Thursday, April 23, 2009

Marathon Photos

I'm sure that it will be a few weeks before the official photos come out - but, I found a site with a huge number of pics from the marathon. They are by a group headed by a runner named Jim Rhoades - who I guess just takes these for fun. I found myself on page 16 of the 30k and pages 3 & 18 at the 20 mile. I couldn't find myself in any of the 1 mile marker pics - but, I was on the other side of the road and running in a big group - so, I probably got blocked from view.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Recovery

Since I work from home, and apparently have no life outside of running, the last two days have felt like I've been sick. There have been no long runs or two-a-days or hard workouts - just working, eating, drinking, and sleeping. Of course this is a good thing - but, it's an odd adjustment. I can't even seem to get off my good nutritional habits as much as I hoped - yes, I've had a few ice cream & brownie sundaes and some good beer - but, most of my meals are still straight out of my plan that Melissa helped me with - what's the fun in that?!!

I've elevated my legs a few times and had a cold water bath last night. Next week, after my muscles have healed a little, I'm planning on a massage.

Tomorrow is my first run since the marathon. Given the amount of soreness that I have right now - I'm not sure that I'll be able to make it the planned four miles. We'll see.

In the longer term I'll be running only easy miles until June. My mileage will be increasing from 30 miles next week to 65 miles the last week of May. I'm trying to give my self plenty of time to recover - because from June - October I'm planning a lot of intense training - not as many miles as I've been running for Boston, but a larger percentage of hard mileage.

This doesn't have anything to do with my recovery - but, I realized today that my time at the Miami half-marathon, which was planned to be at marathon pace, was only three seconds off the pace I ran at Boston (Miami - 1:16:19; Boston - 2:32:35) - weird.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Race

My first conscious moments of April 20th, 2009 were sometime around 1-2am. I woke up in the middle of the night as I normally do before a big race. My sub-conscious seemed to be pleading with me to be cautious - as my first thoughts were regarding the Miami half-marathon I ran in January. I ended up running with a marathoner for a few miles - and as I turned off to the finish I had pangs of guilt and sympathy as I realized he had many painful miles ahead.

Today, I would be switching places with that runner. The only thing that could at least buffer the pain I had in front of me was to be smart at the beginning. The start of a major marathon is like the beginning of youthful love. You want to throw yourself into it fully - not thinking about the consequences or the possible pain that your thoughtlessness might cause in the future. As those of a certain age know, the wisdom of maturity is born from pain that follows such foolishness.

My second awakening was at 5:20am. I drove to a T stop and rode it to the Boston Commons where I would catch a bus to the start at Hopkinton. The bus ride was another reminder to be cautious. The ride takes close to an hour - and has all the riders asking "I have to run all the way back?"

I found a relatively empty set of porta-johns. Not to be too graphic, but along with eating right - making sure that you are as "empty" as possible is a big key to having a good race. I quickly found my friends and we joked and laughed as we lay on the wet grass. The area eventually became so crowded that I decided to head for the buses where I would drop off my gear bag. In it was warm clothing, my training shoes, a little money and my cell phone.

I walked down with others to the start at the town square of Hopkinton (pop. <15,000). The area had the feel of a small town festival. I watched the women start at 9:30am - after some stretching and resting I walked over to my corral. Fortunately, my bib number allowed me to get into the first corral behind the elites.

As I sat, stretched, and sipped on some water a volunteer asked me if it was my first Boston. We chatted a little bit and she told me that the elites were going to pass right on the other side of the french barricades beside me. Apparently they used to bring the elites through the cemetery - but, some of them complained that it was bad luck. So, they changed the route so that they passed next to the first few corrals of runners.

10-15 minutes before the start I saw Hall, Cheriyot, Sell, and others comes towards me. Both Hall and Sell were very pumped - they high-fived us as they passed. Then my friend since childhood, Todd Snyder, came by - he was in the zone - and I had to shout his name a few times before he looked up and noticed me.

