Thursday, April 30, 2009

Memories From My First Boston
The 2009 Boston Marathon Race Report
Part 3 – The Middle Miles – Miles 7-18

Miles 7-9
After crossing the 10K time mat, I knew I was officially entering the “middle miles” of the race. Surprising, the course is still relatively crowded at this point, with not much open running room on either side of the two lane road. Navigating through traffic at the water stations was especially treacherous, given the barrage of water, cups, hands and feet thrown in every direction around me. This “middle-of-the-pack” sensation at mile 7 of a marathon feels completely foreign to me since at most major marathons I’ve done, the passing lanes are clearly defined and relatively clear by this point in the race. To avoid anxiety, claustrophia, and a complete freak-out, I concentrate my attention on a few notable characters that have been traveling at the same pace as me over the preceding miles. There’s the guy running in the fluorescent yellow Boston Marathon Finisher shirt with a hand-written “First Boston” sign on his back who looks like he’s falling apart. Beside him, an elegant female prancer with a face younger than some of my pediatric patients is pounding out the miles with such focus and determination that she does not care to acknowledge the crowds furiously cheering her name. Further along, I see a runner avoid a water station to grab a beer from some spectators on the side. I felt his choice of hydration rather odd until I notice while passing he is running without a bib. “Welcome to the spectacle that is the Boston Marathon,” I say to myself as I stroll through the series of rolling hills that marks the course passing through the township of Natick. (Statistics: Mile 7 – 6:45; Mile 8 – 6:50; Mile 9 – 6:49; Overall Pace – 6:44)

Miles 10-12
The feeling of running through the Natick town center adorned with spectators lined three to four deep on either side feels both invigorating and eerie. On the one hand, I feel like a rock star at a sold-out concert running amidst the boisterous crowds. On the other hand, it is somewhat strange to run through here with such wild fanfare when you realize that this is a picturesque and quiet suburban town the other 364 days of the year. From mile 10-11, I hug the left side of the road, trying to find my friend MT who was dropping by to watch me run the marathon. We had made arrangements over dinner the previous night to hold a spontaneous meeting near the mile 10 marker where she can snap a photo or two of me running this race. Although I am still running comfortably at this point, meeting my splits while conserving energy, I am somewhat desperate to see a familiar face from back home. It feels awkward to be running in such a big race, get cheered on by hundreds of thousands, yet be completely anonymous. Truth be told, ever since FL left me soon after our arrival at the Athlete’s Village, I’d been sporadically looking around for other NY Flyers, friends, anyone I might know during the race, but up to this point, my efforts have not been fruitful, which was somewhat disconcerting. Throughout the mile, I scan the crowd, hoping for a face I’d recognize, which in practice was harder than it seemed. I even lower the pace to facilitate the search, but to no avail. Eventually, after passing through mile 11 still with no sign of MT, I abandon the search, ingest a GU and brace my ears for the craziness at Wellesley. (Statistics: Mile 10 – 6:51; Mile 11 – 6:55; Mile 12 – 6:48; Overall Pace – 6:46)

Miles 13-15
Mile 13 isn’t so much about the running as it is about witnessing an exercise in admiration and vociferation because unless you’ve been through the scream tunnel and ran by the girls of Wellesley College, you cannot imagine what it feels like to be the object of affection for the hundreds of young enthusiastic women that line the side of the course. I likened the sensation to tearing down the 59th Street Bridge during the New York City Marathon only it’s a bit louder, a bit closer, and the voices are all female. As I cautiously make my way through the thunderous ovation and noise, the ladies all reach out for me, enticing me with their “Free Kisses for Runners” posters and “Kiss and Run” cartoon drawings. For a short while, I thought about obliging their offers. But since I’ve already seen a few of my running neighbors disappear into the hordes of women not to be heard from again, I worry that I too would get lost in the gauntlet and never get out alive. As a result, I stick to the center lane and do not dare look over until the voices have trailed off into a whisper behind me. “Next time girls, next time!” Not long after the exhilaration at Wellesley, I pass the half marathon checkpoint at 1:28:44, a minute ahead of schedule and a full 46 seconds ahead of my PR pace in NYC ’08. I am ecstatic with my pace thus far but remain cautious, knowing the worse is yet to come. I roll through mile 15 at a comfortable (albeit a little slow) pace preparing my body physically and mentally for the challenge that is to come a half mile away. (Statistics: Mile 13 – 6:49; Mile 14 – 6:45; Mile 15 – 6:58; Overall Pace – 6:46)

Mile 16-18
Shortly after entering this mile, we descend quickly and without warning into Newton Lower Falls. In terms of both grade and net elevation loss, it’s the biggest downhill section we have had since the early miles back at Hopkinton. As I glide down the nondescript road, I remind myself that this is a short appetizer for the tough main course that will stretch through the next five miles. I take the short reprieve to review my battle plans. Since miles 16-21 would be the toughest stretch by far along the course, before running I broke down the marathon into three smaller parts. There is a 16 mile warmup, a 5 mile race, and a 5 mile victory lap to the finish. I see the road in front of me unfold into a steady climb and suddenly realize that the game is on. The first of the Newton Hills at mile 16.5 is long and gentle. I take my time and scale it without much difficulty. After a short flat stretch to recollect my thoughts, I consume another GU and find myself at the foot of another hill. This second hill at 17.5 is short and steep, and in a sense is similar to the West Side hills when running Central Park in a clockwise direction. On this hill too, I tried to protect my knees and maintain even effort throughout although it is becoming more apparent with each successive step that I am in fact slowing down. I look for the designated Flyers cheering section in between Miles 17 and 18 but they are no where to be found. I am becoming increasing aware of how anonymous I’ve become since starting the race amongst 28,000+ . Luckily, by this point, I no longer care. My complete focus is on tackling the last 2 hills while keeping sub-3 a real possibility until after Heartbreak. Little did I know disaster would strike within the next half mile that will blow those pre-conceived race goals right out of the water… (Statistics: Mile 16 – 6:46; Mile 17 – 7:03; Mile 18 – 7:03; Overall Pace – 6:48)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Memories From My First Boston
The 2009 Boston Marathon Race Report
Part 2 – The Bus Ride, Athlete’s Village, The Start, and Miles 1-6

Monday, 4/20, 6:14AM
It is finally race morning. Sitting in a semi-awake, semi-comatosed state on a crowded yellow school bus shuffling toward the marathon start in Hopkinton, I’m reminded of a similar journey I took four years ago in my first marathon in NYC, when I woke up way too early to join the mass exodus out of Battery Park toward Staten Island also on a school bus. At that time my excuse was that I was a marathon virgin and didn’t really know any better. This time I’m still a virgin, a Boston Marathon virgin, and had no other choice. This morning, I think I prepared well though as I woke up, got dressed, ate breakfast (a chocolate croissant, a banana, and an orange), packed up, and checked out of the hotel all within a half-hour. Still my stomach feels a bit queasy as I endure the hour long bus ride out to Hopkinton. I’m not sure if I’m having real GI issues or if my gut is just revolting against the rumbling and tumbling of the bus making its way out of town. I turn around and catch the glance of FL sitting in the seat behind me. She darts her eyes to the boys sitting in the next aisle and wiggles out a wry smile. I nod my head in silent agreement and turn back around. Yes, I heard them too. The boys, probably in their early 20s, in college no doubt, were discussing, no, bragging about their PRs and race goals loud enough for all the bus to hear. I heard one of them say, “I know this is my first one, but if I run this thing in anything over 3 hours, I’m going to shoot myself.” Poor immature colts, I thought to myself as I take a swig from my water bottle, they really have no clue what they’re talking about. No matter how good or speedy they think they are, they have much to learn in the sport of distance running.

