Friday, April 22, 2011
Now seems to be the time to get this out of the way.
Sunday - We had a quick flight up to Beantown in the afternoon. Jinnie had never flown before, but I was probably more nervous. I don't really like to fly much. Upon arriving, we soon met up with Bo and his wife Maggie, who had graciously picked up my race bag for me. We had planned to go to the official Boston Marathon pasta dinner, but the line was further than the eye could see in the street, and the wait would have probably been an hour. So we found a little joint and we enjoyed eating and chatting with Bo about his plan for the race in the morning.
From there we got on the subway and headed for Cambridge. It's just across the Charles River, and we had a really nice hotel about a half mile from the subway station out there, near MIT. There are a lot of homeless people and panhandlers out there, by the way.
Monday - I got up before 5:30. I got all my race stuff together, had some food, etc. and headed for the subway and Boston Common. Jinnie's plan was to go to the finish line and hang out with Ben Hovis and cheer in the overall marathon winners, my speedier friends, and finally me! I arrived at the Common at 6:45, to see all of humanity waiting in line. Ugh, I wish I had gotten there 30 minutes earlier. I waited in line for about an hour, then pushed and squeezed onto a bus. The ride to Hopkinton took about an hour.
At the athletes village, again there were thousands of folks on the two large athletic fields, and other runners spread out in all directions. I remember in 2008, my brother gave me a ride to Hopkinton, and I was able to just lay around on the field for a couple hours with no worries. NOT THIS YEAR! Both the fields were surrounded with porta-jons, and they all had enormously long lines. I immediately got in line and waited for a seeming eternity, and finally took care of my business with only a few minutes until the start of the marathon. My corral had already been instructed to report to the start, and I was still quickly changing into my calf sleeves and race socks. Suddenly some dude comes over and says he likes my Uwharrie t-shirt, and shows off his Uwharrie race hat. Out of 27,000 runners, what are the chances?
I made a mad dash to put my race bag into the shuttle buses. Now it was only 10 minutes until 10:00. I didn't have time for my customary second trip to the porta-jons. I had to hustle to find corral 5. The sun was out, and it was definitely a singlet-only day, even with the gusty winds. I ditched my long sleeve throwaway shirt and the gun sounded.
The race: (Let me start by saying that my goal was only settled-upon in the last couple days before the race. Earlier I had wanted to run a 2:55. But during the couple weeks leading up to the race, my running was hampered by a very strange injury. I experienced much discomfort in my groin and abdomen for two solid weeks, while running/jogging and during all times of day as well. Rest seemed to help, so I hardly got in any good runs for this duration. My hope was to be rested for race day. I felt that I accomplished this, and I made my goal a sub-3 marathon, with hopes for the best.)
The Boston Marathon has one of the narrowest starting lines of any marathon in the world. It's a two lane road, with 27,000 runners, albeit in three separate wave starts. It is congested, to say the least, for several miles. My first mile clocked in at over 7:00, and my goal pace was about 6:50. I accelerated through the masses on mile 2, and settled into my groove once I saw my two mile time of 13:40. Right on pace now.
I felt pretty good. It felt fast, but definitely do-able. I clicked off several miles, and went over the timing/tracking maps at 5K, 10K, 15K, and 20K. I thought of my friends who were tracking me online, and how they were pulling for me to keep hitting these pace marks and hit my goal. It was a great feeling.
Then suddenly we hit the half marathon mark. I saw that I was at about 1:29:15. Only 13.1 miles to go! I thought I could pull this off. And Wellesley! The girls were screaming much more loudly than in 2008, in my opinion. I'm pretty sure I ran too fast in this section, as I was pretty pumped up. My thoughts were, "okay, let's go get these Newton Hills. A few more miles and we're there."
Oh, foolish me. I rolled past the 30K at a time of 2:07:55. Technically, I still had a shot at sub-3 hours. I was still very close to being on a perfect pace. But I knew my race plan was shot. We had just begun the Newton Hills, which culminate at Heartbreak Hill at mile 21. I was suddenly hurting badly, beginning after about 18 miles. I felt that I was crawling up the hills. I even thought of walking. The sun was baking me! The temperature wasn't very high, but the Boston course is almost completely exposed to the sun. I began pouring more and more water on my head to try to stay in the game mentally.
From here, it was survival. I began trying to run 7:30 or 8 minute miles; anything like that was fine with me, though it felt like I was running 15 minute miles. I just wanted to finish. Not finishing was not an option.
Finally we crested a little hill and I saw the famous Citgo sign in Boston. A couple more turns and mercifully we were on Boylston Street and heading for that distant finish line. I got there with a defeated shuffle. Finish time was 3:06:14.
Post-race: I've never felt so drained after any race. You have to walk a LONG WAY after you finish Boston. They make you walk forever to get a little water, then more to get your heat blanket, then more to get your medal, then more to get some food. With so many finishers coming through, it's just the way it is. I stopped repeatedly to sit on the curb and in wheelchairs. The volunteers repeatedly asked me if I was able to move. Perhaps I should have gone to the medical tent, but I guess I thought it was a hassle to do so. Finally I stood in line to get my race bag from the buses. But only for a moment, as I felt myself about to pass out. Apparently I was badly dehydrated. I found a spot in the street and sat there for about 15 minutes as I drank all the water I had. This made a big difference, and finally I stumbled out of the finishers area and found Jinnie, who was searching frantically for me nearby.
We had a seat as she filled me in on the race leaders and all my friends. It was a record-setting day for the winners, but a muted day somewhat for several of my friends. I felt bad for those who didn't quite reach their goals, and I felt pretty bad about my own race. But after some reflection, I felt much better. With my recent injury, I had been unsure if I could even run 26.2 miles at any respectable pace. It had worked out pretty well.
The rest of the day: kind of a blur.
Tuesday through Thursday: A lot of walking. A lot of subway riding. Some really cold and windy weather. We saw the entire Freedom Trail, and we really enjoyed that. The only downside was that the Bunker Hill monument was closed for renovation, so I didn't get to climb a billion stairs the day after the marathon. Oh well, next time.
We saw the National Park sites in Quincy for Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams; that was pretty cool. We went to the M.I.T. museum, which had a few mind-blowing exhibits. We walked around Harvard Square, and debated if every Supreme Court justice should necessarily be a Harvard alum. We ate a lot of food. A LOT of food. We looked at the ugly Boston City Hall, one of the ugliest buildings in the world. I started to talk like I was from Bah-ston. My groin and abdominal injury suddenly vanished on Thursday. Awesome!!! This is the best news of the trip, perhaps. We saw a girl hilariously fall in high heels. We finally came home after a pretty relaxing vacation in the big city.
It was a great trip. Marathon/Ultra #4 is in the books for 2011. Current schedule for the rest of the year (very, very subject to change):
May: New River Marathon
June: Roan Adventure Marathon (28 miles)
July: Grandfather Marathon
August: Laurel Valley 35 miler
September: Hinson Lake 24 Hour
October: Ridge To Bridge Marathon
November: Thunder Road Marathon
Thanks for reading.