Chasing Boston (part 5 – August training and injury recap)

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What a welcome sight: damp running clothes hanging up to dry.

A monthly training recap seemed like such a good idea back in July, when I was flush with self-satisfaction at how well my training was going. What a great idea, to document my progress by posting comparisons between this year and last!

Sigh.

After two 60+ mile weeks, I managed to twist my ankle in a freak accident – on a rest day, no less. That took an almost two-week chunk out of my training schedule. I’m tempted to pretend the month didn’t happen, but in the interest of honesty and transparency (and because injuries, even stupid ones, are part of running), here’s how August panned out. Continue reading

Limping toward Boston

Astute readers will notice that I’ve adjusted the title to reflect my status after last week’s blogging injury.

My foot is slightly less swollen – but considerably more colorful – than it was in the photo that accompanied the earlier post. The right side sports reddish-purple streaks against an indigo backdrop; the left side is violet-blue; and the top, around my toes, is just starting to take on a shadowy, twilit cast.

No pictures (you’re welcome), but an update on the past week follows. Continue reading

Chasing Boston (part 3 – July training recap)

Screenshot (19)If you’re not a runner, you’ll most likely find this post really boring. Go ahead and skip right over it – I won’t mind.

Fact is, you may this post boring even if you are a runner. Other people’s training logs are not exactly scintillating reading. It can be a little bit interesting to peek at the training of an elite runner, if only to marvel at their mileage and the grueling workouts they sustain. And it can be interesting, in a perverse way, to see the training of someone who’s a complete slacker. Their 20-mile weeks allow you to feel quietly superior* as you shake your head and cluck your tongue over the world of pain that awaits them.

I fall in neither category: I’m just a middle-aged woman who’d like to run Boston as an age-grouper. It doesn’t get more boring than that. Continue reading

Chasing Boston (part 2 – marathon vices and virtues)

Just some of my marathon vices

Just some of my marathon vices

At last year’s New York City Marathon, I missed my Boston qualifying time by five minutes.  Almost immediately – after that first crabwalk down the subway stairs at 72nd street, after the ice bath that reduced me to soft whimpers and the non-restful non-nap that followed, but before my first celebratory beer – I wanted a do-over. A mulligan marathon.

The heartbreaking thing about marathons is that if you screw one up, it will be months before you can try it again. (I mean “try it again” in the sense of racing one, not jogging an event to enjoy the spectacle along the course, or as a training run for an ultra – and hats off to you endurance monsters who can do things like that, because I certainly couldn’t.)  If you’re an older runner, like me, you’ll need a month, minimum, to recover from your last race. Another month to get back to some semblance of your running routine. Another three months or so to ramp your training back up.

Add to that the logistics of finding a race aligned with your training calendar (not to mention the rest of your life) and, well, you will have plenty of time to ponder your marathon training vices. In my case, that means birds, booze and blogging. Continue reading

Chasing Boston (part 1: why)

Screenshot (18)Once upon a time, I didn’t care about running the Boston Marathon.

I had my reasons. There was my New York chauvinism (even back then, when I lived in Detroit): the New York City Marathon is just a better race, I declared, before I’d run either one. There was my desire to seem quirky and iconoclastic, gleefully puncturing the assumption that I had run, or at least aspired to run, Boston (“Boston? Nah, for some reason I’ve never been interested. What I really want to run is the Around the Bay 30K in Hamilton, Ontario. Did you know that race is actually older than Boston?”). There was my aversion to training hard through the Michigan winter. And, I’m ashamed to admit, there was snobbery. Weren’t those vaunted Boston qualifying standards a little, well, soft?

In my not-so-youthful arrogance, with two Boston-qualifying races to my name, I figured that if I ever changed my mind, I could always shuffle my way to another BQ. The standards just get easier with age, after all, and I had plenty of time.

Then came my cancer year. Continue reading

Now it can be shown . . .

sad nycm photo crop2A few weeks ago, I posted about my experience running the New York City marathon – including a meltdown in the final miles that reduced me to walking as my left calf spasmed and my left foot did various, hard-to-describe weird things.

I mentioned at the time that one of the small army of marathonfoto.com photographers along the course captured my bewilderment and despair. I also vowed that I was going to buy that picture.

Extortionate marathonfoto.com prices notwithstanding, I did. And here it is. I have a long and well-documented history of sorry race pictures, but this is by far the sorriest.

Kids, this is what happens when you go out too fast.

The 2014 NYC Marathon: wind and grief

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Fourth Ave, Brooklyn, between miles 6-7; the guy with the Puerto Rican flag was the crowd favorite. (Photo credit: Luke Redmond)

The wind was the headline story – sustained winds of 20 mph, gusting to almost twice that.  When I share stories with other runners, it’s the wind we’ll talk about. The way it pushed us sideways on the Verrazano bridge; the unnerving, rattling sound of our bibs straining against their safety pins; the hats, garbage bags and other debris whipping past us; the unexpected, energy-sapping blast when we turned west into the Bronx in mile 20.

