Monday, April 25, 2011

I came, I saw, I conquered. Or Boston 2011.

Hoo-ah!  This is going to be long one because people - what a ride!  I've been home 3 days, jet lag has hit us like a sledge hammer (nobody's asleep until midnight and getting everyone up in the morning is impossible, even when there are chocolate eggs hidden in the garden..) Laundry, various domestic problems (no water, no hot water, no internet - we've fixed everything but the first thing) - it's so easy to slip back into it all.

But I'm resisting that - because I'm going to bring you - blow by blow - my Boston marathon experience. Yup - sit back and pop a cold one, because this is, finally, it.

As you know, we all flew to Orlando for 10 days before Boston.  This worked out great - apart from the fact that the kids enjoyed it enormously, I got some hot-weather training in, and we were all relaxing together it also gave me an opportunity for the first blogger meet-up of this trip - I got to meet someone who I have been wanting to meet for years - Shirley-Perly!
Sorry for the poor quality - we should have made more of an effort to get our cameras right!
Shirley and I managed to overlap in Orlando for about 36 hours so I can't tell you how grateful I was that she made the effort to drive across town to come and pick me up from my hotel, take me to the Track Shack where she occasionally helps out, help me pick my tri-gear (yes!) and take me back again.  We talked the whole way - like the old friends we are.  Shirley has always been inspiring to me - not only because she has achieved so much (50 states marathoner?  Multiple IronMan?) but even more because her attitude has always been one of encouragement, support and a deep desire to get everyone on board with the fun and enjoyment of this exercise and endurance lifestyle. She did a great job on selling living in Kona to me - the least I can do is go and check it out sometime soon...

On Friday April 15th we headed north to Boston - after last year, our arrival in Boston was completely uneventful.  But there was no mistaking just how excited Boston was about its marathon - this is our hotel, the incomparable Lenox Hotel.    Not only was the place festooned with marathon posters, the staff were also incredible - helpful, kind, attentive.  Situated about 50 yards from the finish line, we could not have picked a better place. 

So straight off, we all headed down the road (5 minutes) to the expo.  Bad photo but you get the idea.  Big moment.  Even bigger moment when I realised 5 minutes later I had lost my race number.  Hrrmmm.  Had put it down while picking up the 5K race bibs, and the people there very kindly hung onto the numbers for me, knowing full well I'd come speeding, pale and sweaty, into there very shortly.  I then sent off Adam and Felix - the 8 year old - and the 10 year old and I had a wonderful time browsing the expo, buying an alarming amount of booty before heading back to the hotel. 
The kids and I on this momentous moment.
some support from Sophia
View of the finish from a bus in front of our hotel.
The days before the marathon went by in a blur - Saturday morning the lovely Greg came miles in to meet us, walk with us to REI to buy some coats and fleeces (it was COLD!) and cope with the bickering and taunting and general mayhem that is traveling with kids. 
Then in the afternoon I went off to meet lovely Emily, who was not running but staying with her sister near Heartbreak Hill and patiently walked with me up and down the worst bits...  And took this photo!
see what I mean about Bostonians taking the city to heart?
We then took the T back into town to the Marriott to meet with various bloggers there, including Aron and many many others.
Like, even, including, her of the abz - EMZ! I also - yes! - met her PITA and Peanut who are both absolutely lovely and SO proud of this wonderful woman.
The angle does not show how tall and slim this lady is.  Or gorgeous.  And she's hiding her buckle. 
Sunday was the 5K -we woke up at 7:55 (race started at 8am) but once again, our hotel location meant we made it before the gun went off!  We ran it at a leisurely pace - the 8 year old has a LOT to talk about when he's running - but the crowd and other runner support was wonderful and it set us up for a great brunch afterwards at Stephanie's, where we could watch the runners in the local race and Invitational Mile go by.  Before I knew it, it was time to hand over both children to my husband and check into my private hotel room, to chill out before the race.  The hotel supplied both below and I settled in for a bath, some TV watching, a long and lovely phonecall with Lizzie Lee in Seattle.  Pasta meal in the hotel and then bed.  And, thankfully, I slept, all night, until my wake-up call at 5am.

