21 April 2018

The 122 Boston Marathon.


It's apt that the logo of the Boston Athletic Association is a unicorn. Running a qualifying time is a unicorn. Getting accepted into the race is a unicorn. Running Boston is a unicorn. Running Boston well is a unicorn.

I've posted numerous times about my desire to run Boston, about my decade long journey to get here, about my excitement and pure joy about running the world's oldest and most prestigious marathon, but I'll share with you my final thoughts from Sunday night:

I first heard about the #bostonmarathon when I was visiting law schools in Boston. It seemed cool but something so out of reach it wasn't worth pursuing. I did my first marathon during my 2L year at Baltimore in 4h45m. then almost broke four hours at Marine Corps the following year. turns out dropping 40 minutes between marathons doesn't happen after your first. I broke four, ran some low 3:50s, had a couple babies, DNFd a couple marathons.

then the #bostonathleticassociation then dropped five minutes from each age group and got rid of the 59 second cushion. and the popularity of the race led to a cut off system -- there were more qualifiers than spots, so qualifying alone wasn't enough ... you needed to run faster than your BQ time (how much faster? no way to know until registration closes). I needed a 3:40 but really 3:3? to get into the race.

I missed 3:40 at Steamtown in 2016 by 46 seconds. I DNFd at Shamrock the following spring because of the high winds and hail. I qualified the next month at Coastal Delaware but "only" by about 90 seconds. and then I had a stars๐ŸŒŸ aligned day at Erie last September and ran a 3:35:56, a BQ by 4m4s.

I worked so hard for the right to be here. double digits before work, tempos at paces I didn't believe I could sustain, mile repeats at 5k pace, long runs with marathon pace work. tomorrow the weather will be ridiculous ๐ŸŒง️๐ŸŒฌ️ and it will be epic. I will turn right on Hereford and left on Bolyston and I will cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon. ๐Ÿ’›๐Ÿ’™


Saturday, April 21
fancy


 all packed....

and Boston Bound !

James and I took the 6:40 am (oof) flight from Baltimore to Boston. We are lucky to live close to Boston, and did not, as I very helpfully pointed out to James, have to fly from Australia. So that saved us a lot of money. I wore my Boston Bound shirt (thanks Katie), my celebration jacket (thanks Adidas), and my Boston shoes (thanks again Adidas). 

dork

love these

Our flight was uneventful and James and I both dozed. We landed in Boston and Ubered it to our hotel - the Boston Park Plaza - where we dropped off our luggage and left for the expo. 

On the way to the expo I saw the famous turn so of course I had to get a photo


The expo is normally in Back Bay (near our hotel and the finish line) but this year the BAA didn't book it in time (LOLWAT) and someone else booked it for that weekend. The expo was in Seaport, which is not far, mileage-wise, but takes a while in city traffic. Tracksmith, purveyor of awesome (and awesomely pricey) running gear, offered a free shuttle to the expo.


We arrived at the expo around 10 am and first went to bib pick up. The excitement was palpable. Almost 30,000 runners were registered but the expo was a well oiled machine. There were several lines for bib pick up and we didn't wait in line long.

thanks John Hancock !
hooray! I'm officially official

After picking up my bib we headed downstairs to spend a lot of money. The expo was HUGE. Every major shoe brand was there with Boston merchandise. I tried samples of just about everything (nothing new on race day except this delicious chocolate hemp milk and a new cliff bar flavor!). I got my (FREE) shirt and (FREE) Adidas "Every Run Creates a Legend" poster (and there's my name on the E!) and then got down to business.

In fairness to me, I really didn't buy *that* much -- magnet, tshirt, hat, mug, and Spike the Unicorn. (the water bottle was free. because I bought three tubes of Nuun). 

well now I really have to finish, don't I?

At the expo we saw the class of 1968 winners - Amby Burfoot and Bobbi Gibb (the first woman to run Boston) and heard their stories, which was awesome.

 legend
legend

After the expo we met my college friend Jodi and her husband for lunch at Sportello, a restaurant with home made pasta. Delicious.

we've come a long way from that summer we lived at a frat house

Saturday night we chilled at the hotel and went to an Irish pub/ sports bar for dinner. We watched ice hockey and just relaxed.

