Saturday, July 26, 2014

My training buddy is an angel

She would hate this, because she's the one who doesn't want attention, but I can't let this thing go by without publicly acknowledging what a profound influence my training partner and dear friend Mara Crans has been on me.

At the Timberman 70.3 last year
Even though our schedules didn't allow us to work out together all the time (well, that and the fact that she's too fast for me), Mara and I followed the same training plan, so we were doing the same things on the same day for the last 16 weeks. That alone was a huge help, being able to compare notes and strategize and complain and celebrate the same things on the same days.

But I could do that with anyone. Here's the thing. Mara is one of the most genuinely and persistently positive people I know. She's not a pollyanna, all goopy fake and sunshine; she's real about her challenges, but she accepts them with such grace--actually, no, she doesn't just accept them, she embraces them, she tackles them, she stomps them to the ground, then she picks herself up with a big laugh and makes 12 lasagnas because her 4 teenage boys have invited the whole high school and the US Naval Academy over to the house for dinner.

And here's the other thing. Mara was diagnosed with MS eighteen years ago. In the meantime, she has become a powerful athlete who has learned to push her body to its limits while also keeping her MS in check and maintaining an overall level of good health that anyone would envy. She's real about the disease and the additional challenges it offers, but she does not feel sorry for herself in any way, shape or form.

I am kind of a naturally complainy person with a low tolerance for discomfort, so you can imagine the effect that just being with someone like this has had on me. I'm pretty much inspired to shut the f*ck up every time I see her. It's not that she's not sympathetic--she totally is (although she's quick to tell me to put on my "big girl panties" when I complain without merit), it's just that when I feel compelled to whine about, I don't know, how early I had to wake up, I consider how cheerfully she lives with chronic pain, how maybe she can't even get out of bed first thing, and I bite back my grumbling. (I would never know if she can't get out of bed first thing, because she would ever tell me that unless asked directly, by the way.) I have a long way to go for sure, but all this practice has already made me a more positive, less complainy person.

Beyond all that, Mara is an exemplary athlete: she's committed and organized and motivated and she's never late for a 4:30 a.m. workout.  She's smart and she knows things. Did I mention she's a doctor who studied exercise physiology? She knows her body extremely well, and knows how to push herself without getting hurt. She is a yogini. She takes rest days. She eats well.

Which is why it's all the more heartbreaking that a month ago, she experienced an ankle injury that has kept her from running. There were no signs that it was coming. She was doing everything right. Not just right: textbook right. She was the exemplar of healthy training. She was also doing the best and fastest running of her life. Then pop: she was hurt. A month before the race, after 4 months of intense preparation and a huge emotional and physical commitment.

She kept on training, swimming and biking and subbing aquajogging and the elliptical for the run. She is here in Lake Placid determined to do the swim and the bike portion, deciding whether to walk the marathon. She has registered for next year's race.

This week, Mara's sons devised a plan to carry her through the marathon: the eldest would carry her 14 miles, and the other two would take the remainder. Only when they realized that she would be disqualified did they scrap the idea. When she learned of it, her response was 100% Mara Crans: "I mean, who am I to complain...Big whoop, I can't do the run...But I've created these incredible young men who would carry their momma 26 miles." 

Whether you walk those 26 miles or not, Mara dear, my big slow marathon tomorrow is all for you. I'm putting on my big girl panties and I'm gonna try really, really hard not to complain. 

1 comment:

  1. Just totally AWESOME!!!
    You ladies ROCK....oh, and SWIM, BIKE & RUN TOO!!