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onthebusrunning last won the day on April 23 2018

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  1. onthebusrunning

    The Race

    There will most certainly be more.
  2. onthebusrunning

    The Race

    Thanks, Dave. Ever forward.
  3. onthebusrunning

    The Race

    I'm 100 percent with you. There was something about it being Boston that made me feel like I had to press on (maybe it was because I had bought the damn jacket already). We will most certainly be stronger for it. I'm having a little PTSD whenever I have to step into the rain these days, haha.
  4. onthebusrunning

    The Race

    You most certainly are -- having chatted with Dan, I have no doubt. Thanks for the kudos -- certainly have never run in anything like that for that long before.
  5. onthebusrunning

    The Race

    Agreed, wholeheartedly. I think we learn the most about ourselves when the plan goes south. What can we really endure? And do we grow from it?
  6. onthebusrunning

    The Race

    Thanks, Bangle. That's for sure -- this one is going to be in the mental rolodex for a long time.
  7. onthebusrunning

    The Race

    It started as more of a heavy mist than a rain. But there was no mistaking the wind. It came in gusts, battering at our resolve before we had even begun. Each gust came without warning, or rhyme or reason, which made the situation somehow more unpredictable, more grim, like no matter what we did, there was no escaping it. We walked -- or trudged -- the .75 miles to the start, this misbegotten horde of rejects who seemed for better or worse (mostly worse) to be on the outs with society. Trash bags snapped around us, Mylar sheets pulled snug, mismatched sweat suits and tech vests starting to absorb the rain. Even the best among us were likely asking the eternal question, "How the hell did I get here?" And what's more, "Why am I here?" I bit down on the edge of my poncho hood with the desperate hope it would stay in place and keep my head dry even though I would be saturated in minutes. The wind whisked the last remnants of our conversations away, our last words perhaps? I stepped between the barrier and into my corral. The clock read 9:55, and I decided to wait three more minutes to strip down. The announcer (executioner?) did his best to buoy our spirits. I watched the seconds tick down to the unavoidable. I peeled off my poncho, vest, sweatshirt, and long sleeve. The cold started in on me immediately, and I began to shiver and thought, This isn't good. But then crack! The gun. The night before, my friend and I went to our favorite philosopher, Jonathan Beverly, for his insight and perspective: "You have to respect a distance that can reduce you to survival four out of five times, despite the best laid plans and preparation." Addendum: the distance and Mother Nature. We chatted with our coach and modified our race plans as one might do with a forecast for 25mph headwinds. In short, I knew (as I had likely known for days) that my 2:35 would have to wait. We resolved to find an effort that made sense but ultimately agreed to run the race by feel. I channeled my inner Stan Beecham and vowed to get the best out of the day. I'd like to tell you that despite all odds the day came together, that there was a singular moment where I pulled myself together, righted the ship, and, you know, dug deep. But I can't. Because sometimes you put in the work and it's just not the right day for it. But like the badass woman who persevered on Monday said, you have to keep showing up. With that in mind, I can sum the race up fairly quickly. After my initial reaction just before the gun, I started in on myself. You haven't started running yet. Relax and get into the race. And I did. For my first seven miles, the rain remained a light mist, the wind hardly noticeable. So, I settled into sub-2:40 rhythm for as long as I could and felt the miles floating by, the pace and effort coming easily. At seven, the first downpour came and transported me back to my New England college days, when the cold rain seemed denser somehow and could penetrate down to your core and chill your spirit. My singlet clung to me and did nothing to abate the wind that blew right through me as if I was a ghost. I reigned back on the pace to keep from fighting the wind and burning any extra energy, and pulled the bill of my hat down to shield my face. The Wellesley girls managed to get a smile out of me, but only just. I didn't look at my watch again until half where I came through in 1:21. From 13.1-22, I entered into a constant battle of med tent and mile marker. The downpour would come and the wind would stand me up. My teeth chattered and my thoughts fogged. For large stretches, my view of the course was the narrow sliver of road that appeared under my hat brim. The road turned to river. I splashed through puddles, now unavoidable, and managed to spray more water up my calves and into my socks. And just as the med tent would come into view, the rains and wind would slacken and I could continue. I'm not sure why or what was pulling me on. The rains mingled with a few tears because I felt downright miserable and even a little sorry for myself. I remember ditching my gloves at 15 because they were soaked and seemed to be trapping the cold. I made a fist and wrung water out of them. And at 15.1 I regretted it as the wind ate at my now raw, red, and exposed fingers. What could I do but continue putting one soggy foot in front of the other. I soldiered on. Heartbreak (the hill), came and went. Hardly the formidable or momentous moment it usually becomes. At 22, I realized I had just four miles to go, and what was another four at this rate? Hey, you might actually finish this thing. The crowds thickened and spurred me on. Quintessential Boston. Even in the worst of conditions, the crowds still came. They carried me past the Citgo sign and eventually onto Boylston. That finish line never looked so sweet. It was the end of another chapter, another Boston, and also a reason to finally say for sure, it's ok to stop. I crossed in 2:53:59. Empty. I immediately began to shiver and wouldn't stop for another hour despite dry clothing. But after a very long, hot shower, after the cold had left me, and the texts and emails and calls had been answered, I returned to Beverly for one more passage: "I've learned that even when the marathon wins--perhaps especially when it does--we discover truths about ourselves. When all goals are abandoned, when it didn't matter if I walked, crawled, or curled up in the ditch, I found a core that I still cared. I found myself still pushing through the fog toward the finish as fast as my compromised body will allow." And in that I can find solace and peace with this race. It was one to be endured. One where I continued to push my compromised body as far as it would allow. One that deepened the shared camaraderie we already share as runners. One where we had to pry ourselves open to see what was deep inside us and how much our bodies and minds could withstand. As with Bostons past, it would seem quite a lot. And what of this race in particular? Just another waypoint along the journey. Another layer of callus and of opportunity to be put toward the next one. Until then, the number in my head is still 2:35.
  8. onthebusrunning

