Saturday, June 4, 2016

I am not Mary Lou Carlson.....

I "ran" my very first 5k when I was 40.  It was 1999.  Warren, who was just my boyfriend at the time, had done a 5k on Father's Day that year.  I went to the race to cheer him on.  I was so proud of him when he crossed the finish line.  I thought he had done the coolest thing ever by running that race.

When we were driving home, I casually mentioned to him that I would love to run a 5k one day, but that I really wasn't a "runner".  Wasn't built like one; couldn't imagine running to catch a bus, much less run 3.1 miles.  "One day", I said.

Well, Warren took it upon himself to sign me up for 5k later that summer -- The Wayside Run, which was sponsored by The Wayside House.

I trained for that race by running Lake Calhoun.  I could only do sections at a time.  I remember feeling so accomplished when I ran the section from 36th Street to William Berry Parkway without stopping.  This was a VERY BIG DEAL.  

Race day came, and I was so nervous....I still didn't feel like a "real runner".  I was heavier than I am today; I knew I was slow, and I thought I was going to get left in the dust once the race started.

We got to the race site and it was buzzing with other racers.  Mostly women racers.  I was absolutely gob-smacked by the number of older women runners that were there.

Remember, I was 40. Some might say that THAT is old (trust me, it isn't).  But at the race there were a lot, and I mean A LOT, of women in their 50s, 60s and above.

One woman really caught my attention.  She had a bit of a bird-body (roundish middle supported by thin-ish legs), silver hair and a wide-genuine smile.  She seemed to know everyone at that race, and everyone seemed know her.

BOOM.  The race started and, although I didn't get totally dusted, I sure did end up at the very back of the pack pretty quickly.  Still and all, I was doing it.  There were lots of spectators cheering us on with the usual cheers ("Looking Good!" (I wasn't.)  "Way to go, Runner" (said to me, even when I was walking.) And, my favorite:  "You're almost there. (A total lie.))

At some point, that popular lady with the silver hair passed me.  She said "Nice Job." to me as she blazed past me.

I finished the race and my love affair with running started.  Even though I sucked, even though I didn't look like those "real runners", I loved it.  I fell hard and fast and never looked back.

After that race was done, I found out her name:  Mary Lou Carlson.

I (obviously) signed up for (lots) of other races.  For many years after that first race, I'd see Mary Lou racing too.   I gathered up some courage one day at a  race and actually introduced myself to her.  I told her that she was an inspiration to me and that I loved seeing her out on race courses.  She was gracious and kind and then she just trotted off.

Then, in 2001, when I was lining up to start at the Twin Cities Marathon, the announcer called out that Mary Lou Carlson, then age 74, would be allowed to start the race a little earlier than the rest of us.  It was her 20th -- and last -- Twin Cities Marathon.  She was running fine, but the race cut off time loomed large now. So, the officials bent the rules a bit for her, let her start before everyone else and enabled her to have her last marathon swan song.

So why do I bring this up?

Well, my hip continues to be my arthritic hip and, although I am continuing to train for Ironmans Wisconsin and Arizona, I am not entirely certain that I'm going to make it to either of those start lines.

I find I have some good days, where I think I'll be fine and will be able to finish (at least one of them).  I also have some really, really bad days, where I am not sure I can get down the stairs to the basement to put a load of laundry in.

Swimming and biking are fine -- no pain.  It's running that's betraying me.  I plod and shuffle.  It sometimes produces some shin/knee pain that is no fun.  It is clunky and un-glamorous and painfully, painfully slow.

And, the thing is, with Ironman, the cutoffs loom large.  The 2:20 cut off for the swim will not be a problem. I should also be able come in off the bike well before the 5:30 pm cutoff.  The run cutoffs are the ones that scare me.

I have the heart to finish;  If I had the luxury of no time limits, I know that I have the endurance to go 140.6.
The question is can I do it, one more time, in less than 17 hours?

Well, I'm willing to keep moving forward toward the goal and I also have to be realistic along the way.  Because, as much as I love the sport, as much as I want to have my swan song this year, Mike Reilly, is not going to announce that I will be allowed to start the race early (or have help from a scooter during the run).

Why?  Because I am not Mary Lou Carlson.