28 September 2008

Playing Defense

It’s a week till Wineglass, that time when you check the Weather Channel 10-day forecast every day to see what’s coming, and hope it says rain when you’re still a week out, since it’s usually wrong. I’m happy to say that at present, for Bath NY on October 5th, it says rain.

In the perfect world, the magic time arrives two weeks prior to your marathon, you taper perfectly, you relax, you catch up on sleep, life is smooth and simple. You’re always a bit apprehensive but you’ve got no worries. If you know where that world is, please tell me. In my world, I’m playing defense. It seems like it’s coming at me from all sides.

Pick your favorite scene. Schwarzenegger fighting off a dozen bad guys at once. The star goalie putting on an exhibition, whacking away shot after shot that three guys are firing at him. Sarah Palin being quizzed on foreign policy (shudder!). They’re all coming after Our Hero. That’s how I feel about now. Throw a few more things at me in the last weeks. Make it interesting.

It starts with the obvious stuff. The body was feeling great, till suddenly three weeks prior to the race, stuff started hurting. Psychosomatic? Probably not, this will be marathon #8 for me and I’m already qualified for Boston next year, so there’s no pressure. OK, it will be the first one that dear mother will be watching, so I guess I should try not to look too destroyed at the end, no need to worry her, but other than that, we’re going for a pleasant and hopefully fairly quick stroll through New York wine country.

No, not psychosomatic, indeed. Things just started hurting. The sesamoids started acting up again. One ankle started complaining. And, of all things, a shin splint? Oh, for Pete’s sake, I just don’t get those. Now? Yeah, I guess I did put few too many miles on that pair of Kelly green Asics. I guess I did have an emotional attachment to them, having run them to my two sub-3’s this spring. I had told myself that it was good karma to wear Kelly green shoes past Johnny Kelly’s statue. Hey, it worked, whatever. But apparently it’s time to pay the piper.

So the defense begins. We don’t want no killin’s round here, or no stress fractures neither, yah hear? After all, look what happened to poor Deena in Beijing. It can happen to anyone. So I backed off the miles more than I’d like at this point in my taper and added more rest days, at the risk of getting stiff and crunchy. And a few days later, things are feeling better. I think. Now I wonder, did a few days off lose me some of that edge? Or did I not take enough time, and will the pain return? Come on, I’ve been doing this long enough, worry not. Well, worry a little.

If it’s not aches and pains, bring on the viruses. I always tell my friends I’m going into quarantine three weeks prior to every marathon. No thanks, don’t need your germs. But they infiltrate. Eldest daughter starts with the cold, progresses to mild fever. Nooooo! Will I get it? So far, not bad, but at least a little. You know the rule, if it isn’t clear, it isn’t just allergies. (Yeah, yuck, but as rules go, it works.) Haul out the Echinacea. No, I don’t know if it works, but it can’t hurt. But we’re still a week out, we can lick this one. But I don’t really have it full force. Will I get it? Oh, once again, come on, worry not. Well, worry a little.

Now add a twist. The call comes Thursday, my aged grandmother, tragically reduced to a ‘having no fun’ state by Alzheimer’s many years ago, has passed on. A blessing, really. The emotional side is obvious. The logistic side is, uh, interesting. The timing is, in a way, convenient, since I’ll already be heading west, but I really didn’t plan on that far west. So rather than relaxing this week before the race, I’ll instead be driving close to a thousand miles out to Ohio and back to New York for the race. So much for being well rested. But this shouldn’t really bother me, I travel plenty. Come on, worry not. Well, worry a little.

There’s of course a few other little tidbits, stress-inducers, you-name-its I could throw in to lengthen the story (please! I hear them scream, no!). But you get the picture. None of this is all that critical. But there are always a few curve balls to make it interesting when that big race approaches. You tell yourself, come on, worry not. But you still worry a little. And you feel like you’re playing defense, batting them away as fast as they come at you.

So why is it that you never get that smooth ride in the last weeks before the big race? Perhaps it’s bad karma. After all, the Kelly green Asics are worn out.

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