

Deliverance meets Chuck E Cheese

Kelly and Me and mostly likely some corn fritters

Friday's pasta party was emotional, nerve-racking and celebratory. Saturday's Victory Party was the same, without the nerves.

Liz and Jon at the Victory Party

Maia and Allegra

Moose Crew at the party

The night before the marathon I visualized myself running a 3:56:56. I don't know why that number stuck, but I kept it in my mind until I fell asleep. You know what they say, "If you put your mind to it..."

Find Your Limits and Exceed Them - Someone was wearing this on a shirt at the victory party. It's something that you could find on a shirt in a Big 5 or Sport Chalet, but when I read it, it resonated.

I ran a sub 4-hr race. Officially it was 3:56:25. In order to "break four" as its commonly referred to, you have to average a 9:06/mile pace for the entire 26.2 miles. I think I averaged an 8:59. This is shocking. Why? Because when I was 14 I couldn't run 3 miles without gasping for breath. Because three years ago I made myself get on a treadmill every day for 8 months and run 30 minutes. Because I am athletic, but not a runner.

But what I do have going for me is an obsessive nature and a desire to be the best. Both traits have souble edged sides that can slice you. But when applied positively, things can come together.

Everyone was nervous and chatty on the way to the starting line. We were on the bus. It was loud, people singing, laughing, getting their nerves out. At these moments I usually turn inward. Saturday was no different. I was quiet and kept thinking about the goal ahead. Going into the race, gathering with my teammates before the gun went off, I felt really confident. The weather was a perfect 50 and overcast, a little rainy even. If there was ever a time and place to exceed my own limits, it was then.

Miles 1-12 were great. Effortless, almost. Gorgeous wooded surroundings; chilly pine trees stirring from the rain. Crunchy gravel with a few obstinate peeble-boulders. Saw a baby moose about 20 minutes in. Apparently after we saw him, he ran into a fence. Everyone hits a wall during the marathon. Moose included.

I ran with Chris from miles 1.5 to 4. I had my watch prepped, I was doing math problems trying to figure out my averages and paces and walk breaks...etc. Chris told me to stop thinking and start running. Just stay comfortable. Just relax. I took his advice, eschewing intervals for simple running. Somewhere along the trip, in my mind, I dropped the "Coach" off of "Coach Chris". I just realized that.

Saw our ever-present, but admittedly not perky manager Rachel at miles 4 and 17. Made me appreciate how much familiar faces can boost your spirits when things are tough.

At mile 8 i had the closest thing to an out of body experience that I can describe. I wasn't floating overhead or anything (that would be cheating!). I was running, moving, fast. My body was working, but my mind was completely and pleasently disconnected. I became aware of the disjunction and for a moment, it was very cool.


At mile 13, the doubt started creeping it. It's that blackness in your gut and in your lungs that washes over you. It takes hold of a tiny, little crack in your confidence and begins ripping into you like a ravenous termite. (How's that for a description). Just when the doubtmite got ahold of me, I turned the corner and found Coach Kate, the coach of the San Fernando Valley team. Thank you Kate!! That is all I can say. Her spirit, attitude and enouragement was more of a boost than any gel, drink or pill could provide.

The second half of the race was mostly downhill (we had worked our way uphill for the first 15 miles).

It's amazing, in a blink of an eye, you finally see the light. It's amazing, when the moment arrives that you know you'll be all right - Rock on, Aerosmith.

Mile 20 introduced the beginnings of some pain. My legs hurt from the pounding. My breath was laborous. My shoulders were bulky. Chris caught me at mile 21.5. When I saw him I threw both my hand sin the air to wave. The yellow visor was, as usual, a welcome sight. But little did I know that the next five miles would be as painful as anything I'd every physically endured.

As we ran, Chris vowed to get in to the finish line under four hours. I had a cushion of time, but not too much. I'd been averaging an 8:59 pace.

We started to run faster, and that's when the yelling began. He jumped out about 10 paces ahead of me, and strung along a series of challenges. "Come on Emily" "Get your ass up here this is no time to fuck around" "Are you strong?!" "Stay with me Emily" "Let's go Emily we have to get moving"

I sped up to an 8:20 pace at one point. Ouch ouch ouch. I was fading, physically and mentally, but there was plenty of emotion (Anger, pain, exhaustion, hope) brewing inside of me.

At mile 24 Chris tapped into the motivations that broke down my breathing, but fired my final reserves up. "My daughter's name was Isabella" and "Javi's mom is fighting for her life." "Just 30 more minutes of pain and you are done" I literally stopped breathing, getting choked up. I have my many reasons to run, and close to the top of that list is Chris's story and Javier's story. Typing this up now, I still get a bit weepy. On the course, I did all I could to keep from collapsing.

At mile 25 he said "Only 9 more minutes of pain" and I consciously thought to myself "A chemo session is longer than 9 minutes. I can do this". I gave the last hill all that I had.

Chris stopped with .2 left to go. The participants had to finish ourselves. Finally he was yelling for me --cheering-- from behind.

I crossed the line, stopped running, curled into primitive fetal position and stagered through the shoot. I immediately found Liz, who finished a minute or so ahead of me. We shared our pains. Thank god the body forgets pain, because it was all-encompassing for a while.

Not accurate on any section, but close enough.

I have a big, tan head. And a big, heavy medal.

As you can see below, the pictures illustrate the gaps I have left in this story.

Did I mention that is was broad daylight at 11:30pm?
Night Time in Ancourage ... it's still bright on the bus (me and Maia)

That we spent the day at a glacier!
Lindsey, Kelly and Pete

Chris and Brett

Group Photo Op

Portage Glacier Lake area

Lindsey is always prepared

Portage Glacier moves 17 inches a day. If you squint and are really patient, it looks like its chasing you.

That the boys wore pink sweatshirts on their own accord!
Pre-Race Fashion

Are there lessons from this race, this weekend? From breaking through something and finding that once you acheive one goal, there is always be another to take its place? Always. I need to watch less TV and more time interacting with people. There is life outside of the Hollywood Entertainment Industry. I will always look to Chris and Javier's stories for inspiration. The time and effort (sacrifice) I make to improve will pay off in spades under the right conditions.

I'm spent. That's all she wrote.

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