Monday, 4/20, 8:48AM
The sun hasn’t yet peeked behind the clouds and the air feels misty and cold as I make my move. I’m standing in a poor excuse for a line waiting for a port-a-john. It’s not like I have to go really, but since I’ve been sitting and slightly shivering beneath the sporting tent in Athlete’s Village for the better part of two hours, I thought it wise to move around, start getting warm and get on line. Besides, since arriving, I’ve had 2 bananas, 2 oranges and a bottle of Gatorade/water concoction that I made early this morning and I know I’ll need to eliminate some excess digestive baggage before heading over to the start. The scene around me is a complete runners’ mayhem. Besides a sea of runners wrapped in a myriad of clothes trying to stay warm, there are tables everywhere--bagel tables, coffee tables, even a table where they’re giving out free gloves. I thought about getting an extra pair for FL but since she ditched me early this morning to hang with her friends at the Hawaiian House right at the start, I figure she won’t have much use for gloves anyway. I feel restless and start stretching my hamstrings and quads while standing in line. I am ready to race.

Monday 4/20, 9:59AM
The powerful sonic boom from two F-14s soaring overhead resonates across the starting field like a call to arms on a battlefield. On my immediate left, spectators are lining the steps of the Korean Presbyterian Church, anxiously awaiting the race to begin I have conquered the half mile walk from the Athlete’s Village to the starting line and have shed the cotton long sleeve shirt I had been wearing to keep warm by the time I arrive at my corral. We are moments away from the start of the 113rd Boston Marathon and I’m at peace with myself as the national anthem plays off in the distance. Despite the hundreds of spectators clapping and shouting words of encouragement to all the runners, all I can hear in the moments before the start are echoes from my own sage voice the night before, advising FL and others to start off slow and keep the flow. Seconds later, the starting horn is blown and we’re OFF!

Miles 1 and 2
The runners take a gradual left as the course immediately descends right off the start. I remind myself that this is the steepest part of the entire marathon route as I start my race at a comfortable pace. I let others fly by me as I gingerly make my way downtown. A sparse crowd is already starting to form on both sides of this two-lane road by the time I stroll through. The capricious sun makes an appearance from behind the clouds and I’m grateful for the increased warmth this weather change brings. I slither by the middle lane at the first water station and watch the chaos of musical chairs with runners and water unfold on either side. After passing through, I take a swig from my own Gatorade supply I was carrying and watch as Captain America in full gear pass right in front of me. I must be going slow, I thought to myself as I pass the first mile marker. I look down and was shocked to see 6:58 for the first mile. “Going slow is one thing, but this is utterly ridiculous.” I lecture myself as I enter Mile 2. Since the course continues will gradually descend gradually for another five miles, I use this opportunity to speed up some in an effort to reclaim my pace. Cowbells, beer, and New England accents abound on both sides of the course. Everyone is enthusiastically cheering us on right from the get-go. I see kids and adults, young and old, going wild on the sidelines and feel fortunate for us and for them that the rainy weather as forecasted is holding off. (Statistics: Mile 1 – 6:58; Mile 2 – 6:26; Overall Pace – 6:47)

Miles 3 and 4
We enter Ashland just as we start the third mile of this course. After running the last mile much faster than I’d wanted, I tempered my speed just a tad and settle into a more consistent pace. Even at the 5K mark, waves of people are still passing me by on both sides. As I will comment to a friend a while later, I’d never felt so middle-of-the –pack as I felt running this race. I am curious to know the identities of these folks who think passing me this early in the marathon was justified so I draft behind a set of twins wearing the same marathon outfit. I didn’t hear much from their conversation, but from what I did hear, I am somewhat disturbed. They are both running their first Boston and are planning to run a 3:10 marathon, yet were moving just as fast as me through the early miles. Either I am way off target or they were seriously overestimating their abilities. I look down at the Nike pace bracelet I was given at the expo and realize that I was at least ten seconds ahead of schedule at this point. Remembering to “believe in the pace” and “run my own race”, a formula prescribed to me by a kid on his dad’s shoulder holding up a sign, I shorten my stride, ease back my pace and rejoin the recesses of runners swarming up behind me. (Statistics: Mile 3 – 6:35; Mile 4 – 6:36; Overall Pace – 6:39)

Miles 5 and 6
The sight of a freight train rolling by signals my arrival into Framingham, the third town in a series of seven I’ll pass by on my way back to Boston. We climb up a short hill as we make our way toward the famous railway house. I was surprised, but the ascent was actually a welcome relief to my legs which had gotten weary from the long stretches of downhill running. Under the bright-lit sky, I am not cold but can feel a slight headwind blowing against my face. I finish up the last of the Gatorade from the bottle I had been carrying and toss it to the side. Ahead of me, I see a guy running with two prosthetic legs, the kind Oscar Pistorius made famous last year, and I get a bit teary-eyed. I think about all the people who couldn’t run today. I think about FL and how she’s gutting it out just to finish despite her myriad of injuries. For them, I can’t even imagine how I’d feel if I didn’t run my best today. I ride the wave of emotion, slap some kids high-fives on the side and continue on my journey, now almost a quarter complete. (Statistics: Mile 5 – 6:50; Mile 6 – 6:48; Overall Pace – 6:42)

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Memories From My First Boston
The 2009 Boston Marathon Race Report
Part I – Pre-Race Weekend

Saturday, 4/19, 10:21AM
I’m sitting anxiously on the back of the bus. Beside me, the April issue of Runner’s World beckons for my attention. My three-and-a-half hour ride to Boston is barely an hour old and already I feel as if I’ve traveled a thousand miles. In my head, I’m I trying to envision what’s ahead--arriving at the race expo, picking up my bib number, seeing FL again since last December--but my mind wanders with each thought and drifts back to flashbacks from my own running past. From the BQ fail of 33 seconds at Hartford in Oct 2006 to my marathon triumph in 2007 NYC, from a DNS at Boston 2008 because of a broken clavicle to my marathon PR in November at 2008 NYC, each race in its own way was pivotal in bringing me to this bus ride today. Although I cannot define what I hope to find in Boston, I draw comfort in knowing exactly where I’ve been. With my Boston Marathon celebration jacket clenched tight around my body, I stand to scan the premises and to find familiar faces who might be traveling to town for the same purpose as me.

