Friday, April 20, 2018

Race Report: Boston Marathon


“It is only in sorrow bad weather masters us; in joy we face the storm and defy it.”
~Amelia Barr

Well, it wasn’t the race I had been dreaming about for the past 16 weeks but I did it.  I ran the 122nd Boston Marathon.  I can forever call myself a Boston Marathoner.

It was the coldest Boston Marathon in over 30 years.  There were 20-30 mph headwinds.  Rain ranged from rare bouts of mist to steady, soaking rain with periods of torrential, “car wash effect” rain.  15 days out meteorologists were predicting this.  I never in my life wanted them to be so wrong but it only got worse as race day approached.  I tried to avoid watching the weather but I found myself checking multiple sources waiting for just one to tell me that the storm was taking a turn or that it was moving faster than expected…

I’ll admit that I spent some time last week feeling sorry for myself.  I worked so hard and I was pissed off that I wasn’t going to get the true Boston experience.  I wanted everything to be perfect.  I wanted sun.  I wanted to wear a crop top and my new sunglasses.  I wanted a long purple ponytail flying behind me.  I wanted to actually see and pay attention to the different towns… the Wellesley girls… the Citgo sign… Fenway…  I wanted crowds out in full force.  I wanted to dominate the hills and surge up Heartbreak Hill.  I wanted a shot to take on a course that can humble even the greatest runners.  Honestly, I was being selfish and greedy.  There was no doubt in my mind that I could do it and run in those conditions—I just didn’t want to.


I had a really hard time focusing at work last week.  My weekly meeting with Joe on Wednesday consisted of about 5 minutes talking about work related topics and 30 minutes talking about the race.  He was about to run his 7th Boston Marathon—his 3rd in a row running for Boston Children’s Hospital.  On Thursday I was in charge of decorating the office with signs for Joe, Eric and myself.  That was probably the most productive thing I did all day.  I had a 4-day weekend coming up and I was mentally checked out.

On Friday morning I went into work to surprise Joe with a “good luck” video from the staff.  A life size cardboard cutout of Joe appeared in all 3 offices a few months ago and we had a blast with it… https://youtu.be/SoSveFOax5k

After the viewing party, my mom and I headed up to Boston to pick up my number at the expo.  As we were walking up to the Seaport World Trade Center, it really hit me.  I was about to run the Boston Marathon.  So much history.  So much prestige and honor.  I was prepared for whatever race day was going to throw at me.  Finishing was the only thing on my mind.  I didn’t come this far to only come this far. 


We got in line to enter the expo and just like a kid at Disney World had the biggest smile on my face.  Once we entered, we made our way to number pickup.  As I held my bib in my hand for the first time I knew for sure that there was no turning back.


We browsed the Adidas area with the official race merchandise and I ended up buying a backpack and coffee mug because I had already gotten the celebration jacket from Marathon Sports.  My mom and I were getting hungry so we sampled a bunch of snacks—yogurt, string cheese, spicy avocado hummus with pretzels, munchkins from Dunkin’ Donuts and we even stopped for a drink at the White Claw Hard Seltzer booth!



After that it was time to head home and rest up until Monday. 

Saturday was pretty low key.  I got my nails done in the morning followed by an easy 3 miles—my last run before Boston!  I felt great.  It was pretty windy but the sun was shining and it was 56 degrees.  Hard to believe that the weather was about to take a drastic turn.  Later that day I went out for burgers with my parents then started laying out all my race day options.

  
On Sunday morning I dropped G off at day care then Erin came over to dye my hair.  The original plan was blue but when I had the whole shoe dilemma a few weeks ago I switched to purple.  Gotta color coordinate!  The color wasn’t too drastic but it was definitely purple.  I loved it.


I packed, did some laundry, changed my sheets, and cleaned my house like a maniac until my dad picked me up.  We waited for my mom to get home then we were off to Boston!

It was a last minute decision to book rooms at the Hilton Back Bay and I am so happy we did.  Because the expo was in the Seaport District this year I didn’t get to really see Boston on Friday.  After we checked into our rooms and made a quick stop to Happy Hour in the Executive Lounge, we made our way down Boylston towards the finish line.  I was so excited to see the Hereford/Boylston street corner although I’m not sure my parents quite understood.  We stopped by the Adidas Run Base so say hi to Steve then continued on past the memorials in honor of the bombings and took a ton of pictures from the finish line.  Eeeeee!




