I haven’t been the best blogger lately. I have had things to post about (a new half PR at the Carlsbad Half Marathon in January, two new PRs in the 10k – first in February at the Super Bowl 10k and then at She.Is.Beautiful in March – maybe I’ll post about those some day). But my focus has been with other things – namely trying get work done on the dissertation. But I HAVE to post about Boston. Yesterday felt like a dream and I can’t stop thinking about it. (PS lots of photos and long post today… I think that’s ok!)
My parents were nice enough to come up Wednesday evening and stay through Monday to watch our pups for us (our friend and SCE teammate, Selena, is helping out the rest of the trip) – thanks!!! Thursday we got to spend a little time with them and then finish up packing. That evening I was participating in a Civil War forum, which was awesome! But made for little sleep because Friday morning, Kevin and I left the house at 3:30am(!) to catch our 6:50am flight out of SFO. One of the nice things about getting to the airport that early is that there are no lines – not to check baggage, not security, not at the one place open at 5:30am in Jet Blue’s terminal. The flights were easy, we had a short lay over at JFK (hi for a hot second New York!). But my stomach was all twisted from gross airport food and I think the air pressure of the planes just gets to me.
After a bit of confusion trying to get an Uber at the Logan Airport – you can’t – we were on our way to our Air B&B, just steps away from the Bunker Hill Monument – so cool! It was nice to stay in Charlestown rather than downtown because I tend to get caught up with all the stuff, and that can have a negative impact on my race. So instead we were in our little world and it didn’t feel like the most amazing race was happening in just a few days. Our host gave us some tips for dinner, we got some delicious food at Figs, and then were fast asleep after a long day.
Saturday I had planned to hit up the expo but we just didn’t get moving early enough. I did a quick run-seeing tour of the neighborhood we’re staying in and then Kevin and I met up with Chris at Cask n Flagon for a beer, a few steps from Fenway. We had to see a Red Sox game while we were in town! It was beautiful weather (I couldn’t believe the forecast was calling for showers just two days later) and the game was fun, even though the Sox lost. After the game, we met back up with Chris, as well Susan, and a couple other friends. We walked to Cambridge, across the Charles River, for some local beer and dinner at Meadhall. Then we headed back to our little place.
Sunday morning I did my shakeout run and felt really good. I couldn’t believe how good my legs were still feeling after training and traveling. Many times before a marathon I can feel myself starting to get tired, so this was good news! After the run, Kevin and I headed out to the expo. The are so efficient at getting out the bibs, kudos! We quickly went through the expo (Kevin wanted some new Nike Frees… I forgot that Niketown was across the street and after realizing when we got back, said we could go after the race… yeah that didn’t happen). Then we walked down Boylston for some coffee and to see the finish line. We didn’t stay too long as we both wanted to get some work done and I wanted to lay low before the race. One of the nice things about staying at a place with a kitchen is that I could make dinner instead of eating out and not knowing if I would find what I wanted.
Monday! Race Day! I woke up a little after 6am to make breakfast and get all my stuff situated. It wasn’t raining but was a little chilly. No problem. After eating my oatmeal, I got an Uber to take me to Boston Common. He was a funny guy and when the traffic got real bad and he knew that he couldn’t get me any closer, he asked “you’re running the marathon, you can walk 4 blocks, right?” Yep. So I followed the crowd to the Common where I didn’t wait to long before boarding a school bus on the long drive to Hopkinton. I dozed off here and there on the ride, ate a Picky bar, and watched the scenery. It rained a little on our way but didn’t seem too bad. And it wasn’t raining when we stopped. We got to Athlete’s Village and it was cold, wet, muddy, and amazing. So many runners! I had layered well, so didn’t mind the cold too much. I grabbed half a bagel, some water, and a coffee and just wondered around a bit to keep warm. I jogged a little warm up, about a mile, around in Athlete’s Village. Then I packed up my pockets with my gels, phone, and inhaler. I brought more gels with me than I usually do in a marathon, so it looked pretty silly. But I’m glad I did because I used all but one during the race. Finally, they called Wave 3 to start moving toward the corrals.
Many of my friends had told me about Athlete’s Village and the walk to the start. That’s how I knew to bring clothes that I was ok with tossing but would keep me warm while I waited, which wasn’t super long. But I didn’t realize how cool the walk from Athlete’s Village to the start would be. Families cheer for you like you’re a celebrity. You feel like you’re in a parade. It was rad. Before going to my corral, I made a final stop at the Port-o-potty. I kept my warm clothes for as long as possible. I ditched the pants on the way to the start because as I thought it might be a pain to take them off there – I think I was right. But I kept my two extra long sleeves on until minutes before we started. I chatted with some other runners, a couple first timers like me. It started to sprinkle but who cares at that point! And then we were off!