Several minutes later the gun fired and we were off. The first few miles were a blur - but, I stayed pretty relaxed. The road was crowded - but, I was able to run my pace without being blocked or pushed.

As the miles went by runners started to coalesce into groups like a stream of water forming droplets - these groups were formed, in part, because of the wind. People were less willing to run by themselves. I had promised myself that I wouldn't freak out if I found myself by my lonesome. I was able to do some drafting - but, I didn't surge to the next group when I found myself alone - I just tried to keep the same level of effort.

My first 10 miles were very close to my goal of 57 minutes. That first hour of running was spent running through small towns and longer stretches of woodlands, over creeks, and alongside small lakes. In more open areas near the lakes it was evident that the #1 opponent for the day would be the wind. It wasn't a blow you over wind - but, it did provide some drag.

Around the 12-mile mark was the infamous "scream tunnel" as Welleselley College. It was pretty crazy - they take their unofficial responsibility as the cheerleading squad of the Boston marathon pretty seriously.

The next major milestone was the halfway mark - 1:14:48. Although, I knew that I was about 30-40 seconds slower than I planned - I felt strongly that I could run a faster second half. Usually in a marathon, I'm questioning what I got myself into at the halfway point - so this was a good sign.

Since the 10 mile mark I had been 20-30 seconds back of a big group. My plan was to pass them by mile 15 - but, I hadn't made much of a dent. In the second half of the 15th mile there was a long downhill to the Charles River - a downhill that belies what's to come. The bridge over the Charles River was a bridge to pain - within a few steps after the bridge I was on my way up the first of the four Newton hills.

The group that I had stalked for the last five miles melted around me as I powered my way up the hill. I felt stronger after 16 miles than any other marathon I've run. At 17 miles was a slight downhill - I saw Melissa cheering off to the side of the road. She was one familiar face out of a sea of strangers - I went over to the side of the road and gave her a high five. In my distraction I missed the 17 mile mark - the only one I missed in the entire marathon.

I hit 20 miles in ~1:54:30 - just 30 seconds slower than I had planned. I felt strong enough at that point that I still thought I could edge under 2:30. Soon after came the infamous heartbreak hill - I've heard a lot of people say it's not that bad - but, I certainly wasn't disappointed by the challenge.

Yes - most of the last five miles is downhill - but, there are some rolling hills I didn't expect. I still thought I had a shot of running under 2:30 until I got to the hill at mile 23. At that point I knew it just wasn't in the cards. The wind worsened after heartbreak hill and my legs started to stiffen. I didn't completely throw in the towel - I tried to key off some other runners and finish strong - but, I slowed pretty substantially in the last few miles. Given that I didn't have a shot of sub 2:30 I decided it was better to enjoy the crowds and the experience instead of killing myself.

After crossing the line I slowly made my way to the buses for my gear bag. Every 15-20 feet a medical volunteer asked me if I needed any assistance. The Boston volunteers are the best in any race I've participated in - they love this day and give it their all to make a good experience for the runners.

Eventually I got a massage and a woman who thought her job was a good excuse to torture helpless runners drained and cleaned out my blisters.

Overall the day was a great success. Yea - it would have been nice to not have such a strong headwind - but, looking back on my first post outlining my goals - much more has gone right than has gone wrong since November.

Some people mistakenly believe that the marathon is an individual event. But, I've been lucky to run with a very supportive group of people without whom I could never have PR'd today. And of course everybody who has offered their support in the comments on this blog and in person. It's been a great adventure. Thank you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ready for a burger and a beer

It's odd writing this thinking that my journey that started in November is now over. It's not a bad thing necessarily - I'm happy to have a little more free time and eat some very bad food for a few weeks : )

I'm fairly happy with my overall time - given that we had a 10-15 mile an hour head wind for 26.2 miles. I'll write something a little more detailed tomorrow - just thought I'd post something for anyone interested in my total time and/or splits.

