Sunday, April 15, 2012

Boston tomorrow.

This is my first blog entry in about six months.  I kept telling myself I would update this, since I've actually been really busy running.  I've had some great runs during this time, but I think the thing that kept me from writing was just a string of rather disappointing races.  As I sit here writing this, though, one day before I run the Boston Marathon on what will be an 89 degree day, I am looking back on my last six months.  And while my running may not have been consistent, certain things have been constant: my love of the sport, the support I get from my friends, and the inspiration that so many of my teammates give me on a constant basis.  Because of these things, I am excited about the race tomorrow, and I know that no matter what my time is, no matter how hot it is, I will be guided by the thought of so many others rooting for me and helping me to lead the way.

Just a brief rundown of my running over the last few months:

In October, I ran the Mohawk Hudson River Marathon.  I really didn't know what to expect from this race.  I had done Reach the Beach three weeks before, and the 18-mile NYRR Marathon Tuneup two weeks before.  If it makes sense, I think I felt overtrained and undertrained at the same time.  I think I did not train enough early on in the process, and then tried to condense it as I got closer to the race.  As a result, I didn't feel like I was particularly fit, yet my legs and body felt worn out and never fully recovered.  On top of that, I hadn't done much racing in the few months leading up to the marathon (hadn't raced a single Half during my training).  I was left not really knowing how I was going to do, or what I should try for.

Peter, Matt and Michael were also doing the marathon, and they were all trying for a 3:05ish.  So I thought I would basically tag along with them.  This meant 7:00-7:05 pace.  To make a long story short, by mile 8, I was already feeling like it wasn't my race.  And though I hit the halfway point at around 1:32:30, just on target, I knew I wasn't going to be able to maintain it.  Mile 14 was 7:32, then came the 8 minute mile at Mile 16.  Around mile 18, Darin came zooming past me like he was riding a jet engine.  I was just doing what I could to make it to the finish.  My final time was about 3:19:08.  I was indeed very disappointed.

I spent the hour or so after the race feeling kind of bad for myself.  It was a day when Peter, Michael, Onesimo, and many others had great races.  And I was really happy for them, but I couldn't help but feel upset about my own performance.

It took Bernie to make me feel like I was being silly.  She also didn't have the race that she was hoping for.  We waited for her for awhile, and I think Sanderson and Cindy went back on the course to see if she was ok.  It turned out, she knew she wasn't having a good race, but just made the best out of it.  She walked, she chatted, and she laughed.  She ran in honor of her father, and was determined to enjoy herself.  When she came by us, waiting for her by the finish, she was in great spirits, happy to see us, and excited about the finish.  All of us there ran her through to the finish line together.  It was a truly inspirational moment and so exemplary of the enormously positive attitude and sportsmanship that so many of my Front Runner friends carry themselves with.  It made me really proud to be a member of the club and friends with such great people.

Unfortunately, that feeling of positive energy didn't really stick with me as long as it should have.  I spent the weeks following Mohawk Hudson feeling sorry about myself, feeling slow, undertrained and out of shape.  Although I had the New York City Marathon on my schedule three weeks afterwards, I did nothing to get my mind into running that race.  Instead, I spent three weeks basically sitting on the couch, depressed, and stuffing my face.  It wasn't pretty.

Needless to say, the NYC didn't go so well either.  To make matters worse, I got cocky at the start, and went out way too fast, faster than I had gone out at Mohawk.  Five of the first 8 miles were under a 7 minute pace.  But by Mile 11, I was running a 7:32.  By Mile 20, I was just hoping for under 9 minute miles.  Final time was 3:22:36.

To be honest, I don't remember much about that race.  But I do remember that after the race, Mikey, Waldon, Sanderson, Matt, Chris and some others met up for beers and burgers, and a little pool.  It made me realize that the reason I ran, and the reason I did all these marathons, wasn't so much about the finishing time.  It was about doing an activity that I enjoy, and getting to participate in a sport alongside my best friends.  While the race itself wasn't so great, the time I got to spend with my friends is what I will always remember about the experience.  The training, the ferry ride, the corrals, commiserating, the beers, that's what makes the marathon experience so amazing for me.  A time is just a number.  But the experiences will last forever.

Annnnndddd, sooooo, two weeks later, I did another marathon, this time in Philly.  By this point, I had resigned myself to the fact that no matter how many marathons I did, none of them were going to be as fast as I would have liked.  So, instead of boring you with the details, I'll just say that I did it in 3:18:20.  Not great, but whatever.

