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What follows is a convergence of both Lynda’s and my writing – mine will be in italics.

***   ***   ***

I arrive at my designated spot early.   I don’t want to be the guy who promised to run someone in over the last 10 miles and then NOT be there.  I find a spot just after the runners pass Newton-Wellesley Hospital and watch the throng.  It is bitter sweet to say the very least.  I want to be out there with my people – with all of those runners.

All I could think of as I watched everyone go by was, "I wish I was out there!"

But the looks on their faces says it all.  Today is not a race.  Today is a battle for survival.  Some are walking, some are trudging, some are just trying to put one leg in front of the other.  No one is running fast. 

And there is still 10 miles to go.

Just standing there watching them, I am already sweating.  I can only imagine what the heat had been like in Framingham and Natick.

My phone buzzes.  The athlete alert text tells me that Lynda has just passed the half-marathon mark.  She iss moving more slowly than she had hoped – quite honestly, I am happy to see that.  It means that she is running smart and bending to the heat instead of fighting it.

While waiting for Lynda I see several of my friends go by.  Marathon Brian sneaks up on me and give me a big hug.  He is looking strong in this heat.  Moments later I see Ally Spiers, who this year took over for Really Not a Runner Doug Welch’s spot on the Children’s Hospital Team and Team Brenya.  With her is 2-time Cayman Island Marathon winner (and her husband) Steve.  He is keeping her company for the duration.  We do a sweaty group hug before they move on.  A few minutes later I see my friend Mike.  He, like Brian, is running for the Liver Team.  I am surprised to see Yoda (yes, Yoda) attached to his back – I can see him whispering in Mike’s ear throughout the race, “there is no try…there is only do or do not!”.

Mike and Yoda post-race. He carried Yoda the whole way.

I know I’ve got a little while before Lynda arrives, so I run about a quarter-mile with Mike to chat.  He tells me how brutal the heat as been, but he is looking strong.

I make my way back to my spot and start looking for Lynda.  I’ve been eyeing the Dana-Farber singlets the whole time.  I see a pair approaching me.  One of them is waving at me.

——————————————–

Our 2 roads are about to converge…

———————————————

Wellesley seems to stretch out for a loooong time.  I’ve run this part of the course a few times, but the landmarks look different.  My running partner Patty agrees.

There is an ambulance just before Newton-Wellesley Hospital.  The back door is open and there is someone on a stretcher.  I feel good but it seeing this makes me really nervous.  This is my first marathon.  I don’t know what to expect and it is crazy hot.

We are close to meeting Luau, so I scan the sidewalk.  Just past the Woodland T stop is a bright orange shirt.  Getting closer, I wave.   It’s him!

I’m running pretty slow, almost half of his normal race pace, but he is cheerful and tells me about his last Boston, when I ask.  I can’t imagine what it must be like to maintain a 3:15 (or thereabouts) pace for the duration.  I would love to be faster but my goal today is just to finish.

***

Lynda has been running a slow and steady race.  The heat is definitely been taking it’s toll, but she is smiling and happily waving at anyone who either shouts out her name of yells “Go Dana Farber”  My goal at this point is to keep Lynda entertained and distracted from the growing fatigue of being on the course for this long.

It is charity runners like Lynda that I find are the most endearing and moving heroes of any marathon.  Many of them are not typical runners in that they don’t go out there year round and run 30 – 40 miles per week.  In fact some aren’t runners at all.  These are people who, for whatever reason, found inspiration and decided that they could help make the world a better place by doing something that seems almost inconceivable to any non-runner. 

Many of the charity runners like Lynda will run at a much slower pace that those of us so obsessed with qualifying for Boston.  Despite having to spend sometimes twice the amount of time running their long runs, they do it – and they do it with a smile on their face because they do this not just for themselves, but for those that need their help.

In addition to the long training they must endure, they must also commit to raising a certain amount of funds.  Should they not meet the minimum set by their charity, they are responsible for the balance.  Some charities require as much as $5,000 to be raised.  That’s not easy, especially when they must balance that with their training AND the every day demands of their lives.

Lynda was running last Monday, scratch that, Lynda has been running and raising over $6,000 for the last several months in honor of her mother, who passed away from cancer.  In battling the Boston Course on this brutal day, she breathed life into her mother’s memory and deserves to be called a hero.

***

Luau is like the Mayor, saying hi to people he knows along the way, and even picks up a beer from the Race Menu “water” stop. We get to the top of the hill and he helps me figure out how to find my husband in the next few miles.  It makes a funny photo – me holding his beer, Luau running and texting.