5:48 5:43
5:36 5:48
5:36 5:32
5:33 11:45 (two miles - got distracted high fiving Melissa)
5:47 5:43
5:41 5:54 1:54:34 for 20
5:45 6:10 heartbreak hill
5:48 5:46
5:46 6:07
5:45 57:05 for 10 5:55
5:41 6:16
5:40 7:47 last 1.2 miles
5:43 2:32:35

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Flow

One part of the preparation that I haven't really talked about is mental imagery. I can remember in college looking at a course map every friday night during XC season and imagining myself running strongly from start to finish.

It might sound like an odd thing to do - but, I don't know of a good coach who doesn't have his athletes use this technique. It works because when you toe the line you feel like you've already been here - you've already run this course strongly. And that extra bit of confidence allows you to react to the difficult parts of the race in a more positive manner. You're less likely to give up - you're more able to relax and push through the difficult times.

One powerful image for me is a flowing river - it may be calm, but there is a lot of force and it is continually moving. Of course there is a lot of flowing going on when you're running - all the thousands of miniature "rivers" delivering oxygen to your muscles and removing toxins. The air moving in and out of your lungs. The wind flowing around your body.

To etch that imagery into my head - I ran down to a portion of Jones Falls, which runs along the southern end of Falls Road here in Baltimore. Even though it's only 1/2 mile from Penn Station and next to I-83 - it's very peaceful there. I ran my last six striders in a quiet section between two mini "rapids". I thought about how the rocks and boulders were like the Newton hills - and how the water just flowed over or around the rocks easily. The rocks only gave the water a voice and texture.

Boston is of course a fun race for mental imagery - the crowds, the landmarks, the hills. This route is better known than the actual road that Phidippides traveled from Marathon to Athens all those years ago. The Boston course is full of heroes and villains - comedy and tragedy - joy and sorrow. The course itself is a celebration of life lived intensely and deliberately.

On Monday I might be in too much pain to think of running or the course in any poetic sense - but, I hope that I can at least draw some inspiration from the place - so that I can perform my best.

I've probably spent enough time analyzing the race : ) so, this will probably be my last post before Monday. Thanks to everyone for their support and good luck to everyone running on Monday!


I've had a few people ask me about how to track runners during the marathon. There are a couple of ways to do it - one is through the AT&T athlete alert program. You can have them send you text messages and/or e-mail updates. It's probably best to sign up for this as soon as you can - I think the cutoff is 6am on race day. You should received messages when the runner you are tracking crosses the 10k, half marathon, 30k and finish. Although I think there is some delay - so, don't expect to get the messages in real time.

The other way is through the Hewlett-Packard Athlete Search. You can see every 5k split - and from my experience this set-up is not as delayed as the text messages/e-mails. I think you can just search by name for both of these services - but, it's always helpful to have the race number as well (mine is 1143). There isn't any sign-up need for the HP search - it should be displayed on the Boston marathon homepage on Monday.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

The Plan

My college coach used to say "plan the race and race the plan." Yes, you can't freak out if circumstances force you to change plans - but, you need to go into a race understanding your goal with a realistic plan of how you will get there. In some ways I've been doing this on a macro level with my training plan - and as with my training plan I've learned a few things in my four marathons that will help me on Monday.

Probably the most important part of the plan is pacing. Because of the unique elevation profile of the course, the history, and the strong fan support in places (Wellesley College, Cleveland Circle) - there is probably no other course on earth with as much thought that has gone into mileage splits than Boston. I thought about taping the splits onto my arm from one of the pacing calculators that I wrote about in a previous post - but, I'm worried that I might rely on it too much. But, I do think the calculators were helpful because they told me that even on the biggest downhill mile I shouldn't go any faster than 5:30 and that I shouldn't go any slower on the uphills than slightly over 6 minutes.

For me the biggest trick will be the first few miles. At New York in 2007 my second mile (coming down the bridge) was under 5:20 pace. I was having way too much fun - feeling the excitement of the race and I paid for it later. This time I'm planning to have the disposition of a monk. I almost want to feel groggy in the first few miles - like I'm slowly waking up as the race unfolds. The first four miles are like running down a sledding hill - in my training I sought out hills like those and concentrated on flowing down them - focusing on keeping my stride short to keep the pounding to a mininum.

