Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Oh, Boston...

...will you ever go away?  I'm sorry to still be talking about Boston, but it's just necessary.  I've always said I'd never run that race. I've always felt like the righteous thing to do was to boycott it entirely.  I BQ'd in my first marathon, but made a point NOT to mention that in my race report (and I've deleted and retyped that three times because I hate to even mention it now).  When I was deep into a blow up in Chicago, my goals kept shifting from 3:10, PR, sub 3:25, and let's just finish this thing standing up.  Never did I even set "BQ" as a goal.  I did BQ in that race, by a lot, but it meant nothing to me. 

For any non-runners (are there any?) who read this blog, let me explain the BQ (Boston qualifier).  Depending on your age and gender, you must run a certain time in order to qualify to even TRY to sign up for Boston (it sells out quickly).  So that means that if you can't complete a marathon in a certain time, you can't run Boston (unless you do it for charity--but woe to you if you mention that tidbit to any runner who has actually "earned" a BQ).  There is nothing wrong with that--it's exactly how the Olympic Trials work.  It is, of course, a ploy by the BAA to create prestige about their race, which, in turn, creates uber profits. But there is nothing inherently wrong with having a race like Boston--one that you must qualify to run. In fact, there are others, like the NYC marathon, who also use a qualifying standard..though they supplement that with a lottery to allow slower runners in.

The problem is the divisiveness that a race like Boston brings to the running community (please recognize that this is based solely on my experiences and therefore may be completely inaccurate.  But it's my blog).  Running is not like other sports.  For instance, I love to watch speed skating.  I'm not, however, able to go out and speed skate.  I also love to watch gymnastics.  Again, not going to happen.  I'm not built for it, nor am I talented in that way.  But with running...almost ANYONE can run.  Maybe not fast, and maybe not terribly long (though I wager you could if you go slowly enough), but you can run. God built humans to be able to run. So you can be in love with a sport in which you can actually participate.  You can watch the elites and then go do it yourself (although more slowly).

Then there is the Boston problem. I've only been a runner not quite 4 years (gasp, I know).  And I've been on a lot of message boards and been exposed to a lot of runners.  A lot of the time, the talk is about Boston.  When I was a brand new runner, I can remember hearing some people talking about Boston during a long run, and thinking "Why do they keep talking about that?"  So, finally, I asked.  I was given several "are you kidding me?" looks and was then told that Boston is special.  So I asked why it is special.  Then I found out the truth, at least from the viewpoint of these runners (which, by the way, include no one from my local running group): only fast runners get to run Boston. Again, that is not an inherently bad thing (though, I admit, I am clearly biased against this race).  The people in that conversation immediately identified themselves as either BQers or non-BQers without any prompting. It was clear that the non-BQers were quite ashamed of their status, and they wanted to make it known that they were certainly still training to try to BQ.

Since that time, I've experienced that scenario over and over.  Runners stress themselves out over meeting or not meeting a BQ.  It becomes this sort of quest.  I can't tell you how many times I've seen people say to a newly BQ'd runner "Congrats, now you're a real runner."  Really?  So that person was not physically completing the action of running before then?  No runner's self-worth as a runner should be completely dependent on being able to cover 26.2 miles in some pre-determined time frame.  I'm not at all against time goals.  What I am against is "slower" runners being hard on themselves, and other runners turning their noses up at them.  And I can't deny that I feel a pain in my gut every time I hear a newly BQ'd runner say something about finally being a "real runner" now that he/she has BQ'd.  That is just wrong.  Running is too natural and versatile a sport for anyone to feel that way.  I have no idea why I'm even on this rant, but please know that you should be proud if you've qualified for Boston.  But also should you be if you've run a marathon and not qualified for Boston.

So why did I run Boston?  Because I love my running group and they were all doing it.  Yeah--peer pressure.  Actually, I happen to be married to someone who's kind of in love with the race.  I refuse to drink out of his Boston Marathon coffee cups, but we have plenty of them.  And lots of jackets.  We even have a mouse pad and he may even have, in his office, a framed Boston poster from his first Boston--complete with bib number and space blanket.  Clearly this race means something to my husband.  He really wanted me to experience the race at least once.  Given that + lots of Bedford folk (again--none of them use Boston to make other runners feel inadequate...they are class acts!)...I decided to run it.

