Stripes and Races

There’s more to my athletic life than just running (yes, fellow runners, it really is possible). In 2012, I found my way to Ironside Martial Arts, where I took up boxing and Muay Thai. In 2015, I really decided to challenge myself by getting into Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and I managed to earn my first stripe  in December of that year (see below). But then life happened (my first marathon, illness, injuries, work, getting married, etc.), and before I knew it, it was June of 2018 before I was pulling out my gi and getting back to the mats.

(Started Saturday with one stripe and hoping to change that.)

 

It hasn’t always been easy, and I haven’t made it to every single class I would’ve liked to attend. But, I showed up, I worked, and I kept going. And yesterday during our adult promotion ceremony, the last six months of effort were rewarded with another stripe on my belt!

For the non-martial artists, let me explain: Each belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu starts with an empty black patch. As you advance, you earn new stripes along the way. Once you’ve received 4 stripes, you’re usually promoted to the next belt color. So, having earned my second stripe, I’m now halfway to my blue belt. But more than that, that little piece of electrical tape is a sign of my progress and accomplishment. That little stripe is validation that months of work, of frustration, of being submitted when rolling are all paying off. 

(Me and my Jiu Jitsu coach after promotion day. OSS!)

(Two stripes, up close and personal!) 

 

BUT, that’s not the end of my Saturday accomplishments! After BJJ, there was a quick change of close, a quick lunch at Chick-fil-A, and then off to Dallas for the Trinity River Run! Because why not run 13.1 miles through Dallas at sunset with almost 1,000 other people? Also, I’m a big fan of using half marathons as long runs during marathon training for several reasons:

  1. If I’m going to have to cover the distance, anyway, I might as well get another medal and race shirt out of the deal, right?
  2. Half marathons scattered throughout the training schedule have–in my experience–helped kept me from being overwhelmed. By and large, I only tend to worry about the next race on the calendar. So, when there’s a half marathon (or two or 3) on the calendar in the lead up to a marathon, I tend to worry less about the results of marathon race day.
  3. Scheduling a half marathon in the lead-up to a full marathon can help me get a grip on where I’m actually at. That is, I can use the half marathon (aka a tune-up race) to assess how my training is going: if I’m on track to meet my marathon goals, if I need to change anything, etc. Plus, my half marathon finish time can help give me a rough idea of how long it’ll take me to finish the full marathon.

(Me and the hubby chilling out at the Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge before the race.)

(The start/finish line before the race.)

 

Given how much I’ve struggled with most of my long runs, I came to the race just hoping to finish in three hours or better. And since I’d been considering dropping down from the full marathon to the half marathon next month, I made an unofficial deal with myself: if it took me more than 3 hours to finish Trinity, I’d only run the Dallas Half Marathon next month; but, if I managed to finish under 3 hours, I’d stick with the full marathon. Needless to say, there was a lot riding on the outcome of this race.

 

I started off at 4PM with the sun still shining and a little bit of wind. As we made our way through Dallas’s Design District and along the Trinity Trails, I just tried my best to be mindful: focus on my breathing, pay attention to what was around me, and simply concentrate on the current mile. All seemed to be right with the world when a sudden shot of foot pain around mile 5 or 6 slowed me down to walking. But, after a little bit of walking, the pain subsided, and it was back to the work at hand. Before I knew it, I’d settled in to a steady game of leap frog with the 2:30–that’s 2 hours and 30 minutes–pacers!  (NOTE: pacers are runners in a half or full marathon designated to run a specific time. They usually carry signs announcing their pace and/or wear some sort of shirt or uniform to mark them as pacers. They exist to help runners keep track of hour their pacing and estimated finish time.) I even managed to catch up with the 2:25 pacers and thought I just might be able to hit a new PR, but another round of foot pain hit, and it was back to leap frogging with the 2:30 pacers.

(Post race with my finisher’s medal and part of the Dallas skyline.)

In the end, I didn’t set a new PR. BUT, even after a few more rounds of foot pain that slowed me down to walking, I still managed to finish with a chip time of 2:35:13! This race was a moment I needed to see that all the mileage (as sucky as many of the long runs may have been) and all the strength training has left me more than ready to not only finish the Dallas marathon, next month, but to finish well! It was one of those rare runs where everything else fades away, and I’m reminded of all the reasons I love running in the first place. Like the stripe I’d earned in the morning, it was validation of moving in the right direction, and I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the day.

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