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Part 1: Getting There

It’s 6am. I’ve woken up again because J’s woken up earlier to do this thing she sweetly told me she’d do where she’ll make me oatmeal, with coconut oil ‘n banana. And coffee.  I add this weird request to put the water from the beets I made the night before in a bottle (and I never made beets before) because I’m going to mix it with the black coffee and drink it in 40 minutes.  I’m actually nervous about this, because I hope it won’t make me poop funny while on the move, but decide it’s worth the risk this because there’s some really cool recent research suggesting omgbeetshaveavasodilationeffect which does some awesome things, like consistently showing significantly increased performance in athletes who drank beet juice just before an event.  I want this.

It’s the morning of the nyc marathon.  I’m registered and supposed to do it.  We went in yesterday and got my bib and some other stuff, and this confirmed I was signed up.  (I also noticed it looked like over 15k people didn’t get theirs, judging by the rows and rows of boxes and boxes and boxes  of unclaimed bibs.) And I’m waking up feeling not so sleepy but my head’s in a swirl, and I can watch myself go through the motions of following a plan and getting ready. No, I’m not 100% in it, I’m flittering with body checks and thoughts and memories.

Lucien was awesome and got me in on a google talk for people running this year’s marathon, and they warned to get a good night’s sleep two night’s before, because you shouldn’t expect to get lots the night before, and that you’ll be thinking all sorts of negative last minute why’s the morning of. Man, they were right on both counts.  This year’s 2015 run is after halloween, – which meant the hour we spent getting the bib and running around the expo was only before putting on Gambit and Rogue outfits and doing halloween not so bad.  It turned out I had help – Rogue tried to sneak drink all my drinks, and I moderated indulgent things one’d normally do on Oct 31st all night.  (Empty glucose calories. Not sleeping. Dancing. Heavy moving. Booze. Drugs. Rogue.) Y’see the next few hours of my life after that, in theory, have been plotted out since April.

Although I’ve only been acting on them since October. Which is to say not a whole lot of training, and that worries me.

So it’s the morning of and marathon anx is making my head swirl. I’m thinking all sorts of “What a nutty thing for h00mons to do” type thoughts, and I’ve been warned about this at the same google talk. It’s also easiest at this moment, suddenly, to marvel at how ego-based wanting to run this kind of thing is. In theory, if you wanna run 26.2 miles you can do it far more conveniently on your own time. You don’t hafta be in a big ole marathon.

In theory.

(Regarding that last statement, the truth is not completely, as’ll be later explained. And “verifiable runs” which this is – the kind of things that make you eligible for athletic stuff like the olympics or other world marathons – makes a difference. And I’m about to learn there’re just some things about an organized marathon.)

Now uh, here, it’s very easy to do a “Why I Run.”  You can’t watch a casted world Marathon on ESPN without getting a few. And I don’t mind that, although I more like the idea of running a marathon being an intensely personal thing.  Because hey, there’re 50k people doing that this year. They’re all special, and will have their own personal experiences of getting through today’s event.  There will be a lot of moments that make it personal. There’s about 230 million bucks worth of resources expended so there’s protocol, and verification, and safety for all the insanity. It’s my belief everyone running will trip.  (Mentally, we’ll all find a zone and go through all sorts of emotions.)

I found the before – getting there – is more stressful than just doing the marathon. This’s because pre-run planning and self control isn’t always fun and it’s exponentially longer. You watch and control macronutrients, and feel bad if you’re not keeping up with whatever training up activities you’ve set for yourself.  In my most obsessive mindset I’ve also taken to watching lots of interviews with professionals through my hours and hours a day of ‘research’ and my favorite well-said quote is by Meb Keflezighi which was that he simply looks at a marathon as “an execution of a plan.” Spot on, if you’re not a crazy person who’s doing it cold.  Marathon runners will find in the weeks preceding, if not 24/7, an obsession about every fitness opp, food and bite decision to the marathon event’s point.  Also, straight up cutting extras (like smoke, if you’re me.) Pumping in, then tapering off your number of steps up to, and before this race.  Perhaps also convincing ourselves of weird extra-needy things – I got to the point that having a banana with toast and a little bit of peanut butter just before I sleep on top of everything else “just in case” became a compulsion. The more one trains, the more they look at their body as a machine that’ll turn the carb into forward movement.

For the running freak is a kind of nerd.

