Friday, April 27, 2012

Boston 2012: The Aftermath

So Here I Go Again!
"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor, catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."
~ Mark Twain
Three days after running the Boston Marathon I went for a short, easy trot around Walden and Sawhill Ponds in eastern Boulder. This is one of my favorite places to run during the spring because it's a wildlife refuge, so there's lots of baby animal sightings. That day I posted on dailymile : "Easy, no watch run. It's so good to run for no other reason than to run." And for an entire day, it seems, I was completely content to have nothing planned in the near future. And then there was the next day...


When I was 7 years old my family took a trip to our ancestral grounds: Ireland. On that trip we did what we always did when traveling: We found a local stable and went out for a horseback ride. It was something that my Dad, sister, and I always did. The Irish country byways, cutting through rolling emerald hills, is ideal for riding, and the Irish take horseback riding seriously.

Well, as we rode along, my horse got spooked, stumbled, and prompted bucked me off and onto the ground. I remember landing hard on a small boulder sticking out of the ground. I sat there for a second and then immediately remounted. I know I cried a bit, and I know it hurt a lot, but what else could I do. As we continued on down the road I heard our guide quietly comment to my father about my willingness to get right back on the horse.

A year later we were in Switzerland, riding again. I was small for 8, and they put me on a huge horse who was apparently the most gentle of the lot. This time my horse took off on me. I remember holding on for what seemed an eternity, racing through the trees. My father chased after me. When my horse finally stopped, and my father caught up, his head was bloodied by the lashing of branches he hit during the chase. I was unscathed, and eager to continue our ride.


What does any of this have to do with running? Well, after the Boston blowout I feel the need to get back on the horse, sooner rather than later, and hold on tight for the wild ride and see what happens. I have this annoying feeling that my whole training cycle was 'wasted' on nothing more than a mediocre training run (Boston) - though, of course, I know that that does not do the experience justice.

But as I've said in earlier posts, I want to run Boston again and I didn't get a qualifying time. Since I hate the heat (summer) and my next planned marathon is NYC in November (which is after Boston 2013 registration), I'm faced with either trying again now or waiting until 2014 (at least) to run Boston again. Well, I'm no spring-chicken, so I hate putting things off for later.

So why not throw caution, and good sense, to the wind and try again now?

I signed up for the Brookings Marathon in Brookings, South Dakota, on May 12th, less than 4 weeks after Boston. Foolhardy? Probably. But then again, who knows. I know I'll learn something, but I don't know what it will be yet. Will I get my BQ? Dunno. Will I be recovered? Dunno.Whatever happens, happens...

And then I woke up in the middle of the night wondering what the hell I'm doing to myself. My friends greet the news with shaking heads of disbelief. They're baffled. I'm baffled. And so it goes...

"We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success. "
~ Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Emergency Blog Post! To Run Or Not To Run? That Is THE Question

"Always do what you are afraid to do." 
Ralph Waldo Emerson

So the bee-in-my-bonnet is stinging the bejeezus out of me.

A few days ago the Colorado Marathon, which will be held on May 6th, gave out ten free entries to the marathon or half marathon, and I jumped into the contest without a second thought. Well, maybe I had a second thought, but I sort of wanted it. And I sort of didn't want it. But, alas, I was not one of the lucky winners.

But this got me thinking: I'm feeling pretty good after Boston, just a tad bit of soreness left after a week and change. Why not jump into another one and see if I can get that BQ after all?

I started looking around for something near-ish (within driving distance), with historically cool temps, a lower elevation than Boulder, and a fast-ish course. I threw this out to friends on facebook. I surveyed the options at - and I came upon the Brookings Marathon on May 12th in Brookings SD. 

Well, I'm chronic not crazy, but the idea has dug its way deep into the recesses of my brain, and I can't seem to exterminate the little bugger.

It fits into my schedule perfectly: Classes end May 7th and grades are due May 10th and the weekend after I'm committed to a two day RRCA training course. It allows enough time to recover from Boston, but not so much time that I lose conditioning.

What to do...What to do...?

I need a push over the edge, fast.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Episode Three: Steady Forward Progress

...Time to cut to the chase!

"If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment." -  Henry David Thoreau
We make our way down a gentle slope, along the tree shaded streets of Hopkinton. For a brief moment I realize that I do, indeed, remember how to run. I glance down at my Garmin: 8:30ish pace. Too fast for today, but it feels good right now. I know better than to trust that good feeling, but hell, my whole race strategy has already flown out the window with the hot, humid breeze, so what the heck. I know that this run is going to hinge on whether or not I pay very close attention to what my body tries to tell me.

I know that I am looking into the eyes of people lining the roads, but no faces are etched in my memory, save one little girl who absently holds her hand out. I veer to the right to high-five her outstretched hand. She is startled from the daze of thousand of runners streaming past her, and smiles up at me.

So goes the first few miles. We cruise along feeling not too bad. We still believe (though we know better) that we can feel like this for the next 23.2 or so miles. That's the optimism required to even begin.