Saturday, 4/19, 2:41PM
It’s mid-forties, dark, overcast and a bit windy. Black wispy clouds hang overhead like a puppeteers over marionettes. For me, this is typical New England weather for this time of year. For FL, who doesn’t believe good weather exists under 70F, this is downright cold and dreary. We’re sitting on park benches outside the marathon expo enjoying lunch and reacquainting ourselves with our lives, our own goals for this race and our race prep anxieties. All around us, tons of runners are walking to and fro showing off their Boston Marathon gear as if they were all members of a large eclectic secret society that had just spilled out onto the streets. It took several elitist thoughts slipping into my conscious mind before I “got” it. I too had just left the biggest expo ever and have a marathon shirt, a marathon hat and several bags of goodies that I cannot wait to tear into. Although I’d like to think I’m humble and cool and am content just to be an average marathon runner preparing to run just another 26.2 mile race, I cannot help but be inspired by the sight of thousands of finely tuned Boston marathoners, the best athletes in our sport, circulating in all directions all around me. They’re all scurrying to pick up race shirt and bibs, meet family and friends and make last minute preparations for the same race that I’ll be running in. And then it dawns on me, it really hits me. I AM one of them; I AM one of the best; I AM a Boston Marathoner. I have arrived.

Saturday, 4/19, 5:55PM
“Every runner is different.” The platform poster says. I couldn’t agree more. I’m boarding the commuter train to Newburyport, NH, where I plan to have dinner and spend the night with out of town friends. Next to me, an older gentleman wearing the same celebratory jacket as I, strikes up a conversation. Like me, he is also running his first Boston. But unlike me, it took him 13 attempts to get here, including his first B.Q. back in Arizona in January of this year, where he qualified by less than 10 seconds. He indulges me by giving me the lowdown of all his marathons to date. As he is talking, I’m mesmerized by his candor, his excitement and his serenity. It was obvious that he was enjoying the experience and was happy just to have arrived. “I haven’t trained well this winter, and so I have no time goal. The game plan is to go slow and enjoy the show.” I’m envious that he seems so relaxed, with race day now less than 2 days away.

Saturday, 4/20, 11:48 PM
My eyes are droopy. My stomach is full. I am ready for bed, but since an animated MT is talking running, which isn’t usually a topic of late night conversation with her, I am obliged to listen. She shares with me her favorite Patriot’s Day memories from B.U., where she had gone to college. She remembers the wild frat parties that spilled into the streets even before noon. She remembers standing on the sidelines on the first warm spring day and offering beer to runners who looked like they were struggling. She even remembers when as a dare, some of her college friends would chug a beer, jump the barricades and run a portion of the marathon course with some of the runners. In the middle of all of this, she suddenly declares to me that SHE wants to qualify and run the Boston Marathon in a year or two. I found this rather ironic as I’m coaching her to run her very first half-marathon just next week. I smiled and nodded as she relates to me all she plans to do as she runs the course. Although I fear that her exuberance and excitement will be short-lived once she realizes the extensive training necessary to run a successful marathon, it was nonetheless extremely inspirational for me to hear what Boston means to someone else besides me.

Sunday, 4/20, 11:20AM
Beyond the stage offered by the coach car window, the silent cinema of the rural countryside unfolds next to me in a reverse direction to what I had seen yesterday afternoon. Although I find myself aboard the same commuter train with the same B.A.A. poster advertising the Boston marathon, I am less anxious and more relaxed as I await the one hour ride back to town. Maybe it was the delicious five course meal I shared with MT and her friends which took the entirety of last night to finish, or the realization upon waking this morning, that even though the start of the marathon is less than 24 hours away, there is really nothing more I can do to prepare for this race, either way, I am enveloped in a quiet subdued confidence that I hadn’t felt all weekend long.

Sunday, 4/20, 3:01PM
FL and I are together again in the same hotel room, just as we were four short months ago in Vegas. This time however she’s badly injured, with a sore and tender piriformis muscle that prevents her from running with a normal gait. As she lies on the floor going through a myriad of exercises with her system of trigger balls to ease the tension on her back, I read over the mile times I plan to run from the pace bracelet I had prepared for the occasion. FL notes the awkward juxtaposition and comments. “Just as Vegas was about me and that BQ…This race is about you and your sub-3. I’ll be okay. I’m just hoping to finish.” I thank her for the vote of confidence but can sense the disappointment in her voice. “Don’t worry. We’ll come back again and do it right.” I assured her. “Let’s get through tomorrow so we can grab that medal and go celebrate.”

Sunday, 4/20, 7:14PM
I never could have imagined a pre-race pasta dinner without pasta, but the filet mignon and vegetable rice risotto my friend SH (with assistance from DS) conjured up made for a more than adequate substitution. Although the gathering was small by marathon standards with only seven in attendance, the abundance of food and the pre-race jitteriness and excitement felt amongst the four marathoners, including three Boston first-timers, made for some lively and spirited conversation. FL was intrigued to meet another injured soul who was running the marathon just for the medal and not for time while I sought the advice of another who had traveled the course once before. It was mystifying how everyone with such varied running experiences and race goals can spontaneously coalescence and be encouraging to one another. I feel bad for those partygoers who aren’t yet marathoners or runners but got swept up in all the excitement and hoopla anyway.

Sunday, 4/20, 10:48 PM
As it often occurs on marathon eve, we stayed out a bit later than expected and got back to the hotel room way past our scheduled curfew. It’s alright though. I’ve got my drop bag, my pre-race breakfast and drinks all laid out for a quick getaway in the morning. One last check of race day weather on the internet verifies that there’ll be no rain in the morning and will reach 52F by the early afternoon. I ditch my long-sleeve technical and settle on a quarter-zip sea blue light technical shirt for the race. I find my matching blue bandana and Asics race shorts and lay them out on the nightstand for easy access in the morning. Before climbing into bed, I confide in FL that I’m indeed nervous and unsure if I can run sub-3 on this course. She turns to me and says. “Listen to me. I know you’re a sub-3 runner. You know you’re a sub-3 runner. If it doesn’t happen tomorrow, it’ll happen the next time. The point it, IT WILL HAPPEN, so quit worrying. DDYA!” I nodded in agreement and closed my eyes. As I drifted off to sleep, I reminded myself that although sub-3 is an important race goal, it was more important to enjoy the journey, because I’ll never again get the opportunity to run my first Boston.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Result From My First Boston Marathon - 3:02:21

The motto for this year's Boston Marathon (as written on the official posters all around town) is "Every runner has a story." As you all know, my I finished my first Boston Marathon one second behind my marathon PR time of 3:02:20 in last year's NYCM. (Thanks to all of you for tracking me and virtually cheering me on. You all are totally awesome!) What you don't know is how I almost walked off the course, almost DNF'd, and had to fight like hell just to finish.

