Tag Archives: Boston Marathon

Handling a major disappointment

Participants in the 2010 Boston Marathon in We...

I'll be missing the excitement of Boston this year.

Just after lunchtime today, I called the American Youth Hostel in Boston and cancelled my reservation for April 13-17. All serious runners will read that sentence and think “Oh, man! I bet he is really bummed.” And I am.

For you writers and others who occasionally read my blog, The Boston Marathon will be held April 16 of this year. Boston is arguably the marathoning experience most distance runners long for … and the one comparatively few get to enjoy. It is one of the hardest to gain entry to and it is expensive, both in entry fee and travel/lodging costs. I qualified for it at the last possible moment—in the Top of Utah marathon on September 17, 2011. Now I have to drop it from my schedule and hope that I can qualify again in some future year.

At one point, late this past fall, I had visions of a triumphant Boston experience. The launch my new collection of short fiction—Running Scared—would be at Boston and sell thousands. I’d have a blast meeting hundreds of Dailymile friends at the Boston meet-up. A major personal best in the marathon was all but assured. Now the only thing major about April 16 will be the disappointment I’ll feel as I watch the race on TV.

I think I’m handling the situation pretty well … I haven’t broken any furniture, taken my frustrations out on the dog, or sunk into a pit of despair. So, what’s my secret?

First – I immediately shifted my focus to future events. Two weeks after Boston is a 24-hour run that will raise money for Engineers Without Borders. I signed up for it when the possibility of a Boston meltdown was raising its ugly head. I’m also planning on running the Madison (Montana) Marathon in July with my daughter, a race I’ve really been wanting to run.

Second – I accepted that the reasons for canceling my Boston plans were valid … and they were my choices, hard as they may have been. A launch in Boston was cost-prohibitive; they were asking $7500 for the smallest booth and the location of the expo wasn’t conducive to holding the launch nearby. (Which would have been problematic anyway.) An untimely illness cut into my training and seriously reduced my odds of a major PR and then a flare-up of my achilles tendonitis dropped the odds further. Finally, a conflict with an important volunteer commitment meant that I’d miss the meet-up if I was able to go at all.

Third – I tried to identify the positives. The decision was made soon enough that I’m only out the (hefty) registration fee. It was also soon enough that the intense speed work that would have happened over the next couple of weeks can be switched for the longer, more relaxed training an ultra requires. I won’t be missing my wife for the five days, since she wasn’t going to be able to come. Same for my grandson, Chaitan, who counts on me as nanny.

Fourth – Now I’m thinking about the Bolder Boulder for my launch. More people. Closer. Hopefully less expensive.

Fifth – I’ve decided that, despite being fifty-five years old, my best running is still ahead of me. I’ll just have to qualify for Boston again.


Filed under Personal, Running

The art of remaking me

If only it were this easy.

Caterpillars have it easy; weave a cocoon, go to sleep, and, voila! wake up a butterfly. I, on the other hand, have my work cut out for me.

My ten-day fast was intended, not only to cleanse my body and short-circuit some bad eating habits that had developed, but also to give me the chance to “strip down to the chassis” and start over. Before the fast, I wavered between 156 and 158 pounds; about ten pounds over the ideal weight for my 5′ 7-3/4″ frame; most of the extra was around my waist. I wanted to take the extra strain off my legs and come out of the fast ready to become stronger, faster and more durable.

Yes, this was an all-out declaration of war on Father Time. And, yes, I know it is a conflict I will ultimately, some day, lose. But there a lot of battles that I can win before that day comes.

Eight days have gone by since the end of the fast. My strength has grown every day. On each of those days, I’ve added additional core exercises and reps, started doing push-ups, ate healthier… and I feel better than I have in a long, long time. The arthritis in my hands has still not returned. My legs are still pain-free. I have returned to what I consider my “ideal” weight of 147 pounds (from a low of 141).

My run yesterday was everything I hoped it would be at this stage; ten relaxed miles that did not feel as fast as they were. My stride was lighter and smoother and the pace was quicker than any run since my marathon on September 17 and this run was easy. A 3:15 Boston marathon is within my grasp if I stay the course.

I am struggling mightily (and, in part, unsuccessfully) to avoid falling back into the black-hole of snacking. For now, I’m managing to stick (mostly) to healthier whole nuts, but I know I have to dig deep and find the discipline to limit even these to healthy-size portions. And there are some good habits I would like to acquire, mostly having to do with stretching and self-massage, things that I know can help me stay injury-free.

