Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Boston 2014

Where to start?  I have all sorts of mixed feelings about this day, good and bad and it's taken me a while to process them all.  Sometimes you have to step away from a not so positive experience to see the positive in it.

I had very high hopes for this race, I really did.  I was aiming for a 3:10 marathon.  Something I thought I had in me...and perhaps I still do, I just didn't have it in me last Monday.  I have re-hashed the day many times in my head.   Looking back on it, there are a few things I would have done differently.  Some things I had no control over - the weather being the main factor.  Nothing like training through a freezing cold winter on with about 80% of your runs on a treadmill, only to have to race in what felt like baking hot conditions, the hottest of them being in the Newton Hills.  Mother Nature's cruel joke.

I am disappointed that I didn't make my goal time.  But I honestly can't be disappointed with my effort.  There were points during the race where I totally felt like giving up I was in that much pain.  I walked several times.  I've never hit the wall as hard as I did that day so the fact that I finished only 5 minutes slower than my time last year blows my mind.  Last year I ran an absolutely perfect race in perfect conditions.  Yes, the hills slowed me down but they didn't kill me.  This year, they had me for a mid afternoon snack.

But as usual, I'm getting ahead of myself.  And I'm focusing on the negative.  Sure, the conditions weren't ideal and I might not have had my ideal race but the race experience itself was everything I thought it would be.  If you ever wonder what it's like to feel like a rock star, the run along Boylston to the finish is probably the closest thing to it.  I get goosebumps thinking about it.

So let's start at the beginning.  You might want to get comfortable, this is a long one.

We got to Boston on the Friday afternoon, checked into the hotel and then went directly to the Expo to get my bib and do some shopping.  Thankfully it wasn't that crazy.  I ran into my friend Dave and chatted with him for a bit.  I didn't go too crazy this year as I wasn't a big fan of the orange & blue colour scheme.  What can I say, I'm a bit of a traditionalist, ha ha.  I bought a few things and poked around the various booths.  My fave score was the Apera duffel bag at 20% off.  After the expo we wandered back to the hotel to drop everything off and go find a place to have dinner.  We ended up at Jacob Wirth & Co.  It was like walking into a German Beer Haus.  If you've ever been to the Hofbrau Haus in Munich, this was very similar.  The list of beers on tap was 44 long.  Forty Four beers on tap.  Seriously?!  I died.  I had a glass of Blueberry Stout.  It was a very small glass so I figured I'd be fine.

Last year our Saturday was spent wandering around Boylston & Newbury streets, shopping.  This year was much of the same.  We spent a solid 2.5 hours in Nordstrom Rack and then met up with my friend Joanne at MJ O'Connor's.  We sat in the same booth that we sat in after the Marathon last year.  There was a lot of that happening.  I could only hope that it meant I'd have the same kind of day as last year.  After we parted ways with Jo-Anne, we continued our little shopping extravaganza.  G put on a clinic at Banana Republic.  I was done after that and that is saying a lot for me because I like to shop.  So we made our way back to the hotel and tried to find a place that was taking reservations at a reasonable hour. That was next to impossible so we ended up heading over to the Ritz to have dinner with Jo-Anne at the bar.  I had this lovely pasta dish and we shared an absolutely delicious flatbread.  We sat around and chatted for a while and then parted ways.  I wanted to get a good nights sleep.

Sunday morning I had a very short 20 minute shake out run so G and I went down to the Charles River once again.  He wanted to run for a bit longer so I turned around and headed back to a nearby Starbucks.  I grabbed coffee and before I knew it, he was back and we were off to breakfast.  We hit up the Black Seed Cafe - the exact same place we went to the year before.  And we ended up sitting in the exact same table.  And, I had pretty much exactly the same thing as the year before.  I was trying to get as much of last year's GOOD juju as I could.  Last year we spent a lot of time wandering around.  This year I didn't want to do that again.  So we stuck close to the hotel.  We spent more time shopping on Newbury street.  Boylston street was a mad house so we avoided it as much as possible.  Sunday night we went to the same restaurant we went to last year and I had the same salad for dinner as last year.  By 8:30 we were back in the hotel and I finished up getting my things together.  By 10:00 pm I was in bed and I fell asleep relatively quickly.

My alarm went off at 5:15 and I got up to have a quick shower.  I taped myself up, got dressed, covered myself with sunscreen and Run Gooed my feet.  I ate my breakfast and watched the live coverage from Hopkinton, my stomach filled with butterflies.  At 7:00 am G and I made our way to the buses, which were a 5 minute walk from our hotel.  It wasn't as cold as I thought it would be.  I had a grabbed a banana from the hotel and I wished I had grabbed a water for the ride to Hopkinton as my mouth was starting to feel pasty.  The nerves were setting in.

