Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2010 Boston

The 2010 Boston Marathon is in the books. I wasn't sure if it was possible for 24,999 other people to have as much fun as I did, but somehow, I think it happened.

(Got talked into the Friday night Sox game by some enthusiastic fans on the train.)

The weather was a little dreary Friday-Sunday, just enough to keep the tourism attempts in good balance with afternoon naps. Had a great Saturday morning run along the Charles River, and instantly wished I had taken my camera. As soon as we stumbled out of the hotel and got our bearings, we saw a collegiate crew meet getting set to go. Upon further exploration, ran through through some smart-looking MIT buildings and encountered Gisele (aka Mrs. Tom Brady) also doing a little Saturday morning jog. We think, anyway.

(Funny how an expo full of running shoes and energy drinks can make you so exhausted. You could navigate by the yellow bags all weekend.)

Clouds and drizzle gave way to a glorious day on Monday. The sun came out long enough to make the chill in the air tolerable, then dutifully went behind the clouds before it got too warm. I didn't notice much wind, and if anything, there was a bit of a tailwind. I boarded the parade of buses and felt a twinge of 'what-have-I-done' as we pulled onto the interstate on the way out to Hopkinton. The 2-wave start seemed to work well, as I left early enough to be comfortable, but not so early that I had to sit around and wait for hours. By the time I got off the bus and wandered around the holding pen for a little while, it was time for the first wave to start, and then those of us in the 2nd wave enjoyed a bit of a breather before it was our turn. The walk to the start was fantastic... all of the volunteers were lined up doing the slow clap and making us feel like superstars as we paraded to the corrals. I got up to my spot in the front of the 2nd wave just in time for the gun. The course is a gentle downhill the entire way, except for a few redeeming uphills during the 2nd half. Miles 1-10 felt great, and then I started to feel my quads. Through Wellsley (mile 12) and up towards Boston College (20ish) I was trying to balance fun and hand-slapping with some 'time to get to work and hope the wheels don't fall off' focus. I relished Heartbreak, it was great to go uphill for a few minutes. The crowds were amazing. I finished through the last couple of miles with that familiar feeling of needing to be done soon, but not wanting it to end, either. The last left turn onto Boylston was incredible. I still wonder how that crowd yelled with that kind of intensity for that long.

(The "Athlete's Village", aka the Hopkinton high school grounds. Happy to be in the 2nd wave, as this cleared out significantly not long after I arrived.)

(Going through Natick, around mile 10. I'm not great at photography in motion...)

(Wellsley College, around mile 12. The outstreched hand was the story of my day. What amazed me was that once you reached for one, 50 more immediately appeared. Although Wellsley was cool, the spirit award for the day went to Boston College.)

(Approaching the finish line on Boylston St. The left turn from Hereford to Boylston was absolutely amazing. More cumulative and sustained energy than I have ever witnessed at a sporting event.)

(Looking and feeling pretty darn good at the finish. Well, better than that guy behind me, anyway. I wore a bike jersey for the pockets, thanks to Team Cheerwine.)

Not that I'm counting, but I finished in 3:37:15, which was my exact qualifying time from December 2008. How funny. I had a great time. The trip was fun, I enjoyed myself, and the race was the highlight. I had said "once in a lifetime" all along, but what would be the harm in eating my words? To be continued...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Marathon time!

Ok, getting excited! I've been looking forward to going to Boston for a while, but now it's time to stop planning and start packing. Leaving on Friday, the race is on Monday, and then I'm off to California for a work conference. The weather forecast looks to be close to ideal, although maybe just a little on the warm side. I've got to admit, I'm a little nervous. It's hard enough to trust your training without having major autoimmune disease issues. I mean, is my swollen knee (see picture, it's the left one) and recent outbreak of foot blisters my body's way of warning me against doing this? Or is it merely my mind playing games with me during a taper? During this phase in training, it's not uncommon to suffer panic attacks over phantom body issues that would otherwise not even be on the radar. My certainty is that I have no idea what will happen. PR's or DNF's be damned, my most immediate concern is how I'm going to fit an entire camera into my shorts.

The plan is to leave Friday morning, arrive Friday night. Long travel day. Saturday is cruising the expo and then touristy ventures like the Freedom Trail and Harvard Square. Sunday is whatever I didn't hit on Saturday until it's time for the 1:30 Sox game. Monday is the race, after which I plan to do some heavy sampling of the local craft beers.

Ran about 6 miles today, 4 at a sub-8:00 pace. I want to say that I was just practicing my ideal race pace, but like I said... I have no idea what will happen after I cross the starting line. And today it was tough to make it through this workout, which should have been a pleasure cruise. Trying to chalk it up to the taper effect and not worry about it. My goal is twofold: 1) have a 26-mile party and enjoy myself immensely, but still 2) have a good enough race time to be happy with my "performance". Goal #2 is the geeked-out runner poking through, hopefully it doesn't ruin Goal #1. Catch you on the flip side, hopefully with lots of pictures...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Folly or intuition?

Let me start by saying: for the most part, no complaints. I'm not complaining. Or malingering, for any House fans out there. Or whatever you want to call it. There are too many horrible things going on in the world for me to spew my own dramatic woes over symptoms that are laughable to the observer.

But this thing is in my head.

I am at a barbecue, talking and laughing with my friends, but in the back of my mind I'm thinking: my quads really hurt and the skin on my lips and fingertips feels too tight. Doesn't anybody understand? Can't they see me wasting away towards disease? I want to tell somebody about it, but who would want to listen? I have skin peeling off of my fingertips and chapped lips? Big deal, we all do, it's been a hard winter. I have trouble seeing at night because my eyes are so dry? Welcome to the world of contacts and outdoor sports. But these changes are different. They weren't there two months ago, but now they are. Such small, subtle changes but they feel like lead on my shoulders.

In my mind I'm starting the slow march towards mixed connective tissue disease. I'm beginning a chronic, progressive disease pattern. I can see the demons in my immune system. They are building strength, and piece by piece destroying me. In a year or two I might not be the same person. Doesn't anybody understand that? I'm floundering on the inside, but the outside looks normal. Doctors can only treat what they see... I don't have any heinous or obvious symptoms, no wierd rashes, no alarming bloodwork. But when I lie in bed at night, it's all that I think about. I've been worrying more and more lately. For as wierd or ambiguous as it sounds, I feel a certain darkness.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope I'm over-dramatic. These symptoms are nothing to the outsider. I look great. I'm running a marathon on Monday. Try to explain that anything is wrong when you're living it up at the Boston Marathon. But it's there.