I can say, at this point, I shouldn't have. What really prompted this post is that Boston is still lingering in my life.  No, not the jacket (haven't worn it all week in protest).  I'm sick.  I've felt bad since the minute I crossed the line (actually, it started about mile 20!).  The night of the race we all went out to eat and I could hardly keep my head up.  Eating some Mike's Pastries helped, but I just felt horrid.  I kept telling Tim that I didn't understand it.  I've run marathons and an ultra marathon and I'd never felt this bad.  Everyone seemed to have this energy that I just didn't.  Not just tired legs, but a tired HEAD.  I felt dizzy, fuzzy, nauseated.  I figured it was just the race and it would go away.  But it was there the next day....and the rest of the week.

I felt really awful last week, to the point that, a couple of times, when trying to work at my computer in my office, I had to just stop and lie down flat on the floor.  I was so dizzy.  Driving made it so much worse.  My appetite was gone (I didn't even have Starbucks!) and I was having night sweats and still occasional muscle cramps.  I hadn't been getting better, but worse, and Monday night things got very bad.  Tim was out of town, so I was home with the kids, and I was freezing.  Chilling.  I went to bed wearing long sleeves and pants, and I still was shaking.  Clearly, I had a fever but I had no energy to get up and find the thermometer.

Thanks to Amelia's help, I got the kids to school and daycare the next morning, and came home....and the vomiting started. And it's only just now stopped.  I won't go into details, but it was the most vomiting I've ever done in that time frame.  My entire body hurt.  My back, my abs...and I had a fever of 102.  I barely got through the day and my mom had to come take care of the kids last night.  All I could do was lay in the fetal position and moan and pray for relief.

Today, I went to the doctor.  I had some labs drawn.  It was not pretty.  I'm severely dehydrated and have electrolyte disturbances which point to something called "exercise-induced illness."  My doctor is convinced I had a heat stroke during the race and have never fully recovered, getting progressively more dehydrated.  This led to dangerous changes in my sodium and potassium, which played into the nausea and vomiting, and it became a big cycle.  I got some anti-nausea medication and two liters of fluid and I'm feeling MUCH better.  I've got a ways to go, but I don't have to crawl up my stairs any longer.

So there are two points to this post.  Okay, three:  1) I shouldn't have run Boston.  You don't badmouth a race that much and get away with it. 2)The truth is I, as a daughter of my father, who is known across the world for his heat intolerance, should not run long distances when the temperature at the START of the race is 87, and 90 is reached halfway in.  And when I don't stop long enough to take in water (I don't do well at all drinking on the run.  I usually carry a straw but forgot to get one for Boston). 3) I am better suited for smaller road marathons and trail races.  I have never had a good experience at a big race.  Now, I've only done two, but I'm kind of bitter about it will be hard to ever get me in a big one again.

Okay.  Goodbye, Boston...putting you to bed.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It is not a race...IT IS AN EXPERIENCE warned the B.A.A. on the eve of the Boston Marathon.  Back to that in a minute.

Arriving at the airport.
If you read my last blog post, you saw me all sappy and happy about celebrating being a runner in Boston. I'm still exceedingly glad to be a runner (and there were moments during the race when even that thought waned), but, at this point, I'm even more thrilled to be alive.  I did indeed run and finish the 116th Boston Marathon this past Monday.  It was my personal worst time for the distance (by almost an hour), and (very narrowly) the second-to-worst running experience I've ever had. Now that I've got you excited about reading this sordid tale, let me share the details of the weekend.

Bedford ---> Boston
We left early Saturday morning.  Bill, Leisa, Jimmy, Tim, and I were all on the same Beantown-bound flight, and that was fun.  In two short hours, the Bedfordites began to invade Boston. We were in very good spirits until we started getting the BAA emails.  What emails, you ask?  Oh, they don't usually send them.  Only when the forecast is calling for 90-degree heat on race day do these bad boys get sent out.  I won't quote them verbatim for you, but let's just say that all our phones began lighting up with warning messages about running in Monday's race.  As in, we probably shouldn't be doing it.  It was going to be hot--very hot--from beginning to end. Though the doomsday messages dampened the mood a little bit, it was almost imperceptible.  Bill commented on his impeccable timing: the last time he ran Boston, in 2004, it was the hottest Boston yet.  And this year was supposed to be even hotter.  AND (for those of you who don't know Bill) he does not do well in heat.  At all.  We joked about the probability of seeing Bill on the ground in convusions after the race and headed to our hotels.