The bus loading was quick and I found myself seated to a lovely woman from Baltimore who was also a triathlete.  She had a very unique name but of course, since I didn't write it down, I forgot it.  Ugh.  Anyway, we chit chatted the entire ride which made the time pass quickly.  Before we knew it, we were pulling into the school grounds at the Athlete's Village.  The first thing I noticed was the security.  They had people screening for bibs as soon as you entered the village.  The second thing I noticed once I got into the village was the sheer amount of people.  Last year there was a fair bit of room to spread out.  This year it seemed like every inch of room on the ground was occupied.  I found a spot in the sun and laid out my old Scotiabank heat sheet.  I sat there for a few minutes enjoying my coffee and people watching.  The vintage warm up ensembles that people find at thrift stores could make an excellent coffee table book, ha ha.

There were SO many people it was crazy.  I was looking at the porta potty lines and I found it hard to see where they ended so I figured I'd better get into one of those asap.  I sat in the sun a while longer and listened to the announcements.  The energy was palpable.  Just before I decided to get up, the announcer said they were going to have a moment of silence for last years bombing victims.  Never in a million years did I think that 32,000 would be completely quiet.  Boy was I wrong.  All you could hear was the breeze blowing through the trees.  I shed a few tears along with a few other folks.

I abandoned my sunny spot and got in line at the porta potties.  I figured I had just over an hour before I had to get into my starting corral, that should give me more than enough time.  Right.  The lines were moving like molasses.  But that was ok.  It gave me time to chat with other runners and snap a pic of this infamous sign.

50 minutes later, I got into a porta potty, which surprisingly wasn't too gross and still had toilet paper!  Win win!  After I got out, I went over to the clothing deposit area to start to strip down.  While I was there I saw Ty (Seeking Boston Marathon).  I had seen him running through Boston Common a couple of days earlier.  We chatted for a bit and I wished him a good race.  I took my Energybits, deposited my clothes and made my way over the line up of people that were in my corral.  They had announced there was going to be a fly over by 3 military helicopters and sure enough a few seconds later these 3 humungous choppers rose up over the tree line.  Apparently it was going to take them 15 minutes to get from Hopkinton to Boston.  I wondered how I could hitch a ride.

The next thing I knew, our group was moving along.  I was chatting away with a girl who had run last year.  She was super excited to be back.  It was nice to have the company on the long walk to the corrals.  We joined up with another girl who had also run last year and we chatted about our race experience.  I saw these guys and had to take a picture.

Beer, Donuts & Cigarettes, just what you need to get through a marathon!
Just after we saw these guys, one of the girls I was with pulled off to go and use the porta potties near the corrals.  I was going to go and then the other girl I was with said she was going to but was worried we might miss getting into our corrals.  Which of course, worried me, so I skipped the porta potty and chalked up my urge to pee to my nerves.  Big Mistake.  As soon as I got settled into my corral, I realized that yes in fact, I had to pee.  Awesome.  I knew I wasn't going to have the time to get down to the porta potties and back to my corral so I only hoped there was going to be an on course porta potty in the first few miles.  Or better yet, that the feeling would just go away when I started running.

I don't remember a lot from the start this year I was mentally trying to prepare myself for the next 26.2 miles.  I do remember thinking that I was already boiling hot and I wasn't even moving yet.  Of course I had the time for a selfie.  Those arm warmers came off in the first 5 minutes btw.  Totally not necessary.



The next thing I knew, we were off.  Just like last year, I held back while the herd passed me by.  It's such a steep drop those first few hundred meters.  I was amazed at the sheer number of spectators through here.  As well as police.  Wherever there were spectators, there were police.  There were a TON of kids out watching this time, arms outstretched looking for high fives.  It was impossible not to smile.  It was also difficult to not get swept up in the pacing of others.  I felt like I was doing a good job of holding back.  My first km was 4:30 on the nose, which is exactly where I wanted to be.

We were heading into Ashland where the infamous biker bar was.  I could hear the music before I could see them.  People were out in full force here.  Many of the spectators were standing on the roofs of their cars.  It was awesome.  I focused a lot on the spectators this year, smiling and thanking them for being there.  I was chugging along at close to my goal pace which was no easy feat given the sheer amount of bodies around me.  My need to pee never really went away so I was now in almost  desperate need of a porta potty.  I figured there had to be on at the first aid station which was supposed to be somewhere around the 4km mark.  I spotted the aid station and behind it 3 porta potties.  I think I sprinted ahead of people and jumped over the small berm on the side of the road to get into the closest one.  The first two were occupied but the third was empty.  Thank goodness. If I had to wait in line I think I would have gone nuts.  I have to say, I think that was the fastest pee I've ever taken.  Looking at my splits you can see where I stopped.  I'm guessing I was in and out of that porta potty in about a minute.  I grabbed a Gatorade and rejoined the crowd.