Sunday April 15

Sunday morning James slept in and I met up with my coach James McKirdy for a shake out run for his athletes. He gave great advice about being a palm tree in the race -- firmly rooted but flexible.



We did an easy 35 minute run and then I wandered around the city before heading back to the hotel. I stopped by the Runner's World Pop Up Shop and Meb was there. THAT is so Boston -- there are elites everywhere (fun fact: Meb ran for charity this year!). I went to the finish line and got some photos and met the most awesome dog!

I wanted to take him home

see you tomorrow finish line !

Yes, I AM wearing tights and a light jacket for a shakeout run in April. More - much more - about the weather infra.

After strolling around and not spending any more money James and I went to brunch at Stephanie's on Newbury. We started with the monkey bread because carb loading. I then had the Best Pancakes of My Entire Life, which is saying a lot, because I really like pancakes. I ate until I was full and then ate some more and then ate until my stomach was painfully full and then had a few more bites. James had a fancy drink.

get in my belly now

From Stephanie's we walked to Fenway Park to see the Orioles suck  play. Our cheap(ish) seats were under the awning, so we were protected from the snow. Yes, it snowed. Around the eighth inning they gave away free hot chocolate which is actually super awesome since the hot chocolates were $8.50! We ended up sitting with a bunch of marathoners. The woman behind us was from Melbourne (!) and we chatted for a while. I sat next to a woman from Washington state. Everyone - the residents of the city, the store and restaurant owners and employees, the other runners - was so damn friendly. We had a great time at the game and I loved cheering loudly for the O's even though I was the only one. Oh, and we sang Sweet Caroline.


My go-to pre race dinner is sushi because it's the perfect pre run meal -- a good mix of fat, carbs, and protein, not heavy or greasy, and nice and salty with the soy sauce. Snappy Sushi was not crowded -- it turns out most runners do not share my view.


We wet back to the hotel and I laid out my clothes and switched out my clothes multiple times. I'm so glad I paid for rush shipping for that awesome yellow tank top that you couldn't see under my long sleeved shirt and my $20 Amazon "throwaway" rain jacket.


Now, the weather... a week out it was supposed to be 50s and raining. Not ideal but better than too hot. And then it started getting colder. And windier. And rainier (is that a word?). And the final forecasts were calling for low 40s, windchill of high 20s, 30 mph headwinds, and a steady rain with downpours. I went into Boston well trained enough to run the race and enjoy it, but I didn't do speedwork or any work on the track. I most certainly did not do any tempo runs. I did some miles at marathon pace but that was the extent of it. I did a lot of hill work to prepare for Newton. I thought I could do high 3:40s to 3:50s but I knew I wasn't in shape to BQ. Once I saw I'd be heading into a headwind for 26 miles I decided to not worry about my time at all and just enjoy what an epic shitshow of a day Monday would bring.



Went to bed around 10 and actually slept really well.

Monday, April 16



RACE DAY! RACE DAY! RACE DAY! RACE DAY! I wore this extra bib on my leg and I'm so glad I bought it - it was awesome to hear people cheering for me by name throughout the day.


I was planning on waking up around 6:30 but I got up at 6:00 because I was so excited. I puttered around the hotel room, ate my Belvita breakfast cookies, put Aquaphor on my feet (NO BLISTERS), got dressed and waited to hear from Kim. She texted me when she was on her way to the buses (the race is point-to-point from Hopkinton to Boston, so the BAA provides school buses to drive you to the start).

here we go!

It was already raining and I had on throwaway sweats and shoe covers. Another excellent Amazon purchase. My shoes were totally dry. Until I took them off and started running.

saved my feet !

On our way to Hopkinton! .. or to clean up a bio-hazard spill.


