Wednesday, October 14, 2009

It was a week full of "lasts."

That will lead into a weekend of firsts.

I admit I've been a bit neglectful, my dear readers. And this latest entry is being pounded out as I sit at the gate at JFK waiting for my flight to San Francisco. But this week has been full of emotion and every time I sit down at the computer to share it with you, my entire body vibrates with energy and I have to turn my attention to something else.

Or I've just been lazy. Your pick.

So here we are. Five months of training and begging for money have finally come to this. Oh and on the money front, we totally kicked it. Remember the Walter Challenge? I was like a grand away from my personal goal of five large when two of my favorite families stepped in. First, my brother's family (including nephews Dominic, Anthony and Vincent with whom I can only communicate via text message and who make a career of rolling their eyes at everything I say. But I love 'em something awful); then my second family, also known as the Loud Boisterous Often Drunken But Fun And Loving Meaghers. They brought me to my personal goal of $5,000 raised for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and I'm pretty sure I got misty when I got the notifications in my email.

And now I get a TNT duffel bag.

But let me get you up to date on the week or so of lasts.

Babs, Elkin, Javi and I spent one of our last Tuesdays together with a post-workout celebratory chocolate milk.

Honestly, it's supposed to be awesome after a hard run and I am JUST now doing it? Hello? How did that happen? A green light for chocolatey goodness and I come in on the tail end?

Babs showed us her multi-talentedness by blowing bubbles to make it look like she had a full glass.

Okay, so the taper was in full force and we were trying to not be too analytical about anything (thus the bubble blowing). That was Ramon's job, who spent our last Saturday practice in the park giving us a mile-by-mile analysis of the race course:

It was incredibly informative and I find myself hanging on every word that comes out of Ramon's mouth. Like when he said Mile 6 was a hill. See, Ramon doesn't think anything is a hill. Like Cat Hill or Harlem Hill in CP? I chug. I heave. I feel it in my quads. He strides easily with a steaming hot cup of coffee in his hand, passing us left and right and chiding us for not tiki-tiki-ing. So when he said in his oh-so-awesome Spanglish that I will miss so much, "Iiiis a hill, not gonna lie. Eeeeven by my standarsss, iiiis a hill. Iiiiis gonna suck."

Iiiis gonna suck. Awesome.

So that night, I joined a girlfriend of mine who was in town from LA for a friend's 40th. I thought a night out might be just what I needed to ease the nerves. A nice, calm night with mature women; an opportunity to sip a glass of wine and chit chat about the healthcare crisis and the state of nuclear disarmament in North Korea.

Yeah, that's my friend Kim's foot on my shoulder.

Okay so NPR's "All Things Considered" we were not. But honestly, it was Saturday night in the Meatpacking District. How often do I do this?

(I don't spend many Saturday nights in the Meatpacking anymore, so perhaps my moves were a little rusty. I won't dwell on getting waved off by the uppity door dude when I did a move toward my wallet to pull out my ID. I was walking in behind a line of children (all of about 23) whose IDs were being checked. I thought he was checking everyone. I think when he put his hand up and gave me a gentle shake of the head, I actually pulled my hand out of my purse and pushed it through my hair nonchalantly. And then when I walked past him I cursed him with every form of the f-bomb I could come up with. Did you know you could make it an adverb?)

But it was a fun time, even when we took a sharp left to Cougartown and started chatting up the 23-year old boys next to us. After just two glasses of sangria, I was ready to leave, but it felt good to see my friend Kim and be a part of the social living again.

With Sunday came the realization that this would be the last Sunday I spent as a non-marathoner. (Oh, this week has been full of those: the last Monday morning I brush my teeth as a non-marathoner. The last Wednesday at 2:00 that I eat lunch at my desk as a non-marathoner.)

I had my last team practice in CP on Tuesday. The last Tuesday night I would run with Elkin and Barb. And actually, we didn't even have Elkin. Our workout was just a 40-minute easy run through the park; this week is all about keeping the legs loose and not overdoing anything. But Elk is still a couple weeks away from away NY and that part of our team is still working on pacing. So Tuesday, it was Babs and I. For the Three Amigos, it felt a bit like a forced breakup. Like the court has ordered we stay away from one another, even though we know we're better together.

We had our final run on a chilly October evening. I was running with Babs, Joanne, Rose and a few of the other SF gals and we excitedly talked about packing (have overpacked with way too many fun going out shirts, as per usual), race day hair (oh yeah, chicks design styles for race day. I am a single ponytail girl myself but I've seen hair get elaborate, yo! Like Princess Leah and everything!) and misbehaving.

("Misbehaving" is Ramon's catch-all for everything fun we give up when we're training. While Ramon is the most talented top-tier and renowned coach anyone could be fortunate to have in her corner when training for a marathon, he is also reportedly one of the most talented top-tier misbehavors around. And misbehaving is mandatory with TNT, which means after crossing the finish line Sunday, the parties only stop when we are forced to go through security at the airport to get back to New York. It's comforting to know that we play as hard as we train.)

But with our group whittled down to just the SF girls, I think all of us felt a little closer to one another when we ended our short run. After all, we were about to trek across the country together and do something only 1% of the population does. (No, not raise ferrets. Run a marathon.)

My mentor Shari did not run in this nice suit. She was bag-watcher Tuesday night:

Since we finished pretty quickly, Babs and I hung around and waited for Elkin to finish with the New York group. We were sad:

But it was great that we all made it out for our last Tuesday together:

So thus began the week of "lasts." The last time I would take this picture:

Hee hee hee hee hee ... this gets me EVERY time!

And the last time we'd all be together with Ramon asking one of us where the others are:

See, something funny happened during our time together that we didn't realize until very recently. Babs, Elk and I became a team within a team. I mean, we knew that, but we didn't know that other people knew that. All of a sudden, random teammates would see me at a practice alone and look at me quizzically, asking "where are your peeps?" I laughingly mentioned that once to Babs and Elk, to which they responded the same thing had happened to them. After my solo long run, our friend and teammate Jenn remarked to me, "I felt so bad that you didn't have your people with you." My people. As if I was Moses leading my sweaty, Dry-fit clad posse through a war-torn Central Park. (Actually, that could totally happen, just not this time.)

When we first found each other, it was a pleasant surprise when we'd run together on Tuesdays and Saturdays. I'd look for Elkin (he came first, then Babs) and when I saw him, we'd give a high-five and take off on our run. Eventually, we'd hang back on starting our runs until we were sure all three would be there to do it together. Toward the end, we checked in with each other daily via email, text or Facebook, and not all of our conversations had to do with our training.

In short, I've seen the accelerated progression of a friendship. Usually you watch friendship growing over time, looking back after five or ten years when you hit a milestone in your relationship. But we were practically BFF's (ok, stalker!) over a matter of days, sharing a monumental accomplishment that few understand. For Pete's sake, these guys practically know my bathroom routine.

I can't explain the conflict of emotion from Tuesday night. I felt closer to Babs than ever (oh my God, when did I turn into Single White Female?), so happy we'd be making the trip together and I'd have her - if not by my side at the finish - pretty damned close to me as we pick up those Tiffany necklaces.

But I'll admit as the three of us left each other at 86th Street - me headed to my apartment, my two friends headed downtown - I had a heavy heart. As I've said before, there will never be a first time. We all learned something new about ourselves - that we could do things like run 21 miles or plow up a steep hill 12 times in a row - and we learned it together. What an incredible gift to have them on either side of me.

To my teammates Elkin and Barb, I wish you the best of luck in New York and San Francisco ... and thank you for making sure we never did half-sies.

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