Friday, October 12, 2007

Silver Linings

I had kind of written off portland in my marathon musings, but was utterly delighted to find out today that two of my running buddies managed to actually WIN their Clydesdale and Bonnydale divisions. Kevin, with a 3:20:10 at 192 pounds, won the Clydesdale category outright.

Me, I sauntered in over the finish line in seventh spot in my weight division, and the next three in front of me were within minutes of my time. A pleasant surprise and a nice little silver lining to an otherwise disappointing day.

I probably got a little carried away this summer with the Stormy Ultra Trail Run 80K Race in August.

Now I have to think long and hard about how quickly I can recover to do another hard marathon. December may be pushing it for an old coot like me!

But I am so happy for Kevin - a Boston Qualifier AND King of the Clydesdales! And Simone is one sweet Bonnydale.

Always wonderful to see your friends succeed. Lots of other friends had new Personal Bests, and it was the general concensus that the trip itself to portland was simply wonderful.

Great people and good times.

And isn't that what this lifestyle marathoning is really supposed to be all about?

On another note - I finally switched over to the world of Apples and iMacs and i-everythings and Stve Jobs is a God, or something like that.

Love downloading music and organizing my writing and my photography - but man! This is going to take me a year to learn how to get it right!!!!

Hope everyone is having a great running wek and a fabulous marathon Autumn!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Marathons - The Times of Our Lives

Honestly, I had the time of my life while in Portland, Oregon over the past weekend to run the Portland Marathon. I was with a group of nine people, men and women, that often swelled to include others, and we hung out for three days together. That in itself is amazing when considering that we were bunked three to a room. It was a little like that time at Band Camp.... Exploring the city, shopping, doing the Expo, riding the amazing Portland Tram Line, eating together - the food was uniformly excellent - and even hot-tubbing it and having our very own pool party.

We shopped - the Apple Store became our home away from home - and we offered up a prayer of thanks for George W. Bush for allowing the US dollar to have the crap kicked out of it.

As for my Marathon - #23 - it was and is difficult to describe. I began suffering the signs that portend the onset of an asthma attack within the first three miles, which has been an issue for a few months now. So far this year I have had to drop out of a couple of tempo runs completely. My heart rate hit 171 and I knew that was not something I could hold for three and a half hours. So I slowed and walked and then allowed myself to come to a complete stop for about a minute. In all honesty, I was as concerned about panicking as I was about having an asthma attack.

I made a decision to fall off the pace a little and abandon the plan for a new personal best in Portland. There was not going the be a 3:24 or a 3:25. My fall back position was re-qualifying for the Boston Marathon. I needed another 3:30:59.

Even with a full minute or more of stopping, and with the walking, my 10K split was a still manageable 50:33. I picked up the pace but my breathing would not , or more accurately, could not, return to normal - I had taken all my asthma medication two hours before the run and did not have my inhalor with me. My heart rate was elevated from what should have been 158-160 to the mid 160's and higher. At eight miles I started to gag a little and couldn't draw a full breath. I willed myself to keep my heart rate in the mid-160's which was still too high but I thought I could manage that level without throwing myself into oxygen debt. I seriously thought about dropping out at this stage. After all, it's just a marathon and there is always another one.

At the half way point, my (new - thanks to Alex) Polar RS 800 showed that I had turned the corner at 1:48:29. My pace band of course pointed out to me that I needed to be at 1:44:07. So, after thirteen miles I was just over four minutes behind. And I had nothing more to give, nowhere to turn to for more physical reserves, more mental toughness, more resolve, no bright ideas. My legs, while not cramping, were absolutely flat. Just dead with no bounce or rebound. There would be no riveting second half dash, no scintillating negative split. In short, I was faced with nothing but failure after ten months of training, hundreds of hours of sweat, thousands of miles of painful effort. All come to nought. My race, for all intents and purposes, was over.

So at the halfway point in the Portland Marathon I quit. I pulled the plug and stopped racing. I would be lying if I didn't say it hurt like Hell. Felt like not only had my lungs had collapsed, but my heart and my resolve as well. I left a little of my soul on the side of the road in Portland.

I seriously wanted to withdraw from the race, but wondered what kind of message that would send to all the people who I try and teach that finishing a marathon is your first goal and that your finishing time is secondary. Funnily enough, one of the shirts I had purchased at the Portland Marathon Expo helped put me in a fighting frame of mind, the technical shirt that said, "Quitting is not an option".

So I thought of this marathon as a learning experience in a long line of marathon learning experiences. You have good races, best races, and races that don't quite measure up for a variety of reasons. Some things are out of your control. Part of life is learning to accept that with a certain amount of maturity and equanimity - and hopefully, with time, a certain measure of dignity and grace.

I thought of all the first time marathoners, and the large crowds of supportive spectators and the thousands of volunteers - all who had come out to cheer on people just like me and I tried my damndest to stop feeling sorry for myself. So I kept running. Smiled and thanked the volunteers. High-fived some kids.

As I soldiered on, as best I could, the 3:40 pace group passed me, then the 3:45 pace group and with about a mile to go, the 3:50 group. I would be lying if I said I didn't speed up a little each time at the sight of the balloons passing me by, but in less than a minute each time, the sensible part of my brain weighed in and I fell back into my lope.

I finished Portland in 3:50:50. There was no sprint for the finish line. But also, no cramps.

The trip to Portland was one of the best I have ever had. Anywhere, any time. The group of people I traveled and roomed with, some of the best I've ever had the pleasure of spending time with.

I still haven't figured out how I am getting back to Boston next year....

