Here's what your relationship with food is like if:
1. You're training for an Ironman
2. You're my brother
3. Chipotle is involved
So yea, training is going well.
Why are you here, Frank?
This is something I wonder every day.
Frank is a made up name, but he is a real person. I see him every single time I run down on the Marina Green in SF. He wears these mysteriously branded shoes that a military of moths got after. He’s probably owned them for oh…say….30 years? Same cream colored cutoff - as in sleeves and bottom half of the entire shirt have been cut off entirely, and some old school Umbros. My favorite Frank accessory is his knee brace that doesn’t fit at all, it’s so loose it actually hovers down around his upper calf…but he diligently wears it. Just like he diligently runs every day (I’m assuming). And you know what, it looks painful. His running looks dreadfully painful….it’s wobbly, slow, distressed and strained. And he has this freakin’ studly smile on his face that is framed by this thick salt and pepper mustache. When we pass each other, I always smile back and I always start running faster. But the strain of his stride makes me wonder what drives him….
I wonder what every single runner thinks about, even if I know them really well. Like what is really going on up in all these sweaty, complicated noggins?? Why do we show up when no one else knows or cares if we show up? What do we think about during our runs? Why do we care? Do we actually care? I don’t wonder so I can judge (ah okay, sometimes I judge), I wonder because it’s much more interesting than any mileage per week stat, or average pace, or Strava course record (I do love Strava, let's be clear about that). That’s just the output. What’s the input?
For me….it’s curiosity. Pushing myself up to, and hopefully beyond, what I thought were my barriers is so damn interesting. I’m curious where and how and when I’ll reach that next barrier. I love being surprised by it (which is usually the case). One of my most memorable barrier demolishments (how is that not a word?) came a few years ago. I had just started dating Chris (who, as it turns out is now my fiancé and other obsession) and he was participating as the Olympic Club runner on a relay team for a short triathlon, just for fun. (More on Chris later, he’s um…..intense). Unfortunately for the women’s team, their runner had to pull out last minute with an injury. I say “unfortunately” because she is incredibly fast and ran in the Olympic Trials, nbd. So as I was inhaling a large breakfast sandwich, Chris asked if I would step in and run. I promptly said “sure”. I was not in the best shape at the time, but I did the 10k run and went as hard as I possibly could. I threw up at the finish line. I threw up a lot, it was a big sandwich. I was SO embarrassed….”really Caroline, you can’t even handle a 10k?” And Chris walked up to me after the race with the biggest, I mean ear-to-ear, smile on his face announcing how proud he felt. I thought he was kidding, but he was dead serious. He was so pumped that I wasn’t scared to push myself so hard that I threw up (clearly we were still learning a lot about each other at this point) and I was so pumped that he was pumped, it was really nerdy.
I’ve had many, many moments like this one and they are precisely what propel me to keep pushing. If I had not pushed so hard that day, I would have left a lot of “what ifs” floating around in my head. Instead, I think it’s safe to say I left all of those in chunks in the bushes at the finish line in Santa Cruz.
So why do you challenge yourself? What’s the real reason? Why do you get after it every day? I have yet to ask Frank why he does - I will, some day. But for now I’ve decided he definitely is not doing it for recognition, admiration, or bragging rights. I’ve decided he just can’t help himself. He’s out there and he doesn’t give a shit about anyone else. That is impressive. I can’t say I’m there quite yet, but one day I will be. He reminds me of the guy who struggles through 4 days of yoga every week…the one who is in the back and barely doing the poses because it’s too hard. He is impressive. He reminds me of my two best friends who beat the crap out of their bodies playing college rugby and soccer - yet after so many awful injuries, they’re still getting after it and doing trail races. I’m much less impressed by the skinny girl in the front of every yoga class who knows she looks good in spandex, never struggles with poses, smokes cigarettes and is there so she can tweet about it. I’m much less impressed by the trail runners who let the whole social media world know exactly how many kilometers they got in every single minute of every day so you can sit at your desk and feel bad about yourself. I’m not interested in what drives them, they’re all about output.
