This is really hard.
We heard the news at around 3pm. Driving home from Natick, where we'd been at a BBQ with Paul's coworkers. Because this is how it is on Marathon Monday, you go to watch the race, you drink beers and watch the kids play in the sunshine, you talk about your own training with other runners. I stopped Paul mid-sentence to turn the radio up - I thought they'd said something about explosions at the finish. They switched the story back to the race winners. I started crying. Paul tried to calm me, reminding me that we didn't know any details yet. I tried to find details online, but boston.com was timing out, nothing had hit FB yet, then the first reports started coming through on twitter. The radio stopped trying to cover the race, and instead covered the blasts.
I spent the rest of the afternoon trying to soak up any detail, but also not trusting what the media was reporting (when they can't google Patriots' Day, I had little hope they were getting the rest of the information right), tracking down friends, alerting my family that I was physically safe. But mostly I just felt devastated, and bad for feeling so upset and stupid for thinking this could never happen here. And I cried.
I felt like didn't have the right to be so sad. Boston is my home town now, but I've never actually run the Boston Marathon. I didn't know any one injured, dismembered or killed. How can I show up to work having tossed and turned all night, eyes swollen?
This is my community. The Boston Marathon is the holiest of our holidays. It is one of the very best things the city does. It's a shining example of human triumph - not just the runners, but certainly them too. The hours trained, the records broken, the hundreds of thousands of dollars earned for charity, the precision of measuring and timing the course, of checking and double-checking every elite water bottle to insure that it is placed and spaced correctly on the table. Boston has thousands of volunteers. This year they turned away volunteers. They have a volunteer loyalty program (and I assure you most people are not in it for the jacket). The Marathon is just pure joy. It is uncompromisingly good.
Of course, it would be a target. How could I have been so naive as to think that evil would never try to mar the goodness that is the marathon? Why can't we have nice things? I have no doubt the Marathon will go on, but it will never be the same. The specter of this year will hang over it for decades to come.
I wish that I could feel defiant or angry toward the perpetrators, or awed and amazed at the people who raced to the scene, but for now I just feel hollowed out.
I am so thankful to my friends for reaching out from places and phases of life, near and far. It means a lot to feel less alone in this tragedy.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
Thursday, March 21, 2013
|R and me, pre race|
Paul and I stayed the night after the marathon with friends A and C in Virginia. The day before A asked me if there were going to be tears if I didn't hit my goal. I told him that I thought there would be tears regardless, but that if I didn't hit Plan A then so be it.
I didn't hit Plan A. I didn't hit Plan B. I mostly hit Plan C, with a little bit of D in there too. You know what the best moment of the race was: deciding to give up on Plan B, and not just because I allowed myself to hide behind a car for a quick pee.
|Corral 6 at the start|
I ran Plan A solidly through mile 6. Then we hit The Hill.
Let's just pause a moment to discuss the courses elevation. I studied it of course. But most of these profiles tend to make mountains out of molehills. All of the profiles below are from mapmyrun.com. The first one makes it look like you'll need poles to summit that hill, so I consulted the second which shows a max grade of 2% on that hill, not so bad. Except that the second graph is basically not using a high enough sample rate. If I zoom in on just the hill, it reveals the 3rd graph AND 7-9% grades! That hill was a little beast. My coach had mentioned this hill, but I had brushed it off as only 2%, imagine my surprise when I saw this thing towering ahead of me. My face was roughly 8% grade purple.
Back to the plan. Alan had warned me to not get worried if I fell behind pace on the hill, that I'd make it back up on the downhill. I ran an 8:45 up the hill, so slower than desired, but I'm not worrying. I just keep cruising, trying to remain loose. I clocked my half marathon at 1:45:51, about a minute behind Plan A, and right on Plan B.
The half marathoners pealed off, and it was clear how few marathoners there actually were. The race was advertised as a 30K person race, but it was actually 20K half marathoners and 3.5K marathoners. It felt lonely and quiet from there on. It felt more like a half ironman run. You've just finished this long athletic endeavor, and now you've got to run 13.1 miles. It felt like this is where the race really began
My heart rate hadn't recovered from the hill. I would try to concentrate on running smooth and taking advantage of any slight decline, but it didn't seem to matter. My heart rate was 180 bpm, and it was going to take drastic action to get it back down to 170 bpm.
