Three weeks from today is the Boston Marathon, meaning that three weeks and one day from now you won't have to keep hearing from me about the Boston Marathon. I can't help it, I just can't stop talking about it! Everything in my life seems to revolve around the Boston Marathon. Every training run, every "race that I run like a training run", every night I don't go out for beers with friends because "two days from now I have a long run and I need to be hydrating already", every carefully planned meal which is tweaked, tested, and analyzed, and every bottle of Pepto. Fortunately I have a lot of running friends that are going through this all with me, and pretty much all any of us talk about now is Boston. And I have this blog, which helps me communicate my thoughts to absolutely no one in particular. Even still, I find myself assaulting people with my Boston-excitement, including people that have absolutely no desire to hear about my long runs, missing toenails, hectic poop schedule, or snot rockets. But here you are, reading this, so I'm just gonna go ahead and keep talking about Boston a little longer.
Last Tuesday I did another set of hill repeats, this time making it up my dreadful hill six times (my previous record was four). I was pretty happy with myself, and my muscles definitely didn't feel as sore as the week before. On Wednesday I planned a 5.5 mile run at lunch, but shortly after starting off, I felt a sharp pain on the outside of my left knee while I was running downhill. I figured it was one of those random aches (after running this much, these things happen) and waited for it to shake out. When the sharp pain started lingering more and then radiating to the inside of my knee, I realized this wasn't just a random ache and decided to cut my run short to 4 miles. I wasn't overly concerned about it since we are bound to have off days when running this much. Thursday I took a rest day to see if that helped, and I wouldn't say it was worse but it wasn't really better either. On Friday I ran a slow and easy 5.6 miles at lunch, and I still felt the pain, especially running downhill. At that point I started getting nervous, with my 21 mile run scheduled for Sunday, I didn't have a whole lot of time to get this knee issue resolved. The condition my knee was in Friday, I knew that 21 miles would not have been possible. This close to Boston I hated having to think about doing anything different, but I was getting desperate, so I went to Sports Authority and picked up some KT Tape. I had never used it before and never really gave it much thought, but I remember nearly every single person in the Disney Marathon was wearing it so there must be some benefit. The KT Tape website has instructional videos to properly apply the tape based on whatever area hurts, and after a quick tutorial I gave it a shot.
|This is how I roll on a Friday night|
Sunday morning I woke up at 4:30am, tested the knee, and even though I could feel it wasn't quite right, I took a gamble. It was very important psychologically for me to get this 21 mile run in, so I decided it was worth the risk of hurting the knee more. Once I made that decision, I had to be at peace with it. I have found that anxiety has definitely been the culprit of a few lousy runs lately, so I couldn't keep second guessing my decision to run. Either it would work, or it wouldn't, and that was that.
Leading up to this run I was very careful about my nutrition. I halted all vegetables and dairy products as early as Thursday. By Saturday, I had a banana for breakfast, and then nothing but rice and chicken for the rest of the day. On Sunday morning, I had a mini bagel with peanut butter, half a banana, and a dose of Pepto Bismol. I wanted to eat this as early as possible so that I could have at minimum two hours to digest before running. Then I took a long hot shower, got dressed, and took another dose of Pepto before heading out.
|Getting dressed is complicated!|
I ran the 21 mile course with the Hopkinton Running Club. They organize an on-course run and I had heard good things about it. The start times are staggered, with the goal that everyone finishes their run as close to 11am as possible. Since I planned to go at a 10:30 pace, that put me in one of the earlier start times. And man, was it freeeezing! 29 degrees at the start, I was really excited to get moving! I threw my bag on the bus and checked in. I asked what would happen if my knee exploded, and how would I get back. The organizer assured me that she would be driving the course and I would definitely have a way back in case anything went wrong. That was the final peace of mind I needed, and after that I was ready to rock. Since I was going slower than the girls, I started earlier with Brad. Brad's plan was to run with me until the girls caught us (which he guessed would be somewhere around the half marathon mark) and then pick up the pace and run with them the rest of the way if he was feeling good.
