Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Support is Essential

Yesterday Mike and I went over to Fleet Feet to do the Tuesday Night Run.  When we got there, the staff told us that, although it was advertised to start on March 5, the actual start date was going to be the following Tuesday.  Nevertheless, we decided to run.

Mike's knee has been bothering him, so he wore his brace.  I could tell he was in pain and at a mile and a half, he took the truck key off of his key ring and handed it to me.  We were a couple of blocks from our house, so he decided not to risk injuring his knee further, and walked home.  I was sad to see him go, but took the opportunity to run by myself for a bit and to do a little speed work.

When I got home from Fleet Feet, I could tell he was not happy about having to drop out early.  I massaged Icy Hot on his knee and told him I want him to take care of himself because I would hate it if he couldn't train with me. You see, Mike is my workout buddy and is usually right there with me doing his thing.

When I do a long, slow run, he can often be found at my side on this bike.  When I am swimming, he is in the lane next to me working on his stroke.  On the bike, I am often the one chasing him. However, while having him at my side makes the workouts more enjoyable, it is not the most important thing.

More Important than a Workout Buddy

Having Mike's support is more important than having him next to me while I swim or bike or run.  It is a tremendous confidence boost to know that he backs my crazy dreams and is willing to go along for the ride.  Honestly, I don't know if I would have even signed up for the triathlon class if he had said something like "triathlons are stupid...expensive...too hard...etc".  Instead, he said "If this is what you want to do, go for it".

I don't know if I even would have completed my first race without his support.  When I was in the bathroom crying before the Golden State Triathlon, he was there to tell me that I was going to be fine and that I had nothing to worry about.  He was also there to load up my bike and put up with my all crazy anxiety that morning.  He now jokingly refers to himself as my pit crew.

Support Even When He's Not There

Me at Bad Bass all by myself
Last year while Mike was away with the guys at the motorcycle races.  I decided to sign up for the Bad Bass 1/2 marathon trail run at Lake Chabot.  This was just as much a physical challenge for me as it was a mental challenge...facing my fear of doing things alone.

This was the first time I had ever done a race by myself.  In fact, it was the first time that I ever driven to a race (that's always Mike's job because I am usually a nervous wreck).  To say I was scared would be an understatement.

I could barely sleep the night before.  I left extra early just in case I somehow got lost on my way to the race.  After checking in, I wandered around aimlessly among the other runners.  I ate one of my GU packs to kill the time.  I walked back to the car to make sure I locked it.  I think I tied and untied my shoes at least 10 times looking for that perfect fit.  I even used the public restroom (oh the horror!).  Normally I would have Mike to talk to before the race instead of wandering around like a lost puppy.  I felt so alone that I was tempted to just leave (I stayed though because the finisher medals looked really cool).

Once the race started my mind cleared of all the pre-race garbage and fears and I began to focus on the task at hand...tackling some very steep hills.  As I neared the 1/2 way point, I began to imagine that Mike had decided to surprise me and was secretly waiting at the finish line to give me a big hug.  I guess you could call it a little imaginary support ;-)

I knew his appearance at the race was highly unlikely since the guys never leave the track once they get there, but it was a positive thought that kept me going through the run. (Later on Mike told me that he had thought about surprising me but that the logistics were against him). I'll admit that I did get a little teary eyed when I crossed the finish line and he wasn't there, but an interesting thing happened during the race.

Support from Competitors

In a longer race, after things have settled down, you may find yourself running with the same group of people.  At Bad Bass, there was a group of 5-6 of us within about a minute of each other.  We traded positions as we fought our way up and down the hills to the finish.  Words of encouragement were exchanged along the way.  Nods and smiles acknowledged the shared struggle.  While I didn't have a hug from my man waiting for me at the finish, I did receive some high-fives from my fellow racers.

I used to think that runners who would say nice things during a race like "Keep it up" or "Finish strong" were just showing off because I felt like I was dying and they appeared to not feel pain.  I could not have been more wrong.  As athletes, we share a common goal.  We are all trying to finish the race.  I have changed my stance since Bad Bass and now offer words of encouragement myself to fellow racers too (if I'm not too winded to speak).

Support from Family

One of the most memorable races for me was the Crazy Eight's Marathon by Tracy's Racing.  If it had not been held on my birthday or been hosted by a race director with the same first name as me, I would have skipped this 33 lap, rain soaked, slog around McKinley Park in Sacramento.  What made this race memorable was not the course or the weather but the support from my family.

Of course, Mike was there, and I knew Lindsey was planning on coming to watch at some point.  Actually, I expected Lindsey and Mike to go eat or at least get some coffee because if I thought this race was boring, I could only imagine what a spectator would think.

Family support for my b-day marathon
Lindsey showed up about half way through the race and that really lifted my spirits.  A while later, I saw some more people standing by Mike and realized that it was Sean and Stephanie and their kids.  I was shocked and started tearing up (I'm really starting to sound like a crybaby). One nice thing about running around in a circle is that people have plenty of opportunities to cheer for you!

Several laps later, I thought I was seeing double.  There were two thin women in rain coats standing next to Mike.  I couldn't imagine who the second woman was.  As I neared the group, I realized that my sister had taken off from work to come cheer for me. I started tearing up all over again, but was a little too tired for a full on cry.

None of these people were required to train with me (although some of them do).  All they had to do was show up and watch the crazy lady run circles in the rain.  All I needed was their support and encouragement.  It meant more to me than I can say.

Support from the Team

Even Coach James' shirt says "I support"
I have now added a new level of support.  I have a coach and workout buddies to keep me going....and the encouragement goes both ways!

Some people may not be as fortunate as me in that their spouse or family does not understand or support their desire to compete, and that is why having a team/group for support is so important.

Having a group to train with means never having to workout alone or, God forbid, go to a race alone.  I feel truly blessed to have so many people behind me!  Thank you everyone!!!