Friday, May 21, 2010

15 Minutes

Well, it's been a while. I have been diligently trying to heal my injury, not getting up before 5 am, and definitely NOT running. It's super tough to do and I feel, already, fat and lazy!

That being said, after a month and a few days, I have been released, sort run all of 15 minutes a day! Yes, just 15 mins...that's it. My arch is smashed down like a pancake on the left side, but hey, I'll take the 15 mins.

People kind of zoned on my blog entries due to their sheer length. So sorry..

Tomorrow, my son will run the Congress Avenue Mile. I am so excited for him! I can't wait to just be on the "crew", if only I could run alongside him...can I count that in my 15 mins?

Seriously, this is the end of this entry (again due to kvetching about how long the blogs are)

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Just the Finish the Thing, will ya?

Ok, Ok, I know it's been over a week. I'm trying to get back in to the demands of life and, in the meantime, my husband headed out for China and Malaysia for 2 weeks, so I'm chasing my tail.

Back to the middle of the race. The irony here is that I was ACTUALLY on target at the 1/2 marathon mark -- 1:41. I had planned for between 1:39 and 1:43, so I hadn't really fallen back at all. But, that's not what it felt like to me. I had decided to stop looking at my watch (already) because I was very scared of how far off the mark I was. At the time, my perception was completely incorrect.

On the course, the clocks that you see record the time from the official start (when the elites take off) YOu have to keep track yourself on your watch or be able to subtract out the time it takes for you to cross the start line and the time on the official clock. When you are tired and sinking, it's very hard to calculate (without your watch) where you really are...this is what was happening to me at this point in the race.

Because Lorenzo had continued on (as he should have) and he was the one telling me if we were above or below pace, I was now lost. This is a HUGE mistake in a marathon -- to not be responsible for yourself and keep your own time. I rely heavily on Lorenzo in training, but I should take care of myself in the marathon. And, here I was, losing him at mile 12, not knowing what my plan plans just ran ahead of me.

I know in my mind and in my heart that I have made a very critical error here and along with the pain in my foot I begin to struggle mentally. Here comes the devil on the shoulder; the internal tape that keeps playing over and over.

And, to top it all off, as I mentioned, the worst part of the Boston Marathon awaits me. I fight myself and try so hard not to think about miles 17-21 because I wonder how I will ever make it the next mile. I think of Gilbert telling me, just one mile at a time.

At this point, I decide I will not look at my watch again. This is devastating to me as I had several doable goals in this race (ok, maybe two completely crazy ones) and I feel them falling away.

I begin to listen to internal voice that says: What were you thinking? This is the big time -- I mean look at these people, they know what they are doing. I am not a marathoner, I tell myself (a little late) I'm just not a person who can run this distance at all. The thoughts just come at me with increasing speed and I feel myself again, looking for medical. I just can't do it, I decide. I should never have come here; I'm not prepared, this is insane.

I have never experienced the crowds like they are at Boston. They are immense, constant, noisy and knowledgeable. At one point, someone from the side sees my bib number and says, Wow, she's really behind, she's tanking. I think, screw you and keep it to yourself, but I realize he's right. I start to freak about giving out my number to people at home as I imagine them watching me tank as my time gets slower and slower. I imagine I can hear the "Wow, Red started too fast, she was doing ok, but look at her now."

All of this self-inflicted mental punishment is taking it's toll but it has passed the time. Suddenly, mile 17 is upon me, Hill number one. I'm actually surprised that I am still running and decide that something new that will engage different muscle groups will at least be interesting. I start to lean forward and stride out. My quads are shot now and they have replaced the pain in my foot that seems to have subsided. I dig and try to mentally turn it around.

I realize now that I am completely removed from the race...that I have disassociated. Lorenzo had mentioned this to me many times and it was in the article that he shared with me on the bus. STay in the race, it said, don't disassociate, take inventory of the body, take fluids, take gu, take salt.

Something inside of me changes. I can't really explain it. But, at that moment, while I have struggled and wasted time beating myself up; I decide to get back in it. I don't really know how to do it physically, but I start to re-engage. Remember the training, you have done this before. This is just like Exposition, it's not even that steep, dig in, you can do it.

