The other day I was talking with someone about my long runs and the question came up about whether I do them "unsupported." As a runner, I knew she was asking whether I have support along my routes - as in, someone to bring me water or fuel or to run with me.
I told her that I've been doing most of my long runs solo (which is a big change for me), but that I definitely was supported in other ways. I don't think any distance runner or athlete - certainly not one who places a priority on training - can be successful without support.
Or, if they are successful athletically, it often comes at the price of other things - like relationships - in their lives.
We can't do it alone.
For me, that support comes by way of runner-friends, co-workers and even my friends on Facebook and dailymile, all of whom encourage me, inspire me and help me stay motivated.
While their support is important and meaningful, my sweetie still beats them by a mile.
He's my biggest cheerleader and motivator. He keeps me on track. At times, he brings me water and fuel on the road. He gives me the space to run and train when I need it. He does the laundry and the grocery shopping when I need the extra time to get training in. He makes me dinner after a long run.
Most importantly, he takes an interest in what I'm doing.
He listens to me talk - seemingly endlessly - about my upcoming training . Or my last run. Or my trip to the gym. Or my new pair of running tights. Or the weather. Or how I'm nervous about switching flavors of Gatorade. Basically, he's there for whatever it is I'm rambling on and on about at that moment.
And even though I know it's probably dreadfully boring most of the time, he cares. I don't even think he's pretending to care. I think he really does.
He's also been on the receiving end of my not-so-pleasant moments. (I guess that's one of the "perks" of being someone that I feel totally comfortable being myself with. You get to see the good, the bad and the ugly.)
On Sunday, I'm afraid to say, he definitely didn't get "the good." With a jam-packed work weekend - on top of a marathon training schedule, a full-time-plus job during the week and, oh yeah, moving last weekend - I see now that I was feeling more than a little stressed.
I had a 17-miler on the training schedule, with 10 miles at an easy pace and the last seven at marathon pace. Runs of that distance always make me nervous - not that I do them very often. I've only done three 17+ milers before Sunday, one of which was in my marathon in 2009 and the other two were in training for that marathon.
I'm pretty confident banging out 10 miles or even 13 miles without much worry. But much past that, there always seems to be the "what if" factor. What if I can't finish? What if I don't hydrate or fuel properly? What if the weather's miserable? What if I can't remember the route?
Having just moved, I would be on new, unfamiliar roads. (Hilly roads, I may add.) I was more than a little worried about getting lost. With 17 miles on the plan, I didn't want to be adding any more miles because of a wrong turn.
My aforementioned work obligations meant my 17-miler was squeezed into Sunday morning, with just enough time for me to get home and showered before having to dash off to the next obligation. Not exactly the ideal conditions for an already-nervous runner. Talk about feeling completely overwhelmed by the pressure.
As planned, I woke up, ate a fuel-filled breakfast of oatmeal and banana and gathered my supply bag of energy jelly beans, water and Gatorade. My plan was to do two five-mile loops to allow me to stop home to fuel along the way, followed by the a separate 7-mile portion that I'd run at marathon pace.
Just a few minutes before I left - I was running slightly behind - my sweetie made a simple remark, something to the effect of "You're going to have to run a mile per minute faster to get back on time."
I think I might have heard that proverbial record-needle scratching. Did he really just say that? I was already feeling the pressure and the tension of the upcoming run and need to make it back in time for work. I instinctively snapped back with a comment about how I really didn't need pressure like that. I'm sure I said it in an extra-sarcastic and annoyed voice.
Looking back, I wish I would have just laughed it off, as I'm sure he didn't mean it as a way to add extra pressure or stress to an already-overwhelmed me. I'd let the pressure get the best of me and had taken it out on my biggest fan.
Within a minute or so, I was out the door, exploring my new neighborhood, meeting new and challenging hills. My first five-mile loop went exactly as planned, with a stop for a sip of drink at home. Then off for the second. By the second pit-stop at Mile 10, I was still feeling great.
My sweetie greeted me at the door and asked if I needed anything. With my supply bag by the door, I was all set. But he offered me something on each stop that I couldn't pack in a supply bag - a hug, a smile and some encouraging words, probably without even realizing how much he was helping my run.
I headed off for what would become the tough remaining seven miles. The hills were relentless. I made mental notes to start driving the roads before planning long runs. Hills were good training, I know, but at the time I was just thinking of ways to avoid them.
By Mile 15, I was ready to quit. I wondered why I was doing this to myself. I thought of all of my friends enjoying their cozy Sunday mornings while I was out there in the rain and being splashed by passing cars.
I kept running and kept at my target pace, but I admit it took everything I had to do it. I think I mumbled a few self-motivating things - out loud - along the way to keep me going. You got this. Almost done. You can do this. And, when my Garmin ticked to 16 miles, a welcomed phrase: last mile.
When I arrived home, my sweetie was in the doorway, keys in hand, ready to head out and check on me.
I was completely and totally spent, physically and mentally. I just wanted to sit or lie down. I wanted to take a hot shower and relax and not have any obligations for the rest of the day. But that wasn't going to happen. The reality was, I had to leave for work in just more than a half-hour. It would be a whirlwind of showering and a complete costume change from tough, tired runner to put-together professional.
My sweetie asked how my run was and I replied with an short answer: Done. To be honest, I couldn't really think straight. I didn't want to re-live the last 17 miles. Or something. I'm not sure what it was. All I know, it was one of the most mentally challenging runs I've done.
But I did it - and I'd like to say I did it "on my own," but that wouldn't be true. Sure, I was out on the road by myself, but this was most certainly a "supported" run - just like they all are.
My sweetie stood on the other side of the shower curtain as I washed up. We chatted a bit, but I still wasn't feeling myself. I sat down in the shower at one point, so close to having tears streaming down my face. What the heck was I doing? Why am I stressing myself out and trying to do so many things?
I did a telephone-booth-like change to my alter ego - the professional one - and headed out the door, giving my sweetie a peck on the way out. As the day went on and my work event wrapped up, I started feeling better. I'd just run 17 miles, then went to work. I was feeling pretty awesome. I was awesome.
What I wasn't feeling awesome about what my bad attitude and my snappy remark I made to my sweetie earlier. To make things worse (or better), while I was off at my work event, he was out picking out the ingredients for a special dinner he was going to make me.
Sometimes I don't know how he puts up with me. But I'm sure glad he does.
**REMEMBER, I'm running the Boston Marathon to help save lives!**
I'm only $200 away from my goal! Please visit my fundraising page to support a good cause and learn more about a very special little boy. http://pages.teamintraining.org/ma/boston11/trobinsy2v. Thank you for your support!