Thursday, March 10, 2016

What's Next

When I signed up for my first marathon, I didn’t think of it as my first. It was simply the marathon to check off the bucket list, my once in a lifetime 26.2 mile race.

But eventually, I can’t remember exactly when or where, I realized I wanted to do another, to try to qualify for Boston.

When I signed up for Boston in 2009, I didn’t think of it as my first Boston. It was simply running Boston. A once in a lifetime chance to race on the most storied course in the country.

But somewhere along the way, I can’t remember exactly when or where, I realized I wanted to keep going, to run Chicago and NYC, to keep dropping that PR, to race Boston again.

When I started this blog and signed on to this goal of qualifying for the Olympic Trials, I didn’t think of them as my first Trials. They were the big, once in a lifetime goal to hope I could maybe, just maybe meet. (See where this is going yet?)

But at some point, I can’t remember exactly when or where, I realized I didn’t want them to be once in a lifetime. So… (drumroll please) I’m going for twice in a lifetime. I’m hoping to be able to call that race my first Trials.

Why? Because I’m not happy with my place or my time. (I still think I did the best I could on that day, but that doesn’t mean I’m satisfied.) Because making one goal just paves the path to another one. Because dream big... and then dream bigger.

I'm seeking re-election. Four more years!
I think most runners can relate to having a goal, achieving it, and then aching for more. That’s one of the things I love about running: the goals are limitless. Reach one, celebrate, and suddenly another appears, looking awfully appetizing. Hey, let’s do that again, only faster/farther/better.

I still think I have a sub-2:40 in me, so I’m out to prove it. I could pursue that time in any marathon—and trust me I will—but why not do it en route to my second Trials in 2020? And, while we’re at it, why not dream a little bigger? I’m also aiming to get the A standard (and a free trip). If I get to a second Olympic Trials, I hope to improve my place.

Sorry to all the people I thanked last week who thought that was it. They went above and beyond, so I’ll let them off the hook: Thank you for your duty, you can retire with honors. (Although Husband has already signed on and promises 2020’s t-shirts will be even more epic…) Sorry, but I'm not ready to retire. Not yet.

There will be more Trials and, with that, more miles to run to get there.

Will I make it? I don’t know. Will there be new challenges and curveballs along the way? Absolutely. But that's what keeps it exciting. I hope you’ll continue to follow along.

A lot can happen in four years. From left to right:
2008: Watching from the sidelines.
Last race before 2012 Trials. (Watched them from the couch.)
2016: Taking part.
Dream bigger,

Friday, March 4, 2016

Gratitude: Part 2

Best #squad ever. (Photo by Melissa Barnes.) 
The Trials are over and people have been asking what will happen to the blog now. We’ll get to that next time, I promise. But, before moving on, there are a couple things that need to be said.

At the beginning of the season I wrote that I wanted to be grateful for the ability to run, even when things don’t go perfectly. (I think I did pretty well…) Now I want to take the time and space for a different type of gratitude: to show my thanks to all of you.

I apologize if this is too acceptance speech-y, but in general I don’t think people get enough thanks—or maybe I just don’t give them enough thanks. So here’s my feeble attempt to make up for it.

Thanks to... 

All of You
The Internet can be a dark, hateful place, but somehow I’ve found the Internet’s nicest commenters in the history of commenters. If you sent me a comment, message, tweet, like, etc. in the days before the Trials, after the Trials, or ever, please know it meant the world to me. Inspiration goes both ways, and hearing about all of you working towards your own goals inspires me. Let’s keep this feedback loop going!

My doctors
Remember when I nearly broke my femur last summer? My doctors didn’t tell me to give up running or that I was crazy to want to race the Trials in a few months. Instead they made a plan and got healing. So thanks to Drs. Epsley, Moran, and Hudson for not giving me the standard doctor-to-runner line, but for staying positive and getting me ready to go by the fall.

My GRC teammates
When I joined the team in 2012, I hoped my teammates would make me a better runner, but I had no idea by how much, nor how close we’d become. I now count my teammates among my best friends. The weekend long runs, the track workouts, the Pierce Peirce Mill meet ups, the endless Hains Point loops, none of it would be as fast or as fun without these girls. And their positivity and support, before and after every race, is amazing. When you have twenty superstar athletes telling you that you can do it, you start believing.

GRC's Trials watch party: sending good vibes from afar.

Coach Jerry
Coach Jerry gives every single athlete on our ever-expanding team so much personalized attention you’d think it was his full time job (it’s not). After the races that don't go as well as expected he always finds the positive spin, staying relentlessly hopeful. And every Wednesday night, he’s out at the track in the dark/cold/snow/squall juggling six stopwatches with numb hands. (Though he did get some heated gloves this season, thank goodness.)