People pass me left and right. Not my plan at this point, but I let it go. This is a totally new phenomenon for me in a race at this point. This is one of the many changes that happened to me on April 19th. I let them go. I don't let them take my energy, I don't let it irritate me. I realize anger at this point is not going to save me; there are many more miles to go.

I shake my arms out, I breathe deeply and I hit the secret weapon with vigor. "Hail Mary, full of Grace...." over and over I say it. I hadn't planned on hitting the secret weapon so early, but I do and it helps me focus. I take water, I take more salt; I change my stride and relax some. Suddenly, ahead I see Team Hoyt and I am humbled again. Stop complaining I say, this man pushes his son with Cerebal Palsy in races all over the world; not just here, but in Iron Man's. He's not bitching. I am in awe at these two. I have watched them on TV over and over and cried at the sheer love and dedication this father has for his son. I actually, without thinking, reach over and touch the dad and say, thank you, you both are so amazing, great job!

And off I go. Digging, tearing at it, the negative voices have stopped -- again, stunning at this point.

Again, another gift, my friend Paul King comes up behind me! A Gazelle! I want to stop and hug him. He says, Good work Alicia, you are putting in really good work here. Thanks Paul, I say, and off he goes. For a minute, I am in a time warp and back in Austin, Texas running a regular old training run with Paul. It's a weird feeling, but we are in Boston! I try to stay focused but I am so happy for his words and encouraged that I keep working.

In short order Beth W and Yetik come up beside me. Fantastic! I am so happy to see them. I cannot believe in ths huge race I am EVEN seeing Gazelles. Hi guys, I say. You look great, you look so strong. They look super strong as they glide up the hill. I'm truly happy that they are having a good day.

Off they go as well.

Heartbreak hill is tough and loud, and I actually walk for a bit. But, I soon talk myself out of it realizing that I will really slow down and possibly cramp if I keep walking.

At the top of Heartbreak, it's a miracle and the noise is deafening. I try to remember what David Vance said, the race is not over at Heartbreak; it's just begun. I think, well, on any other day, that may be true, but I am just struggling to hang on and hoping just run mile by mile.

I start to really give myself a pep talk. First, other people have sacrificed a lot for me to be here...namely my husband and my kids. I need to put in a good race for them. And, how can I possibly look my kids in the eye and tell them never give up if I give up. I just can't do it. I tell myself that quitting is now off the table unless I pull my Achille's and can't even walk. Then I hone in on some families and I find myself really wishing my own family was out in that crowd somewhere. I have to put that aside for now and get the job done or I will totally start crying.

Next, I tell myself, the worst is over. You are up and over Heartbreak, you have run all this way in pain; I mean, really,if you quit now, that would be crazy. I see Mile Marker 21 and keep pushing. Less than a 10K to go. I feel a surge coming.

AND, you bought the jacket. THE JACKET. You can't possibly wear that jacket if you don't finish the race -- it's just not done. You have to finish if you plan on wearing the jacket.

AND, don't you want to see the finish line? to just cross it? It doesn't really matter now; just get under 4 hours, you will requalify for next year and you can come back and learn from all of this.

Mile 23; just a little over a 5K to go. I push harder. You can do this I tell myself; you are almost there.

There's a guy in front of me who keeps stopping and starting and he has two friends, women, with him on each side trying to encourage him to finish. This is Boston, they say, you can't stop, you have to finish. They start up again and pass me. This happens a few times and each time, the women fan to each side so it's impossible for me to get around. I am so pissed, (first time this race, shocking) I am too tired and sore to get around them and I am in a groove. This stopping they are doing could cause me to misstep and I am just hanging on to my left foot this point.

I soon realize that they are NOT in the race...they are support for him. At this point in the race, it's dangerous for them to be in amongst the other runners and frankly, it's really pissing me off. They will not get out of the way. Normally, I would say something, but again, I'm saving energy. Then, I just let it go. I think, you know what, he may not cross the line if they don't help him, I will have to find a way around them that doesn't cost me time or steps.

