09 April 2010

Rollercoastering to Boston

Funny how this blog thing works. I get an idea for an article, then something gets in the way and it doesn’t get written. This one started off with Boston being three weeks away. Now Boston is a mere ten days away. Tomorrow is my final pre-Boston race, so I’d better post now before tomorrow’s stories stack up in the queue.

Spellchucker, that beloved process which insidiously inserts the wrong words just before Your email departs for the world, insists that “rollercoastering” is not a word. I non-concur. Seeing as how nearly every other noun has been verbcized of late (another non-word, sue me), why can one not rollercoaster, the act of rocketing wildly up and down? And if one can rollercoaster, that act must be rollercoastering. Right. There’s an “-ism” in there somewhere too if it becomes dogma. Enough wordplay. I’ve been rollercoastering, so I know it’s real.

The point is that Boston creeps closer and I have no idea what to expect. Some days I’m convinced I’m ready to fly, other days I’m doubtful I’ll make 19 before the Death Shuffle overtakes my once-proud form. That’s rollercoastering, no matter how you spell it. After ten of these things you’d think I’d know what’s coming, but I don’t. Life, and the human body, are just like that.

The numbers have been posted and I squeaked back into the first corral despite last year’s tourist-style finish, courtesy of Boston’s 18-month window which allowed me to qualify for this year’s race based on 2008’s Wineglass. Imagine that – 18 months since the big foot tendon snap. Having lived so many twists and turns spawning from that adventure, it seems simultaneously like yesterday and a lifetime ago.

Starting up front is an honor that I hope to live up to a little better this year. As always, I don’t go public with my real goals, but you can pretty much guess what I’d hope will happen that Monday. Last fall’s 3:13 at the uber-hilly Mount Desert Island Marathon wasn’t too shabby, but it hurt like hell, and I’d like to think I’ve put in some good workouts and elevated the readiness reading since then. But you never know until the gun goes off, or even a couple hours later. I’ll publicly say only that I’m going for a nice run from Hopkinton.

Everyone who toes that line questions the efficacy of their training. This spring I’ve put in a pair of 20-plus milers; not enough in my mind, but both at paces comparable to my better long jaunts, hinting readiness. But both left doubts. A few weekends ago I clearly faded on a 21-miler. But hey, maybe it was the fierce headwind on the return leg, leading into the late hills? But hey, Boston hits you with headwind off the water when you cap the hills of Newton. But hey, going solo compared to the adrenaline of the crowds of Boston is a different game altogether, right? Two weeks ago I hammered out 16, targeting race pace. It was quick, but not race pace. Wind? Going solo? The mild nagging cold I had at the time? The coaster sailed downhill.

Of course I know I worry too much. It’s genetic. Get real. After all, Stu’s 30K went downright swimmingly. Stu’s told me how ready I just might be. The coaster cranked up the big hill that day.

Only to rocket back down the other side last weekend. Being Easter weekend, a time when my family makes church a contact sport, I took Good Friday off and headed out mid-day for an intended relaxed 20, just to finish feeling good. Instead, I came home after 15 feeling utterly crappy. The sun shone brilliantly, but the forecast was downhill on the coaster.

While trying to avoid tacky religious parallels about rising again, Easter Sunday brought me back up the next hill. Normal people coming home from church on Easter think, “Ham”, Runners, on the other hand, coming home from church on Easter, passing the high school track on a perfect morning, say, “Intervals!”. I called my club buddy and made a track date for that afternoon, then headed off for a relaxing afternoon with the clan. No ham, mind you.

Too relaxing, I’d say. After a slow garden stroll with the family on a warm sunny afternoon, I felt about three heartbeats from away death and only one from a long snooze. You know the feeling, that overwhelming exhaustion that hits precisely because you haven’t done anything strenuous. But I had a track date in 20 minutes, and so dragged my snoozing sack of cells to the school.

An hour later I was back on top of the highest hill of the coaster, flying, soaring, ready for anything. Club buddies Dom and Bill joined me for a set of Yasso 800s just because we’d never done them before, indeed none of us had ever gone north of five or six of them let alone the Yasso set of ten. The first was agony, the body in half slumber even after a warm-up, the goal of ten seeming insurmountable. But as each passed, rather than wearying, we grew stronger. Number ten clocked in faster than all the rest, each of which had been faster than our three-minute target. Whether he’s right or wrong about his Yasso 800 theory, we laughed about being a bunch of Yasso Yahoos and left the track with the confidence of being back on top of the hill.

Since then, so far, it’s stuck. Monday evening was a quick Urban Run race at our favorite Irish pub in Worcester with our neighbor-club CMS friends. Wednesday night, another quick one, sub-7 for eight and a half despite absurd 88-degree heat on an early April evening. For fun, a trail run with podcaster-extraordinaire Chris on Thursday (which, to be fair, produced a few bruises, but all in good fun). Feeling good all week. What a difference from one week ago.

Tomorrow is my final tune-up, the Tri-Valley Front-Runners Boston Tune-Up 15K. Of course I have a goal in mind, but that’s my problem, not yours. I’ll just tell you I’m going for a run, and hoping to end up on the top of the rollercoaster hill, not the bottom. I want to save all that downhill coasting for the 19th.

1 comment:

  1. "Some days I’m convinced I’m ready to fly, other days I’m doubtful I’ll make 19 before the Death Shuffle overtakes my once-proud form."

    -well stated and indeed I find myself relating to this perfectly.


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