Saturday, April 23, 2011

This week at BMRC--Tables Turned!

“Would I ever have a workout I could be proud of as they were proud of theirs? I wasn't expecting 5 minute mile pace, but I badly wanted at that moment not to be the club's slowest runner.”

I wrote this two posts ago, about a workout a couple weeks past. The workout on 4/19 was my answer. And it showed me that if I can keep calm, not panic, and just flow with a workout, good things happen.

Because the Polo Fields had been soaked with rain all day, we moved our operation to the neighborhood near Coopertown School.

I was wearing new shoes which I discovered didn’t give me the toe room I’d have liked and my toes blistered and bled during the Valley Forge race on 4/17. I didn’t really pay attention until after the race when I noticed some chafing and bleeding. So I wondered about the wisdom of wearing the same shoes to the practice Tuesday.

But they were sharp looking, aqua-teal and I couldn’t resist (hellooo? Vanity!). And so I set off to the start hoping that the workout wouldn’t be too hard—also hoping that the Tylenol I took beforehand would numb whatever pain might arise.

Not, I admit the most promising way to begin one of Bob’s workouts.

Still, I was there and it was going to happen regardless of how I felt or what the workout was. When Bob announced that this one would be tough, I looked doubtfully at my feet and at the piece of paper he held—covered with writing.

“Light turn-out tonight,” he said. “I guess people knew we were having “THE Workout.” Apparently, the mega-ten-days-before-Broad-Street’-if-you-can-survive-this-you-can-survive-anything workout is a club tradition, although I must have missed it last time around, because I don’t remember it from last year. We awaited this Supreme Test of Resolve wondering what we were in for..

“You brought us a book, Bob!” I joked.

Remembering the way I’d allowed nerves to work me over last time, I resolved to keep calm, enjoy whatever faced me. I was coming for my benefit, after all, not because it was a job. So I took in the pieces as Bob announced them: 4-6 x 400 (6 for the faster groups, four for the rest of us), 2x800, mile, 2x800, 4-6 x 400 (as before).

This seemed so out of my league impossible that I realized that I could only take it in pieces and do what I could with it that way.

The first quarter, fortunately downhill, reassured me: 2:03. Okay, at least I was moving. That helped my confidence, even though the second quarter, uphill, was 2:21. It helped somehow to have had that fast time to start off. I could be humbled by the fact that the faster time didn’t define me and reassured by the fact that the slow one didn’t either.

The times for the other quarters were something like 2:06 and 2:13 or 2:14. Then came the 800s. The first was 4:34, which satisfied me, although I would have liked a few seconds less. In the second, I ran with a new member had stayed ahead of me at first, but fell back to my pace. In fact, we both slowed to 4:43 (splits of 2:26—too slow, so I picked up and 2:17).

Since I wasn’t too certain about the direction for the mile, my new companion and I stayed together for about the first 400. Then, needing to pick up the pace more, I moved ahead and was well ahead for about a half mile. However, the gentleman caught me and passed me at the end, when my time was 9:35. While this seemed slow for the effort I had put in, having a companion kept me from stressing over it.

But my companion announced he was done for. He told me he would run part of the 800 with me, then head back to the store. I headed out, feeling pretty decent still, and pulled away from him. When I finished, at 4:29ish, I looked back and saw no sign of my new friend. So I was on my own, but on a roll too. I improved on the next 800, to 4:25.

By this time, most of the runners were leaving, but I wasn’t ready to stop. I felt deep in me that this workout was MINE and I wasn’t going to give it up. After checking to see if there would be people still hanging around the store for a while, I set off on my quarters. The cones were gone by the time I started the third one, but by then it didn’t matter. I knew where they had been and in any case at that point the effort was more important than the exact distance. I seem tor recall 2:05 and 2:07 for the downhill quarters and about 2:18 and 2:16 for the uphill ones.

I hit my watch that last time feeling like Superwoman—easily ready to keep going if time had allowed. Instead, I ran back to the store with a lot more energy than I usually had during the cool-down.

Knowing that I could finish this workout gave me back whatever energy I’d put into it. Earlier on after Bob told us what the program was, it crossed my mind to ask him what to do if I got way behind the others. But I decided that I’d cross that road when I got to it, and that until/unless I did, I’d keep my focus positive.

I’m sixty and can still do these killer workouts—maybe not as fast as in the past, but definitely can do them, can still push myself, can still even see some results.

I have sometimes compared myself to faster runners and have felt discouraged. But at 60, I am doing things that some younger people could not do.

And I hope to keep at it for as long as I can. And if the shoes hurt, so be it--they look pretty cool! :)


Postscript: During our usual post-workout beer and chat time, Bob advised people that the day after a hard workout was ideal for doing a long run. The soreness, it seems, sets in 48 hours afterward, so isn't a factor the next day. (He had a more scientific explanation which I now can't remember.) To me he suggested taking it slow. My plan had been to run Thursday on my day off, but instead, I decided, following Bob's advice, to run Wednesday late afternoon/early evening.