We arrived in Hopkinton and went to the Athlete's Village, which was like Woodstock but without the music or drugs. Every where you stepped you sunk into mud. Short of installing a fancy drainage system I don't know what the BAA could have done to prevent it. Kim and I found a spot and I put down the throwaway yoga mat for us to sit on. We made some friends, ate some bagels, and then got in line for the port o potties. While in line they called for our wave (wave 3) so we hurried back into the tent to get our stuff and head for the start. Except. All the people who were sitting around us had left and we had no frame of reference for our stuff. After a quick panic, we found out stuff and then left the Athlete's Village for the starting line. It's a .7 mile walk and by the time I got to my corral (4) it was two minutes to the start. I don't know why it was so rushed but I was taking off my shoe covers and sweatpants and pulling on my gloves (and latex gloves over those, which worked well) as the race was starting. Oh well - didn't have time to worry!

The race goes through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston.



I was worried there wouldn't be many spectators (and the spectators are one of the special aspects of this race) but although it wasn't as crowded as years past, the people of Boston were out and they were cheering and they were incredible. There was a dog with a Boston Strong flag. There were two girls wearing their bathing suits jumping around. There was a free hug sign from a woman (I totally got one). There was a group of three people chanting "YOU ARE INCREDIBLE." The women of Wellesley were out and I kissed several. I could hear the famous scream tunnel at least half a mile before I hit Wellesley. Nothing I could say about the spectators and the volunteers would be hyperbole - they were unbelievably supportive and enthusiastic.

The race is a net downhill through mile 16 and boy did it do a number on my quads. The hills of Newton really weren't that bad (also I didn't care about my time so that helped) and I didn't know I'd run up Heartbreak Hill until I asked somewhere where it was and she told me we already passed it.

 it was really rainy. really

James said that every time he saw me I was smiling. I was just so excited to be there that I would cross the road to high five the little kids (I did not run the tangents!). When the rain would really pick up I'd just laugh. I high fived A LOT of people. It was hard to get my gels out of my waist belt (which was tucked under my clothing) so I started asking volunteers to do it for me. THANK YOU VOLUNTEERS


James was waiting for me at mile 16 1/2. He planned to be at Beacon Street, so it was easy to find him. When you're not running for time, you stop and take a photo with the man who makes it all possible.


James' Boston Marathon experience. Less running, same rain, more booze:

 First drink: Old Fashioned at Joe's on Newbury
on the T waiting to see me! 

waiting for me in this beautiful weather. now that's love, folks !

so normally I'd give you a play by play of my splits but let's just say I slowed down a bit and here you go:
Boston is a beast of a course even in great conditions. The net downhill can make you go out too fast and too soon and it really kills your quads. I can see how race strategy would really matter on this course if one was actually racing.

The smile did come off my face around mile 20. I was really hurting and the rain was really picking up. Hearing that Des Linden won put an extra bounce in my step - I was so excited! (someone asked me on Tuesday if I was her :o )


I slowed down but did not walk and making those final two turns (right on Hereford, left on Boylston) was an absolutely incredible feeling. The crowds were SO LOUD even though it was pouring !

still wearing my "throwaway" jacket (credit to Deb Saltz for the screenshot!)

I was so cold after finishing but I really wanted a photo so I asked a volunteer to open my waist belt and get out my phone.


The walk back to the hotel was brutal. I was shivering and shaking so badly but I knew I just needed to get out of my wet clothes. I debated the medical tent because I couldn't stop shaking but the tents were so close to the hotel that I figured I'd just go back to the hotel. James bought me a Lush bath bomb while I was running so I sat in a hot bath for a while trying to bring my body temperature back up. After a hot bath, a hot shower, and laying under the covers for 30 minutes we ventured out (in the rain, come on!) for dinner. We went to Five Napkin burger and I inhaled onion rings and half a burger. To wash it down? Sam Adams 26.2 Brew, naturally.