And again, it takes a while to work up to 26+ miles, and I almost am going in cold.  Again, I’ve only got a little more than 3.5 weeks of taking it srs.  I suck, and”kind of” uh “forgot about having registered” because running long distances isn’t as enjoyable as doing other stuff fast, and I made excuses.  Of course the morning of, all these fun things to do are all swirling high in thought, and I’m wishing I’ve trained more.  I haven’t trained much at all until at some point in Sep it occured to me that Nov was around the corner and that I really haven’t done much since running to and from work back in the “back-then” machine. SO MANY THOUGHTS, VERY FEW OF WHICH I WANT. I’m regretting that move where I slid down a subways banister then jumped off because that ankle hurts but, hey, don’t punk out – positive thinking. I gave myself reminders, as you hafta do when you’re taking something srs but your heads in this doubtful swirl anyway that does nothing but causing anxiety and avoidance. Here they are:

What I have done – I actively reminded myself of every point of what I think is pretty minimal, last minute preparation:

-Quit smoking of every kind, all the way to hookah- big change for me.  The lungs reacted appropriately.  And I’ve always figured that a body that’s used to not getting air feels like it’s spoiled once it opens up – I always feel extra hyper after 3 days of not smoking, and tried to use and prolong that. I’ve been coughing up all sorts of nasty all throughout October as a result, which’s a good sign. Seriously, three weeks of black ooze from the x-files getting expelled from ye old lungs every morning.  Three, gaddamn weeks.

-Slept. Lots. This’s also another change – I’m an old fart in a couple weeks officially and ❤ sleep all of a sudden.

-Started eating “clean” again which means stuff like greasy noodles aren’t the main food that my guts throw enzymes at.  I’ve been doing lots of soup and vegetables, fish, fruit out of the loom, yadda ya.  13 lb of dried brown rice died in my home that month. I totally accepted that I’d make a bunch of dishes and that it’d cost a little more.  (Fun fact: It didn’t cost that much more than pigging out.)

-1 whole multiday grueling hike.  I think urban runners should give weighted uphill hikes a shot – Intense hiking gets you out of breath with every step, and those mountaints teach you how tough yer legs actually are. I went with my buddy for 3 days of these uphills – mountains many many times my height, not just hills 20x it – and actually hiked until I puked.  (Brian’s description of this was a “Zombie-like fugue” where I sat on a rock once we stopped and stared into space until I puked and we camped and I didn’t even have the energy to eat dinner.  It was gross..)

-in the last two weeks I used my buddy’s gym membership and went through hard cardio work outs back in nyc every 2 or 3 days.

-The 5 whole days before, I knew enough to rest. As in, be lazy, and be afraid of walking. Glycogen – the stuff your muscles’ll use as fuel over most of a distance run is pretty neat. And, you can trick your body into more than doubling its stores by draining and then carb loading them after tremendous activity. It became a running (PON) joke around halloween to not move too fast because myself or someone would go “MY GLYCOGEN!”

-A week after that gruel hike, from BK to Manhat, I ran as much as I could to J’s house the week before – this ended up being a solid 17.8 miles. The distance was a definite .8 miles more than I’ve ever ran before in my life. This type of thing makes most people think you’re crazy, but I figured if I made that and felt alive that I’d recuperate in time and be able to push a farther distance.  And it worked.

-Reading – then learning that some people die, suffer intense cardiac damage – then doing moar reading, obsessive documentary watching, and then probably more reading.  I now have too much to say about how to prep for a marathon – let’s put it that way. (You also almost certainly won’t die if you’re not an extreme case on no training, and I’m of the opinion that it doesn’t takes an elite person, as much as a committed person to run one. This guy Malcom Gladwell has a great theory on the trend of marathon running as an act of conspicuous spending and that’s not me, but I can’t say I disagree either.)

-I remind myself that I’m always a little nervous before things I take seriously, but do them anyway and it usually goes alright. I’m just taking this 26.2 mile run seriously. It still feels like pre-dawn, I’ve been awake for the last couple hours off and on, and my head swirls like the steam in my morning shower.

At least, because of the 18 mile run to j’s – the long run I did just two weeks before, which didn’t erupt in serious injury and marked the longest I’ve traveled on foot in my life- I’m beyond the point of, “hmmm people have died from this before are I going to have heart attack?” Or, “is something going to go wrong and my body’s gonna go haywire and I’m gonna poop in front of my city?”  (I’ve read articles of people who’ve done this, and they think that’s normal.  Marathon sharts. No, time to not trust the fart.)  But I still remember as I take a shower, Mr. Pheidippides, the first guy who ran a marathon, died. He ran from a battlefield to the town of Marathon, and that was only 22 miles. (It was after the British royal family, being royal and lazy, wanted to watch the London marathon from their house so in the last millennium the distance was increased from 22 miles to 26.2 exact so they wouldnt have to leave their porch from Windsor terrace.  For some reason that caught on.  “Hooray,” says my doubt-voice, “runners since then, were running FARTHER than the first guy, who died from it.”