What is to follow then, after I recover feeling in my legs again, is my story because one thing I learned at this year's Boston is that behind every race time, no matter how slow or how fast, is a great story. Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Final Thoughts Before Boston

That’s it folks. My bus ticket is printed. My bags are packed. I’m leaving New York for Boston first thing in the morning. As I’m trying to anticipate what I’ll forget to bring once I leave (and I will forget), it’s beginning to dawn on me that this Boston Marathon thing is really going to happen. I’ve been fielding good wish calls from friends all week. I’ve been reading forums and books and articles on the marathon all month. I even did a podcast with a few friends from the Runners’ Lounge on the race a few days ago. Yet it was the simple act of packing and the prospect of leaving home that finally made me realize that this race is no longer a pipe dream and is really going down in three days…

"Are you ready to run this race?" Everyone around me has been asking for the past few days. "I don’t know…I think so." has been my patented answer. In a way, I do know since I’ve trained hard and feel pretty confident that this will be the race for me. In another way, I truly don’t because so many extrinsic factors beyond my control can ruin the day. All I can promise is that I’m preparing to give my all to run a smart, fast, and tactical race. So if the running powers that be are on my side on race day, I’ll bring home the sub-3 with plenty to spare.

To all you ladies and gents who’ve virtually come with me all this way, thanks for all the celebratory congrats on all the good runs and the kind encouragement on all the bad ones. Words really cannot express how appreciative I feel for all of your support. You people are simply amazing! I really would have never been so inspired to train for this race if it were simply me. But since I felt such a collective virtual presence on all the training run and races, I simply felt obligated to always put forth a good effort. And now that that effort has carried me all the way to the Boston Marathon I sincerely feel very blessed and grateful. Even though all of you won’t be around in person on race day, you all will virtually be with me as I run this race.

So look for me on Patriot’s Day in the third corral of Wave 1. My race bib number is #3135 and I’ll be rocking Boston with a bandana on my head and a whole blogosphere out cheering for my success. It’s going to be a great race, and I officially cannot wait. Alright Boston. Bring. It. On.

So check me out on race day (you can use Athlete Tracker on the B.A.A. website), and I’ll follow up with all of you on the other end of Bolyston! Enjoy the race everyone!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

My Motivation: What Running Boston Means To Me

As a runner, by default, I’m a creature of habit. Before every marathon I’ve run so far, I often like to make a list of 26 names for whom I’m running. I do this so that for every single mile, I have someone to imagine a conversation with in case I get bored and need motivation to get through the rough patches. Some people use mantras, others hum songs, but this is what I do to inspire myself as I’m running the course. This time however, as I sat down to construct the list of names to be used on race day, my mind drew a complete blank, which was somewhat shocking. So I asked myself a simple question. For whom are you running the Boston Marathon? What does running Boston mean to you? I waited patiently for my mind to settle on an answer and this is what it’s telling me…

Boston is not just another marathon. The course, the crowd, the history, the tradition, and the athletes, combine in a powerful and magnificent way to create a magical experience that is unlike any other. No matter how many previous other marathons you’ve run before or how many others you will run, this marathon is and always will be a special race. It is your First Boston. You’ll be honored and cheered, celebrated and congratulated more than ever before as you run the course, for the simple act of receiving the privilege to toe the line in Hopkinton is already an accomplishment all onto itself.
So even though you’ve run other marathons in dedication to family and friends, both virtual and real, this one for all intents and purposes, is strictly on you. For the first time in a long time, they’ll be very few friends on the sidelines looking for you. There won’t be the usual personal cheering zones at assigned street corners scattered along the course as you’ve come to be used to. There won’t even be Flyers station handing out PowerGels at Mile 19. This is Boston, Lam, not New York, but you’ll be fine. You’ll be more than fine. You’ll run a spectacular race in a historic marathon and will love every second of it.
But if you should have trouble and feel out of sorts on the course, remember the long months of waiting and tedious hours of training it took to get to where you are today. Remember how you ran a 3:11:33 in 2006 and missed out on the BQ by 33 seconds. Remember how you finally qualified a year later in 2007 NYC and still couldn’t run the race the following year because you broke a collarbone and couldn’t run for months. Most of all, remember how hard you’ve trained this winter, out in the snow, out in the cold, when it’s dark and gloomy and slippery and wet, and all that pushed you out the door each day was the passion to run and the resolve to prove to everyone else around and most of all to you, that you are a decent marathoner and deserve to run Boston. Yeah, remember that, because this has been a long journey, and you’ve come so far in preparing your body to run with the very best out there that day. Laminator, you have a date with destiny. Seize the race, run your heart out, take no prisoners, and enjoy the ride!

This is what my mind is telling me as I’m packing my bags with race day now just four days away…

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

An Open Letter to The ‘Mill

Dear Treadmill,

Now I’m done with my last indoor tempo workout of this marathon training cycle and will likely not be around your parts until next winter again, there are just a few things I want to say before we conclude this chapter in our relationship.

Both you and I know that our times together have been nothing short of tumultuous. At times, it seems as if we could never settle on a speed or incline setting that were to our mutual liking. Yet, through it all, I’ve always considered you more as a sparring partner than a foe, more as a teammate than an adversary. As I’ve improved in fitness and endurance, you’ve also adjusted your velocity and grade to fit my training. Although our fierce competition on the rubber belt have become legendary to those who’ve witnessed them first-hand, I’ve never at any point doubted your dedication as a training partner or questioned our friendship. (Case in point. When others would refer to you by using derogatory term such as “dreadmill” or “carousel of boredom” or “human hamster wheel”, I’ve always called you by your rightful name, or sometimes “the ‘mill” for short.)

That all changed exactly one week ago today, when a certain incident occurred in the middle of a crowded gym left me paralyzed with fear, afraid to be recognized by anyone and forever scarred. I was sick back then with fever and chills a few hours before. Yet, you took no pity on me, and even though I dialed you up on for an easy 5 miler at Random Incline Setting 4 at MP pace (6:52), you spat me out on to the carpet less than a half mile in and made me the laughingstock of the whole entire gym. I don’t know what got into you that day and wondered aloud what others might have done prior to my arrival that incurred such wrath, but that kind of behavior is absolutely inexcusable. Not only might it have caused serious physical damage, but the psychological trauma was pretty debilitating as well. Because of you, I was this close to calling off the whole sub-3 marathon plan for Boston.

So, be honest, how did you think I was going to respond? Did you think I was just going to sit back and accept your punishment like you’re my daddy? Did you think I was going to call Boston and cancel just because YOU think my running 6:52 is pathetic? Well, guess again. I don’t think the B.A.A. invited me to run in their marathon because I am a pansy and I certainly didn’t get to where I am in this sport by being so easily dissuaded. So when I got off work today, saw it was raining and read a 4-mile tempo run at 6:27 pace on the schedule, I knew I’d get my revenge. You and me, one last time, before Boston. Only this time, I wasn’t sick (or as sick as I was last week). And this time, I was prepared for your random incline-shifting antics. So,even though I cranked the random incline setting up to 5, which is more than what I did last week, guess how the score came out?