With all my gear laid out the night before, it didn't take me long to get dressed and down to the hotel lobby where they'd laid out a free runner's breakfast (did I mention how GOOD this hotel is?) which I packed up to take with me to eat on the bus.  And somehow did NOT have with me when I walked out of the hotel door.  Oh well. The buses were about a 5 minute walk away, but the line!  The line!  By the time I had got myself another bagel the lines were enormous.  I started queueing and immediately started talking to the lovely girl below - Allison.  She was on her own as well and so we hung around together while we were moved from line to line.  I was amazed we were on a bus by 7:30 as the lines were so horrendously long.  The bus ride was long and uneventful while Allison and I overshared our lives and running stories.  By the time we reached the athlete's village (does that sound professional or what, by the way?  A very glammed up term for a field with portapotties..) we were firm friends.  And so I managed to convince her to join me to try to find Steve Runner and Chris Russell - the former was located very quickly after some intervention from the announcer on the soundstage, the latter was, unfortunately, in a portapotty line. 
Allison and I on the bus to Hopkinton

Steve Runner!  I would not have KNOWN about Boston had it not been for him. 

In all seriousness, meeting Steve really was a big deal to me - especially at the starting line of the Boston marathon.  He, more than anyone else, imbued me with the mystique of the Boston marathon.  It was incredible to meet him and I was so thrilled that he had decided, on the 16th of April, to run Boston after all..

Finally - the race.  The race.  What can I say?  I did what I said I would do.  I went balls to the wall.  Pretty early on I realised that my Garmin was measuring the miles slightly short and so I went by my pace wrist band and aimed for 8:15 min/miles on my Garmin to get to my 8:20 min/miles on the course.  The beginning of the course is downhill and rolling - and I pegged it.  I reached the halfway point at 1:49, exactly where I needed to be for a 3:40 marathon.  But - here is the but.  I could tell the pace was costing me.  Even on this, the first (and easier) half of the race, the pace was hard.  By mile 14, the cramps in my legs started.  I've never cramped this early and I could feel that I would soon have to slow down, or stop.  While I'd used all sorts of mental strategies to get through the first 14 miles, it now was very clear to me that my choices were to either slow down, or risk a DNF.  And I was not risking a DNF.  I suddenly had this insight that I was not going to ruin this amazing experience of running this amazing race by walking half of it, or sitting in a medical tent, or crying for the last 10 miles.  I decided to slow down, and soak up the love.  Which I did.  At mile 18.8 I got some very personal love from Emily who was waiting for me and who cried along with me (I was hurting here) and ran up Heartbreak with me for a while.  And then, at mile 21, a banner told me "the Heartbreak is behind you" and I relaxed and enjoyed.  More than any race before, I loved this race.  The people were incredible, I felt like a rock star with everyone calling out my name, I was running as fast as I could given where I was and how I was feeling, the sun was shining - all was good with the world.  And when I crossed that finish line - in 3:47:02 - I did cry.  With happiness.  What a wonderful, wonderful day!
Could I look any happier? 
There is stuff to reflect on, stuff to build on, so much to work with.  But right now I have to say a HUGE thank you to all of you, my friends out there in the blogging community, my friends at home in the UK and the Netherlands, my wonderful family and all of you who cheered me on - not only for this race but for the whole long road that led to it.  I felt I owed it to you all to get EVERYTHING out of myself and this race - and I did.  I truly left it all out there this time - and there was no death walk (like London) or time in the medical tent (like Berlin). On a course that is much tougher than either London or Berlin, I achieved my second fastest time ever and I crossed the finish line strong, but spent.  I soaked up every cheer, every high 5, every single well-wish and thoughful email you all sent me.  I thought of everyone during the race - I felt surrounded by a wave of love and support.  Thank you - you are - all of you - incredible. 
So - I'm signing off this LONG race report - have a Von Trapp family ale on me!

Sunday, April 03, 2011

On setting goals - Mann macht und Gott lacht?

Ok.  Deep breath, here goes.  Setting goals.  For Boston, and onwards.

On this morning's 8 miler I was trying to figure out what I find so hard about setting goals, and why I find it so hard.  And the truth of the matter is not that I find it hard to set goals.  I know what I want to achieve.  But I'm afraid I might not achieve them.  And that's why I don't like to tell people.  Like I can just have my secret goal, play it cool, and then do a great big fistpump if I do achieve it.  And don't have to deal with it in public if I don't.  Instinctively, I feel like the kid in the playground - if I put it out there what I want to do and fail to achieve that, will you think less of me?  Oh, I know that is cr*p but still - I think that's what lies underneath my fear of outlining what I really want.