I actually now start to pass a few people, not many, but some. I hang on to two women who have their names on their shirts and people are calling their names. Mile 24 now....the crowds are getting louder.

One of the ladies is named Patty. She's wearing a pink running skirt and a white tank. Her hair is blonde and perfectly coifed. I am so not kidding. I'm like, where did she come from? Did she just fix herself up and jump in here at mile 23? Seriously, she gives the crowd the Princess Diana wave and looks like she's barely run a minute. I have my mark...the old Alicia is back in the game.

I hang close to Patty and absorb the cheers, we turn left out of the tunnel and I stay tight on her. We turn right, I cut the tangent (Lorenzo's advice); I stay to the left to cut the next corner...I'm gaining.

What happens next takes my breathe away...we turn the corner and there it is, the finish line of the Boston Marathon. I feel like I have just woken up out of a fog. It's Boylston Street...both sides of the street, barricades, crowds many, many people deep and the roar of the people; it's amazing; awesome; I cannot believe I am here. I am really doing this. The guy next to me actually stops and takes a picture! I wonder if he's carried the camera the whole way.

I look back down for Patty and there she is; it's so close now, I can't give way. I pump my arms. I pull my son's gloves out of my shirt and tuck them in my shorts (for the photo of course) and dig as hard as I can. I gain on Patty, I'm next to Patty, I pass Patty and throw my hands in the air and cross that beautiful, amazing finish line of the Boston Marathon and smile!

A volunteer hands me water, and runners move forward in the chute. I lean over and begin to cry; wracking sobs from my chest. I'm just so stunned that I actually made it. Paul King spots me and throws his arm around me. It's ok, he says, (he knows I had ambitious goals) you did great, you finished. He's right, I finished. I don't care that I didn't hit my time goals. I'm just so happy I made it in under 4hours; that I requalified for next year. I'm not ashamed of my time at all. I'm so happy that I didn't give in at mile 4 and 12 and 15 and 18. I'm here. I get a medal and stare, we get our thermo wraps and see Beth W and Yetik who had a great day.

I hobble to the bus to get my drop bag. I realize that Lorenzo is probably long finished and I head to the hotel.

Someone shouts my name and it's Lorenzo and his wife. I cross the street. It wasn't my day, I said, but I'm happy. I'm coming back next year. I know what I did wrong. I learned so much out there on my own. I know he must be surprised since I had told him after San Antonio that I would NEVER do another marathon, but Boston is different. It's the Super Bowl.

I hobble to my room and I just feel so much joy even though I am in pain. I cannot get my foot on the ground at all and my quads are completely shredded. My foot begins to swell and I hobble for the ice.

I call my husband, who has already left me messages. He screams in the phone. Honey, you did it! I'm so proud of you; it's awesome. I know he knows I didn't make at least three of my time goals. Thank you, I say. I wish you could have been here, It's amazing. I think I really messed up my foot, but honey, can I come back next year? I just loved it! Of course, he says, and next year, we're coming with you!

Post Script: I headed to Pieter and Troy a few days later to learn that I had torn my plantar fascia about midway from the big toe to the heel. Check this out, Troy said, and other therapists gathered to feel my foot. Wow, I said to Troy, I think I did that about mile 4! That explains a lot! I've never seen anyone so excited by an injury. I'm not happy to be injured, but I couldn't figure out why I was in so much pain; now it all makes sense. Um, how long will it be before I can run again? I say. Troy, being Troy, just shakes his head. I'm going back next year Troy, really. But no marathons until then!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

What Exit?

Part Two, can you say, Exit 16W?

It's funny, in Jersey, most people ask you, what exit? I'm from 16W for example. It let's people know what part of the state you are from, although, sometimes, the accent alone is a give away.

Back to Boston...

I get the salt tablet in me, but not without some awkward hand off and assurance that I wouldn't drop it again. I feel like an idiot now and I know my errors are adding up.

I hang to left of the course because, well, I thought there would be less crowds and my Gazelle friend M Woo told me, pick a side and stay there. But, I have never really practiced water stops from the left and this proves to be a huge issue.