Do you want to tell everyone, or should I? Silence? Okay, don’t mind me then. Mile 1 – 6:19; Mile 2 – 6:19; Mile 3 – 6:17; Mile 4 – 6:18; Avg HR – 164. In other words, I TOTALLY OWNED YOU TODAY. Did the whole blogosphere here that? No? Okay, with feeling this time. I rocked the treadmill so hard he had tears spewing from his envious red eyes! Not only did I accomplished my scheduled goal of 6:27 miles, I ran the fastest tempo run I’ve ever done indoors! How do you like them apples? Oh and yes, I took an extra long walk break so everyone around can admire my accomplishments. And oh yes, I took even longer to wipe away the watery tears on your display and handrails. Revenge never felt so freakin’ sweet!

I hope there are no hard feelings going forth after this little exchange. After all, I was merely throwing a brush back pitch after taking one for the team in our last meeting. And if one of your brothers or cousins expresses even an inkling of repeating your past transgressions, let them know the Laminator is not to be trifled with, especially when he’s running! Have a great time the rest of this year catering to the uninspiring crowd who walks on you while reading a magazine or hangs out talking longer on the cellphone than they do running. I’ll remember you when I’m marathon training again. Hopefully by then the salt from my sweat will have wiped away any remaining bitterness left behind from our fierce rivalry this spring.

Until we meet again, old friend.

The Laminator

Monday, April 13, 2009

Boston Marathon Training – The Final Update

Race day is now officially 7 days away (Did I just admit that?) and since last weeks’ workouts were chaotic and unspectacular because of my week long bout with the flu (totaled 26.4 miles for the week at average of 7:02 min/mile pace), I thought I’d forgo the weekly format in favor of a general review summarizing how this marathon training cycle has gone for me. I figure it’ll give you an idea of how I planned, approached and executed my training plan while at the same time give me added confidence next Monday that I’ve indeed trained long, hard, and smart for this race.

The Numbers
Week 1 – Planned 25 Miles, Ran 28.1 Miles, Avg Pace 7:06
Week 2 – Planned 27 Miles, Ran 29.0 Miles, Avg Pace 7:05
Week 3 - Planned 30 Miles, Ran 34.2 Miles, Avg Pace 7:08
Week 4 - Planned 33 Miles, Ran 33.6 Miles, Avg Pace 6:54
Week 5 - Planned 37 Miles, Ran 36.9 Miles, Avg Pace 7:12
Week 6 - Planned 30 Miles, Ran 34.5 Miles, Avg Pace 6:39
Week 7 - Planned 39 Miles, Ran 41.5 Miles, Avg Pace 7:23
Week 8 - Planned 44 Miles, Ran 45.0 Miles, Avg Pace 6:58
Week 9 - Planned 46 Miles, Ran 46.5 Miles, Avg Pace 6:56
Week 10 - Planned 37 Miles, Ran 39.3 Miles, Avg Pace 7:20
Week 11 - Planned 49 Miles, Ran 60.4 Miles, Avg Pace 7:20
Week 12 - Planned 51 Miles, Ran 35.5 Miles, Avg Pace 6:45
Week 13 - Planned 54 Miles, Ran 55.7 Miles, Avg Pace 7:10
Week 14 - Planned 42 Miles, Ran 35.6 Miles, Avg Pace 7:04
Week 15 - Planned 30 Miles, Ran 26.4 Miles, Avg Pace 7:02
Totals – Planned 574 Miles; Ran 581.8 Miles, Avg Pace 7:05

The Analysis
In the initial planning for this marathon training cycle, I had separated the weeks into three distinct phases-a mesocycle of sorts-each with a specific purpose and agenda. The first five week phase was the preparatory phase. Since I was coming off a month long break in running when training started, I wanted a steady diet of lower mileage weeks to get the legs back up and moving again. Although I suffered a loss of motivation many times during these early training weeks, I somehow still managed to stick to my plan and hit my mileage and time goals each and every time. The second five week phase was the speed and racing phase. During this phase, I exclusively focused on developing efficiency and maintaining speed during training. Since I knew I wanted to break 3 in Boston, I knew focusing my energies on becoming a faster runner would be a top priority for me. Running drills and hard tempos led to some good success in local road races, including a 15K PR and a sub 19min 5K. The last phase, termed marathon success phase by me, included some high mileage weeks designed to build endurance stamina. Unfortunately, I was not so focused on these last few weeks and got sidetracked with multiple nagging injuries and then the flu bug. Still, the work for the most part got done and I can happily go forth from Hopkinton with the utmost confidence in the training I’ve had.

By the way, the Defyance 2 treated me well during my last double digit run before the marathon. I ran 11 miles with first six at a pedestrian pace of 6:59 and the last five a bit faster at 6:44. (FYI, the overall pace was 6:53) My feet, even the day after, had no complaints - no blister, pain, or performance issues whatsoever to speak of. I’m so grateful. Now, as long as I get rid of my hacking cough and runny nose by race day, I’ll be ready.

Boston in Sub-3? Who’s with me?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Boston Bound Shoes

Now that the physical evidence from the “flu attack” is almost all gone and the psychological damage is too after the “treadmill incident that nobody saw”, it’s time to move beyond sickness recovery phase and start making plans for Boston.

It is obvious that as runners, we need relatively little "gear" to perform well in our sport. Some would even argue that the simpler (or less-equpped) the runner, the better the racer. However, even the simplest runner knows that he won’t get very far very fast if he’s not wearing the right shoes. Now, I realize that I haven’t talked about my shoes much. That’s because I haven’t had much shoe drama in a very long time. I’ve been using a combination of Asics 2130/2140 for longer runs since last summer and a pair of Saucony ProGrid Triumphs for tempo runs and longer races. (I also have a pair of Pearl Izumi racing flats that use for short races and track work). This symphony of shoes has worked well for me in training but all simultaneously passed the 300 mile mark late last month. This made me somewhat hesitant to use any of them for the actual marathon. What to do? Which to use? Old or new? These had been questions that I’ve been tossing around in my mind before I got sick

In my defense, I had been preparing for such a scenario. Because I found a nice pair of New Balance 1223s (which carried me to my first BQ in 2007) on sale a couple months back, I grabbed it figuring to either run Boston in them or just train with them through the summer. However, once I took them for a test long run and then a tempo run, I found out that the toe box was tight and the heel support did not fit me the right way. My Achilles and knees definitely complained each time. But since I thought I was imagining things since both runs occurred as part of a tough 50+ mile week, I took them out for a spin again a couple of days ago, and the same thing happened again! This was a big bummer because I had such success with them the first time around when I ran over 500+ miles before I literally forced myself to retire them for good. Panic struck when I finally accepted that the NB 1223 Boston Marathon Shoe plan had to be restructured. So after getting off work an hour early Friday afternoon, I laid my old/new 1223s on the side of the curb, thanked them for their past services and headed over to the new JackRabbit store on 85th and 3rd to conduct new interviews for the position.