Jimmy, John (who had a different flight), Tim, and I were all at the Sheraton.  Bill and Leisa were somewhere else, as was Allen, and Rand, Kathy, Robin, and her husband Joe were at the Westin.  After settling in our hotels, the plan was to get straight to the expo.  But Bill, Rand, and I were starving.  So we stopped and ate at a place on Boylston Street, The Globe, before heading over.  We sat outside.  And it was hot.  It slowly began to sink in that this was going to be my slowest marathon ever.  I actually knew that before I came, but it was starting to hit me just HOW slow it might be.  We played around on Boylston street a little, and then Tim, Bill, Leisa, Rand, Kathy, and I headed to the expo.

You've probably heard me say it before--but I hate expos.  I just do.  It's crowded, it's loud, and it's not too far off from the feeling you get in a Mexican market--everyone wants to sell you something.  But you HAVE to go to the expo to get your race number.  It's a trap!  Boston jackets were everywhere.  Apparently, it's an unwritten rule that if you've run Boston before, and you come BACK to Boston, you wear your Boston jacket to the expo.  EVEN if it's 80 degrees. I was silently judging/scoffing this practice when I saw this year's jacets.  They were orange.  People were commenting on the ugly color.  Outwardly, I agreed.  Inwardly, I was terribly ashamed that I actually kind of liked them.  But I kept walking past them.  I was determined not to buy anything that said BOSTON on it.  And, at the expo, I didn't.  I got my number, found out they were offering a deferrment, and headed back to the room.

About the deferrment--that is almost unheard of.  The BAA was saying, about the most popular/prestigious marathon in the country, "Look, if you will show some smarts and not run on Monday, we'll hold a spot for you in next year's race."  Don't get too excited--they were going to make you pay again (surprise), but it's a huge deal to have a spot held for you in Boston.  I never once considered the deferrment.  Mostly because I don't plan on going back to Boston and I was already there--money paid, etc.  And I just felt like I wanted to get it over with.  No one in our group ended up deferring.

That evening, the entire Bedford group (sans Allen, who couldn't stay up that late) went out to dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant on the North End.  There was more laughing/talking about Bill in convulsions, and lots of bread-eating.  One thing was clear:  the pressure was off on race day.  Nobody was planning to race.  Well, Kathy didn't come right out and say that, but the rest of us did.  We were in it to finish.  After that, we went to bed and I slept like a log.

Sunday morning--one day before the race--Tim, Jimmy, and I went to a little spot on Boylston Street for breakfast, where I enjoyed my first ever Diet Coke in a glass bottle.  Tim and I had plans to meet up with our friend Randy for lunch, so soon after breakfast we went for a 2 mile shake out run.  I was concerned about how my knee would hold up.  To my relief, it was fine.  But I got sopping wet with sweat in that 2 miles--not a good sign.  After the run, we ate at a great place with Randy, then made our way back to our hotel.

And then it hit me.  About 100 yards in the distance, there was this row of those bright orange jackets.  They had been calling my name the entire weekend, and I'd yet to admit that I actually liked them.  As a joke, Tim had me try one on and he took a picture.  And then...he said I should get it.  I finally admitted that, okay, I really liked the color, but there was NO WAY ON EARTH I was buying a Boston jacket.  I had promised in my prior blog post to do no such thing.  He took it from my hands and bought it for me.  What's a girl to do?  Can't go refusing gifts from her husband.  So, I have, and am indeed wearing right now (only because I'm cold--a sensation with which, after running this race, I was afraid I would never become familar again) a 2012 Boston Marathon jacket.  I assure you it's the color that got me.  But beyond that, I have no defense.  Judge away.

That night, Tim, Jimmy, John, and (later) Rand and I went out for pizza.  I was able to debut my jacket and get lots of fun made of me.  Again, no defense.  The BAA still, at this point, were harrassing us with emails about how stupid we were to even consider running their race.  Their final attempt was to send us an email which read:  "Tomorrow's race is not a race.  It is an experience."  And that, it would be.

