Friday, April 27, 2018

Tell the World I'm Comin' Home

If ever there was a week where emotions were all over the place... this is the week.

Two years ago, I won a free Ironman entry and used it to race Ironman Texas with Jacqui and Ryan. An unforeseen hailstorm/monsoon took over the run course, knocking down the finish line, finish shoot, and ultimately stopping parts of the race until the weather passed. I decided I wasn't done with Texas just yet. Last year, I toed the line again. This time just Ryan and myself. I ended up puking up my insides multiples times on the bike and run course after the extremely dirty swim canal portion of the course poisoned me. At the time, I swore off Ironman Texas forever. But I can't help but feel like I still haven't finished what I've started down in The Woodlands, Texas. Tomorrow is Ironman Texas. Spoiler Alert: I'm not racing Ironman Texas this weekend.

This winter, I made the decision to devote 2018 to getting faster on the run. That didn't mean letting my bike collect dust. I still bike and swim 3 times a week, but with less intensity. My runs however, talk about a wake up call. My legs have entered a whole new arena and every day I learn something different about my run legs (that have been running for 20+ years). BQ or bust has become the motto for this year, the big test will take place in June at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. We're about 8 weeks out from Grandma's and I've decided to see where my speed lies in the half marathon distance this weekend. I'm headed back home to the Alma Mater, Champaign, Illinois. My junior year at the University of Illinois was the Inaugural year for the Illinois Marathon Weekend. That particular year I ran the relay with a group of friends. My senior year I ran my first marathon and crossed the finish line on the 50 yard line of Memorial Stadium and then graduated 2 weeks later. For about 3 years after I graduated, my college group met back in Champaign and toed the line and then pretended like we were still in college. To say this race holds some sentimental value would be an understatement. It's been about 5 years since the band has met up at our old stompin' grounds. Until today.

That one time Rob ran his first Half Marathon and made the front page of the local paper ;)
Illinois Half Marathon 2012

Illinois Marathon
Circa 2010, mile 2 of my first marathon as a college Senior

There's nothing more I want than to head back to my home away from home and enjoy a weekend full of running highs and celebratory beers with a group of friends that I don't get to see nearly enough. I want to run by the Alma Mater on Green St and feel her welcoming me back home. I want to drive by my old dorm and peer up to the 8th floor and wonder if the the drama is still thick as hell that high off the ground. I want to knock on my old apartment door with the best roommates a girl could ever ask for and inspect the cleanliness of it now (because God knows we had the damn cleanest place on campus). I want to roam campus and take in the beauty. I want to walk into one of my favorite book stores and have an internal argument with myself over how much new Illini gear I really do need. I want to go to my favorite watering hole and order a beer for dirt cheap while I sit and wonder, "Just how many people in this bar are ACTUALLY 21 right now?" And so much more.

Post race of my first marathon - trying to hobble to the family!

Inaugural Illinois Marathon Weekend 2009 (junior year)
Ricky, Megan, Brian (full Marathon), Kevin and Jordan
Relay Team Name: The 3 Cocksmen and A Pretty Cool Chick 🙄

But. There's always a but. This whole week, my mind and my heart have been split in 2. This time last year you were on a plane to meet Ryan in the Woodlands. This time last year you were checking in your bike. This time last year you were sitting at dinner when Dad and Uncle JB surprised you from the corner of the restaurant. We all know how Ironman Texas ended for me last year. In the past 3 weeks I've thought alot about "what were you doing at this time last year." No, not because I'm stuck in the past and can't move on. But because I have some serious unfinished business in Texas. I won't be jumping into Lake Woodlands this year, or even next year. But one day. One day I'll be back to finish what I started. I've stared at my bike a lot this winter  from my yoga mat while I stretch after a run. I miss Matilda more than I ever thought I would. I miss the wobbling sensation you feel as you hop off after a killer workout that pushed some watts only refrigerators should know exist. And the pool. Oh the pool. While I'm still swimming, my arms never feel like noodles anymore. I miss my noodle arms. I miss the odd things about triathlon that you hate in the moment. 

I miss the sea of swim caps. Who knew?

This 💖
Ironman Texas finish line 2017

I told Ryan the other day that the fact that I'm not signed up for a single triathlon at the moment seriously makes me sad. 
"Triathlons aren't going anywhere. Eyes on the prize!" - Speedy G
We practically said the same phrase in sync. I know what I want and I'm going after it. But I'll be damned if it's not harder than ever to not want what I can't have at the moment. But the reality is I'm more excited that I'm currently driving to Champaign, IL with Jacqui instead of checking in my bike in The Woodlands, Texas. My time will come again in the Ironman and triathlon world, maybe sooner than later or later than sooner, who knows. But there's no time like the present. And I can't wait to see what my legs can do tomorrow morning. The last time my legs touched this course I was still your runner who trained with miles logged instead of speed workouts and intensity. I've seen the beauty of this campus more than enough. Tomorrow, I'm ready to see it in a blur as I fly by. I want to greet the winds of the South Farms with open arms (well, more like closed because that wouldn't be aero, right Speedy? 🤣). 

And in all honesty, I can't wait to see what post-race will look like for my college group at the ripe old age of 29-30. Because back when we were in our prime, we hosted the classiest of events named "Short Shorts and Favorite Sports", where all attendees were required to wear the shortest shorts they owned with their favorite sports jersey. Of course we served the finest of beverages as well. 

Yes, Rob is wearing a pair of my running shorts

My partner in crime in the 217 area code 
This year, my partner in crime, Beth and her husband Jordan, have opened up their home to us. Yes, as of very recently, they are officially full time residents of 217 area code. Beth can't get enough of academia as she is now employed by the University of Illinois, of course involved with all things science and business. So I guess you could say, I can technically head back "home" whenever I feel like it.

And who knows, maybe I'll convince Rob to run the Half Marathon again!
Rob, Me, Beth post Half Marathon in 2012
And of course this week of all weeks my VERY NEWLY acquired allergies have decided to make quite the appearance, making me sound like a man at times. Not to worry, I have purchased some solid stock in Allegra D which will be enough to get me through the race with minimal flem. Along with an annoying flare up of my IT band/hamstring/we're not sure what muscle is so tight right now. I've had my pre-race massage and I've taken my RnR this week to make sure all systems are a go. My bags are packed, Jacqui and I are on the road, (with coffee of course), and the fun is awaiting our arrival. 

Stay tuned. Cheers.