To make the long story short, I found there a knowledgeable staff who ran me through a full comprehensive gait analysis and watched me try out about ten pairs of shoes on video before helping me pick out the right candidate for the position. So after 45 minutes of intense examination and scrutiny, both the sales person and I came to the conclusion that these new kicks will not only carry me far and fast in Boston, but complements my running rebel personality as well.
For those who haven’t met, these are the new Brooks Defyance 2 running shoes, which came into the market in December of 2008. Since I’m not that familiar with Brooks as I’ve never worn them before, I’ll spare you my cursory introduction and direct you to a video detailing some of its features (if you're interested). What I like most of the shoe is that it is lighter and less stable than any of the other marathon shoes I’ve ever used (Apparently, I was told during my gait analysis that I really do have a very efficient gait and don’t overpronate as much as I think which means that extra stability is not warranted. This was somewhat surprising to hear since I’ve always categorized myself as an overpronator.) Also, it has a bit wider toe box while maintaining a well-cushioned and snug midfoot and ankle fit. I think I’m going to enjoy running in Defyance!

Because yesterday was just all nasty and rainy, I didn’t get to test it out, but today is a perfectly beautiful and sunny day so I’m dying to try them out on my last weekend 10-12 miler. I can hardly wait.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Sickness Update and The Epitome of Embarrassment

First of all, thanks for all the supportive comments and encouraging words this past week. Words cannot describe how physically draining and emotionally exhausting these past five days have been for me. To think how this highly-trained and battled-tested runner’s body can transform so quickly to a giant puddle of inactive mush in a matter of a few hours is both humbling and frightening. The good news though, is that I’ve started to turn a corner and my body has shown signs over the past 24 hours that it is winning the war once again. Although I have very little objective data to support this hypothesis (since I’m stilling sneezing and coughing quite frequently), the return of subjective sub-3 ponderings for the big race is evidence enough for me that I can once again start getting excited for the big day…Yay!

But…before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let me go back and tell you about the funniest story that you might not have heard and won’t ever hear again (because I’d be too embarrassed to tell you)…so listen up, ‘cause I’m just recounting this story ONCE and never again!

Let me preface the story by saying that I generally hold myself in pretty high esteem when I go running in the local gym. Because I limit myself to using only the treadmill when I go there and since I usually run much faster than anyone around me (and must look pretty good doing it too if I have to say so myself) I feel like I’m at my element whenever I’m pounding out the miles on the conveyor belt. Also, whenever I’m there, I always make sure I’m running in a race-ready technical shirt so as to differentiate myself from the cotton wearing wannabe crowd who are mainly there just to check themselves out while doing some light cardio.

It was with a similar mindset that I entered the gym for my usual hard Tuesday workout. Although I was sick that day, with fever, chills, and paroxysmal coughing fits, I thought (stupidly in retrospect) that a hard workout would jump start the immune system and help to eliminate the virus at a faster rate.

The scheduled called for a tempo run of 5 miles at 6:19 pace. To be safe, I settled on running the first half at marathon pace (6:52) and then transitioning to tempo pace only if I felt comfortable. Because my legs hadn’t run in a couple of days and had not experienced speedwork in a week and a half, they were excited for the opportunity to run fast even if the rest of the body wasn’t. After setting the treadmill to include random inclines at a steady 6:50 pace, I started running. The pace felt hard and fast right from the outset. Although I fought to hold the breathing and heart rate to a comfortable level, it became almost impossible after 0.5 mile. As I was getting disappointed that I was slipping so soon, I puckered down, closed my eyes, and pleaded with the body to just hold on until the end of the mile. As soon as I did I felt the treadmill tilted upward. With my eyes closed, I couldn’t register what was happening so I instinctively told myself to keep the same effort as I opened my eyes in a panic. But before those neuronal impulses became coherent, I inexplicably found myself slipping farther and farther backwards until a second later I found myself running on carpet behind the treadmill! It took me nearly a second to realize that because I had forgotten about the random adjustable incline and because I did not increase my pace in response to that incline, I had just done the most embarrassing thing this side of faking the finish of a marathon – I ran off a treadmill in the middle of a crowded NYC gym. Omigosh! First thought in my head: There should be a giant caption bubble above my head right now with the words “Wanna get away?” Second thought in my head: Is there anyone around who isn’t looking at me right now? Third thought in my head: I’m wearing my San Fran marathon shirt...spectacular…what a shining example of a great marathon runner am I? I didn’t dare look around. But even above the loud ambience of the hundreds of treadmills in operation in that same room and my own headphones pumping out tunes into my ears, I could still hear the muffled giggles and feel the laser stares of a thousand eyes straight on my back. It truly had to be one of the lowest points of my running life!

Somehow, despite the whole fiasco, I had the whereabouts to jump back on the treadmill and power down the machine to a more meaningful speed. I then proceeded to run at that same pedestrian speed for thirty minutes, or as long a period of time as I thought it would take for the rest of the gym to turn over. During that entire time, I didn’t look up, but stared at the flickering red digits on the display until time was up. The funny thing about that run was that I ran so slowly and so evenly that for a long time during it, I forgot that I was still sick. No matter though, the trauma for that night had already been done a long time ago…

So there it is folks. The mystery of the ONE time the treadmill took advantage of my sickness, rejected my running efforts, spat me back out, and left me with my most embarrassing running story ever!

Hope you all enjoyed that because I’m NOT repeating it ever again! Consider it my Passover/Easter present. Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

You Know You’re Really Sick During The Marathon Taper When

1. You get out of bed only to wonder when you get back to bed.

2. You’ve been off the road for so long that you forgot how soreness felt.

3. Food has no taste, just different degrees of blandness.

4. You're out of breath just walking fast to catch the bus.

5. Instead of preparing a victory dance, you make contingency plans for a graceful DNF.

6. Your clinical assessment of patients in the hospital is strictly based on how sick they are compared to you.

7. You go on the treadmill for a good 5 at marathon pace and you (literally) run off the treadmill!

8. Instead of making plans for running sub 3, you wonder how you’re ever going to stay awake for 3 hours.

9. You realize running a marathon the way you are would make an excellent episode of Survivor

10. You consider skipping out on the Boston Marathon as a real possibility.

BonusYou feel so sick so close to the biggest race of your life that you wonder if someone somewhere is trying to tell you something…

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Office Conversation

Colleague 1: Geez, Lam, you look like crap…
Me: Yeah, I got sick over the weekend. Don’t ask! And I’m supposed to run my marathon in two weeks…
Colleague 2: I can’t run a mile when I’m happy and well-caffeinated…
Me: Well, I hope I get better soon, I don’t want to go to Boston with fever and chills…
Colleague 1: Oh, the race is in Boston?
Me: Yeah, it’s the Boston Marathon. Don’t you remember me talking about it practically all last week?
Colleague 2: Well, if you don’t feel well, I think you should skip it.
Me: Skip what?
Colleague 2: Your ten mile marathon in Boston.
Me: But it’s the Boston Marathon and it’s 26.2 miles, not 10.
Colleague 1: Isn’t there plenty of races in New York? Why are you going all the way to Boston to run? What…like our roads here aren’t good enough for you?
Colleague 2: I agree. What’s the difference between a marathon here and a marathon there? They’re all the same anyway…

