Friday, August 27, 2010

Challenge Day #19 : Swag > Nerves

Helloooo, bloggies! Happy Friday to you :)

I know posting has been rather non-existent sporadic over the past week, but that's because life has been good (if busy) -- and you can rest assured that today I am back "fresh": ready to write, with oh, so much to share with you.

So, first things first -- a little explanation of the title. (And before I go any further I must admit to you that I pronounce swag wrong. Totally wrong. I pronounce it "schwag". ...What 's worse? I'm not sure I consciously noticed it until I sat down to write this post and really looked at the word-- no 'c's' to be found. Ah well...)

So, if you've been keeping track (& I have been-- contrary to what my 1/2 marathon plan reflects :), my 1/2 marathon is coming up this weekend! You know, the one I was so excited about
here and here? The one that I am especially excited about now because I am going to use it as a stepping stone into my future career as a race walker? (Oh heavens, I'm just kidding.... First of all, I am nowhere near fast -- a gentleman that I worked with is a bonafide racewalker and walks his 5ks as fast as I RUN them. Secondly, I don't use the right form ... just trying to make sense of the linked tutorial makes my head spin .... I walk for joy, because I like to do it... No strings or rules attached :) Remember now?

Well, anyway, on Monday afternoon, my dreams and plans experienced a little hiccup. You see, on Monday I found out (The fact that I did not find out until 6 days before the race I'll take part of the blame for, but I'll share the other part with a "NOT fabulously user-friendly" website. Bah.) that the course has a time limit -- of 15:00 minutes per mile. (Last year the course was open to accomodate at least a 17:00/mile pace. And I know for some of you runners out there, this sounds like a piece of cake :) ... but I wanted to walk the whole thing.) Now, because I don't think I've ever put this into writing before, it was my ultimate goal to walk 15:00 miles for the half -- but I was primarily training so that I knew I could walk 13.1 miles in under 17:00/mile (long distances were completed with splits in the range of 15:30 - 16:00/mi.)

Needless to say I had a small heart attack. I may have cried a little. And on Monday night and through most of Tuesday, I wasn't sure what I was going to do... Deep in my heart, I never stopped wanting to do the race, but my tender little spirit was more than a little daunted by the possibility of being removed from the course and driven to the finish line...

And then came the swag. Or rather, what the swag symbolized for me. On Tuesday afternoon I ventured to a local running store, and, as I stood in line waiting to receive my "race package" (shirt, number, safety pins, maps and complimentary gu's, etc.) I realized that my anxiety was being overcome* by feelings of excitement, and hope. (*I was going to type "my anxiety was melting away"... but, quite frankly, that would have been a lie. I'm still nervous, and I know that my nerves will multiply exponentially over the next day-- as they always do before a race. It's just that all of a sudden, something was more important to me.)

Now, for those of you who have participated in an organized event like this (small, local races & large endeavors, like Race for the Cure, alike) you are probably all ready nodding your heads. ... But for those of you who haven't ever done something like this, I'll explain it like this: Packet pick-ups/ Race Expos (or whatever you want to call it) have a certain kind of electricity to them. There's just something about standing in line behind other participants, hearing the rustle of plastic "swag bags" and the faint clink from piles of safety pins, that in an instance, makes it real. Everything that you've been working toward is finally within reach.

It's a really cool feeling. ... And it was what defined this race for me. It was during these moments that I came to my decision, with absolute clarity: I have absolutely no idea how this race will turn out, but I am going to give it my best. I am going to leave everything out there on the race course (hopefully just figuratively...), and I am going to let this experience shape me. I know that even if I am not able to finish as I would like to, what will stick with me in the years to come is the fact that I tried, and I did not back down.

Wish me luck :)