Thursday, February 25, 2010

Just a little out of reach

Today was supposed to be the day I was going to be in Mexico celebrating one of the biggest events of my life. As I write I see old photos of me kayaking by the Arch at the end of the Baja Peninsula and me standing bare chested in the foothills above the Sea of Cortez during a run.

The plan was to have a wedding on the beach today and I hoped to add that photo to the collection above my desk as a reminder of special events. Unfortunately, the wedding is off and as I try to put things in perspective and deal with the immense disappointment, I try to find strength in those places that I have been able to rely upon in the past.

I've used the analogy about how running is a microcosm of life when I wrote college recommendations for my high school athletes. I'd write that the lessons they dealt with while running prepared them for the bigger challenges of college and life. The discipline of training and working through good and bad days. Coping with fear of competition and the doubts that you cannot meet goals or expectations. Humility in victory and defeat knowing that neither was a constant and you could be on the other side just as quickly as you achieved the former.

How many times have I put myself out for a race and set high goals and trained hard to only see the result not reflect the effort I had put forth? How many young athletes had I seen crushed by their disappointment of goals unfulfilled? I told them they should be disappointed. In fact, the level of disappointment should reflect the commitment they put into the goal. If you aren't disappointed it meant it wasn't that important to begin with and that you truly weren't committed. I've shed a few tears after particularly crushing efforts (Boston '02) when in the moment you feel like the efforts were wasted, especially when the race goes so, so badly.

Of course, the effort is only wasted if the end result is all that matters. When you are young it is what matters, but when you step back and appreciate the process and the journey you see that no effort is wasted. With a deeper perspective you can see many victories along the journey.

Being on the beach today wasn't a race or an end result, but I had hoped an important landmark to even greater possibilities. I've been looking at the calendar this week and been fighting the disappointment of the might-have-been's. I'm glad I'm bummed out because I really know how much it meant to me and that I was committed. I expect to be disappointed for a quite awhile but I also know that thanks to running I have found the ability to deal with disappointment while finding the victories I achieved during the process.

I think about all the injuries I've had while trying to run. The bad luck of weather or circumstances that I had no control over. Starting all over again and thinking "can I go through this again?". Most of the time I've been able to find the strength and motivation to challenge myself again. I have realized that I'm happier laying it on the line and trying to do the best I'm capable of. Fortunately, in running there is always another race down the road you can plan for. Those are far easier to see and prepare for. In this case I can't just spot another person as special and as amazing. I seriously doubt that it is even possible.

You never lose by loving.
You always lose by holding back.
Barbara DeAngelis

Within the emotions of today I can see that I achieved a level of joy that I wouldn't have been able to if I hadn't been completely invested. Even the melancholy of hearing songs we shared forces me to be pensive as I wistfully think about special times and moments. That will never disappear and that's okay. I don't mind the tough training days or bad races either. There were a lot of special things that came along during those journeys as well.

A year ago I was in Cabo on vacation and running and trading emails with my eventual fiancee. I also fell in love with the song Satellite by Guster and I associated the lyrics with her. I guess today's title lifted from one of the final lines turned out to be more true than I had hoped.

In two weeks I'll be in Cabo again. I'll be by myself running mile after mile in the foothills trying to prepare for the Boston Marathon again. I'll rest my legs on the beach during the day trying to rest up from the morning run and get ready for the evening run. Certainly the thoughts of what might have been will be there and how full circle I'll have come in one year.