The race starts at 10, but, being a point to point, requires that the (non-elite) runners wake up much earlier.  We had to walk a mile from our hotel to be loaded onto school buses.  Those school buses would take us to Hopkinton, where the race began.  It was hot at 6:30.  Not a good sign.  We met up with Bill and Allen, and off we were to Hopkinton.  It's about a one hour bus ride from Boston to the start.  I have not been on a school bus in a LONG time.  I almost forgot how sick they make me.  Until, well, it happened.  About halfway into the ride, I became deathly ill.  I just wanted to die, and I had no idea if I could walk, much less run.  Finally we made it to Hopkinton, where I darted out of the bus and puked my guts out.  It would happen twice more while in Athletes Village--again, not a good thing to lose all your fluid before starting a 26.2 mile, 80+ degree adventure.

Tim and me in Athlete's Village.
It was probably a half hour before I got my wits about me.  We settled on the blacktop next to the school, and we waited.  With each moment, it just got hotter.  But we were "all in" now.  The start occurs in three waves.  Tim, Bill, Jimmy, and I were in the first one.  So we got to start the earliest possible--a blessing given the heat.  On our way to the start, I just kept thinking "It's hot, it's hot, it's hot."  I kept looking at Bill, wondering if I'd ever see him alive again.  I have done my fair share of hot weather running and always been okay, but I had seen him melt more than once.

We lined up in the back of the wave (Jimmy had this bright idea even though that's where we were assigned anyway) and waited some more.  The guy in front of us happened to be from Bloomington, also named Jim, ALSO qualified with a 3:18 (same as me and Jimmy), and ALSO works at IU and does most of his runs on the B line (where I run almost daily).  Small world.  It took us 8 minutes to reach the start line from the back of the corral, and we were off.

It was hot.  I know I keep saying that, but it just WAS.  The good thing about the first few miles, though, is that we were practically alone.  Seriously--it was like doing one of our runs down Washington Avenue.  We were clicking off 8:30s and reminiscing about how we wished the rest of our Bedford group could have started with us.  Around 5 miles, though, it got more crowded.  The wave behind us had started, and there were some poor souls who had decided to go ahead and go after the dream that day.  They were at race effort.  We saw many of them again, and I daresay a lot of them never finished.

The first 10 or so miles are down and up the whole way, with most of it being down.  I was still surprised, however, at mile 12 when my IT band pain kicked in.  I had a cortisone injection in it six days before the race, and that injection had left me 100% pain free.  Until now.  I tried to ignore it, and at points I could--like going through the Wellesley Scream Tunnel.  I didn't kiss any girls (or boys), but I gave a ton of high fives during that stretch.  Bill is the only one in our group who came out of the tunnel with some lipstick on his cheek.  He also caught a football at one point.  The crowds were amazing.

Just after the halfway point, I started noticing my feet really burning.  Like I could feel the pavement under them--this has never happened to me.  I remember, at mile 14, Jimmy said "Now it's just two back-to-back 6 mile runs."  I love sayings like that.  I was starting to get tired and hot, but thought to myself, "Yeah, I can do that."  Then, around 15, I started feeling cold.  This is NOT a good sign when it's 90 degrees out (which, at this point, it was).  I knew I had to start walking through the water stops to ensure I got enough fluid.  So I did this, but every time I did I would lose contact with Bill and Jimmy.  I'd speed up to catch them, then do it all again a mile later.  Still, though, I felt okay.  I can't say I was really enjoying myself at this point, but I was okay.  Tim and Bill had to stop to use the porta johns a couple of times, so Jimmy and I ran alone for a little while.  Then, before I knew it, I HAD to go to the bathroom myself.  I didn't really have an option.

So all of us except for Bill stopped.  He jogged ahead very slowly.  I felt much better after the bathroom stop, and we soon caught up with Bill.  I think this was around mile 19 or a taste more.  We were in the middle of the Newton Hills.  I must say--these hills are not bad.  I barely noticed them on the uphill side.  The downhill sides were killing my IT band, but they really are hyped up to be way worse than they are.

Tim and I were right behind Bill and Jimmy until about 20.5, when all the sudden I felt a searing pain in my second toe on the left foot.  I tried to keep going but my foot just kept pulling up.  It had to be some sort of blister.  I motioned to Tim, and we pulled off and I sat down on a curb.  I kind of tried to yell to Jimmy, but I saw his and Bill's heads bob into the crowd.  And that was the last time we saw them.  I immediately noticed my shoe was bloody--not that uncommon for a marathon, but when I pulled it, and my sock, off, the true source of the pain was revealed.