Although I will be keeping mile splits - the first split that I'll really concentrate on is the 10th mile. I'm hoping to be somewhere around 57 minutes. I've heard it said that the marathon is best broken into thirds - the first ten miles, the second ten miles, and the last 10k. These are the splits where I'll really take stock of how I'm doing. I'm hoping that my second 10 miles will also be close to 57 minutes - leaving me a 36 minute 10k to break 2:30.

Another big part of "the plan" is nutrition. I discovered Roctane - which is the best gel that I've ever used. It really provides a kick - we'll probably learn that it has some illegal chemical in it and it will take 10 years off my life - but, heh, I'm trying to break 2:30! I'm going to take one Roctane 15 minutes before the race starts and three more during the race (miles 8, 16, & 22). Boston is the only race I know of that has water/gatorade stops every mile. So, there shouldn't be a problem with hydration. I'll probably take water and gatorade every 2-3 miles.

The other parts of the plan are related to pre-race. I arrive in Boston on Saturday. I plan on sleeping in on Sunday, and except for a 30 min shakeout run, the expo, and dinner - I'm going to be laying around watching TV or reading a book.

I'll have to leave for the bus at ~6am on Monday morning. I'll bring a bunch of clothing and maybe a cheap poncho. They force you to check your bag at least an hour before the start. So, I'll also bring some warm clothes that I'll just throw away at the start (they give the clothing to charity). The forcast is for low to mid 40's and a 30% chance of rain - ok for racing, but not for waiting around. In terms of the actual race the worst part of the forcast so far is a 15 mile-an-hour wind coming out of the east, which just happens to be the direction we'll be running for 26.2 miles. But, hey - it's better than 80 degrees and sunny like it has been some years.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Hansons-Brooks Boston Preview

Hansons-Brooks Distance Project is one of the more interesting American distance running groups to surface in the last ten years. They specialize in taking post-collegiate runners and making them pretty darn good marathoners. Of course, they helped Brian Sell to be an Olympian and took 7 of the top 22 places at Boston in 2006. That they are from my home state and that one of my oldest friends runs for them is just icing on the cake.

On their site they are posting interviews with each of the 6 runners participating at Boston - as well as the two coaches and founders of the group - Kevin and Keith Hanson. The interview with Kevin and Keith Hanson helps to shed some light on why Boston is so special and why group training is so important. The topic of how groups can bring out the best in individuals is so interesting to me that I think it will be the focus of my blog after Boston.

The other interview that interests me is with one of my oldest friends - Todd Snyder. Todd and I were in the same cub scout troop growing up. We eventually got into running at different middle schools in Ann Arbor, MI (my family moved when I was in 4th grade or else we would have been in the same middle school too). In high school we both ran for Pioneer High School. Todd was an okay runner our freshman year - but, as our sophomore year went by he started getting better and better.

We convinced him to train during the next summer (he hadn't done that before). After that, I was lucky to see him at any point after the first 800 meters of a race. He won six individual state titles (XC, indoor, outdoor) - basically unbeaten in races for our high school his last two years. Michigan is a pretty deep running state - Todd had to beat some pretty impressive dudes, including Abdul Alzidani (a year younger than us, but eventual Foot Locker national champ) to win his individual titles.

Todd went on to the University of Michigan - where by his senior year he placed 10th at XC D1 Nationals - an All-American stud. Although his talent is pretty amazing - he is even a better person. We became pretty good friends by our junior year - and except for the period where he dated my sister (don't ask) - we've been good friends ever since. He's just a good all around guy - someone who gives more than he takes - a kind spirit.