Soon enough I begin the process of dumping water on my head. At first I try to be neat about it - wetting my hat, but not pouring the water over my head. I know I want to try to keep my feet dry. I will realize soon enough, that this is a futile effort.

At the 10k mark I cross the rubber mat across the road. Friends and family receive their first notification that I am actually running - that I didn't bail at the last minute. Just knowing this offers a degree of comfort and encouragement. 
Sent: 11:37 AM Mon, Apr 16 Msg: At 11:37 AM: Athlete Alert. Caolan Macmahon @ 10km. Time 0:57:03, Pace 9:10
And thus far, things are moving along better than anticipated - certainly not the pace I was originally aiming for, but better than what I had feared.

When we reach Framingham the heat become hideous. This is the first stretch of road completely devoid of trees or grass or anything green and cooling (the evening news that night reported a high of 91 degrees in Framingham and Wellesley) and it seems to go on forever. On both sides of the road there is only concrete and more concrete reflecting the high sun. Storefronts line one side with the T blowing through town on the other. At this point I liberally dump water over my head.

It's here that I score my first dose of ice, thankfully offered by a spectator. I greedily stuff it into my bottle, fill my hat and slide several chunks down the front of my jog bra. I knew there would come I time when I would appreciate being a female runner - and after 40 years of running, believe it or not, it's right now!

Spectators spray us with water from hoses and hydrants, water guns, spray bottles, buckets, bowls...They offer Popsicles, little cups of electrolytes, grapes, oranges, pretzels, gummy bears, hamburgers - beer - and there's a tent with the sign that reads: "Quitter's Tent: Free Ice Cream". I pass by a whole line of people jumping on mini-tramps and another group furiously pedaling away on stationary bikes. A man sits on a ladder yelling down at us to look at ourselves as we pass his storefront windows because we are "lookin' soooo good".  As if!! This place is nuts. Too much heat has cooked their brains, poor things.

At the 20k mark I'm pleasantly distracted by the Wellesley women and the infamous scream tunnel. Distraction is a good thing at this point because at the 10 mile mark I decided that I really really really hate the shoes I'm wearing and my feet just ache. At that point I can't help but think, "Oh my god, I can't believe I have 16 more miles to go".

At some point between 10 and 13.1 miles tunnel vision kicks in with a vengeance. I'm really not feeling good and the thought of continuing for many many miles more is agonizing. All I can remember about this part of the race is moving forward...steady forward progress, passing by faces, buildings, cheering crowds, other runners...but it feels so painfully slow.

I stop to use a vacant loo. When I come out I see and hear a woman, a spectator, shouting "That's not cool dude" at the top of her lungs, chasing down a guy in an orange t-shirt. He's grabbed a Spibelt with someone's bib attached, left outside the porta potty - a bloody stinking bandit stealing someone's bib while she's in the loo! This will not be my last encounter with Boston bandits (more on that in another post!).

Half way point: 13.1 miles: 
Sent: 12:45 PM Mon, Apr 16 Msg: At 12:45 PM: Athlete Alert. Caolan Macmahon @ Half-Marathon. Time 2:04:22, Pace 9:29
Oh my god, I can't believe we're only half way. This is not a good thought to have. I feel that I'm moving at a snail's pace. I'm afraid to look at my Garmin, then I see I'm still under 10 minute miles. How can that possibly be? I just focus on grabbing every piece of ice I can get my hands on...

The street widens. I haven't a clue where we are. There's water everywhere, flowing down the street. Rivers of watery-sticky-Gatorade. Crushed cups stick to the bottom my feet...slop, slop, slop. We try to run along the south side of the street, catching some shade from the buildings. I remember to do a Clif Shot - but then realize I need more water. Outstretched hands offer cup after cup of water. I look, thankfully, into a Samaritan's eyes, but nothing much registers. Drink and go...drink and go...drink and go...

I avoid the B.A.A. "misting tents", which are more like "downpour tents", because my feet are killing me and my shoes are about as wet as I can tolerate. I feel blisters starting. This, in addition to the aching that began several miles earlier makes every step feel heavy and painful. Oh, ah, oh, ah, oh, ah...I'm not used to this.
Sent: 1:43 PM Mon, Apr 16 Msg: At 01:43 PM: Athlete Alert. Caolan Macmahon @ 30km. Time 3:02:48, Pace 9:48

The Newton Hills are, well, hills, but they're pretty indistinguishable from any of the other dozens of hills we've already gone up and down and up and down. At this point a lot of runners are walking.

Halfway up Heartbreak Hill I stop to check on my taped foot (taped because I have PF/PTT, both of which are killing me). It feels like the tape is doing something funky down there which isn't helping the aching feet situation. I pull off my shoe and sock and see that the tape is still in place, though it's not exactly stuck to anything. I figure as long as it's not rolling up it's better than nothing. I ring-out my sock, which is now all stretched out and baggy, slip on my shoe, and continue the climb. At this point all the time spent stopping to get ice and water and Gatorade and ring-out socks really doesn't make a difference.

