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Thursday, September 23, 2010

Marathon Eve

Where does the time go?

When I decided to register for the Vermont City Marathon, it was just a date on a calendar. Sure, I had a schedule and did the training runs/workouts, but it seemed so far off. It felt like the day would never get here.

And now, it's TOMORROW.

I'm a mixture of excited, anxious and impatient. Now that it's almost here, can we just get on with it? PLEASE??

I woke up on Marathon Eve, ready to do my last run before packing up and heading out to meet John and Ted. Coach gave me a 25-30 minute run to do with 5-6 10 second strides at the end of the run. I've always liked running 2-3 miles the day before a marathon. I'm not sure if the benefits are more mental or physical, but it seems to work for me. And, as they say, if it ain't broke...

After my run (which felt great), I got myself cleaned up and ready to go. I was meeting the guys in Windham, NH at 10 a.m. Ted offered to take his car for the three hour trek to Vermont, so the three of us could keep each other company.

Oh, and I almost forgot the most important part: this weekend, it was all about me.

Sing it with me: me, me, me, me, meeeeeeee...

This was my personal quest for the Holy Grail which, for me, was a BQ (Boston Qualifier for those who haven't been paying attention). And, I had two men fighting over who was going to pace me for it (okay, maybe they weren't "fighting", but they were both willing to step in and be "that guy" for me). Cyndi Lou was the princess this weekend and she was going to take FULL advantage. Even the marathon eve dinner reservations were all about me:

From: fircrakr
To: cyndi; ted
Date: Wed, 26 May 2010 14:57:39 -0400

Cool! I sent a message back to Christina to add the three of us to the reservation and told her that you were the one that found the restaurant. It's all about Cyndi! :-)

From: cyndilou
To: fircrakr; ted
Date: Wed, 26 May 2010 14:35:01 -0400
Works for me. I would say 6.


From: Fircrakr
Sent: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 2:38 PM
To: Cyndi; Ted

Hey guys,

I think I mentioned that there are other friends of mine who are staying at the same hotel as us and are running the marathon. They would like to know if we can all do dinner together at the Italian restaurant that Cyndi found on Saturday. Is this okay?
If so, time suggestions as we would want to make a reservation.



See? I told you. I even had the email thread to prove it.

My husband offered to drive me there so I didn't have to leave my car unattended for two days. We arrived first, because I accidentally told John and Ted to turn right off of the exit instead of left (not only do I have issues with FOLLOWING directions, it appears I also have a challenge GIVING them too). I said my goodbyes to Michael, camped out in the backseat and off we went.

It was such a nice day for a drive and the scenery is just beautiful. We listened to music and chatted about our plans for the weekend. Once we checked in and got settled, we planned on driving the route before meeting our running friends for dinner. They had a course map and description on the webpage, which is nice and all, but sometimes, you just have to see it for yourself.

About 2 hours into our drive, we started plotting lunch. We ended up finding a good thai restaurant in downtown Montpelier, which is one of my favorite types of cuisine (remember, it was all about me). After lunch, we walked the long way around back to the car, taking in the sights and checking out the little shops. Having the longest part of our journey behind us felt good. But, we weren't there yet.

Back in the car, we cruised up to Burlington. We ended up booking our hotel later than anticipated and lots of the hotels were already booked. John totally came through and found us the last room at a hotel 8 miles from the start of the marathon. And, the best news of all: there was actually a shuttle that would pick us up and drop us off at the start.


If memory serves me correctly, I believe we went to the Marathon EXPO in Burlington BEFORE going to our hotel, so we could pick up our race packets. I also wanted to get a Keybank Vermont City Marathon 26.2 sticker for my car. We also came upon free Green Mountain Coffee there, which John and I found particularly enjoyable. Ted found...peanut butter. If I never mentioned it before, I'll mention it now: Ted is addicted to peanut butter. He loves the stuff. He loves it so much that he doesn't allow himself to have it on a regular basis. He will only indulge post-race.

Hey, we all have our vices. Some people have internet porn. Ted has peanut butter.

Once we had our fill of exhibits, coffee and peanut butter, we headed to Colchester, where our hotel was. Check-in was a breeze. We went off to our room.

Yes, you heard me correctly: our room, which had 2 beds. Yes, we were all going to stay in the same room. Yes, my husband knew about it and, yes, he was okay with it.

Feel better now?

Ted brought his own sleeping bag and insisted that he slept very well on the floor. Since it was all about me, I didn't argue. :-) And besides, I couldn't have come up with two better roommates. Real friendships come from the heart anyway, no matter what your gender may be.

We all unpacked our stuff and decided to rest up for a bit before heading out to drive the course. We talked a bit about race strategy but, mostly, we just enjoyed each other's company and had some laughs. I could feel myself starting to relax more and think less about the impending race, which is always a good thing. We can think ourselves into insanity sometimes. Lord knows I had made an art form of that in the past. Besides, the race was still a good 16 hours away.

