So, I'm sitting here after putting-in my longest marathon training week and surpassing one of many milestones throughout my training... The 50-mile week! A week in which I also passed the 20-mile long run milestone with a 21-mile run on the Boston Marathon course (Hopkinton-Boston College). With my intensive training completed and my taper on the horizon, it seems that some reflection is in order- reflection on the week, the past month, and my training experience as a whole. I've come so far and changed in so many ways I don't know if I can touch on everything I'm thinking and feeling at this moment, but I have to give it a shot or I may not be able to process it all.
Where to start? I guess I'll start with some numbers. My total training prior to entering my "taper" phase: 680 miles. That's almost 26 marathon's that I've run already! That's Boston to Halifax, Nova Scotia; Boston to Dover, DE; Roanoke, VA; Greenville, NC; Cleveland, OH; and almost (about 26.2 miles short of) my hometown just North of Detroit, MI! That's 117 hours of running! If I ran straight through at that pace, I could get to my Mom's place in 5 days. Hmm... Break that up into 12-hour running days, and I could make the trip in 10 days (a possible family trip in the future? LOL)! In March, I marked my fourth month in a row logging over 100 miles with 170 miles total! If I keep up with my fitness through running as I plan too, I could easily eclipse 1000 miles in 2010... Sounds like a goal to me!
This whole journey has been so amazing to me. I simply cannot believe all that I've accomplished. And I'm really not a runner! I'm certainly not anything special. I'm not fast or genetically gifted. I'm just a regular guy who started running to lose weight. I was 265 pounds, with bad knees and a worse attitude. I ate too much, drank too much and didn't exercise enough. I couldn't run more than 5 minutes without stopping to walk, but I kept going. I kept pushing myself. I felt like I was headed toward an early grave if I didn't make some changes. My family inspired me. I wanted to make sure that I was around to enjoy my daughter and annoy my wife for as long as possible! Pretty soon, I was doing what a lot of people do, I was working harder, but not smarter. I was running twice a day! I ended up tearing my Right Lateral Meniscus in an accident at work. In my mind I couldn't help but blame myself. I was over-training and exhausted. I had a lapse in mental and physical acuity and it lead to an injury and subsequent surgery. I could've given-up right there and nobody would've faulted me for it, but I couldn't quit.
Instead, I decided I was going to run the Boston Marathon, and the rest is history as chronicled in these pages. I'm not saying that any of what I've accomplished was easy. It was hard. But all it took was a little mental toughness. A little intestinal fortitude goes a long way! I certainly had days when I didn't want to run. There were days when Lex didn't understand why I just had to stick to my training schedule. Several days I had to literally drag myself kicking and screaming out the door. The 12-miler in sub-zero temps when my water bottles froze and the 18-miler in a driving Nor' Easter come to mind. "These runs only make you stronger" I kept telling myself. Long runs, sure, but there were even three and four-mile runs that I just didn't want to do. But, every single time I got out there, I reminded myself why I was doing this and found the will to go on. Every time I finished a run that I didn't want to do, I somehow felt a little better about myself.
Way back on New Year's Eve, when my training had really just begun in earnest, I took Lex to see the Boston Pops play with Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls at Symphony Hall. It was a magical evening. The Pops, Amanda, Keith Lockhart, the human spectacle of it all, the mixture of the two worlds on stage (and certainly in the audience), made for a most memorable and inspiring experience. But one thing really stuck with me from that night. Shortly after the balloons dropped and the final chords of "Auld Lang Syne" hammered out, Neil Gaiman came out on stage and gave the most amazing New Year's toast I think i've ever heard:
"May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. May your coming year be a wonderful thing in which you dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself."
Well, I've certainly taken his words to heart this year and I continue to surprise myself with the milestones I cross. Along this road I set a 5k PR of 25:38, I ran a 16-Mile race on a cold January day, on the most insanely hilly course I could imagine ever running, in 2:42:57. I wanted to break 2 hours in the Hyannis Half-Marathon and finished in 1:54:14. And just the other day I took to the track (something I hadn't done in over 20 years), conquered my fears and had an amazing speed workout where I ran all of my Fartlek Pyramid intervals with a pace of less than 7:00/mile! I went from simply wanting to finish the Boston Marathon to making it my goal to finish in less than 4 hours. Yes indeed, I continue to surprise myself and I have a feeling there are more surprises to come (A sub-22 min 5k? a BQ? An IM Finish?)!
And yet, here I am entering into a new phase of training full of fear and trepidation. I've never "tapered" for anything before. I don't know what I'm supposed to do or how I'm supposed to feel. The whole thing seems counterintuitive to me. I'm afraid I'll lose my edge, that somehow I won't be ready to perform on Marathon Monday. I guess this is where I'm supposed to relax and fall back on my training plan and put those expectations on my coach. You see, he has done this before and he has trained others to do it as well. I trust him and I'm confident in my training. I know that no matter what, I'm going to go out there and give it everything I've got. Now, if I could only control the weather! I'm placing my order now: 41 degrees, partly cloudy with a light breeze out of the West. Think you can take care of that for me? Thanks!