Running With It: The Countdown to the Boston Marathon

April 7, 2010

I had my own near-death/re-birth experience this past Easter Sunday; completing my last 22 mile run before the Boston Marathon in a windstorm. This run was pure agony – I don’t say this often, but it really was true. I was meant to execute 22 miles with two 20 minute all-out sprint pieces right in the middle of the run and it was literally all I could do to keep both feet on the ground, much less moving quickly as gusts pushed me over the backcountry roads I had chosen for my gallant Forrest Gump-esque finish to training for the Boston Marathon.

I was gasping for breath, reeling forwards like a wind-up doll each time a gust died down. My stomach ached from failed nutrition strategy. My muscles burned from over-exertion. I had dirt in my eyes and cursing stop signs, my iPod, and the sky did not seem to help my situation. To make matters worse, I was completely, and utterly alone and I started to ask myself “ why I even put myself through these crazy endurance challenges anyway. ” And that’s when I knew, my shell had been cracked. I had seen it all, pushed through it all, and it was time to RACE.

I finished the damn run. And then, I went home, had a nice hot shower, ate something, took a nap, and woke up with a smile on my face. Giddy, with that determined gleam in my eye. One that will stick around until the finish line at Boston is crossed.

In the battle against Mother Nature, it appears that she beat me fair and square.
But in the midst of the duel, my next competition, Human Nature, reared its intriguing head. Its more on an ongoing battle than anything else – but my big showdown will come in two weeks at the Boston Marathon.

My training is something that happens behind the scenes of the “other” things that I do, but it is quite possibly one of the largest things in my life. I don’t share all of the details of what I eat, where I run, when I train, whose there, and the outcomes of each of my sessions. That would be a lot of commentary on something that seems simple to me; get out there. Put one foot in front of the other with all that you have, and embrace where that foot lands today. Tomorrow, come back and do it again. Those 12-22 hours a week that I spend in the pool, riding, running, or lifting have become a meditation for me, my alone time. These hours enrich my life personally, outwardly and most of all, I think that the love for moving, shaking, sweating and exploring the whole human experience is a (sometimes) deeply ingrained desire and very much a part of human nature. And I love to put the hours in. My body and mind were built to be challenged.
Might as well let them do their job!

Today, after a day off to shake the YUCK out of my run, I hit the road again. This time the wind was non-existent. My heart found its marathon rhythm, my feet theirs. I put in 10 miles almost effortlessly and had the chance to remind myself that I am a good runner, well-prepared, and I know why I “do this to myself.”

Because I never feel so alive as when I am pushing myself to the line in this way. Its just my nature.

On April 19th, I, and 25,000 other runners will have the chance to toe this line. Nearly half of them will be women! What a joy to come together for such a crazy, fabulous experiment of the human spirit!! Will the course beat us down? Or will we prevail, smiling, crossing the finish line? Will we encourage those around us struggling on the 26.2 mile course? Or shove by, eager for personal glory? Can we see that this is merely human nature at its core? Every participant, subjected to the same circumstances, connected to the other competitors by our desire to compete and finish? So many exciting questions to be vetted!

But, I must maintain composure….I still have two weeks to go after all. So, I intend to fill them wisely. Now is the time to think about running that race WELL, and fine tuning the last minute details. What does that mean for me?? Embracing this next challenge against human nature; the desire to push, but also the possibility of being humbled by something larger than ourselves. I can only do my best, and so in the next 2 weeks I will:

Finish these last 4 months of training off right; cutting back from 15 hours of training last week to 8 hours this week, and 4 hours next.

Make those 4 hours COUNT — speed work, lots of rest, long pacing runs and calm mental energy running through my trainers.

Watch my nutrition – as my training hours go down, there isn’t much room for fluff if I want to arrive on the race course strong and ready to fly. There will be PLENTY of time for indulging and celebrating post-race!

Use each training session to practice race-calm. Breathing deeply, being in the zone, focused on myself, my capabilities, and still aware and enjoying the excitement all around.

Appreciate all the time I have put into this goal, giving myself a pat on the back for coming this far, for continuing to improve, and for daring to show my face in a field of super-fast marathon runners. I NEVER thought I would be able to hang with these crazies!

And read, Google, and investigate everything I can about this awesome event (as if I didn’t know enough already….)

So, what have I been thinking about during these training runs? Well, Boston. AND….

The amazing feeling of wearing one of those crazy over-embroidered Boston jackets!

If I can really pull off a PR on this hilly course?

What will my post-run indulgence will be?

Will Heartbreak Hill REALLY break my heart? I ran some real doozies this winter…

FuelBelt or no FuelBelt…THAT is a question.

Turn off the thinking machine, and just RUN. Breathe, lift your chin, and RUN.

And, since its all about racing now, I’ll be sharing my findings/thoughts/ joy with you all!
Who else is running this exciting race? What’s your racing prep strategy?

What’s on your brain during these last training runs?

What do you think about human nature as a contender?

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    […] feel ready to dig to the absolute bottom of myself and pull out a few extra minutes on my time from Boston last year. If all goes well, I will come out with a PR, a ticket to next years’ running-rite-of-passage, […]

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