Beer for me, Old Fashioned for James

We were walking around in Back Bay and James saw a news crew and asked if I wanted to be on TV. I asked, "Can I be on TV?" I was kidding. They said sure. Famous. nbd.

we can still be friends but I might have to sign autographs while we're eating lunch

I was still stuffed from dinner but really wanted something sweet and hotel had cold milk and freshly baked cookies. YES PLEASE



We were going to go to the Mile 27 party at Fenway but I was so exhausted (and frankly, not in the mood to go back out in the rain) that we called it a day and fell asleep watching the re broadcast of the race.

Tuesday, April 17

I slept okay but had a lot of trouble walking right out of bed (weird, right?)

I had the second half of my burger for breakfast and then we went to Tracksmith to get my free poster hand stamped with my time. They wouldn't use my qualifying time instead. We went to Oofos and I got my medal engraved for free in their pop up shop. We stopped for coffee and pastries and chai tea.

It wasn't as rainy and windy as Monday (of course) and we were able to get out and enjoy the city. We saw the Make Way for Duckings statue at Boston Common and went on a trolley tour that went throughout the city. We stopped in the North End and enjoyed (REALLY ENJOYED) a lobster roll and then waited in line for cannolis at Mike's.


We went to Cheers and James had a beer.

making your way in the world today takes everything you've got

and then, after a photo of Spike with my hard earned medal, we headed back to Baltimore!





The Boston Marathon is the truly a special experience. One of my buddies from the Boston Marathon training posted this (credit to Robert Wang --- https://www.facebook.com/MrMediaMan/posts/10101993407227734)
Why is the Boston Marathon special?
- The course and the climate will just not take crap from anyone and it won't put up with arrogance or anyone taking the race for granted. The course due to its net downhill nature early on and the Newton Hills at the most crucial time of the race is very difficult to figure out how to pace. It is so easy to go too fast early and nearly everyone makes that mistake. Then you have to throw in the randomness of New England weather in April. You just don't know what you're going to get year after year. The rules change almost hourly. People who can run 2:08 or 2:20 struggled to run under 2:20 and 2:40. A tailwind that allows you to run a 2:04 can become a headwind that can ruin your day. That makes for exciting tales that will be told for years like the wintry conditions of 1967, the 90+ degrees of 1976 when there were no aid stations and the residents who lived by the course rallied by getting their garden hoses and hosing the runners, the heat of 2012, the more recent hot race of 2017 and the nor'easter of 2007. And of course 2018, which produced conditions that people rarely run in. This isn't flat, predictable Chicago. The 2018 race will be special because up became down and down became up as people we've never heard of did so well in horrific conditions. The course and conditions force you to treat the race with humility and respect.
- A unique culture in the greater Boston area has developed around the race as it's taken place every year for 121 years. Many of the residents remember their parents taking them to watch the race when they were kids. They remember their parents passing out food and making signs and cheering loudly for the runners and they want to carry on the tradition. It's ingrained in the area's way of life. No where else does a public bus driver who sees me walking in pouring rain in my Mylar blanket after the race, stop and offer to drive me in the bus a block to my hotel. No where else do people wondering the streets at night, who see my Celebration jacket stop to wish me good luck the next day. That never happens in Chicago and New York. Random people on the subway will congratulate you. The residents treat the race with awe and because you've been invited to run in it, they will treat you with awe as well. The volunteers see waking up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. in the morning for the race to be an absolute honor and privilege for the race is their crown jewel that they cherish and protect and an opportunity to express civic pride. They treat the runners like guests in their own home. I have never ever seen a grumpy volunteer who didn't want to be there. I've heard more apply to be volunteers than there are positions available. I heard of one family that when they sold their house by the course, put in a clause in the contract that they be allowed in perpetuity to use their former property to watch the race in the future. When the Boylston Street finish line got covered in snow, a bar tender or some random guy took it upon himself to shovel the snow off the finish line.
- It seems that everyone is talking about the race nonstop in the Boston area during the weekend. Wearing a Celebration jacket or any piece of Boston Athletic Association is likely to spark a conversation with a local. Or prompt them to offer you help in getting around.
- The race's smaller field compared to other Majors, 27,000 versus 40,000 to 50,000 give the race a more intimate nature.
- The Boston Marathon weekend serves as basically an international runner's conference with the runners with the best times or charity fundraising in the world to gather in one place every year. You could easily pass 20 women in a row at the expo who've broken 3:25 in a marathon. Most of the prominent runners gather here annually, and the world's athletic brands are eager to promote to this audience. Here, it's hard NOT to run into Meb Keflezighi and Shalane Flanagan.
- The race has taken place every single year since 1897 despite World War I in 1917, the heat wave of 1976, an elite runners' boycott in the mid-1980s due to lack of prize money, Rosie Ruiz in 1980, the registration debacle of 2010 and the bombing in 2013. It's spawn scores of tales of triumph, defeat and controversy amid a rich history that no other race can match. And it was where Bobbi Gibb and Kathrine Switzer showed that women belonged in endurance sports.
- The Wellesley College scream tunnel where college students cheer so loudly it cracks your ears open and they invite you to kiss them. That was my fastest mile despite two brief stops.
- The spectators see supporting the runners as a duty and a pleasure. Even though there were fewer spectators due to the weather Monday, they were super loud, trying to make up for the ones who didn't come. And they got super drenched in the process. It's second nature for them to offer beer, orange slices and bananas to runners on Beacon Street. The children become thrilled if they get a high five from a passing runner. A lot of locals also run the race either as time qualifiers or charity runners and each of them seem to have a cheering section devoted to them on the course.
- The international nature of the race where people come from over 90 countries. And despite the language and cultural barriers, we all have the common bond of running and common experiences that we can relate to each other.