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pre-Marathon Race Day Nerves, Jitters and Butterflies

Oh, the joy! The bliss! Damn the taper! I want this marathon to be over already!

I am a bundle of nerves, edgy, jumpy and feeling like I want to crawl out of my skin. For some reason this particular taper before the Portland Marathon is even more difficult to deal with. You'd think that by the time you've done a couple of dozen of these that they would get easier. They don't seem to be for me.

With all that's been going on in my life, the Portland Marathon has crept up to me on little cat's feet. Or mountain lion's feet. I have a feeling I am about to get pounced on.

I have no idea how I will do. I am not as fast as I have been in the past, but of course the question is - am I fast enough?

I know I am strong. On any given day of the week, I could reel off fifty miles if I had to do something that outlandish. But fast? Hmmmnnnnn...

Well, children, we will certainly know in a few days.

Had a lovely meal with the marathon clinic last night, chicken with pasta. Had a fabulous bottle of wine with Patrick, an impudent little Barolo - actually make that two!

And once the wine was flowing I made bottle bets with Darren, Kevin, Claire, and Linda to add to my usual bet with Seymour, a marathon eve tradition going back five years and at least ten amarathons!

Was a strange mixture of socialiabilty - is there such a thing? - and my need to back myself into a corner.

On the road again, like a band of Gypsies we go down the Highway, it's I-5...

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Pondering the Great Imponderables

Woke this morning to the sound of thunder, how far off I lay and wondered...

Apologies to Bob Seger. Bob Seger? Fuck I'm getting old.

This is the longest stretch I have gone between Blogs, and certainly the longest I have gone without writing when I have had so much to say. I have copious notes for a full half dozen Blogs. Have had everything but time.

Last Blog was September 13. My father arrived in town and had a pacemaker-defibrillator installed the next day. Via surgery of course. My life went a little sideways after that.

The original surgery had been delayed and then cancelled at the last moment. Having made the comittment to be the designated driver - a point of endless contention with His Majesty the Old King - I couldn't really back out and there was no one to take my place.

Long story short, there were complications, last minute visits to the doctor (plural), blood tests, late night phone calls and midnight visits to the Emergency Room and another extended stay in the hospital.

Enter ten days of daily visits to aforementioned hospital, couple of hours at a pop, daily walking of a decepit old Lab named Sarah, conveniently located an hour away, another couple of hours per day, the cancelling or postponing of several jobs on deadline and you have a tiny little window into the latter half of my September.

Oh Joy! Oh Bliss!

Old as I am, my old man is older. And a lot less comitted to something resembling healthy living. Hard to watch a man only twenty years my senior waste away into increasingly fragile frailty. He sways in the breeze like a shoal of cat-tail reeds around a duck pond. Refuses to impose any lifestyle limits on himself. Insists on doing whatever he wants. Oh yeah, I get to drive and do all the bits he can't. This is apparently called "do me a favor".

How do you tackle the last chapter of your life with grace and dignity and manage to hold onto your sense of self, never mind your self-respect? How much do you fight, and how much do you compromise and when do you just have to settle and accept the cards you are dealt, no matter how badly you may have played them? And when do you finally admit to yourself that in life there are no do-overs, no mulligans, no more chances to fudge the facts. It just is what it is. Life that is. Everybodies time runs out. End of story. Get over yourself.

And in between this daily drama, I ran long runs of 40K, 23K and 16K as I wound down in my taper before the Portland Marathon. Portland Marathon, you say? Yes, the Portland Marathon, a race I no longer have much interest in running, not much desire and hunger for, nor much confidence I can do well in...

I am clinging to my 8K and 10K times in the past six weeks and my performance in the Yasso 800's, which I reeled off in sub-3:20's, usually just a day after a very hard tempo run.

I have seen a lot of things in the past few weeks that I don't understand.

Why would you keep drinking when you are suffering from liver failure? Or kidney failure? I don't understand...

Why would you stop and answer your cell phone in the middle of an intersection while the light is changing? Or thumb a text message? Saw both. Can't say I can understand that...

Why would you drive through a Pedestrian Crossing when said Crossing is filled with people? And then scream at said people? I don't understand...

Or cross over three lanes of traffic to make a turn while chatting with what is apparently your closest friend on your cell phone, or maybe it's a really hot date, and then funnily enough, I guess I understand that a little, or at least my gonads do, but hey!, it's still a totally fucking stupid thing to do while you are driving in fucking rush hour traffic - gasp! I don't understand...

Why would you continue to train hard when your body is in pain and you can hardly walk, let alone run and yet you still think this is normal. I don't understand...

Why would you wear so much cologne that people around you actually gag? Why would you douse yourself in cologne before going for a run in the first place? I don't understand...

Why would I walk over a pile of lumber after weeks of walking around it? I understand the nail in the bottom of my foot - truly I do - puncturing my shoe AND my big toe - but I don't really understand how I did that...

I paid hundreds and hundreds of dollars for my Polar 800 a mere six months ago and now it doesn't work a week before the Portland Marathon and I can't get my phone calls returned by the local Polar Rep (bitch!), or get any satisfaction from the Polar Technical help line, or actually get any real Warranty help at all in Vancouver - I am supposed to send my fucking piece of shit Polar watch all the way to fucking Montreal - Gasp! for breath - @#*%! - and this is a company that is supposedly dedicated to something they call Customer Service? This I really don't understand...

Thank GOD for Alex. The Prince.

And just when I was going to add, Why do I even run marathons? I don't understand..., it came to me that I run marathons because it is probably the only thing in my life that I do understand, even if I can't articulate it and that running allows me to cling to some semblance of sanity in an insane world. That I understand. The rest? It's a crazy world out there.