from mile to marathon

The journey of a thousand leagues begins from beneath your feet.

Monday, July 29, 2013

okay... I did a sprint triathlon.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

the swimming

That didn't go that well. I've been at it for seven weeks, and I cannot yet swim crawl. I mean I can, but only for a short while. Then I run our of energy, and - even before that - out of oxygen. I got to the point where I can coordinate the breathing with all the rest of it (somewhat), but the breathing is shallow and doesn't take me very far. It is my understanding other people get this much faster. Someone at the YMCA told me I am trying too hard. Really? I am confused; I thought I wasn't trying hard enough.

Anyhow, I am working on it. The triathlon in the meantime is tomorrow. I have done breaststroke for a mile, so I am pretty confident I won't drown in the middle of the lake. That's double the race distance, but I know it's still easier than dealing with the reality of the lake - the other swimmers, the swap of the water, the cold temperature. Yeah, it's going to be cold. The email regarding packet pick-up said "bring your wetsuits," but I got that yesterday. I never swam in a wetsuit before, and I had not planned on buying one, money-wise, and it's too late to try it out anyhow. I wish the website would have said something about that before. I guess everyone else knows about it. I guess everyone has wetsuits, and they just throw them in their bag tomorrow. Right?

Oh, and there's more. There's a cut-off time. Now the website mentioned something about that ("bike course closed"), and I asked what that means and didn't get a real answer. So I asked again and was told "don't worry about that, worry about your race." Hmmmm... If you you think I found this condescending, you are right. Only to find out at packet pick-up that there IS a cut-off time. So I have to worry about it.

Because I will be slow. Between the breaststroke, and whatever pace I can produce on the bike, and the fumbling in transition areas, I will be slow. I think can make it in the cut-off time - maybe. I am prepared to be the last one in this race. I will be happy to be the last one - that means finishing.

Friday, July 26, 2013

going around in circles

I was thinking I could never run Boston, since the qualifying time is way below my personal best. But I could run... more. So I set my eyes vaguely on a 50-miler sometime in fall.

With this in mind I also started running regularly, more than I had before, four times a week at least. This might sound normal or even modest, but it's more than I ever did without being signed up for something a month or two ahead. More than 20 miles a week, week after week. To me, this is solid mileage.

After a month or so of this I started thinking about a triathlon. A mini triathlon. The 5K I can handle, right? Then I cross-train with my bike from time to time, a leisurely ride here and there, I could make it more consistent and put the biking and running together. Two out of three. I only need to add the swimming.

Now, the swimming is a bit tricky. I can do breaststroke, learned it as a child, and I am comfortable in the water. So I need to learn crawl and practice endurance for a half a mile. There, that's a sprint triathlon.

I found one, an hour away from my house, at the end of July.

That was, approximately, my train of thought. I biked more and in June I started going to the pool at an YMCA. I didn't give up on my weekly mileage though. I thought about it but thinking just increased it a bit instead of taking it down. The 50-miler in fall is still at the back of my mind.

A couple of weeks ago, out of nowhere, another crazy thought crossed my mind - what if I would work very hard, in ways I don't even know, and try to qualify for Boston?

It's just a thought.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

boston on marathon monday

The morning was bright and bubbly as champagne. We had tickets to the Red Sox game, one last treat before we would fly out of Logan International Airport in the afternoon. Fenway Park is within one mile of the marathon finish line - between the game and the race, thousands of people filled the streets. Not wanting to scramble for a parking space in an unfamiliar city with closed roads on the busiest day of the year, we left the car a few miles north in the parking lot of a subway station and arrived downtown by train, early and hungry and elated.

We had the best breakfast in a busy restaurant two blocks from the game park. It was 8 in the morning and people were having cocktails. People were everywhere, loquacious and animated. The sun was brilliant, the mood effervescent, and we were very happy.

We didn't stay for the whole game. We had a flight to catch. We had the car to retrieve and a gun in our luggage, which means get there early, get there early, to have time to deal with any complications, even if it's just an air gun. So we left before the game was over, but of course we first walked toward the finish line. This is what you do when you run marathons and you are in Boston on Marathon Monday - you don't even think about it. It is the Boston marathon and you are there. You watch them coming in, running like gazelles.

The bombing happened while we were on the way to the airport. The subway was closed after we got to our car. I heard flights were grounded too, but I am not sure - ours took off.

I have read somewhere that if you ever lose faith in the human race you should go to the finish line of a marathon and watch the people who are standing there for hours, come rain or come shine, without water, without shelter, without bathrooms, to cheer on strangers.

These are the people who got hurt that day.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

garden spot village marathon

The course went through Amish country, but it started (and ended) in a retirement community in New Holland, PA, with people happy to volunteer and cars parked all over the place. The April morning was chilly, a band was playing, and that particular frisson of excitement at the start of every marathon race seemed, at least for a moment, stronger than usual.

Training for this race hadn't come easy but I was happy to start running. It took a long, long time to warm up. The course wasn't closed, and we had been told to be careful about horse-drawn buggies on the road to a horse auction in the early morning. Even so, traffic was on the pleasant side. Yet indeed we had to be careful - the Amish, when they come in their agile buggies, don't slow down when they see you, don't budge from a rigid straight line, so if the road is narrow and you want to stay in one piece you better jump to the side. They were impatient for business, of course, but mostly I think it happened because we were on their territory. I thought it was kind of funny. Some runners got annoyed - we are used, after all, to closed avenues and cheering crowds in major cities.

The Amish country was hilly, vast, quiet, glittering in the sun, and very clean. Everything in Amish country is clean.

We had Amish runners too, most of them dressed in their customary black pants and white shirts, and wearing tennis shoes - reminding us that our fixation on dry-fit and Asics is optional.

I have only vague recollections of the 15-20 miles between the beginning and the end - I lost a glove somewhere, I took a wrong turn once, I was so happy to see my boyfriend at one of the aid stations I took a few dance steps, and once I raised my head just in time to see the house number on a country road, which happened to be my bib number and gave me a little jolt of satisfaction, the incongruous feeling of being in the right place at the right time.

On the way back we passed the horse stables again - as far as I could figure out, the auction was still taking place. This surprised me. I didn't really time myself, but I knew I was slow. Tired, too.

Nevertheless, in the last 2-3 miles of the race I went into a mode that can be best described as cruise control - I just fell into this sustained, steady pace, and didn't feel like changing it, so I didn't. I didn't slow down at all, and I didn't sprint at the finish either, I was coming in strong enough anyhow.

That was neat.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013


The April race took place in Amish country and was an afterthought. That is, I didn't intend to fly across the continent to run a marathon. It just worked out that way.

First and foremost, there was a place in Rhode Island where I wanted to go for a long time, but I didn't plan for it because it would take lots of time and money to get there. I also wanted to see Leonard Cohen in concert. I noticed on his tour schedule that he had two April concerts in New York, and thought that Rhode Island is just a few hours drive up the coast. Then I figured out there was a shooting match in Bedford, MA, in the same time frame. For good measure, I looked around a bit more and found the Amish marathon within driving distance.

So here was the plan: we would fly into Philadelphia; I would run a marathon next day, we would be at the Leonard Cohen concert the evening after that, spend a few days in Manhattan, drive up to Rhode Island, make our way to Massachusetts in time for the shooting match, and finally fly out of Boston on Monday, April 15.

I didn't realize until weeks later that was the day of the Boston marathon.