Friday, April 28, 2017

Random Musings

I haven't been doing any running since Boston yet.  Giving my hamstrings some rest, while still continuing my exercise ball and yoga workouts.  My brain hasn't been resting though as I have been having a lot of thoughts lately, some about my running and its future, some random, or so it seems.

The ones on my running future dominated my life in the week after Boston.  I was still on that "I finished Boston again!" mode and, unlike what I thought might happen, I was not disappointed in my time.  I think I had prepared myself as best as I could have to be happy with the experience and the finish because it was BOSTON!!  I have to give credit to my family and friends, and my extended running family and Fleet Feet Sports and Team Nuun family.  Not one of you complained, at least to me, about my posts and blogs related to my struggles with my hamstring.  Quite the opposite happened.  You all were so supportive and positive.  When I posted about considering taking my camera with me during Boston to get some pictures so that my family could see snippets of what I got to see during the marathon, I received so many positive comments along the lines of "Yes!  Do it!".

I received notes and talked to several people who said that my posting and openness about my injury struggles helped them with their struggles because they knew, then, that they were not in it alone and that there were others out there dealing with their own personal nemeses.  It is a humbling thing, especially to a person with introverted tendencies like myself, to have someone thank me for my transparency in my posts and tell me that it gave them peace in their struggles.  It is hard for me to accept such positive comments; for some reason, it makes me uncomfortable at the time, but just know that I appreciate it and I am glad to know that someone out there received some solace and confidence from my ramblings on my hamstring and my journey to Boston.  Also know that while I was running Boston, one of the main reasons I made it to the finish line was because I knew my family was waiting at the corner of Hereford and Boylston and I knew my running family was out there and had been following along in my struggles.  I couldn't let anyone down by not finishing!

Back to my "running future" thoughts.  My self-absorbed proudness over getting to Boston and finishing re-sparked my internal fire to train and actually race another marathon.  Over the past year or two, my desire for the hard training required for truly racing a marathon had been waning.  I believe it was mainly due to being injured and the frustration that I have had for close to a year now, but I wasn't sure that was the only reason.  Maybe it was my mind and body telling me that they were tired of the concentration and dedication needed for the rigorous training.  Maybe it was age creeping up on me.  In the week after Boston though, something had been stirred that has lit my drive to truly get healthy and then plan and execute a marathon racing cycle.  I feel the excitement again just thinking about racing a marathon to see if I can get another sub-3:00.  I know that I won't be able to get close to my PR, but maybe another low 2:50's is achievable or even another sub-2:50.  The point is that I haven't been having those thoughts much the last year or so, and it is nice to welcome them back.  I have to work on that "fully healthy" part first...

Now to the random thoughts. Most of my random thoughts have been about my family, specifically my Mom and Dad.  I was talking to my brother the other day, and he mentioned that Dad had been out working in the woods picking up limbs.  My sister told me that he had done it two days in a row.  I should mention that my Dad is close to 89 and has been through a lot both physically and mentally over the past years.  He went through treatments for colon cancer, leading up to having to have his colon removed.  He had spent the last many years helping to take care of my Mom, who had Parkinson's and Lewey Body dementia.  When she first started having issues, Dad took care of her at home until it became too hard for him to handle by himself.  Even after then, Dad spent a lot of time taking care of and visiting his one true love.  Mom passed away a little over a year ago and Dad has been dealing with that as well.  I must say this: as noted by friends of the family, Dad is a worker.  Always has been.  He worked hard to support a family of 6 kids.  He came home and worked hard at home.  He volunteered where he could as long as it was work!  Over the past year, he had spent more and more time inside and less outside working, so hearing that he had been back out working in the woods, his place of calmness, was great news.  My thoughts here, though, were of his dedication and work ethic.  While I am not going to sit here and say that I have his same work ethic because I am nowhere in his league, I do think that my ability to stay dedicated to training for marathons comes from his genes.  I appreciate him more and more every day and I wish I had given him more respect when I was a teenager than I did, which as many teenagers go, was almost none it seems.  I guess that is part of life and growing up.  When you are growing up, you don't realize how a simple misplaced word or mistimed snippy remark likely stings to a parent.  When you are a parent, you definitely realize it.  When you are grown up, or are at least at an age where you should be "grown up", you realize everything that your parents did for you or how much friends of the family and relatives did for you, and you wish you had told them thank you more often when you were younger or given them more hugs.  So thank you Dad, for being an example of what it means to love someone or something.  It means you will work hard, you will be dedicated, you will strive to make sure that they have what they need to achieve their goals.  You worked hard because you loved us more than anything.  I realize that now and I love you more for it.

Dad wasn't the only one that I have been thinking about though.  I have been thinking about Mom as well and the attributes she passed along by her example.  Like Dad, she worked hard at everything she did and made sure we had what we needed.  Even though she was as busy as Dad, she was always there at our sporting events, or church and school events.  She was not only her children's biggest fans, but she was other children's biggest fans as well.  She may not have been my friends' biological Mom, but she supported and rooted for them just the same as if they were.  I find her in me when I do the same for M- and R-'s friends or for JCHS soccer teams.  It makes me smile knowing that piece of her lives on in me.  In addition, her fight and her defiance for many years against the diseases that plagued her have driven me over those years.  While not even close to being the same battles, I have pulled from her that confidence and that never give up attitude and used it in my injury fight.  If I have half of her strength, I will make it.  Thank you Mom, for not only being an example of selfless love toward everyone, but being that example of perseverance and strength in the face of things not under your control.