So, after doing three marathons in five weeks, what was next?  I don't remember exactly how it came to be, but somehow, somehow, I decided that it was a good idea for me to run an Ultra.  It turned out that Jonathan, Sanderson, Waldon and Jonathan were all registered to do the Lookout Mountain 50-miler in Georgia / Tennessee.  The idea intrigued me.  It's a trail race up a mountain.  I had never done an ultra before.  Nor had I ever done a trail race before.  So, what the hell, might as well kill two birds...

It was pretty brutal.  Daniel and I decided to run the whole thing together.  I'm really glad that we did.  I'm certain there was no way I would have finished it without him.  It was just a long-ass run.  50 miles, through river crossings, single-track trails, mud, thorns, darkness, wetness, misery.  By mile 15, I didn't think I'd be able to make it.  It was like a complete mind-fuck.  You couldn't think of how many miles you ran or have left because the number was so big.  Like, running 20 miles, and then thinking you have MORE than a whole marathon left.

What kept me going was the thought of the next aid station coming up.  Every 6-8 miles, they would have an aid station, will tons of goodies.  Pringles, Mountain Dew, potatoes/salt, fig newtons, M&Ms, and my favorite, ramen noodles.  I couldn't wait for the ramen noodles.  I had like three cupfuls of them at a few of the stations.  At the aid stations, I refilled my water bottle with half Mountain Dew, half Coca Cola.  It was disgusting.

But the whole time, Daniel and I were within about 50 feet of each other.  Sometimes he would be ahead, sometimes I would be.  Sometimes we chatted, sometimes we gossiped, sometimes we bitched.  It was like an 11-hour emotional roller coaster.  We'd pass the same people over and over again.  There was this guy in green; somehow we passed him like ten times, but he would always catch back up and pass us again.  I was so angry at him.  At the last aid station, he chugged a beer and we passed him, thinking, "Haha, we finally have you beat, sucker."  But then the sun set, and it got pitch black.  And we spent the last 6 miles trying to outrun his stupid headlamp.  I felt like I was in the Blair Witch Project, with him chasing us.

The last couple of miles, we were at like 10 hours and 45 minutes of running.  Daniel and I had a goal of finishing the race in under 11 hours.  At like 10:55, the guy in green passed us, and I also realized we weren't going to make it in under 11 hours.  With about a mile to go, I was about ready to give up; fuck it all.  Somehow Daniel helped me to pull it together, and we made it to the finish line, 11 hours and 11 minutes after we started.  Waldon, Sanderson and Jonathan were right there at the end, cheering us in.  They were so excited for us, and we were so happy to be done.  I had finished my first Ultra!  And I had an amazing experience running the whole way with Daniel!

As of right now, I don't really remember how we finished compared to everyone else in the race.  But this was truly a race where the time didn't matter.  What mattered was that I did my first Ultra, with a great friend, and we had the most wonderful time supporting and encouraging each other.  It was an experience I'll never forget, and I absolutely thank Daniel for being with me every step of the way.


So fast forward to now.  I've had a pretty good training season for tomorrow's race.  And I've been racing well too.  In March, I ran the Coogan's 5K in 18:43 (6:03 pace).  A new PR!!  And then, two weeks later, I ran the NYC Half in 1:27:11, a HUGE new PR (by over two minutes)!!  So, I've been really excited about Boston.

But, that being said, I think I had a very modest goal for myself.  I wasn't looking to PR.  All I really wanted was to BQ so I could join my friends next year.  Just a sub-3:10 would make me happy.  A 3:08 would be amazing.

Of course, tomorrow is supposed to be 89 degrees.  The BAA has given us three heat advisories, including:

  • We are now making the recommendation that if you are not highly fit or if you have any underlying medical conditions (for example-cardiac disease, pulmonary disease or any of a number of medical problems), you should NOT run this race. 
  • For the overwhelming majority of those who have entered to participate in the 2012 Boston Marathon, you should adopt the attitude that THIS IS NOT A RACE.
  • Speed can kill.

Soooo, we will see what the weather holds for me tomorrow.  All I can say is I will do my best, run smartly and responsibly, and know that I have the support of my friends, family and teammates no matter what happens tomorrow.  For those of you who are reading this: thank you for helping to lead the way for me.