I ate dinner and packed a bag, hoping that the traffic had subsided and arrived at Betty's place in Brentwood exactly 30 seconds before she and Scott got home from dinner. We did a little bit of visiting and we all sacked out early. I woke up, watched the start on tv, and drank some Peet's coffee with Betty before heading to my car to drop off my things and then out onto the course. I jogged from Barrington which was about mile 22 up to the relay exchange point which was before 13 and waited for Kim who I expected to be somewhere after the 3:15 pace group and before the 3:25 pace group. On the way there, Sean McKeon said hey to me so I turned and ran with him for a bit, he seemed gallantly chipper despite not having done what he considered adequate training.
Kim showed up right on schedule and I tagged along as she rolled through the half just over 1:40 which was a new half marathon PR for her. Ordinarily that might make an athlete (and her coach) a bit worried, but after reviewing her 700 miles of workouts over the past 14 weeks I knew that a big race performance was brewing. So, everything seemed right as rain at that point, the weather was stable, temps were cool, wind was present but not overwhelming, and the first half had gone according to plan. It all seemed like an easy day at the office for both of us, me playing the role of armchair observer, Kim playing the role of "wow this is difficult but I'm tough so let's just get it done."
Kim doesn't talk much. So there wasn't a whole lot of chit chat going on. When she does talk, it's sometimes hard to hear her b/c she's fairly quiet when she is running. I sometimes wonder if she has the same flurry of thoughts that I do or if she was blessed with a quieter mind. Actually I think I wonder that about everyone, but particularly with those who don't talk a whole lot. I do really admire Kim's training and racing focus, her ability to streamline and narrow her perspective and I think it sets a great standard for her friends to follow. But I couldn't help but let my mind drift. Since I had started from 22 and ran to maybe 12.5, I was about 3 miles fresher. Coupled with a pace that felt comfortable for me, and no problems that needed my attention other than taking her long sleeve once she decided to remove it, my mind simply drifted and eventually found it's way onto my virtual yoga mat.
I have this recurring dream, or perhaps I should say "mental picture" of my yoga practice as an old mansion with stone floors and a bunch of heavy wooden doors with rusty iron hinges and brass locks. Behind each door is a room which represents an individual asana. Some days Shane has a key to one of the rooms I haven't been to before. One day the door said ardha baddha padmottanasana and he opened it and shoved me inside. Most days we go back to rooms I've seen before, cleaning dust out of the corners, opening the drapes to let some sun in, or just soaking in the unique essence. Sometimes I look down the hall and see all the closed doors and wonder if or when I might explore them. But there is so much to see and feel in each of the rooms which are already open that I can lose myself for hours.
Then there's this whole other building, built very different than the first, which represents running. Most of the doors are open in that one, and I'm the one leading others through and showing them around. It's not the fanciest building on the block, there are so many other great runners and coaches, but I've gotten a little foot traffic over the past six months and some have even enjoyed their time. I've honestly forgotten about a few of the rooms in this building, rooms which I haven't been to in years. When one of my athletes pokes their head in as we pass by on our way to their goal, I get a reminder of an experience long since forgotten. Oh yeah, that's where the pity-party room is. I had forgotten about all of the days I've spent in that room, most notably Ironman Canada 2001's 5:18 run split. I like to think that my yoga practice keeps me more empathetic with my run coaching, but I'm sure I still trip on my own feet half the time. I am human, and by definition I am flawed.
But, back to Kim. Looking over her splits, and based on what I remember feeling, she was fine through the VA. That's when the racing really begins, up that last hill and then you really have to crank the last 10k which is very runnable with the last 2 miles a gentle downhill to the beach. Kim showed signs of cracking at the VA, which is exactly where the yogger had some trouble 2 years ago when he wore his "mmmmm Beer" bib. I expected some trouble to hit, so I switched off my internal monologue and started giving status and encouragement more frequently to Kim. I didn't get much of a response, I'm sure to her I was like Charlie Brown's teacher, just mumbling to myself various words of incoherent babble. On we went.
The last few miles have big inflatable banners with race clocks. I did the rough math and told her how much time we had to crack 3:30. The margins got slimmer and slimmer, so I tried mixing in some tough love, some humor, I tried singing, heck I would have done anything she asked me to if it would have helped, but I think it was just destined to be a very typical marathon day. Kim was valiantly fighting but doubt was creeping up, her body was shutting down, and the temptation to walk caught her a few times. Finally, just past mile 23, she pulled off and threw herself a quick and efficient pity party. Like puking, the euphoria from a pity party can be a great boost, and before we had burned 60 seconds, she was back on at 8:00 pace. Soon after we bumped into Lev and Caitlyn who were with us for the rest of the way. I was supremely grateful for them because I was out of ideas on what to say, my words were not effective, so I figured my role at that point was to ensure her head did not crack the pavement if she fell.
As expected, the final 2 miles went fairly uneventfully. I'm hoping Kim has a chance to put her thoughts into words and I will ask her if she's willing to share them on my blog because I think it would be fantastic to read her take. I'm sure she was pushing hard. The pace was just fine. But we were a bit over 3:30 after the pity party so there was nothing left to do other than "git 'er done". Marathon #2 for Kim, her first BQ, and a well deserved ! on top of a solid cycle of training.
After seeing her cross the line I wandered down to the Urth Cafe, got myself a vegan cookie and a quad latte, then back out onto the course to meet up with Hillary and Auntie Jen. I caught a wonderful meal with the Biscays, heard all about Mini's massive PR, and felt the warmth of a truly exceptional family to round out a great Sunday and a weekend to remember.