11 April 2014

Of Two Minds

Ideas for this column morph between the time that they are born, which is often on a run, and the time that they end up on this page. Tonight, I wrote the word schizophrenia, thinking of the common belief that the disorder involves a person being of two (or more) minds. A quick search revealed that it is not, in fact, the same as multiple personality disorder, and in any event, I can hear the howls now from the mental health community that my use of these terms lightly is not politically correct. Whatever… it’s a good thing that not many people read this stuff.

In any event, I am clearly of two minds in these two weeks leading up to Boston. Mind One says I have turned a corner, I’ve broken out of the depths of my post-surgical, post-clot training funk and am in fact ready to turn in a respectable, though certainly not exceptional, performance come Patriot’s Day. Mind Two keeps finding things that are hurting, breaking, failing. You could call this a simple confidence problem, but with Boston number eight and marathon number twenty on the horizon for ten days hence, I've done enough of these that I’m pretty much past worrying about this stuff. Yes, there is a small bit of pressure about re-qualifying, but given Boston’s dismaying changes this year, failure on that count wouldn’t be the end of the world. No, these two minds are based on real crossed signals.

In short, I have no idea what to expect come two Mondays from now. That’s kind of a weird place for me, since I’m usually fairly aware of where I stand.

There’s no question my training has – at least until the last week or so – taken a turn for the better. Only six weeks ago my training partner The Real Deal (I’m going to have to talk to him about that name, it just doesn’t flow…) had to graciously hang back while I crashed and burned on our first twenty-miler. But we hit the streets again three weeks later for a recap with far better results. This time the roles were reversed – it was his turn to flame out at sixteen – but despite that pace interruption I still sliced off thirty seconds per mile, and he too notched a big improvement even on an off-day. Merely a week after, we synced up, neither on self-destruct this time, and knocked off another quarter-minute per mile over twenty four. He flashed his characteristic strength, dropping us to our fastest miles of the day at the twenty-mile mark, and while that wore heavily on me, at the end I knew I still had two more miles left in the tank that would have produced an easy re-qualifier.

Capping that, we hit the track a few days later for my traditional pre-marathon confidence workout, a full set of ten Yasso 800s. Planning to start slow, we went sub-three-minutes from the first iteration, and finished strong with our fastest of the night coming last. Sounds great, right?

But wait. I’ve run a mere fifteen miles in the last seven days. That’s not because of any planned taper. That’s because things hurt, and not just the usual things. Yes, the Achilles is omnipresent, with all of its weird permutations, pain above, pain below, pain on the inside, outside, flipside, sunny-side. But since when have I gone out for a run and actually stopped because of an inexplicably sore knee? That’s now persisted for two weeks? No, kiddies, this is not good.

Over the last month, I’ve been pulling out all the stops. On the advice of a friend, I even tried a couple of sessions with a chiropractor. I failed to see how twelve minutes, four of which involved cracking my back, was going to help my ankle all that much (and no, I don’t think those sessions are the cause of the knee issue), so I called that quits quick. I’ve been icing bits like mad – with some positive results, I must say – that nasty lump on the Achilles is smaller than ever. I’ve returned for a few more sessions with my Diabolical Physical Torturer, getting feet, ankles, yes, even the knee kneaded, scraped, zapped. I’ve jammed balls into my feet, wrapped tapes and straps around various parts, and upped the ante on the anti-inflammatories. And still, things hurt; most worrisome is the knee, which could stop me cold on Marathon Monday.

Hanging over all of this, of course, is the unknown of the lungs. An email exchange with Lady Doctor proved inconclusive (barring enduring a lot of tests, which I got the impression would prove interesting but inconclusive), so I can’t say whether residual pulmonary damage lies between me and Boylston Street, but I can certainly say there are plenty of days that I’m sucking wind. But to be fair, the pace that comes out of those wind-sucking sessions seems to be getting quicker.

So it’s obvious there’s a zero-point-zero-one percent chance of a repeat of last year’s lifetime best (non-zero, as gale-force tailwinds could occur). And despite my training partner’s confidence in me, the odds of hitting three hours rise only slightly to perhaps zero-point-five percent at best. But re-qualifying at my gnarly age requires only three and a half hours, less a comfortable margin for the cut-off in the current system. Chances of reaching that bar? Well, which mind do I listen to? After all, it seems, I have two.

One Last Dig: After the follow-on rant in my previous post about Boston’s new security rules, I agreed with both Dearest Spouse and several of my running compatriots to let it rest. It is what it is, and I will deal with it. Boston Scared. Boston Suspected. But I can’t resist one last dig. A couple of days ago the Boston Athletic Association published a set of frequently asked questions and did say that runners can bring a pair of shoes, but also disallowed putting them in a bag which might actually keep them dry. This was, of course, in direct contradiction to what they told me on the phone, but hey… Let’s just hope it isn’t raining hard.

But better yet, today they published this colorful chart of what you can and cannot bring to the Athlete’s Village. I give them points for cheerful selection of colors and pleasant layout, but let’s see… They list six items that are acceptable to bring to the race including – I can’t make this up – a yoga mat. By my count, five of these things have nothing to do with actually running a race. And conspicuously missing from the list? Shoes.

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