Running Review: Part One

You may recall last fall when I went crazy and signed up for a running race series which included five different races this year put on by the non-profit Team Ortho. I thought I was nuts but figured it would be a great challenge. (And perhaps get me back into shape after a decade of having babies!)

So, there was the Polar Dash 10k on January 1st where I learned I could actually run faster than I thought. (She says, shamelessly patting self on back.) I had not trained for speed and so I set out to run an 8:30 min/mile pace but much to my surprise I ended up running a 7:18 pace. Who knew?!

In March, there was the Get Lucky Half Marathon where I learned that I could run fairly fast for even longer than I thought. I set a goal of running a 7:40 pace and ended up running a 7:29 pace, finishing in an hour and thirty-eight minutes. After that race, I decided that perhaps I needed to set tougher goals and so after playing around with various online pace calculators and reading numerous articles, I realized that it was within my reach to at least aim for a Boston qualifying time.

At first, I did not speak this idea to anyone. I kept it inside, letting it brew until a crazed excitement boiled over from this ridiculous idea swirling in my head. Twenty years ago, if someone had told me I would crazily think I could run a marathon fast enough to qualify for Boston I would have thought them insane (or perhaps I would have said, Boston? Boston what?) But there were a few select people with whom I shared this ridiculous notion....and to whom I am ever so thankful for their ongoing support: some who ran with me on my lighter days and rode bikes with me on my long runs and others who simply listened to all my neurotic rants and worries in the process!

At any rate, for the last few months, I have trained: sometimes running 20 miles on a treadmill and other times trying to keep at Marathon Goal Pace while pushing a jogging stroller with a sleeping/crying/eating baby inside. I have spent time fretting over the most recent overuse injuries, IT band syndrome, Plantar Fasciitis, icing, stretching; on form, gait, running shoes and other running paraphernalia, while working towards being able to run ten 800-meter repeats each at three and a half minutes (like Bart Yasso, world class running coach, would have told me to do.) My goal: to run a 3:30 marathon, or as I told most people, to get within the window of 3:30 and 3:36. (A qualifying time in my age group must be under a 3:40:00....I figured I should leave myself a little wiggle room, just in case....)  

Like so many competitive runners, I was completely obsessed. I ran hard and fast, slow(er) and long, endured countless protein shakes and endless hours cross training in the pool while fitting in physical therapy exercises for core strength and stabilization. I gave up my yoga practice, slowed down my music studio until it stopped almost entirely, often left the house in shambles (sorry Kurt), nearly gave up playing violin and piano altogether, let homework slide until some kids were perched precariously on the edge of failure (really not proud of that one!), and failed to write anything on this blog for weeks on end in order to stay the course.

Looking back, I have to believe there is a more balanced and sane way of training well.

Needless-to-say, by the week before the Minneapolis Marathon, neurosis had set in. (Yes, it gets worse!) I had finished all my hard training runs and was at the end of the taper period when a flood of doubt took over, looming heavy in my heart. I struggled to fight off droves of negative thoughts and images while obsessing about every ache and pain that crept up while my body tried to recover from the training in preparation for the race.

Kurt had given me a gift card to a local spa to get a pre-race massage and while it was an incredibly helpful gift, the day after the massage, I started getting chills and began to feel downright lousy. I tried to tell myself that it was just the effects of the massage which worked out all those toxins and sent them floating through my body. I raced to the store, picked up Airbourne and Emergen-C vitamin drinks, zinc and echinacea lozenges and then sat at home, drowning myself in herbal tea, chicken noodle soup, hot epsom salt baths and anything else I could think of that might help me ward off the impending cold or flu OR MENINGITIS I was convinced my body was fighting. (Seriously, I had lost it!)

This was a very low point. I had worked so hard, sacrificed so much time and energy and now I wasn't sure I would even be well enough to run the race. I began to read articles online and browse through forums where other runners told similar stories and by Friday night, I tried one last thing: a glass of wine.

Lo and behold, I started feeling better. Relaxed, I went to bed with more positive thoughts taking hold. Realizing I was probably just dealing with allergies, I started pushing out the demon of doubt and instead rehearsed my pace and running strategies. By Saturday morning, I was sure I would be able to run the next day and prayed that I would not have to stop and use the bathroom during the race (a more relevant concern than meningitis!)

I awoke around 1:30 a.m. on Sunday morning needing to use the bathroom. Half an hour later, Solomon was up screaming and while I tried to get back to sleep after that, I was so nervous that I was actually shaking. By 4:30 a.m. I figured I should just get up and get going.

After getting the babysitter settled in and then a quick drive, listening to Rush's song Marathon for extra inspiration, Kurt and I arrived at The Depot Hotel in the Mill District of Minneapolis. He dropped me off so that I could check my bag and get to the start with enough time to use the port-a-potty before the race. The slight chill in the air was a welcome relief even as it sent shivers down my spine and left me covered in goose bumps.

And within a very short time, the gun sounded and the race had begun......

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