Friday, May 10, 2013

Friday Haikus: Random Thoughts

I'm slowly easing back into running after three weeks of PT and things are really looking up. After some seriously crappy weather earlier this week and a minor cold, the sun is out today and I can almoste breathe through my nose again. In other words, it's hard not to love the world on a day like today. Hopefully this week's haikus put a smile on your face at least half as big as the one on mine!

How to Avoid Traffic
Buses halting, slow
Subway crowded, misses sun
Run to work commute

That Weird Time After the Marathon
Sleeping in, no alarm
Drinking daily, staying up late
This sucks--running missed

The Traveling Runner's Conundrum
Suitcase almost full
Shoes, socks, shorts, two wicking tops
Where to put my "clothes"?

Friday, May 3, 2013

Boston Strong: My 2013 Boston Marathon Race Report.

Now that several weeks have passed, I'm finally ready to share my Boston race report. This report ends with me crossing the finish line because I don't think there's anything I could say that would meaningfully add to what's already been said or that would acurately reflect the shock and horror I know we all felt at 2:50pm on Monday, April 16. I would, however, like to encourage anyone who has not already done so to donate to the OneFund to help those most affected.

A Wonderful Weekend

Although I was having serious doubts about my marathon preparedness in the two weeks before Boston(mainly due to the time I took off for my toe and my persistant hip bursitis), as the weekend approached I found myself in full marathon mode. While my hip didn't feel 100% during my Friday shake-out run (my first run in a week and a half), it felt better than I had expected. Friday night I packed while watching Spirit of the Marathon, something I do before every single marathon. Although I tried going to bed early, I didn't get a great night's sleep, waking up well before my alarm.

The drive up to Boston was relatively uneventful, a little traffic but nothing crazy. After checking into our hotel (which had an awesome lobby display), I headed to the expo with my entourage--but not before picking up this year's marathon jacket at the Marathon Sports on Boylston. I was sporting my 2010 jacket when I went to pick-up my packet and on the volunteers said, "Welcome back to Boston. You already know the magic of this race." I could not have put it better myself. After sampling every energy bar known to man, saying hi to some teammates, and pondering why Kahlua was one of the exhibitors, we headed to the next logical place--the Lindt store!

That night we had a wonderful dinner at Trade in Boston's Financial District. I didn't take pictures of any of the food but all of it was delicious. My favorite dish? Probably their mushroom and fig flatbread with gorgonzola and sage.

Sunday was another packed day. I got up early at went to mass at a small church downtown. Every year I make time for mass before the marathon and it's always wonderful. The priest offered a blessing for the runners and afterword I had strangers wishing me luck and shaking my hand (I was wearing an old race jacket so it was obvious I was running). Next up, I did an easy shake-out run through Beacon Hill and along the Charles. By that point I was starving and it was time for my standard day-before-the-marathon breakfast: pancakes! These weren't just any pancakes, either. They were topped with caramelized bananas, walnuts, and loads of Vermont maple syrup.

After breakfast I had just enough time to prep my clothes for the next morning before we headed to Fenway where we got to watch the Red Sox dominate the Rays. The coolest part of the game, though, was when they introduced a handful of wounded veterans who were also running the marathon. It's impossible not to feel inspired when you get to share stories like theirs.

For Sunday's dinner we went to Restaurant Dante in Cambridge, the same place I ate last year. For marathon weekend they always offer all-you-can-eat homemade pasta so it's hard to beat. After that we called it an early night and I was in bed by 9.

Waiting to board the bus.
On race day I was up by 5:30. I did some last minute prep and met my teammates by Boston Common at 6:30. It was awesome having such a big group this year! We chatted it up on the bus which helped to pass the time. Once we got to the Athletes' Village we didn't actually have that much time to chill before they called us to the corrals.

The Race

I had several teammates in my corral hoping to go under three and my initial plan was to run with them. It was somewhere during the first downhill mile, however, that I knew my hip wasn't going to let me. I didn't feel too bad, but I could tell this was no day for a PR and if I tried to push it too much I would regret it later. It was a bummer watching my teammates pull ahead but I was confident I was making the right decision.