Anyways - enough gushing - it sounds like he's in shape to pull a great performance next week. Although he didn't tell me - I heard from other sources that he was in 2:14 shape last fall until he had a stress fracture in his foot that kept him out of Chicago. So, I'm guessing that he got back into similar shape. In their interview - Kevin and Keith seem to be a little secretive about what they think he can do - which sounds promising to me. I talked to him last week and he seems to feel confident in his fitness.

Good luck Todd - and the rest of the Hansons crew!

UPDATE: I just read a Q&A with Brian Sell on the Runners World site - he is pretty high on Todd:

"A guy on our team to watch is Todd Snyder. He's run like 2:20. We just did our simulator run the other day, our 16-miler, and he ran the equivalent of a 2:12. He's definitely fit."

I also liked this quote about Dathan Ritzenhein - "Just looking at him five years ago, I just thought he was this Nike-sponsored punk who did a couple of yoga exercises and ran 30 miles a week and just was so talented that he was able to pull stuff out like that. "

Another post on the taper

He's faster and he said it better than I did - Adrian Marriott, a 2:18 marathoner, with a post on the taper.

I found Adrian's post on the LetsRun message board. Somebody was complaining how bad they felt during their taper. I have to say I feel the same way. Rojo, one of the founders of Letsrun, commented on the post saying that the problem is that runners expect to feel incredible during the taper - but, that's not always the case. Echoing Jake Klim's comment earlier this week on my blog - his final advice was:

"You're either in shape or not.

You don't lose it in one week of training or in one race.

Be confident and stop thinking.

Just run."

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Other Boston Blogs

I feel very humbled that more people than just my mother and Ryan are reading the blog. It's definitely helped me to stick to my plan - and if it's helped anybody else then that's awesome.

Over the last few years there has been an explosion of running related blogs in the Baltimore/DC area. Just on the Georgetown Running site and Baltimore's TWSS there are links for almost 30 running related blogs - most of them from runners in the area. And those blogs link up with other blogs - forming a vast network of running geeks from all over.

I thought I'd share some of my favorite Boston marathon blogs. Probably the number one blog for Boston centric content is aptly named "The Ultimate Guide to the Boston Marathon". Although the blog is from 2007 - it has a lot of Boston info that is still relevant. I was hoping to have as much Boston related content as John H. - but, it didn't quite happen.

Another blog that caught my attention is from Tom from Anchorage - yes Anchorage, Alaska. Not only has he logged some decent training - but, he's done it in the winter - in Alaska. "Wow" - is all I can say.

There are two decent "main stream media" blogs/sites - and Runners World. Plenty to keep us busy as our tapers suddenly give us more time in our lives.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Taper

Many of you are fully aware of the concept of the taper - but, I thought I'd write a little about it.

Most of this content is from Lore of Running, by Tim Noakes MD with some support from Jack Daniels and Pete Pfitzinger.

The taper is that somewhat counter intuitive concept that in the last few weeks before a goal competition you should reduce the amount of training volume and intensity. The idea is that you cannot perform at the highest level while training at the volume necessary to develop your different systems (circulatory, muscular, etc) for the race. You actually need to give your body a break that is long enough to let it recover and short enough that you don't lose any fitness.

Volume and Intensity:
The standard period for a taper is two weeks - although the highest volume weeks are probably at least 4-6 weeks before the goal competition. Experts usually suggest running 50% of the highest mileage two weeks out and 30-40% the week before. There is some debate regarding intensity - some say that you should retain intense workouts - just decreasing the volume by the same percentage as your weekly mileage - others say you should cut out intensity completely in the last 10 days before a major competition. My plan is somewhat in-between - I am running a track workout tomorrow - but, it's much easier than any "hard" workouts I've run recently. I'm also running 4-6 100 meter accelerations most days to keep my legs fresh.

It's as important to stay on track with nutrition during this period as any other period of training. Somebody like me, who puts on weight pretty easily, needs to steer clear of sweets and fat. I have to say that I didn't do great last week, being on the road, but I think that it will be easier this week at home.