Really, you can sign up yourself and wake up before this sort of thing. I promise that unless you’ve trained super properly that it’s easy for a drama portion of yer brain to be like “Fak!” “This is weird for people to do” “so weird” “fak I’m doing it” “fak!” “I wanna go back to bed” “meeeeh”

This may be anyone’s brain before a first marathon- it was mine.

But then I got out and saw cool gear-like things laid out by sweet<3 -which’s incidently a dual reminder that you that you’re one of the humans going to do this and not to be a bitch and therefore calm yer titties.  Said spread reminds you of all the serious things you’ve done to cross this off yer bucket list.

A well organized spread helps realize more positives. Like, research indicating healthy humans ARE made for this kind of thing – more than other creatures on Earth – and that some humans are especially gifted at it. It’s not fair, but lotsa things in my life – from the enjoyment to casual running, to the degree I take it – indicate I might be a physically gifted fuckhead. Time to prove it.

Now, on your first event like this, then there’s this long trip, and hey yey, also the fact that you constantly need to pee cause you’re constantly hydrating. Within this cloud, you’re looking at what’s familiar and what’s supposed and in between you’re overthinking how much coffee to drink and when to time the caffeine just right.

Because the trains are faster than cabs, and the trains are loaded with people heading to the same event in similar attire but differently bright shoes, and then there’s a huge wait before a ferry with a thousand runners, and then this huge boatride over water before you really enter the goddang place where you can wait for a gun and the direction to run camp. Only if you’re extremely lucky like me, you’ve got a great close person being a great close person. This makes it much easier to not fall into the sea of dreary faces, which you will see and even possibly face the temptation of becoming part of  – because an extravagant few are happy, most people seem serious and afraid, and this WILL make you wonder what people looked like before storming Normandy – cause you’d think Normandy should seem much much worse, but you’ve always imagined everyone’s expression’s of grimness and terror pretty much will resemble what yourself and fellow runners are bearing on that subwayride.

(Hey, at least historically, people pooped themselves before Normandy. And at least you can joke about stupid shit like this if someone’s with you and they’re sweet – it’ll help pass the time. Did I mention yer still not taking off for hours?)

But even then, any and all sweet people have to go, and you’re marked by bib number and no one gives a shit about your ID beyond that and you’re herded and shepherded onto fleets and fleets of buses and you’re being directed by officials who’re appointing you to villages so you can run in waves.  You still have 2 hours before you’re taking off. Again, 50,000 people are signed up for the same run, and 49k+ of them are gonna finish, and no matter which one of them you are, there’s no way for this to happen otherwise.

For 2015 I’m in the earliest of wave 4 – it’s a more casual runner wave.  I’m not one of the people going for a crazy good 3 hour finish, I’m one of the weirdos who was lucky enough to win the lottery and get guaranteed entry if I registered.  By the time my 11am wave takes off, the men, women, and wheelchair champs will already be named.  We’ll be the residual folks.  It will be amazing if we can catch up to previous waves, as we’re ranked this way to reduce tripping over each other.

So then there’s less than an hour left, and I’m peeing, stretching, and going through security, checking my gear, and finishing coffee-beet-stuff.  There’s trash everywhere.  Maybe fittingly, this’s the Staten Island portion of the run – trashing an island until we cross a bridge.

And then I’m herded to some point behind the line and then waiting for that gun to go off.  There’s a lot of noise around.  I’m telling myself my running plan, cause this isn’t a normal or easy thing and tactics will help, as I’ve learned it’s ignorant to think “Go as fast as you can until you need to catch your breath and then catch your breath and then go some more.”  (I mean I thought that, that’s how I used to run, when I was maybe in better shape, and I think that type of mentality would’ve been foolish.)

But I’m on the line thinking, nah, I’m gonna go easy.  I’m gonna expect to be adrenaline fueled and feel like running faster than I should, and I’m gonna limit that.

I wanna make a quick rant thats weirder and more ranty than the above, but its point I think is also at why the heart of why the idea of running a marathon scares most people: mind vs body/ spirit vs machine:

I think most people wanna believe they’re capable of needed strength.  Like in cheesey anime, if bad guy’s gonna rip your mom in half and you’re a protagonist and it’s not the first episode – chances are you’re gonna summon a huge surge of strength and end this confrontation in a dramatic couple of minutes.   Most people, even ladies who can’t carry something up stairs, wanna believe they can do extremely powerful things when it comes to say – lifting a car off their babe.  Marathons challenge this, cause no matter who you are, there’s no way to end it in a dramatic flashy couple of minutes.  This will-based super power we’d like to assume we can have, won’t help.  Nope, 26.2 miles is also, definitely a test of the body at least as much as the mind’s will.

