Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ya can't drive around with a tiger in your car

It’s been a tradition over the last 4 years choose the title of the last blog before the marathon from a verse in the Roger Miller song, “You can’t roller-skate in a buffalo herd” (on YouTube if you actually care ) . This will be the last year. Promise! I’m running out of verses anyway…although we could have used “You can’t take a shower in a parakeet cage”. That’s one that has never been on my life list of things to do.

So here we are, a couple of days before the marathon and in Boston the excitement is building everywhere. I went into Boston to get my number and the finish line is painted on Boylston Street, the stands are being built, signs are up everywhere touting the marathon and welcoming runners, and on every street I passed runners warming up, sightseeing, taking pictures and of course, eating. When you drop over 26,000 runners into the center of Boston they can’t help but be a dominant presence. That’s right, there will be over 26,800 of us at the starting line in Hopkinton on Monday morning. A town whose regular population is around 2700. Like hosting a party where everyone invited invites 10 friends .

Standing in line to get my number and T-shirt you can’t help but get excited. Everywhere you go strangers are yelling out “good luck Monday”, or “congratulations on getting here”. It’s like being a rock star. But along with the excitement you can sense the nervousness. Most runners have trouble sleeping the night before. I always get nervous the last few days before the race. Truth is, there is nothing you can do in the last week that is going to improve your odds of finishing and a thousand things you can do to screw things up. And it’s not as if I’m in it to win it. I have a much better chance of winning the lottery than I do of winning the marathon. Or for that matter beating the first woman or even finishing in the top half of the runners. Heck I’ll be lucky to have the knee hold up and finish under 4 hours. And having done this more than a dozen times you would think I’d be pretty relaxed about the whole thing. I guess after all the training, the long runs on cold dark mornings, the icing of body parts that keep reminding you you’re too old for this, you just want everything to go smooth.

But there is also the deep desire not to let down any of the friends and family who have supported me throughout, or the families I’m running for at CAH. And most of all not to let down Nick. I promised him I would Live Life Large and I know he will be out there running with me Monday.

The big unknowns with Boston are the last minute aches and pains, the weather and the logistics of getting to the start on time. Not much you can do about the first two but the last one has many of us paranoid runners who have slept through an alarm, checking the clock every hour during the night. The other big risk is starting out too fast. Boston is a downhill marathon, although you would never know it when you hit the hills in Newton. Over the first 4 miles the race drops 300 ft (the equivalent of a 30 story building). You can imagine what it is like to be cooped up on a starting line waiting to go, adrenalin pumping, legs getting antsy, and the gun fires and you are off…downhill. It’s like the horses coming out of the gates at the Kentucky Derby. The two biggest mistakes a marathoner can make…particularly in Boston are not drinking enough water early and going out too fast. And for the latter, the downhill start doesn’t help. Between miles 4 and 15 the marathon is rolling but the elevation doesn't change much. There is a big drop in mile 15 to one of the lowest points in the race and at mile 16 the climb starts. Over the next 5 miles you will climb the height of that 20 story building through a series of 4 hills each ranging in length between a quarter and a half mile. The last one, and the steepest, is Heartbreak Hill. There have been years I have cruised through these hills with some of the fastest miles of the race and other years where I have been heard to say “please just shoot me now”. On Monday I hope to be somewhere between the two.

So I have two goals going into this weekend. To finish the Boston Marathon for the fourth year in a row and to make my contribution goal for CAH. I’ll take care of the first but I could use a bit of help with the second.

And as for Roger’s song….what I love most is his chorus.

All you gotta do, is put your mind to it
Knuckle down,
buckle down,
do it, do it, do it

It will be what I’m singing as I’m coughing up my lungs on Heartbreak hill.

Thanks to everyone for the kind words of support and encouragement as well as the donations. There is nothing I can say that even comes close to letting you know how much it all means to me and to so many families.

PS: Much like last year, if you are totally bored or have a morbid streak, you can track my progress during the race either by registering for updates on a mobile phone or email. Click on the link below and it will give you instructions for both. My race bib number is 14750.

I should be crossing the starting line sometime around 10:35 and if all goes well I’ll be done just after 2:30.


rigpei said...

"But you can put a tiger in your tank!" Best wishes...Your friends in Waynesboro, VA

Anonymous said...

Good luck Dave, Nick will be with you, through every hill or pain that comes your way, you can do it. Live life large. Betsy