Saturday, September 9, 2017

Don't Quit

I'm training for Wineglass marathon. After I finished Ironman Mont Tremblant, I had about six weeks. I gave myself one rest day, and then started running. With the taper before Wineglass, I only really had 4 weeks to build up some speed. I hoped to qualify for Boston at Wineglass. That means I'd have to run it in under 3:10.

It's not going to happen.

I should have rested after the Ironman. I pushed myself to the brink of injury by running right afterward. And even though I had some decent runs, they mostly told me that I wasn't fast enough to meet my goal. Today (as I write this), I ran 17 miles. I had originally planned to do a hard workout. But my legs have been trash and I decided to just do a long run.

I ran Boston earlier this year, as a guide for a blind runner. I'd still like to be able to qualify for it though. That just seems like the hallmark of any "real runner." I put that in quotes on purpose. I've often beat myself up, telling myself I'm not a real runner, that I'm just faking it. But I am. I'm a runner. But I'm also a lifter, and now a triathlete.


I realized a while ago that being "well rounded" meant I was never going to be super great at any one thing. I was never too concerned with qualifying, but two years ago at Wineglass, I ran under 3:15. I thought, that's really close! I could get it with just a little more work! When I tried at Run for the Red the following spring though, I only beat my PR by 3 seconds. And my running went downhill after that. Yes that's a pun; deal with it.

So while I was running today, I had a lot on my mind. And I had plenty of time to think about it.

When I got home, I saw that I had a text from a friend. She signed up for Wineglass too. She's messaged me before, asking for running advice and the like. This text said that she wasn't sure if she should still run it, that her training hasn't been where it should be. She said she doesn't want to make a fool of herself.

I get that. I really do. I often - very often - tell myself I'm just making a fool of myself. I was telling that to myself during the 15+ hours of the Ironman. Telling myself that I'm just embarrassing myself. That I should quit. That I'm stupid for even trying. I've very familiar with those doubts. This is what I told her.

"You won't make a fool of yourself. Just crossing the finish line is an amazing achievement. I was brutally unprepared for my first marathon. It took me and Alex almost 6 hours to finish. And I was underprepared for my first Ironman, and that was brutally hard. The first time often sucks. Be ok with that and be ok with sucking. Get that first one out of the way. Learn from it. HAVE FUN. And then you'll know exactly what you need to do for next time. This is a lifelong journey. The first few steps are hard. But you will get stronger. And you will discover things within yourself that will amaze you."

That first marathon was definitely slow

She appreciated what I said, but was still worried about finishing before the cut-off and having everyone "scoff" at her. I said,

"Last year at Baltimore, I paced my friend with stage 4 lung disease. It took us 6.5 hours to finish, but we did, and we got our medals. You will finish with time to spare, and in the extremely unlikely event you don't, I will talk to the race director and get you a medal. You WILL have it around your neck.

"Your friends, your family... "everyone"... is wrong. Every. Single. One. Is wrong. They will NEVER understand why you punish yourself. None of them knows what it's like to push themselves beyond their limits. You are NOT satisfied with "good enough." You don't want to go through life wandering what you "could have" achieved. You are empowering your mind, body, and spirit to do something that - frankly - scares most people. But you do not succumb to fear. You want to live life knowing that you never surrendered, that you never gave up without trying. That is incredible. Everyone else may doubt you. But never, NEVER, doubt yourself. You are an inspiration."

And I meant it. I meant all of it. But more importantly, writing that made me realize the significance of it for myself. It's easy to get so focused on training that you forget to enjoy it. Today though I just ran. I accepted that I won't qualify, and that pushing my pace at Wineglass will just cause me to bomb out and get upset at myself. It's not worth it. I'm going to run Wineglass because I love Wineglass. And I'm going to be surrounded by the most amazing people in my life that whole weekend.

Surrounded by amazing.... people

And Sheila, if you're reading this, don't worry. I know you're awesome, but I'm not going to be pestering you to give my friend a medal if she has a bad day. I'll just give her my medal. I already have two. A pink one and a blue one. And that pink one is so nice.

I'm really blessed. I finished an IRONMAN. I was able to afford it. Life sucks for a lot of people and they don't even have that freedom. I had the time and opportunity to train. A lot of people struggle with that. Real life is a b*tch. I got to do it with Meghan and Geoffrey, and was supported the whole time by many truly amazing friends and athletes. And I crossed the finish line. I suffered for a long time. But I didn't quit. And I accomplished something I once thought impossible.

Most people will never know what that's like. Only 2% of Americans have run a marathon. Only .05% have finished an Ironman (that's 1 in 2000). Some simply don't have the opportunity, because real life. Some people can't stay motivated (although I've written my opinion on motivation a lot). And many many are just too afraid. They'd never admit that. They have lots of excuses for not pushing themselves. But it all comes down to fear.

Before you get cranky, running and triathlons aren't the only big things you can accomplish in life. That's not my point. Many folks though don't really try to accomplish anything great. I have a few friends who are amazingly successful businessmen. The hours and dedication they put into their businesses are unbelievable. It's a huge sacrifice. Still others are amazing musicians. In case you don't know, surviving as a musician is very hard. Talk about sacrifice.

A sacrifice.... of bricks.

Sacrifice. That's what it is. Nobody likes sacrifice. Humans are selfish creatures. We want all the good things in life without working for them. We want food, love, and success for free. I don't. I want food because I worked my a$$ off and earned those calories. I want love because I have so much love to give. I give love without expectation. When it's returned to me, it's a gift. I want success as recognition for something I've sacrificed myself for.

When I see someone taking those first few steps on that path, I want them to succeed. I want that more than anything. My friend doesn't know it, but I will give f@#king anything for her to make it. I would run 20 miles with her if she asked. I would hunt down someone who made her feel ashamed for what she's struggling to accomplish and hurt them. I would sit in a jail cell with a smile on my face. I would give her my medal and never let her know that it was mine.

I'm pretty crazy...

Judge me if you will. This world is full of anger and hatred and violence. If one person - ONE PERSON - rises above that to make themselves a better person, that amazes me. That f*#king amazes me. I love it. I take myself for granted. I'm crazy. Everyone knows I'm crazy. I'm not worried about losing my craziness. I may doubt myself, but that's not going to make me stop. It's only going to drive me further. But for many people, doubts can and do make them quit.

Don't quit.

No matter the challenge.

No matter the naysayers.

No matter the pain.

Don't quit.

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