Spot the pee break?

I had conveniently forgotten how rolling the first few km's are of this race.  It's not straight downhill.  My legs were feeling great though.  Not like last year where they felt like crap until about 7km.  This year I felt great from the get go.  Clearly the benefits of a solid taper.  I could only hoped that they continued to feel this way for a while.  I soaked up the energy from the spectators, smiling the entire time, reminding myself to be grateful and run happy.  I hit the 5km mark in 23:54, which was a bit slower than last year.  I was chalking that up to my pit stop.  I figured once we got into the flat lands I'd settle into a good steady pace and hopefully be able to hang on to it.

The hills started to even out into flatter ground and I finally found my groove.  I hit the 10km mark in 47:05 which was a minute slower than last year.  But I felt like I was picking up speed and I was still feeling good.  Excellent.  I chugged along through here, making sure I hydrated at every aid station.  It was really warm out.  Much warmer than I had hoped it would be.  Not having trained in the heat, it can really take a toll on you.  I figured if I hydrated well, I should probably be ok.  I had taken my first GU at 45 minutes in.  My plan was one Roctane every 45 minutes or so.  It was slightly different than last years plan which was 2 gels per hour, which I felt might have been a bit of overkill, especially in conjunction with my fluid intake.  So this year in training, I dialed it back a bit.  In retrospect, I probably should have just stuck with what I knew worked.

I settled into an awesome groove for the next 5km.  I felt good, albeit a little hot.  There was an occasional cool breeze that blew across the course from time to time but for the most part, you were running in the sun with very little wind.  I saw the 15km marker coming up and waved to the photographers.  I hit 15km in 1:09:27.  Last year I came through 15km in 1:09:04 so I was almost back on track.  All my km's from 10 through 15 were all sub 4:30 which was perfect.  I was actually gaining some time now.  I could only hope it was enough to get me through the Newton Hills.

Running into Natick this year was just as amazing as last year, if not better.  I simply could not believe the amount of people that were out cheering on the runners.  I don't even know why I bothered with music that day, I couldn't hear any of it.  I grinned like an idiot through here, despite starting to feel a bit worn down.  My legs were starting to feel sore and the heat was wearing me down.  Amazingly my knees seemed to be fine. Just outside of Natick the exhaustion really started to kick in.  I knew Wellesley College was coming up and I hoped it would give me the boost I needed.  I crossed the 20km mark in 1:32 and change.  Pretty much on par with last year.   Shortly after that I could hear the cheers.  It was crazy.  It was just the boost I needed as I ran my fastest km (4:22) of the race through there!

Despite the feelings of fatigue and exhaustion, I was still managing sub 4:30/kms.  It didn't feel easy but it wasn't killing me either.  I crossed the halfway mark in 1:36:55 which was only 8 seconds slower than last year.  I had almost caught up to my previous year's pacing but I was fighting a battle with the heat and my body.  By 22km, I was really starting to hurt.  I was absolutely dreading the hills.  I kept pushing, maintaining just under my goal pace.  I crossed 25km in 1:54:40, only 3 seconds slower than last year.   At that point I figured there was no way I was going to beat last year's time because  I was heading into the hardest part of the course and it was the part that I was least prepared for.  I was also starting to really struggle mentally.  I just wanted to stop and walk.  The self talk started at about 24km.  I tried to remain positive and thankful but my body wasn't buying it.  I was not enjoying myself.

The first of the Newton hills is horrible.  It's a long grinder, much like Heartbreak Hill.  Running into Newton was pretty special though.  Once again there was a ton of crowd support.  That brought a smile back to my face.  I really started to feel the affects of the heat here.  This was the hottest part of the course.  I could feel my face getting hotter and hotter and I was losing energy big time.  A lot of people were pouring water over their heads but opted not to.  I dumped it on my chest instead because I've made that mistake before and I ended up with a brutal sunburn.  My legs were totally aching at this point.  I kept telling myself that I wasn't going to walk just yet.  I figured when I made it to 30km I'd allow myself to walk if I felt I needed it.  I hit the 30km mark in 2:18:30, 12 seconds slower than last year.  I was actually surprised it wasn't worse than that given the way I was feeling.  I talked myself into running another km.  And then another km.  At this point I was heading into Heartbreak Hill territory.  The crowds here were amazing once again and even though I was really struggling, I couldn't help but smile.  Surprisingly I heard someone call my name and I looked over to see my friend and fellow WTP'er Roger Jonas.  His wife Karen was racing as well.  I smiled and waved, relieved to see someone that I actually knew.  He told me I was looking strong but I certainly didn't feel it.