It's no secret that I have toenail problems, especially with my second toes.  But what happened was that a blister had managed to form UNDER a badly mangled toenail.  I didn't know what to do, so I put my shoe back on and tried to keep going.  Couldn't do it.  Some nice bystanders offered to get me some paper towels, but I knew I needed an aid station.  The next one was up heart break hill.  We jogged/limped up heart break (which, again, is not that bad) to the medical tent.  I went in and all I could perceive was the coolness--it was air conditioned!  I slipped off my shoe and showed him my toe.  He didn't know what to do with it either, so he put a bandaid around it (after having cleaned it up with alcohol--ouch!!).  They asked me a bunch of questions, and I went back out on the road.  I couldn't do it. Still.

So I went back in and asked for their scissors.  This wasn't my first rodeo--I've dealt with something similar before.  I handed Tim my shoe and the scissors, and he knew what to do.  He cut away the portion of the shoe that was exerting pressure on the bad toe.  But it still hurt.  So then he cut up the sock.  Then, finally, I could run.  So I emerged from the tent about 12 minutes after I had gone in, but finally able to run.  I ran the rest of heart break feeling half way decent.

But once on the other side, my IT band locked up.  I honestly thought I was going to have to drop out.  I couldn't bend that leg.  I prayed that I could please, please just finish this stupid race.  I kept running, and it was very painful for about a half mile.  Then it settled into just a normal painful, and I could take that.  This was just past 21 miles.  Everyone had said "just make it to 21 miles and you'll be fine," but this is where I started to lose it.  The uphills were gone, but they hadn't bothered me, and now I was going downhill on a bad IT band and the heat was taking its toll.  I was cold again, and I had to use the bathroom again.  I was having horrible diarrhea, and it didn't help that the porta johns had to be over 110 degrees inside.  I stopped several times, and during one of those my abdominal muscles began to cramp.

After that, I told Tim it was vital that I start walking the water stops in order to get Gatorade in.  I was SO excited every time I saw one, because that meant I could walk for about 10 seconds.  That's how bad my legs felt.  And every time I walked, the IT band locked up again.   It was a viscious cycle.

My pace had slipped deep into the 9's and stayed there.  I had no idea what our total time was, and I did NOT care.  I had lost so much time in the med tent and bathrooms it was futile to even think of the clock at this point.  Around 23, my right quad cramped.  I've never had cramps, and certainly never in the quads.  Let me just tell you--you don't want them.  It stopped me dead in my tracks.  I was that runner next to the light pole attempting to stretch it out.  Tim massaged me and I was off again, but only for about another mile when it happened again.

I felt, at mile 24, worse than I ever have in any other race.  Even Chicago.  At the end of my 60K never did I even APPROACH feeling this wasted.  I was still of sound mind (which is the only reason this is a close second in terms of being the worst running experience ever), but it was like I had no control over my legs.  I just kept saying to myself "How could this be happening?  I ran almost 40 miles on a hilly trail and I never got to this point."  It was as though I was running on my bones were against the pavement.  And my quad kept cramping.

Finally, Tim pointed out the Citgo sign (which I had forgotten about) and that we were going under the last underpass--less than a mile to the finish.  My quad cramped hard, and I stopped again.  I said to him, "I don't know if I'm going to finish."  I was just a mile away, but that statement was absolutely true.  He stayed right with me and I just kept repeating the mantra of "one step at a time," praying that I wouldn't cramp that next step.  Finally, we were to Boylston.  But it's a looooong stretch down Boylston.  I was closing my eyes and running for a while, then opening them to peek and see how much closer I was.  Yes, it was that bad.  Had my right quad cramped any worse, I wasn't going to be able to walk, much less run, to the finish.  Finally, by the grace of God, we were there.  I grabbed Tim's hand, hoisted it in the air, and did what I had been wanting to do for the last five miles:  I stopped running.

It was over.  And I was glad.  I cramped and cramped all the way from the buses to get our stuff to the letter "B" where we were meeting our Bedford friends.  We saw Bill and Jimmy there and explained to them what happened to us.  The biggest surprise of the day was that Bill looked GREAT.  Jimmy didn't look quite so great and ended up in the medical tent for a brief time.  Kathy had struggled with bathroom issues, John had cramped all over, Allen had sucumbbed to the heat and was even turned away by a Wellesley girl, and Robin nearly melted...but we ALL FINISHED.  Take that, Boston!