All-in-all, I am pleased with the rebuilding project so far. There may have been a bent nail  here and there; some of the walls still need to be squared-up. But I’ve squeaked by the first inspection and hope to do better on the next one.


Filed under Fasting and Health, Personal, Running

Running fast – Day 4, OMG Why!!??

I’ll get into the run and how I’m feeling in a moment. First, I have to answer the question that so many of you have been asking- Why would you do such a thing? Right off I want to say it has nothing to do with losing weight. The five extra pounds or so that I had would have come off as I ramped up my mileage for the Boston Marathon later in the winter. So why then?

All of you want to be part of some grand adventure… some marvelous, impossible undertaking. Admit it. Even those you who have had the joy of experiencing one (or two, or ten) of these, dream of the next one. There are many of these and they all involve testing your limits in some way; climbing a mountain, running a marathon, shooting Class 5 rapids, adventure skiing, finding a cure for cancer or writing the Great American Novel. Some we never do, but trying makes us better than we are. First pushing ourselves harder and then really testing our limits is an important part of a rewarding life. Ann’s Running Commentary has a nice post from someone discovering that.

The Leadville 100 Race Across the Sky was my grand exploration into the limits of body and will. I’ve climbed mountains and done a lot of marathons, but it was only at Leadville that I truly tested my limits. If my training had been consistent and injury free, I might never have had that chance. My crew: wife Kathleen, daughter Carrie Murthy and friends Josh Fuller, Nate Willson and Cassie Garcia made certain that I did test my limits, beat the odds and get to the finish line. I believe that race changed my life and that I probably wouldn’t be on the verge of becoming a published author if I had not finished it. A part of the reason why I’m doing this ten day fast is that I’m ready to test my limits again.

My main reason is that I just felt like it was time to clean myself out and start over. The detoxifying effects of fasting are controversial and, some claim, unproven. Here are two “pro” links- Fasting and Fasting, and a “con” at Livestrong. My experience is that they do have a dramatic and positive effect on many of the bodies systems. I have problems with joint stiffness, especially in my hands and fasting has made a significant positive difference. The digestive system is one where there is little controversy about the positive effects and I need all the help that I can get in that area . The improved eyesight (which goes away almost immediately after stopping the fast) isn’t a reason for doing it, but enjoyable nonetheless. The cleaned out feeling may be psychological in some respects, but it is so pervasive in the later part of the fast that it is almost spiritual.

I know- “What? Spiritual? You’re losing me there, Mike.” I am not about to put any religious spin on this fast at all. My beliefs are my own and I don’t generally share them except with the closest of friends. But there is an aspect to being on the edge that puts me in a very spiritual frame of mind. Just ask Josh Fuller about the hour-long conversation we had in the middle of the night, eighty miles into Leadville. No matter what your belief system is, I think fasting could improve your understanding of it, or make you look closer at what holds it together.

The last time I fasted, I wasn’t paying close attention to all that was happening to me. The fast was for a cause and that was where I was primarily focused. This time, I am paying more attention.

Finally, an after-the-fact reason: I realized, once I started, that the whole process was interesting to some people; blogging about it has greatly increased the traffic at my brand-new website. As a self-publishing author, almost any publicity is good publicity.

And now for the run. It was freaking 18 degrees! 20 mph wind! Give me a break… please? If it wasn’t for the conditions (and another reason I’ll mention momentarily), I think this run  may have felt better than yesterday. I weigh about six pounds less than before I started and I think my legs appreciate the lighter burden. The temps and wind were enough to make me struggle, even though it was a very slow pace. I wore my heart rate monitor for the first time and my HR stayed in the upper 150’s. I’m not worried; considering how little sleep I’ve had, I wasn’t surprised.

The other reason- once you’ve gone past a certain point with a fast, eating again is a dicey thing. You have to be very careful and let your stomach and digestive system get used to working again. I thought the banana an hour before my run would reduce this effect. Not. My tummy bothered me before, during and after the run. It is like it is saying “All or nothing, buddy.”

I know I went a bit long this time, but I hope you don’t mind. In the days ahead I’ll be writing more about the negative aspects of fasting, how it feels to be running with such limited energy stores, and I’ll relate some of the most fascinating events in the history of fasting.

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Filed under Fasting and Health, Personal, Running