    ...to Boston

    I still remember. It was 2010. With every footfall up Hereford Street, my quads protested. But then I made one of running’s most famous left turns. The hair on the back of my neck stood up. Boylston Street boiled over with noise. The sound compounded as the cheering reverberated off of the buildings. The pain remained but muted somewhat now by this sudden infusion of adrenaline. The finish arch materialized, and I knew it would not be much longer. In the throng of spectators lined four and five deep, I somehow managed to pick out my wife, dad, and father-in-law hanging over the barricade. I flashed a huge smile, the pain blotted out, and I said to myself, “You’re about to finish the Boston Marathon.” It’s been eight years, and I still remember. As this year’s race has drawn closer, I’ve spent the past week reliving this Boston training cycle as well as visiting with ghosts (good and bad) of my Bostons past. I also came across a long-ago editor’s note from former Running Times editor, Jonathan Beverly, titled “Once Each Spring,” that I thought summed up this annual tradition well: In my mind Boston exists only on race day, ‘a runner's Brigadoon appearing out of the Massachusetts woods.’ Having never lived there, my Boston is a magical place, unsullied by the mundane and the sorrows of real life. ‘It is always spring in my Boston,’ I wrote, describing a place where no one has to go to work on Monday, instead the people come out to run or celebrate runners. In this Boston, ‘Boylston Street is a single-lane stadium lined with overflowing stands, a half-mile of agony and bliss. The very name evokes images of great battles and the sweet feelings of accomplishment. Copley Square is always slightly out of focus, viewed through the happy haze of honorable exhaustion.’ Simply put, Boston is different. When you boil it down to its simplest form, it’s still 26.2 miles, the same as any marathon. Yet, it’s so much more. It’s a race that stays with you. It’s a vortex that can suck you in from the moment you set foot in Boston, caught up in the pageantry, the buzz, and the anticipation. To me, in no other city, for no other marathon (sorry, New York), does a city stop, open its collective arms for three straight days, pause, and celebrate this endeavor we call running. At every start line, but Boston in particular, I like to take a brief moment and look around, to take in the sea of runners of which I am just one more body, one more story. We came from different places and backgrounds to get here and we will run for different reasons to finish. It’s that start line that brings us together. It’s the finish line that unites us. In that way, every race, every Boston, belongs to each one of us as both a unique and collective experience. My Boston is brightly colored jackets with white unicorns stitched along the back. It is something that once seemed unattainable and now is not to be taken for granted. It’s the electricity that starts at the airport (and I don’t mean Logan) and continues until you return home. It is past heroes and history that weaves you into its fabric: Bill Rodgers, Amby Burfoot, Katherine Switzer, the Dual in the Sun, Lisa Rainsberger, and Meb. It is the kindness of strangers lining 26.2 miles of road carrying you along. It is small towns, scream tunnels, and random high fives. It is fickle weather. It is tears of joy and exhaustion. My Boston is tinged with sadness and fortified by hope, love, and resilience. It is a race that can humble and elate you. Whether it’s your first, fifth, or fiftieth, every Boston is special. No one, or no thing, can prepare you for your first trip from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. You can read the articles, watch the videos, and talk to those who have been there before, but all of it is insufficient. As I toss the final pieces of my kit in my bag and obsessively check the weather again (and again), I depart for my fifth Boston with Amby Burfoot in my mind, “It’s time to keep enjoying the best day in running history.” In less than three days, I’ll be on the bus aimed at Hopkinton, preparing to run back to Boston, seeking to get the best of myself, and enjoy the ride along the way.
  9. onthebusrunning

