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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ohhh Boston

I have never been registered for a marathon in which I received not one, but three emails urging me NOT to run.  I guess there is a first time for everything.  My first Boston Marathon, the first time it would be near 90 degrees on race day, the first time I received emails urging me to sit out the race, and the first time that the Boston Athletic Association was allowing, actually urging people to defer their Boston Marathon race experience until 2013.

A weather advisory email landed in my inbox Friday, Saturday and Sunday prior to the Marathon. The first  mentioning that if a cold front didn't come though we would be seeing temperatures in the low 80s.  The second urging those who were not "highly fit"or had only trained in a cooler climate to NOT run the race.  The third warned that this year's race would take place in the "red zone" acceptable only for high-level elite athletes. If a person decided to run the race, the B.A.A advised a much slower pace- adding a few minutes per mile to your time- and walking.  Warning signs of heat illness were highlighted: headache, dizziness, confusion, fatigue, nausea, vomiting. Anyone experiencing any of theses signs was told to stop immediately and see medical attention. The Boston Athletic Association was not taking any chances. Their words swirled in my brain
  •  you should adopt the attitude that THIS IS NOT A RACE. It is an experience.
..isn't it always an experience? I had already decided that I was NOT aiming to make any land speed records at this race- just cross the finish line.  Walking or crawling, I was going to get there.

The morning trek to Boston Commons to catch the bus was actually a bit chilly.  Hmm, maybe things would be cooler than anticipated.  The 45 minute drive to Hopkinton gave everyone plenty of time to discuss race plans, prior race experiences, eat some snacks, listen to music, zone out or even nap.  We departed the busses in still cool temperatures making our way down to runner's village where we would wait.

As we waited, the temperatures slowly crept higher.  The warmth felt good, but I knew that standing in the sun would only raise my core temperature and make it more of a challenge to stay 'cool' during the race.  We headed to the shade. What I had anticipated to be a long wait at runner's village went faster than I could imagine.  No sooner were we in the shade when it was time to begin the journey to the start line.  The 3/4 mile walk was topped off with a bit of a run to the starting coral. Standing in the coral, I could feel the energy around me. We were all ready to go, regardless of what Mother Nature had planned.

The first few miles were amazing- all downhill and some the shade AND I was running with Leigh Armstrong West. An incredibly talented athlete and all around wonderful person. We lost each other near one of the first water stops- the crowd was huge and everyone was heeding the warnings to stay hydrated.  Lost in the shuffle I was on my own.  Just me, my thoughts and the sun. Generally speaking that is how it goes.  This race was a bit different.  I had run New York and was expecting large crowds like we had there, but what I experienced was something completely different.

The spectators were prepared for us- not just with their encouraging and amusing signs and cheers, but with their hearts.  They were out there WITH us. Adults and children and everyone in between were lining the streets offering everything from oranges, bananas, ice pops, ice cold wet paper towels, ice, water, hoses to spray us with, squirt guns. Anything and everything they could find or think of to help us make it safely to Boston. One group must have grabbed everything in their kitchen- they had cut up sponges and towels and soaked them in ice water. When I stopped to grab one, they handed me a potholder. I laughed to myself for a split second.  The humor in the situation was fleeting as I was overcome with thanks for their efforts.  I could imagine them at home "Just grab everything you can find, they will need it!" I cooled my face and my neck and handed my potholder back "Thank you SOOOO much" I said with a smile.

 Looking around it dawned on me that I had never run a race where it looked as though everyone had just crawled out of the water.  We were soaked.  You could hear water squishing in people's shoes. I ran through every sprinkler and hose I could but somehow it never seemed like enough. The cool reprieve lasted only for a few short minutes and then the heat returned.  I had goose bumps- my body's feeble attempt to cool me off. I started to get a slight headache.  Weird, I thought, that never happens.  I couldn't decide if I had to go to the bathroom or if I needed to throw up. I coughed and my abdominals cramped. No fun.  I was walking at this point and was trying to keep moving while stretching them out.  I kept thinking to myself: "please don't let anyone see me". I knew that if they did chances were pretty high that they would make me stop until the cramps subsided. After managing to avert that I attempted to start running again. Then the rest of the cramps started. Right calf, left adductor, left calf and then both hamstrings.  I probably looked like I was trying to do some kind of dance.  Gingerly I placed one foot in front of the other and slowly the cramps subsided.  I have no idea where I was in the race, the miles seemed to take forever to pass.  Walk, run, walk, run.  Just keep moving forward.

Somewhere in the last few miles of the course I came up on 2 young boys- maybe 6 or 7 years old.  Each of them had a gallon jug of water that they were offering up.  Just standing there with their little arm outstretched waiting to help.  I ran over and stopped in front of one of them.  He lifted his gallon a bit higher and just dumped it on me.  I have NEVER been so thankful as I was at that moment for little boys and ice cold water.  There is no doubt in my mind, I would NOT have made it to the finish line without him.  I wish I could find that little boy and tell him just how much that helped.  Because of him and his gallon of water I was able to run the last few miles and accomplish my goal- crossing the finish line.

My memories of The Boston Marathon are not of Heartbreak Hill, but more of the heart of the spectators.  When they say Boston is all in..they mean it! 

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Put the Easter candy down!!

Sometimes I guess I miss out on things by not sitting in front of the T.V. or reading the newspaper.  Thank goodness for Facebook!

