Thursday, April 29, 2010

A sensory run

I think the majority of runners have a few standard routes that we follow. Yes, we'll change it up or extend it for the long runs, but I think each one of us has a go to run. The one we can run in our sleep, without thinking, and before we know it, we're a few miles into the run.
In DC, I have 2 versions of this route. My mid-week route, which can vary from 4-8 miles, and my weekend long route, which varies from 10-20 miles.
Last night, I was doing 5 miles, and was going through the motions. I have been running this route for about 18 months, and don't really need to do a lot of thinking while I'm doing it. However, I started to descend from the first hill (around 1.5 miles), and on my left, I saw a statue of the Virgin Mary. I am sure it has been there the whole time, but this was the first time it caught my eye. It was a good sight - made me feel like I have a little extra protection when I'm out on the road. Better keep my eyes peeled, I thought, maybe there's more that I'm not seeing.
I continued on, footsteps slapping the pavement quickly. Ever since Boston, I've felt, well, lighter. Getting through that marathon and all of the training with it was a big moment for me. It showed to me that I can accomplish big things, seemingly insurmountable things, things that people may have thought I could not do. Running Boston gave me a new confidence in some ways, and has provided me with some reassurance that even if challenges come my way, they can be overcome. But I digress...
The next part of my run takes me around a neighborhood park and elementary school. It is getting late in the day, and a lot of people were hanging out and playing. All of a sudden I hear, thwack. The sound of a baseball connecting with a bat. A perfect hit. Spring is here. I love that sound - and I'm not even a baseball player! But it is just a great sound.
I continued on through the neighborhood. Lots of houses, people going in and out, and the wind was picking up. Then, the gentle tinkling noise of a windchime. Hadn't heard that in ages. Felt like I wasn't in DC, but in a neighborhood removed from the hustled and bustle.
The end of the day was nearing. I set out in broad day light, and throughout the 5 miles, the sky change. From bright blue, to red and orange, to dark blue.
It was a run like every other, in some ways. The route didn't change at all from my normal path. But my eyes and ears were a little more open. So, I'll stay vigilant - who knows what else I've missed?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Boston pictures

I tried to arrange these in a sensible manner, but had trouble getting them all to line up. Most of them are pretty self-explanatory. I'll provide a few descriptions that should help:
The first few are at the expo/number pick up. I got to meet up with Kathy Switzer and her husband, Roger Robinson. I wish I had met Ryan Hall and Meb (and their dads) in person, but I found this one online. I think it is so sweet, because their dads are just so proud of them. The last one is at the hotel...I was about to fall asleep, but was very happy at that point.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Boston Joy

What is pure joy? Can it be bottled and preserved forever?
Maybe not.
But pure joy can be found at the Boston Marathon.

(Note: I am waiting for my parents to send me pictures - those will come in a later post)

I'll start at the beginning, before I even got to Hopkinton – I don't want to forget anything.
I got into Boston late Saturday night, and when I got off the plane, the Boston Marathon banners were up everywhere, even at baggage claim. How exciting! I was able to stay at my friend Pam's house. Pam was my choir director in college, and was a significant influence during my college years. Now, she is a dear friend – and now has a beautiful two year old daughter, Lucia. Lots of fun with them, and definitely loosened me up and put me in a relaxed mood on Sunday morning. Did a shake out run, even saw the famous Citgo sign (which means 1.2 miles to go), and had to just harness that excitement.

Then my parents came on Sunday, and we were off to the expo. Picked up my number fast – what a relief to get that. The expo was huge – two huge rooms of vendors, so we walked around, looking at the booths. After some searching, it was exciting to arrive at the Marathon Tours booth, because Roger Robinson (running historian) and Kathy Switzer (one of my running role models and author of Marathon Woman) were there, who I have only met once. But the welcome they gave me was like one from long-lost friends. Hugs from both, and they got to meet my parents too. Kathy and Roger are just good people: they love this sport and they are so supportive of everyone who enters into this arena. They were talking my parents, telling them about our interactions, and it was almost like when parents meet the teacher. Kathy hasn't necessarily been my teacher, but her writing and story has served as some inspiration, so it was just a wonderful moment. She signed my book again, which now says,
And now you're here! Big Boston debut, and you will soar! Go for it!
With that, we headed out of the expo. Even though it was still the afternoon, I was tired and hungry – time for a big dinner. We went out to Uno's, and while most of my comrades probably had a pasta dish, I did not – chicken stuffed with vegetables and cheese. Very delicious. Nervous chatter with my parents – it's sort of hard to block out the 26.2 mile run looming ahead. Got back to the hotel, got one final pep talk from my friend Jenny, and then it was time for bed. Yes, it was 8:00, and I was asleep by 8:20. I was tired, and knew that I needed the sleep for the day ahead. Woke up twice in the middle of the night, but fell right back asleep.

