Preparing for the Unknown or How many Times Can I look at the Course Map?

There’s something I need to admit to everyone–I’m a planner and control freak.  Now for some of you this may be a shock because I play it off as if I take everything in stride–no worries.  One of the reasons I can play it so cool is because I plan–I prepare–I anticipate various outcomes so that I am ready–I am in control.

monkey_office_1aOnce I sign up for a race, the monkeys in my brain begin to carry on and start working on a laundry list of items that I need to prepare for.  So I troll reviews of the race,  check my pace goals and look for the course map.


The Philly Marathon was our first marathon; I remember looking at the course map multiple times.  I looked at where the elevation changed, what neighborhoods it went through and the elevation changes.  None of those things meant a hill of beans however in terms of physical preparation.  I had only been running for a few years and I didn’t really understand how to use the information to aid in my preparation but it was the only data available to me and I committed it to memory the way people memorize the Scriptures.marathonmap

The next season we signed up for the Run for the Red Pocono Marathon.  The course map was again the Bible that I referred to and with the Pocono marathon they provide you with turn by turn directions, an overall map and elevation changes.  The Pocono is described as a fast race with a net overall downhill, which is clearly visible on the map below.


When I first saw this I was overwhelmed by the overall change in elevation, but then on the website they broke down the course even further into elevation charts for every 6.5 miles.  The monkeys devoured this information like a bunch of bananas!  I could see where the hills were and that even though it was a net downhill there were plenty of rolling hills to challenge you along the way.

I had learned from the first marathon and actually used this data to influence my training.  I trained on a path with more rolling hills and at the starting line I was nervous but felt like I was more prepared than the first time around.  The first 16 miles felt good but my mile 18 I was hitting the wall. I later learned part of the issue was my lack of nutrition combined with the fact that all of training was during the winter/early spring and on race day in the middle of May the humidity was high when we started and the temps topped off in the low to mid 80’s.  For all of my research, there were still things out my ability to control and the monkeys were back to the drawing board…

Those monkeys have been working over time of late because I have tasked them with helping me prepare for my daughter’s departure to college.  Last month, my oldest daughter, Hope, graduated high school and this week she is off to her two day orientation at Temple University.  Truth be told my “brain chimps” have been working hard all year long as I attempt to process the fact that my little girl is all grown up and will be leaving for college at the end of the summer.  (I need a minute)

The majority the first half of this year my chimps were consumed with AP tests, registration deadlines, financial aid, and ultimately…..COST!  In fact, it is safe to say that the link to the bursar’s office, tuition calculator, has been accessed so often on my cell phone that Siri has made it one of my favorites to make it easier to feed the control beast!

The tuition calculator has a series of prompts that tailors your estimated cost.  It asks about what type of student you’re investigating for–new or transfer, what state you img_0645reside in–PA students get a discount, student status–full time or part time.  Once you’ve indicated each the application will provide you with a tuition cost for one semester and year (with student fees added in).  Once you have your base cost you are prompted to select information on housing and meal plans.

This sends you down an entirely new rabbit hole as you research the various types of housing, what is offered in each building and ultimately how much the various comforts cost.  The meal plan is a bit more cut and dried as you need to choose how many meals you wish to pay for and how many school dollars will be on your child’s account.  One of the caveats to living at Temple is that you are given a pin code once you have paid your housing deposit.  That pin gives you access to housing on a specific day–it’s like logging into Ticketmaster hoping to score good seats at a concert.  So before her housing day I probably used the tuition calculator on a weekly basis trying different combinations of housing and meal plans each time being given a new cost.  Each login giving my brain chimps a new set of numbers to crunch–a new data point–a new plan.


Image result for monkeys in suits in an office

Fast forward to this week, I dropped Hope off at the train station and she is on her way to the next chapter of her life, and I am sitting here feeling good so I gave the monkeys the rest of the day off…….until the text message I get later that night from Hope telling me that she feels like she needs to change her major and that she is feeling overwhelmed because she’s not sure what do!  Back to work Monkeys!!


Simply another reminder that there will always things beyond my ability to control no matter how much research is done.  The map of this journey isn’t always straight, sometimes there were turns and elevation changes that challenge our inexperience, but the beauty of training is that you are in a state of learning and each time you train you learn something new.  Isn’t life the same way?  Challenges enter our lives and teach us what we are capable of–in a way we’re making our own course map.  One that is comprised of our success and failures, where we weak and where we were strong–the map of our lives.  A course map that we can continually look at and help prepare us for the rest of the journey ahead.


My marathon plan for the week is below.  We’re having a heat wave (a tropical heat wave) in the northeast this week and the heat indices are in the upper 90’s, so running by effort more than pace.


7 miles
2 miles WU
3 miles (2 min MP/2 min EASY)
2 miles CD
4 Miles
Fast Finish



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