Saturday, April 24, 2010

Boston 2010


I slept well the night before the race, comparatively. Maybe 3 hours sleep on and off, but I was grateful for that. Usually I can’t sleep. Not as much anxiety as recent long distance races. I got up at 5:45 and put on my stuff, looked out the window at blue skies and sunshine (Yes!), said goodbye to Gina and was at the subway stop a bit after 6. Loaded with runners, we took the train to Boston Commons and got in line for the busses. The lines were not too bad, shorter than Moab, but more runners and busses. The drive out went pretty fast, took about an hour and then we were at the Athlete’s Village. I had 2 hours to kill before the race. I passed time sitting on the wet grass (take plastic with you if you go), standing in line for the porta potti over and over and walking around a bit. I thought of St. George and how miserable it was before the race and this was so much nicer.

Passing time at Athlete's Village Pre-Race (looks like Woodstock for Runners)
Welcome to Hopkington Sign in the background

Looking back, the time went by pretty quick. I went to the bus to drop off my bag and then headed my way toward the start (.7 miles down the road). A special walk with other runners in wave one. There are more bathrooms with shorter lines near the start, which I needed. I got in line for my corral 8 with 10 minutes to spare and an empty bladder, perfect pre race time management. They played the star spangled banner and jets flew over, helicopters buzzing in the air. It was very exciting. I was ready to run the Boston Marathon. The race started and it took 5 minutes to get to the actual start point. Most of that walking until the start line.

The first 5K

The first 5K starts in Hopkinton, right at the start there are spectators lined up and cheer you as you go. The first part of the race is rural, downhill and then rolling up and down. If anyone ever tells you Boston is downhill they are lying to you. It rolls, the whole way, if you have a downhill; there is an uphill right after. I was expecting more downhill at the start with an occasional hill or flat. There were lots of runners stopping for a nature break right outside the town. Men and Women. Some hiding behind a tree, some not. More pit stops than I’ve ever seen in a race. This continued for a while. As runners we don’t judge, I know that could have been me and if you got to go during a race, nothing is worse than trying to hold it, it will consume your thoughts and your body. There were porta potties along the race though at every water stop.

I ran the first mile with the group, around me, not trying to pass, going with the flow. I was surprised how well the group kept pace , and it was pretty close to what I would run anyway, just a bit slower, which was good for a marathon, right? I did the first mile in 7:29. Right on Pace. I was pumped up, here I was running the Boston Marathon, achieving a 15 year goal. The next 2 miles rolled up and down, I was surprised by the uphill’s. I was pretty consistent with a 7:26,7:27. I got warm and took off my toss away long sleeve shirt and gloves. I hit the 5k at 23:11 Minutes and felt good. The crowd spread out some. But the whole way, there was a crowd, for as far as you could see on the road and to each side there were runners.

5K Mark, Feeling Good

The next 5k was good. I stayed on the sub 7:30 pace. I thought of the text alerts everyone would get at the 10k and focused on that pace. The early part of Boston, you run through a little town, everyone cheers, especially at the middle of the town, then it thins out and you run past rural spectators, an occasional bar full of people drinking and cheering or a group looking for their runners. Really fun. And it repeats this over and over till you get close to Boston. The enthusiasm along the course is so strong and inspires you as you run. There is so much to see and hear, I cannot describe it. I sped up to a 7:20, right where I wanted to be. Then I hit a hill at mile 5, slowed down to 7.40 and then back on pace at mile 6. Hit the 10k at 46:44. A little slower than I wanted, but still early in a Marathon so I was happy.

The race became a blur of spectators, small towns, runners fading in and out of my pace / zone. If you wear something distinctive or your name on your bib or shirt, people will yell out as you pass. Go Canada, Go Mexico. Go Ally. I had a plain white shirt so no cheers for me. Next time, I will wear something distinctive. Denny would be good. Go Denny! Maybe a Denny’s shirt. :) I started to fall off pace a bit here. At mile 8 went over 7:34, then 7:31 at mile 9. The grinding of the hills was starting to get to me a bit. I thought of what lie ahead, stories from other Boston Runners, the Newton hills, and I was already feeling it. 1:10:47 at the 15K, on Pace for 3:20, but off my 3:15 stretch goal.

