Friday, April 22, 2011

Boston 2011

Monday. A perfect combination of beautiful weather and tailwind for one of the most exciting marathons ever run. How a story is told is how it is remembered. Here are some snapshots of my experience.

Sometime around 6pm
On the fifth floor of a parking garage at Alewife Station, prone over a dirty trash can, in the midst of a violent vomiting spell. Mostly liquid. Is that a fig newton? Stand up and move to the awaiting car; feeling better.

10 minutes earlier
On the red line. Outbound. "Excuse me, I ran today, and I feel like I am going to pass out. Can I please have your seat?" - "Oh my god, yes! Please sit down!"

5 minutes earlier
Slumped against a stairwell in the Park street station, waiting for the outbound train. There's a busker playing some music that sounds vaguely Spanish. Not sure. May have imagined that.

8 minutes earlier
Green line. Inbound. Slouched on the steps of the subway car. Falling asleep. My brother gives me more water. Someone offers a seat to another marathoner. He passes. - "I'll take that seat." - Sit down and talk to the other runner, who ran 3:05 earlier. He'd eaten, had a beer, taken a shower and napped. I was happy not to be vomiting into the adjacent stroller.

20 minutes earlier
At a bus stop, sitting on a bench. Wrecked. Need water. Food. Have no appetite. Choke down a fig newton. Jenni and her sister arrive. She's got a protein drink that is hastily consumed.

Sometime just before 4pm
Jog the last tenth of a mile. Stop the Garmin. - "Well, there's no crowd cheering for you, but you did it."

About 5-10 minutes earlier
Stop for traffic. The world comes to a complete halt. - "I need to sit down, NOW." - Crumple to the ground. Take water and gatorade from Jim. Take a tangerine gel from Jeremy. Shake off the dizziness. Garmin reads just over 26 miles.

Mile 26
As Jeremy and I approach Kenmore, we exit left. Across the street, my brother Jim, Jenni and her sister are trying to find a place for Jim to cross. - "I might be able to get to 27" - It's slow going. He finds a place to cross, just before Mass Ave.

Miles 23-25
Met Jeremy (@silentproject) running. Not sure exactly where or when. We jogged for a bit. Achilles and ankle would bark. We'd walk. I keep apologizing to Jeremy for having to take walk breaks.

Miles 20-23
Kind of a haze. Alternated between walking and running. I wanted to slow things down. Couldn't stop thinking about Rebecca. Run into an old timer and chat for a bit. He's done 63 marathons. Start to think about how much more there is to learn.

Miles 18-20
At this point I started to walk/run. At first it was structured (5/1). Eventually broke down into walking whenever I felt like it, or whenever my feet started to complain. I knew I had a few miles until I ran into Jeremy or my brother. I just needed to stay moving forward until the cavalry arrived.

My friend Alett ran up next to me near the 20 mile beer stop. I probably muttered something about what had happened. Honestly, I was in such an upset state, I don't recall the specifics of our brief conversation.

The start of the heartbreak hills
Getting pissed in a port-a-john. I think about how the last four months of training just came to a crashing halt for Rebecca, about how for the first time in 10 marathons, she won't be able to finish, about how I won't get to wish her a happy birthday just before she turns down Hereford and onto Boylston and steps across that hallowed ground. I bound up that first hill, ignoring any kind of pacing, fueled by emotion.

Just over Mile 17
We can see Elise and her friend Hailey. They are screaming for us. Holding signs and so enthusiastically cheering us on. "Go Rebecca! You can do it!" I look over at Rebecca.

It is the saddest moment of my running life.

Miles 16-17
We walk. She repeatedly urges me to go on. To leave her behind. I repeatedly tell her she's crazy. Elise, a former co-worker is waiting for us just over 17. She'll help get Rebecca to her old office, where her husband will come to pick her up. Realizing that I've been neglecting my nutrition, and that the honey-water wasn't going to be enough, I take my first GU.

Sometime in Mile 15
I look back and Rebecca's walking. - "What's wrong? You OK?" - "Something happened to my knee. It went out?!?" - "Can you run?" - She tries to run. A wave of pain washes over her face. She stops. - "No. It hurts to walk. But I can manage."

I urge her to visit the nearest medical tent. She won't. I call her husband. I call our cameraman friend and let him know not to bother going to the finish line. She tries to jog again. She can't. We walk.

Mile 13-14
We're still pacing pretty well, although it had dropped a bit in the these miles. I ask if she's OK. She says her knee is feeling a little funky. My knee was kind of "dry in the socket" earlier in the day, but had sorted itself out, so we figure that some time at a slightly slower pace might let things loosen up or lubricate. So we agree to keep an eye on it and see how things go.