At the top of Heartbreak Hill the course narrows with spectators moving into the street, in places 10 deep. As we pass Boston College things get a little crazy, and I don't have the mental or physical acuity to deal with it. Four college students leap over the fence lining the course and start running and giggling. One young woman, wearing flip-flops, falls about 5 feet in front of me. I veer around her as she jumps back up to her feet. "That's really not cool guys", I yell at them. The police lining the course have NO control. Two more college students jump the barrier and start running with a female friend. A cop yells, "get off the course!!". One of the boys yells back "We gotta run with her. We gotta run with her." The cop let's them go. 

As we head downhill into the final stretch with Boston in sight I feel chills. Is it emotion or heat stroke? At last I can see the Citgo sign and I know that that's a good thing though I don't remember why. What mile are we on? My thighs are so tight and heavy.

The last miles are a blur. I see runners, very fit looking runners, lying on the ground being tended to. Oh, to get this far and not make it all the way, I say to myself! It's too scary to think about. The last two miles through the city are baking hot and the air is entirely dead still.

We turn on to Boyleston and there's the finish, in sight but still .4 mi away. Tunnel vision consumes me. Must get to finish...must get to finish. I see nothing around me, my eyes totally focused on the goal. I'm aware of the crowds but I'm completely unaware of any runners around me. I cross the mats.
Sent: 3:06 PM Mon, Apr 16 Msg: At 03:06 PM: Athlete Alert. Caolan Macmahon @ Finish. Time 4:25:41, Pace 10:07

I'm done...finished...toast...stick a fork in me...My second slowest marathon ever (first slowest was in Boulder in 2009 - 86 degrees). All I can think is: It's bad but not as bad as it might have been.

So what's the take-away here?

I think I ran this as well as I could have given the conditions. I didn't cramp up, that's good. I 'ran' the whole way though I really really wanted to walk many many times. This is something that's important to me - it's a personal thing. I learned a lot from my previous experiences and I used that here.

So here's the thing - Now I want to run Boston again! I didn't think this would matter, but now it does. I want to run it in better conditions and really experience what I feel I missed. I missed the marathon because it was more an exercise in survival and toughness then actual running. Sure, I guess I experienced the spectacle of the Boston Marathon, but I didn't really get to RUN Boston. Unfortunately I also failed to get a qualifying time, which I firmly believe I could have done handily had the situation been different. Since my next marathon is in November (NYC), it seems that 2013 is out for me :(

But now I have a new bee-in-my-bonnet, so I guess I should thank the weather gods for giving me new purpose in my life. Or, maybe not
"We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope." Martin Luther King, Jr.

"What keeps me going is a constant sense of disappointment with what I've already done. " Robert Wyatt

Friday, April 20, 2012

Episode Two: Race Day Begins

Let's Get This Show On The Road...

After months of training, through the dark and cold and windy winter, some of it tedious, some of it while injured, some of it while concussed, here I am at last: Racing Day - The Boston Marathon

As expected I wake up before my alarm. My wave doesn't start until 10:40 a.m. - a little late in my opinion, and yes, I know that Boston used to start at noon, but I'm a morning runner, and I like to be running by 7 a.m., 8 at the latest.

My husband and daughter are still sound asleep - the miracle and blessing of blackout curtains and happy souls. My soul is antsy and anxious. I head down the hall of the motel, down the elevator, to grab my morning coffee fix. I don't care how hot it's supposed to be, I gotta have coffee before I run. I pour myself two tall cups. Better too much than too little.

By 8:30 a.m. we're in the car. Off to Hopkinton State Park about 7 miles from the motel. I anticipate traffic. There's none. That's a very pleasant surprise. We drive through the shaded, cool forest to the runner drop off point situated beside a peaceful lake. The morning is already warm - really quite beautiful if you aren't planning to run a marathon. The sun is bright and the sky is entirely clear and still. It rained last night, so there's moisture rising up from the earth. I bid farewell to my family and head for a yellow school bus. Runners file on. It's a quiet, somewhat subdued crowd.

I chat with my neighbor. He's run Boston several times, and NYC, which I'll be running for the first time this coming November. I stick with him for a while as we make our way through Hopkinton to Athlete's Village. There are runners everywhere. It's about a mile walk from the shuttle drop off to Athlete's Village. My mileage count is going to be fairly hefty today.

We get to Athlete's Village and part ways wishing each other good luck. I park myself in a shady spot on the cool wet grass. It feels nice in the shade but the second I step out into the sun, I cringe at the harshness of it. I try to chill for a few minutes, apply gobs of sunscreen and drink, eat, drink some more, stretch...breathe deep. I close my eyes and try to just listen. I'm having a hard time absorbing the reality of where I am. I've been envisioning this time for weeks now. And yet I find myself strangely removed from the situation. My body is here, but where has my mind gone?

