A Sailor's Marathon Guide, Day 6: Running for Mom

Andy and his mom Gail delivering a Corbin 39 to Newport in 2010 (?).

It's Sunday on Bermuda. Mother's Day in the USA. I ran Ft. George Hill today, many times, up to Bermuda Radio. There's no better motivation than picturing your dying mother in a hospital bed in the living room of your childhood house, the only place you ever knew as home, gasping for air during the final moments of her life, and knowing that that moment could have come two years before it actually did, but that she never quit living despite the horrible death sentence that her brain cancer diagnosis should have been. Nope. Running hills is easy with that image in your head.

My mom is directly responsible for a lot of things in my life, most obviously life itself. I'm writing this from Bermuda because she constantly espoused "do what you love, and the money will follow." But it's that one day in the driveway when we were throwing the football and I asked her to help me get healthy and in shape that I'm reminded of most today. I wrote about it last week. And if I die at age 62 like she did with an alien growing inside my head, well, I will have lived well. As she did, thanks to her.

So, emotional morning for me. Everybody needs some kind of motivation, right? Anyway, back to the technical part of this little series, which it was meant to be. Today's the 6th day I've run here in Bermuda (the only off day was yesterday, when I spent the day in the sun down on the fuel dock organizing the duty-free refueling here for the ARC Europe yachts). My breakdown of routines, with some notes, follows (recall that this is by no means a scientific plan - it's my way of training for a marathon, nothing more):

Day 1: 63 minutes, double Bermuda loop. Tired & sluggish. Wrote about it last week.

Day 2: 29 minutes, east Bermuda loop. Unremarkable, easy jog. Not sure of the milage, but I'd get about 3 ½. 

Day 3: 29 minutes, east Bermuda loop, this time with Mia. We went for a swim afterwards, which Mia wrote about the other day.

Day 4: 49 minutes, modified Bermuda rail-trail loop, with Mia. Slow pace, about 9 min/mile. I'd guess we covered about 9km between the asphalt roads, golf cart path at the old St. Georges club and along part of the rail-trail.

Day 5: 54 minutes, run by myself. Double loop again, like the one below, but without some of the little side excursions. Ran a bit faster today, probably 8:40 min/mile or so, for maybe 10km. Felt pretty good. Little niggle behind my right knee, which I attribute to a tight hamstring, which is a constant battle.

Day 6 (yesterday): Didn't run, but did some pushups and ab work: 71 total pushups in 3 sets, 3 sets of sit-ups x 30, 3 sets of leg lifts x 60 and 3 sets of 45-second side-planks.

Day 7 (today): The aforementioned Mother's Day Hill Run up Ft. George Hill to Bermuda Radio. The hill is about ¼-mile long in total, and rises to about 200 feet from sea level. The road's probably at about 30', so the climb itself is only maybe 150-175'. I jogged from the little apartment just down the street in town, then continued the length of the hill to the top. Afterwards, I walked only about ¼ of the way down - the steepest part is the last bit at the top - and did ten all-out repeats from here, each taking maybe 15-20 seconds. The hill is steep enough that by the top my legs are barely turning over as the lactic acid builds up in the muscles, and I'm gasping for air by the end (I make a point never to bend over and put my hands on my knees, no matter how knackered I feel. I simply walk back down and do it all over again). For the last one, I walked back down to the road and did one last full hill, then jogged back to the house and ate 4 eggs, ½ an avocado and some sour cream for breakfast.

Thoughts on Week 1 of training? I'm absolutely in the best shape of my life, physically anyway, though I probably don't look it. I read a great article in Outside Magazine about CrossFit training for marathons, and realize that while I don't follow the plan to the letter, I've been combining some of those CrossFit exercises into my routine for over ten years (I got my first kettle bell as a freshman in college in 2002, way ahead of the curve on that fad!). Over at Dane's Garage Strength gym, I've been doing olympic lifts and rope climbs and box jumps now for a couple years. My backs in pretty good shape (knock on wood), my knees feel great and I'm faster than I've ever been.

I say I don't look as fit, because I think I looked my best when I lived in Australia in 2005 for my semester abroad. Back then I was exclusively lifting weights and not running at all. I bought my first road bike there and got into cycling, so that kind of marked my transition from the weight room to the great outdoors and the endurance sports I've been into since. But I went too far that way around 2010 - all endurance and no weight training actually can make you fat, and as I used to weigh 255, I'm particularly prone to easily putting nasty-looking weight back on if I'm not paying attention. As you can guess, going from 255 to 168, where I'm at now, I have an excess of skin around my waist (thankfully though I think I'm the only one who notices - it could have been much worse). Mia loves to grab this when we're riding the mopeds around Bermuda! But, alas, that's the price I paid for growing up a fat kid.

So the point I began with is that the combination now of weight lifting and running and cycling has put me in the best physical shape of my life, though I don't exactly look it because I'm not exclusively in the weight room (and I eat a lot, just all good stuff). In Telluride in February, I hiked the 13,000+ foot peak - over a mile from start to finish, and a 1500-foot elevation gain over that span - in ski boots, shouldering my skis, with no problems at all, and proceeded to bomb down the mountain from the top. That's why I exercise. 

So thanks to mom for the memories, and for the motivation this morning. It may have sounded morbid, but I'm finally, after two years since her death, remembering (mostly), the good memories, and her sickness is slowly receding to the back of my brain. The sun's out, the birds are chirping and the world around beautiful St. Georges is full of life, if you just open your eyes and take it in - that lesson is her greatest legacy, the one I cherish the most.