It's been a week since the BCJO played the Brooklyn Lyceum, our first show in almost a year, and I am finally starting to feel like I am recovering. The energy is coming back, I'm sleeping at night, and the blisters from my feet have finally healed. I recognize this feeling... oh yes, its the slow transition back to every day life that occurs after completing a marathon.
In fact, as the gig came to a close last Wednesday night and I found I could no longer speak clearly, my feet were killing me (why oh why did I wear 3 inch heeled boots?), I was starving, and felt I could collapse from sheer exhaustion, it occurred to me that this feat, minus the sweat and salt buildup, really was no different than that of finishing a marathon.
In fact, the whole experience is pretty similar.
The average runner spends 4-5 months training for a marathon. I booked this September Lyceum gig back in the spring, a good 4-5 months ago and had been in preparations since then.
Marathon training starts off pretty easy with 4-5 easy runs a week including a long run, which in the beginning is only 6-8 miles or so (a breeze compared to the 26.2 you'll eventually attempt!). As training increases, so do the length of the runs, the intensity, and time given to each run. This is pretty much the same when writing for a gig. At 4-5 months out, sure you're writing, but not nearly as much as the month leading up to the gig. In fact, compare my running log with my writing log (yes, I keep a log of my writing, and I like spreadsheets, too) and I'm sure a line graph would show a similar increase of time spent training for both race and gig. The only difference here is that when training for a marathon, 3 weeks from race day you start the wonderful phase of tapering, cutting back your mileage in attempts to rest your body as it gets ready for the monster run. Sadly, I am usually up till the last minute writing, revising, cleaning and printing. Hopefully one day I'll be able to successfully work in a tapering phase to my gig training!
Long runs, at least those of the 16-20 mile variety, suck. So do long cleaning sessions. As someone who runs a music prep biz, I am extremely scrupulous about my parts, striving to make each one as readable and clear as absolutely possible, and this takes a long time. HOURS. Much longer than you ever estimate for... just like long runs! Downside to long runs is that you can't have Gilmore Girls blaring in the background to help the time fly (...actually, I guess you could, if you were one that ran with an iPod. I am not.)
Another frustrating similarity is the cost. It's expensive to run a marathon. Entry fees are a good $100 at least, not to mention travel, accommodation, and food costs. Add in the cost of expensive gear and race/training fuel and it's something you need those months ahead to save for. Financing a big band gig is... probably the hardest part of putting on a show. Like a marathon, all costs are usually out of pocket and there is much to be accounted for including paying for rehearsal space, printing, and paying the musicians. Both events take tight and realistic budgeting, which need to include room for unexpected expenses like buying a new pair of socks to replace the ones you forgot, or getting ALL of the trumpet parts reprinted because the first print was in concert key (this tends to happen to me every time!).
Most striking though, is the way each goal consumes and alters your life. You find yourself secluded from friends and fun activities like margaritas ("sorry guys, can't go to the Heights tonight, I have to get up early to run/write."). As each day brings you closer to the big one, your thoughts are limited to that day and that day only. Doubts start to surface and anxiety forms in questions like "What should I wear?" and "Am I really ready?" and the scariest of all, "Are they all going to laugh at me when I come in last/they realize I wrote that music??"
The day of the race/gig arrives with little sleep the night before. Unable to eat due to nerves you tremble at the start. It begins and a calm takes over- you are trained, you are ready, and you are now giving it your best. Still, its hard not to watch the watch, counting the minutes to completion. As the finish approaches exhaustion takes over and you can no longer form sentences (just ask last week's audience about how my introduction to the final tune made no sense at all!).
Then it's over.
First comes the surprise that you are no longer moving (running/conducting). The still feeling is strange. Then there is a bit of numbness where you are unable to process the last few hours. Finally comes the blissful hydration of Fruit Punch Gatorade/Raspberry Frozen Margaritas followed almost immediately by a long "aaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"
The day after is the best! You can sleep in, eat whatever you want and just watch TV and veg all day, which is all you really can do after a super intense outing. And when you are finally able to process your accomplishment, it is a feeling of pride, achievement, and overall self- gratification. You basically feel like a super-hero. This is of course, provided that it went well- nothing is worse than the feeling of failure after a marathon/gig. I have experienced both and they are hard to rise above.
Running and composing are both huge parts of my life. I do feel they define me and my passion for both allow me to learn from each one lessons that are applicable to the other. When I struggle with one I reference the other. When up all night finishing backgrounds or cleaning charts, I remember that when six miles out from finishing an 18 miler it seems I will never finish, I eventually do, and that means this night of seeming torture will too pass. When my pacing plan on the marathon does not go as I'd hoped, I try to remember that even when tunes are riddled with mistakes, they can still succeed in being beautiful, as can the race, even if my time is slower than I'd hoped.
And as I add more marathon finisher's medals to my wall (6 in total as of now) it does get easier, or rather, easier to prepare for, and I have complete faith that getting my band to perform more often will eventually become easier as well. Now to tackle the delightful task of finding the perfect shoes...