    The Sword

    It’s Tuesday morning. Steely, gray clouds lord over the sky and mute the dawn. Rain spatters my sunglasses, an optimistic addition to my attire. But none of that matters. I pull my hands from my knees and inhale deeply to slow my heart rate. Sixty seconds left, I whisper audibly to no one in particular. Hands on hips now, I ease over to what had been the finish line of my ninth 800-meter repeat, and now marks the start line of my tenth and final. Eight hundred meters. A half mile. That’s all that separates me from my taper. Since the half marathon roughly five weeks ago, I circled five key days on my calendar: the Tuesday morning sessions and the Saturday morning long runs that remained before Boston. These represented the five opportunities I had to grab as much fitness as possible before stepping to the line in Hopkinton. I took each milestone one at a time, never looking farther than what lay just ahead. "Get the most out of each day. Survive," I told myself. I checked my watch again. Thirty seconds. The workout had been hard from go. Yet, charged with running 10x800 meters in 2:35-2:30 with 90 seconds between each, I had been no slower than 2:34 to this point. My legs still held some of the fatigue from my final 20-miler just three days ago, one where I laid down a 59:16 ten-miler in the middle. This morning, I had locked on to the pace despite the strain. I knew the effort. I knew it was going to hurt – again. But I also knew that there would come a moment, or perhaps several, in Boston where I would have to decide if I was going to concede to the pain or marshal the ferocity to push on in spite of it. I counted down the final five seconds, 5-4-3-2-1 and galloped off down the road. One more half mile. The metaphors are many. Hay in the barn. Smoldering embers. But for me, it’s one my uncle passed on in our early days working at that sub-20:00 5K. The sword. Those base, easy, and long runs forge the blade, while the tempo and interval sessions deliver the slippery, sharp edge. But in this buildup in particular, in this sword, there’s an essence, a spirit that exists behind those pounded out miles on the road and trail. The physical elements may form the sword’s hardness, but the true strength comes from those with whom you surround yourself. The friends who run alongside you and hold you up, meet you for breakfast, or simply shoot a text out of the blue (or daily) that says, “How’s the training going?” or “Killer run yesterday.” My coach, who buoys me up during the darker weeks and magnifies my confidence when things are rolling. My parents, who dutifully read this blog each week and urge me on. My wife, who supports and encourages me, indulges my early bedtimes and quirky routines, and who can floor me after a long run by simply saying, “I’m proud of you.” The sword, you see, is more than just the materials it’s made of, but the soul that resides in it. I pound down the slight decline, willing my legs to turnover, putting myself through it one last time. I’m aware of Margin Lane flashing by in my periphery marking 200 meters. My breathing is calm, but I know this is only temporary. On cue, the heaviness begins to seep into the tops of my quads, but I think of the quote from Franz Stampfl that’s carried me through this section nine previous times, “Sure it’ll be painful, but what’s pain?” I manage a weak smile. I spot Piller Way, i.e. 400 meters. Gun lap. The equivalent of one more trip around the track. Days began to fall like dominoes, time seemingly accelerating with each passing workout. I felt like every time I turned around, I was staring down another interval session. Yet, the sword got bigger, sharper – infused with fitness, strengthened with support. It reminded me of an old Jonathan Beverly article where he wrote, “I can sense tumblers falling into place, unlocking the ‘thing behind everything’ that makes all else seem second-rate, as John Updike described in Rabbit, Run. I’m riding the wave, hitting the sweet spot, in the zone, in flow. As I finish the workout, I feel invincible, fully alive, connected and powerful.” The road starts to pitch upward. The initial bump is enough to chop my stride, but I push on and reengage at the top and set about tackling the final 350 meters. My breathing is ragged now – raspy, throaty exhales that eschew errant fluffs of spit. My quads ache but I summon one last surge to combat what feels like a sudden slowing of pace. The stop sign, the finish line, the taper come into view and I lock onto it and let it guide me in like a tractor beam. The houses turn to buildings and I’m on Boylston, the clock edging toward my goal. My arms pump furiously, urging my legs to match the tempo. An errant step here, a wild elbow there. No time to dwell, just keep it together. I break the plane and immediately click the watch. My head tilts to the sky first to exhale one last ragged breath, then I steal a glance at my watch as my hands drop to my knees. 2:32. I let out a “whoop!” and start off on the three-mile cool down that officially marks the end of this training block, the beginning of my taper, the final mental preparations. The number in my head – the one that I started with 16 weeks ago and even farther back than that – is still 2:35. This winter has been fraught with challenges: schizophrenic weather, nagging injuries, and lingering illness. In the thick of it, the unsexy January and February months of simply putting one’s head down and consistently putting one foot in front of the other, I logged into my email to find my Runner’s World Daily Quote waiting for me. It was one that has stayed with me and become somewhat of a mantra for my friend and I as we thrash ourselves through long interval workouts on non-descript neighborhood streets, grind through long runs, or simply get out the door each morning. It read, “Fate whispered to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior replied, ‘I am the storm.’” And this warrior has a big goddamn sword that’s ready to lay waste to 2:35.
  10. A friend of mine once said, "If you're not ready to pass out or throw up at the end of a 5K, you're doing it wrong."
  11. onthebusrunning

    The Crescendo

    This was a fantastic read -- I laughed out loud at the bday cake for the car, such a great detail.
  12. onthebusrunning

    The Tune-Up

    Great hill for repeats! Not for half/full marathons, haha. I would definitely be planning routes away from that hill.
  13. onthebusrunning

    Rejected Twice.

    Living life in greige it sounds like.
  14. Ha! Thanks, Dave! And down it went -- was a really solid long run. Definitely got out of it what I needed.
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