Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Variables and Constants

Well it looks like I am, once again, LONG overdue for a post on my actual blog versus my semi-daily Twitter posts. So much has happened in the past six months that I don't think I'd actually dare try to cover all of them in one post. But here's an outline:

Job change.
Half marathon debut.
Med school acceptance.
Preview of life to come.

As many know, I graduated from The Ohio State University in December of last year. I enjoyed my Christmas break with friends and family in PA, NJ and OH and then returned to Columbus to find a job. After nearly two weeks of tireless searching I was offered a position climbing cell phone towers. Yes, those big, tall, cold towers that allow everyone to text, chat and surf the web no matter where they are, would be my work place for the next two months. I enjoyed the work and enjoyed the travel. It was a very physical job. Climbing towers day in and day out with nearly 60 pounds of gear on your back was an excellent full-body workout.

However, the industry soon required that I find additional employment and I shortly thereafter took a position at a running store in Columbus. I had experience working in the business sector or running in the past and so I felt relatively comfortable taking this position. After a couple weeks of training, I felt relatively up to speed on the latest and greatest in the running world and shortly thereafter began helping out with the training groups that were offered through the store. I started pacing a group of runners training for low 3:00 marathons and 1:30-!:40 half marathons. I quickly realized how rewarding of an experience this would become. Becoming well acquainted with and integrated into the relatively tight-nit running community of Columbus, OH is something that I can only say I wish would have happened earlier in my interim in that wonderful city. I went on to see one of my running 'pupils' go on PR by a full 20 minutes in the Pittsburgh Marathon and saw another do exceptionally well, despite her limited training schedule, in the Columbus Distance Classic. I look forward to remaining actively involved in the running community wherever I am geographically located as my professional pursuits continue.

Shortly after I was hired on at the running store in Columbus, I was approached by my boss to see if I wanted to run for the store in the half marathon that was just over a month away. Excited at the thought of getting back to racing after my injury in the fall, I obliged. I already had a good mileage base but upped the miles a big more and integrated in more speed work. Race day came and I toed a starting line for the first time in over a year. This race was a first in two regards. First, it was my first half marathon. (I know people usually start with half marathons and then proceed to full marathons. I did the opposite.) And second, I pushed myself to a new limit.

On May 7, 2011, the gun went off and I along with the 12 or so other runners in the lead pack flew through the first mile at 4:55. While I felt good, I knew that was a silly pace for me to think that I'd be holding it for the remaining 12.1 miles. I soon fell into my own groove and ran my own race for the next 8 miles. My strategy was simple. I wanted to run my first 8 miles at a steady 5:40 pace and then run negative consecutive splits for the next 5.1 thereafter. As mile 8 came and went, I was right on pace for around a 1:16. However, I wanted 1:15. Anyone who knows me well knows that slacking in this type of situation for me simply is not an option. The bike escort that was with me for the race hinted to me around mile 10 that if I was going to hit my goal time, that I had my work cut out for me. Already breathing moderately heavy, I glanced over to him with that semi-masochistic look in my eye and said, "let's do this!" And it should be known that this phrase has a bit of history with me. Somewhere along the line, I started using this as my motto during hard workouts. What it truly expresses is my mentality on race day. I go into every race with the idea that what better way to die than to have my heart explode during a race? Is this sick? Maybe? Do I leave the course feeling confident that I gave it 110%? Absolutely.

The last 5K seemed to fly by with relative ease. I came up on mile 13 and I knew I had to put up or shut up in this last sprint to the finish. The time was already around 14:40. I put everything on the line and as I turned the corner with the finish line in site, I did something I have never actually done in a race. I puked! I was determined to be under 1:16 or not even bother finishing the race. So up came breakfast and onward my legs carried me. I finished in 1:15:50 and took 11th place out of some 8,000 runners. I'll consider it a success for my first half marathon with only one month of legitimate training :) Faster times are sure to ensue. My eyes are set on 1:13 for the fall.

And while the excitement of a successful first half marathon was exhilarating, what was soon to follow would eclipse that accomplishment.

I arrived to work on the morning of May 16, 2011 and after about an hour of working with a customer, I went into the back where my coat was hung up and lunch waiting. I grabbed my cell phone out of my coat pocket to check messages and saw that there was a missed call and voicemail from a number who's area code looked familiar. It was the area code for a medical school at which I had interviewed in the fall. Despite the fact that being on a cell phone at work is frowned upon, I had worked too hard for too long to wait and find out what the phone call and voicemail were about. I returned the call and it was the director of admissions. We exchanged brief greetings and she explained to me that I had been selected for their incoming class and wanted to know if I was interested in accepting. YES!!!!! Of course I was!!!! I had waited so long for an acceptance into medical school and that day had finally come. I was going to be a doctor!

School would begin July 31 and so I put in my notice to work that July 1 would be my last day. July came before I knew it and I found myself saying good bye to many running buddies, training partners and running routes for which I had run hundreds of times over the past five years.

In the coming years of my medical education and truing, there will be times when exams and studying will limit my weekly mileage. But nonetheless, it will surely be present in my life. It's part of a healthy balance.

And so in this time of change, I can say I have gained a number of things from the past six months. One, great experiences during my interim between undergrad and medical school. Two, relationships formed primarily through running that I know I will have for years to come. And three, the continued understanding that no matter where life and my newly-forming career take me, running will continue to be a part of my life; a part of me. I will always be a runner.

Let's Do This!

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