And then it was marathon morning. Had breakfast at the hotel, and then headed to the bus-loading area. The volunteers were excellent, and because of them the loading process went smoothly. Got hugs and kisses from my parents, and then I was off. Sat next to a lovely woman named Terrie, and talking to her distracted me from the fact that we were driving 26 miles. Finally unloaded at the Athlete's Village, and by the time I had gotten settled, it was time to check my bag and head off to the start. “I've got a feeling” was playing, and that set the tone for the day...
At that point, it slowly started to really settle in, as I entered my coral, that I was about to run the Boston Marathon. I was in my coral, and barely had time to think, and then the gun went off. Walked and walked, and then I was at the starting line!

I always think that marathon spectators are wonderful. But those who are at the Boston Marathon are at another level. From mile 1, they are out there every step of the way, and they are wonderful. They have signs, they make their own water stations, and they are just excited. My first 2 miles were slow, just fighting my way, but then things started to pick up. In the Boston Marathon, you travel through 8 towns and cities. Each town is great, because each one has its own storied history and pride associated with the marathon. So as I entered Ashland, Framingham, Natick, there is just a change – each town brings a new level of excitement, and they take pride in welcoming you into their town. At one point, there was a group of children along the road bouncing on trampolines – how funny. Kids were standing out giving high fives, offering water, and just cheering. There are half a million spectators and each one helps to carry the marathoners along the way. God Bless those who set up their own stations and handed me wet cloths and popsicles - theyere excellent. The first 10 miles clicked off really fast. Then I knew the next big thing was Wellsley and the tunnel of love at mile 12. You can hear them in the distance, and when you get there, you can literally feel their screams. They are insane, and it was such a boost. Before I knew it, they were echoing in the distance, and I had hit the halfway point. I felt focused and good, and happy with my pace. The volunteers throoughout the course were wonderful - the water and gatorade stops went really well. The next few miles clicked along, and all of a sudden, it was mile 17. You don't make any turns until that point, and once you do, you know the Newton Hills are in store. Climbed one, and regrouped. Climbed the second, and did the same. I knew that Heartbreak Hill was next...and suddenly I was at the top. When you reach the top, you are at Boston College, and they are as crazy and enthusiastic, if not more so, than the Wellsely girls. The hills are not that steep (I practiced on much harder), it really is their placement in the course that makes them tough. Coming down Heartbreak hill was harder, but thankfully the BC people were going crazy and that helped to pull me along. Then 5 miles to go. At that point, thoughts are not as focused as they were, and they become more phrases than fully-formed coherent thoughts. Then 4 miles. I am close, but still far. Then 3. Then 2, and I am in Brookline. At this point, the intensity of the crowd starts to pick up. I know I can finish, but it feels hard. The Citgo sign was looming in the distance, but I put my head down and just ignored it. Then I hit mile 25. People start to yell “One mile to go”, but those who do don't consider the .2. But, then there is a sign when there is really just one mile to go. There, I could really believe that I was going to finish and finish strong. People were walking, bending over, but I didn't. I knew that the final turn was on Boylston St., so I just kept waiting for that sign. The people were just shouting, screaming and going nuts. Finally, I made the famous turn – 385 yards to go. All I could think was “Oh my God, I am going to finish the Boston Marathon.” I could see the finish line looming in the distance – big blue beautiful sign – seemed so close, yet there were still so many steps to take in Kenmore Square. But the people were going nuts - there was no stopping at that point. Come on, come on, then 100 yards, and then...well, I spread my hands and crossed the finish line.

