Sunday, April 17, 2016

'Twas the night before Boston

Tomorrow, for the 5th time, I will wake up early in my own bed. I will don my racing gear, the singlet (or sports bra - by far the most stressful decision of this race). I will pin on a 5 digit number, and I will take the train, like I do to work every day. I will drop off my bag. I will ride on a school bus to Hopkinton, a trip that never seems so long as it does on marathon day. I will wait in porta potty lines, eat a cold bagel, and revel in the energy of the the Athlete's Village while dressed in my Goodwill finest. I will walk to the start line, taking it all in. And then? Then I will race.

It's still kind of unbelievable to me that this is my 10th marathon, and my 5th Boston, but here we are. Over the last 3 weeks this training cycle has taken a turn in a direction that I never could have anticipated. The best training cycle of my life, albeit one scattered with some near-misses and sicknesses, nearly imploded with the sudden onset of pain in my right hip. I went from preparing to gun for a PR to being unsure whether I would even be able to run the race. Right now, things still aren't perfect, but I'm in a situation where I'm going to be able to run. It's fitting, then, that one of my theme songs this training cycle featured the chorus "Don't take your life for granted/you've got to hold on tight to what you've been handed". As a runner who's remained relatively injury free over the years, it's so easy to take what I'm able to do for granted. Those 60 mile weeks - as long as you put your head down and get 'em done, it'll be fine, right? But suddenly having the whole idea of the thing thrown into jeopardy really drives it home: I cannot, and should not EVER take any of this for granted, especially not the fact that I'm able to qualify and run a marathon that many dream and dream and dream of year after year after year.

Going into a race with uncertainty about my body's condition is a new one for me. I've definitely gone into marathons where I've felt (and most certainly been) undertrained, but never have I been in a place where something actually wasn't right. And yes, time will be the judge of whether or not running 26 miles on a questionable leg was a good idea - certainly, I have a sneaking suspicion that at some point in the race it's just going to HURT, and I'm going to have to be smart about how I choose to react to that pain. But honestly? I just have to do it. I can't back down from this one. I have put too much of myself into this training cycle to walk away or convince myself that I'm just going to take it easy just because my hip flexor decided it wanted to be a whiny little bitch. I think between the weather and my hip, it would literally take a miracle for me to run a PR, but I want to run a strong, good race. I want to FIGHT. And most importantly, I want to hold on tight to the opportunity that I've earned, seize the moment, and take what's mine.

Last year, I ran this race so, so alone. My relationship had crumbled, none of my teammates were racing, and I ran into that wind and rain in a sphere of myself, with a power that could come from only me. I NEEDED to run that race alone - it was so fitting that I didn't actually see a single person who came to spectate for me last year - because I needed to find something in my life that felt like it was spinning out of control, that I had the power to control and that was really and truly mine. Running a PR at that race was one of the most empowering things that has ever happened to me and it's something that will stick with me for a long time. But this year, what makes this race special, is that I am NOT doing it alone. I will be in the race with my teammates, my friends, people who have been there when things felt impossible and no matter what were there to say "keep going". There's really a special connection you forge with training partners - just look at Shalane and Amy at the trials - that can't quite be recreated with anyone else because they just don't understand. They don't know what it is to be in the middle of a gut searing track workout and somehow finding it within yourself to hang onto the back of your teammate in front of you. They don't know what it feels like to be in the middle of a long run, feeling like you're flying for no reason. They don't know what it's like when the first thought after a race isn't about yourself, but wondering how your teammate did. We do. It's something that's so special and not something I ever dreamed I would have after college, let alone in the context of running a marathon. The gratitude I have for the series of events that not only led me to a competitive club but somehow made me stay (even during the period of time when I was too slow to train with anyone), and to have met such an amazing group of people. So that's what I want this race to be about. About heart, and teamwork, and knowing that we are all out there together, on individual journeys but connected at the same time. And about being proud of ourselves, of our team, and of each other.

So - goals? It's REALLY hard to write goals when everything from the weather to my hip's response to running is so damn uncertain. 3 weeks ago, I would have said my A+ goal was a 3:12, with 3:15 as a secondary goal. With everything put together, it seems pretty unrealistic to imagine myself running a PR (I think I'd have to be in at least 3:10 shape to run a 3:15 on a 65 degree day, and I know I'm just not there yet). I think having specific time goals in the face of my hip's ridiculousness is probably stupid, so general goals are as follows:
-Race strategy goal: Go out conservatively, and have something left for the last 10K
-Don't cry.
-Don't get dehydrated early
-Don't be an idiot
-Remember that this is SO much better than 2012
-Forget about the watch. If the day decides to give you some magic - well then you reach out and TAKE IT. But if it doesn't? That's life, and that's the marathon. It's my 10th time at this rodeo and you don't get through that many marathons without some scars. I plan to go out and take whatever the day decides to give me and love every second of it. I earned this day, and now it's time to get out there and take it.

The best teammates anyone could have!

1 comment:

Gracie said...

You're tough, strong, and fast. And maybe your hip will be in a good mood tomorrow. You have a nice base built and a positive attitude - just protect that hip and run a fast and safe race!