But then all the self-help / motivational / inspirational / St. Oprah philosophy that I somewhat shamefacedly have started to get into says that you have to put your goal out there, to be accountable, to make it real.  Building in all sorts of caveats is a way of detouring from your goal.  Keep it simple - focus.

So, my goal for Boston.  I've played around with different kinds of goals - time goals, experience goals, effort goals.  My coach has never messed around.  Right when we started, early in December, and I ran my rough and ready first 2 miles on the treadmill, she told me what my goal was.  A 3:40 finish.  Yup.  That was scary, which is why I haven't put it out there any earlier.  That would be a 5 minute and 47 second PR on a harder course.  Hard.  All through the months of December, January, February and March, this goal seemed to dance in front of my eyes.  Really? Me?  She thinks I can do this?  Only last night I was driving myself nuts, comparing my training notes from this training cycle to my (entirely different) training cycles for London and Berlin, and worrying that I was not as fast as I was then. 

But today I got to thinking.  Despite the fact that I BQ'ed in Berlin (and faced some pretty big DNF demons along the course) my best race ever was London. Why?  Because - shortly before the start - someone I had just met told me not to be coy about it - to go out hard and hammer it as best I could.  I had not trained all this time, he told me, to just be conservative.  Be smart, by all means, but leave it all out there.  And just like that, I let go of my old racing strategy (which had always been to start slowly and see if I could pick it up, which I rarely did) and I hammered it.  And well, I did hammer it, right up until mile 25 when it hammered me.  But that was fine.  I was always fine with my time, and my missed BQ.  I had left it out there, there was nothing more I could have done.  I had focus, I committed to my goal and I went for it.

So, my friends - I'm out there and I'm doing it.  I'm going for a 3:40.  I have a race strategy - thank you Coach! - and a plan.  But more than that, I have an attitude.  There are things I can't control about the race - weather, illness, injury, whatever.  But I can control how I'm going to go in.  And I'm going into this balls against the wall, my friends.  All out.  I am giving my goal all I've got, all I've put in, all I've trained for.  2 weeks to go - bring it on!

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Lining up.

Yes it has been a while.  And no, I have not been hanging my head down low worrying about my 20M race.  Your comments were wonderful and helpful, and I moved on.  Instead, I have been "doing the rest of my life" and training on the side...  Not the priorities a pro would have but my profession IS the rest of my life and training is the icing on the cake.  Some days...

Life that have happened in the past 3 weeks:
- the remodel of our kitchen
The project has taken MONTHS but was completed 2 weeks ago.  It has taken a LOT of cleaning and dusting since, but we're loving it.  

- spent time with a much-loved friend from Holland who I had not seen in too long.  2 days of shopping, talking and drinking wine ensued.  Interspersed with a NASTY twofer which included 3M at 7:32 min/mile.
The fuzziness was in the camera, not in my mind!   
- attended my daughter AND my son's school plays:
Sophia as "little Alice" in Alice in Wonderland (sadly, there were no good photos of Felix's play) 

- moved into my new study and unpacked all the books which have been boxed for nearly 2 years!

But do not fret.  In the middle of the various domestic crises (today's crisis is the discovery of moths eating our carpets, we've already overcome the weekend where we had no electricity and the main drain was blocked) I have kept my eyes on the prize.  This one:

I have been training, hard.  And I have been planning.  Boston is coming close.  Packing up and organising a family of 4 to travel for 16 days is not for the faint of heart, let me tell you.  But having a goal focuses the mind.  Now - to be fair - my children's goals lie firmly in Orlando.  10 days of theme parks.  (Tips on healthy, wholesome restaurants would be VERY gratefully received).  But on Friday April 15th our gang travels from Orlando to Boston and then the focus will be on the marathon.  I am looking forward to meeting people, going to the expo, and - of course - the race.

Of which more shortly.  I am pondering a post on goal-setting, but I'm scared to do it.  Scared to put myself out there.  Give me another day or so.  I will be back.