Monday, April 4, 2011

Being "Ready" for Boston

I totally stole the whole idea of readiness for Boston from Jolene based on one of our long run conversations, so, in the interest of giving credit where credit is due, thanks for the idea, Jolene!

Every time I get close to a marathon, people start asking me if I'm "ready". Since this marathon is Boston, and therefore a big deal even to people who don't know anything else about marathons BESIDES the Boston marathon, I get that question pretty frequently: "So... are you ready?"

Well... yes. In most ways, I am definitely ready. Even though my training has more holes in it than almost any other training schedule I've ever followed (lots of weeks with only 3 days of running and maybe 2 or 3 days of swimming/riding total), I can tell by my long runs that I'm in good-enough shape. I've choked on a few shorter runs, including that dismal "run" last week that was supposed to be 11 miles home from work but turned into 1.3 miles of jogging, 2.7 miles of walking, and 7 miles on the bus, but I did that on shorter runs even when I was training for San Diego, when I was the most in-shape I have ever been in my entire life. One thing I have found to be true, in training for and completing 18 marathons so far, is that my performance on race day will reflect my performance on long runs. If most of them were slow with lots of walk breaks, that's how my marathon will look too. If most of them were steady and relatively painless (I say relatively because long runs are always at least a little bit painful), I can pretty much expect that that's how my marathon will be too. And for San Diego, when all of my long runs were fast and fairly easy, guess what, I had a fast and fairly easy marathon too. I had a great training partner this time around, and our long runs were pretty much all just slightly over the BQ-pace of 8:23. They felt pretty good for the most part, though any time I pushed harder (like into the 8:15-8:20 range) I could definitely feel it in my body, and it hurt. When I was training for San Diego I could do all my long runs at or around 8:00 pace without too much trouble, so it didn't require any stretch of the imagination to be pretty sure I was going to qualify then. But never mind -- that was then, and I was single then and could be totally selfish about training time and could force myself onto a diet so severe that almost all my body fat melted away. My lifestyle is totally different now, and although overall it is certainly better, I'm also 15 pounds heavier than I was in San Diego, and believe me, that makes a difference.

So I am ready for Boston in the sense that I know I am able to turn in a decent performance, probably around 3:50-ish if nothing goes wrong. That's actually better than I thought I would be able to do back in December, when I was still suffering from a stress fracture and the Mysterious Female Trouble and wasn't sure I'd be able to run at all, let alone run fast. So I am definitely counting my blessings and not complaining. I guess it's even not impossible that I could qualify again for Boston. Not LIKELY, but not impossible if I have a great day on what looks like a relatively easy course. But the other thing about qualifying again is that I just don't have the drive to do it. In San Diego I HAD to qualify -- I had made it into a sort of metaphor for something else I really wanted and didn't get, and in my head it was like, if I qualify, that's like making up for the thing that didn't work out. Whereas, for this marathon, if I qualify, it will be great, but, truthfully, family and friends and I myself will be just as proud of me for getting to Boston in the first place whether I qualify or not. I just don't know if qualifying again is worth physically pushing for or not. We'll see how I feel on race day, I guess.

I am definitely mentally ready for it. I always thought that the moment of qualifying would be the best imaginable moment in my running life, but now that it's almost marathon time I am pretty sure that qualifying will pale in comparison to the actual event. When I qualified, I was in a sort of trance over the last few miles, and was not really aware of anything happening on that dismal, empty Fiesta Island except for the clock ticking and my feet pounding faster-faster-faster and, at the end, my calf muscles spasming so badly that onlookers probably thought I was having a seizure. I was too busy trying not to throw up in that hot, smelly Sea World parking lot and worrying about how long the shuttle line was and how long my dogs had been locked up in the motel room to really process what had just happened. In Boston, I intend to be fully present for the entire experience, even if it means I run at a slow pace. I just want to enjoy every bit of it. Yes, that includes buying a Boston Marathon jacket, which I fully intend to spend way too much money on and wear for the rest of my life. I am excited about the whole thing and wish time would go a little bit faster to get me there sooner. (And I wish I had put some of that energy and excitement into the logistics of hotel room, transportation, etc, but better late than never.)

So, am I ready for Boston? I think so. I may not see Iron Woman anymore when I look in the mirror, but I have to remind myself that there's a lot more to life than being Iron Woman. No matter what my time is when I cross the finish line in Boston, I'm coming home with a finisher's medal, and that is good enough. (Reminds me of that joke: What do you call a graduate of Harvard med school with a C- average? Doctor. A Boston marathon finisher with a time of 5 hours is still called... a Boston marathon finisher.)

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