Another nutritional suggestion that Noakes makes is to have a very high carbohydrate load regimen in the last 3-7 days before competition (he suggests 500g per day of complex carbohydrates per day). He also discusses the pro's and con's of including a carbohydrate depletion phase 7-10 days before competition. This phase is meant to "starve" the system of carbs, which is supposed to make the body more likely to retain carbs during the load phase. But, there is some disagreement on the effectiveness of the depletion phase and whether it might actually be harmful. I didn't really do the depletion phase : )

Mental Energy:
Noakes also writes about "storing creative energy" by avoiding creative activities in the last few days before the race. That's one nice thing about Boston being on a Monday - I have at least two days without working before the race. I'll probably bring a book along and read most of the time.

Noakes writes of a "colleague who missed one ultramarathon because of influenza now refuses to work for the last 7 days before a race. When not running during this period, he dons a surgical mask, takes leave of his family, and cloisters himself in a sterile environment, accompanied only by a library of Eastern philosophy. At such times, only those who are known to be free of marathon-destroying germs have access to him." Then Noakes writes that this shouldn't be though of as odd behavior - since Noakes did write a book just shy of 800 pages on running I think he might be a little blinded from what most people would consider odd.

Another part of the mental preparation for a goal race is mentally rehearsing the race. I'll talk through this a little later this week - when I go over my race plan.

One week to go! Current weather report for Boston on 4/20 - low of 41 high of 53 - 30% chance of showers. Not beach weather, but great marathoning weather!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Phase 5: week 4 of 4

Here we are boys & girls - the final week.

I was hoping to post more over the last few weeks before Boston - but, instead I seem to be posting less. I was in Minneapolis Sunday through Thursday for work - it wasn't a hugely stressful week - but it was pretty busy. And I spent the last few days in Orlando (or "The Do" as my wife and I call it). Actually it's probably best that I have some downtime from thinking about Boston. This blog has been helpful from the perspective of keeping my motivation up - but, as my high school coach used to say about me - "Ben, sometimes you analyze until you paralyze."

During my taper - the most important thing for me will be rest and nutrition. More on that tomorrow.

It's amazing that I only have one more week until Boston. That's the crazy thing about marathon running - it requires such a long cycle of training that the day is magnified even more greatly than it would be otherwise. Well, I should head off to bed - so, here is what I did last week and what I'm planning for this week.

Last week:

Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday: 9 mi 2mi easy 2X(2mi T pace 3 min rest) 5:25+5:19=10:44 5:10+5:13=10:23 3 mi easy
Wednesday: 6.5 mi 8X100m
Thursday: 8 miles
Friday: 6 miles 8X100m
Saturday: 6.5 miles
Sunday: 13 miles
Total: 55 miles

This week:
Monday: 6.5 miles 6X100m
Tuesday: 8 miles 2 mi easy 4X1200m 2 min rest 2 mi easy
Wednesday: 5 miles 4X100m
Thursday: 6.5 miles 5X100m
Friday: 0 miles
Saturday: 5 miles
Sunday: 4 miles
Total: 35 miles

Monday, April 6, 2009

Phase 5: week 3 of 4

The taper starts now.

My "dress rehearsal" on Saturday wasn't exactly what I hoped for - but, even with a strong wind, I felt stronger as the run progressed. With a smart taper, a little added adrenaline, and good luck with the weather I still think I have a chance of sub 2:30 - but, it's gonna be tough.

This week brings a little sanity to my running schedule and diverse weather. I'm writing this from the Twin cities - where I'll be working through Thursday. Then Friday, Kendra and I head down to Orlando for a few days. It's hard to believe that a little less than a week after I come back from Florida I'll be heading to Boston. It's been a long time coming. Over the last 22 weeks (the first week of November, when I "officially started my Boston training) I've run over 1,700 miles or an average of almost 78 miles per week. The barn is bursting with hay - now I just need to rest and eat smart.