Driving the course was a challenging task. In the early miles, you run through the pedestrian marketplace which, obviously, is no place for a car. And, the last 4.5 miles were on the Burlington Bike path. Again, no go. But, we were able to drive around and get a good feel for what most of the course would be like. Plus, the website described the path as "flat to slightly downhill terrain". There is only one phrase I like better than flat when describing a marathon and that is "slightly downhill".

Satisfied with our exploration, it was off to dinner. The restaurant was across the parking lot from our hotel. Not only was it convenient, but it was good too! Here, I'll give them a plug:

I got to meet a few of John's friends from another running group that were also in town for the marathon. As predicted, they were very nice people and lots of fun to be around. I've always maintained that runners were the friendliest athletes. You can call me biased if you want. Maybe I am, but I really believe it. We ate, drank (well, some of us did) and talked about tomorrow. A few of them were doing their very first marathon, which made John, Ted and I veterans (VCM would the 2nd, 3rd and 5th marathons for us, respectively).

I sat with Ted to my left and John to my right. Ted and I opted to enjoy some red wine with our food. Some people have reservations about having alcohol the night before a race, let alone a marathon. And that's fine. I had tried both strategies and found, for me, the action was much less important than the intention. What I mean by that is, you can decide to abstain from a glass or two of wine the day or two before a big race and still be a big, hot mess of nerves. That's pretty much what happened in Hartford. In my coach's words: "you had built so much emotion, energy and some level of anxiety building to the event that relaxation and confidence didn't have a chance to work itself into the execution of the race". It's not so much about what you eat or drink as it is about how you feel about what you are doing. Your body is pretty good at asking for what it needs while using whatever you give it to perform at its highest level. We just need to learn how to listen.

We finished our delicious meal, said our goodbyes and went back to the hotel. Ted had picked up a bottle of dark rum at a liquor store in Montpelier, so he and John decided to have a nightcap. I decided to pass and it wasn't a matter of virtue, here. I just couldn't imagine red wine and dark rum coexisting peacefully in my stomach.

It had a been a long day. We were all ready to retire for the night. Ted was more ready than John and me; he practically fell asleep sitting up in the chair with the glass in his hand! We chuckled at his ability to sleep anywhere while agreeing that he was the best candidate to sleep on the floor. And, with that, decided to call it a night.

Before I drifted off to sleep, I thought about the race, but not with dread or trepidation. Besides, all the work was over. It was done. There was nothing left to do in preparation. Instead, I welcomed the opportunity to run a marathon with friends and decided to enjoy the experience as much as possible. This wasn't a training run, nor was this a "just finish" kind of undertaking. I knew this was going to be the race of my life.

I was ready.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mayday! Mayday!

May 27th, 2010 marked the 21st and final day that I wrote my marathon affirmation. I suppose I could have continued to write it beyond the three week period, but, by that time, I had begun to occupy myself with thoughts of pre-marathon preparation: packing, planning and panicking.

Yes, you heard me. Panicking.

My training for Vermont City had gone extremely well. I nailed my workouts and was in a state of great physical health. I was strong, energetic and felt physically ready. However, remember this daunting statement: Running is 80% mental and 20% physical.

On this 27th day of May, I worked 6-1 and zoomed back home to cram in a 4 mile run and quick shower before my 3 p.m. massage appointment. Since I would be running 26.2 miles in less than 72 hours, this was just supposed to be an easy run to keep my legs loose and my mind focused. The taper can really mess with you, as I've discussed before.

I got myself wired for sound (GPS and iPod) and headed out the door.

The first couple of miles were pretty uneventful. I just kept chugging along, enjoying the day.

Then, around mile 3, I felt this wave of nearly overwhelming panic wash over me.


I'm running a MARATHON in three days! Omigod, omigod, omigod...

What if I can't do it???

What if I start off too fast like I did in Hartford???

What if I fail??? Everyone I KNOW knows I want to qualify for Boston at this race!!!!

Those and other equally unproductive thoughts continued to assault my consciousness with an unrelenting force. I nearly crumpled under the weight of negativity that I had allowed to creep in.

And I willingly went right along with it, bathing in self-pity and retreating to the proverbial fetal position. For a little while.

Then, all of a sudden, something inside of me shifted.

Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto is portrayed in the 2001 film Pearl Harbor, as saying after his attack on Pearl Harbor, "I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve."

That, my friends, is exactly what happened.

Remember that scene in the movie "A Christmas Story" when Ralphie reached his breaking point and goes postal on Scut Farkus? Well, my inner being proceeded to beat my chronic pattern of defeating thoughts into a bloody heap.

In other words, I had enough.

I was tired of doubting myself. I was fed up with not recognizing my worthiness. And I was SO done with this false modesty crap. When was I going to stand up and take notice of my indomitable spirit, character and ability?

