Long Walks On Leafy Streets

11/19/2017 Fenton Street, Takoma Park, MD.
Marathon, Part II.

The holidays are upon us. The days have become shorter and the nights darker but the festive lights are brightening them. Nicole just finished a round of grocery shopping for the Thanksgiving meals. As has become our custom, her mother would be visiting us this week. Many of the students have probably already left campus. Campus would have a deserted look starting tomorrow. Yesterday I organized a hike that I called “Farewell to Fall Hike.” We walked along the Rock Creek and the Pinehurst Creek. The ground was carpeted with yellow and orange leaves but there were still a few left on the trees. It was a cloudy but otherwise good day for hiking. After the hike we had lunch at the Parkway Deli. Loved the complementary pickle bar. At first I was not enthusiastic but now I would highly recommend it to anyone. A walk in the woods and good conversations with like-minded people. What more can you ask for?
Particularly enjoyed chatting with the older Indian couple, both retired from the U.S Foreign Service. One of them had even lived in the Andaman Island.

The hike was my exercise for yesterday. Much as I enjoy hiking and biking, nothing comes close to running. Started running again this week for the first time after the marathon. Last year took a two month break but this year my legs and my body were feeling good and strong just days after the marathon. That maybe because I learned some lessons from last year and took care of my body better. My legs especially are feeling much stronger. I am going to run very little at first, though. On Tuesday I ran the whole length of the route that we hiked yesterday, about 4 miles. It was exhilarating to run again. My love for running is as strong as ever. I watched tapes of the New York City marathon and the Rio Olympics marathon and they were quite inspiring. I cannot wait for next year’s Marine Corps Marathon. The memories of the race from a month ago are still very fresh.

When I concluded the previous post I was describing my concern at losing weight during the days before the Marathon. That was on Saturday morning, just 24 hours before the race, and I still had not completely recovered from a virus. I had been recovering from viruses pretty quickly of late, sometimes not feeling any change at all. I told myself that it would not affect my performance. All the months of training and building endurance and speed had created much anticipation for running a good race. I had dreams of running at an 8 minute pace and finishing under three and a half hours, the qualifying time for the Boston Marathon for people in my age bracket. But I would have been satisfied to finish under four hours, something I wanted to do last year but just fell short of. My most realistic goal was to run under 3 hours and 45 minutes. I had read about Dick Beardsley, the legendary marathoner from the 1980’s, fasting before Marathons. I was no Dick Beardsley, but I hoped that my body would have enough in reserves to run well. I just had to eat a good lunch and dinner, and then get a good night’s sleep.

As we did last year, the plan was for the three of us to stay at a hotel in Crystal City that night, close to the starting area. We first drove to the National Harbor to pick up the bib (the piece of cloth with the number and the magnetic RFID strip for tracking). The Marine Corps has a big Expo at the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center over the weekend of the Marathon. It is a fun affair with thousands of runners walking around and checking out the various exhibits and merchandise. I didn’t need anything in particular, so we just walked around a bit, enjoying the elegant architecture of the hotel and the views of the waterfront. We took a picture of Prashant with Miles the mascot but he didn’t seem all that excited.

We then drove to the hotel hoping to eat dinner nearby. But by the time we got there we were both tired and Prashant was getting a bit cranky. So we ordered room service. I was hoping to eat a big dinner full of carbohydrates but the appetite was just not there. The menu didn’t have a lot of choices either. Anyway, I ate what appealed to me – I have found that listening to the body and not forcing it is the best way. Had a soup and a carb dish that turned out to be too small and some raisin bread. I was not feeling weak but I wasn’t feeling full either. Although I did not feel much energy in the body there was still a lot of excitement and anticipation. The room had a great view of the Potomac River and National Airport. There was a railroad track running nearby and the George Washington Parkway as well. So Prashant could watch the boats on the river, the planes taking off, and freight trains rumbling along all from our room with its wide glass wall on one side. I told Nicole how when while growing up our father would tell us that in Kochi, Kerala (near my hometown) there was a place where one could see a train, a bus, a ship and a plane all at the same time. We all enjoyed that hotel stay.

Went to bed around 9. Last year I barely slept four hours the night before and this year I was hoping to do better. It seems that is not just my problem. The excitement and the adrenalin flow is so much that it is very hard to sleep for most people. The running coaches say that even if you don’t get much sleep during that night, if you sleep well on the previous nights you should be okay. Unfortunately I can’t say that I had a lot of sleep on Thursday or Friday nights either, as mentioned in previous post. Anyway after I lay down I did the same thing as last year, just trying to relax as much as I could, hoping that even if I didn’t fall asleep the body and mind would get some rest. At first I spent some time thinking about my research problem and got some good ideas. Once you start thinking about math problems, you could spend the whole night doing that. So after a while I simply tried to avoid thinking and let the mind rest as much as possible. In the end I ended up sleeping very little, although it felt a bit better than the previous year’s Marathon eve.

I decided to wake up for good around 6 and it certainly felt more energetic than last year. At least I was not yawning as much. That might be just an indication that there was more adrenalin or perhaps I was really better rested. Anyway, I had gotten everything ready in the previous night so all I had to do was to eat a light breakfast, put on the dress and pick up the trusty little watch and the hand towel that has become a constant companion on all my runs. Nicole was also up by that time and watching the news coverage of the early morning preparations going on at the Pentagon and other places along the Marathon route. The weather forecast certainly looked good. It had been threatening to be quite warm, but it turned out not to be the warmest day. Due to climate change we probably will have to be lucky to have a day in the fifties, even in late October, but it wasn’t too bad. I had been training with temperatures in the sixties and seventies, mostly. Nicole asked me what time I expected to finish. Given everything that had happened, I could not give her a definitive answer. I told her I really had no idea. I could finish under four hours or I may end up not finishing at all.

To be continued….

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