Sunday, November 4, 2012

First Marathon, Coming Full Circle Again, and Next Marathon...Going Back to Cali!

Close to 10 years ago, I found myself ready to for my first marathon.  After taking a long break from any kind of racing after competing in track and cross country in high school and college, my running brain was saying "Yes, Let's do this!" I had never wanted to run a marathon before and I didn't know a thing about training for one but I figured it would be a fun thing to do during my last year before I got married, had kids and started a new chapter in life.  So, I googled marathon training and went with the first plan I found.  It happened to be a Hal Higdon plan.  It didn't really matter to me what plan I followed.  I had no goal other than to finish.  Then somehow I chose The Napa Valley Marathon as the marathon that would take my marathon virginity.

During my training for this first marathon, I spent most of my days after work running on the the treadmill at the gym since it was dark.  I would put the treadmill on a 1.0 incline and a speed of 7.5 (8:00 pace) and I would just run.  Then some stretching/pilates/weights and I was done.  I'm pretty sure I did at least one day of 800's or something like that and a long run in the forest by my city apartment. Most of my long runs were with a friend of mine that was training for the same marathon.  When we ran together, we ran these really sometimes even close to 10 minute pace.  I just went along with whatever he felt like he needed to run and we enjoyed conversation as we made our way through the winding forest paths.  Then I'd come home and enjoy my child-free life with a good beer and some couch time with my feet up while grading papers.  This training was a perfect routine to have in my life as I was planning a wedding, working through some emotional stuff (imagine! ) and burning off stress that came from still being a new teacher.

On race weekend, we drove down to Napa with our good friends (one of them running too).  This race was pressure free.  No expectations.  Just me in my oversized layered cotton t-shirts, perfect B cups (had to throw that in there somewhere even if it doesn't have anything to do with the marathon), shoes that I bought because they were on sale, and some shorts I'd worn for 10 years. Oh, and pretty sure I had on my normal cotton undies under my non-ideal/non-sweat wicking fabric running shorts that probably crept up the entire way.  I didn't know anything about :

  • fueling
  • running gear
  • arm warmers
  • racing shoes
  • compression sleeves
  • certainly had never seen a freaking sparkle skirt
  • running with music (pretty sure they didn't allow walkman cassette players on the course that year! ha!)  
  • pace plans
  • sweat wicking fabric
  • Garmins
  • Pace bands
Every mile of this marathon was liberating for me.  I was dealing with some big-to-me issues during that time in my life but as I ran through the open roads and saw the vineyards and fields with horses running free, my worries rolled away.  It was just me and my thoughts. A small marathon. Nobody out there cheering and few runners near me.  Just legs carrying me, face stretched out in a smile, sun breaking through the early morning fog...innocent and naive of what this thing called a Marathon was all about.  I didn't have a pacing plan or strategy.  Just a Timex watch that I looked at every 2 miles.  If I was under 16:00, I felt happy.  Sounded good to me. And stopping for two bathroom breaks?  No problem...after all, time wasn't an issue.  As far as fuel?  Well, I had one packet of GU that I "sipped" on throughout the race starting at mile 6.  There was no strategy.  

When I finished in 3:22:24, I was all smiles just for finishing.  I didn't have anything to compare this race to.  I was free of pressure or expectations.  I was just blissfully immersed in the feeling that came from completing my first marathon and getting lost on the roads of Napa...traveling with myself through 26.2 miles.  With every mile, I shed a little bit of worry or fear.  I stepped into myself.  

After the race, I found out that I had placed in my age group and someone informed me that I had qualified for Boston and asked me if I was planning on going.  I remember asking them why I'd go all the way to Boston for a marathon and what it was all about.  Ha!  After they informed me that you had to qualify and that it was a big deal, I decided "Why not?!  Sounds fun.  Yes, I'll do it." and I made plans to be in Boston in 2004.  

A section from my journal on my way home from Napa that weekend:

3-3-03 (this 3 thing is significant for later)
"....realizing my capabilities and life possibilities 
when I am able to unleash, separate my mind and body from my FEARS that seem to control too much of me."  

Next Marathon
2012 has been a big year for me.  Lots  has happened....big decisions, big races, injury, new relationships, decisions to move to a new place, traveling, meeting some dear friends...some big shifts in my world/soul/life.  I've definitely found myself at a crossroads of sorts and I'm excited for the new chapter that awaits me in 2013.  I'm certain that it will be extraordinary.  