1/2 Way
The hills continue to roll, at 10 Miles I was holding 7:30 pace pretty good. Then Mile 11, a gradual uphill, I dropped to a 7:50 pace, I was shocked, that little hill slowed me that much? My quads were starting to ache a bit. More towns, spectators getting thicker signs for Wellesley. Then Wellesley. I had heard the stories of the girls screaming and it was incredible to see in person. I did not know about all of the "kiss me" signs and the runners kissing girls along the way. I didn’t kiss any girls, but I saw several runners do it, I thought it was a bit creepy with the older runners kissing them, but hey it’s Boston. It was so fun, but kind of a blur. I tried to read the different signs for reasons to kiss them over the 1000 other girls lined up. Some dressed up, some in sweats. That is a unique tradition. There are several college locations on the route, Boston College and some others, but nothing beats Wellesley. The price you pay for the adrenaline surge from all the girls energy is it is a grinding uphill pretty much all the way through this town.
1:39:15 Half Way there, on pace still for 3:20.

Miles 14-16. My pace was falling off, I was not holding under 7:30, I felt the quads. Hamstring tweaking me. I should not be feeling this till the Newton Hills. This part was flat and downhill, easy. The rolling hills continued to take their toll. The towns became bigger, less rural, more spectators. 1:57:59 at the 25K Mark, with the 3:20 pace, but slowing.

The Newton Hills
This begins the tough stretch. Some say you are not even half way there till after heartbreak hill. I believe that now, mentally anyway. Through 17.5 miles it’s pretty easy and flat. But you see the signs for Newton and you know the hills are starting and my pace was fading, as were my hopes for a PR marathon at Boston (under 3:19). I was fatiguing and the tough 4.5 miles of Newton hills were on the horizon. There’s a 4th hill nobody told me about that is a gradual rise that I felt and wondered if it was the first hill but it wasn’t. When you turn in the road you see the hill, you hear the runners buzz about the hills, whispers around you. Some runners attack, some hold pace and some back off. I backed off. I tried to imagine it as a mile high hill repeat that would be over quick, but the first hill drags on forever and ever, a steady grind. Of the three, this one was the toughest for me. Also knowing there were two more behind it made it tough, with Heartbreak hill at the end.

The hills are all in residential areas of Newton, I had always pictured them as more urban. Funny in that any one of these hills, if you were running on a normal day, you’d think. What’s the big deal,? But at this point in the race after all the rolling hills, you know. Yeah that’s a big deal and there are more.

There is a break before the 2nd hill, and it is the easiest of the 3, felt good after that one and was ready to charge heartbreak hill. But there is a big pause, as you run around curves on flats, you keep thinking ok, here’s heartbreak, but it takes a while. Then the runners buzz begins, and you turn the corner and there it is, the famous Heartbreak. The streets were lined with spectators. I remember one lady standing at a stop light yell out “Come On you can do it, run all of heartbreak light to light”. I could not see the other light, just a big long winding hill filled with runners. Here’s a link for more info on the history and description of heartbreak hill.

I shortened my stride and ran it, slow and easy, only 4 tenths of a mile. I thought of the mile high hill repeats I did in January and February. Lots of family cheering for runners and signs along the way. Some runners attacked the hill, some slowed. A runner asked someone if this was heartbreak hill and another runner replied, “Yep this is it, well the start of it anyway, it goes on for a while. Finally I could see the second light and the hill crest, the crowds and cheers got louder. I crested the hill and for some reason expected to see a big downhill and the city of Boston. But it was just more neighborhood a small downhill and then a slight uphill.

10K to Go
After heartbreak it is mainly downhill for less than 6 miles. Going into the race, this is where I thought I would kick it in and get back on pace and cruise with the crowds and adrenaline to Boston and the finish. I had heard so many stories of runners getting here and hitting the wall and crashing and doing the death march to the finish. I sped up some and was expecting to recover from the hills, but it did not happen. My legs were dead, I saw other runners fly by, doing what I thought I would be doing, but there were just as many runners slowing down or walking.

Somewhere past Heartbreak Hill headed toward Boston

Around mile 21 a smaller lady ran by me and nudged me a bit as she passed, it twisted me a bit and I felt a twinge in my left calf. I thought “Oh no, not that, a calf pull or tear would be the nail in the coffin”. I recovered from that and tried to hydrate through the water stops at each mile. We ran through Boston College area, lots of college kids cheering and partying, seemed like everyone had a beer in their hand. My pace was around 8:15 and slowing a bit each mile, the water stops slowed my pace some, but I needed the electrolytes. I was trying to calculate what my finish would be, math is tough when you are at mile 22. I thought it would be around 3:30 if I could hold on.