I went back to the hotel to relax and lay everything out for the morning while my parents grabbed a drink at the bar.  I talked to Joe and decided we would take the buses to Hopkinton together.  He was staying right across the street so the plan was to meet in his hotel lobby at 7:15am.  Up until this point I hadn’t really looked at any of the maps or bus schedules and I still hadn’t paid any attention to the course.  The excitement was there but I was still kind of in denial I guess.

That night I could barely sleep.  I was up about an hour before my alarm and stayed in bed reading all of the texts, emails, Facebook messages and Instagram comments from you guys.  Friends and family that have supported me this whole journey sent their last minute well wishes.  People that I haven’t talked to in years and barely knew said they would be tracking me.  It is truly incredible the effect that the Boston Marathon has to even those who know absolutely nothing about the sport.

I got ready, braided my purple hair, put on my tattoo from Eric, packed some snacks, threw on Uncle John’s poncho and ventured across the street to meet Joe.  We snapped a couple pictures and parted ways with my parents.  They were headed to VIP at the Westin Copley Place thanks to Matt for hooking them up last minute.


Joe and I were off to the Boston Commons to catch one of the buses to Hopkinton.  We walked the length of the Prudential Center before we had to go outside.  That first step out the door was like a scene out of a cartoon.  Wind was gusting.  We were brought to a standstill with our ponchos blowing everywhere and Joe’s yelling at me, “This isn’t that bad, Jen!”


It was bad.  I was scared.  I was thinking that I wouldn’t even be able to walk 26.2 miles with that wind.  Luckily we rounded a corner and the buildings blocked some of the wind until we got to the Commons.  The rain started coming down steadily.  I knew I made the right decision to bring dry socks and shoes to change into before the start because my current throwaway socks and shoes were already drenched.


When we got on the bus, Joe said to get comfortable because we were about an hour away from Hopkinton.  The ride actually went by pretty fast and it was nice having Joe with me.  I wasn’t really nervous about the race itself but I was definitely worried about how my body would respond in those conditions.  I had kind of accepted the fact that we were going to battle and Mother Nature wasn’t going to let up.  I was trying to remain positive and remind myself that I was running the freaking Boston Marathon.

When our bus got to Hopkinton, Joe and I split up.  He went to meet his team and I headed to a porta potty line.  I waited about 15 minutes in line then found a spot under one of the tents in the Athletes’ Village.  It was a MESS.  The grass fields had completely turned to mud.  I had enough time to pull out my cell phone and see a few pictures my mom sent from VIP before Wave 2 was called.


It seemed like about a mile walk from the Athletes’ Village to the corrals.  At about the halfway point a bunch of people were sitting down along the side of a parking lot changing their shoes so I asked someone if they had run before and if this was a good spot to do it.  It had turned to a light mist at this point so I took advantage and switched into my racing shoes and tucked away my cell phone, GU Chews, Hot Hands, 2 extra pairs of glove, extra headband and extra neck warmer.

I continued on towards the start, the street lined with police officers and volunteers collecting throwaway clothes.  There are 8 corrals and I was in 8 so I was the back of Wave 2.  In my HoustonMarathon and Miami Marathon race reports I talked about the calmness I felt at the start.  I didn’t really feel this in Boston.  I knew that the next 4 hours were going to suck and there was nothing I could so about it.  The good thing was that everything from the time I left the hotel to the time I started the race went by really quick so I didn’t have much time to think.  I wasn’t standing in the corral for more than 10 minutes before Wave 2 went off.  6 minutes later I crossed the start line at 10:31am.


Mile 1- 8:17
Mile 2- 8:06
Mile 3- 7:54
Right after I took off my poncho and crossed the start line, Mother Nature unleashed her first big downpour.  Part of me wanted to scream, the other part of me heard Joe in the back of my head saying, “This isn’t that bad, Jen!”  I tucked my head down and got to work.  I was warned about all the downhill running in the first few miles so I held back to what I felt was a very comfortable pace.   The first 3 miles went by really fast and it wasn’t until I went over the 5k mat that I looked at my watch—but only to see how far behind the clock I was.

Mile 4- 7:54
Mile 5- 8:07
Mile 6- 7:43
The rain continued on and off, never really stopping.  So far my raincoat was holding up but I already soaked through my first pair of gloves.  It was too soon to change them because I only had 2 dry pairs left so I started to panic and question my clothing choices.

Mile 7- 7:43
Mile 8- 7:45
Mile 9- 7:57
I kept cruising along, not paying attention to my watch.  I started counting down to the each of the 5k mats.  I knew that runner tracking was set up to send notifications every 3.1 miles so I was taking it one mat at a time trying to stay at a steady pace and convince myself that all I had to do was get to the next mat.