Last Week
Monday: 6 miles
Tuesday morning: 4 miles
Tuesday evening: 14 mi 2X(3 mi easy 3 mi T pace) 1st 3 miler: 5:26+5:22+5:17=16:05
2nd 3 miler: 5:29+5:31+5:26=16:26 2 mi easy
Wednesday: 14.5 mi
Thursday: 9 miles 8X100m
Friday: 6 miles
Saturday: 19 miles conditions - windy 2 mi easy (5:52;5:57;5:52;5:52;5:55; 11:45 (missing marker) ;5:43;5:44;5:50;5:42;5:48;5:59;5:39;5:40=1:27:22) 2 mi easy
Sunday: 8 miles
Total: 80.5 miles

This Week
Monday: 7.5 miles
Tuesday: 10 mi 2mi easy 2X(2mi T pace 3 min rest) 4 mi easy
Wednesday: 6 mi
Thursday: 9 miles 10X100m
Friday: 4 miles
Saturday: 6.5 10X100m
Sunday: 13 miles
Total: 56 miles

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Quote of the Day: Once A Runner

This is an excerpt from the chapter in Once A Runner by John L. Parker Jr., where the main character, Cassidy is starting a third "set" of 20 X 400m @ 62-63 sec. Basically 15 miles worth of running at 4:08-4:12 pace - a little unbelievable - but, sometimes you have to push reality a little to get at a deeper truth.

"He began the melancholy ritual as night was falling. After the first five he was running by the soft glow of a huge clear moon. Cassidy thought, Bruce thinks of everything.

Then he sought out the mental neutrality that is the refuge the contained wan comfort of the runner. He grooved his mind upon the thin platinum rail of his task, a line that stretched out in front of him and disappeared into the gloom, further than he could contemplate all at once, even if he had the desire to, which he did not. When his trance broke and a word or phrase popped into his mind, his dizzy mind played with it like a seal with a beach ball, in a disturbing, gibberishly mad way, the way your mind acts in the druggy twilight before sleep. In a very controlled, abstract way, he knew how much he was suffering; the slightest break in this concentration allowed self-pity to well up in him instantly.

He was, in a manner of speaking, accustomed to this distress in the same manner that a boxer is "accustomed" to being struck; but the familiarity of experience in no way lessens the blow or mitigates its physiological effects. It merely provides the competitor a backdrop against which his current travail may be played, gives him a certain serenity in the face of otherwise overwhelming stimuli, allows dispassionate insight where otherwise there would be only a rush of panic. In a hail of killing blows, the fighter's quiet center of logic, schooled in brutality, will be calmly theorizing: We are hurt pretty badly. If we do not cover up and take up the slack we will soon be unconscious.

Not that this quiet center of logic fears unconsciousness (indeed, how welcome it might seem at times), but it knows that one can't win while unconscious. Likewise, no highly trained runner slacks off because he fears pain, but because the quiet center of logic says he will win nothing if he runs himself to a standstill.

All of this availed Cassidy not at all. His deeply ingrained conditioning and his mahogany-hard legs merely allowed him to push himself that much more. He had the mental ability to literally run himself right into the ground like Sambo's tiger. He knew that Denton expected him to do exactly that, and, just as each repetition made the next seem more impossible, he knew that without question he would do it. There was no refuge in injury, his body could not be injured in this way. There was no refuge in mercy, there was nothing to forgive, no one to issue dispensation. And at last he saw: There was no refuge in cowardice, because he was not afraid. There was no alternative, it just had to be done."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Army 10 miler

Such is distance running that you have to look forward to the next goal before you've completed the current one. Registration opened today for the Army 10 miler. I'm excited because it's a relatively fast course - and I think the distance is a little more natural for me than the marathon. It will be fun to focus a little less on running long runs and a little more on speed.

So, do I have a plan after that? Well, yes I do. I'd like to run a fast 5k or 10k on the track next spring and then find a flat and "fast" marathon for the Fall of 2010. Beyond that - I'm not sure. I have a slight itch to try my hand at the triatholon - but, we'll see. Do they allow arm floaties in the swim?