Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dream the Impossible Dream

It started out innocently enough, when I finished my first HALF marathon and vehemently stated, "I will NEVER do a full marathon...running for 4 hours? CRAZINESS!" I switched to tri's after that, throwing in some more half marathons along the way when one fall it became clear that my running was the weakest of the 3 sports, I decided to spend the fall/winter focusing on running.

And it just so happened that the group was training for a marathon, so in typical FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) fashion, I was signed up for the AT&T Marathon. Besides, I figured I could throw down a Half Ironman in 5 hours and 45 minutes...running a marathon is much shorter..what's the big deal?

And just as innocently after our first race in the distance challenge leading up to the marathon, my good friend Mike commented, "you know, based on McMillan and your time from the IBM 10-k, your marathon time will be 3:45:00. That's Boston Qualifying time for your age group."

"What?!" I looked at him with complete perplexion. "Dude, I don't even know if I can finish this thing."

"I'm just saying what the numbers say. You keep training at the pace you are on and you will qualify for Boston."

It was a short, brief conversation. But, boy, did it get the wheels turning in my head. Boston, really? Well, I'm a numbers kinda gal and if that's what the numbers say, then 3:45 at AT&T it shall be.

Lo and behold, 3:44:23! HOT DAMN! I'm going to Boston, people!!

That was February of 2008. I decided to run Boston in 2009. I just didn't think I was ready to tackle another marathon two months Tri season was upon me! So, 2009 it shall be.

In the meantime, I had stated another goal (also after previously vehemently stating, "I will NEVER do an Ironman. That is just plain CRAZY!), I was going to do an Ironman in 2009. I was thinking something in the fall (marathon in the spring + ironman in the fall = nice balance), except when I found out that EVERYONE and their dog was going to do June. CRAP. Another case of FOMO and I was signed up for Ironman CdA in June. Of 2009.

I suspected then but I know for sure now (since they both admitted to it finally) that they thought I would be crazy for trying it. They being Coach Maurice of T3 (for triathlon) and Coach Sisson of Rogue (for running) of course. But apparently not wanting to rain on my parade, they both agreed to work with both schedules and make my dreams a reality.

And boy, I am ever so grateful that they've let me try!!!

I got to toe the line at one of the most prestigious running events in our country. Me. Dionn. With people calling me things like "a runner" and "a marathoner". Things I would never have dreamed of hearing. Yet there I was. In Boston. Getting ready to do it. I just couldn't believe it.

The Race Plan:
I had access to a very intricate and detailed spreadsheet that broke the course up by mile and elevation change. You could literally plug in factors to increase/decrease your expected pace to correspond with the terrain to create a pace band that told you exactly what speed you should be running at every step of the race accounting for uphills, downhills and flats. It was very sophisticated and honestly, a little overwhelming. I mean in general you think, I'll be slower on the ups and faster on the downs, it should all average out. Right? There's something to be said for having TOO much information.

After completely freaking out to Steve, he said, "Here's your race plan: Go 8:26 every mile. Period."

"What about the hills?"

"Fuck the hills. I want your pace to be steady. That means you are going to have to work harder on the ups and take it easy on the downs. That's it."

KISS = Keep it Simple, Stupid. Sometimes that's just what I need to hear. And just what I need to do. After all, that's how I ran Austin Marathon. And it has hills, hills and more hills. But I stuck to the pacers (who run the same pace regardless of the terrain) like glue and it had worked like a charm. Why wouldn't it work in Boston?

The morning before, I went for a pre-race run through Boston. I figured I'd just go 15 minutes out, 15 minutes back. The day was picture perfect. Sunny. Beautiful.

I thought it was a good sign. I wanted to be in a good place mentally (especially after the debacle in Galveston) and this was helping. Alot!

Drove the course with Mike and got to see the green monster at Fenway (Cool! I wasn't ready with the camera so I missed getting a picture. dammit.) And one of the side streets on the marathon route was named, Whalen! (YAY for E!! I wanted to stop and take a picture, but we were on a tight schedule...sorry!) I thought that was a good sign too!

At the pre-race team meeting with Sisson, after congratulating everyone on being a select group of folks to qualify, train and make it to race day, telling us we should be very proud for what we've accomplished so far, he then basically said, "get the fuck over yourself, there's work here to be done." He reiterated his "go steady" race plan to everyone and related Cicero's Six Mistakes of Man to the race. It was very interesting! Several points resonated deeply with me and I felt as if mentally I was really ready. It wasn't going to be my mind stopping me tomorrow..that was for sure.

Basically the race plan was going to be this:

Mile 0-5: Get in. Get Going. Get Settled. Get to your happy place at 8:26/M and get the feel for it.