Bob Harper, trainer from NBC's blockbuster reality show, "The Biggest Loser" is quoted as saying: Don't say 'I can't'. It really pisses me off. I work as a personal trainer/fitness instructor by trade, so I chuckled knowingly when I heard it. Truthfully, I would get frustrated with my clients and participants at times when they would shy away from going a little further or pushing a little harder. I would feel my blood boil when they uttered that paltry phrase.


And I would say to them, "you don't know if you can or you can't because you haven't tried. What you really mean to say is you don't want to. You're using your fear of failure as an excuse not to even try."

Wasn't I essentially doing the same thing here?

Dammit, it's just easier telling other people what to do. But, if you want to be true to yourself, you not only have to talk the talk.

You gotta walk the walk.

Or, in my case, run the run.

This time, I came to my own rescue. I heard the call of the frightened part of my personality that always feared she would never be enough. I decided, once and for all, it was time to choose me. It was time to believe in my ability to succeed, no matter what happens today, tomorrow or May 30th.

Of course, this was all happening internally as I ran that last mile home. Imagine all the motorists going by me, seeing me trot down Main Street. If only they knew about the transformation that was occurring in the heart and mind of the girl with the bouncing, blonde ponytail as she ran to, instead of away from, who she REALLY was.

The subsequent wave of relief that I felt after coming to terms with that was equivalent, in terms of intensity, to the shower of anxiety I was doused by just minutes before. But instead of being nearly overwhelmed, I was emancipated. Vindicated. Triumphant.

I'll say it again: I finally came to my own rescue. And it was high time I had.

This quote sums up that experience for me:

"Don't be afraid if things seem difficult in the beginning. That's only the initial impression. The important thing is not to retreat; you have to master yourself."

Olga Korbut
Gymnast - Four Time Olympic Gold Medalist

I'd say I earned that 90 minute massage, wouldn't you?

Crisis averted.

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's the...FI...NAL...COUNT...DOWN...

Nothing like a little 80's hair band ballad to start off my blog entry.

Bet you're going to have that song in your head all day now, aren't you???

Well, this IS the final countdown. The last big run for Vermont City is in the books and this is where training volume starts to reduce. May 8th was the last BIG long run. Nothing will be that big again until May 30th. The day after my rainy run, I did an easy 40 minute run outside to work out the kinks a bit more. I also had a massage scheduled on Monday, May 10th, which is always deliciously awesome.

But, there was something else I started to do right around the terrible taper time.

I decided to affirm.

Affirm what, you ask?

Well, I decided to create an affirmation.

What exactly IS an affirmation?

Here is wikipedia's definition:

Affirmation is a declaration that something is true.

Oh, okay.

Now, let me explain how this related to the marathon and why I thought it would be helpful.

My goal for VCM was to run a BQ which, for me, was 3:45:59 or better. So, that is how my coach had me train. All of my workouts and long runs were aimed toward running 26.2 miles in this time or faster. Great.

However, we cannot forget about the mental aspect of training. Don't quote me on this, but I read somewhere that running is 80% mental and 20% physical.


So, in other words, I've been running 22-23 mile long runs and doing double digit track workouts just so I am 20% of the way prepared???

Doesn't sound too comforting, now does it?

I didn't just need to train my body. I needed to train my brain.

Hence, the affirmation.

To be effective, an affirmation should be positive and in the present. In other words, act "as if" you are already doing it. After giving this some thought, I came up with this sentence:

I am running sub 3:45 marathons with ease.

There. It's positive (the "ease" part) and it's in the present (the "am running" part).

Now that I had created this powerful statement, what exactly was I supposed to do with it?

Well, I had to write it down. A lot. Like 21 times, three times a day; morning, afternoon and evening.

That's equivalent to repeating that sentence 63 times a day. And I committed to do this for 21 days.

Why 21 days?

It has been shown that it takes about that long to break, or make, a habit.

What is a habit?

A habit is something you do over and over and over again without thinking.

Bet you didn't think this post was going to be this educational, did you???

I had to declare that I was running sub 3:45 marathons with ease and I had to do it until it was something I believed. A belief is just a thought that you keep thinking. Once you plant the seed, you need to water it. My repetition of this affirmation was me watering the seed.

It just so happens that my seed was really, really, really well hydrated.

I began to establish my new pattern of thought on Friday, 5/7. I wrote out this "mantra" of mine 21 times in the morning, 21 times in the afternoon and 21 times in the evening.

And, I did this for 21 days in a row.

I affirmed that "I was running sub 3:45 marathons with ease" 1,323 times in a three week period.

I had my 20% part covered. And now, I'd be chipping away at that 80% part too. Giving it 100% of your energy and effort seems a lot simpler now once you know how it all works, doesn't it?

Will things ever be the same again?
It's the final countdown.