The Boston Experience: 26.2 but how

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Pre-race @Athletes Village

So much of life depends on how you handle what is thrown your way. Too much of it has the power to define you, your ability, perspective, attitude and even cause you to question your belief in yourself..if you let it. My Boston run was everything I could never have anticipated.

As an athletic person – yes, that’s what I consider myself, not a pro by any means but one just the same – you always think you’re ready for the unexpected, you can deal, until it happens. By now you’re guessing it didn’t go down well, and you’re right, it didnt. No matter how prepared I told myself I was, I just was not prepared for my body to check out of the race hardly before it had begun. As it is, I will forever remember mile 4 as the point where my body not just disappointed me, but failed me miserably.

There are always reasons and excuses for not running a good time on any given race day and I will not fall into the trap of assigning blame. Frankly, I’m only interested in what can help me to understand what happened out there on the course, that no matter how hard I pushed or what I told myself during that run on Monday, I couldn’t get my body to co-operate with my mind. Maybe if I understand, there may be a way to make sure it never happens again. If you can, imagine running 22 miles with, not in, your mind; it was just about the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. It felt like a mile by mile battle of wits except I was fighting myself and could hardly understand why. This left me confused and unable to truly appreciate the course and crowds, which by all accounts were phenomenal and so typically Boston Strong. In all honesty, I cannot even blame my breathing issue, sure I had a bit of a struggle there, but it was not insurmountable, not like the unknown that I was faced with.

So what did I do? Well , I did what any one in my running shoes would, under those unknown circumstances, I ran with my head; my only thought to cross the finish line with some dignity. You may ask, at what cost? Well dearly I’ll say: an official finish time of 3:59:14 – no where close to my goal and so there goes my pride, my time, training and so many other little investments unrealised. Such high hopes and plans all dashed to pieces, pieces, by the grace of God I was able to pull together and drag to the finish.

Still, I’m thankful I have my life and limbs, with which I live to run again. My health though remains an open-ended question, I can only hope the doctor has good news as I’m in dire need of some just about now.

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All the fuss: The Marathon Taper

Source: running magazine.ca

Source: runningmagazine.ca

Yes, I had to go there. While so much have been said about this important component of marathon training, some of us may still be a bit confused with all the information and cross information out there. Tapering is concisely defined as a reduction in training before a big event (runnersworld.com). Well, simple enough right? Except, with runners, it rarely is. There are many differing views on the form, duration and intensity this Taper should take. I, for one, think the concept is important but “tweak-able” as there is no one-size-fits-all in running, only a training method or plan tailored to suit the individual runner.

A comprehensive marathon training plan will include the taper element if only to make sure of its success, as it is nearly impossible to think of the human body undergoing the rigorous training inherent in such a plan and not be given the time to regroup, recalibrate and detrain..for want of a better word. Some pros argue 3 weeks, others say two. Really, it should fall somewhere in-between there but largely be based on your level and intensity of training. Studies and reports across the running spectrum has lauded the benefits of tapering to your marathon performance and goal time, siting improved and sustained race-day performance: increased energy, strength, confidence and endurance as ways in which runners benefit from this training mechanism. Pros and coaches alike also agree that during this period of – cutting back – the body re calibrates itself through muscle repair and recovery, increases muscle glycogen, and boosts muscle power, while the mind de-stresses, which reduces mental fatigue and enhances mental efficiency. It also allows for an important factor, reducing the chances of over training, which  can lead to a less-than-fresh feel heading into the race and even put one at risk for injury leading up to race day.

Experts say the key to a successful taper to ensure maximum efficiency on race day is to find the right balance between three key training elements: duration, mileage and key workouts (competitor.com). For me, that means I’ve cut down my mileage to around 75% this week, next week I’ll bring it down to 50%, while my focus is on running longer intervals at tempo and marathon pace with my speed work dropping to 1 day p/week for 1 hr. I have one medium long run planned this weekend at marathon pace and 1 hr of cross-training at the gym. Next week, leading into the weekend, will see a slight tweak to this plan as I eliminate the medium long run, which will pretty much wrap up my tapering as I head to Boston and Marathon Monday.

I tend to be not much of a rule person and have more-often-than-not found my way by finding what works for me through trial and error. However, in the last couple years, I’ve come to trust the taper method to take me through a race and to the finish line, that is, the few times I’ve not been injured. And so, true to form, I’m in full taper mode and trying my darndest to still the chit chatter of voices in my head that bemoans my current reduced-running state. It’ll be alright I’m sure; listening to your body is key and so is finding the right balance that works for you.

 

 

Getting Boston-Ready

Less than six weeks to the Boston Marathon 2016 and I can hardly believe how quickly the time has gone by. Added to that Spring is practically upon us; after all the talk about cold weather, we can finally breathe easier and run a bit harder as there are still a few weeks left to shape up our training. Speaking of breathe, without any fanfare, I’ve finally given in to the condition of Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA), which explains what I assumed was pacing-only problems I had. Quite likely it was a case of denial with all the symptoms staring me down since winter started, but aside from saying that I will do everything I can to see this through my next race, I’ll let it rest for now as I have neither the time nor energy to dwell on what this means for my future in running. My only concession now is to try to keep my runs within marathon goal pace, which is around an 8 min/mile.
Looking ahead to what’s in store specific to shaping up for race day, I have planned:
1. Weekend Long Runs for the next four weeks alternating: 20, half-marathon tune-up, 18, 15/16 miles
2. Medium long runs (12-11-10 miles) at marathon goal pace, while practicing surges on the downhills.
3. Weekly tempo runs/intervals
Alternate weekly hill repeats and tempo runs
4. One tune-up race to replace long run raced at marathon pace and
5. Alternate weekly Sprints (800m)
Two weeks out from race day it’ll be down to taper time but there’s still time, so I’m embracing marathon mode where very little exist outside of preparation for April 18. It’s a bit of a nerve-wrecking time all things considered, but that’s just it, we’re not considering all things just those that are necessary to take us to the finish line at Boylston Street.

