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Sunday, June 6, 2010

I'm baaaaaaaaaack!!!

It's been a very long time since I blogged. Theoretically, I only started this blog after a special person (and one of my greatest teachers in this life--possibly more on that later) suggested it might help with my 2009 Boston Marathon fundraising. Maybe it did and maybe it didn't. But, it was good for me and many people I know enjoyed reading it.

Well, at least that's what they told me.

Soooooooo, what exactly has been going on in the past 13 months???

I don't have much ranting to do, and everything from the first to the last word COULD be construed as rambling, so might as well talk about the rebuilding and the running.

As I recovered from my 2009 Boston experience, I went through lots of highs and lows, not so much physical, but emotional. I wasn't particularly happy at the time. For one thing, I was less than pleased with my non-qualifying time of 3:59:59 (although it IS pretty sweet that I snuck in under 4 hours) and, for another, I could not, for the life of me, figure out how to STOP comparing myself to other people who were running/racing better and expecting nothing short of perfection from myself. Truly, it was quite exhausting.

And, I'm sure, most annoying for those who claim to love me unconditionally. I happen to have a lot of really, REALLY good friends. Salt of the earth types. I won't say I don't deserve them, but at the time, I wasn't being worthy of them.

Days turned into weeks, and things weren't really improving. I was walking, talking, working, running and living life, but I wasn't me...the me that I know as me...the me that I am meant to be.


That me.

I decided that I really DID want to run, though, and continue my quest to qualify for "the big show". I wasn't 100% convinced at this time that I wanted to be a "marathon runner", but that was secondary to "just wanting to do it, already...even if I never run that bleeping Boston Marathon again...I just want to know that I BELONG there."

The icing on the cake came on May 24, 2009 when a dear friend of mine saw her husband, Carl, pass away after battling a brain tumor for seven years. When people lose a loved one, you just want to ease their pain and are usually willing to do just about anything in the process. So, before I knew it, I told her I wanted to do a fall marathon and dedicate it to her late husband, while raising money for the American Brain Tumor Association and increasing awareness about his condition. So, on the road I went. Time to do marathon #4.

After realizing that I had NO objectivity whatsoever when it came to myself (I mean, really, WHO does), I decided that I wanted to get a running coach. Hey, if therapists could have therapists, then why can't a personal trainer/group fitness instructor have a running coach?? Besides, I haven't had to pay a gym membership in well over a decade due to my vocation, so it was easy to pony up the $.

My friend and running partner referred me to a coach with a GREAT reputation, not only as a runner, but as a mentor and teacher. For a nominal fee, I would receive a schedule in my email each week outlining how many days I would run, how many miles and at what intensity. The guesswork was completely taken out of it. I was no longer responsible for designing my training. And, I have to say, that was a major relief...even though I have a tendency to be a bit of a control freak. Besides, if I crashed and burned, it could be SOMEONE ELSE'S FAULT and, as we all know, blame feels a LOT better than guilt.

I set my sights on the 2009 ING Hartford Marathon on October 10th and let Coach know my goal was to run 3:45 or better (which is what a female 35-39 would need to run in order to qualify for Boston). My previous best marathon time was 3:52 at the 2008 Maine marathon, so I figured 7 minutes should be easy. I was self-coached then, after all. Now that I have my running "genie in a bottle" so to speak, this should be a gimme.

I trained.
And I trained.
And I T-R-A-I-N-E-D!!! Track workouts, the likes of which I had NEVER seen. Long runs in excess of 22-23 miles at the peak of the marathon training cycle. I didn't miss a beat. Didn't miss a workout. It was TEXTBOOK!

Race Day was rapidly approaching. The good news was, a dear friend of mine happened to be running the 1/2 at Hartford while I was running the full, so I would have a traveling companion and a hotel roommate. Things seemed to be falling perfectly into place. I began to taper and, before I knew it, the date on the calendar was Friday, October 9.

I drove to my friend, Paula's, house on that afternoon, picked her up, and off to Hartford we went. After battling the Friday traffic on the Mass Pike and I-84, we arrived at our destination. Check in was a breeze, so off to the expo we went, in search of our bib #'s, timing chips and race bags. We enjoyed a nice pasta dinner together, and had lots of laughs as I coerced her to help me put as much ice from the ice machine in a trash bag for my pre-marathon ice bath (this was Coach's idea, just so we're clear...NOT mine).

The next morning, we were up and at 'em. Paula was doing the 1/2 with Team NF (Neurofibromatosis), so she headed down to meet her teammates. I was standing at the front desk waiting for a clerk so I could hand off our room key while I did my race. A woman came up next to me and asked me if I was doing the race. I told her that I was. I'm not quite sure what she said next, but whatever it was prompted this response from me:

"Well, I always finish."

THAT I remember.

And THAT is a very important part of the story as you will soon see.

We headed out to Bushnell Park for the start of the marathon. As luck would have it, the 1/2 and full marathoners would be together for the first few miles before they broke off from us, so I could hang with Paula after the gun went off. For insurance purposes, I decided to look for the 3:45 pace leader. I mean, I HAD this, but hey, it couldn't hurt. Once we located him, I asked what his race strategy was, to which he replied, "to run even splits." Awesome.

The gun went off and so did we!!!

Paula and I were together for the first mile or two. Eventually, we became separated from each other and I focused on the back of the 3:45 pace leader. As the first few miles passed, it was becoming clear that our esteemed leader wasn't quite running even splits. For a 3:45 marathon, you would want to average an 8:35/mile. I was averaging an 8:21/mile after the first 6 miles. I started to panic a little bit and tried to reel it in. I tried to dial it back a little and focus on pacing.

Now, remember. I TRAINED. Track workouts. Long runs. But, the voices in the head started, right around mile 11. I started thinking, "Oh my God, I don't know if I can do this". But, I had to! I was doing it for Carl! I was doing it with a Coach! Everything was supposed to be perfect this time!!! I was ready!!!

The voices weren't getting any quieter and I wasn't feeling any better. Somewhere between miles 17 and 18, I decided to try walking for a little bit, just to see if it would help. I took some water and another gu packet and kept moving. Then, I resumed running. But, I had waited too long. By the time I decided to try and run again, my heart and my legs knew it was over. My desire, my drive, my motivation...all gone.

I saw a police car parked at an intersection and made the choice at that moment to drop out. The official distance on my GPS watch when I stopped was 17.93 miles.

The police man was very nice and accommodating. He let me sit in the back of his cruiser once he was reassured that there was nothing medically wrong with me while I waited for a ride back to the hotel. He even gave me a can of coke. And, I gotta tell that moment, it was the most delicious thing I had ever tasted in my entire LIFE!!! And I was RELIEVED; relieved that it was over and glad I didn't have to run anymore.

Finally, the shuttle driver came, scooped me up and brought me back with a handful of other runners who decided that today was not going to be the day they crossed the finish line. I made my way back to the hotel, called Paula to let her know what happened, made a few other phone calls and got myself showered. After checkout, I wandered aimlessly around the parking garage for what seemed like hours in a desperate attempt to find where I parked my car. All the blood must have still been in my quads or something. Truthfully, the reality of the situation was beginning to set in and the relief I had felt upon stopping soon turned into regret, bitter disappointment and crushing sadness.

...and that's all the time we have for today. :-)

I forgot JUST how much time has passed and all the stuff that's happened since my last blog entry.

To BE continued.

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