I couldn’t tell whether my head hurt more from the fever and chills or from being a party to this conversation. Luckily, a patient of mine came in and I had to leave.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Boston Marathon Training Update - Week 15

Taper week #1 was quite eventful for me as I had to skip a speed workout early in the week because my left Achilles’ felt extremely tight after the last long run and I had surgery late in the week. What, you didn’t know I was having surgery last week? Well, neither did I. When I went to the dentist for a mild toothache last Wednesday, I was told that I really bad infections in a couple of teeth that I had previous work done. As a result, I found myself getting oral surgery under general anesthesia the very next day. Let me tell you, it wasn’t very pleasant, and the sedatives made me looney and nauseous for twenty four hours after, but it got gone. Thankfully, so did most of my miles planned for this week…

Week #15 (3/30-4/5)

What I Planned:
Speed Interval Workout: 8 total miles with 4 x 1 mile at 5:51 pace
Recovery Run: 6 miles at easy pace
Marathon Paced Run: 12 miles at 6:52 pace
Weekend Long Run: 16 miles at long run pace
Total week 15 distance planned: 42 miles

What I Ran:
Wed – GA Treadmill Run: 6.2 miles at 6:52 pace
Fri – Marathon Paced Run: 12.2 miles at 6:48 pace
Fri – Cooldown Jog: 1.0 mile at 7:31 pace
Sun – Weekend Long Run: 16.2 miles at 7:18 pace
Total week 15 distance: 35.6 miles; avg pace – 7:04 min/mi

How I Ran:
After resting, icing, and stretching my sore left Achilles’ on Monday and Tuesday, I got back to the swing of things on Wednesday. As I’ve mentioned before, I wanted to get in a longer run that day, but since I left work much later than I wanted and found the city in the midst of a thunderstorm, I scratched my plans and did some steady miles on the treadmill instead. I had surgery on Thursday afternoon, which killed any chances for a decent workout that day (since I had to be NPO for six to eight hours prior to the procedure). It rained again the whole day on Friday, threatening my last marathon paced workout. Luckily, in between the pitter-patters, there was a two hour break in the late afternoon where I was able to squeeze in my run. I was so thankful for the fortunate turn of events that even though the effort was hard and the breathing a bit labored due to the warm temps (high 50’s) and high humidity (93%), I didn’t dare complain or draw comparisons to previous workouts done at this pace. I got my miles in, met my goal, didn’t get injured, and allowed myself just to be content with that.

Sunday, on the best weather day of the week, I visited my folks in Whitestone Queens and took my running shoes with me. Because I wanted to enjoy this last long(ish) run without getting too worked up about pacing, I chose a calm, lakeshore trail with some tack-on miles in Long Island for my purposes. This was my first time running so far into the neighborhood so it was more than a bit exciting. Besides the massive hills that greeted me at the beginning and end of my adventures, I enjoyed very bit of the 16 miles I did yesterday. Not only was the weather picture-perfect and lots of families were out picnicking and barbecuing by the trail where I was running, but almost every runner I passed by either had a wave, a nod, or a smile for me. The highlight of my run came when I ran through a section of Little Neck, Long Island and while meandering, found myself at the head of an avenue that was aptly named “Marathon Parkway”. I was tickled senseless by this discovery that I spent a couple of miles just running back and forth on this long secluded highway. To anyone who saw me running there, I must have looked like a complete freak! Needless to say, it was a beautiful and glorious run for me, and I’m sure I’ll be back (with a camera this time) to pay my respects when I’m done with Boston.

Unfortunately, my giddiness was tempered somewhat when I woke up this morning coughing and sneezing. Yes, although I would love to say it ain’t so, it seems like the taper cold has struck again. Apparently, even doctors are not immune.

Have a great week, everyone.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Fifteen Days To Go: My Biggest Worries

It’s getting close; I can feel it. By the time I get this up, it will be fifteen days to race day. Fifteen days to find out if I’ve got what it takes to be a sub 3 hour marathoner runner. Ironically, fifteen is also a poignant number for the marathon because that is the mile right before the onslaught of four hills culminating in Heartbreak Hill is set to begin. In a way, it is the calm before the storm, a time for all the runners to assess their physical and mental state before tackling the toughest part of the race.

So where am I physically, emotionally, and psychologically with the race now just fifteen days away?

Well, physically, I feel fine, or as well as I could hope for given all the heavy mileage (for me) that I’ve asked this body to train through. I’ve suffered many injury scares over the past several weeks, a pulled hamstring here, an Achilles’ tendonitis there, but they’ve all subsided to the point where it’s not noticeable or only barely so even as I’m running at marathon pace. As long as I don’t push hard and remember to run constructive miles (which builds confidence) rather than destructive miles (which break down muscle) I should make it through the taper with a realistic change to physically run a great race.

Emotionally and psychologically however, it is somewhat of a different story. For one reason or another, I’ve been having a hard time visualizing my personal success in the Boston Marathon. Maybe it’s from the lack of support from those closest to me (like my parents who only recently found out I’m heading to Boston to run a marathon and isn’t so pleased with my decision) or just my own inability to see myself as a good athlete, but I’m having a hard time coming to terms with what I’m hoping to do on April 20th. In a weird way, I feel like a career minor leaguer suddenly getting the call to pitch Game 7 of the World Series. Does this even make sense?

In an effort to “build up ammo” and strategize my attack on all the frailties of the mind that will threatening my chances on Marathon Monday, I’m going to confront my fears and list the ten biggest psychological stumbling blocks I have heading into race day. I figure if I know what I’m dealing with now, I have a few days to prepare mentally to put up a good realistic fight.

In no particular order then, my biggest worries for the Boston Marathon are:

  1. I’ll forget my underwear come race day. Not really, but wearing inappropriate clothing is always a concern.
  2. I don’t run well away from home. It’s not a coincidence that in the last four marathons that I’ve run, I’ve averaged 3:05 at home, and 3:12 away.
  3. Weather is always a crapshoot in Boston. If it’s rainy, windy, snowy, hot or humid, I can forget about sub-3 and just hope that I don’t break an ankle or end up in the hospital.
  4. Catching speedsters. Did you hear Kara is running the race. And so is Ryan Hall. And so is this guy and this guy. If I find myself running with any of them at the start, I’m. So. Dead.
  5. Hills and me: not such BFFs? Like the setting sun, hills have been a constant companion on all my training runs. But what if on race day, those treacherous speed bumps along Miles 16-21 decide out of the blue to pick a fight with me? Will I have the mental fortitude not to be flustered by the dispute?
  6. I will meander off the course or meander off the pace. Ooh, look at that pretty statue there…or ooh, look at those beautiful houses…Hey, hey, where did everyone else go? Or…6:49, 6:45, 6:50, 7:30…hey, where did that come from? You get the picture.
  7. I will forget why I’m running. It always happens. Somewhere in mile 21,22, or sometimes 23. I start to lose focus and forget why the hell I’m running. So, why am I running this race anyway?
  8. I can’t say no to a kiss. If some pretty lady offers, can I not oblige? And if I just happen to fall off my pace by twenty seconds running through Wellesley, can you really blame me?
  9. I will be emotional…at mile 2. Again, if I have the sniffles even before my first water stop, I am not sick nor will I have tears of joy at mile 26.
  10. To spite me, they’ll cancel the race when I reach Boston. Who knows? It might happen.