These seemingly random thoughts about Mom and Dad are not quite so random, I am thinking.  Given that they are occurring more these past two weeks since Boston and given that I have that feeling that my fire is being rekindled for training, I think that my mind is trying to remind me of my roots.  It is telling me to remember what all my Mom and Dad have done for their kids and for those things that drove the fire in them.  It is telling me to pull from their work ethic, from their drive, from their strength, and use it in my life.  It is telling me that, while I may not have always earned it, I was given a great genetic gift from Mom and Dad, and I need use it like it is meant to be used.

What gifts were you given by your parents or from those in your past?  Are you using these gifts like they were meant to be used?  Are you drawing strength from those in the past and applying it to your life right now?

Oh....   And have you thanked your parents or those that raised you lately?  Have you told them you love them more than anything?  If not, I encourage you to do that.  Let them know they did a great job.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

I warned you Boston!

So those of you that taken the time to read my last couple of posts know more than you wanted to about my issues with my hamstrings.  You took the time to follow along with my fight back in order to make it to the starting line of Boston 2017 and, hopefully, to cross that famous finish line for my 5th time in 5 tries.

After struggling about whether to spend the additional money to make the trek back to Boston, I last left off deciding that I was going to go for it.  The plan was to run a slower pace than normal and nurse my legs to the finish.  I knew it was going to be one of the hardest marathons I have run in the 35 or so that I have entered just given the mental and physical strain related to my hammies and the severe lack of training that I had been able to do over the last 10 months.  But my mind had been made up, I was going to do it.  Whether my body would allow it is another question.

Old North Church
Before I get to the race itself, I need to ramble a little on Boston itself.  My family and I love Boston and going there to visit and see the sites.  My kids are the whole reason I signed up this year as they wanted to go back again.  I did too!  This was our first trip back since 2013 and the bombings.  Boston, once again, you did not disappoint.  We had another great visit.  This year we got to celebrate Easter at a service at the Old North Church!  Are you kidding me!!!  How awesome to sit in the same church where so much history has occurred and get to celebrate our risen Lord!  Lauren and Michele joined us, along with Lauren's cousin, and we had a really nice time.

Stayed at The Bostonian again
Of course, we spent the couple days leading up to Marathon Monday walking the city, but I didn't mind.  I was taking everything in as if it was my first time there.  Note: Of course we had to hit Mike's Pastries and Regina's pizza whenever we could.  And we put a hurting on a coffee shop in the North End called The Thinking Cup.  If you get a chance, go there!

Saturday, we hit the Expo and then I caught the end of the Team Nuun tag up.  I wish I could have made it earlier to the Nuun event, but the lines at the expo were ridiculous this year.  One great thing was that when we first got in line, Shalane Flanagan was standing right there!!  I was waiting to get a pic with her, next to another guy, when that other guy turned to me and said "Hi."  My response: "Hey, Ryan!"  Guys, I was standing right beside Ryan Hall!  He talked with me a little and I was able to get my pic with Ryan and Shalane!  How cool!

Our pic

While we were there, we had to hit the finish line for some photo ops also.  My kids and I reproduced our pic from previous Bostons.  It has become something we just have to do!  I love my family, did I ever tell you that?

Here is a little tidbit before I get to marathon day.  On Saturday morning, I went out for a little shakeout run.  I always run from the hotel, through the Commons and down to the finish line, and this year was no different.  I ran a couple blocks past the finish line and then turned around to go back.  I did not expect what happened next.  When I turned around to head back I saw the finish line structure and *everything* about 2013 came flooding back.  Tears instantly came to my eyes.  I probably looked like an idiot out there tearing up and it wasn't even the finish of the marathon yet.  While I think about 2013 quite often, I never expected it to hit me like a sledgehammer like it did.  To make matters worse, they were holding a service at the site of the first bomb and the Boston PD started playing bagpipes.  Jeez!!!  My insides were jelly.  I knew then that this was going to be hard, but that I needed to do everything I could to get to that finish line on Monday. That's right when I saw Kevin Rutherford, the Nuun CEO.  I went over and talked with him a little before heading back to the hotel and that calmed me back down a bit.

My boys, Daniel and Tim
Fast forward to Monday.  It was here.  I was so nervous.  I met up with Daniel and Tim and we headed to the holding area in Hopkinton.  It was hot! Well, relatively speaking it was.  In the 70's for the morning and going to be that temp and sunny the whole race.  I was glad that I wasn't planning on actually trying to race hard this year as those temps would have put a dent in those plans.   In my state of mind, I just wanted to get going on the road back to Boston.

