Friday, April 13, 2012

Boston Marathon Countdown: 4 days to go - "Hello CITGO"

Date: April 12
Days till the race: 4

I woke 15 minutes before my alarm this morning after a late night of packing and preparing to leave for Boston today. The last few weeks, maybe even the last month, have been a roller coaster ride of emotions for me. Last night I was riding high as I opened my empty suitcase and began filling it with clothes, running shoes and a few hopes and dreams as well.

I don't know if I've ever had this diverse mixture of feelings about a race before. I'm usually looking forward to the race regardless of the circumstances surrounding the event; but Boston 2012 has put me on an emotional spin cycle. I think part of the reason is because this is my second visit to the Boston Marathon.  That matters for two reasons:

  1. Boston is not just a race but a convening of some of the fastest marathon runners around.  They say that qualifying is the hard part and that a runner should not "race" Boston, but simply enjoy it; yet there is this desire to be able to "hang" and show Boston how you got here.
  2. I always expect myself to do better at something the second time around.  The first time you learn about the challenge and the second time you apply those learnings and do better.  Unfortunately, I'm anticipating a much slower race this year, and I feel sad about that.
When I ran Boston last year, I was riding high on the excitement of making it to Boston; and felt a contentment simply to be at Boston. This year I feel like a failure. Yes, it seems unrealistic and extremely self critical.  I realize this. Yes, there are thousands of runners who would love to throw a well-worn shoe or two at me for even placing the words "failure" and "Boston Marathon" together in the paragraph.  Realistic or not, it's a shadowy emotion that I feel in my heart today.  Someone: throw a shoe at me!

As the plane descends over a cloudy Boston, my eyes scan the ground for any sign of the infamous marathon route from Hopkinton to Boylston Street in downtown Boston. My mind flickers through the fond memories I made last year. My mood swings up again as I recall coming into the final 5k of the course last year, and seeing the infamous "CITGO" sign on the horizon signaling that the finish line was within reach.  The "CITGO" sign is an emotional totem that only a Boston runner understands.  My spirits fly as I think about seeing that CITGO sign one more time, and see it in the most special way: as a Boston Marathon runner.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Countown to the Boston Marathon - "No, I'm not excited!"

Date: April 8, 2012
Days till the Boston Marathon: 7

It's been 14 weeks since I started training for Boston.  On January 2nd, I welcomed the New Year with a determined resolve to run the Boston Marathon fitter and faster than I did in 2011.  Unfortunately, due to injury, I had to abandon the "fitter and faster" part, but I haven't abandoned the determined resolve.

"Are you excited about the marathon"?  I seem to hear that a lot these days from curious friends, family and colleagues who continue to support of my all-consuming running adventure.  "No, I'm not!", I reply.  I think it surprises people that I reply "No" - everyone but fellow marathon runners.  Having a marathon just 7 days away is not like having a birthday party just 7 days away.  Yes, both days are cause for celebration, but the marathon requires me to run for 42 kilomters before I get party.  And I don't even want to party after that.  After a marathon, I crave a quiet place more than anything - somewhere where I can digest the events of the day.

I do get excited for the marathon - eventually; but generally not until a day or two before the race.  Up until then, my mind is still chewing on thoughts of worry and general preparations. (Do these arm warmers match my vest?  LOL)

Tuesday morning I will go for my final session of physiotherapy before the race.  One more round of shock wave on the hamstring in hopes that it will buy me just a few more kilometers before the increasing pain, caused by the calcification on my muscle, begins to rob me of my peace of mind. My training schedule for the final days before the race will be:

Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 45 minutes easy riding on the bike
Thursday: 6k run at race pace
Friday: 7k run at a leisurely pace
Saturday: rest
Sunday: rest
Monday: MARATHON!!!!!!

And with that, I will get back to my race day preparations: hit the foam roller, create my music play list and rest!  T-minus 7 days!

Monday, April 2, 2012

14 days till Boston - "Earning my stripes"

Date: April 2
14 days till the Boston Marathon

Yesterday I crossed a very big milestone in my training journey: I have come to the end of my "heavy training" and am officially on a taper.  I'm both really happy to finally make it to the end of the tough stuff, but I'm also anxious knowing that there is nothing more that I can do to improve my strength.  If I have under-trained, it's officially too late to do anything about it.

The weather was crappy yesterday, so I had to abandon my usual running replacement (aka: cycling) with indoor cardio.  The cardio session started off with a 50 minute spin class which I followed with 10 miles on the treadmill, 30 minutes on the elliptical and finally 20 minutes on the stair climber. 

The workout didn't get really hard until I hit the stair climber.  By that point I was already 2 hours and 50 minutes into my workout, and I was more than tired of being on a machine going nowhere.  The only thing keeping me going was the knowledge that this was it: the LAST big effort, and it was an effort that mattered. 

With the stair machine set to 20 minutes, I began to climb - the sweat dripped down my arms, my back and even my eye lashes.  My legs were cementing beneath me.  The minutes seemed to take forever to click by.  One by one, the stairs unravelled under my feet, and I fixed my gaze on a budding tree that I could see out of the window - across the street from the gym.  The bright yellow buds reminded me of everything we love about spring: the proverbial "thaw" and the optimism that comes with nature resurrecting from the winter sleep - ready to feel the sun on its face.  I fixed my gaze on the yellow buds and thought positive thoughts.

Step after step, I continued my climb and watched the numbers change on the electronic panel in front of me.  9:56...8:48...7:58 - the numbers counted down.  I silently celebrated as each new minute clicked over on the timer.  A small trail of sweat trickled down my forehead and found it's way into my left eye - stinging it wide awake.  My feet ached.  My quads twitched.  I thought about the marathon ahead and reminded myself that suffering is all a part of the journey.  It should be expected - and embraced.  It's how we get stronger.  It teaches us what we're really made of.  It makes crossing the finish line that much sweeter.

5...4...3...2...1  DONE!  I eagerly hit the "STOP" button on the stair machine and wobbled off.  A wave of relief rushed over me.  I made it!  A smile crossed my face, and I looked outside at the yellow buds on the tree.  I reflected on the last three months of training and felt confident - knowing that I trained hard in spite of the obstacles.  I will be able to stand at the starting line on April 16th knowing that, regardless of the outcome of the race, I fought hard, and I deserve to be there.