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 slow...like 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 that...me?! ) 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 :
- 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
- 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 me...my 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."
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:
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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