First, I cannot grab and drink from my left hand. On a water stop, I try and hit, one, two, three cups down. Lorenzo is behind me (oh so briefly) and he'd be dehydrated if he'd stayed there. Mistake Six, not practicing left side water stops.

Then I start grabbing water with my right hand. So, I bascially have to reach over, grab, drink and toss. Ugh! I secure the cup, try to drink and take the rest and pour it on myself. I am starting to heat up too much and I feel the reddness in my face.

Lorenzo looks over at one point and I almost can sense that he knows I'm overheated, but I just continue on. He has no idea at this point that I am in so much pain. I say nothing about how I am feeling, just hoping this will go away and shake itself out.

We continue to move through the miles, but the pace is never comfortable. I feel it's too fast, too slow, to up and down. My foot is killing me and I am trying to push down the panic. I hear a guy behind me plodding and grunting with every mile. I want him to go away; he's so loud and annoying and he's draining me.

At mile 12, I'm looking for the exit. I seriously can't stand the pain and I'm ready to DNF. I'm not sure what's wrong, but I need a consult with LB. Lorenzo pulls away and I make the cardinal error of the day...."Lorenzo..." I say, with a pathetic plea that sounds so much like someone hanging by their nails off a cliff. I'm whimpering, I'm desperate, I'm confused. I'm at the Boston Freakin' Marathon; not even at the 1/2 way mark and completely falling apart. I try not to panic. I realize that the moment I utter LB's name, that I shouldn't have.

He's ahead of me and turns slightly to see; but he can't see me. In slow motion, he turns his head back to the front of the race and the crowd swallows him up. He's gone. And he should be and I know he should. I would never want him to slow down for me.

Oh My God! I think. Never in my life did I think I would feather back from LB so early; it's mile 12. I mean, I thought I would lose him at mile 18 or 19, but 12! That's it, I'm out I think to myself. The next medical tent and I'm leaving tossing in the towel. I'm so upset that I try to process it all. I see my name: Alicia Sankar, DNF, 2010 Boston Marathon. I can't believe it. As I continue to run, all this is going through my head. I trained so hard. My foot hurt, but not this bad on long runs. What is going on? How can I keep the pace without LB? Goal A and B at this point are gone. I try to change my stride, lift my legs, anything to shake the pain and detract from the knowledge of the pain.

Then, suddenly, it's the 1/2 marathon point. I realize that I am only 1/2 way there and that the worst part of the race is still to come....the hills from 17-21.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Badda Bing, Badda Boston: Part One

Everyone knows the end of the story already: I made it. But it wasn't pretty, or elegant or graceful. It was gritty and rough and painful. I didn't hit my A Plan, B Plan or C Plan; but I didn't hit the worst case scenario either. It wasn't at all what I imagined -- it was something completely different; and, it changed me.

I know, this is a good spot for an Eye Roll (ER).

I have been training for the Boston Marathon since Pieter and Troy told me I could put the right foot back in a running shoe and try 2 miles. Yes, just 2! It's been a really long time; nearly a year of building up to this race.

This was the 114th Boston Marathon -- the race is steeped in history and you feel the pressure of it when you arrive, even if you try not to. Everyone has qualified to be there and trained hard.

To give some perspective on this....I trained way harder for this race than for San Antonio in 2008 where I qualified for Boston. I wasn't even going to do another marathon EVER again until people kept telling me that I had to do Boston. They were totally right; It's the Super Bowl of Marathons and I'm glad I did it.

I consider myself the poster child for mistakes one can make at their first Boston Marathon. My expectations for myself were too high:Mistake Number One. I talked to lots of people and got lots of advice about what to do; so, hey, you would think that I would know better or at least learn from others. I didn't.

I'll skip right to race day. We head out on the busses and we actually have a great time. I'm with Double D, Lorenzo Blanco and LB from the Gazelles. Lorenzo is truly cracking me up on the bus and I'm kind of amazed that A) Lorenzo is being such a comedian and B) that I am not hurling from nerves. Lorenzo gives me an article about how to train for Boston and, while I politely read it I think; Um, it's a little late, don't ya think?

