Sunday, April 7, 2013

BQ...Take 10?

I’ve dawdled over this race report, because
a.       I never seem to have enough time
b.      I couldn’t find the words to fit all the feelings and events leading up to this race into a single, concise blog post

I always imagined that if I qualified for the Boston Marathon (a goal I’ve nurtured for over 5 years now), everything would be alright in my world of running. I would have figured out the recipe for conquering all running injuries, I would finally get over my fears, run the Boston Marathon and happily train forever after, injury-free, to the peak of my limited running abilities.

My last marathon was in 2010. My training included 3 weeks of pool running (thanks to injury, surprise, surprise), and the race was run in 80-90 degree temps, leaving me drained and  depleted for weeks. I finished in 3 hours 55 minutes. I needed 3 hours 45 minutes 59 seconds to qualify for Boston. The experience left me with a mortal fear of marathons. And a fierce desire to conquer the beast.  

Since 2010, Boston Marathon tightened their qualifying standards…I needed a 3:40:00 marathon. To do it before I hit 40 (next year) would be a little feather in my cap, I told myself. 

After a year of injury-free running, I felt ready for the challenge. I just needed to survive a marathon training cycle and get to the start of the marathon. I had been running/racing year-round in 2012, with only a few off weeks. I didn't need an 18 week marathon training cycle. I put together a 12 week abbreviated training plan, that incorporated elements from other plans (special thanks to Lesley!). And fed myself pep-talk. Lots of it.       

Training was a great experience, not just because I learned so much about myself, but also because I got to run some of my long runs with a bunch of really cool people, most of who were training for the Boston Marathon. And running with cool people makes you feel like you're cool too. I wish I was more computer-savvy. I would have slapped together a neat graph of how my training peaked and fell over the course of the 12 weeks. Not that it would interest you in the slightest. It would've just made my post look more colorful and less verbose. Forget that. The long and the short of it is, the first 3 weeks felt great. I felt myself get stronger, my body felt ready for longer distances and heavier workouts. 4 weeks into it, I was ready to quit. Every muscle and bone in my body was in agony. I scaled back. Ratcheted down the mileage...and the plyometrics. It seemed to work. I felt the energy return over the next couple of weeks. I had minor ITB issues, but I was able to keep it at bay by paying careful attention to running form, compression tights, yoga stretches, foam rolling and massage, among other things. Geez, aging bodies! The Saturday of week 10, I did my last, really long run...24 miles, a number of them at 7:40 pace. Felt strong. On top of the world. Invincible. 

The Sunday after my 24 miler, was Miles For Music 20K. Remembering that race still is a little painful. It will go down in my book as one of the dumbest running mistakes I have made. Forgetting the mileage I had logged over the past few weeks, I forced my body into a pace that I could not sustain, a pace that spelled injury with a capital I. Midway into the race, my ITB and ankles tightened up and refused to budge. It was not pretty, but I finished the race (1:24:39, a 6:49 pace). The next 2 weeks were spent in taking stock of the damage, salvaging what could be salvaged, stretching, massaging, PT. On the eve of the marathon, I was still unsure if my sore, recovering ITB and ankles could handle 26.2 miles at any pace, let alone a pace that could help me BQ.

I made it to the start of the Ocean Drive Marathon, patched up with kinesiotape, with GU in my pockets and smeared with Vaseline. Super runner and running buddy Marc had emailed me that I'd have an awesome race if I didn't worry much about having an awesome race. That made a lot of sense. I figured I would treat this like a nice long run by the shore. I would run as long as I could, walk if I had to, and quit if I couldn't handle it any longer. I would not put pressure on myself. Forget BQs. I will not go into detail, because I'm sure no one but moi is interested in the gory detail. Here's the summary: The first mile was great...7:05 pace. The twinges in the knee and ankle started at Mile 2. The muscles and tendons tightened, despite my intense focus on trying to keep them loose. But the pain was manageable, when I slowed down considerably. I stopped looking at my watch and just focused on how the body felt. It was a long, dreary race, with no crowd support. Just friendly volunteers at aid stations and loyal hubby who managed to meet me 3 times along the course, as well as at the finish. There was a bit of a headwind, which felt like a hurricane at the time. I hit a few walls, zoned out a little, got passed and passed people, and ran some of the longest miles of my life. Somewhere between Mile 20 and the finish, I noticed that the pain in my knee had traveled to the hip/groin area. Whatever. Every part of me was screaming at this point. When I finally got to the FINISH (yup, I finished), my watch had died, so I had to rely on the official clock...3 hours 17 minutes and 56 seconds, it said. Third woman overall, which is not anything to brag about. There were about 3 women who ran the race...well, there actually were a few more, but this was a tiny race, as marathons go. 

Have I overcome my fear of injury? The answer would be a big NO. For a Iittle while, I allowed myself to luxuriate in the feeling that I had FINALLY qualified for the Boston Marathon. It's a goal realized, and it taught me a lot of lessons about patience and focus along the way. I made mistakes and hopefully, will do things differently next time around. I still am nursing a pain in the butt and a strained hip flexor (and will be for a while), as a reminder of the mistakes I made. As Master Po (and more recently Marc) said, "Patience, grasshopper". And as David Stretanski, Chi running instructor said, "Any event result is temporary, but the skills you take forward with you."                  


Mahesha Chayapathi said...

Congratulations Kavitha. That's a big milestone. I'm sure you are gonna rock Boston next year. That must be a big relief considering you were pursuing this goal for 5 years. Finishing third and saying its nothing to brag about.. LOL... You are very humble.. I can't even imagine what running at those speeds feels like :) .
Stay healthy & Good luck.

I Run for Fun said...

Thank you for the encouragement, Mahesha. Good luck to you as well.

Joshi Thomas said...

Congrats. Great achievement.