As of now, I am registered for Boston 2013.  And we still plan on moving to Asheville, North Carolina  in March.  The more I've been thinking of how much is involved in really training hard for a marathon and what it is like to get to race day and want to do your best after so many weeks of gearing up, I realize that Boston just might not be the race for me to focus on.  It will right after we move, the kids will probably end up coming with us, I will be meeting up with several good friends that aren't running and I'd like the chance to relax more and enjoy my time with them instead of having a big A-goal race hovering over my head.  And so much more. 

So, after some thought, I've decided not to have Boston 2013 be my next focused marathon.  I still plan on being there and probably running for fun if my body says yes but I will be training for another pretty significant marathon that will be here in about 17 weeks.  

I'm going back to Cali!  I'm returning to Napa where this all started.  Returning to a place, a race, that provided such peace and clarity for my life almost 10 years ago.  And the more I think about this race, the more I'm certain it is FOR SURE the race I'm meant to train for.  In addition to being right before we move (how nice to have this training to focus on and keep me on track and feeling productive as we lead up to this big move), there are also some pretty neat NUMBER SIGNS that tell me that this race has some significance for me.  

Bear with me, I know some of you don't believe in signs and all that weird talk about serendipity and things being meant to be and the significance of numbers and symbols....blah blah blah.  And maybe I don't really either but whatever works in getting psyched up here.  Here are some of the big reasons why I find this race significant besides just the fact that it was my FIRST marathon and during a very BIG time in my life and now here I am coming full circle in a sense and read to start a new circle with our move to NC.  

I'm just going to include a group e-mail I sent to some friends/family of mine in regards to this:

"Okay, so on my wonderful run this morning I was thinking more about why I feel so pulled to do the Napa Marathon on March 3rd as my goal race instead of Boston.  More than just logical reasons...but I just have a bigger feelings about it.  So let's just say that you do believe in signs (which I do)...ha!  So, the more I ran this morning, the better I felt...injuries gone!  yay.  And the more I thought of little things that make this race interesting.

*  My mom and I were having sushi the other day and I told her that I look at the clock every time it is 9:09...her birthday and we starting talking about the significance of the number 9.  Has always been a present number in my life:  we used to live on 19192 E. 19th ave.  My birthday is nov. 9th, hers sept 9th, step dad march 9th, bros have 29 and 19.
*  As an adult, the number 3 has had some significance.  
*  Our address is 3333 
*  I am 33
*  Dad was 33 when he died
*  3 x 3 = 9 (my other number)
*  I have 3 kids
*  Napa wil be on 3-3-13 this year
*  Last time I ran it was 2003 
*  as I was thinking of all of these, I looked up at the treadmill and I was at exactly 3.33 miles.  
*  Pretty sure I'll run a time with at least one 3 in it. Maybe 2:  3:03 (ha!), 3:13, 3:23...3 options for that.  Let's not go to the 3:33...I'd rather that NOT be the case. Ha!  But it would make sense with this whole 3 thing.  I just hope that the marathon time is the exception of the 3 3 rule.  :)  
*  Get this...I started running in 1993.  Like really discovering the sport of running.  

I could think of other 3's in my life too that are silly.  

Sounds like signs are pointing to running this marathon before our big life transition with moving to Asheville.  Lots going on in my life the last time I ran Napa...the year I got married was that same year 2003...lots of work going on with me during that time in life March of 10 years ago. That marathon was so much more than just a was healing.  A coming home sort of thing for me...I'll write about it all someday.  I started with lots of questions and conflict and I finished feeling victorious at having finished my first marathon.  So, time to complete this circle and start a new lucky number with my next circle.  Maybe I'll change numbers every 10 years?  I wonder what it will be next. 

So, 18 weeks to Napa and lucky for me, I have a coach that will write up a perfect plan for getting me there if that's my final decision.  Thanks for humoring me and letting me share."

Let's add to this that I just realized that my journal entry on the way home from the Napa Marathon 2003 was written 3-3-03 and that I registered for Napa 2013 last night and not knowing that it was November 3rd.
My bib # for Napa 2003 started with a 3!

All signs pointing to YES.  So here we go....Napa Valley or Bust.  

1. Do you believe in signs?  
2. What was your first race or marathon?  
3.  Good places to stay during the Napa Valley Marathon?  

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  1. I love to read this. I really love how you went into this race with no expectations and just joy at yourself running, running away from stuff you were dealing with and into the future, working it through as you run. I can well understand how you feel that you would like to go back to a race that was such a breakthrough for you emotionally, not to mention athletically (3:22? I DREAM about a time like that!)