Mile 5-15: Ten miles of Exposition-type rollers. Push it to 8:26 on the ups. Relax it to 8:26 on the downs. Hills don't scare you. You own hills.

Mile 15-21:Get your big girl panties on and take on Heartbreak Hill.

Mile 21-26.2: Closing time. Less than 10-k of good, solid, hard work to bring it home.

Gu every 5 miles. Thermolytes every 6-7 miles. Basic. Simple.

Got everything ready before we even departed for dinner the night before, just so I'd be as calm and relaxed as possible.
(my favorite FB comment on this was from Joe B. who said, "Where is your bike? And the wetsuit? What the hell kind of event is this anyway - you just run?" I was cracking up!)

Thanks to Mike's remarkable planning. Team Rogue got to ride on club buses to the race. That meant we were on a bus, with a potty, until we needed to get out to line up. Everyone else had to ride school buses, get shuttled up to the start and have to wait around in the cold and use the porty potties. I was nervous, but felt good that I could just chill on the bus for as long as I needed.

The butterflies in my stomach had long since helped the evacuation process prior to the start, so I didn't anticipate any potty stops. PLUS, having scouted the course the day before, I knew there were potties almost every mile. Somehow knowing that they are available, makes me need to go less. I'm so mental, it's not even funny.

As I walked towards the starting chute, I looked around at my fellow athletes, hearing the announcer count down the minutes until the start, I contemplated my clothing choice (full leggings, Team Rogue long bra top, arm warmers, throw away long sleeve tech tee) and remained confident in my choice (with my tight right quad, I didn't want my legs to be I was one of the few in leggings), checked my nutrition stash (one gu and zip lock baggie of thermolytes in each glove, two gu's and two baggies in each back pocket of my top), bottle of water in my hand. Check. Check. and Check.

Lord, I was nervous. I was worried about my knee. I was worried about my pace. Even with all the crazy workouts I did under Sisson, I missed the one 20-mile MGP (marathon goal pace) run that really had given me the confidence going into my first marathon that I could sustain that pace for that long. Technically, I'd never gone longer/farther than 14-miles at steady MGP. And when I did that was tough as ALL HELL.

Could I do this?

And on top of it all was the pressure of proving everyone wrong..that YES, you can do ironman training and marathon training at the same time. As I mentioned before, I felt like if I failed in my endeavor this day it would reflect poorly on Maurice and Sisson moreso than on me. It wouldn't just be Dionn having a bad day, but it would be "what the hell were her coaches thinking?"

But as soon as I lined up at the start, all that went out the window, I thought about all the other folks who I had spoken to who had done this race before and the common thing they had said, was "just look around...absorb the energy from the will be a remarkable experience" and then I remembered one of the last things that Sisson had said in our meeting, "Just run."

Seemed pretty damn simple. The countdown ended. We were off. And I just ran.

I ran with a silly smile on my face. I marveled at ALL the people lined up who cheered for hours and hours and hours as 23,000+ people streamed by them. I was amazed how at every mile at every turn there were people, kids, dogs, everyone cheering, yelling, screaming, encouraging us all on to "just run! Keep going!"

I thought as I passed over every 5k timing mat that in that instant my stats were being blasted to family, friends and teammates who were tracking me...keep it steady, D. Keep the pace. Steady. Steady.

On the downhills, people went screaming down past me. But I stayed focus on MY race. On MY pace. Save the quads, D. You're gonna need them later.

A half a mile from Wellesly, you could hear them screaming. Every step brought you closer until you got to the sign that said "Welcome to Wellesly". And then more and more signs "Kiss me", "Kiss me - I'm Asian", "Kiss me - It's my birthday!", and "Kiss me - GIRLS ONLY" I mean how could you not smile?

The miles went by quickly. 0-3 was busy just trying to find my groove and not go too fast on the downhill. Mile 4.5 came and I worked a Gu out of my glove, ripped it open with my teeth and tried to get it all down before the 5-mile marker showed up. Warm up was over.

Miles 5-15 just seemed to chug a long at a consistent pace. Mile 7 = thermolytes, then 2.5 miles later, more Gu. And then I was at 10 already. Just a 16-miler from here. 3 miles later, Thermolytes -- gotta get those down. Mile 15 more Gu. Time to get to work on some serious we go.

Miles 15-21. That's it. I'm a goat. Love the hills. People were crashing all around me and I had to weave my way around them on the ups. That felt good. Heartbreak Hill? Puhlease. Crested that bad boy and looked surprisingly over to the crowd as I heard some calling my name! Colleen in all her Livestrong gear!! COOL! Now I was ready for some sweet 10-k action. I felt good! Had power in the tank..granted the legs were tight..but the knee felt ok..a slight twinge in the right achilles...but not anything to be concerned about.