Post race at the Brooks party with Coach.

My non-running friends*  
Yes, I have a life outside of running (sometimes) and friends that love me despite my obsession. Somehow these people put up with my lame early nights and overly detailed descriptions of my latest workout/race/blister. Three of my neuroscientist friends even came all the way to LA to cheer, surprising me with a neuro-centric sign at exactly the right moment.

(*Well, many of them run, but we didn’t meet through running. And I’m pretty sure they love me in spite of my running, not because of it.)

Willing to bet this is the only sign at the Trials with a
brain and neurons on it. Which makes it the best. 

My family
Over Christmas 2014, a few weeks after I qualified, a bunch of my family members insisted they would come see me race in LA. “That’s crazy,” I told them. “It’s too far, it’s too expensive…” I should not have doubted them. My family is that enthusiastic, supportive, and all together awesome that a horde of them (aunts, uncles, cousins) made good on their promise and came to LA. Those that couldn’t donned their shirts and watched from home. I never made it on the broadcast, but many Team Teal members did. They deserved their moment of fame (and much more), because their cheers carried me through the race. (As did the cheers I could feel from back home.) 

Team Teal. There were actually more than pictured here... 

Brother was the first inspiration for this dream, before marathons were on my radar. When I was a freshmen in college, he competed in the Hawaii Ironman, a race he had dreamed of qualifying for for years. I saw the work that he put in to qualify, how crazy awesome the goal was (the Hawaii Ironman is the World Championships), and the elation when he achieved it. At eighteen, I wondered if I’d ever be as passionate about something or do anything nearly as incredible.

Years later, Brother went on to be a favorite character of this blog. Whether he was helping pace me or trying to beat me, his efforts made me a better runner. But his Ironman journey had already made me a dreamer.

Brother cheering. This shirt is my favorite of his race day shirts.
In the summer before I started high school, Sister somehow convinced me that running is not “the most boring sport on the planet” (my words) and that I should give it a try. She’s now a successful lawyer, but I’d argue (though not as well as her) that convincing me to run was her biggest victory. (She’s also responsible for Brother’s successful running career, mostly because, as a child, he didn’t want to be beaten by his little sister. A trait he carries to this day.)

She was a star runner in high school and I always (still) look up to her competitiveness and drive. We ran our first marathon “together,” but she dropped me in the first mile and has never raced me since. (Which is probably the strategy Brother wishes he’d taken.) In my eyes, she’ll always be the star, but—even if we disagree on that—she’s undeniably the spark that started the Connor running clan.

With Sister. Oh hey, running's not so boring after all.

Mom and Dad
Obviously there are too many thanks to fit here. Here’s just one example of their level of endless support: my parents still come to all my “meets.” They used to come to my cross country and track meets in high school, which I thought was pretty standard (okay, I was spoiled). When they started coming to all my marathons, all around the freaking country, I finally realized I had some spectacularly supportive parents. I think they thought I’d be satisfied with running one marathon, but have somehow supported me through 13, coming to 11.

And they don’t just come to stand at the finish line. Oh no, they drive around, squeeze onto the overcrowded T, and race along the course to see me at as many spots as humanly possible. (Which is more spots than possible for most humans.) They decorate water bottles, t-shirts, and go searching for that jar of peanut butter I forgot to pack. My parents always go above and way beyond in supporting me (and not just in running, of course).

Mom, Dad, (and Husband, below) are all my #1 fan(s). 
(Right photo by Melissa Barnes.)

The lame Friday nights, the weekend mornings overtaken by long runs, the travel to and from races, the pasta, oh, the endless pasta… This Run Washington piece says it best: spouses don’t get enough credit. Husband has been to 12 out of my 13 marathons (we’ll give him a pass on the first since he didn’t know me yet), but even more incredible is that he’s put up with me in the days leading to those 12 marathons.

He’s held the watch at the track (rain or shine), paced me on the bike (rain or driving wind), wiped away the tears from non-PRs, injuries, tragedies. He both supports my (sometimes) delusional reasoning about why I’m ready for a massive PR and simultaneously keeps me sane. (The CIM race report captures this double duty best.) And when things go well, he is every bit as excited as me, (as he deserves to be, for all he’s done to get me there!) which makes it that much more fun when they do.

(Husband is also the one man design team behind all this: the reason this site is much more than black text on a white background and the reason those Team Teal shirts were so awesome.)

Husband's pass said "Athlete Support." That's one way to seriously understate it.
(Photos by Melissa Barnes.)

Sometimes people ask how I get the confidence to go after my big dreams. These people are how. Thank you all.

Dream big (and thank those that help you do so),