March Madness, Boston Marathon Edition
For many people, March is a month filled with lots of post (or during) work beers watching the excitement that is the NCAA college basketball tournament unfold. For anyone training for the Boston Marathon, it's a month spent turning down that week day beer, adding that extra mileage to the weekend and using every method under the sun to avoid getting sick or injured. As far as that last one goes, I am hoping I have worked through all the illness and injury I am going to have to deal with this training cycle. I am still a little congested almost 5 weeks after coming down with the nasty cold / flu thing that was going around and I am only just running totally pain free after a couple lingering issues reared their ugly heads at Way Too Cool. I have had to face the facts that despite my efforts, a year of PT exercises for my L glute have not brought balance to the force, otherwise known as the posterior chain. While things are better than they were even 6 months ago, they are not where they need to be for me to run injury free. The lazy glute gives up halfway through a long or hard run and then the left hamstring and the poor right leg has to carry the extra load; hence the right hip and Achilles issues. I am lucky enough to have a pretty awesome team of professionals helping me feel better, but in order to get better, I have to figure out how to get the L glute to carry its fair share. While the little flare ups from Cool have subsided, I am pretty nervous something will decide to come to Boston with me. I am definitely a little scarred from last year's excruciating meltdown but I am trying to leave the past in the past. More on that later. Me of yesteryear would be somewhat freaking out about the lack of mileage I've logged over the past month, (and I definitely had a freak out a couple weeks ago but my amazing coach David talked me off the ledge), but me of today is really excited to head into peak week totally rested and rearing to go. I managed not to really lose any fitness over the past month, so this week is all about key workouts geared towards crushing Boston. So assuming this week goes well, the physical side of things will be taken care of, but we all know that endurance events are at least 50% mental, and when it comes to Boston, I have some demons.
The Boston marathon is probably the most hyped race in the world, but the first time I ran it in 2008, I had signed up on a whim because I was moving away from the city in which I had lived for my entire adult life and wanted to run it before I left. I had never run a marathon so I signed up through a charity and focused on training to just be able to finish. I didn't have a GPS watch, I didn't have Strava and I didn't have a coach. I ran based on time (and some old school Mapmyrun mileage estimations) and after the first month or so, every weekend I ran the furthest I had ever run. This kind of distance running was entirely new and exciting. I headed into the race with minimal expectation and a lot of excitement and managed to run my first marathon in 3:21. I'm not saying it was perfect. I didn't train with fuel so when i git the wall at mile 18 and grabbed a chocolate powergel from the aid station, not only did it not help my energy levels but it wreaked havoc on my digestive system. My shoes were a half size too small, so by the end ,u toes were bleeding and I lost 3 toenails. I forgot sunscreen and over the course of 3 hours running in a straight line, developed a wicked left arm burn with some killer burn lines that didn't go away all summer. Despite all these mishaps, I fell in love with the marathon. Later that year, I moved to London where I stayed for almost 4 years. Grad school, the time consuming act of falling in love and the English lifestyle (there is a pub on every corner!) meant I ran less but when I moved back to the US and settled back into running culture, Boston was on my radar again. I wanted to prove I could do better than my first, poorly executed attempt, and I have, but barely. And this is where the proof of the mental side comes in. In 2013 I ran a 3:19: fast enough to avoid the bombing, but still only a minute or so faster than my qualifying time. In 2014, I developed a cyst in my left knee and could only run 3 days a week for training so I was severely under trained, but I was running with my BRB (best running buddy) and former team mate and the city was electric with so much emotion that I ran on that energy to a shiny new PR of 3:18. 2015 was supposed to be the comeback year. I had trained more consistently and more focused than I ever had before and thought I had overcome a really tough post surgery recovery. The weather conditions sucked and my body did not cooperate. I ran through the worst pain of my life to claw my way to a 3:17; another minute PR and at least 10 minutes off what I was trained for. These races had wildly different variables and yet I ran almost the exact same time.
So what is going to be different about this year? I am more fit than I have ever been, but I don't think that is what is actually going to get me under the 3 hour mark. I have learned to love the process and not just the results. I am not going to lie and say that I don't care at all about the results; I want to break 3 hours more than almost anything I have wanted in my life, but if I don't do it on April 18, I know I will do it next time, or maybe the time after that. Meanwhile, I have found myself unable to sleep the night before a Tuesday morning track workout because I am so excited to see if I can hit the paces and volumes set out for me. Despite kind of dreading some of the monotonous long runs, I have found myself getting lost in the therapeutic rhythm that only comes on long flat roads and in this trance like state I find myself running faster and more comfortably than ever before. The weather might not cooperate, hell, my body might not even cooperate, but I will go into this Boston marathon thankful that I get to participate, excited to test my body and my mind, pumped to get to mile 18 where I get to see my November Project family and thirsty for that post-race beer with my friends and SFRC team mates. Everything else is just gravy on top.