-----------
Thank yous


I ran the race by myself but I didn't get there without lots of help and support.

To James McKirdy: thank you for believing me and getting me two BQs. I may have cursed you frequently while doing those tempo runs in the dark but you made me a stronger, more self-assured runner. Oh, and you told me Do Not Go Out Too Fast and I listened and you were right and I ran my best race ever at Erie.

To my parents and in-laws: thank you for the emotional (and monetary!) support and for watching the kids this past weekend and whenever we need you.

To my friends and family and coworkers (online and in person): thank you for putting up with the hashtag running talk and for the support and encouragement, especially during race weekend. Your messages, texts, Facebook, and Instagram posts mean so much to me.

To my kids, who can't read: thank you for being adorable. And for, when learning that I didn't win, asking "why not?"

To my work running friends, Jen and Kim: thank you for understanding just how special this was, and to Kim, thanks for the company on the bus and at the mud pit I mean Athlete's Village.

To my BRF, Colleen: thank you for the many many many miles, and especially for this training cycle --- meeting me at my mile 6-8, running with me for another 8-10, and buying me breakfast and driving me home. "when your eyes are on the road you can speak from the heart." So excited for you to run New York!

And of course, to James: thank you for being my everything. Thank you for getting the kids up and ready so I can run in the morning, for never complaining about weekend long runs, for holding down the fort when I traveled to races, for cheering me up when I raced poorly and cheering me on when I raced well, for being there in Baltimore in 2005 when we were just married and living in a shitty apartment and in Boston 2018 with two kids and almost 12 years of marriage. Onward to the next adventure!


Thoughts

I was worried that - after dreaming about Boston for so long - it wouldn't live up to the hype.

I needn't have worried. This is the world's best marathon. It's truly unparalleled in spectators, volunteers, execution, organization, expo, residents. The course will chew you up and spit you up and that's part of it's allure. 

I was also worried (I worry a lot) that the post race blues after THIS race would be really hard. I had H after Ironman Cozumel and Char after Philly and we are done having kids so what could be next? How would I top getting to - and running - Boston?

By qualifying for and running it again.

Boston 2020, I'm coming for you.

1 comment:

  1. Yes, yes, yes!!! Love this!! Huge congrats!!!! I am going to save this post and re-read it next April. I finally qualified for my first Boston (4:15 buffer). My race was on the Saturday prior to Boston in Michigan and we basically had the same exact weather as you ended up with in Boston. What a mess! Certainly didn't make it easy!

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