IM Louiville

IM Louiville
Bikes racked at Ironman Louisville 2010

Monday, December 11, 2006

Day Before Tucson

I'm writing this as I sit on the plane on my way to the Tucson Marathon. In the days before any marathon, it's normal for me to feel nervous. Have I logged enough miles? Did I bring the right clothes? What will my strategy be as the miles become tough?

This race is different. For the first time, I truly have a time goal for this marathon. Sure, I had an idea of what I wanted to run my first marathon in. But I also tried to listen to the experienced marathoners who told me that your only goal for your first marathon should be to simply finish. For my second marathon, I just wanted to beat my time from my first marathon. But a nasty cold the week before the race pushed that goal to the background. In all other marathons, the object of the race was to just finish and have fun. It is true that the most fun I've had during a marathon was when I started out with friends and had no time goal in mind. So what am I doing?

I'm chasing that ever-coveted dream by all competitive runners: Boston. The reason I signed up for Tucson was to take a crack at Boston. The steadily-downhill course coupled with the timing of the race (well after triathlon season has ended) seemed to make sense to me as I completed my entry form back in July.

In the weeks and months since entering this race, not a day has gone by when I haven't thought about this ultra-challenging goal for myself. Most of my fellow triathletes know about the struggles I have on the run. It is not unusual for me to be passed on a regular basis on the run section of any triathlon. I am done with this.

To prepare for this marathon, I picked up the Intermediate Marathon Training plan by Hal Higdon just after completing my last triathlon of the season in August. This plan called for 5 days of running per week, something I haven't done since my pre-triathlon days. Back then, my longest runs were a mere 3 miles.

The schedule, though daunting on paper, really didn't seem too difficult. I put away my bike and focused on running. I signed up for the Chicago Half Marathon determined to beat my half marathon PR (also set on this same course 4 years ago). I did it. This fueled my fire into believing I was quite capable of qualifying for the Boston Marathon.

For some people, running comes easy. They go out there and tick off miles with what seems to be the least of effort at a pace in which I could only wish for in my races. They talk about how they "will do Boston again next year" the same way I talk about how I have to work the next day. Like it's expected. Like it's just an every-day occurrence. Like it's no big deal.

No, Boston doesn't mean to them what it means to me. One can only have deep appreciation for an accomplishment that they have put their heart and soul into. It's different to work for it. To pick yourself up again after missing the mark several or dozens of times. To get up enough courage, focus and determination and go after it like you've never gone after anything before. To know that to achieve this goal, you have to lay it all on the line with very little (if any) room for error.

I've calculated and re-calculated where I need to be. I entered a couple other shorter races in the last few months to throw it all out there - to see what happens and try to become familiar with those signs that tell me I'm pushing too hard. I've improved my eating habits and have dropped a few pounds. I worked on strength training exercises specifically geared to prepare my hamstrings and quads for the long, downhill course. I've told myself that I can achieve this if I work hard enough for it. I've received encouragement and support from everyone who knows I'm doing this race and knows what I'm after. They believe in me. Now it's time to believe in myself.

There's not much I can do to make things go any better at this point. I am arriving to this race healthy, injury-free, well-tapered and mentally prepared to tackle this challenge. I know this will be one of the hardest physical goals I've ever set out to accomplish. But I'm ready. I didn't run all those long runs to get down to Tucson to "have fun". I didn't do it to log another marathon in another state. And I didn't do it to turn in another MJ-the-mediocre-runner performance.

I did it to qualify for the Boston Marathon. And I will do it.

Bring it!


bconway6650 said...

Congratulations, Well Done!!!!!

pam said...

Well said MJ...Congratulations on another great accomplishment :)

RunBubbaRun said...

Congratulations on qualifying. Dang, you are getting fast on your feet. Great job.