 Wave two is called to the starting corals. Wave one is off...Wave three (my wave) is next.

Out of nowhere I hear my name - it's one of my Marathon Bar Teammates, Michelle - who I've never met, but she recognizes me. She clearly has her faculties about her. We head to the porta potties, then return to the shade of a small building where her running group has set up camp. One by one the group dwindles as we make our way to our designated starts.

I begin my final preparations: Tape my foot, put on fresh socks and shoes, swallow a couple Endurolytes and a Clifshot and, scavenging water from nearby half drunk bottles of Poland Spring water, I mix a packet of HEED into my water bottle. It's more concentrated then I'm used to, but I'm gonna need it. I drop off  my bag at my designated bag-bus, and head for the start.

A river of runners threads through Hopkinton for the .7 mile walk to the starting corals. The town's people offer water (in exchange for signing a guestbook) and barbeque. Eww. Nothing like the smell of singeing flesh wafting though the steamy morning air to get you psyched to run 26.2 miles. We march down the road, the sun at our backs, already burning into our skin, burning into our resolution. A woman next to me says to no one in particular, "I sort of wish I had deferred". I look at her, feeling more than a little sympathetic and reply, "All you need to do to defer is to not go over the starting line. If you've picked up your bib and don't start the race, you're automatically deferred".  "Really!?!" she says. "Really?" I almost regret telling her. I think, damn you BAA for doing this to us. I can see in her eyes fear and confusion. She doesn't know what to do. I don't really know what to do. I'm here. I guess I'm going to run this thing. I feel a measure of disbelief that this is actually going to happen. I'm here and yet I'm not here.

I'm within sight of the start. I'm in coral 2 so I make haste to get ahead of a lot of people between me and where I need to be, and I've got 2 minutes to do it. I run up onto lawns, across driveways, behind spectators comfortably seated on plastic lawn chairs. We are directed like cattle into our corals. I feel an urge to "Mooooo". I stand in a tiny patch of shade, watching the time tick closer to 10:40. I look around me and say "Why do I feel like we're being led to slaughter?" "I was just thinking that." says a woman standing just behind me. Those within ear shot giggle a nervous and somewhat resigned agreement.

I hear some words over the loudspeaker, but nothing is really registering. And then there's the gun. We begin to run. I'm trying to take it all in - I'm here. This is the start of the Boston (freaking) Marathon. What am I feeling? What am I thinking? I know not...

And as we cross over the start I am reminded of the speech that Shakespeare's Henry V delivers before the Battle of Agincourt
"We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day."
To be continued...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Boston Marathon 2012: The Vision the Reality

Episode One: The Prelude

Here is the vision I held in my mind's eye, six months ago or 2 weeks ago, when I thought of my upcoming adventure/family vacation in Boston: My husband, daughter and I will fly to Boston, find our reasonably priced, quiet motel in the suburbs, and enjoy a few days for museuming, visiting with family, and beachcombing prior to the race. The weather will be refreshingly cool and crisp with bluebird skies. Nice and tame and boring, except of course for that little Marathon thing.

Oh, and on that count...Racing at sea level for the first time in decades, I will cruise easily to a master's PR. 

...twas not to be...This is how it really goes...

I teach my last class of the day. My husband and daughter are waiting for me in the parking lot. I feel the first wave of excitement rise up in me. We're on our way! We board our plane. It's on time. Good. We settle into our seats as others continue boarding. The plane is almost full at this point. A girl stops in the aisle next to me. Behind her, her father gestures to a flight attendant. "We need to sit together. I've got a very sick kid here. She's got a terrible fever." Oh joy. I pull my sweatshirt over my mouth and nose, like that's going to do any good. They're seated two rows ahead of us. I turn the air vents on full, and direct them to blow their air away from me. Good luck with that.

The flight is uneventful and we eventually make our way to the rental car shack (It's very apparent that I've managed to rent from the sketchy company) to pick up our bright yellowy-orange Chevy Aveo. This car is a total piece of poo - feeling about as solid as a tin can on wheels. We get on the Mass Pike heading west to Westborough where our motel waits.

Lesson number 1: The Mass Pike only takes cash. We never have cash. I know - stupid - but there you have it. All we can think is: Who the heck still uses little pieces of paper money? Well, they use it in Massachusetts!

Our motel is fine - quiet, functional, clean, nothing exciting - just fine which is just fine with me. Phew. The next morning I get up, having slept better than I have in weeks,  check my email and click on one from the Boston Athletic Association (B.A.A.): 
"Marathon Monday in New England can offer a variety of weather conditions, and from what we can see, this Monday will be no different.

The forecast for April 16th is calling for higher than normal temperatures on the course..."
Nooooooo! This is NOT what I want to see, and I immediately feel an irritable, testy, sour mood engulf me. Grrrrrr.