Nothing like a little Pabst Blue Ribbon at Mile 20.

Kind of erases any shred that I’m taking this marathon seriously, but hey, whatever works!  I feel relieved to know where husband will be at mile 25.

***   ***  ***

As we approach Heartbreak Hill, I am looking forward to yelling “On On” to the Hash House Harriers.  They traditionally cheer from a spot about halfway up Heartbreak and hand out shots of beer to any takers.  I plan on taking a whole beer.  Unfortunately, on this hot day, it seems that all the runners before us have decided to partake and by the time Lynda and I arrive, they are out.   I am disappointed to say the least.  Fortunately, the RaceMenu team is at the top of Heartbreak giving cold sponge-baths to anyone who wants one.  I see team member Brendan and relay my earlier disappointment.  He smiles, and says they have beer, pours me a cold PBR and send me on my way.  This would be the first of three beers along the way to getting Lynda to the finish line.

At mile 22, Lynda decided she needed to walk.  A very large college student started yelling at her to keep running. 

I looked at him and said, “if you’re going to yell at her and you want her to run…give me your beer!” 

He was taken aback.  “But, it’s a Whale’s Tail.”

“I don’t care, give me your beer!” 

He hesitantly handed me the very full cup. 

It is ice cold. 

I smile. 

I chug. 

I hand him the empty cup. 

I turn to look at Lynda who fortunately has started running.  I turn back to the very large kid.

“Thanks, dude.”  And I’m back at Lynda’s side.

As we make our way through the course, I make sure that Lynda’s water and Gatorade bottles remain full, zipping up ahead to fill them whenever they are close to empty.

***   ***   ***

The last miles are a blur.  There are now four of us running together, Luau, Patty, her husband, and me.  I take a few walk-breaks during which Luau runs ahead, asking what I need.  I gratefully take cups of water and dump them on my head.  I try to drink more Gatorade and hold some ice cubes.  It’s very slow progress, but Luau enthusiastically notices we are passing some walkers and Team Hoyt.  He says, “Chomp, chomp, you’re eating them up!  Only 2 more miles to go!”

***   ***   ***

Lynda’s slow and steady pace is now paying dividends.  She may be exhausted, she may be fatigued, but she is passing people left and right.  Every medic tent we pass is full of people.  I briefly wonder if I would have been one of those people has I got in this year. 

Just after Mile 25, I see Jess’ hair stylist, Marisa of Stilisti (the awesome woman who donated turning my hair blue for New York last year!).  We have found Lynda’s husband now and he is running with us so I feel like I can stop for a second and say hello.  Marisa offers me a beer and I eagerly accept (my third of the day) chugging it down in 2 or 3 gulps.  I give her a sweaty hug and I race back to Lynda.  I’m gonna let Lynda finish this post – Boston 2012 was her race!

***   ***   ***

In Kenmore Square we find my husband and Luau takes a bunch of photos and a video.  He takes more photos throughout the last mile.  In some, I barely look like I’m running, but I am **so happy**.  I have a huge smile on my face.  I don’t really remember the last mile, but these photos are the best.  I cross the finish line with my teammate Patty.

Lynda and her training partner Patty getting ready to cross the finish line.

I did it!  With a big assist from Luau, my family, and teammates, I just ran a marathon!  My legs are so ready for a rest and I’m suddenly starving.  There are quick hugs and Luau slips away to head home.

Almost a week later, I’m still wowed by the complete kindness of a stranger and the powerful common thread that all runners share.  Running Boston was amazing.  And… (don’t tell husband) I’m thinking about training for MCM next year!

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Pace

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

There are dozens, if not hundreds, of plans out there promising to help you train for a race. Whether it’s a 5K or a marathon or anything in between, there’s a plan. Before running my first marathon in November of 2009, I followed a plan that I had found on-line. If I am going to be honest, I didn’t follow it too well. Like most plans, it had a variety of runs that I was supposed to run at very specific paces. I ignored the pacing all together and simply ran at the speed my body wanted to that day. Most of the time that meant running 20 – 40 seconds slower than my expected marathon pace.

Yes, it’s true, I simply looked at the distance and ran. I would do the speed work at the recommended pace, but when it came to the Recovery Run, the Medium Long Run or the Long Slow Distance Run, I didn’t want to have anything to do with the recommended pace.

Run almost 2 minutes slower than my goal pace? No Frakking Way! What’s the use of that?