The first few miles of the course went by quickly (first 5k in 0:21:56, a 7:04 pace) and I was soon in Ashland, passing the point where I'd begun my long run just three weeks before. Mentally, this was helpful because I knew the next 23 miles would be fresh in my memory.

As I passed through Framingham, I hit the 10k in 43:40, a 7:02 pace, and was feeling pretty good. Around mile 7, I did the obligatory form check in the windows of Hansen Electrical Supply and was pleased to see my gate looked normal. I still had some hope that I could pick things up later in the race and maybe score a Boston PR (currently a 3:04 from 2011).

Spotting team photographer Atsede
Entering Natick, there's a quieter stretch of the course but that was okay by me. I had slowed a little since by the 15k (1:05:42), my average was a 7:03. Shortly thereafter the course takes you through downtown Natick, one of my favorite parts. It's always packed with people--probably the biggest crowd you've seen so far on the course. This always gives me a boost and on this day it was no exception.

Leaving Natick, I knew the next landmark would be Wellesley College. Last year, I was going slow because of the heat and actually stopped to kiss some coeds but this year, I didn't want to lose any time so I just enjoyed their yells. I crossed the 20k in 1:28:02, bringing me down to a 7:05 pace. By now I was pretty sure I was only going to get slower as the race went on but I didn't really care. I love the stretch through Wellesley, with all it's little shops, cafes, and great crowd support. Hitting the half in 1:32:56, I decided the most important thing was to make sure I enjoyed myself over the second 13.1.

I saw a CPTC runner and chatted with her for bit which was a welcome distraction. That took me through the 25k in 1:50:24, now a 7:07 average. Between miles 16 and 17, by the Newton-Wellesley Hospital, is the PowerGel station. Somehow two runners got tangled up here and one, a woman from South Africa (according to her singlet) went down pretty hard. I saw her pick herself up and keep running but she was scraped and starting to cry. I tried to offer her words of encouragement since I know (from my second marathon) how disconcerting it can be to wipe out on course.

Before I knew it, I'd made the turn onto Comm Ave and the infamous Newton Hills. As with last year, they didn't seem so bad since I was no longer gunning for a particular time.  
Good thing too since my 30k was 2:13:07, now a 7:09 pace. As we approached Heartbreak Hill, I had a runner ask me if we'd gotten there yet--I assured him, he would know by the crowds and the signs when we'd crested the final hill. Sure enough, the folks of BC had their inflatable arch reading "The Heartbreak is Over."

I knew the race was pretty much downhill from there--a great feeling! Unfortunately, my hip was starting to bother me as I passed the 35k in 2:36:08, a 7:11 average. I now starting playing a game in my head: If I slow to 7:30, I can finish in xx:xx:xx; if I slow to 7:45, I can finish in yy:yy:yy; if I slow to 8:00, I can finish in zz:zz:zz. I made a new goal for myself, beating my 3:20 time from last year's sweltering race.

I thought I could pick it up some, but wanted to save something for the final mile so I tried to simply stay on pace. I knew my family and friends were waiting near mile 26 and I wanted to look good for them--this thought really kept me going. I also used the landmarks, like the Citgo sign and the Pru looming in the distance to draw me in. Once I got to the 40k in 2:59:33, a 7:14 pace, and crested the mini hill I was pretty sure I could at least finish under 3:10--the random goal I settled on for the final miles.

Post-race, around 2pm
Turning onto Comm Ave again I could feel the exciting. The crowds were packed thick along both sides of the course and I managed to spot some friends just before the dip under Mass Ave. I turned onto Hereford and began scouting for my cheering squad who I knew would be on the left hand side. Sure enough, I spoted them and they spotted me. I gave them a quick shout so happy to have caught them and to have had their support.

Finally, I made the turn onto Boylston. At this point, I gave what I had left as I watched the seconds slowly piling up on the finish line clock. This may not be a long stretch, but it seemed to go on forever, finally, I hit the finish, throwing both arms up in air! I had finished my 4th Boston in 3:09:35, a 7:14 pace.

As the wonderful volunteers put the heat sheet around my back and the medal over my head, I felt like a million bucks. There's no doubt in my mind that Boston is the greatest race in the world and I hope to have the privilege of running it many more times.