Wednesday, April 28, 2010

I Did It

It's been nine days since the Boston Marathon and I am just getting to my race report! Actually, I made an entry on the Forum and in one felt swoop, made it disappear without a trace. I was too tired to try again.

The 114th running of the marathon was last Monday the 19th of April, Patriots Day in Maine and Massachusetts. The weather was terrific. We could have used a cloud cover but 'cool and clear' was fine with me. It rained for a couple days leading up to it so I think we were all relieved that it stopped.

All 25,ooo of us.

But the enormity of this race goes beyond its number of runners. There are many races that have more participants. There is something else about Boston that has given it its Grand-daddy status, something separate from the crowd swell lacing its way from west to east through the suburbs of Boston which makes it legendary.

It might be that the course is narrow and downhill at the beginning; that the half-way point is renowned for an introduction made by screaming Wellesley College students lining the street; that there is a nice undulating calm before the right hand turn onto Commonwealth Avenue that marks the beginning of a series of hills, culminating in the infamous Heartbreak Hill; that the Red Sox traditionally play an early game the ends while the race is still in progress and fans spill out to the sidewalks along the course; or that the course seems to narrow again in the last couple miles until opening up on Hereford and Boylston Streets to the finish line. I think it's all of this, and more, that make it difficult to say 'no' to being a part of it.

But I don't get overly sentimental about it. I didn't buy any schwag at the expo - I really didn't enjoy the expo as it was overcrowded and uncomfortable. On race day, I rode the subway to Park Street where I caught a bus to the start. I met up with teammates Alan and Randy for the trip, and when we arrived at the athletes village, we hung out for a little while before the first wave set off. There was a good stiff wind and soggy ground so it wasn't like we were hanging out at a summer concert. In fact, we sat on the pavement, killing time and lacing 'em up.

I have to admit something: When I was waiting for the gun to go off, I was wishing it could be over. Let that be an indication of the kind of time I had for the next few hours...

The first several miles were straightforward, actually quicker than I expected, but on pace so I was okay with that. But between miles 10 and 11 I started to feel tight! I was unhappy about how my quads and calves felt and I knew I was going to have to bear down. Then of course my mind went south and I got cranky. I had to work and wished it was more fun. At one point I thought about my husband meeting me at mile 20, and fantasized that somehow he would make it all okay and magically get me to the finish line. Talk about a Cinderella complex! But that kind of fantasy-world was an excellent distraction for a couple miles!

Another time I forgot abut my discomfort was going by Wellesley College. The young women waved all sorts of signs and screamed as loudly as they could. One sign said, "Kiss me. I'm graduating!" And I laughed. I proceeded to come up with a litany of reasons why someone should kiss me in that moment!

Anyway, the hills were my friends. I actually enjoyed them. My quads needed a break and they are not bad hills compared with what we're used to training on around here. And then I saw Paul. He was happy to see me and seemed chipper, and I was not very friendly. I immediately gave him to carry the two Gu packs I had stuffed in my running shorts pocket, since they had chafed my poor hip bone to tears. And I didn't want to talk much. I didn't particularly care that our kids and friends were at mile 23, but when we went by it was nice to wave and say hi.

And then it happened. At mile 24, I looked at my watch, and saw 2:58. I knew I could make my goal of 3:15 if I really wanted to.

And I did. Official time 3:15:54.

Just don't ask me about next year.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Trust the Training

Well alright, one week until the Boston Marathon. I feel ready.

Yesterday, and for days before then, I did not feel ready. In fact, I thought I must be crazy to undertake a marathon with a time goal of three hours and fifteen minutes. I might be able to run a 5k or 10K at that pace, or maybe even a half-marathon. But a full marathon? It's nutty.

I followed Hal Higdon's four-month Intermediate I program. I completed two 20-milers successfully, and didn't miss too many of my scheduled runs. I worked the plan and I stayed healthy. I did yoga and fitness classes for many weeks during the four-month period. I ate well and didn't lose or gain weight. So I sould feel ready, right?

The difficult part of my training plan was nailing the pace runs. I did not manage to run good even paces for those runs, which were scheduled on the days before my long slow runs. Either, I went too fast and felt panicked the whole time, or, I went too fast and didn't complete the entire run. That ongoing issue left me with doubt about whether or not I could even things out for the big day and sustain a 'good enough' pace for my time. In addition, I was not sleeping well and generally felt tired all the time. The doubt, aka 'stinkin' thinkin' set in pretty well. Until today.

Today was my last long run and it was a mere eight-miler. I met up with a group I am training for a 5K race next month. They are new or returning runners, with little race experience. Two of my teammates who are also running in Boston joined the group today, as they have one other time and we all had a nice easy run. What brought me to this more self-assured attitude is hearing my friend Alan talk about his taper.

"This taper phase can really mess with your mind," he said. "I feel tired all the time and like crap when I go out for these short runs. I don't know how I'm going to run a marathon."

Phew, I felt such relief to hear this! I am not alone, and, it's only negative thinking: There's no real reason I should not have a fine marathon. Alan, too! I have total confidence in his abilities to run a PR.

The easy run this morning with its inherent camaraderie, followed by good food, a nap, and general laziness all day today leave me feeling rested and hopeful. I just need to remember what I have done over the past eighteen weeks. It's been 'good enough' and it's in the bank.