Monday, January 16, 2012

Three Months to Boston

Assuming things fall into place the way I plan, I will toe the line at the Boston Marathon three months from today. I have a vague idea what to expect, but I'm sure that it will be "more" than anything I can envision. More people, more crowds, more excitement....more pain?....scratch that....more satisfaction at the finish line.

Boston has been on my bucket list for a very long time. It's the biggest mass participation athletic event in New England, and one of the biggest in the world each year. I qualified with a 3:15 back in 2003, however we are never home for Patriot's Day. But last fall when our calendar started taking shape, I saw that the week was open. I was also getting back into long trail runs after a summer of sprint triathlons, so I thought....maybe....

My Tufts Swimming Coach, Don Megerle, now runs the Tufts Marathon Challenge. For about seven years he has helped hundreds of students, alumni and friends of the school train for and complete the race. John Hancock, the primary race sponsor, gives 100 official numbers to many non-profits for fundraising. For Tufts, the beneficiary is the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition. They do great work on nutrition. Last fall I did a long run with the team and chatted with a current grad student at the Friedman School. She had just finished working with an elementary school in Cambridge to build a new cafeteria and redesign what food was offered and how it was offered. In other words, she was studying how the presentation of food can affect "sales". I think most would agree that 1) today's kids serve as the foundation for our future, 2) good nutrition is vital to their development, and 3) most school cafeterias do a lousy job. So I felt like raising funds for this type of work was something I could really get behind.

Coach organizes two workouts per week for the group- a long run and intervals. Given that I'm busy in Maine, I've only done one workout with the group. Coach emails the interval workouts each week, so I can do them on my own. Many runners would be shocked by the short distances we do. Generally, the sets have been 200s and 400s, all descending, and a total of about 8-12 in each workout. Coach has never been one to prescribe traditional workouts. He believes in quality, teaching your body to go fast(er), and recovery.

My long runs were proceeding very well. After building up to 10 miles, I did three weeks of 12, then 3 of 14, 3 of 16 and 2 of 18. Most of them were on trails, first at Bradbury Mountain, then in late November I shifted to the trails around Sugarloaf. Trail running is not speedy, but it does great things for the mind and all of the stabilizing muscles. I also find it shortens my stride. When I get on the road, the shorter stride reduces the chances of injury.

My two 18 mile runs were great, each in their own right. For the first one, which was the Monday after Christmas, both the trails and roads were in bad shape. That meant I needed to risk possible insanity...the treadmill. I showed up at the Anti Gravity Complex, the gym owned by the town of Carabassett Valley and CV Academy at 6. Above and open to the gym floor below is the "Beach". There is very little visual stimulation- like none. No TVs, and at that hour, there were no kids on the trampolines or in the skatepark to watch. Just me and an empty gym floor below. Ugh. I decided to go as long as possible before using my iPod which can get tiring after a couple of hours. That lasted about 20 minutes. Then I moved on to a couple of podcasts (IM Talk and Endurance Planet). That got me to about 2 hours. For the final 45 minutes, it was music. As for the workout, I slowly built up from a speed of 6.5 to 7.2 and just stayed there. It might sound crazy to avoid speed and pitch changes, but I thought that paying attention to intervals would remind me of how much further I had to go. I chose to get into a mental groove and try to survive. It felt really good to survive this insanely long treadmill session.

The other 18 mile run was from Sugarloaf to Eustis and back, all on Rt 27. There were some slick spots along the way due to freezing rain the day before, so I had to dial it back a bit, especially on the downhills. It turned into a beautiful day- it was in the high 30s by the end of the run. I was pleased with my pace- I was under 8s on most of the flats or downhills, and averaged 8:15 for the whole thing.

Now I've had two weeks of recovery, somewhat caused by a slightly pulled achilles/calf, and I feel great about the next two months. After that it's all down hill to Hopkington.

By the way, if you're interested in contributing to the effort, click here.

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