I pondered this for a few more miles. What makes 170 the magic number. Maybe I could hold onto my pace and my 180 heart rate for 13 more miles. At mile 15, I tried to focus on seeing Paul at the 20 mile mark. At mile 17, it was clear: I was not going to make it at that pace. I was going to need to return to Plan C: drop the pace til the HR is back under 170, then maintain that pace. I thought a bit about whether switching to Plan C was just fulfilling the doubts I had going into the race. But the numbers didn't lie- I wasn't running Plan A any way you looked at it. Switching plans didn't feel like giving up. It was a relief to stop having to decide to not slow down.
At mile 20, I saw Paul. He had ventured out to give me a light jacket in case it rained (it only just sprinkled, and by the time I saw him, it was sunny and low 50s). It was so good to see him. I gave him the "thumbs sidways" sign, panted "Plan C" and kept on trucking. Heart rate down to 170, pace well into the 9:00s.
|Heading to the finish|
The last six miles were grueling and boring. Without a good sense of the area it was hard to know what to anticipate. Having the race broken into miles (I usually train by time, long runs broken mentally in ~30 minute chunks) only reinforced how plodding it felt. The course itself had five different out and backs. The worst one is below. You run down from the top, over a bridge, and you see runners making the turn off to your left (at the bottom), only to realize there are more runners on the bridge parallel to yours, so you have to go over that bridge, turn around, cross the highway a 3rd time before finally going the way you anticipated.
When I finally approached the finish line, I mostly I just felt tired. I didn't really feel this overwhelming sense of accomplishment. It wasn't like the posters. I was the same person who started the race. I don't know what I expected exactly, but I guess I expected more than strong desires to 1) find Paul, 2) sit down 3) drink more water, and 4) inspect my toes to figure out why they felt so wiggly (answer below). Other than feeling overwhelmed at the prospect of navigating the finishing chute maze of food, burrito wrappers, volunteers, water, medals, and runners to find my husband, there was no risk of tears. In fact I was much more emotional at the start of the race, waiting for my corral to be called, shedding a few nervous, excited tears. In the end I was just happy to be done. I felt satisfied, but not changed.
Odds and ends:
- Having dinner with my coach the night before the race was such a treat. It was fabulous to meet his wife and share a meal with them before my first marathon.
- I've definitely been spoiled by Boston. This race was sorely under-resourced. Sure having bands on the course is a unique experience, but you don't really hear much of them. And the water stops were just chaos. Some stops had no volunteers, just cups of water set out in advance. For the mid-to-back-of-the-packers, there weren't even any of those left. Not cool, Rock 'n' Roll. Not cool.
- I wore my BTT top and got 3 or 4 "Boston!" cheers. Those were awesome.
- I relied on my virtual partner for pacing, which didn't work quite the way I had planned. I ran a slightly longer course (26.5), as you do with other runners and many, many turns. But even the smallest variation say 1.01 miles instead of 1.00 resulted in a time that was off by a few seconds. I'd think I was running an 7:55, only to clock in at 8:02 on the mile markers. Furthermore, I thought that on laps the virtual partner would reset my distance, but it did not. So I continued to get further ahead of my virtual partner, while in reality getting further behind. After a few miles, I switched to using average lap pace, which at least reset at each mile.
Well, if you're still with me, I'm assuming this means you want to hear about the wiggly toenails. If not, then read no further. When I finished, I had at least one toe on each foot that just felt weird. Once I found Paul, I removed my shoes to find that I had one toenail on the left foot and two on the right where blisters had formed up under the nail. I've heard about people losing toenails to long runs, but I've run long and I've never had an issue. Plus, I always thought that your toenails would turn black or something first, and that the nail was separating from the nail bed. Well, not in this case at least. It seems the blister is not between the nail bed and the nail, but between the nail bed and the tissue below. This means that the nail looks almost totally normal, just a tad bit paler than the other nails, but that it's basically floating on a detached nail bed. It feels like a loose tooth. It is bizarre. It has made putting on socks the most dramatic part of my day.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Four days to go.
I swear my heart skipped a beat when I saw the "Final Instructions and Important Race Information" email in my inbox this morning.
Here's what I know as far as spectator information goes:
- My race number is 6028 (out of ~30K) runners
- I'll be in Corral 6. The race starts at 7:30, with corrals departing at 1-2 minutes apart, meaning my start time should be somewhere between 7:36 and 7:42
- You can get text alerts for my progress, here. That link says 7 updates, but the race packet says they're only taking splits at 5 locations (start, 10K, halfway, 20-mile, finish), so your guess is as good as mine where the other two splits come from.