I tried to keep my focus in front of me by looking up the road but I was so tired my head kept dropping and I kept looking down at the road.  My form had gone right out the window.   I looked up to see a huge inflatable banner that said The Heartbreak is Over.  That made me laugh out loud.  The hill might have been over but the heartbreak wasn't even close to being done.  The drop down into Boston College territory was excruciating.  My quads were completely fried.  I actually slowed down on the down hill because the pounding hurt so much.  I wanted to cry.  Even the boisterous frat boys of Boston College couldn't pull me out of my world of hurt.  I told myself that worst case scenario I had an hour left.  Even that seemed way too long.  I just wanted to be done.  I had mentally checked out.  I hate that feeling of being so miserable that you just want it to be over.   It's not a fun way to race.  I had to dig really deep to re-focus.  I figured I'd walk at the next aid station and give myself a little break.  So at the 34km mark, I grabbed a Gatorade and slowed down to a walk.  My legs were wobbly.  I drank the entire cup while walking.  That seemed to help me a bit as my next two km were both sub 5:00 min km's.  I remember Pharrell Williams "Happy" came on my ipod and I started smiling.  I figured if I could maintain this then maybe all wasn't lost.

It was not to be.

By 37km the wheels completely fell off the wagon.  I hit the wall and I hit it hard.  No matter how hard I tried to push, my body couldn't go any faster.  Every step hurt.  I was getting close to Cleveland Circle where I knew that Barb was going to be.  She was the woman that took pics of me last year and then found me on Facebook.  She told me she was going to be on the left hand side of the road by the trains so I made sure I situated myself there.  I spotted the trains and kept my eyes peeled for her.  Sure enough I spotted her with her camera.  Had I not been so gross, I would have stopped to give her a hug.  Instead, she got a big smile and wave from me, which she caught on camera.   I may look happy but my body language says otherwise.  My shoulders are totally rolled in and when I see that I know I'm tired.


The last 5km felt like a death march.  It took every ounce of strength for me to keep moving forward.  I stopped to walk somewhere around the 39km mark and took a picture of the crowd and the Citgo sign.  I wanted to keep walking but I also just wanted to be done.  So, I started running again.  The crowds were unreal as I ran along Beacon Street.  I could only imagine what it would be like turning from Hereford onto Boylston.  I finally got to the 1 mile left sign and mentally told myself it was only another 8.5 minutes at the worst.  Just after you pass that sign you run under and underpass and you have to run up a small hill.  The small hill felt like Mount Everest and I was so exhausted I had to stop and walk.  Luckily a photographer caught it on camera.


Yup, stick a fork in me, I'm done.   I didn't even have the energy to run with 1km left.  Shortly after I passed the photographer I realized that I was almost there so I started running.  I was gobsmacked by the wall of noise as I ran towards Hereford.  The enormity of everything hit me square in the jaw as I made that turn onto Hereford and I started to cry.  The turn onto Boylston was like running onto a stage.  You never realize just how wide that road is until you're running down the middle of it.  Last year I had the energy to put in a surge.  This year I had nothing and I didn't care.  I kept my eyes on the finish line and willed myself forward.

And just like that it was over.

I hobbled down the finishing chute, completely spent.  I immediately texted G to let him know I was done.  It took me what seemed like forever to get my medal, heat cape & water.  I was tired and cranky and just wanted to sit down but my legs were not willing to move at more than a shuffle.  So I hobbled over to the K, dodging other people on legs as unsteady as mine.  It was a pretty comical.  I found G and hugged him, immediately starting to cry.  I was so disappointed in myself.  I felt like I failed.  I felt like I gave up.  G said he thought I did great under the circumstances.  This year was exactly like the first year I ran Boston (2003).  I trained through a really cold winter, only to have race day be 20 degrees.  I had a complete meltdown that year.  This year, I was only 5 minutes slower than last year and the conditions were pretty much perfect last year.   I can't complain about that.   G and I had a long discussion about my feeling of failure.  I kept beating myself up over the fact that I mentally threw in the towel.  G argues that I didn't because I still kept moving forward and I didn't quit.  Quitting would have meant a DNF.  I can't argue with that logic.  In retrospect, I think I discovered a whole new level of stubborn, which as an endurance athlete, is not a bad thing.

I may not have had the day I wanted to but I was definitely happy to be a part of this years race.   It really was a celebration of strength and unity.  I am incredibly grateful to have had the experience of running Boston 3 times.  That being said, I won't be going back next year, even though I re-qualified.  That race took a lot out of me both mentally and especially physically.  I think this old body needs to chill out for the early part of next year and running a marathon in April doesn't really fit into the "chill out" plans.  I do hope to be able to go back again some day.


 With goal race#1 done, I'm now focusing on goal race #2 which is only 7 weeks away.  I'm not sure who's brilliant idea it was to do this.....

Oh right.  Never mind.

Stay tuned for 7 weeks of complete and utter #Mingsanity.  I suspect it's going to be wild ride.


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