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One Done, Now On To The Next Chapter

This past Sunday I participated in the New Jersey Marathon. My first race in about 2 years. It was mostly all that I wanted — except the unexpected.

After dealing with an injury the last three weeks — and the doubts of even being there — lining up at the start line felt pretty awesome.

I was about to run my 60th marathon — and yet, I have to confess that I may have been a bit nervous. It wasn’t about about running the 26.2 miles, but about what the journey of running 26.2 miles would bring. Would the injury come back? Was I risking proper training for the big event in August? How much fitness did I lose in the last three weeks of not running? Did I pick the right goal time for this race?

And while the questions were in my head, I knew that the answer was simple: “If things don’t feel right, I can and will stop.” Even though I had a “soft” goal time in my head, I wasn’t going to risk not being at the Transrockies in August.

Here is a bit of a recap of my race:

Race Goal: May Need to be Changed
Once I made the decision that the injury would allow me to at least start the race, I knew that it wasn’t just about finishing the event. I spent the 4-6 days leading up to the race figuring out a realistic goal time.

Before the injury, my training was telling me that I could shoot for a 2:59 on a good day, 3:04 on a normal day.

Adding Meaning to My Race
I’ve been involved with charity running for the past 14 years. In those years I have met truly amazing people, heard truly amazing stories and seen true determination.

I work for the American Cancer Society, and I love my job, I truly do. Something that has been very clear to me since I first started working there is the commitment of all the ACS employees to make a difference and give cancer a good fight. One of those people is my boss Kelli Cravey, a super cool, super awesome, a top-of-the-line human being.

Kelli, who joined the American Cancer Society to make a difference after losing her mother to this awful disease, just went through a double mastectomy herself after finding out she carries the braca gene (having this gene increases the risk of breast/ovarian cancer in woman by something like 90%). Do you think she ever complained? NO! She was just glad she had the choice that her mother didn’t have years ago; making this decision was a no-brainer for her.

If that’s not strength, what is? I was gonna run these 26.2 miles and dedicate each step to this amazing, strong woman.

The 26.2-Mile Journey: The Expected and Unexpected
Gun wet off, and I settled in my goal pace right away. As usual I spent the first 5-6 miles getting a good read of my body signals to recognize what kind of day my body was having. The goal pace felt pretty good and easy, just the way it’s supposed to so early in the race.

Things were going according to plan, and except for mile 3 and the 17 extra seconds for the “human necessity stop,” all my miles were within 4 seconds of each other. Calves, knees, hamstrings and quads felt pretty good, no sign of the injury at all. I was happy.

BUT…
There are no guarantees in any race. There are things we can expect, and then there are things we cannot. Blisters for me is one of those unexpected things. I have had my share of them, but it’s been years since the last time I had to deal with blisters.

At around mile 10, I started to feel that bit of burn on the bottom of my left foot, that burn we all recognize as the creation of a blister.

By mile 12 there was no doubt: Mr. Blister came to play, and it was now part of the race.

How bad would it get? That was the big question.

Next Step: Accept It
Well, it did get bad, and then got worse.

I had been preparing mentally to deal with the possibility of the injury being aggravated. Even I knew that the lack of running in the past three weeks could get in the way in the late miles, and I was ready to deal with it. But… I did not prepare to deal with Mr. Blister. By mile 14, there was no running away and nothing for me to do except accept it and deal with it. Talk about a reality check!

The first step was to change my race plan and realize that the goal time I was hoping for wasn’t going to happen. That’s totally okay. Today it wasn’t all about the number on the finish line clock.

I spent the next few miles trying to do things that could help alleviate the pain even just a bit: landing a different way on my foot; crunching my toes; running on the left, right and middle sides of the road; loosening up the shoe laces… but nothing helped. All of this experimenting did make the time go by, which enabled me to move into cruise control with my sights set firmly on the finish.

Always Positive
Not for one second did I let Mr. Blister get to my head. As far as I was concerned, I was still having fun and happy to be there. Let’s face it: three, two, even one week ago I wasn’t sure I could make it to the start line, and now I was at mile 20.

I am also thankful that an experience like this happened because it reminded me that I need to have Mr. Blister in consideration for my multi-day race in August (blisters on the early days would mean tragedy). I am also thankful that I dealt with the “discomfort” because, let’s face it, it will help me on future runs.

Learning to deal with things — with the unexpected part of racing, training and becoming a better and stronger athlete — is crucial. As far as I am concerned, this marathon made me stronger.

Finish Line
So I did it. I covered the 26.2 miles, crossed the finish line, my 60th official marathon completed, one more for the books. Happy I was there, happy I got to deal with things–and succeeded–and ready to take what I learned and move to the next chapter.

There’s always something to learn when training and racing, on the good days and on the bad days. You just need to recognize what a particular day is trying to teach you.

So today I tell you: don’t discard the bad days and only remember the good ones. Both have hidden lessons to help you move along.

Coach Ramon Bermo has been an athlete for 37 years and a coach for 17. He is currently training for his 60th marathon, and has completed 13 Ironman triathlons and multiple ultra marathons in addition to hundreds of other races varying in distances. Ramon is the founder and coach of Tri2B and currently works as the Senior Director and Head Coach for the American Cancer Society DetermiNation program. Through the years, he has coached thousands of athletes in achieving their athletic dreams through such programs as NYU running club, Niketown, Team in Training, DetermiNation and Tri2B. Without a doubt, his favorite coaching moment was watching his 12-year-old daughter complete her first triathlon.