- If you happen to be in DC and want to see the race, the course with nearest metro stops overlayed is here.
|The starting chute: That's two blocks of corrals!|
There's a Plan B, a Plan C, a Plan D and a Plan E. Plan E is to alternate walking 100 steps and running 100 steps. So, there's quite a big divide between A and E. I hope I never see E. But it's also comforting to know that there is a plan should everything go to shit, and it's a good reminder to respect this distance.
With those details taken care of, I'm getting a little wrapped up in all the non-essentials. How will I get 10oz of gel to DC on a plane? [I'll check a bag, but Paul, rightly points out I should bring my running shoes in a carry on.] Where to get dinner the night before? [I was seriously considering bringing my own dinner, until my friend, marathoner, and former DC-er, R came through with a solid recommendation.]
Then there's what to wear. Until last week, I really hadn't thought about it, just figured I would dress to the temperatures, and I hoped it would be warm enough for shorts. Last week, R (different R from above), asked me if I'd have my name on my gear, so people could cheer for me by name. In watching the Boston Marathon, I've always enjoyed calling people out by their names. But damnit, this sounded crafty. R even suggested outlining iron-on letters in glitter paint. The craftiest thing I've done recently is to make curtains, out of curtains. And then you've got a shirt with your name on the front of it, can one train in that shirt after the race?
Here's my Plan A: if the weather cooperates (i.e., temps ~45), I'll wear a black long sleeved shirt with my tri team jersey on top (yay, BTT). But if it's cooler (most sources tend to agree on upper-30s degree starting temperature) or wetter (also, 40% chance of rain), then I'll add my pink windbreaker. It doesn't have my team or my name on it, but it's seen many, many miles with me, so I know it will perform well. Here's to Plan A, and being ready for anything else that gets thrown at me.
Thursday, March 07, 2013
Yesterday, in recognition of meeting a major milestone at work, my team went indoor skydiving. This was awesome. Basically it's a giant tube of wind. You enter it from the second floor onto a net surface, and then the tube soars up another 2-ish stories. The ride is only 2 minutes or so, but it is amazing. There's very little sense of falling, you're just floating. Floating and having an obscene amount of air blown up your nose.
- Bring lip balm. The tunnel is very dry.
- Braid my hair. Maybe it had to do with the fact that my hair was still wet from my morning shower, but even pulled back in a ponytail, it was a matted, knotted mess. It took almost 20 minutes to comb it out when I got home.
- Bring a comb.
- Keep my mouth closed. Spit crawling up your cheeks is just not a desirable sensation.
Labels: indoor skydiving
Sunday, February 24, 2013
Three weeks from yesterday, I'll be toeing the line at my first marathon.
Yesterday morning, I ran my longest run ever and my longest run before the marathon: 20.8 miles, which should also mark the start of my taper. Despite having trained for this 23 weeks, I don't feel quite ready. My biggest concern is that my long run pace has been significantly slower than the 8:12 pace I'll need to maintain to hit a 3:35 goal. The last hour of yesterday's run I ran on 8:12s, but that was downhill, my net-graded pace (estimation of the pace on the flat) was 8:20.
But whether I run the marathon in 3:35 or 4:35, I'm gonna finish. That's all about guts, and I feel confident that I've got the guts to finish. Training for this marathon has led to a lot of firsts: many new longest runs ever (20.8 the latest record), many new most miles ever run in a week (40 miles this week is the latest), running the whole river loop, running to the end of the bike path in Bedford. I've run over 525 miles in marathon training, that's one pair of running shoes sacrificed to training for the marathon. I've run in 12 degree weather with my water bottles freezing shut. I've run in a headlamp. I've worn compression gear under my work clothes.
I had always considered a marathon outside of the realm of possibility for me. With so many shin splints throughout the years, I just didn't think my body could handle that volume of running. Sure, there have been aches and pains, and trouble getting out of chairs, but no injuries (knock on wood). This is uncharted territory for me, and it's reinforced that there will always be new frontiers to explore.
In the next three weeks, I'll focus on the minutiae of the race: the weather, what to wear, how to tote my ~800 calories of gels, to bring my own water or rely on the course, what to eat the night before, buying plane tickets to DC (yeah, I know), and of course where to find our celebratory brunch afterward.
Here's to the taper!
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
I was talking to another runner over Christmas break. He mentioned that he was trying to minimize all of the trappings that come with running that are not running. He wanted a running experience that was pure: no mental energy spent on the sport outside of the run itself. This “naked running” ideal, where all you need are your feet and a desire to run, sounds so zen. To run for the sake of running, without pace, without plan, without distraction is this almost holy pursuit.
