Boston: ready or not . . .

imageTomorrow morning, Eric and I will board a Northeast Regional train so that I can join the 121st running of the Boston marathon (the 46th in which women have been officially allowed to compete) on Monday. It’s kind of a big deal – and yet, have I ever been so nonchalant about a marathon?

Here are a few indicators:

  • I waited until Tuesday night to load Boston and Hopkinton onto my phone’s weather app, and I’ve only checked it once since then. Maybe twice.
  • I have yet to study an elevation profile of the course.
  • I’m not experiencing any phantom injuries.
  • I have only the vaguest idea of where the Expo is being held and no idea how to get there from our hotel.
  • I’ve skimmed the participant guide, but don’t plan to actually read it until we’re on the train . . . if I read it at all.

This is quite a change from 2015, when I blogged obsessively about my quest to qualify for Boston. Continue reading

Chasing Boston (part 7 – final training recap)

Less time running = more time to customize my singlet with kinesiotape

Less time running = more time to customize my singlet with kinesiotape

Less than two weeks until the New York City Marathon – which means the hay is in the barn, as they say. (I have no idea why that agrarian image has become the go-to metaphor for marathon training, but it’s what everyone says. Even here in Brooklyn, where there is little hay and few barns.)

From here on out, nothing I do is going to increase my fitness in any appreciable way. I can still mess myself up, though, which seems a little unfair. The balancing act between now and November 1 involves:

  1. Cutting back on mileage enough to allow my body to rest and recover.
  2. Maintaining mileage sufficient to satisfy my body’s craving for consistency and routine.
  3. Continuing with workouts at marathon goal pace, intended to drill it into my overly enthusiastic legs and my traitorous, self-deluding brain. (The latter is the bigger challenge.)
  4. Not tripping and hurting myself.
  5. Not going crazy.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with my training. Continue reading

Chasing Boston (part 6 – September training recap)

This was to be my monster training month, in which I piled on the mileage and the workouts so that, at month’s end, I could look back in satisfaction and forward with confidence.

It was, in fact, pretty monstrous. After losing ten days to my sprained ankle, I jumped back in to 50-mile weeks. That was probably definitely not the smartest thing to do, but I was feeling a lot of calendar pressure, and I have a long history of running stupid to uphold. Continue reading

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

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

Rest day – and a look back

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Not quite how I was feeling, eight miles into a run on a muggy September day

No run for me today – and how odd that feels. Easy runs have been an important part of my marathon training, but scheduled “no run” days haven’t. From the beginning of September through the Staten Island Half Marathon on October 12, I  ran every day, averaging 60+ miles a week.

This week, I’ll drop down to 40.  Next week, I’ll drop down even more, and try to stay off my feet as much as possible (meaning no 6-hour birding walks in the park, no matter how many rare sparrows turn up there).

Instead of catching up on my reading, as planned, I’ve been fidgety and unproductive.*

I want to run, dammit.

So I’ve been looking back on my training – the miles run and the sights seen while I ran them.  When I first qualified for the New York City Marathon, I fantasized not just about lining up on the most spectacular starting line in the sport,** but about long training runs that would carry me to the farthest reaches of the city.  I’d take a 1 train to Van Cortlandt Park and run all the way back.  I’d hop on the A to farthest Far Rockway.  I’d finally get to Canarsie and Sheepshead Bay and Rego Park and other neighborhoods well off my beaten running path.

Sometime in late August, I realized that the number of long runs remaining on the calendar was not infinite. It was, in fact, extremely finite – and shrinking. Other running exigencies, such as the desire to avoid busy streets and long lights, worked against my plans to combine marathon training and urban exploration.

Even so, I managed some memorable runs, and saw some great stuff . . . including these scenes from a run last month that took me along the Brooklyn waterfront from Red Hook to DUMBO and Vinegar Hill, then alongside the Navy Yard into Williamsburg and over the Williamsburg Bridge into Manhattan.

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Swoon’s work in Red Hook

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A Mondrian-esque shed in DUMBO

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No time to sit and enjoy the view – I had miles to do.

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Sure, I’ll run with you!

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And my tired legs
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I’m already missing all of this.

*Though I did manage to do laundry and vacuum.  And Eric and I have been eating very, very well this week.

**As Mary Wittenberg of the New York Road Runners is fond of saying, and I agree.

Trusting your training

Getting ready for the New York City Marathon

The New York City Marathon is less than two weeks away.  That means I’m running reduced mileage, so that when I line up on the Verrazano bridge on November 2, my legs will be fresh and bouncy.

It also means I’m going a little crazy.

I know to expect a variety of physical symptoms to come and go over the next ten days: sniffles, odd twinges, inexplicable lethargy, shoes that just feel wrong.

Hardest to deal with, though, are the doubts.  Did I train enough? Did I train the right way?  Was I crazy to top out at long runs of 16-18 miles, when everyone else was going for 20 or even more?  Will my 53-year-old body hold up for 26.2 miles, or will the endless hill that is Fifth Avenue between 120th and 90th streets turn me into a shuffling, deeply ashamed, zombie?

Like many women in my cohort, I was a late-onset runner. I came up just behind the pioneering generation of women distance runners, and while girls cross country existed at my high school in the late 1970s, I wanted nothing to do with it: I was a debater and quiz bowler and student journalist, utterly uninterested in (even hostile to) sports of all kinds.

As a consequence, when I finally took up running in my mid-30s – and became serious about it in my 40s – I had no experience of training.  The idea that running more miles, even at a moderate pace, would eventually make me faster seemed absurd (it still strikes me as magical). I’ve since learned to accept, if not to entirely understand, the science of the various physiological adaptations that running at various paces for various distances produces.

The truly important lesson that I missed by not participating in sports during my high school and college years is the one about trusting your coach.  That lesson doesn’t come easily, or naturally, or comfortably in adulthood.  In fact, it sounds more than a little retrograde.  (A “Question Authority” button is pinned to the bulletin board behind me even as I type this.)  All the same, the only way to train for a marathon without actually running a marathon is to trust that your coach (real or virtual) knows what he* is doing.

On November 3,** I will return to my usual, skeptical self.  I’ll quote Gramsci about pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will, etc. etc..  But until then, I’m setting all doubt aside.  I am blindly, completely, fervently, even desperately trusting Keith and Kevin Hanson and my training.

Because, really, what else can you do?

*I write “he” advisedly, because all of the marathon plans I can think of are by men.  Unfortunately.

**Just in time for Election Day, appropriately enough.