The miles just ticked away so easily, and Brad had to frequently remind me that we were going faster than I planned. Brad was really fun to run with and kept it entertaining with a lot of conversation. The Hopkinton club had four water stops set up, at miles 5.5, 10.5, 14, and 18. I thought these were so well spaced apart, and really helped to break up the run. Because they needed to keep track of all the runners, we all had to stop and check in, and we had to drink the water right there at the table. They also had Gatorade and jelly beans and some first aid equipment. Some people ran by and shouted out their names, but I welcomed the stop, drank my water (and got killer brain freeze) and then headed out again. I never stopped my watch during these breaks (some lasted 1-2 minutes) so I was curious to see how that would impact my pace. I was really surprised at how well I was feeling. I could feel my knee wasn't quite right, but nothing to cause a problem. The best part was that my energy level was high. One of my most successful long runs was an 18 miler I had done in Upton, so I decided to take the exact same approach to fueling. I started off with Clif shot blocks in the first 6 miles, and then I switched to a caffeinated Perpetuem drink. This seems to be the perfect combination for me, and it's what I'll do on race day.
We flew into Ashland, and kept ticking off the miles through Framingham and Natick, and the closer we got to Boston the more runners we started seeing. Finally at the 14 mile water stop, Marie and Julia caught up to us, so Brad ran with them and I ran with a couple girls from the Hopkinton club. It was a good thing I hung around with them, because they nearly missed the turn onto Commonwealth Ave in Newton!
Something weird happens when training for a marathon. Your perspective on distance gets really warped. Like when you reach mile 17 and you think, oh cool, only 4 miles up these hills and I'm done! There was a day when I couldn't run 4 miles. Or even 1! At almost mile 18 I stopped at a water stop and then realized it wasn't the Hopkinton table (oops!) but the girls there were really nice and gave me some water. At this point, Commonwealth Ave was completely overwhelmed with runners of all shapes, sizes, and speeds going up and down the hills. It was a truly amazing sight. I stopped at "the real" 18 mile water stop, checked in, and then continued on for the final leg of this journey. At this point I was in no rush, and I was at complete peace knowing that I had this. I had already run 18 miles and felt good. Strong. Prepared. And then it hit me. In three weeks I'm running the Boston Marathon. THE Boston-Freaking-Marathon! I'm watching all of these amazing runners on Heartbreak Hill, and then it occurred to me, I am one of these people. I finally get it. This is a really, really big deal.
When I arrived at the bus, we were treated to tables full of tons of snacks, coffee, and drinks. I grabbed a Powerade and sat with Brad and the girls on the sidewalk, and I was full of smiles. They were shocked. (They've never seen me smile after a long run). I was clearly buzzed on fumes, endorphins, and caffeine, but I just couldn't stop yapping about how awesome that run was, how awesome I felt, how great my stomach felt, how great life is, how much I love everyone and everything. Finally I got really cold and went into the bus to change, and then I grabbed a bag of Frito's. I guzzled a Gatorade recovery shake, a bottle of regular Gatorade, and half a bottle of Coke. There was a whole lot of liquid sloshing around in my stomach on the way back, so maybe I should have spaced it out a bit more, but who cares. I just ran 21.25 freaking miles!
Here are a couple observations about the course:
- The downhill at the start of the marathon is so much steeper than I expected. It's easy to see how people can start too fast in this race, and have really, really sore quads afterwards!
- Framingham is ugly. Hopefully the crowds will be so thick on marathon day that we won't notice how ugly it is.
- I'm really looking forward to not having to run on sidewalks and yield to traffic on race day!
Now it's time to taper. The short runs will be about the same as they have been, but there will be no more super long runs. The weekend runs will be cut down to about 10 miles each weekend to give our bodies time to recover from all the hard training, and get rested for race day. It will give me a chance to tend to my achy knee and very tight heel. I'm excited for this day. We've worked so hard all winter for it. All systems are go for launch!
Click here to see today's run!
PS. After today's run, I went home, showered, and then stopped at the liquor store on my way to Jackie's house. Naturally, I couldn't get out of the liquor store without telling the clerk how I just ran 21 miles and "in case you were wondering why I haven't been around much lately, it's because I'm training for the Boston Marathon". What can I say? It's a really, really big deal!
Oh and one more thing...
I woke up this morning to discover a little article about yours truly in the Milford Daily News! Now I'm officially "on the record" and totally jazzed up for this race! Just one question... what exactly are they trying to tell me?