The emails from the BAA come fast and furious over the next few days as I try to put my worries aside and enjoy my experience in Boston. We go to the Expo. It's an epic traffic snarl getting to the Seaport World Trade Center - seemingly requiring out-of-towners to navigate the greatest possible number of miles through the circuitous cow paths Bostonians call 'roads'. When I make it to the appropriate table to collect my bib, the nice volunteer looks at me and asks, "Is this your first Boston?". "Yes" I reply. "I'm sorry." she says. We did not have to utter the obvious.

Not exactly looking ecstatic

My husband, daughter, and I then venture out to Nantasket Beach, just south of Boston, out on a peninsula. On the water it is cold and windy. My daughter runs on the beach and in the water, collecting shells and sea glass, and has her first soft serve ice cream cone (Yes, she is a deprived child;). This is a high point of the trip.

Sophia and me walking to the water's edge to return a dead crab to the sea

That night the email from the BAA is even more dire:

Due to warm weather in Monday's forecast, a deferment option has been introduced. 

Due to the unusually warm weather forecast for the Boston area on Monday, the B.A.A. will defer the entry of those official entrants to the 2013 Boston Marathon for participants who decide not to race.
Okay, I think, I don't want this option right now. This is the first time, in the race's 116 year history, that a deferment option has been offered. Super. I get to run it in a precedent setting year. I think about the perfect weather conditions last year - I want to cry. I am so tempted to defer. I do cry...

Friends and family try to comfort me: Just think, you can say you survived Boston will certainly make for a memorable experience...think of the stories you'll have...

But first, I have to survive it. I have to get through it.

I decide that night that I will not defer. I cannot. I will not be able to live with myself if I do. I am resolved to the situation. And, I've already bought the jacket. I just don't want to send back the jacket...

But I'm not at all happy about any of it. For this I trained through injury, a concussion, the flu, and a heinously windy winter! I feel ripped off and doomed.


Sunday: And the emails grow ever more ominous:
Update to Entrants in Tomorrow's Boston MarathonRegistered trademark symbol
Sunday, April 15, 2012 as of 4:30 p.m.

Running any marathon involves risks
  • The weather conditions that we will be seeing on Monday, April 16 will involve even more risk.  It will involve an increased element of risk to all participants due to the heat.  Only the fittest runners should consider participating...
  • Everyone who does choose to participate should strongly consider running significantly more slowly that they normally would plan to run a marathon [one to two minutes per mile slower than your planned for pace].  We have extended the opening of our finish line in support of this recommendation.
  • 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. It is an experience.
And so the weekend goes. Sunday we have a pleasant and mellow visit with family in Charlestown: Aunt's and uncles and cousins and Grandma and Grandpa. At first I'm feeling irratated at the thought of having to socialize when I'm in such a foul mood. But good food and good company distract me from my obsessive preoccupation with the sufferfest soon to follow.

Lesson #2: Distraction is sometimes a good thing. 

We return to the motel, I eat my pre-race dinner of rice and veggies - lots of salt and water - we watch a movie, always a kid's movie - tonight the selection is "Lilo and Stitch".

I pack my bag, and we turn in. I never sleep much the night before a marathon, but tonight I sleep better than usual. I think I've resolved myself to what is to come, though I'm not happy about it. I'm nervous about what's to come. I'm not acclimated, at all, to hot weather. I've been training though a cold and windy Colorado winter. How will my body respond? Will I cramp up, forced to hobble to the finish, or worse, never make it to that far? I will just have to wait to see how it all unfolds.

Lesson #3: Worrying will not make the weather change for the better. Just deal...

My alarm is set for 7 a.m. I will probably be up before it goes off.

To be continued...

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fear and Loathing in Boston

Forecast for Boston, MA.

NWS Taunton, MA
 Point Forecast: Boston MA
 42.36°N 71.07°W
Mobile Weather Information | En Español
Last Update: 7:17 am EDT Apr 14, 2012
Forecast Valid: 9am EDT Apr 14, 2012-6pm EDT Apr 20, 2012

Forecast at a Glance

Hi 72 °F
Chance Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 30%
Lo 53 °F
Slight Chance Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Slight Chc
Hi 75 °F

Slight Chance Thunderstorms Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Slight Chc
Lo 60 °F
Mostly Sunny
Hi 88 °F

Slight Chance Showers Chance for Measurable Precipitation 20%
Slight Chc
Lo 59 °F
Mostly Sunny
Hi 80 °F

Partly Cloudy
Lo 49 °F
Mostly Sunny
Hi 65 °F

I must admit, I am depressed, disheartened, disheveled...I can't think clearly any longer. And yet it seems in bad taste to whine. It seems that I should just be thankful I'm here, 'running' the Boston Marathon, but I'm not. I want to go home and pretend this didn't happen.

I keep thinking back to last year's race, with cold temps and a steady tailwind, and I want to scream to the heavens "NOT FAIR!!!". 

But we've got what we've got and unfortunately there's not much that can be done. All my worries about my training were for naught. At this point the aim is to finish, and all time goals are blown away with the blast furnace wind that we will be running in for 26.2 miles.