Miles 10-12
Still pacing great as we move through Natick and Wellesley. We're chatting about this that and everything and having a blast taking it all in.

Mile 10
We run into my friend John, who had agreed to give me some water on the course. It was great to see another familiar face on the course.

Miles 6-9 through Framingham
The hottest part of the race, but probably the happiest. We ran into familiar faces - coworkers and friends, including our friend Naor, who was videotaping the whole thing. Ran into Jim and Patti from Dailymile. We were passing the time chatting and taking in all there was to see, from costumed runners to drunk spectators. Having fun and pacing great.

Miles 3-6
Still pacing great. We're gaining minutes in the bank. Garmin pace runner is set to 11:20 and we're ticking off the mileage without any issues. My knee is a little bit tight but loosens up after a mile or so. Loving the downhill grade.

Miles 1-3
Nice and easy start. Ditched the long sleeve tee after a couple of miles. Stashed the gloves. The wind had died down and it was quite comfortable to run. Enjoying the beautiful morning.

It was WINDY at the start of this race. We arrived probably about 90 minutes prior to Rebecca's wave release. We hung out near the side of a building and tried to stay out of the wind, and in the sun. We talked with the other runners nearby, including some bandits that reassured me that there would be little to no issue getting in at the start. They were right. It was surprisingly easy to "sneak in" when the wave was released.

During this time, got to hang out with Megan (@veganrunningmom) for a few minutes before her warm-up. She was super nice in person, just as I expected. :)

Sometime around 7
On my way to meet Rebecca at her house. So excited to run by her side in her 9th Boston marathon and 10th overall. On her birthday no less. The plan is to run with her to about Kenmore, and then meet my brother to log a few extra miles and shoot for a 50k. I'll stop with her at 25 and change, give her a big hug and wish her a happy birthday, and then go off for my extra bit. It's going to be a fantastic day!

Had an awesome time at the expo and the Dailymile Meetup. Got to meet Bart Yasso at the expo and had a blast with everyone at McGreevy's.

Obviously, Monday didn't turn out how I had imagined it. But I learned a ton from the experience. The most important lesson is one that is frequently mentioned during any discussion about the marathon.


I approached this run with a lackadaisical attitude.

"Oh, it's just a training run. Rebecca's pace is so much slower, this'll be easy. I'll just tack on an extra 5 miles. No sweat."

There's a line from Spirit of the Marathon - "Some place in the marathon the distance is greater than the human ability to transcend it." - That needs to be heeded. Lesson learned

I didn't pay enough attention to nutrition, and learned that if you are going to use honey-water, you gotta shake that mix constantly, to make sure aren't just getting water for the first couple of hours. I didn't eat enough before the race, and my post-race recovery nutrition was woefully inadequate. Everything kind of went to hell after Rebecca got injured. I stopped paying attention to pace, stopped paying attention to GU's. I just went on auto-pilot in survival mode, moving toward Boston. I let my emotions overtake me.

At a certain point I realized just how little I know about endurance running. How new I am to this whole world. Rather than feeling discouraged by everything that went wrong in Boston, I'm energized. I want to solve the nutrition puzzle, see what my body can do at higher distances, on different terrain. I'm celebrating the fact that I covered 26.2 miles for the 3rd time, even if it was "unofficial".

I'll never forget the lessons learned this week. Monday afternoon was humbling. But I have so many great memories from the four months of training with Rebecca that one bad afternoon won't taint the experience. The cold, snowy/rainy runs, the pre-dawn runs by headlamp, the time on the single-track trails. Two people sharing the ups and downs that accompany marathon training. The nagging aches and pains, the joy of a beautiful sunrise run. The stories and inside jokes. Our friendship.

The journey itself is the reward. Try to remember this every day.

Someday I will run Boston again. But probably not for a while. In the meantime, I'll be out there as much as I can, taking it a day at a time. Maybe I'll see you on the trails.

Run, run, run.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Running to Boston

Tomorrow I'm going to run from Hopkinton to Boston. Nope, I'm not running the marathon. I won't say that. I'll gather with thousands of other people, behind the corrals, without an official number and wait to run the course. Well, most of the course.

Those of you that read this blog know about Rebecca. Months ago, I agreed to train with her for her ninth Boston. A few weeks into the training, she asked me if I'd pace run part of the course with her. The original plan was for me to jump in somewhere in Wellesley and run the second half. As our training cycle progressed, we talked of our goals for the year. Of course, ultra running and the Vermont 50 came up. We figured that the marathon training was a good base for jumping into ultra training in the spring, so why not make it a full marathon in Boston. So, I agreed to run the whole thing - to bandit.

