There’s something about a boy and his bike. Or maybe there’s just something about my boy and his bike, the mechanism by which he said–loud–”I can do this” and then he did and now he can so off he goes.
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Happy Day After Day After Mothers Day! I love Mothers Day because it feels like a Birth Day Birthday, which is fun to say, and I can say things to Henry like, “It is Mothers Day and so there will be no references to butts.” And he actually complies. I get to eat pancakes for lunch and pocket “coupons” for services such as “laundry“– from a boy who doesn’t know where the washing machine is.
Last week: dead fish. This week: black bear.
Next week: stegosaurus?
This weekend a fish fell from the sky into my backyard. A 10-inch pike, to be specific. That’s not what I’m going to write about; it just seemed too significant to leave unmentioned. It arrived Saturday, lying in the grass with a bloody wound on its underside. By Sunday it was gone, either to fight the windmills or fill the stomach of a raccoon. I felt momentarily sorry for the bird that dropped it, having carried its dinner so far only to lose it.
Then I came to my senses and felt bad for the fish, dead for nothing but a scavenger. The animal kingdom is a vicious place.
But that’s the opposite of the topic at hand, which is as the title says: every single beautiful thing.
I decided on Sunday to defer Big Sur to 2014. Everything is too raw to put myself into another marathon, one that is essentially meant to be the sequel to Boston. When it comes to Boston 2013, there is the race and there is the event, and the event can do nothing other than to serve as the corpus collosum between Boston and Big Sur.
Thank you to everyone who has sent messages of care and concern. Boston 2013 is a day of mixed emotion for me. One of the most special moments of my life will be running the final quarter mile down Boylston Street with my son, tears filling my eyes to share such an amazing experience with him. One of the most terrifying moments of my life will be standing with my son and seeing a bomb explode 200 yards away, the loud and stunning pop followed by smoke.
No mother should ever have to lie to her frightened son: “I’m sure it wasn’t a bomb, love. I’m sure everything is fine.” But I similarly feel profoundly lucky to have had my child by my side, safe under a foil heat sheet in my arms, as more importantly, no mother should ever have to lose her child.
After yesterday, I am grateful, sad, relieved, and likewise filled with maternal warmth to have shared that marathon so closely with my son. My heart aches for those who were maimed or killed and for their families.
Following the blast, I hurried Henry away from the Finish area as sirens screamed down the streets we walked. I reassured him the entire way that everything was totally fine. After we found our people, before anyone really knew what happened, Henry and I took a picture, with confused and slightly forced smiles, which I think captures our marathon.
Peace and love.
As a mere weekend stands between the Boston runner and the road, a lot of us kvetch about the final days of The Taper, bemoaning the low mileage, the inability to run as long as we’d like. Personally, I have no problems with the taper, and in fact, I pretty much love it, especially when I’m as casual about a marathon as I am about this one. The taper has given me weekend mornings with my kid and extra precious time to sleep during the week. I can make pancakes. I can be a diva, slowly sipping coffee and reading the Sunday paper.
Which is what I did last weekend, at least the diva part.
I’m ready for my last long run before Big Sur, and even though it’s quite a bit longer than I usually train for a marathon, I’m actually excited to do it. That’s because there will be water stops every mile so I don’t have to carry my own, and it’s going to be a group run, which always makes the LSD easier, even when you just have one other person to run with, and I’m going to have about 25,000. Plus, this long run will have upwards of a million spectators including a bunch of my friends, and everyone runs better when people cheer. I’m familiar with the route, and the forecast is good.
It’s a big, fat 26.2-mile training run, and despite the fact that my fitness seems to be in a long-term rest cycle, I’ve managed to shift my inner conflict about my run at Boston, and I’m looking forward to it.
The essence of my uncertainty about my fitness really stems from two photos.
In 2007, I started my first Boston Marathon and scarred my runner’s identity in a way that only others in the Marathon DNF Club can know. It was miserable, and I’ll probably always carry that DNF like an albatross through every marathon I start.
In 2008, I trained as conservatively as I possibly could, running 4 days/week and never exceeding a weekly max of 45 miles. When I toed the starting line, I was so happy to be unbroken that I savored the entire race, which was casual and untimed, as far as I was concerned. This is what I looked like at mile 16:
I was stupid with joy. It may be the last time I smiled that broadly during a race, definitely the only time I’ve smiled like a delirious fool at mile 16. I was running in front of Newton Wellesley hospital, where I’d ended up under an xray in 2007, and my parents, husband, and son were there to cheer for me. Clearly, I was totally blasé to actually see my people amid the throngs. My dad took that picture.
I ran a 4:01 and didn’t care at all that I missed the 4-hour mark by a minute.
Fast forward a few years, and this was my run in 2011 at Boston. My parents, husband, and son were there to cheer for me, again, and I was equally excited by the idea of seeing them on the course. This was me racing in 2011:
That’s as close to a smile as I would go in 2011. My dad took that photo, too. I was happy to be there, but I was racing, a different runner from the giddy girl of 2008. In the three years since ’08, I’d trained like a dog to qualify for Boston and become much more businesslike about the whole enterprise of running, my dumb pink socks aside.
I ran a 3:45 and was pissed as hell that I didn’t go sub-3:40.
And so now we are here, 2013, running a Boston for which I also qualified, yet trained in way more like I was in ’08, thanks to injury and other stuff that gets in the way of seriously dedicated training.
I feel like I have a racer’s mind and a recreational body–a 2011 brain inside 2008 flesh.