I can't help but flash back to the Boulder Marathon, 2009. The temperatures that year were in the mid-80s and I had one of the worst races of my life - not just because my time sucked, but because it was just really really really unpleasant. I swore, many times over, during the last 3 miles of cramped up hobbling, that I would never ever ever ever run another marathon.

I am trying to look on the bright side of things, but it's hard.

Please, Weather Gods, please - we need a weather miracle here!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Looking For Signs of Providence

"Providence has nothing good or high in store for one who does not resolutely aim at something high or good. A purpose is the eternal condition of success" - Thornton Wilder

Runners can sometimes get caught up in the numbers of things: miles per week, miles per year, pace per mile...miles to go. And on and on...

Runners can also get caught up with concerns about luck, good and bad. I wrote about this in past posts (What's Luck Got To Do With It? ), and signs of good or bad luck.

This year marks 40 years of running for me and I begin my celebration of that anniversary next Monday, April 16th, 2012, in Boston - and that seems fitting.

Now I say that I've been a runner for 40 years, and I have seen myself as a runner for 40 years, but in all honesty, consistency and chronic obsession didn't really kick in until I was about 23. That was the year I ran my first "road race". It was a the "Skunk Cabbage Classic" in Ithaca, New York - Today it's a half marathon - but back then it was either a 5 miler or a 10k. How sad...I can't remember, and many many years ago my award - a wooden plaque with a medallion of a skunk cabbage stamped into it - was hastily thrown in the trash. There went that little bit of history. But I do remember that I ran it in April 1987 - 25 years ago. That race got me hooked on road racing... for a while. 

So there are all these numbers floating around in my head, and I wonder if in those numbers some sign of Providence might be gleaned. Generally I'm not a numbers person, but something seems to be coming together here.

Okay, so here are the numbers: 40 years of running, 25 years since I ran my first road race at the age of 23 - and here's the clincher: my bib# for Boston is 19661, which adds up to 23, the age at which this whole thing really got rolling.

Coincidence??? I don't think so!

And then, as I am typing this, literally as I am thinking these thoughts, several very important people in my life made contact with me - email, messages, etc...all at the same time! All at the very moment I was thinking these things! And so I think to myself - YES, this IS a sign.

Jean-Paul Sartre argued that we look for signs to answer our questions, to calm our insecurities, and we see the signs we want to see, and look for the signs that support what we feel in our hearts but are unwilling to acknowledge. But how we decipher the signs is entirely our responsibility - our creation. If I am looking for signs of good luck, of providence, I will give meaning and draw the conclusions I already believe in.   

Sartre thinks this is a bad thing, a way we avoid taking responsibility for our feeling and choices. I say 'Piffle". William James argued that we create truth by believing something and thus acting on that belief, hence, creating the truth of that belief through those very actions.

So I'm gonna keep looking for those good signs, and I will choose to ignore the others, all the while aiming to keep my sights high and good and purposeful.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Sweating the Details...The Final Countdown Begins

This is me "On Boston" (it's like a drug):
I have spent two solid days (thus far) making and canceling motel reservations - really and seriously. I have probably made, and canceled, at least 10 at this point!

The original plan was to stay with my sister-in-law and family. This sounded like a great idea back in September, 2011. But now it's April 8th, 2012, 8 days from the Boston Marathon and the thought of seven of us (4 adults and 3 children) in a small apartment in Boston is starting to making me nervous. I wonder:  How can I commandeer the kitchen? How will I get ANY sleep? Will anyone and everyone expect me to be sociable??... Because I won't be, as much as I wish to believe otherwise, I won't! This is going to be a stressfest!

I gotta chill...I gotta get a grip...I gotta learn to roll with things. I gotta get my Tao on: Go with the flow, ride with the tide...become like soft and peaceful water that shapes stone and carves canyons from the hard earth...Gaaaa...

So, I say to myself, is it worth it to just suck it up and get a room somewhere outside the city? We're already planning on having a car (gotta take our Colorado kid to the ocean at least once on this trip). So I start investigating the options.

After hours of searching I Find the perfect place in Framingham - reasonably priced with a kitchen (gotta have it because I am a picky eater before a marathon!). I reserve it online - the pictures look decent (clean and bright but no bells-and-whistles) - the location is cool - it's a mile from where the race goes so my husband has no excuse for not finding me. Right? And then I do some more investigation - I start reading review: tripadvisor, Expedia, And, the place is basically a crack-house. Reviews complaining about "blood stains on the walls", "bed bugs" and "stained sheets" are so totally deal killers. I'm fine with spare and simple and no frills - but not bodily fluids - yeah, not going there.

So, I find a decent, not too overpriced place about 10 miles from the start. The reviews are generally good. I feel a little better.