Well, dualisms cool – you can look at the body as a machine AND as a container for will.  As a machine – the body is a mechanical, but awesome, summation of parts that goes to transfer kinetic energy into chemical – which turns into psychological and spiritual.

The above anime-cheese relates to body use as a container of will “NO I DO NOT WANT YOU TO BIFURCATE MY MATERNAL UNIT SO I WILL SUMMON A SUPER POWER” and very different. You have to rely on disciplining the body more than what you think you’re capable of when you tell yourself you want something enough.  And that’s where this gets weird – how many of us think of fitness in terms of a look, and work being in terms of something that’s smart yet hopefully as convenient as possible?  Cause when we wanna look at machines doing work, I think many h00mons who’re used to machines doing the hard work for them (how many of you have had to carry 100 pounds up miles of a steep hill without a car?) imagine if doing physical work , it’s either easy enough to be a challenge that’s fun more than anything, necessary and as convenient as possible, or there should be some sort of anime like surge of emotion that makes them involved and act.

And I mean, that’s possible, and totally pumps in an extra boost, and sharpens your edge or drives you harder or longer when done right. But again, you can’t count on that over a marathon (plus I’m pretty sure that, combined with the lack of people giving him fluids is what killed the first guy) so to get through today, I’m gonna rely on my body as a machine that can convert sugar (and caffeine for added boost) and water with a little salt into forward motion.

More that, than ego.

In fact I expect my ego to be bitching lots over the next few hours.

Rant Summary: A marathon is too long to rely on tricks that award energy in short bursts. I have to be able to count on your drive more than your sprint, and that’s an intimidating challenge. (Also, the test and the point.)

Anyway, rant over, starting line. Lots of uniforms. Lots and LOTS of runners. The announcer’s announcing a bunch of stuff.

I’ve got a loaned ipod with 1.5 days of awesome music and a phone with 7 hours of great music. I’ve got this awesome utility belt with a few light goods: In addition to what I’ll call a SECRET WEAPON I have as an emergency measure just in case willpower is a bitch but I’m allowing myself to ONLY after mile 20. I’ve also got this Gu gel in there which is like a shot of sugar and a little salt in super gu form, and it has caffeine – I’m loaded with 5 of them.  I’m gonna space the Gu packets out.  I’ve got advil and I’m gonna take 2 after 5 miles and finish it off at 15.  I normally say no to pain killers of every kind after reading research indicating it’s anti-inflammatory properties interrupt muscle growing pathways (meaning it’s ironic shit for post-training aches) but, today I’m planning to hurt myself over a silly long distance. Having done 20 miles max before, something’s gotta give.

For I’ve read another thing suggesting every pound experiences 6.2x its weight at a maximal point of impact during a jogging step.  This means, people who take a running step at 300 pounds are putting over 1800 pounds of weight on all their joints at every step.  I’m 195-200 pounds, and not in terrible shape, but not built like a marathon runner – light, lean, with slow twitch muscle fibers.  I’m tall and full of all sorts of different feels and tissue that elite distance runners train out.

(There’s two kinds of muscle fibers for a reason, and I like my fast twitch muscle fibers too. They just get exhausted within 90 minutes and suck at fast recuperation more.)

Some guy yells that there’s 15 minutes left, and reminder: I’ve given myself permission to walk for lots of this if I need to.  With that permission comes the feeling that I need to.  I expect it to take lots of balls to not give into a city full of people yelling “RUUUN” and walk instead. I probably should have stood and watched a NY marathon for a few minutes before, cause my expectations are skewed by university 5ks.

Suddenly guy makes another announcement, and all the blue shirts and nypd alike are pushing all runners to crowd before the starting line and I’m in it, and there’s an announcer playing the crowd well, announcing supermen who’re running their 400th marathon, people from different countries.

Everyone is ready. We’ve been ready. Cmoooooooon.

But I’m still doing what I can. I’ve got body glide in my utility belt and applying a second or third layer to everywhere – everywhere. You gotta make sure your balls don’t chafe, man.  I’m pretty sure there’s mutual understanding in the stacks – before everyone takes off – and no one gives a damn or is very understanding.

(Body glide, btw, is awesome. Spoiler alert: I experienced less chafe throughout that thing than I have running 5 miles.)

I have to disregard paranoia that I forgot a chip in my package bag that’ll nullify my race results.  I learn the chip is actually in my bib, which I’ve got pinned on my shirt.
It’s about to start.
They’re playing “I love New York” and Cakes “The Distance” right after, and especially the latter’s gonna burn this run into my brain forever.
My nipples are taped down because of horror stories about bloody nipples.
Oh yeah, I forgot they use an actual gun sound.
One goes off.
Everyone ahead starts to lurch forward.
The still crowd turns into a wave, and I see the incoming current.
Finally, suddenly, I’m in the nyc marathon.

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