Anyway, one point Lorenzo is trying to make is that you should not disassociate from the race. He's mentioned this a few times and he is now backing it up with this article (again, race day, on the bus, kinda late). But, I read it anyway.

The athletes village is very cool and there are hardly any lines at the port o pots; that soon changes as loads of busses pull up and people are jumping fences to get in line. I head out to get in line again; just in case. I head across from where we are and make Mistake Number 2 -- didn't get right back in the port o pot line after I had finished the first time!

Anyway, it's time to head to our corral and we drop our bags and head down there. We all have to go again; nerves I suppose, but I'm worried about getting DQ'd since I heard they do that to people who use the bushes in Boston.

Finally, we are in the corral and I have to go again, but I can't leave the corral. I can't do anything else either. Here is Mistake NUMBER 3: Relieving oneself after the start. Yes, seriously, it's the Boston Marathon and I actually have to start the race and head to the bushes and then try to catch Rookie move.

I try to soak it all in after the bush pit stop and hope I haven't just jinxed myself by using up that time and energy. There are hundreds of people in front of us; a huge sea of people running. It's amazing to see that many people.

From the get go, I have trouble breathing. I try to settle in to the pace, but I can't. We're too slow, too fast; slow, fast and I still am breathing too hard. Lorenzo tells me where we are fast or slow and I'm starting to worry.

Mile 4 -- Boston, we have a problem! My left, yes LEFT foot starts to give me a piercing throb up through the heel. I try to ignore it; I try to pretend this isn't happening. The wheels cannot come off this early; but, they are. The pain is so bad that it surprises me.

Then, I drop my first Gu. (Gasp and Mistake Number 4) Now, I now this may not seem like much, but if you are superstitious (like me) then all these little "nothing" happenings begin to add up to something.

"!@#@$", I shout. "Lorenzo, I just dropped my first Gu." "Don't worry about it, he says, you have more." "I know, but that's the first one." Now I have to dig in the pouch for a Gu without dropping all the other stuff in pouch.

Meanwhile, I take some tylenol while I'm in the pack. Still, I cannot get comfortable and my foot is hurting all the more and getting worse.

I have a bottle a water I've been carrying and it's time to toss it. I look left and yell, "tossing" and chuck the bottle, striking a fellow runner on the leg! OMG, I'm sorry, I'm sorry I shout, but it's too late. I've angered a fellow runner and invited bad karma my way...and, it's coming for me...

Yes, Mistake Number 5

About 45 minutes in; it's time for sodium. I pull one out of my pack and --- YES, I DROPPED IT! No way! I couldn't believe it. Lorenzo, I just dropped the salt pack. Ok, he says, and he fishes for another one and hands it to me and I'm able to hang on to it and get it to my mouth without fumbling. Mistake Number 6, I think I should just stop counting.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Basket of Goodies -- Forget 'bout it!

I have to admit, I am now officially scared. Terrified in fact. I wonder why I am doing this. I traversed the excited place to the "WTF, are you crazy!" place.

Also, who would have thought tapering was so hard. I mean, seriously, all the aches and pains emerge, they are ugly and arrive in places that previously had no pain at all. My left foot throbs at the slightest movement. I feel like Tom after he's been hit by Jerry with a hammer. I can't sleep. My body temperature seems very high, I can't cool off. I lower the air conditioning (no, this is not a hot flash).

Last night my neighbors arrived bearing gifts! A huge basket with gels, sport beans, snacks, magazines for the plane, a book, a pedicure gift certificate, yummy lotions, and a Starbucks gift card. Oh, the faux diamond stud earrings -- every Jersey Girl needs them and the requisite mini hand that flips you the bird and shouts profanity at you...for miles 17-21 (thank you Sullivan's).

But, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE the two banners they made. T Howard's gals made 2 banner complete with the Gazelle logo and my number.

It's awesome! I need to get a better photo of it. It felt great to be so celebrated, and I haven't stepped foot on the course yet!