Now there's the issue of getting to the start. Do I take the T into Boston and then jump on a BAA bus back out to Hopkinton? Or, do I get my husband to drive me to the Hopkinton State Park, drop me off since all the roads are closed at 7:30, hop a shuttle which drops me some distance (I know not what) from the Athlete's Village? And then there's the 0.7 mi walk to the start corals. Yeeha.

I'm sure one option will make more sense once I get there and have a chance to talk with others about it all. It's hard for me to relax about things like this. Having imposed some order, real or imagined, has helped. But it's hard to separate the logistical stresses from the running stresses. I think this is why I usually avoid big races. Well, I guess this is a good warmup for New York in November!...

Now I must focus my energies on the following:

This is me in one week and a day!

 Athlete's Village

This is what I'll be thinking about while stretching, pacing, hopping from foot to foot, eating marathon bars, drinking water et al, peeing, peeing some more, and then peeing again...for hours on end, champing at the bit, itching to move, let's go go go...:

And then...I make it here because, after all, I do want wear that bright orange jacket.

To be continued...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My Dean Karnazes Moment At Target

In his book, Run!, Dean Karnazes tells a story of stumbling upon a liquor store out in the middle of nowhere, on the edge of even more nowhere, and about a curious, hard to read liquor store clerk. In search of running fuel, not booze, Karnazes manages to scare up a few stale energy bars, some almonds and a bottle of Pedialyte. It's the wee hours of the morning and darker than dark outside. The clerk finds himself faced with this strange looking character who seemingly appeared out of nowhere, while Karnazes finds himself given the once-over by the suspicious clerk.  Strange strangers in a strange land. The clerk asks him, "Are you one of those marathon people?" Karnazes concedes that, "Ah...yes...I guess you could say that". The clerk says " I used to run when I was a boy. I want to start again...I'm going to start again...I'm going to start tomorrow morning."  With each declaration, the clerks enthusiasm appears grows more adamant...


It's latish on a Monday night. Yoga is canceled so I take advantage of the time, sans child, to do some Easter shopping. Target in surprisingly quiet and peaceful. I pile up all the goodies - you know, chocolate eggs, jelly beans, Cadbury mini-creame and caramel eggs - Wooza - Oh, and Peeps (of course), the yellows (for tradition's sake) and chocolate - onto the rolling conveyer belt. As the cashier absently pushes my value pack of Disney Fairies across the scanner. He looks at me hard, hesitates, and says, "You run?". At first I'm taken aback - Yeah, I think, this is where my life has led. A middle-aged mom buying Easter candy late on a Monday night...what could be more obvious then that I run!?

Then I look down to see what I'm wearing (in the same way I sometimes look to check if I'm actually wearing shorts when I'm out running) that might give me away. I'm wearing my "I Run" sweatshirt. Well, duh...and... too bad. I was hoping that somehow it was just obvious, that I just looked like a runner -  from my physique, my aura, my general presence - but no. Runners do like to identify themselves to other potential members of the tribe, but alas, I was being obvious even to the uninitiated.

"Well, Yes. I run." glancing at the words on my chest to suggest the obvious answer to his question.
"How much?" he continues.
"Umm, a lot", I respond. I'm not really inviting further inquiry, though in most situations if you ask me about running you'll find that you've gotten yourself caught in a lengthy conversation. Try to escape and I may grab you by the ear. After all, I want everyone, everywhere to run. I'm positively evangelical when it comes to running.
"Like How far?", he fires back. He is very clearly determined to get some information out of me.
"Well, I run marathons." What else can I say.
"Wow. I'm gonna start running" he says enthusiastically, gazing off at nothing in particular. "I really want to start running."

At this point he's bobbing up and down behind the checkout counter, his gaze returns to me, his eyes seem to dart about without ever leaving my face.

"What do you eat?" he immediately asks "You know, before and after."
"Before and after what?" I'm clueless, and the harried, exhausted looking woman behind me, piling up Easter candy and underpants on the rolling conveyer belt, stares at me impatiently.
"Well, what do you eat before and after you run a lot?" he asks.

I try to explain that different people like to eat different things and that it takes some time to figure out what works best for you. I offer some general guidelines...but...

"No, no, no, no. What do YOU eat?" He's emphatic. He won't let this go. "I've heard about cucumber-celery juice - Yeah, I'm gonna run tomorrow. I really want to start running. Yeah, what about juice? You drink juice?" he continues without taking a breath between thoughts. He's not nuts, he's excited. There's a clear qualitative difference between the two states of mind.
"Well, I haven't heard about that, but sure, why not" I respond, distantly, as I sign the credit card receipt. I wish him well, and say, "You can do it if you really want to".

"Tomorrow" he says, practically grabbing me by the arm as I turn to leave. "Tomorrow I'm going to start running. I really am"...and we part ways.

"Methinks that the moment my legs began to move, my thoughts began to flow."- Henry David Thoreau
So maybe I'll go back to Target, next Monday night. Perhaps I'll go check in, see if he started running yet.