 

Embracing what’s left of Fall and Running On

Source: runnersworld.com

Source: runnersworld.com

I often wonder what I would do with myself if I weren’t always training for a race, how would I keep my very active self motivated to stay running; then I think I’d probably divide my time equally between running and hiking – my next great love. As it is, training for a race or two at a time keeps me pretty much in a marathon frame of mind year round with an endless wish list of races to run with the only thing impeding my characteristic jovial attitude being the winter weather.

Looking ahead to what’s next now that New York’s behind me, for this year at least, I’m filled with nervous energy as it pertains to Boston 2016. My track record this year has been anything but stellar though I began with a PR at the New Jersey Marathon in March, my performance took a dive thereafter, finally succumbing to injury a month ago and it’s been pretty much “bleh” since then. Given all that, I have reason to be antsy though I’m one for not dwelling too much on things out of my control. What is needed is a quick plan of action to get me up and ready for Boston in April and so I’ve been getting some feedback from some of my “groupies” aka my running group with the sole intent of tailoring my training and diet from here on (or as soon as my ankle allows) so as to maximize strength, efficiency and distance.

While all this is in the works, there’s still the holidays and winter to get through. The holidays present it’s own challenges with eating and drinking, family, travel and then there’s winter: an even bigger challenge for me. Where, how and what to run becomes a very real dilemma that has very little hope of being worked out or planned for in advance. It becomes a sorta wait-and-see season, which cannot be good for runners planning a big race in early spring. Now we know where we are and where we’re heading, all that’s left is finding the best way to get there – the easy half. Haha not really, but definitely doable. That’s my running mantra these days.

In spite of all that’s gone down so far, I remain encouraged by the running community and the various inspirational stories that come out of all the dedicated training and sacrifices that many runners subscribe to in order to achieve their goals. It’s that kind of spirit that drives me and provides the impetus for subsequent runs. The variances in running also keeps me on my toes; despite all the training and plans, one can never be quite sure what will give as time progresses. This can prove to be a good thing more often than not as hard work often brings rewards. That being said, I will try not to dwell too much on the upcoming season but remain solidly rooted in Fall, enjoying these rainy, sometimes chill, sometimes humid, sometimes perfect, pretty, falling-leaves days when running outside is still very much a treat.

Beyond Disappointment Runs Hope

“Either you run the day or the day runs you.” – J. Rohn

How many times in life have you had to deal with things either not going the way you planned or not turning out the way you had hoped it would. If you ask me, too often. In the typical everyday scheme of things, life seems to be full of disappointments; from unemployment to sickness to death, it can be overwhelming and downright depressing at times. Add the running dynamic and things get a bit more dicey. Not only do you have to deal with life’s everyday disappointments, but now you have those that come along with the sport as well. How do we do it?

At the beginning of the year, I made a list. Remember those new year resolutions/ goals..yep those, well mine were particular to running and on there were a few pertaining to achieving new times and running new races. Mainly , I wanted to qualify for Boston next year, by which I mean run Boston next year, and frankly though I knew they weren’t interchangeable, I really didn’t consider not getting in if I qualified. You guys know what happened with that – major disappointment. But I survived, had to live to run another day right? In any event, I’m thinking… Ok, I still have Denver, my fun, exploratory run, which I’ve been looking forward to for sometime now, only now it’s also not happening. After much thought and strategizing, it seems more prudent to run a marathon that will allow me to re qualify, which is what I must do to run Boston 2016. Dreams of high-altitude (not really), rolling hills, fresh air, scenic route, adventure, and meeting new runners aside, I must now channel and redirect that energy and enthusiasm to achieve a bigger dream.

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Disappointment, I accept as a part of life. As a part of my running life, I find it a bit harder to manage – but manage I must. There is no where one can hide really. No runner plans on injury before a race after training so hard for so long, or on not finishing or qualifying or making the cut. Or what about falling sick, having a bad race or race cancellation (as was the case with the ING NYC Marathon 2012). These are not plans a runner makes, on the contrary, we do everything within out power to ensure we have the opportunity for a successful race: we train long and hard, sacrifice time, money, energy and give up so many things to make our dream happen, and to be honest, it happens as often as it doesn’t. So really 50/50 is not so bad but the over-achiever in me wants a higher percentage in my favor.

The key to overcoming and managing your disappointments, come as they must, lies in your perspective and in your hands. You see, our ability to choose what we do with what happens to us or even around us will ultimately determine our attitude and shape our actions. Choosing to put a positive spin on things, to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to take the good and leave the bad is a choice we have. This choice can either absorb us or absolve us, it can either makes us or break us, destroy us or build us. We get to choose. Each time I am faced with disappointment, I choose hope; I choose to motivate myself to try harder, to run faster, to be more diligent and more determined. It works for me.

The Philadelphia Marathon comes up on November 23, it’s my next hope for Boston 2016, where I hope to qualify with a faster time than before. I hear it’s a fast and pretty flat course, there should be some advantage to that. The weather will also be much colder, hopefully more cool than cold, but this is my reply when disappointment comes, I plan another race, I train a little harder, and mentally prepare myself to achieve what is inevitably a tougher goal the second time around. I never give up. Quitting is never an option.

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