    Finding a race to focus on where you can go, just focus on the training and go for it and then using Boston as your fun / good / happy run - sounds like a great plan. 2013 is your year - in fact I think, given that your birthday is in 5 days, your next year (is it 33 or 34?) is your year. Bring it on sweet girl!

  2. ok,love this post,and i too believe in numbers and signs....3 is min e and my husbands number,specifically 333
    have fun with your training,and i know you will have fun at your race!!!

  3. Awesome, Amanda! I loved hearing about your first full- sounds very much like my first half... just running for fun with friends, following the first training plan we found online, no time goals, running for the pure enjoyment of it. It's good to remember that's how it all starts. So glad your injury is gone and you're feeling good and ready to train again!

  4. You ran a 3:22 with bathroom breaks and no expectations?! I bow! I don't think I believe in signs, but that's because they've never lined up like that for me. This, however, sounds like you must do it!
    I'm excited for Boston but Napa will probably be some big gigantic PR. I love reading your racing and training, so that's something to look forward to!

  5. I totally believe in signs and think this is just what you've been looking for. So excited for you!

  6. There's a lovely symmetry to you doing this. It does seem right. My marathon was on the 10:10:10 and I thought that was great - and it made it really easy to remember.

  7. This is such an Amanda post! As you know I don't believe in signs, but who cares? You do, and that is what matters! I love the story of your first marathon. I worked my a$$ for mine and only got a 3:45! Ha!
    Can't wait for Napa, can't wait for Boston, and can't wait to follow your training:)

  8. My "numbers" run…my dad was dying of Lung Cancer…I had been sidelined for 6 weeks after having a cancerous spot removed from my thigh. It was New Year’s Eve and we had gone to say goodbye to my dad..they did not think he would make it much longer. There was a Resolution run that night. I fought the biggest internal battle of my life that afternoon deciding whether to run it or not. I wanted to run…hadn’t trained. It was -8 that night….too cold for my running partner...who happens to be a dog. I wanted my sister to come….but it was selfish to ask to wait in the cold. I wanted to be alone….but I didn’t think I could be alone. I chatted with my BF on the phone as I went to register to run…I was on autopilot. The man shuffled through the race bibs…and pulled out #70 out of the middle of the stack. I just stood there and stared at him. He stared back. I fought back tears and immediately called my sister. I had make sure that I knew how old our dad was going to be….yep 70. I ran that night…ran across the snow…in the dark…in the wind. I knew my dad loved that I had taken up running. When I was ready to stop and walk (mainly so the race would not end) that #70 flipped up and hit me in the face…my gentle reminder to run. Not just that night but always. My sister showed up to cheer me on and my dad passed away a week later.

    1. Ah, Heather, thank you for sharing this story. chills reading it. Thank you.

  9. Bring on Napa!!! I truly believe this is the right decision for you for so many reasons! Your first month in Asheville will be a complete celebration now! No taper craziness mixed with a move!

    Laughing at the walkman cassette players...I remember the summer before my freshman year in college where I took up this very short running hobby (like 1 mile a day with walk breaks) in attempt to show up at college in prime physical condition-ha....Such a badass....I had a walkman that I would seriously strap to myself like a bomb so I could cassette of choice-En Vogue-ha ha! Makes me laugh....My clothes too! What the heck was moisture wicking???

    Anyway, I am so very excited for you as you start this training cycle!! Excited for you to have a focus and a goal to work toward and excited that you've made a decision that means something to you and you feel RIGHT about! Happy I will get a chance to celebrate with you in Boston!! SO SO very excited to see you:)

  10. Sooo I have a serious case of Napa Envy!!

    My first marathon was entirely on the beach-yes the beach! At least is was on packed sand but turned out to be rather mind numbing before I bonked and then a painful 3:36. Not bad for not knowing what I was doing:)

    I do believe in signs-if only I would pay more attention to them! Good luck with all you big changes! As I watched some athletes I coach finish a 70.3 the notion of getting out of your comfort zone became really apparent.

  11. So excited for you! This sounds like the perfect race and the perfect opportunity to run a PR. What an amazing full circle experience for you. Isn't it funny how much running has changed in such a short amount of time? It has evolved so much in the last couple of years- I can hardly keep up with all of the new gadgets.
    I am getting ready to take the plunge and sign up for a spring marathon. Makes me so nervous to think about, but it is time. I am ready to spread my wings- as long as my coach will hold my hand through the process. :-)

  12. The Napa course looks gorgeous!! I'm going to have to keep that one in mind for me sometime. ENJOY!

  13. I loved reading the story of your first marathon! I can't believe you ran a 3:22 without any expectations. Amazing!!

    I definitely believe in signs and 3 just so happens to be MY special number. This is all too perfect! The date, the timing, the point in your life, everything! I'm so excited for you!