Hope you all are having a good weekend.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Fast or Slow, Who’s To Know?

Speed is relative, that we know. Unless you are in the top 1% of the best athletes on the field that day, or have aspirations of carrying home a trophy, an age group award or a moment of public recognition, there really is no incentive to try so hard to race your very best, when it’s obvious that there will always be someone who finishes ahead of you and behind you in every race, unless you’re striving for your own personal goal. From that perspective, comparative racing terms such as fast and slow really ought to have no meaning, if you’re really racing for your own sake. To put it in another way, if we were to enter a race with no other participants, and we ran in accordance with our own perceived effort with no garmins, watches, or digital clocks, would we know if we were running fast or slow that day?

I’m been thinking quite a bit about that the last couple of weeks after two new members in my running club was introduced to me earlier this month on a group run and as if on cue, the first words out of their mouths were “Oh wait, yeah I know you, you’re that really fast guy right. No I can’t run with you…” It was at least annoying if not bordering on the totally inaccurate. First of all, they can’t know me, since I don’t know them. Yes, they might have heard of me, but even if so, since when does hearing about someone (celebrities not withstanding) equate to knowing someone. Secondly, since fast is a relative label, how do you know I’m fast (much less really fast) without knowing the company I keep or people I race against? In my world, 2:50 marathoners are fast, 2:40 guys are really fast, 2:30 people are sub-elite, and 2:20s are the truly elite, and since I’m not even within striking distance of fast yet, I feel quite uncomfortable being associated with those guys. Finally, I resent the fact that just because I fit a certain stereotype because of an inaccurate perception that others have of me, I am ostracized because of my speed. Arrrgghh…this drives me crazy because it is so contrary to why I train myself to run fast in the first place.

If you cared to read over my list of “why I run”, the first reason I listed was to be athletic. And while it’s true that I get some personal satisfaction of being now considered a good athlete when I was always ordinary at best in every sport I’ve tried previously, that was really only a secondary endpoint. The primary reason I train so hard is to be fast enough to run with everyone else. Ever since I could remember, whether it was snowboarding, go-kart racing, or canoeing downstream with friends, if we were out there for long enough, I was always the one bringing up the rear. On some level, it was not only embarrassing but also somewhat dangerous because I’d at times fallen so far behind the pack that I’d get lost finding my own way back. Needless to say, this traumatized me to no end growing up, and to this day, I will not go camping or hiking with friends without having a set of directions on me at all times.

That is at least part of the reason I’m motivated to run fast. I just do not want to ever be forced to bring up the rear again. I want to keep up even if it’s a group of Kenyans (or those blazing Central Park Track Club guys) that I happen to be running with. But by the same token, I will always adapt to the slower runners because I’ve been there and can empathize very readily with the helpless feeling of not being able to keep up. This is always a tricky situation for me. I struggle with having the confidence of a good distance runner while at the same time hoping to never forget how to enjoy myself if I have to run a little slow either. It’s really an up and down, ebb and flow, kind of dynamic relationship with me and speed. But truthfully, for me, I wouldn’t really want it any other way.

After some thought this week, I think that’s the mindset I want to bring with me to Boston. I want to race fast enough and well enough to justify my training, “to keep up with the guys” so to speak, while at the same time, run slow enough as if I’m hanging with the back of the pack out on a long run to enjoy the excitement and the scenery. I don’t know if this is the right attitude to have as someone preparing to break 3 hours in a marathon, but in order not to psych myself out by making the race something bigger than what it already is (it’s Boston for god sakes!), I believe it’s the most appropriate one for me.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

A Frustrating Day and Life After Boston

I’m not gonna lie. Today was a craptastic day for me from beginning to end. First I got to work late because of subway issues. Then everyone at the office had “favors” for me to do, which meant doing extra work to cover for colleagues who weren’t around for one reason or another. Afternoon clinic was mayhem because a lot of kids were off for Spring Break and coincidentally needed to see me ASAP. Yet, in spite of all that, I was efficient and on a roll. I was about to get out at a reasonable hour (so I could sneak in a good run before dark) when suddenly, a complicated patient who is normally cared for by a colleague of mine who is out on maternity leave drops by for a routine visit (not realizing her doctor was out) and I had the pleasure of reviewing all of his records and seeing him on the fly, which pretty much killed any hopes I had of running before dark. And then, as I was finally leaving the hospital, contemplating of maybe doing 12 miles even in the dark because I had been resting since the weekend and hadn’t run at all, it started to rain. Great! Eventually, I chalked up the day as a loss, ate dinner and did six uncomfortable miles on the treadmill. The good news was that my friend the Achilles’ has forgiven me. The bad news? There is now a new pain in my right knee that I’d never noticed before. Sigh! Such is the life of a marathoner on the taper…

If you take a look at the right lower sidebar, you’d see that I’ve already begun planning for life after Boston. I’ve signed up for a bunch of races, including two half-marathons that will tie me over until training starts anew for the next marathon, the New York City Marathon on November 1st. After much deliberation and research, I’ve decided to NOT run a summer marathon this year but instead focus on improving my efficiency and time in half-marathons. In an effort to rededicate myself to that distance and making 2009, the year of the half marathons, I’m participating in as many of those locally as I could fine. Currently, I’m scheduled to run ten for the year, but with a little planning and persistence, I think I can make it an even dozen. I also want to set a new PR at that distance with a goal of eventually running one in under 1:25 by year’s end,

It’s weird to not think of Boston as the be-all and end-all race as it’s been on my mind everyday for the last 3 months of training. But as I was running on the treadmill today, trying to be as oblivious to the miles and the time as humanly possible, I realize that I’ve been taking this training cycle a bit too seriously. I’ve allowed some arbitrary time goal to become a bit of an obsession more than as a simple focus for training. Perhaps that’s why my body is rebelling at every turn, with weird pains in weird places that I’m not accustomed to. But oh well, there’s not much I can do about it now. The training’s been done. It’s out of my hands. I will taper the best way I know how and let whatever happens in Boston happen. I will run my best and see if it’s good enough. If it is, I will be happy. If it’s not, I’ll still be happy knowing I had a positive experience in my first Boston and shoot for it again in November in my hometown course. Either way, life will go own and there will be other races and other Boston’s left for me to run.
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