Time: 3:38:51
Pace: 8:21
Overall: 9723/22540
Out of women: 2480/9468
Out of age group (18-39): 1826/4951

What joy. And then...what pain. The body can run a marathon, but once it's over...that's hard. I was taking 6 inch steps, shuffling my way down the street. Finally got my cape and medal – that was a proud moment for me.

Found my parents, and there were such big hugs from them. They were at the finish line for so many hours, just waiting for me, and it was so great to see them. Was just so happy at that point. At that point, they handed me the famous Boston Celebration jacket - something I was working for, and could not wait to don. We went back to the hotel, and along the way, on the T, in the hotel lobby, everyone just wished me congratulations. That is the beautiful thing about the Boston Marathon - everyone is a Bostonian on that day. After I showered at the hotel, got a few phone calls from friends and family and got rehash the race. Just lying in a big bed, going over it again and again was great. Then it was time for celebration. My parents took me out to a steakhouse. Steak never tastes so good as it does after a marathon. The post-race dinner is turning into one of my favorite parts of the marathon, because it is just quality time with my mom and dad. We also went out to a bar downtown to meet up with some other racers, which was fun to hear how their races went. Started to feel tired at that point, so it was time to head back. Got back to the hotel in time to catch the late news, which meant long recaps of the race. Very exciting to hear about the new course record and the successes of the elite runners. Perfect way to end the day.

Woke up on Tuesday and had breakfast at the hotel, and got to read the highlights in the Boston Globe (and they list all of the finishers!). Made it on time to the airport, and then had to bid my parents farewell. I am so happy that they came and could share this with me - it wouldn't have been as exciting if they weren't there. A lot of people were flying out, and we all had our marathon jackets on. On the plane, the flight attendant announced all of our names and people clapped for us - felt like, well Olympians and that my finisher's medal was a gold medal. And that's the beautiful thing about the Boston Marathon - everyone is a winner, and Boston treats the runners like winners. What a beautiful feeling. On the flight, I just kept thinking about it, and was so happy.
I got in in time for my afternoon medieval class, and was just beaming. My professor asked if there was a way to bottle that. I am not sure, but I'll be holding onto my Boston joy for a long time. It was certainly a victory lap, and definitely felt like I was soaring.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Hay is in the Barn - End of Training

Timing is running out. There are about 100 hours left before the gun will go off and 25,000 of us will set off on a journey from Hopkinton to Boston.

I have tallied it up, and in my official training, I ran 758 miles. The hay is in the barn, and I have done everything I could to prepare for this spectacular race. I have no reason to question my training. I hope on Monday lots of training memories will come back to me:
...running through snowstorms
...trudging through knee-deep snow
...intervals in 25mph winds
...getting up before the sun to run...even on the weekend
...the dark line of the pool lane
...countless amounts of Roman chairs (ab exercises)
...saying yes to the run when I wanted to sleep in
...fartleks in the heat
...hitting my necessary interval splits, even under little sleep
...running up and down hills in preparation of the Newton Hills
...watching the marathon last year and vowing to be in Boston this year
...getting chills every time the word "Boston" was said this year

The big day is almost here. I am flying out for a fellowship interview today. I'll interview through Saturday, and then fly into Boston Saturday afternoon. My parents get into Boston on Sunday, and we'll go to the expo together. Staying in Revere, MA Sunday night, and then the race is Monday morning. I cannot wait.

This is my last post before the race, and a long and detailed report of the weekend will come next week. If you ever:
*Gave words of encouragement (which meant so much and will stay with me on Monday)
*Tolerated my long descriptions of training runs
*Ran with me
*Talked me through the final miles of a hard run
*Heard me utter the word "Boston" more times than you thought imaginable
*Bought me gatorade (Thanks Mom and Dad)
*Cooked me a post long-run meal (Thanks Mom and Dad)
*Just listened to my ramblings of Boston
*Tolerated me through the taper
*Did something to help get me to the starting line in one piece...

Thank you. The training has been an incredible journey, and Monday will be the perfect day to cap it all off.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Final Week

That was the subject of the e-mail sent to me regarding my final week of training:
You should definitely feel confident going into the race. You've put in good work, you've PRed in the half and you've already raced hilly marathons.