Here's the neat thing about pre-race.  After waiting several hours, it was time to make the walk to the starting corrals.  When I got there, about 20 minutes before my start time, I looked over at the Korean Church that houses the elite athletes prior to their start.  Stretched across the front steps of the church, they had a banner telling the runners good luck.  On that banner, they had placed Isaiah 40:31, my favorite verse, and part of the verse was written out, including "...will run and not grow weary."  When I saw that, it was as if God immediately took away all of my stress, all of my worries, all of my negative thoughts, and replaced it all with calming peace.  I am sure that banner was not there for just me, but at that moment, it was.  It might as well have said "Don't worry, Jim.  I am here."

Bang! We were off.  I started off a little faster than I wanted due to the downhill first couple of miles, but I knew that would be okay.  I can't say that I felt good though.  Essentially, my quads were not feeling well from the first step.  So tired feeling.  At Mile 4, my legs were already feeling like they start feeling at about mile 21 in a normal marathon when I have had good training coming in.  This was not going to be easy....

One of the things I wanted to do this Boston was try to take everything in as much as I could.  I had even taken my phone so I could try to get some pictures as I ran so I could share them with my family and friends.  I have talked about the course so much, I wanted to share some of it.  Let me say one thing here:  taking pictures and videos while running a marathon is way harder than I was thinking.  I didn't get as many pictures as I wanted to due to this, so sorry to those wanting more.  About half way through, I decided that every once in a while, I was going to stop and ask a spectator to take my picture so that I could get the other runners or other sites behind me while I spread my arms as if to take it all in.  I wish I would have thought of this earlier as I would have done this at the start.  I wish I had a picture of that banner at the church in Hopkinton!!

So, back to the race.  I was at about mile 9 and my current thought was, "How am I going to make it 17 more miles...."  At that point, I tried to replace those thoughts with two things: 1) I knew Nuun had a tent somewhere between miles 17 and 18 and I just had to make it to them, and 2) My family was waiting for me at the turn onto Boylston and I could not let them down.

On I trudged....

The miles started to go by quicker even though my pace was slowing some.  I did realize that the little breaks I took fumbling with my phone to get some pics or videos gave me enough of a break from concentrating on the run to realize I could make it the next couple of miles, and that cycle continued...

Mile 17 approached and I started looking for that Nuun tent.  I made a pit stop at a medical tent to get some moleskin for a toe that was starting to bother me and then continued on, sweeping the sides of the course for that tent.  I passed where I thought it would be and started to worry that somehow I had missed it.  I will say one thing - if I had indeed missed it, I think I would have dropped out of the race sometime soon after that.  Honestly.

About that time, I saw a blue tent to the left of the course and I saw the Nuun "N".  Relief immediately swept over me.  I stopped, trying to smile, but likely not being too successful at it.  I asked them to refill my bottle I had been carrying with more Nuun Performance, which they did so without question.  For those that don't know, Performance is their new product for endurance events and it saved my butt this race with the temps.  I was worried about my legs and my hammies, but not once was I worried about my hydration or fuel since I carried Performance the whole way along with my Gu.  To all of you at the Nuun tent:  THANK YOU!!!  You literally saved my day at that point in time.  Jason, one of the Nuun folks there, was a smiling face of peace when I needed it most.  I spoke with him a little while I waited for my bottle of performance goodness and it was just what I needed to talk me off the ledge.  Once I had my bottle, it was back to the miles.

For the last 9 miles, it was periods of taking water cups and dumping them on my head, stopping every so often for a pic, and thinking about nothing more than getting to see my family.  I just had to get there, not only for myself, but for them.

Seeing the Citgo sign in the distance, which marks around the 1 mile to go mark, was one of the greatest sites I had seen while running Boston besides seeing the finish line itself.   At that point, I was certain I was going to cross the finish line; it might be by walking, but I was going to make it, and I was ecstatic.

After some more trudging, there it was.  The right onto Hereford, the slight uphill to my family, then the left onto Boylston and the run down to the greatest finish line I have had the pleasure of crossing.

I found my family and ran over to give them my bottle before I went down the finish stretch.  My daughter later made the comment that this was the only time I have come by them at Boston with a smile.  She was right; I had a big, goofy grin because my last 5 months of pain, stress, worrying were gone and I was finishing my 5th Boston!!!

I had done it.  It had not been easy before or during the race, but I had done it.  While my slowest marathon at 3:26:38, it was the most rewarding finish of them all.  This race had taken more out of me mentally and physically than any in the past.

What have I learned from this:

  • Patience is indeed a virtue.  It took patience for me to decide to run.  It took patience to get to the starting line.  And it took patience to get to that finish
  • Take it in.  I enjoyed taking pictures along the way and talking to some of the spectators.  I wasn't worried about the 5-6 minutes of time I probably lost in doing this.
  • You can do more than you think.  When it comes down to it, your body is amazing.  It will do what is needed when you ask it to.  Don't doubt it.

Thanks to everyone for putting up with my complaining along the way.  Thanks for being a sounding board.  Thanks for being that support.  Maybe you got something out of my journey that will help you in some struggle or unexpected life situation that you are facing or will face in the future.

It was personal, and I warned you Boston, that I was coming!  You threw your best at me, and I was able to take it.  You have once again taught me that, even at age 49, I am stronger than I think.