  14. Very, very cool. I hope I can come and cheer you on :)

  15. Sounds like a great decision that will work best for you and your family! My first marathon was Dallas White Rock in 1997. In 2007, I ran it again (10 years later, and it was my 10th marathon :)) I fully understand the full-circle thing.

    What an incredible race you ran in marathon #1! I trained with a training group (my first and only group training) because I had no clue either. I don't even think I brought any fueling with me - but I don't really remember. Yes, wore a long-sleeved cotton t-shirt ... and it was raining so yeah, the thing weighed about 40 lbs!! Ah, you brought up such fond memories! :) Good luck with all, will be fun to watch your journey!

  16. I love this story. I don't pay enough attention to numbers to see any signs but I'm sure there have been instances! Now that I think about it, our birthdays all have 23 in them. DH's is 22, mine 3, dd 2, middle son 2, and younger son 23.

    1. Ps: in my dreams I can run a 3:22 marathon just for fun! You are amazing!

  17. Great post! I bet you are going to have an amazing marathon in Napa, all the signs point that way for sure :-)

  18. Awesome post! So much of what you wrote could easily go on my blog!! I am huge into the number 6 with very similar life events that keep pulling me into 6-ville. I also can totally relate to your "run" down memory lane back to your first marathon, how much you hadn't learned yet, etc. I just ran my first ultra and wow, do I have lots to improve on (for whenever I decide to do another). Went out too fast, struggled with eating, etc.

    Napa sounds awesome!!!!

  19. What an amazing post and I am so excited for you Amanda. I whole-heartedly believe in signs. I think God guides us in ways that at times only we are meant to see. This sounds like it is meant to be your race. Also let me say I would give anything to have run my first marathon in 3:22. You are so incredibly inspiring with your love for running and how spiritual it is for you. I can relate to that. Napa is your race and it is meant to be. I am cheering you on from here in NC. My first marathon was MCM and it was not the time goal I wanted, but it was meant to be my race. I am a spiritual runner. I love to think deep and see things that make my mind think. Seeing the soldiers out there on the course, both running and on the sidelines, was inspiring to me. I so look forward to you moving out to NC, even if only for a short period. I will be driving down to say hello at least once while you are here.

  20. Such a great post, Amanda, and I'm so excited for you! Yes, all the signs are pointing you to Napa and, yes, I do believe in signs. Even if I didn't, I think your post would have me convinced. :) I love that you are going to run Napa again.

    Amazing, by the way, that you were able to run your first marathon in 3:22 with no expectations and no clue what you were doing. You are such a strong runner.

    And if you decide to come to Boston to cheer on the marathoners, I'll (hopefully, if I can stay injury-free!) be there running it and will get to see you!

  21. awesome post, and it's so cool to always take a minute and think back to those running 'firsts' where u go into something blissfully naive. sometimes in some ways if seems that's the 'easiest' ways to go about things, as in u ran a stellar time and had no idea so!

    i believe in signs and serendipity so i don't think u crazy at all! best of luck to u and so cool how far u've come since that first. :)

  22. Reading this reminded me so much of my first marathon. Except you actually followed a plan! (I never ran more than 10 miles- NOT a good strategy!) 3:22?!! I think heading back 10 years later sounds meant to be.

    I ran my first marathon in the Dallas White Rock marathon 1999. My second marathon was also the Dallas White Rock- in 2009. Ten years later.(I had never intended to run another. The not training part of my first marathon made the last half really not enjoyable!)

    I totally get wanting to do it again. And after your experience in Boston this year ( and my experience with NYC this year) I can also understand not wanting to put all your eggs in the giant marathon basket. Sometimes the less drama the better! I say go for it! No pressure and have fun. : )

  23. hi amanda! i apologize for the lack of reading and commenting. Haven't really been in the blog world lately but love to check in with your racing and life. Did a little catch up and very excited for you for all that is ahead! Big move, big marathon, big life changes!! Napa sounds like the perfect race for you and I LOVE the signs and numbers. So cool. Is a new job in asheville for you or your husband? The NW will miss you! Happy almost birthday!! Have fun with training and dreaming toward Napa!! Good luck, Amanda. hugs

  24. LOL. i don't know if i am *this* into signs but i do see them sometimes in some of my own stuff, so i won't call you crazy :)

    it is crazy though how different things are now that you know more about running/marathoning. i feel the same about my own journey! (ran my first marathon in COTTON spandex. yes.... some chaffage to say the least) what was i thinking?