And then I promptly injured myself. And then I injured myself again.

Looking back, I’m convinced that the most probable culprit for my pre-Manchester Marathon injuries was probably pace. I also think that my lack of running LSD’s may have had an impact on my leg freeze at mile 20 of that same race. I didn’t fully understand the importance of the Long Slow Distance Run nor did I fully grasp the concept of balancing hard workouts with easy ones. In some ways, the easy workouts are just as important as the hard ones, and to a degree are much harder to master.

The slow run has a physiological benefit, however, I think that there is another benefit to having the discipline to run the Recovery, Medium-Long and Long Runs at the recommended paces. It’s the mental aspect of the marathon. When you are forced to run much slower than you are capable of, it’s easy to get bored, let the mind wander and lose focus. I know that even with short recovery runs, I sometimes have to fight to get to that 5th mile, in part because I feel like I should already have completed that distance. By learning to stay focused during the slower runs, you are more capable of keeping your head in the marathon during the latter parts of the race.

In training for the Smuttynose Marathon, I finally put my faith completely in the program. There were days when life got in the way, so I was unable to follow the schedule to a T, however, I made a huge effort to do what I was told, and that included running long runs at a pace that was much slower than I was comfortable.

The payoff? An 11 minute PR and a BQ.

A week into training for Boston 2011, I have to remind myself to slow down.  Just yesterday I took my first longish run of the cycle – 12 miles.  I should have run it at about an 8:15 – 8:20 pace based on the 3:15 I’m shooting for in April.  Instead I let my legs take over and ran it in a 7:55 pace, with the last 6 miles at 7:30 pace.

Not exactly listening to my own advice. Hopefully next week I can be a little more disciplined.

So remember to take your time and enjoy your LSD’s.

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Why do you run?

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Don’t care how, I want it now! – Veruca Salt


I really do enjoy running outside. But I have a problem when I do.

I am, without question, a part of the MTV generation 1.0. I was part of that first wave of young kids gawking at the TV when the Buggles popped onto our screens and Martha Quinn & company began providing us with a 24 hour feed of music videos. I am firmly a part of the  immediate gratification generation.

As a result, I lack patience.

There have been countless runs where I have said aloud that I was going for a long, SLOOOOOW run only to end up running a tempo run or faster. I’ll start slow, with every intention of keeping a relaxed pace, but all too often, I end up speeding up less than halfway through. At first it’s unintentional, but then I see the split on my stopwatch and it’s all downhill from there. I refuse to slow down.

I’m starting to think that the injuries that I sustained in April and September were direct results of being impatient.

Early on, a friend of mine pointed me to a couple of training sites that help you figure out what pace you should be training at based on past race performances. Before my personal triumph at the Chilly Half back in November, I had not run a race that extrapolated out to a 3:20 marathon or better (a BQ for someone my age). The best result I had put me at about a 3:32 marathon (the Chilly put me at 3:17). I didn’t want to hear that. The various sites would tell me that I had to run my long runs at a certain pace. They also said in bright, flashing, red letters that I needed to train at the level I was, and NOT at the level I wanted to be. I didn’t want to hear that either. I plugged in what the long run pace should be for a 3:15 marathon. I wanted room to spare. The resulting number still seemed slow to me. I could run 15 miles at a much faster pace (or at least, that’s what I told myself). I ignored the numbers. I would go out for long runs of 12 – 16 miles and run at close to marathon pace.

Inevitably, I got hurt.

I had to stop running for nearly 4 weeks (which quite honestly was probably not long enough). When I returned to running, I still didn’t heed the numbers and went out at paces that were where I wanted to be, not where I was. The result was a crash and burn at the Manchester Marathon. I held up great for 16 miles, hit a wall and then froze up at 20. I play back that marathon in my head from time to time. The first mile was a killer (the 3:30 pacer decided to go out at a 6:30/mile clip), and I probably didn’t hydrate properly, but the more I think about it, the more I believe that my training philosophy was all wrong. I was training where I wanted to be, NOT where I was.

That’s impatience.  That’s the Veruca Salt training method.

So this year, starting today (an arbitrary day resolution), I resolve to be more patient with my runs. Run at the pace my racing legs say is where I’m supposed to be. I now have enough races under my belt that I should be able to comfortably rely on what the numbers say.

If I do it right, run patiently, I have no doubt that I have a qualifier in me for October.  I’m still going to run Hyannis (I think), but it’s going to be for fun.  At least, that’s what I’m going to tell myself.

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