So, what now?  As much as I'd love to lace up and get right back to running--it's clear that I can't.  My body is, from all angles, revolting.  Especially my left knee/IT band.  I got the shot to get through the race.  I barely did that, so now it's time to get rid of the pain for good.  I have a doctor's appointment tomorrow, and I'll go from there.  No running for likely 14 days.  After this little break, it's time for Dances with Dirt.  For now, all I can say is that I EARNED that jacket!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

The Boston Celebration

In case you didn't know, the Boston marathon fills up fast--really fast.  As in, you better register as soon as you're allowed to (based on your qualifying time), or you probably won't get in.  So, when it opened last year, I signed up thinking it would be my spring goal race.  Then I went all ultra (and I am still riding/loving that wave) and my goal race changed to the LBL 60K.  In case you missed that, you can read about it here.  The point is, LBL and Boston are only about 4 and a half weeks apart.  Seems like a long time, I know, but after training for an ultra and then actually COMPLETING it, it's not. 

When I set my sights on LBL, I decided that I'd race Boston if I was feeling good.  Maybe not go all out, but at least try to beat my marathon best of 3:18.  After all, I'm fit from the ultra training.  The day after the ultra, despite having a really banged up knee, I felt surprisingly good.  I was not really sore anywhere--that's the difference between pounding trails and pounding pavement.

HOWEVER (don't you hate those?), about a week after the ultra I began experiencing some IT band pain in my left knee.  I managed to stay sans injury for many months in building up to LBL, but the race itself damaged me.  I suppose it was worth it.  Anyway--it came and went for about a week, and then I did a 20 miler in Buddha, which has a ton of downhills, and it flared up angrily.  That was a few weeks ago, and it's been angry ever since.

So I took a few days off, rolled, iced, Grastoned, had Tim work on it with a wrench, got a lot of prayer from my awesome small group members, and it just didn't get any better.  Not any worse, mind you, but not any better.  Most long distance runners will shudder or even vomit at the thought of IT band syndrome.  It. Hurts.  And it's hard to get rid of.  It usually hits around mile 3-4 of my run, and feels, basically, like there is an ice pick in the side of my knee.  It's caused by inflammation of the bursa sack that underlies the IT band.  There is no risk of permanent injury by running on it, but it makes running really not fun.  I'm positive I got it from all the downhills at LBL.  Anyway, the thought of running Boston (which has a lot of downhill--I can just see all you runners who've had this injury wincing) in this condition was not very, um, attractive.

So I opted for a cortisone injection.  Now, hold on...hold the phone.  Don't flip out on me here.  So many people are phobic of cortisone.  You'd think it was cyanide.  Now, let me say that I do agree that cortisone should not be used on a routine basis--it should only be used when one has paid tons of money for airfare, entry fee, and hotel in Boston and can't get through the race without it.  Seriously, though, I've had several cortisone injections and I've never had a bad outcome.  People will tell you that it will eat your tendons up.  Which is why you should never get an injection directly into a tendon!  EVER!  I cannot imagine that any physician would actually even do that, but if you find one who wants to, go the other way.

I did not have my actual IT band (which is not a tendon, but a thick, fibrous band that has been described by scientists as being as indestructible as a rubber tire) injected.  Rather, I had the bursa sack beneath it (which is supposed to act as a cushion, but when inflamed acts as an ice pick) injected.  This was not pleasant, as the needle went all the way to my femur.  But I've endured worse.  This was yesterday, and it should take 48-72 hours to really "work."  I just ran four miles and am MUCH better--I'd say 60-70%.  So I'm hopeful that I can actually finish the race.

So, we're going to Boston.  Not just me, and not just Tim--but a whole buncha Bedford-ites.  It's a big group.  In addition to the Millers, we've got Jimmy, Bill, Robin, Kathy, Allen, John, and I hope I didn't forget anyone else who is going.  *I am not racing.*  I may be stupid sometimes when it comes to running, but I'm not THAT stupid.  First, my legs are still not recovered from that 60K.  No way, no how.  Second, I'm not in racing shape.  I mean I have a huge base, but I've done no marathon-specific training.  I've done a crap ton of long runs, but that only gets you so far.  Third, I'm running on an injured leg.  Though I may not feel it, I know it's still injured.  It came about because I didn't recover enough, so there is no need to push it to race effort and give myself another injury.  Fourth, and most importantly, I have no desire to race this race.