Race day approached and I started to think a lot about what it means to me to run Boston. What it means to nail a qualifying time after years of hard work. What it means to just miss that qualifying time, and go back to the well, again and again, chasing that mythical unicorn. What it means to run for a cause much bigger than a personal best - to help others through running. Imagined what it would be like to turn down Boylston and move through what must be one of the incredibly intense experiences one can have in their running life.

I thought about all of this, and decided not to do it.

I won't dishonor those that have earned the right to cross that line, by qualifying or through charity, by crossing that line as a bandit. Being in Boston yesterday just solidified my decision. The air is positively electric. There is a tangible energy in the city just waiting to explode as thousands of fans crowd the streets to carry those weary souls across the finish line. Someday, I will proudly count myself among those tired warriors, but tomorrow will not be that day.

Instead, once we approach Kenmore, I will bid farewell to Rebecca as she moves through the final mile toward that special stretch of Boylston street that is the stuff of dreams for many runners, myself included. My brother is set to meet me and we're going to head out toward the Charles and run a few loops along the water. The goal is to hit the 50k mark. Afterwards, we'll make our way back over to find Rebecca, family and friends, to celebrate the day.

Isn't that what it's really about? Celebrating life with the people we treasure?

So in less than 24 hours, I'll be running to Boston. There will be no medal. There won't be a jacket. There won't be help from the aid stations (I plan to carry everything I need). There won't be streets lined with screaming spectators cheering me down Boylston. But they'll be there for her. I smile simply thinking about it. If that makes a bandit, then so be it.

To everyone that I know running in Boston tomorrow, I wish you nothing but the very best. Please know that each and every one of you are awesome. And remember - don't go out too fast.

Run, run, run.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Week in Review

The penultimate week. In just eight short days I'll be toeing the line in Hopkinton alongside my friend Rebecca. A pace running bandit. Her goal is to finish faster than last year - beat 4:59. The training cycle has been good, and we're almost there. Just a little bit of taper left.

On Monday, I went out for a nice sort of naked run. Tuesday we had our typical four at five AM. On Wednesday, Rebecca dropped the hammer. Thursday we enjoyed a great sunrise run. I closed the work week out with a nice crisp two miler.

Saturday, we had fantastic weather, and Rebecca and I hit the rail trail for our last long run of the training cycle. It was the first time we had run single-digits on a weekend since the beginning of training. The single-track trails were clear of snow and ice, so we were able to get off the beaten path for a bit.

I am feeling pretty confident about Rebecca's upcoming race. She actually paced faster this week than in most prior efforts. I know she has some nutrition question marks, but as far as pace and time on feet, I feel like she'll be able to hit the mark. Pace bubble will probably sit somewhere between 10:55-11:15. In any event, it looks like it is shaping up to be a great day for a run (if you believe long-term forecasts).

On Sunday, I just got out for a truly mesmerizing run by the Quinapoxet River.

The river. The sound of foot on soft pine, on crackling leaves, on snapping twigs, on rock. The splash of the brook, the muddy path, the pools of water amidst the ice, the river. In the distance, a dog, a child, laughing; a parent calling. Squirrels flee up trees. The sound of the breeze, of breath, of birds. Tweet. The sound of feet. But mostly, the river.

I'll leave you with a collage of images from this weekend.

Until next time: run, run, run.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Week in Review

Last week was a bit of a recovery week for me. I went into Monday just two days removed from rolling my ankle during that aborted 20 miler. Wasn't sure how things were going to checkout, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Monday Zap The Zero run. Ankle felt decent. On Tuesday, Rebecca couldn't make our normal 5am wakeup run, so I did a pair just to keep things going. That second mile was smokin fast, and the ankle showed signs of recovery. Wednesday, Rebecca was back at it, and we had a nice and slow hump day run. More of the same recipe on Thursday's Five At Five. Closed out the work week with another sub-8 mile to keep the streak going.

On Saturday, Rebecca chose the course. We opted for a familiar 10k course with another 6 tacked on that would take us through the town center. I tried to warn her about the hills, but she insisted.

Despite her cursing the elevation change for most of the run, the weather was gorgeous and we had a nice Taper 12.

Sunday, I went out for some Sunday Speed. It felt great to really push it after a few days of nice and slow running.

In other news, I got a copy of Chi Running this week. I haven't gotten very far into yet, but I like some of the content already. I've begun to really focus on engaging the core, and getting that slight bend forward. I see how it'll take time to fully adjust, but can tell that there will be some real benefits to doing so.

That's it for now. The taper madness hasn't fully set in yet. Nor do I really expect it to hit that hard, as I don't plan on stopping the streak for some silly taper. Two weeks until Boston baby!

Until next time: run, run, run!