When I think about the race in personal terms, though, it will always be “the race I ran while C was dying.” I wish I could say I thought of her with every step, but that wouldn’t be true. In the selfish way of the non-dying, I thought about a lot of things. I took in the spectators and my fellow runners, slapped a few hands, said a few words of encouragement. I looked for members of my running club. I blew a kiss to my husband. I debated when to toss my water bottle (around mile 5), my gloves (mile 12), my goofy hat (never).

Where my thoughts tended to settle on C was in the tough parts, when I used her name as a mantra to maintain my cadence (“C” – foot strike – “C” – foot strike).  And yes, I can’t write that without again confronting the fundamental selfishness of the non-dying and the non-immediately bereaved, and acknowledging the chasm it opens. We’re sad, but our lives go on – foot strike after foot strike, mile after mile, day after day, season after season. Theirs end, or have a hole ripped out of them. That selfishness may be necessary (how could we endure otherwise?), but it’s still enraging.

Here, then, is my race report. Continue reading

Get your expo on

nycm expo entranceI hit the NYC Marathon expo on its first day, shortly after it opened. My goals were modest – collect my race bib, load up on race swag and free samples, perhaps browse the wares a little, and document the event for you, my readers . . . all while minimizing time on my feet.

Navigating the expo at the Javits Convention Center is a bit like navigating an Ikea store: there’s a forced march through its various sections, beginning with bib pickup and then proceeding through shirt selection, race bag collection, timing chip quality control, the ASICS merchandise display (ASICS being a major sponsor of the race) and lesser merchandise displays. Bib pickup, the first stop, consisted of multiple rows of booths that corresponded to ascending bib numbers, seemingly reaching into the millions. It shouldn’t have been a hard concept to grasp, but I still managed to walk past my designated booth and wander around bewildered for a bit, before I realized the numbers were going in the wrong direction. (Because I qualified for the “Local Competitive” start by being fast for my age and gender, my bib number is shockingly low. Seeing all those booths at the expo was a salutary reminder to brace myself for being passed by literally thousands of younger and maler runners on Sunday.)

I made sure to position my three-digit bib number so that others could see it (without being too obvious), while holding myself erect and trying not to trip. Continue reading

The thrifty marathoner

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DIY arm warmers for those chilly race mornings

I admit it: I’m a cheapskate. Having coughed up more than $200 in entry and processing fees to run the New York City Marathon, I’m not exactly itching to spend a lot of money on gear.  (Shoes, being essential,* are the exception.) But with the forecast calling for temps in the 40s on Sunday, it’s going to take more than a plastic garbage bag to prevent hypothermia during the long pre-race wait at Fort Wadsworth, and even during the early miles of the race itself.

A little creativity is in order.

Take the attractive and highly functional arm warmers pictured here. They’re fashioned from a wonderful thing called “socks,” widely available for a few bucks a pair from your local dollar store, pharmacy or street fair (or for even less if you take them from your spouse’s sock drawer). A snip here, a snip there, and you’re in business.  I plan to wear these with my race singlet for the first few miles, then throw them to my cheering fans somewhere along Fourth Avenue.

Other race day gear piled in our back bedroom/office in preparation for Sunday:

  • Mismatched throwaway gloves from Hanson’s running store in Detroit
  • Layers, layers, layers – including my daughter’s “Super Sophomore” shirt, found under the bed, and a discarded shirt of Eric’s, retrieved from that pile we keep forgetting to take to the fabric recycling place
  • A pair of (very) relaxed-fit Mom jeans that gapped at the waist even when I was fifteen pounds above my racing weight
  • Mylar blankets saved from previous races and stashed in the trunk of my late, lamented Saturn just in case I ever got stranded in a snowdrift somewhere

Come Sunday, I’ll try hard not to look smug when I watch runners in expensive gear debating whether to wear it in the race or stand in the baggage line to check it. I’ll be comfy in my Mom jeans, garish T-shirt and frayed, stained button-down – right up until the last possible moment, when I strip down to emerge as “Running Woman.”

. . .

In the meantime, let me suggest another money-saving opportunity for thrifty marathoners and their friends and family – check out those New York Road Runners “Run the City” deals. Sure, most of them are less about saving money than about marketing: I love Jacques Torres as much as anyone, but if I drop $25 on fancy candy, a complementary small hot chocolate seems like the least they can offer me.

There are some gems in there, though, like 2-for-1 doughnuts at Leske’s in Bay Ridge. You won’t find doughnuts glazed with organic passion fruit icing and sprinkled with non-GMO, fair trade cocoa nibs there. You will find airy crullers and overstuffed squares oozing raspberry jelly. I planned today’s easy 5 miler so that it ended at their store, which happens to be practically on the marathon route. I arrived just as a massive shipment of flour was being delivered, and got a peek into their bakery operation in the back. Super nice people, great old school doughnuts and cheap, too (even when they’re not 2-for-1).

Thrifty marathoners, take note.

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2-for-1 at Leske’s Bakery: of course I’m smiling!

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Leske’s were making doughnuts, crullers and kringler in the back of their store before “artisanal” was a thing.

Leske’s Bakery, 7612 Fifth Avenue, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

*Barefoot runners, please refrain from commenting.