That may sound strange to many of you, and some of you may say you'll never understand it.  All I can say is that I don't want to race.  I just want to run.  I've raced two road marathons and one ultra.  I've done a marathon in training (on a 30 mile trail run with Tim and Scott--still one of my favorite runs ever).  I've done a lot of racing recently.

Most of you know that Boston is kind of a "big deal."  You have to qualify to get in.  I've never really thought of it as a big deal personally, but it is to a lot of people.  Some work years in order to qualify.  I don't care about qualifying for any marathon, so long as I can run it, so I don't really view Boston as a celebration of me being able to qualify.  If I'm being honest, the whole Boston thing kind of irritates me.  And this is by no means meant to offend anyone who loves that race.  I just feel that it adds pressure to a sport that should be so purely enjoyed.  I hate to see people beat themselves up over not qualifying, and I hate to see qualified runners treat unqualified runners differently (this is not the norm, by the way, but it does happen).  So you'll never see me wearing a Boston jacket or drinking out of a Boston coffee mug (Tim already has like five anyway) simply because I think that it is not good for the overall morale of the sport, and I absolutely HATE that they make so much money off of runners who come to run that race and most, if not all, is taken as profit.  Okay, Boston rant over.

So I'm turning my Boston marathon into a celebration run.  I know that sounds silly and almost Disney-esque (I do have a Minnie tattoo, you know), but it's the only way to describe how I'm approaching it.  I was running with Jimmy on the highway, from Bloomington to Bedford, a couple of weeks ago, and I just said to him "I'm running it as a celebration."  And that is what I'm going to do. 

I'm celebrating the fact that, in a year's time, I have been completely transformed.  The horror in which I was living when I was running this time last year (if you missed that, you can read all about it in my 2011 entries) has completely abated.  The ability to enjoy running was taken from me temporarily, and, now that I have it back, I will never take for granted again how wonderful and natural every foot strike feels.  I will never forget to be thankful to God that he has instilled in me this passion and ability for running.  I will never cease to glorify God and attempt to help others through my running.  I used to only care about my time goals (and I do still have them, but they're a much lower priority), and now I am deeply invested in how my running affects other people.  It might seem strange to think about me running some marathon actually helping other people.  But, like it or not, running is something I'm supposed to be doing.  God is using me in that way.  Connecting me with people in that way.  And I am so, so completely and utterly thankful for that.

I'm celebrating the fact that I have a wonderful life and a wonderful family.  Gag, I know, but I do.  I went through some really dark, dark years before I met Tim in 2008.  And, since then, my life has been so wonderfully different.  I have a daughter who is a disciple of Christ and one of the funniest people I know.  She has a heart of gold.  I have a 19-month-old who incessantly talks about puppies and loves to kiss my nose.  I have a husband who babies me to death and puts up with my irrational thoughts.  I have a brother, Wes, who is my best friend in the entire world.  I cannot imagine my life without him.  I have a dear friend and running coach, Scott, who feels like a member of my family.  We love him dearly!  I have a mom who, though we disagree a lot, loves me to pieces and would do anything in the world for me.  I have a dad who is incredibly like me in many ways--he "gets" me.  He is one of the few people I know who shares my insane passion for running.  I have a step-mom who has always made me feel part of my dad's family and she loves to spend time with me.  I have another brother, Michael, who is very dear to my heart.  Though he can be stubborn sometimes, I always think of him as sweet little Mike Tyke.  I have a younger sister, Mia, who texts me and sends me sweet/funny Facebook messages.  And it could go on and on.

And, lastly, I'm celebrating the heck out of my new freedom as a Christian.  You may have never thought of Christianity=freedom, but it does.  I cannot express in words how absolutely turned-upside-down my life has been since I met my dear friend Rachel Noirot and began attending High Rock church.  You can read my coming-out-as-a-Christian blog post here, but let me take this opportunity (since it's my blog and all) to say that I was, a year ago, an atheist.  And I was really hateful and miserable inside.  I didn't appear to be a "bad person," but I was a slave to my own thoughts.  No more.  I am free.  And I love it.  My life is not necessarily easier--in many ways it's more challenging--but boy, oh boy is it better.

So I have no time goal in Boston.  Not at all.  I'll run with my Bedford friends, and I may even run behind them.  But, assuming the IT band holds up, know that I'm out there focusing on the many blessings in my life.  Run free, friends.