Miles 21-26.2 I knew even though I had worked the hills, I was behind by about a minute, but I didn't think it was a problem. There was plenty of time and distance to pick that up, so I started to increase my pace...then all of a sudden. "Pssst."

"what the hell was that?" I wondered as I slowed down to listen. Didn't hear anything so I picked it up again. "PSSST."

"oh shit." I knew what that was...that was my calf. whispering. After my cramping catastrophe and Longhorn last year, Meredith taught me how to listen a little more closely to my body and what it was trying to tell me while racing.

"oh shit oh shit oh shit" I muttered under my breath. I dug in my pocket and whipped out a bag of thermolytes as I mentally reviewed my nutrition. Yep..I'd taken everything I was supposed to along the way, what gives? Doesn't matter now. Fix it. FIX IT.

I threw both pills in my mouth and grabbed the first gatorade I got my hands on and threw them down.

"there on their way" I told my calves...just bear with me. Please. PLEASE!!

" We don't think so." they said back.

"shit shit shit" I eased of the accelerator until they were quiet. "ok, think D, think." Mental math at this late in the marathon is definitely challenging but I had to think it through. Ok, I needed to pick up the pace to meet my 3:40 goal, but every time I did that the cramps got closer and closer. I checked my watch. I checked my pace band. I checked my watch again. Ok..let's just hang here for a bit and see if things calm down. ok.

About a mile later, I knew it was going to be the now or never if I was going to have a chance at the 3:40, so I picked it up again.

"Um...excuse us. What do you think you're doing?"

"Crap." The thermolytes seemed to have stopped the tide from rising, but the water was still there. "Dammit." I dug in my pockets, grabbed the last baggie, ripped it with my teeth and threw down my last two pills. I knew it wouldn't help me for the rest of the race, but it would help me for after...and now it was about survival and living to see another day......only 60 days until ironman...I didn't have a lot of time to recover from the marathon.

Another check of the watch. Check the pace band. Check the watch. The Pace Band. Calculate, calcuate, calculate.

Moment of truth: ok...I can try and go for it for the next 2 miles and maybe get my 3:40. More likely, however, I will seize into a giant cramp and it will take me 30 minutes to finish these last two.


Or I could ease up, just enough to keep the cramps at bay, miss 3:40 BUT....BUT still make it under 3:45 requalifying for next year...AND possibly still salvage a PR.

How important is the 3:40?

In that instant Plan B sounded like the best solution. I eased up, enjoyed my run through the packed with supporters final miles and found myself crossing at 3:42:20. PR and Requalified. Check and Check!!

I was elated!! I wanted to cry, but didn't (that would come later). I wanted to do a cheerleader jump (but feared the revolt from my calves). So I was content with just smiling a huge grin and accepting all the wonderful congratulations from the most spectacular fan and race support crowd I'd EVER been a part of.

I couldn't believe what I'd just done. Me. Dionn. The Non-runner. Started AND Finished The Boston Marathon. AND faster than I'd ever gone before. Holy shit. HOLY SHIT! WOOT!!!!

It was kind of a daze after that. I got an IMMEDIATE phone call from sister congratulating me. She'd been tracking me all day and was so very proud. (Thanks Traci!!) And of course naturally, I updated Facebook. (I had my phone on me because it doubles as my ipod.) The congrats pouring in were amazing. I was totally high. It was (outside of the birth of my kids) one of the most amazing thing I've ever done.

Team Rogue threw down a bunch of great times during AND AFTER the race as everyone was finally free to enjoy massive amounts of adult beverages as we swapped race stories, compared soreness levels and basically had ourselves a good ol time.

My legs were so trashed the next day, I even talked myself into an ice bath at the hotel before I checked out to head to the airport. And I gotta tell actually felt good!And somehow, while I was at the airport, watching news coverage of the race (this is Tuesday mind you) it all came crashing down on me. I started bawling in the middle of Logan Int'l Airport. There I was, this little black girl sitting alone at a table, just crying. I'm sure I was quite the sight. I just couldn't believe I'd actually done it. Relief was the word that described it the most. I hadn't let them down. No one could give Maurice or Sisson a hard time. I'd done what they asked me to do and I got it done. I got it done.

Back home, I quietly but ceremoniously cleaned off my back windshield and stickered up.

How's it look????
I think it looks AWESOME!!!
But there's one sticker missing...... less than 60 days.... we'll see. We. Shall. See.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A good start to the day

Hours spent with Shay on his homework: Countless

Number of A's on report card: 5 out of 5

Sonic the Hedgehog T-shirt from Target: $12.99

Being proclaimed "The Best Mom Ever!" this morning after receiving T-shirt as reward for straight A's: PRICELESS

It's nice to get it right sometimes....