Monday, April 12: swim

Tuesday, April 13: 2.5 mile warm-up; 1x1200, 1x800, 4x400; aim for 5:40, 3:38, and 1:44. Take a lap after the 1200 and 800, 200 meters after the 400s. 2.5 miles cool-down. Total=8 miles

Wednesday, April 14: 6 miles easy

Thursday, April 15: OFF

Friday, April 16: 4 miles easy

Saturday, April 17: 3 miles easy

Sunday, April 18: 2 mile shake-out

Monday, April 19: RACE BOSTON! Goal: 3:35.

The final week is here! Somehow, I have manged to stay somewhat sane during the taper, and I think that is because life has been so busy. I have started to look for an apartment for next year in DC. That is because I found out that I have a TA position next year, which means that I can afford to start my PhD in the fall. So once I take my master's exams this summer, I will start the PhD program here. Just like the marathon, it will be a long process, but I will get there. Anyways, the TA position is a great opportunity, not just for the funding, but it will actually get me to the front of the classroom. I won't teach all of the time, but I'll get to lead discussion groups, advise students with papers, grade, etc. Not sure which class I'll be working with yet, but hopefully one of the medieval ones. Anyways, it is exciting, and I look forward to starting that position.
The Boston Marathon is one week away. I found an old post of mine after watching the Boston Marathon last year,
It is my intention to be in the 2010 Boston Marathon. I think that is why I was so excited about it today, because I hope to be there next year. 12 minutes to slice off my time, and then I will be there. A lot of work will need to be done between now and then, but that's the dream. Yes, there are those who go to Boston to win, but for most, it's the ability to get there that is what counts. This is the Olympics for the regular marathoner, and I want to be there.

I am going to be there. This is unbelievable.
For comfort, I started rereading Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer for the umpteenth time. When she was training for the 1975 Boston Marathon, she was running 100 miles week, and in her peak (she ended up with a PR of 2:51). This was how she looked when she finished (2nd overall).
This is what she said about her training that spring,
I felt expansive, powerful, and long-limbed. I was very lean and fit now and felt both light and super-strong. Nothing hurt anymore; I was recovering quickly from all my hard runs...I was eating like a horse. At the office cafeteria, I needed the kind of hot meal the workmen had, things like stuffed pork chops smothered in gravy, to keep up my strenth, and then I'd eat another dinner in the evening. The workouts were flying by-indeed, they were much faster-and the air was full of spring and sweet blossom smells. I had the radio on full blast every morning when I was in the shower, and if they played Maxine Nightingale's 'Right Back Where We Started From,' I knew I'd have a lucky day; the tune would stick in my head for the afternoon intervals and make me feel happy the whole time.
I have read that passage again and again, and every time I do, I get excited. Not only is it inspiring, but I have had similar feelings during this training. I have those hot lunches too...steak and potatoes, and then am ready for a big dinner too. I somehow can recover from hard workouts quickly, and run good intervals even 3 days after a half marathon. I have gotten stronger. Every time "Come on Eileen" comes is going to be a good day. Kathrine may have been going for a sub 3 hour marathon, but I am going for a PR too. I am ready. I have worked and worked...and I am ready. I've got the excitement, I've got the training, and it is almost time for my Boston debut. Time to put on "Come on Eileen."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Why I Run asked its readers to write in for an online segment called "Why I Run." Here was my response (limited to 500 characters),

Each day I run, it is a small victory. It's not life changing or mind-altering, but it's a victory. Running has helped my mind as well as my body. It gave me a confidence that I do not think I had before I started. No one runs a marathon because it's easy. We run for the challenge that lies in front of us. It has always been a goal of mine to run the Boston Marathon - and now I am just days away from toeing the start. The race will be my victory lap - for this whole process is a great adventure.

Obvious statement: I am so excited for Boston. There have been nights when I've just laid awake thinking about it, imagining it, and the adrenaline just begins to pump and keep me up. I was thinking about it during my Tuesday fartlek run. At the end, I was envisioning finishing Boston, and despite the DC, I got chills thinking about it. As I've been telling people, even when I wasn't running when I was younger, Boston was always on my mind. I knew I always wanted to do it, even when I'm sure no one (myself included) thought I could. I used to come in beat up and sore from 3 mile runs, but still Boston was in the back of my mind.