So what's your input? Mine is curiosity.... and that never really dies so this should be a long, scrappy journey.
Until next time….“go fast. take chances”
(Belated) Boston Recap
Let’s begin at the finish….there were tears. Yes, mine. All mine. Hard earned tears that were not allowed to be shed (but very close to it) as I ran through Wellesley at mile 13. I am sure the following things were directly related to the tears…exhaustion, THE FUCKING BOSTON MARATHON, thinking about the preparation that went into every single step I took (even the painfully slow ones), and most importantly feeling the support of all the badass people in my life (albeit remotely). Also, I started my period that morning? Yea that had something to do with it. Those tears at the finish were the perfect representation of what it feels like to be caught up. So caught up you can’t influence your reaction…fear doesn’t exist, nor does doubt, nor reason, nor control. Is that what meditation is? Finding that space between thoughts? If you can arrive at the same destination via running, I very much prefer that. Back to the race…
I ran a 3:16.
This is a PR, just barely! Not as fast as I had somewhat arrogantly hoped for, but I’m proud of my effort. It was a big one, and I felt like shit the whole way (for some odd reason). In an effort to ignore the sluggish pain, I was dishing out high fives to the crowd (mostly kids) like it was my job. This helped immensely and also really slowed me down, but I didn’t want to miss out on those brief exchanges of energy. It was like this ongoing unspoken dialogue of “you’re really doing it Caroline!” and me saying (via high five) “oh man, oh man I’m really doing it you guys!” it was awesome. Here’s a hot tip: if you want more attention from the middle aged male population in the crowd, you need to wear a bright pink sports bra and short shorts….oh…and makeup.
On a macro level (apologies for the occasional econ term, I “work” in finance) things were okay. Considering I was telling myself that running a marathon was a bad decision at mile 5, I would say I turned it around and had a strong, smart race. Boston is a tricky course and can be quite deceptive. The steady downhill throughout the first 20k or so seems like it would be a dream, but it beats your legs up…and this is coming from a self-proclaimed downhill running stud. I fought the urge to really open up the legs and push hard for the first half so I could have a little something left for Heartbreak Hill (which is over-hyped if you ask any Bay Area runner). I hammered up that bad boy no problem, but unfortunately I didn’t quite save up enough to keep a more respectable pace the last few miles. But alas I still practiced self-restraint. Chris would be proud. This whole endurance thing is finally catching on…as my dentist said “oh, so like….it’s not just about how fast you go, it’s also about stamina.” yes, Dr. Wu - it’s about stamina too.
Overall, Boston is a freaking fantastic city. Chris and I had the most gracious and entertaining hosts (Jenny and Dan) who were great super fans and drank copious amounts of beer with all the wounded Olympic Club soldiers after the race. Post race was fun, very few of us had great races. In fact, I believe we all concluded that we felt completely flat and hurt the whole way, but not one person was wallowing. We were just celebrating our accomplishment, the day, the race and our appreciation for the sport that challenges all of us everyday.
Since Boston, I ran The Relay (191 miles from Calistoga to Santa Cruz) with 11 of my BlackRock co-workers. We were 6th overall and 2rd in the corporate division, which we’ve decided basically means 1st place because the Google runners shouldn’t count as full-time employees. Right? No? Anyway. I’ve also started really ramping up training for my first full Ironman in Idaho at the end of June. That has entailed more tears, but for different reasons…and when you’re in a pool, you can’t tell they’re tears, so its fine. Right, Chris?
Has everyone heard of Oiselle? It’s an amazing women’s running apparel company. Check ‘em out: www.oiselle.com their brand and purpose are very relatable. I love their tagline….”go fast. take chances.” I’ve been falling back on it a lot lately and plan to until I decide which mantra will be mine. Too many to choose from right now.
Take care now. Bye bye then.
Post race with the Olympic Club crew (I'm in the middle in the back with my buddies Brooke Wells and Chris Mocko). My main man (fiancé) Chris Coble is on the far right with the black hat.
Who is Caroline?
A Colorado native living in San Francisco. Running, riding, swimming, career pivoting....and putting most of it on record.