I had a goal in mind for my race. I had a great training cycle and knew I could pull off a PR at Boston. But I also knew it was a hard course and I wanted to enjoy the marathon as much as possible. So I balanced those two things, mostly for the first 16 miles or so. After that it was less of a choice. I knew that the first mile was downhill and it is easy to go too fast and that can destroy a race. But I didn’t have to worry, it was so crowded that I couldn’t have gone faster than my 8:19 first mile if I had wanted to. After that I got into a grove, hanging around a 7:45 pace for the first 13 miles – just what I wanted to do.
It was a little cold and rainy, but not terrible. Once you’re in the rain, it’s not bad and I was just happy it wasn’t hot! Apparently there were not quite as many spectators because of the weather but they were still awesome! Great signs – too many to remember. But I love that Boston accent – with crowds telling me to “Run Fastah!” and “Go hahd!” The guy singing the old lounge music was awesome and the group playing some New Kids of the Block made me smile. The course was good for me, as it rolls through its negative downhill first 16 miles. I loved seeing the mile markers with the town names and the miles painted onto the road. I didn’t know what the 6 Mile Moment was but I loved the signs anyway. I loved seeing the kids on the porches cheering for us, the Boston Strong signs and flags, the genuine excitement from the runners and spectators. So cool! We got to Wellesley and I knew we were near half way. Those college girls do not disappoint they were the best part so far! Everything was going so perfect.
The next three miles flew by and then we were entering the Newton Hills. But I had this. I was good. I kept reminding myself of all the Wilder runs, the hill we pounded up in Los Gatos, that I had this. I passed some people heading up the first hill. Still I slowed down here more than I had planned. The winds had kicked in at this point. I tried to tuck behind people to get out of the wind but it was hard. Either I was too far from someone and I wasn’t going to sprint to save energy… that seems counter productive or I tucked behind someone but it didn’t make much of a difference. It was also the coldest to me during miles 16-21. My hands were cold and it took a lot of work to get the gel out of my pocket, zip the pocket back up, and open the packet. They just weren’t cooperating in the cold. I had an idea where Heartbreak Hill was but didn’t realize I was finally on it until some guy yelled “You conquered Heartbreak Hill!” I had? Then why was I still running up it? A few minutes later I saw the official end of the hill. I knew I could do this! 5 miles left! I thought of my 5am 5 mile runs with Kim and told myself that’s all this was. Miles 16-21 were my slowest, all in the 8 minute range with Heartbreak Hill at 8:34.
Once we were in the 20s, there were huge crowds. Brookline crowds kept me moving and helped me get to the 7:50ish pace that I maintained for the rest of the race. I heard several spectators yell and cheer. They would pick a runner, myself included, and point to someone ahead of you “You can get him! You’re fastah than him! Go get him!” It made me laugh and I’m sure it also made me run faster.
Then I saw the Citgo sign… away in the distance but I knew once I got to it, I only had a mile left. Some miles flew by, others dragged on. Mile 22-23, slow – I felt like I was there forever. But 25 and 26, whizzed by.
As I got close to the finish I worried I wouldn’t see Kevin in the crowds. We had talked about where he might be and we knew I might not see him because of all the people. But just as I turned on to Boylston I heard him yell for me. I was so happy to see him! I was so happy to be on Boylston. I picked it up and fought hard to run the last .2 at a 7 minute pace. I was happy but also almost felt like I would cry .. coming across that finish line that I had dreamed about, that I had seen in smoke on tv just two years ago, it was emotional and amazing. And I knew I had a PR and another BQ. I thought it was 3:28:XX but was stoked to find out it was a little quicker – 3:27:45! A 6 minute PR! At Boston!
I went into the shoot and very quickly realized how cold I was. I took off the arm warmers, which were now wet and cold and doing me no favors. I texted my mom and dad to let them know I finished. And glanced at the text messages from friends – thanks! I wanted my medal and my space blanket. The volunteers were amazing. They knew we were all cold. They opened our water bottles and our protein shakes, I downed mine immediately, they helped up put on the blankets. As I got toward the end of the finisher’s area, there was a med tent with heating buses. I was really cold, shaking, and my right hand was so cold it felt hot – weird I know. I clearly looked as cold as I felt as one of the volunteers asked how I was. I told her my hand was cold and she directed me toward a heating bus. But it was full. So one of the other medical volunteers took me and a few others to a restaurant on the corner to get warm. He asked the people waiting for a table if we could have their seats, which they graciously gave us. Seriously, the Boston Marathon volunteers are the BEST! I texted Kevin to let him know I had to warm up a bit first before finding him. Finally I ventured back out and it took us a little while to connect. We were basically at opposite ends of the spectator/runners area. But yay we found each other! Kevin gave me his jacket and we headed back to our place.
We’re here for a few more days and will be doing some historical sight seeing. But I have to end with this: Boston was a dream… it almost feels like it didn’t happen! It was the most amazing, magical, unicorn-filled race of my life. Thanks to all who supported me and cheered me on! 😀