And now it is almost here! I am in the taper, and to run 20-25 miles less per week than normal is...crazy. In part, it's a relief, because it gives me time to work on school. On the other hand, running is generally how I work out my stress, so hopefully I won't feel too keyed up in the next 12 days.

Tuesday, April 5: 2 miles warm-up, Fartlek, 10 x 90 seconds hard, 2 minute easy run between efforts, 2 mile cool-down. Total mileage—about 9 miles

Wednesday, April 6: cross-train (swim)

Thursday, April 7: 4 miles easy

Friday, April 8: swim

Saturday, April 9: 13 miles easy

Sunday, April 10: 6 miles easy

Weekly Mileage Total: about 32 miles

I signed up for the Marine Corps Marathon yesterday, and already 23,000 people have signed up! That includes my friend Jenny, and that will be her first marathon. I am going to help train her and run it with her - it is going to be a great bonding experience. We were talking about it last night, and most friends would just go out for the weekend to bond, but no, we're going to do a marathon together.

Today was just a EPMC 4 miler (Easy Peasy Mac and Cheesy). While it was hot, the flowers are in bloom and everything is colorful. I chased my shadow all morning, and climbing the bridge at the end, my legs were 8 feet long. Wish that was the case! But felt strong climbing the hills, and hopefully all of my hill work will pay off with the Newton Hills.

It was so great to be home for the long Easter weekend. Even though we only got in about 48 hours of family time in, it was definitely worth it. Got a few good runs in, and good food after to boot!

Time keeps on ticking. I can't believe there's less than 2 weeks to go...

Thursday, April 1, 2010

March Madness transitions into...April Agility

Well, the numbers are in - I ran 203 miles in March - biggest month ever. That means 3 months of over 200 miles - crazy! Also turned in 4 papers in March - monster month in every way. I am just days away from the taper (2 week taper this time), and I am excited. I have loved training very much, but a reprieve to rest and relax will also be great too. This week was still a lot of work.

Monday, March 29: Swim

Tuesday, March 30: 2.5 mile warm-up; 5x 1 mile, start at 7:52, aim to cut 5-7 seconds off each interval, 500 meter jog between intervals, 2.5 miles cool-down. Total Mileage— 11.5 miles

Wednesday, March 31: 6 miles easy

Thursday, April 1: 9 miles easy

Friday, April 2: OFF

Saturday, April 3: 15 miles easy

Sunday, April 4: 8 miles easy

Weekly Mileage: 49.5 miles

Tuesday was the last big track workout. Couldn't sleep the night before, so when I woke up on only 4 hours of sleep, I realized I might not hit my expected times. To add to it, I was a bit nervous when the forecast called for 25 mph gusting winds. It made the first straightaway challenging each time, but then again, it could be that windy at the marathon. I definitely had to work a lot harder to get my times... Ended up 7:52, 7:41, 7:34, 7:24, and 7:15 for my mile repeats. So, somehow fighting through the wind ended up with faster intervals than predicted. The body is an amazing thing! I was totally surprised, and really pleased. It was good affirmation that I can run on tired legs, and even pick up the pace. I intend to sleep a lot in the next few weeks, so hopefully my body will be even more fresh and ready to go come Marathon Morning.
I am home now for a few days for Easter. Definitely good timing. I hadn't been home since mid-January, so I was definitely due. It feels so good to be home - my body just relaxed. My 9 miler flew by this morning - even saw 3 deer in a field, which was very beautiful, and definitely a reminder that I am out of DC.
April is here...big sigh of relief. I only have 2 papers to write this month - one is due Monday and then I have 3 weeks to write the other one. Like a grad school taper!
I just got back from a sports massage...ahh. There were some parts that hurt a lot - lots of pressure, but once the therapist worked through the knots, what a relief. I carry a lot of tension in my shoulders, and man, there were a lot of knots. He worked through it, and then twisted each of my arms behind my back, and pop! My clavicle re-aligned. Sweet glory! It is amazing how realignment can fix so much. Apparently I need to build up strength in my trapezius muscles. Which means I will start spending more time on the row machines. Not now (almost about to stop weight training as part of my taper), but when after Boston, I will work on that.
Bring it on, Boston! I am as loose as a goose, fit as a fiddle, and ready for Heartbreak Hill!