Last week I finished up my final race of this season, the local half marathon in Newport. An absolutely breathtaking course along Ocean Drive and the famous Bellevue Avenue; it’s an ideal destination race if you’re looking for something in the fall. Tourist season has slowed and fall colors are in full effect. Our race day this year also proved mild conditions and low winds. I was feeling a fast day coming on.
The day before the race was Superbowl Saturday at our house. The Ironman World Championship was in full force and I was getting pumped for the following day’s race. I was feeling similar to how I had felt in the days leading up to Timberman this year. It was this guilt free, ego less joy. A knowing that a good race lie ahead but certainly not without hard work on my part.
During a session with Meditator Bob, a few days before the race he told me to work with Joy as a mantra. We talked about my power being in neutrality. In the words of an athlete – when it gets tough, relax. ’There is no such thing as pain’, he said, ‘but that doesn’t mean you won’t feel any. Just think Joy and it will go away’. This is a simple law of the universe, dark cannot be where light exists.
With my spiritual strategy set, I found myself locked and loaded at the front of the starting line race morning completely mis-seeding myself on purpose. My plan was simple; go out harder than I had before and push a faster pace for the entire race. I had decided a few weeks prior to ditch my watch and detach from clock time. I knew that I could get myself to a higher state by staying present. Absolute presence would allow me to change the experience from a race to a moving meditation and therefore less work. I teach this to my yoga students every class, I encourage them to stay present, embrace each moment and see how much more ease exists in their practice. This is the same principle I was applying to my race. I knew I was going to be putting out an incredible effort so the more ease I could settle into the better.
The gun went off, I started out fast but settled in. I felt strong and checked in with my breathing, it was steady. Not long after the start line there is a good size hill. A thought interrupted my experience – ‘I can’t hold this pace up the hill, I’m going to get too tired’. Recognizing this futuristic defeat as the work of my ego I countered the thought and said to myself, ‘get back here now, be here, every step.’ A quick reminder to stay present, what happens when I don’t and that it was time to fire up my mantra. So I did, I got in the zone.
I held steady. Mile 1 – already? Mile 2, 3, 4, 5 really? The race felt as though it were passing quickly and I could see that I was running with a different group than I have at previous races. They seemed faster and I was one of them. I felt excitement about that for a moment or two then I got right back to work.
Mile 7 was my rough patch so I deepened my presence and refused to feed the discomfort. I encouraged my body to keep up, I felt gratitude for its amazing work thus far and knew that this patch would pass. Mile 9, I felt refreshed and was able to kick into another gear which I held through mile 12. Once I hit the final turn onto Memorial Boulevard I was completely out of body. I let gravity take me down the hill as fast as I possibly could and knew that my legs would keep up. I stayed as calm as I could and pushed very hard until I crossed the line in 1:47:48.
Embracing the freedom of running this race on feel was such a celebration for me and to be rewarded with a personal best half marathon time was an awesome bonus. This season was nothing short of a blast – super challenging, ego busting experiences filled with joy and yes, lots of pain! The perfect segue into 2014 and the long courses that lie ahead but for now, it’s time to dive into more yoga, longer meditations, have fun and recover.
Joy, No Pain! Peace out.