I will pull in the energy and take it with me!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Finishing Touches

There's really only one week to go and I'm in the midst of making lists, getting final miles in, going to see Pieter (weekly, getting advice from people who have been to Boston, and pulling in all the good MoJo I can.

Saturday, LB and I ran with Steve who is coming back after doing Austin and Paul King. We only had to 12 miles which, to be honest, I sincerely struggled with. I felt winding, sluggish and, well, fat. I have gained some weight recently, though I'm not sure why and it's become an obsession. Yes, coach, I am laying off the booze.

During this run, I realize how truly fast our MGP is; I know, it's kind of startling that I am just now realizing this. You see, I thought it was three seconds slower than it really is in order for me to hit my unspoken goal. Three seconds may not seem like much, but over 26.2 miles, it truly is. Wow, now I'm scared. I move alternately from excited to scared on a regular basis.

Today, I asked Fr. Jamie Baca at University Catholic Center for a blessing. He's been a huge support to me over my training. After Mass, Lourdes, Fr. Jamie and I join hands and he says a beautiful blessing over me and my health during the race. Aidan took these two pictures.

I hope, for those of you that have followed along all these many months of training will stay tuned. I hope to post frequently about the entire experience.

One more week!

Sunday, April 4, 2010


I learned this the hard way when I started Gazelles -- never ask how many repeats or laps you are doing. You will get more to do. So began Saturday, when I thought I was doing 17 miles as I am now looking forward to the taper weeks. When are they?

To let the curious know, my left foot is crapping out. It's amazing, all my previous problems started on my right side. After last week's very painful 18 miles, no my left foot is screaming. It hurts most of the time.

I whisk myself off to Pieter who reports that my cuboid, yes, can you believe it, on the left side is starting to complain. I cannot believe it. I have excruciating pain down the outside of my foot. I can only hope, Obi Wan Pieter can fix it. When I tell him what's going on, he doesn't seem surprised. I'm disappointed that I've lost the element of surprise with him. But, he shrugs as he starts to press and prod the foot looking for point of pain. This is about the time when things break down, he says. Luckily, he seems to be able to magically adjust the foot to relieve the pain and moves on the other parts of my body that are acting up. And, there are lots of them.

Troy comes over for a look too and they ask me about my runs. I love these guys, they are genuinely interested in my progress and I feel like I actually have a team on my side. I tell them I wish they could come with me. They start to laugh about how they would sit on the side waiting for me to come by at certain points, crack and adjust, put my shoes back on and send me on my way. I wish! Pit stop, Pieter and Troy and off you go.

Back to the long run. I have a decent week, but my foot still hurts in spite of all of Pieter's work. I run with my son riding his bike by my side one day for recovery, I make it to the gym.

So, I get my head wrapped around 17 with the end at MGP. My foot is killing me part way through the run, so LB says we should just get the miles in and do a pace run on Monday. This is the not first time we've backed off of an MGP run and I am starting to get nervous that I haven't pushed hard enough. The doubts creep in. But,I say ok and we trudge along. Them LB tells me we're doing more than 17, more like 18ish. WHAT? Are you kidding me? It's one mile, but it seems like more.

At one point, we start to pick it up a bit, but I lag behind LB. I am tired of being behind, when we hit Exposition, I start to try to catch him, on the hills. I try to change my stride so that my foot doesn't strike and cause pain and slowly, slowly, I gain ground. Suddenly, I start to feel refreshed. Just like that weekend of the great 22 miler, the pain goes away and I really hit a groove. LB calls out, we're 6 seconds below MGP, 10 seconds below MGP and I push harder and harder.

I feel great, focused. Breathe, push, LB falls back some...Mile 14; 8:14; Mile 15, 7:37; Mile 16, 7:15, Mile 17, 7:04, Mile 18 I drop back to 7:37. I don't see people coming at me, I don't feel pain, I just dig. I am completely surprised by this effort and don't know where it's coming from, but it feels great.

I decide that it might be a good idea for LB to tell me that we're doing a long run, just 22 miles on Boston on April 19th. Then, about mile 20, he can tell, me, oh, yeah, I forgot, we're doing 26.2 and this is the real deal!

2 weeks to go!