Clearly someone talked to that metaphorical person in the sky on my behalf because I actually have a lot of my friends from last year still lingering around. Every time I delve into hardcore marathon and obstacle course race training around this time, I dig out seven plots to bury thoughts of another friendship or family relationship that's gone to shit. Summer's still here so I shouldn't speak so soon.
In some strange way, I managed to hold onto three quarters of my marbles this year through peak training time. For people outside of the runner's community, this time of year is known as marathon training season. If you want to chop your significant other into sections of eight on the counter top and braise them at 275 degrees, I completely understand. Naturally, I'm not cosigning homicide but I can respect the thoughts while being incredibly nervous.
This year I opted to train slightly different than the last four years: I am training year round. Sounds insane but it is practical for athletes with an itchy finger for marathon entries. In addition, it doesn't help that I signed up for the Javelina Jundred 100K, the Spartan Ultra Beast and an Ironman 70.3 -- did I forget to mention the other smaller races in between three additional marathons? My race loaded calendar of cyanide is pushing me out of the door around 4 - 5 days out of the week. When I'm feeling extra zealous, I pack in an extra gym day. After four years of being in the running game, I am learning how to get my balance of personal life and embracing my athleticism.
What does that mean: Some days of the week, I lose about 30 minutes to a hour of sleep to spend time with my kid. I feed and water my family at least 4 of 7 days, making enough to force leftovers on them and maybe a night or so every other week for takeout. I am forced to live on a calendar to remember my race days and when I need to take a shower. Whenever I can, either everything is done in the wee hours of the morning or split at early morning and late nights when everyone is settling.
Over the summer, I reminded myself that I am more than just an athlete. Life exists beyond the pavement and gym. In turn, I've gone out for dinner with friends, visited a few family members randomly and tried to be better in responding to text messages. My work ethic is great to excellent but I know that my ability to be a friend and loving family member can fall off into the sub par category when I'm engulfed in my training. After a while, you and your loved ones are tired of apologies. I could cram you with the self-care speech of doing something selfishly for yourself - as you should - but I heard some reasonable feedback where it's not just for their own benefits.
I have over 60 or so finisher medals hanging around my home, mostly contained in the office and I barely touch them after I earn them. What good is a medal without a memory to associate it with? And what good is a memory if you have nobody to converse with over a hot meal because you never made time? The latter was the hardest lesson because I really couldn't figure out how to be consistent in this area. With training, if you don't show up, it'll reflect in your race day efforts. If you don't show up for a friend or family member, the speed of how fast they'll evade your life differs depending on the individual.
On August 28th, I'm heading off to Chamonix, France for the UTMB and I'm both excited and sad. There's plenty of adventures that lie in front of me from that day but less time with my friends and family. Unlike previous years, a lot of these races and events will separate me from my family for days to weeks at a time. For many, this sounds exciting but I know the feeling of nostalgia too well. Whilst I'm looking forward to claiming my independence, the roles that I take on to different people do not leave because I happen to be a traveling athlete. Some of races will have work attached to it and others will be strictly for thrills; reminding myself that I'm not a bad person will happen often.
Some of life seems surreal; I'm a woman who was born to parents with rich personalities in poverty. Opportunities that I'm taking advantage of through something that started off as a passion is astounding to me; my past keeps me humble. Any bad move or wrong thing can change those circumstances. Humility is more than a teacher but a loyal friend.
In turn, I'm reminding myself to check in with my loved ones and when the traveling or activities become heavy, to remember to check in on myself. I'll be traveling with a phone charger, external battery and some form of music wherever I go. My son's picture will rest with me every night as I move around, my husband's sarcasm will be embedded in my head, a plush heart shaped pillow will accompany me on my journeys as a security blanket and my friends can catch me on my personal lines when I'm not jacking up their time zones. These people are my walking trophies and I can interact with them every day of the week. How spectacular is that?
Thus far, my race calendar ends on the second week of December but I am planning on leaving this year in celebration with one of my best friends. We're deliberately taking a vacation (and don't ask because I will not tell). All of this traveling and adventure seeking is great but even athletes need a rest. Nobody talks about it much but sleep is a significant part of the training. Ask yourself - if you haven't already - how do you fully rest when you are not attacking the ground with your feet or your arms against a weight. Don't wait until everyone within your inner circle dissipate.