And when I compare that ideal to my running, my watch, my hydration belt, my mapmyrun routes, my trainingpeaks evaluations, it feels like my training is missing the point. Shouldn’t I just run for the love of running?
At the time, I said I didn’t think my goals could be met with that sort of training. But what I felt was that my running was inferior to the naked run. But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I realize that, for me, part of the joy of running is the accoutrement. It’s the planning. It’s the evaluation. It’s executing the details perfectly for the optimal training.
If you don’t read Mother Running Rampant, you must. I LOVE her blog. She is a far better runner and writer than I am. Last week, she posted about being less ambitious in her running and how that’s counter to her experience:
My intrinsic love of this sport is shrink-wrapped in minutes, seconds, and that lovely little colon in between them. I’ve tried taking off the wrapping, but as when removing food packaging, that just makes my insides start to turn.
I read that, and I thought “EXACTLY.”
For me a run includes:
- Reviewing the plan from my coach.
- Selecting out a route. I have some standard routes (10 mile loop around the Mystic lakes, 2.5 miles to the river then loops, out and back on the bike path), but regardless some thought and sometimes some online mapping goes into route selection. This step often includes reviewing similar workouts in the last month to get the most accurate expected pace.
- Planning a time (sometimes with a buddy).
- Checking the weather and making apparel choices: heavy gloves, thin gloves, no gloves; earband, thin hat, thick hat; pants, capris, shorts; tank top, shirt, long sleeved shirt, windbreaker, insulated jacket.
- Programming watch with workout (optional). Depending on the type of workout, I may program my watch so it alerts me when my HR exceeds or falls behind the desired window
- Preparing nutrition. Water, sports drink, gel and how to carry all of these
- Selecting safety gear. Road ID, reflective vest, blinkies, headlamp, if it’s dark, T pass and money if it’s a long run.
- Entertainment: I used to listen to music on my ipod. For a while I was trying to select music with the right beat to keep my cadence up. But, as tri season got underway and many of my runs were part of a brick, adding headphones just got in the way. I spent the summer running mostly without audio input. With marathon training demanding longer and longer runs, I’ve started listening to podcasts. It gives me some distraction when the going gets tough but is also easy to tune out if need be.
- Reporting and analysis of the workout. I upload my workout to trainingpeaks and provide feedback to my coach on how it went.
The funny thing is all that prep is what allows me to focus on my run when I’m out there. I’m not distracted by the weather or deterred by having to make route planning decisions. Once I’m out there, the running is pure and and the preparation makes it perfect.
Saturday, December 29, 2012
2012 has been a huge year: getting married, getting a PR at Nationals and again at Lobsterman, starting a new job, twice!
I also topped 700 miles of running this year, despite 10 weeks of not running with the stress fracture. 722 miles to be exact. That's over double the distance I did in 2011. Woohoo.
Looking forward to next year, things are still feeling fuzzy. A combination of missed workouts and no A race have led to a lack of focus. Between holiday pool closures, a thumb cut so deep that swimming was forbidden for 2 weeks, some planned rest and recovery in response to the Chilly Half performance and now a cold, I just haven't been in a good rhythm.
Additionally, I have yet to choose my tri season yet. Not planning on going back to Nationals this year, since it's in Milwaukee. I've looked at races in the area and even a few in towns with family, but nothing has emerged as a clear A race. Any suggestions?
What is clear is the marathon. It's just 11 weeks out, and it's the only race in 2013 that I'm registered for. And my goal is not just to finish it. I'm going to try to qualify for Boston 2014. For my age group that's 3:35 or an average of 8:12 per mile. I'm a little nervous that putting a time goal on a new distance is just begging for trouble, but I also think that given my current fitness and speeds, it's not an unrealistic goal. Despite the recent funny business, my training has been going well. My longest run to date was 17.3 - a complete lap of the river loop from the museum of science to Watertown, which in 10 years of living in Boston, I've never done. Two weeks ago, I did a 13 mile run, including 8 x 1 mile repeats at 7:24. I left the house before dawn and ran to the track with my headlamp. I watched the sun rise as I nailed my repeats - so much so that Alan has sped up the repeats to 7:15s.
- ► 2012 (42)
- ► 2011 (42)
- ► 2010 (37)
- ► 2009 (31)
- ► 2008 (70)
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