Sunday, June 6, 2010

Blog Roll: Drew Polley

As I approached the famous halfway point, represented by a large sign indicating “13.1,” my mind swirled with questions that bordered on pessimism. ‘Would I be able to sustain this pace for the second half? Did I really deserve the iconic Hansons-Brooks singlet that I was sporting for the first time? Would my size 14 Brooks Green Silence racing flats support my clumsy stride over the entire distance?’ For the time being, I tried to replace these worries with an anticipation of the rowdy spectacle that notoriously bisects the course. After all, many varieties of Boston Marathon veterans have raved about the energy of the Wellesley spectators, made up largely of loud, enthusiastic, and often promiscuous college girls (women?). Consequently, I was overtaken with disappointment as I rounded the next turn and found nothing but a lanky, middle-aged man with a goofy grin. “Welcome to Wellesley” said my coach, Keith Hanson, holding a hand-written ‘Wellesley College’ sign. “Halfway there. Right on pace. You guys look great.”

The event described above actually took place in March in Rochester Hills, Michigan and represented the centerpiece of the Boston Marathon training segment for me and my teammates Chad Johnson and Sage Canaday. This “Boston Simulator” workout covers a 26.2 kilometer (~16 miles) circuit that was chosen by our coaches to eerily mimic the hilly terrain of its namesake. In fact the workout is used as an opportunity to simulate as many race-day variables as possible, with the notable exception of promiscuous young women lining the roads. After I ran 5:12 mile pace as a negative split (foreshadow alert!) alongside my teammates in the middle of yet another 130-mile week, I was finally able to shake off most of the self-doubt I had been holding.

Exactly 4 weeks later, I stood in the elite corral at the Boston Marathon starting line. Despite what the puddle of clear urine at my feet suggested, I was confident and poised. Although I was about to start only my second marathon – my first race as a member of an elite post-collegiate team - I knew the last few months had prepared me to accomplish my primary goal of cracking 2:19 and thereby qualifying for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials. While my body had adapted to the new training load in Michigan, I had also trained my mind to sift through the off-color jokes and political rants from my older, wiser, faster teammates at Hansons to find some truly valuable training and racing advice.

2 hours, 16 minutes and 36 seconds after the gun fired, I crossed the finish line with chafed nipples, a dopey smile, and the bittersweet realization that it was time to adjust my goals. After starting out on pace for a mid-2:18, I had run a relatively comfortable negative split race to finish 16th. This result was rewarding, but only increased my hunger for more training, racing, and some barbeque chicken pizza.

Drew blogs on Flotrack.

mzungo says: if you haven't read the Mzungo post Boston interview with Drew yet, you can find it HERE.