We sometimes refer to a person with a false sense of security, though I don’t think this is a problem I’ve ever had myself. The problem I usually face is a false sense of insecurity, and I know I’m not the only woman who battles this mindset.
In my mind, I’m not fit enough for a strong Boston, despite my good-enough training, because I didn’t run 60 miles/week, never ran more than 4 days/week, and didn’t do a single mid-week run in the double digits. The thing is, I didn’t do any of those things in 2008 and it’s clear how amazing my race felt.
The reality is that I am in good shape for my long run at Boston, and my insecurity about it is falsely situated in the race-mind I’ve developed over years of hard training. This fallacy has been my revelation in the past few days, and it’s strengthened me. It’s true that knowing yourself better can transform more than just your perspective; it changes how you are in the world. Self-awareness matters far more than we usually give it credit for, in endurance sports and beyond.
Next Monday, I might not express the uninhibited joy I had in 2008, but because I know my runner’s mind more clearly, I will run far with a love of the marathon and what my body can do.
Good luck to my runners who are headed to Boston: Kelly, Dan, and Kara. Knowing how hard you’ve trained, I cannot wait to see what you can do. Tear it up.
It should be a good sign for any marathon if your primary problem is how pale and pasty you’ll look in race photos. My long runs have been going fairly well, which is to say I’ve had only a little bit of knee-hip-foot pain. I know that isn’t ideal, but it’s the state of things, and I’m focusing on my white zombie legs instead of the pain inside them. My last 20 and 16 milers went at a good clip for my current weekly mileage and fitness, but I was pretty well spent at the end of them, so God knows what the last 10k of Boston might bring. Hopefully not a death march to Boylston.
It might sound like sandbagging (and so be it), but I’m running Boston so that I can run Big Sur, which was sold out when I went to register. So I had to sign up for Boston to Big Sur in order to run the race I really wanted to run. That means I can’t get all racy racy at Boston, particularly because my weekly mileage has capped at 41, a good 20 miles/week lower than my usual marathon training.
Because I’m a girl who’s always looking forward, always needing a goal, that also means I have to find a good goal for Boston or I will get racy racy and then crash like a trainwreck. It doesn’t help that my gentleman friend is going to pass me even though he’s starting 20 minutes behind me. I’ll be looking in my invisible rear view mirror until the inevitable zoom-by, likely to occur in a most demoralizing fashion at the start of the Newton hills.
‘Sall good. Because I have a new goal that’s right for the B2BS situation: run Boston as slowly as possible, without a positive split. The point is that I can’t run it super damn slow just because I have to walk the last 5 miles after running the first 21 stupidly fast. The point is to run a reasonably slow race to save my legs, but cover Boston’s crazy inverted normal curve with a negative split. Good goal, non?
I have no ambitions for my finish time (at least that’s my story), but I want to run the first half at 9:00s, which is a pretty difficult goal on a downhill. I think that’s the only way I’ll have a shot at my negative split.
All this goal nonsense aside, I’m trying to orient the run toward the idea of an experience instead of a race. I’m trying to see it as my final training run for Big Sur, the main course in this whole absurd marathon binge. If this is all-you-can-eat running, I need Boston to be the cocktail, not the bread you fill up on.
Boston is a just a cocktail. Pin a BAA bib with a timing chip on a woman, put her in Hopkinton on Patriots Day, and that’s a very hard task to envision.
And that’s another reason why I’m choosing to think about the problem of the vision of my white pasty legs in the race photos. It’s such a simple little problem.
Happy first day of Spring. Ugh. It blizzarded yesterday, and here we are, completely snowed on March 20.
I am practicing my deep breathing, but the air is so cold, I sputter, find the couch, and go back to distractions like public radio, Popeapalooza, and the Modern Love column in the New York Times. I need Spring. The winterizing of my soul is getting old, and everything in life feels like two steps forward, one step back. Which I guess is better than one step forward, two steps back. That said, I don’t think that simple, humble forward progress is really asking all that much.
Obviously, the seasons are a good example, and they seem to set the stage for everything else that happens. Two weeks ago, I ran the slowest 22 miles of my life, which was horrendous and demoralizing, but it was winter, so I shrugged it off as a seasonally affected long run. That run was what it must feel like to run on legs suffering from a major depressive episode. But it was winter then.
Then we had a touch of Spring. I saw a crocus. My garden Buddha finally poked his head above the snow. Things were looking so good. It was a New Englandy sort of Spring, but it felt Springy nonetheless. One day, I wore a skirt without tights, the pores on my white, ashy legs taking big gulps of unconstricted air. Last weekend, I ran 20 miles at a pace that was a minute per mile faster than the 22-miler, on the Boston course, on an out-and-back through the Newton hills. It was St. Patrick’s Day. I wore green, the color of Spring to those of us who aren’t Irish (Irish Spring soap notwithstanding). Two steps forward. Happy, content, optimistic, even.
Yesterday, the sky dumped another too many inches of sleety, icy, nasty snow. And just like that: winter. Skin back under under fleece, and my spirit again hibernating beneath every defense mechanism I can find. Agonizing, slow 10k run on the mill yesterday, looking out a window onto snow banks higher than my child. Today, digging out and finding my soul back in protective mode to get me through Ides. One step back.
I have one more very long run planned for this weekend, 20-22 miles. I don’t know if it will be Winter or Spring, and that’s a weird, uncomfortable place to be. It’s like a bipolar disorder of climate. What’s a runner to do? Pack some Gu and run far far far–thinking of the good season, which will come again, as it always does.