Apparently CBS News ran a story following last weekend's 60 Minutes segment with a tag line stating "New studies support claim that 'sugar is toxic' ". Great timing - a week away from Easter, the biggest candy consuming holiday.  Really cool, dramatic, eye- catching lead, but NOT new. Nope, we've known about the effects sugar has on us, our brain and our bodies for a looooooong time.   Then why is everyone gasping about this? Maybe they forgot about it.  Maybe they didn't want to believe it the first, or second, or third time they heard it.  Maybe they were somehow caught up in the 'fat is toxic' foolishness that is still being passed around.  Who knows. The point is, NOW people are paying least for a week or so.

Ripples from this segment have turned to 'added sugars' vs 'natural sugars'.  Pushing people to avoid the 'added sugars' and look for more 'natural sugars'.  That is all well and good, but it doesn't tell the whole story, or even the REAL story.  Yes, it is good to look at those things, but for goodness sake, don't stop there.

All carbohydrates are saccharides (sugars).  All carbohydrates must be converted to glucose (by our bodies) to be used for fuel or stored as fat. This means that all carbohydrate foods, even those that are sugar free must be converted to glucose for use or storage. Natural or not, the rate at which this happens affects a whole host of things including cravings, fat storage, insulin production, and other hormonal malfunctions. The faster this conversion takes place- the more it is like swallowing sugar straight. Natural or not.  Dump a large amount of sugar into your body and you will pay the price. Natural or not. You may remember reading about this in one of my earlier posts.   If not, I suggest you go back and read it now.  The glycemic index/glycemic load of foods and food products cannot be ignored.

What is my point with all of this? The point is that you CANNOT simply eye the Nutrition Facts, scan for grams of sugar and consume.  You CANNOT simply read the ingredient list, scan for 'added sugars' and consume. It is entirely possible to run across food items that will list zero grams of sugar in the Nutrition Facts and will not have any 'added sugars' listed in the ingredients list (rice cakes, cereals, bagels, breads, crackers etc)   This DOES NOT mean they are a wise food choice.  So while looking for added sugar is a great thing to do, you cannot stop there.  You'll have to do a bit more homework.

While I'm at it, I may as well give you this information too. Studies indicate that fructose consumption has been linked to the proliferation of various types of cancer including colon cancer.  Too much fructose, whether from high fructose corn syrup or from fruit is not a great idea. Natural or not. Thank you 60 Minutes for giving sugar the spotlight, but people you cannot stop there.

Put the Easter candy down and do some research.

Remind yourself of your goals

In the words of the great Don Smythe “if you are going to run marathons, you have to decide if you want to run them fast or run a lot of them”.  Those may not be his exact words, but his point is this: you cannot simultaneously run your best time AND run marathon after marathon after marathon.   You need to decide which is more important to you- to run a great time, or to run many marathons.  Don said he decided very early on in his running career what his plan was and he has been very successful- completing his 74th marathon just a few weeks ago.  His words echoed in my head today as I was out for one of the last few runs before the famed Boston Marathon. 

What did I want? Interesting thought to ponder.  My goals have evolved just as my running has.  When I started back into running my goals were simple- run a half marathon.  That was it.  I checked that off the list pretty quickly and was quite happy about it.  After being talked into running my first marathon my only goal was to survive the experience, to cross the finish line.  That was two and a half years ago and things have changed a bit since then.  With each step I was reminding myself of my current goals:

·      Enjoy Boston
·      Set a new PR
·      Run a marathon (or longer) in each of the 50 states
·      Run a 50 miler for my birthday(I’m sure this number will grow every yearJ )

Looking back over the last seven months recounting the events I have participated in, I kept reminding myself of Don’s words. In October there were the Triple Lakes 40 mile trail race and the Rocks 50 mile Relay exactly six days apart.  In November, the Savannah Rock N Roll Marathon and the St. Augustine half (actually 14 days apart).  In December, the Las Vegas Rock n Roll Marathon and then six days later the Jack’s 50k. January was rather quiet but then February brought with it the 26.2 with Donna Breast Cancer Marathon and seven days later the Five Points of Life Marathon. The goal for March was recovery and the Tobacco Road Marathon wasn’t a go until the last minute.  Seven races Marathon distance or longer in the last 6 months most of which were separated by a week or less and now here we are 8 days out from Boston, the first of the string of 3 in 3 weeks.

Writing it all out this way helps me to see that while I have wanted to hit a new PR I haven’t set myself up with a schedule that will allow me the best opportunity to do so.  I’m not one for giving up on my goals. I’d rather strategize better and see if I can hit them all!

So while three marathons in three weeks may not be the ideal time to aim for a PR, it is the ideal time to enjoy some fantastic runs.  I’ll run what I run and I will have a fabulous time.  As I said before my goal is to FEEL great.  Running the Boston Marathon is a dream come true.  How could it be anything less than fabulous? Besides, I haven’t run a marathon in Massachusetts so that knocks that state off for me.  The Big Sur and the Pittsburgh Marathon also move me toward my 50 states goal, as I haven’t run in either California or Pennsylvania.  After these races I’ll be 9 states in, with a total of 15 races of marathon distance or longer.

No, I’m not giving up on reaching a new PR.  I’m merely shifting my focus to working toward another of my goals.  That is the wonderful thing about having a few different goals.  You think you may have fallen off course until you step back, assess your path and realize that you are, in fact, still on track!!!