Whereas the Tuesday run was electric with energy, this one dragged (the heat no doubt), but I expected that, and my goal was simply to hang in for ten miles whatever way I could, even if it meant (as it did in the last 3.5 miles) taking the run indoors onto the treadmill. My pace was quite slow (as instructed) and I threw in walk breaks. But I made it to ten miles--tired, yes, dragging, yes, but not sore.

While Thursday offered better weather for running, I was happy to discover that I wasn't sore--I think the half hour swim + sauna session helped. But even though my first reaction was "he's insane--I'm going to do ten miles tomorrow?" and my second reaction was "I'm just as insane for actually doing it," I followed the advice and reaped the benefit.

With seventeen miles covered in two days, I felt the "mojo." Even in the struggle to eke out the ten miles the next day, I felt a certain sense of triumph--that I could hold on, that it was a good struggle, and that by completing the ten miles tired, I was all the better prepared for running ten miles fresh on May 1.

I took in both sides of the energy coin--the "high" of sailing through one workout, the teeth-gritting struggle of the next day's run--and so I have both the flow--and the grit. I will use both to get to the finish line.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Boston Marathon 2011

Some truly incredible performances

1. Geoffrey Mutai KEN 2:03:02
2. Moses Mosop KEN 2:03:06

Sub-world record performances--by about 50 seconds!

4. Ryan Hall USA 2:04:58
American record

1. Caroline Kilel KEN 2:22:36
2. Desiree Davila USA 2:22:38
3. Sharon Cherop KEN 2:22:42

A dash to the finish with the first three only 6 seconds apart! Desiree Davila's finish the American course record for women and a PR by four minutes.

5. Kara Goucher USA 2:24:52
Second American--two in the top five--this so soon after giving birth.

This is a Boston Marathon that will be remembered and talked about for years!

My schedule was such that I had to content myself with video clips online, but even with those, the electricity of this race just flashed out.

But there's another group with whom I have a more personal connection through my friend Neil Weygandt, who completed (despite an upset stomach and hip problems that impeded his training) his 45th Boston Marathon, the longest streak running--the Cal Ripken of the Boston Marathon, one might say.

Following in Neil's footsteps is a group called the Quarter Century Club--runners who have completed 25 or more Bostons. Because Neil doesn't use e-mail, I have had the privilege of being on their e-mail list and learning about their hopes and disappointments and perseverance, and so wrote them this e-mail, which I want to share:


To the QCC--

There were some great performances today, including some impressive ones by Americans. But the "less sung heroes" are QCC'ers who keep on coming back, year after year, through fast times and slow, loving this event and committing to it and giving it your best shot every time, whether the "best shot" is a sub-3 or just on the inside of 6 hours.

You've seen Boston through the old times when there were just a few thousand and you mailed in entry forms--or maybe just a few hundred. And you stayed with it even as it grew more crowded, more difficult logistically. There's something about this race, and you are the group that understands that something, that mystery, that "presence"--all the history that was made in past years on that same course. So many run through those streets who may not have known who Johnny Kelley or Tarzan Brown were. Not you. This isn't just a race, but a labor of love--and sometimes unfinished business. The marathon has that way with us, luring us back, promising that next year will be different, and even if it turns out slower than last year, next year continues to come, and you continue to look forward to it, as well as reflecting back to the race's--and your own--history.

Interesting that it's on Passover--sharing two important themes: "next year in Jerusalem" that really is a constant commitment to that Jerusalem, that is "this year in Jerusalem"; and the sense of a journey whose outcome sometimes feels uncertain, yet you commit to it, because the journey itself matters as much as the promised land it leads you to.

To those who added to their streaks today, congratulations. To those who, for any reason, were not able to do so, you remain part of this great tradition. The journey may have wounded you for now, but it remains in you, in your blood and bones and muscles and memory and hope. It will not leave you or let you easily walk away from it (actually true whether or not you finished this year).

When I ran it the one time, I remember that my foot began chafing and a blister was forming. I was beginning to worry I would have to drop out. It was the 100th running and I'd worked so hard to qualify, so I really couldn't imagine stopping. I was ready to walk the course if need be to finish. But I prayed to one of the "saints" of the course, one of its guardian spirits, George Sheehan (he dated my mother many years ago before she met my father). I asked him to do whatever he could to help me. Then, about a hundred or so yards later, I happened upon a man passing out two-pill packets of Tylenol. As I'm allergic to NSAIDs, I would not have been able to take aspirin or ibuprofen had he been giving that out. But Tylenol I could take--and once I took it, I could run. While mildly disappointed in my time (4:22 chip, 4:39 gun), I now wonder how I managed to run that fast. But what I knew then and know now is that the history of that race, its past greats lifted me up and took me to the finish. Besides thinking of George Sheehan, I thought of Katherine Switzer and other women pioneers who had sacrificed so much to be able to run Boston. I needed to live up to that tradition.

I may never get another chance to run this special race--all the more, I salute those of you who have kept it on your calendar and kept at it all these years. You "get" the grandeur of this race as few people do. You live its grandeur. Regardless of finish time or even whether you were able to finish this year, you carry with you Boston's past, present, and future--its history, its triumphs, its disappointments, and its hopes. Younger runners, newcomers, have much to learn from you.

All best,