Last 5K
At some point you realize, hey I’m in Boston. The crowds are super thick everywhere, people cheering from houses, windows, everywhere you look. Amazing. Then you see the famous CITGO sign. It’s huge and you know you are close, but as everyone tells you, you got a ways to go. Beacon Street seemed to last for ever, kept waiting for Commonwealth. Slowing to get a good drink of Gatorade and then Water. I knew I had a GU left, but my stomach was upset as usual at this point in the race, so I didn’t want to eat it. I later discovered I had skipped the GU I planned to take at mile 20. That might have helped some. Marathon Fatigue for sure.

Finally past that huge Citgo Sign, really hurting here.

Within 2 miles, my left calf started cramping. At first it was short and I modified my stride to strike with a flat foot. It came and went for a while. Finally Commonwealth Avenue, a bridge that goes over the highway, yes! Almost there. Then zap a bad cramp on the bridge, had to stop and stretch it out. Pace slowed to 9 minute miles. As I approached Hereford Street it got worse and worse. Run slow, stretch, change stride, repeat. So close yet so far.

On Hereford, I looked for my family, this was where I told them to watch the finish. Tons of people, I looked around but no sign of them. More calf cramps. I looked at my watch as I turned onto Boylston. 4 blocks to go and I could see the finish. My watch was at 3:26. I could beat 3:30 if I could do a block a minute, they were long blocks though. Then Zap, my right calf cramped bad, first time. Stretching it out, my left cramped, so both of them were locked up. 1 Block to go, nothings going to stop me. Runners were flying by me as the adrenaline kicked in. I pegged legged it through the finish. 3:28:53. Yes! My goal complete. I finished the Boston Marathon under 3:30.

Post Race

My quads were screaming, my calfs were locked up. I had blisters, everything hurt, I wanted to lie on the grass somewhere, but I was surrounded by runners, concrete, barriers and volunteers. But I was so happy. I soaked in the moment and tried to keep walking. I saw some runners crashed around me, medical people helping some.

One disadvantage to a race this big is the finish, it’s like an assembly line, keep moving, get your water, your food, your blanket, your medal your bag and then you are done. So many runners that you cannot stop you have to keep moving. Boston has about half mile walk from the finish to the end where you pick up your bag. And my bag was the last on the last bus. A couple of times, people would stop the flow and runners would start yelling don’t stop keep moving. It hurt more to stop than to keep shuffling. I usually don’t get a blanket, but I was starting to chill some and I was wearing a singlet. Plus everyone was getting one and they said Boston Marathon on them so I did.

My bag was in the very last bus at the end, right by Boston Commons Park. I finally shuffled there and got my bag. Rather than go to the greet area, I wanted to go to the park and crash on the grass and call the family on my phone. Just as I got across the street (it was chaos outside the runners area, so crowded), Zach came up to me with his camcorder rolling. Gina and Brittany were there and we had hugs and kisses and they said congratulations. We found a grassy spot in the park and I crashed down.

I stretched out a bit and found out they did not get text messages from the race. I was worried my chip was bad and the race would not count. So I checked my phone and I didn’t have any either from any runners, so I knew the system had messed up. I did have some cool messages from my running friends about the race and lots of congratulations.

Crashed on the Grass at Boston Commons

Eventually I got my sweats on (with Gina’s help) and we took this cool photo before we left and made our way back to the hotel. A very happy moment in my life with my family there to share. It doesn’t get much better than this…

A happy finisher with his family.

All said and done. Boston is a great experience, everything that it is hyped up to be. A tough course, but unique and historical. Qualifying for Boston was actually more exciting and climactic, but this is the end result of years of running and training. Not that I’m done by any means, but I’m ready for more challenges. Would love to do Boston next year if it works out. I qualified at Boston and beat my Bib # in overall places, so I will call this a victory, but I joked with some of my runner friends. Next year will be for revenge.

Back at the Hotel With Brittany and Zach.
I can wear the jacket now, I'm in the club.

No comments:

Post a Comment