13 April 2011

Gloss Over the Imperfections

It’s the usual time when I lament about how the last weeks prior to the marathon are not falling into the pattern I’d like. But this year I’ve got a convenient way to gloss over these imperfections: spin. Yes, the media engine seems to be in full gear, so I’ll just use that glow to ignore the less-than-perfect realities of life.

The week before is supposed to be quiet, restful, relaxed; a time not only to taper down the training, but ratchet down life. Extra sleep, no late nights, avoid the exhausting days. That’s why I’m writing on the train out of Manhattan, on the return trip of a marathon out-and-back-to-New-York day that won’t end till late tonight, after another late night last night, only to turn around for another day on the road tomorrow. Quiet. Restful. Relaxed. Yeah.

But isn’t this is what we train for in our daily life? (Train? No, really, that pun wasn’t intentional.) It’s all about trying to find the time slices to fit in the miles between all that beckons from the real world – dealing with less-than-perfect conditions. So having all of this come down in the week before Boston really isn’t that big a deal. All things considered, however, I’d rather get the extra sleep.

If sleep isn’t a reward this week, a little visibility may be a consolation prize. I’ll simply gloss over all the imperfections of the week with some good old fashioned PR. Spin. Buzz. Yes, Andy Warhol is spinning in his grave as I’ve clearly already exceeded my fifteen minute allotment of fame this month, and it’s not over yet.

A week back, the story of Chris and I running our city hit the local paper, a day later than expected, but masterfully crafted by Ace Reporter Paul. The fun started rolling. Just a few days after that, said same reporter called to get a few comments and quips on marathon training in general, not targeted at our strange city-wide coverage quest but on somewhat more normal people running the race, so a mere six days after Big Newspaper Exposure #1 came Big Newspaper Exposure #2, this time gracing the front page of the Sunday edition, with a near-life-size shot of yours truly running at you down page A9. You’d think they’d be calling in the subscription cancellations left and right by now. But it gets better (or worse, as your opinion may hold). The editor of the weekly local dropped me an email that she’s going to supply even more ink in tomorrow’s edition.

I really need to give my agent a bigger Christmas tip this year.

The gloss obscures the imperfections. Like the fact that somehow I forgot to start my pre-marathon taper last week. Instead, after the Tri-Valley 15K (speaking of which, nice picture the race organizers sent over to me, yes, there I am in tights when everyone else is in shorts – hey, I was comfortable, so who cares?…)
… I popped in a sixty-two mile week, which for me at least is a pretty significant number. There just seemed to be a lot of interesting places to go, so I went, and the ten-milers, quick ones at that, kept chalking up without really trying.

First came a “scrap sweep-up” run, adding a bunch of little roads to my coverage map (and to my chagrin, missing one, so I’ll have to go back), including a small road into a warehouse park where there stood an unoccupied building, lined on both sides with huge truck doors making it see-through, clearly vacant – even its concrete floor removed – just begging, begging, begging… well, there’s a first, running through a building. Hey, why not? Next up, a run up an abandoned country road at the corner of the city that I knew connected to another road on the grounds of a (private) farm, and I hoped connected via a nice obscure corner of that farm. Not to be. The connection went nearly over their front porch. Oops. Just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave. And finally, an utterly gorgeous run on an utterly gorgeous morning along a couple of lovely reservoirs with a few lung-buster climbs tossed in for good measure. We live for those kind of runs. But bang, bang, bang, the ten-milers kept coming, and suddenly it was a mere nine days till Boston without really starting to taper. (Oh, and for the record, along the way, I did return to Memory Lane it did indeed bring back memories; clearly I had done it before. This time I just remembered.)

So it’s not the kind of taper I’d like. But why stop there? If you’re going to overcome hurdles, bring ‘em on. Which is why, for reasons I’m still questioning, I’ve signed up for a medical study surrounding the marathon. Now, I know the real reason is because it’s interesting. The exercise physiology team at Hartford Hospital is looking into whether there is a link between statin (cholesterol medication) use and certain muscle enzymes which can be a marker of (or perhaps involved in) muscle damage, including damage to that one key muscle, the heart. Having once seen this particular enzyme flag high on a blood test a few years ago (though not anywhere near dangerous high), and having been told that it was probably because of significant exertion (read, running), I simply couldn’t resist the temptation to see this number jump off the chart in a ten-minute-after-crossing-the-Boston-finish-line measurement. Boring for many, wicked cool to me.

But the downside? The baseline. Yes, I need to give them some blood before the race. Not much. Perhaps half a percent of all I’ve got. They assure me it will be to no impact. And they even let me move it up a few days for more recovery time, though red cell replenishment doesn’t happen that fast. But in an endeavor where I know I will push to my roughly-fringed edge, I am still apprehensive about anything more than a hangnail.

All in the interest of science, though…

So, a badly executed taper, an overly busy week, and a bloodletting to boot, all obscured by a flurry of flashbulbs. What a way to roll into Boston! OK, so life isn’t perfect. Come Monday, the weather is forecast to be, well, whatever it decides to be. True to form, it crept onto the 10-day forecast as perfect, degraded to rain, returned to perfect, and has now again degraded to showers. Whatever. We’re going out for a little run, and we’ll just sit back, see what happens, and have a good time.

Track me on www.baa.org, bib number 1798. First wave start is 10 AM; from second corral I’ll be over the line within a minute.

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