It's spring, the season of new beginnings. Lots of non-runners, past-runners, and fair weather runners, decide that this is the time to dig those sneakers out from the back of the closet. Go out, fellow runners, and get someone hooked. Spread the good word. Be the example.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Distracting Ourselves to Death: Running and Music

“One way of looking at the history of the human group is that it has been a continuing struggle against the veneration of "crap.” ― Neil Postman
Reading through my little "Welcome" pamphlet for the Boston Marathon I was surprised and disappointing to read that iPods and such are permitted during the race.
"Although the B.A.A. discourages the use of iPods and headphones. they are allowed except for those who declare themselves eligible for prize money"
When it comes to opinions concerning running and music, runners tend to fall, devoutly, on one side or the other of the pro/con fence. I'm pretty old school on this, though I try to fight my Luddite tendencies - so I'm in the process of trying to figuring out why I think running with music isn't such a good idea, either for the runner or for the running community.

Yesterday I ran the Boulder Spring Half Marathon. The conditions were fairly harsh - unseasonable hot, dry, and windy. Nonetheless, the race had a large turnout. As I stood a few rows back from the starting line I surveyed the crowd. Many many runners were wired for sound. Interestingly, none of the runners at the very front were. They stood, shaking out their legs, jumping around in place, and talking with those nearest them.

As we took off down the dusty rutted road, it seemed that at least 50%-75% of the runners were rockin' to their own personal beat. Many had the volume cranked so loud that I could easily hear their music. At one point I went past a pair of women running together. One held a phone with music playing at full volume so that both could enjoy the tunes - No ear-buds/headphones in sight. Okay. That's not okay! Why am I so cranky about this? Well, because I don't want to listen to your music. Period.

So here are some of my personal, biased, completely unscientific and unsupported thoughts concerning this fairly new development in running and racing.

1) I think this newish trend is bad for the running community. It seems that during races we are no longer running together. Rather, we are off in our own little worlds in the sense that it doesn't really matter if anyone else is there or not. I don't think that's good for the running community. Can you really have a "community" of isolated individuals. I've been running for long enough to notice that this has changed the feel of races. I can't put my finger on it, exactly, but I'm working on it.

What do you think?

2) It can be dangerous - and that's up to you if it's only dangerous for you. I subscribe to the view (convincingly argued by John Start Mill in "On Liberty") that we should be allowed to do stupid things if the only person at risk is one's self, but when your decisions effect me (or more generally, anyone else), that changes the situation. I have had numerous experience where plugged-in runners cut me off. Once, during a race, I was pushed off a bike path and nearly plunged into the Platte River in Denver (an icy, January Platte River) by a runner who passed me and then moved over too soon. He couldn't hear me. I enjoyed great satisfaction in passing him and leaving him in the dust at mile 9. Can you really blame me?

What do you think?.

3) Music while running distracts you from many of the thoughts that might present themselves in the absence of music. I'm not saying that music negates thinking, it doesn't - I'm saying that music, to some degree creates a mood that directs thinking in particular directions. We are constantly multitasking, sometimes out of necessity, but also perhaps in an attempt to avoid thinking too much. Many of us are unable to spend long periods of time with ourselves, alone and quiet. We look for distractions and they are everywhere.

What do you think?
“Technology always has unforeseen consequences, and it is not always clear, at the beginning, who or what will win, and who or what will lose...” ― Neil Postman 
So the question is: Why are so many runners so attached to their iPods? They often respond to challenge as though they will fight to the death for their right to wear their iPods. On many running forums I've heard runners claim that they will not run races that prohibit iPods and some go so far as to claim that they simply "can't" run without one. They would quit running if they were denied their beloved iPod.

That kind of fanatical, somewhat desperate, attachment (addiction?) seems to indicate a problem, if you ask me.

All this said, today I bought an iPod Shuffle. Am I drinking the Kool aid? Am I taking the "blue pill"? Am I just being a hypocrite? - I say 'No'!

Technology is neither good nor bad - it's how we use it that matters, to us as individuals and as a community. I bought it primarily for hanging out in the Athlete's Village for 2+ hours before the start of the Boston Marathon. No, I won't be tuning out the whole time, because I want to meet people and talk to people. But when I start warming up, alone, I may enjoy this technology as away to tune out the masses and the energy around me, just a bit. There is something to getting jazzed up to music you enjoy prior to a race, and I'm always blasting my car stereo when I drive to races (assuming I'm alone;).

Will I ever run with it? I don't think so because I enjoy running alone and quiet, even when the world around me isn't. I will NEVER race with one. I believe that one aspect of racing is the community coming together, and that can't happen when everyone's in their own worlds. Be honest - when you're plugged in there is a degree to which you are removed from those around you.

Has this distraction gone too far? What do you think?

“When a population becomes distracted by trivia, when cultural life is redefined as a perpetual round of entertainments, when serious public conversation becomes a form of baby-talk, when, in short, a people become an audience, and their public business a vaudeville act, then a nation finds itself at risk; culture-death is a clear possibility.” ― Neil Postman 

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