Experience doesn’t add up to wisdom

After running all these years, you might think I knew how to prepare for races. You know, just the simple stuff like take things easy a few days before the big event, don’t wear yourself out, don’t eat too much and get to bed early. Nothing too complicated.

I mean, I’ve done a few Ironmans, 50 milers, plenty of marathons. So I should have the routine down by now. But no, I could write more about how not to get ready for a race then how to. Take last week’s Koloa Plantation Days 10 miler. I set my sights on it months ago, wanted to do well, go out strong, increase the pace, finish fast, maybe beat Basil Scott for once. So what did I do the day before it? I swam the Hanalei Bay Swim Challenge, just the 1,000 meters, but for me, that’s hard. Then, my wife and I hung out on the beach for awhile and swam more. If spending a lot of time in the sun and humidity the day before a race sounds like a bad idea, that’s because it is.

But I was just getting started. We then decided to have lunch, so I ate a burger and fries. Shortly afterward, I foolishly and against my wife’s advice, decided I was still hungry and ate store-bought burrito with something like 159 ingredients of scientific names I can’t pronounce that just sat in my stomach like lead, I think, for three days. Friends invited us for dinner that night, so, to be polite, I had to eat again. But I did decline second helpings.

Feeling a bit sick that night, I couldn’t sleep from 10 pounds of food in my belly. One of those tossing and turning nights and cursing myself for having stuffed my face. So when the alarm went off at 5 a.m., well, let’s say I was by then exhausted and my energy level failed to spike for the 7 a.m. starting gun. Never have I felt so weary at the start of a road race and as I ran like a tired, old man that day, I vowed to never make such mistakes again.

Until the following Saturday.

I headed out for a long training run in a pair of old running shoes and when it was about 85 degrees and the humidity level was 2 billion. Instead of getting an early start, I went later in the morning. Big mistakes. Not only did it take me more than three hours to run 18 miles, I wanted to just stop and take a nap. Almost completely spent, I finally had to stop and sit down on a rock in the shade near the Marriott resort, when my friend Philip Eliana drove by. He stopped to check on me and I got up slowly and walked over to the driver’s window.

“You’re limping,” he said. “Are you OK?”

“Yeah, just getting old. I’ve been sitting here a bit and it’s tough to get up.”

Believe it or not, the brief conversation and Philip’s energy and friendly face gave me enough of a boost to reach home. All good? Not quite. The next day, my left shin hurt. My right knee was twinging. I knew why: wearing old shoes I bought at the thrift store in the first place. Why do I do these things?

I’m too old for all this, of course. I should know better. But I’m the same guy who trained like mad for the Boston Marathon in 2005, worked myself into perhaps the best shape of my life, and the day before the race walked mile after mile after mile as my brother and I explored Beantown and hit the pubs. The next day, oh, all went well for about 10 miles or so. But I knew it couldn’t last. By Heartbreak Hill, I was broken. Instead of a glorious charge to the finish line, it was a sad old man shuffle.

I’m the same guy who decided not to swim in Lake Coeur d’Alene if the water was rough while preparing for the Ironman CDA. Afterall, surely it would be calm on race day. Imagine my terror when whitecaps whipped across the lake that morning. Let’s just say I didn’t get real far in the swim.

But redemption awaits at the Kauai Marathon on Sept. 6.

The goal is to break 3 hours and 40 minutes to qualify and return to Boston. So I’ve been training hard. Hills, track, long runs. Core exercises. Dieting. New shoes. Yep, I plan to be smart. Cut back on miles as the race nears, drink plenty of water, eat healthy stuff, and get lots of sleep. Show up early on race day, stay focused and charge triumphantly to the finish line where Ron Wylie can welcome me and call my name and I’ll wave and smile and get a kiss from my wife.

Yes, this is where I make no mistakes and cruise through this course, no matter the heat, humidity or hills. This is where I right all wrongs and wipe the slate clean.

There’s just one thing. I’m heading to Glacier National Park for some camping and trail running with family just two weeks before the marathon. That does involve bounding over rocks and roots and streams and perhaps seeing a grizzly bear or two. I guess that might not seem like a great idea to prepare for the Kauai Marathon, but really, what could go wrong?

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Bill Buley is editor-in-chief of The Garden Island newspaper. He can be reached at bbuley@thegardenisland.com

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