Mile 10- 7:54
The next major downpour came around mile 10 just when I was starting to get used to running in the rain.  I remember thinking that the wind wasn’t really a factor yet then BAM we got hit with a strong headwind and burst of heavy rain.  I wasn’t cold at this point—just uncomfortable.

Mile 11- 7:58
Mile 12- 7:57
Mile 13- 7:43
The rain slowed down with just enough time to switch neck warmers and change into my second pair of gloves.  Minutes later another downpour soaked them and I now had only one dry pair remaining with more than halfway to go.  I got a boost at mile 12.5 running through he tunnel of screaming Wellesley College girls.  That was insane!  I went through the half in 1:44:26, which is just under 8:00 per mile.  Honestly I was prepared to run 7:40-7:45 pace.  I averaged 7:58 in Miami.  I know I was only halfway but I was happy to be running this well in these conditions.

Mile 14- 7:46
Mile 15- 7:48
Mile 16- 7:50
Mile 17- 8:22
Mile 18- 8:01
Mile 19- 7:51
After the half all I could think about was getting to the next 5k mats (15.5 & 18.6) and then getting to the Mile 19 clock.  My friend Trask was volunteering there and I was dying to see a familiar face.  I was starting to get sick of running, my hands were freezing and I wasn’t paying attention to anything on the course so I had no idea where I was.  I did notice all the fire trucks along the course and I was looking for Cambridge—even though I didn’t think Nathan was working.  I got to Trask and gave her a big hug!  That was definitely a highlight as it felt so alone out there.  Unlike other marathons I’ve run, it seemed like everyone—including myself—had their heads down blocking the wind and the rain.  No one was really talking or communicating.  We were all quiet and dismal.

Mile 20- 8:05
Mile 21- 8:39
After passing Trask I realized I still had 7 miles to go.  I physically was feeling great.  Mentally I was losing steam.  I got to 20 and even though I didn’t exactly know along the course where it was, I still knew Heartbreak Hill was coming.  It wasn’t until halfway up it that I turned to another runner and asked, “Is this Heartbreak Hill?”  Maybe I was delusional at this point but I didn’t think it was that bad.  I know I slowed down but I was passing a ton of runners and feeling very strong.  (Thanks Greg!!)  The worst part of Heartbreak Hill was going down it.  This was the first time I started to feel some cramping—right inner thigh and on and off both hamstrings.

Mile 22- 8:40
This is where things got BAD.  We had faced a few big downpours but nothing prepared me for the “car wash effect” at mile 22.  It came so hard and so fast I feel like I got sprayed with a fire hose.  Buckets were dumping from the sky and in seconds soaked through every layer I was wearing.  My last pair of gloves and my extra headband that I was just about to switch into were both drenched.  My socks went from wet to sloshy and my shoes became so much heavier.  I was MISERABLE.  I thought to myself I’m not going to make it.  I can’t do this.


Mile 23- 9:18
Mile 24- 10:01
Mile 25- 11:48
Mile 26- 11:27
I honestly do not know how I got to Boylston Street from there.  I was so cold.  My teeth were chattering.  My last GU made me nauseous.  I couldn’t feel my hands.  I was crying.  I was walking.  I tried to run.  I saw the Citgo sign symbolizing one mile to go and I wasn’t even excited.  I wanted to be DONE.

Then it happened.  I saw a street sign for Hereford Street.  Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.  I picked up my pace only to cramp up and remind me that I needed to control myself that last half mile.  One last major downpour on Hereford had everyone around me screaming.  I made the left on Boylston and could see the finish line.  I had my eyes on the grandstands because I knew that’s where my parents were waiting for me.  Best feeling in the world.  Right after I saw them, my friend Kima’s daughter was jumping up and down in the stands cheering for me.  A few steps later I was crossing the finish line as a Boston Marathon finisher.



26.2 miles – 3:42:23

Average pace – 8:29

I continued on and made all the stops getting my medal, heat blanket, water and snacks.  I stopped and asked for directions to the Prudential Center because my brain wasn’t working.  It wasn’t until I got inside the Pru that I was able to turn my cell phone on and call my parents.  I found them in the mall and we slowly walked back to the hotel together where I showered in the fitness center.  My parents had an awesome time in VIP eating lunch, breakfast, drinking mimosas and Sam Adams Boston 26.2 Brew while watching the race on TV from couches with their feet up.  I totally wished I was there.


As for my race, I have no regrets.  There is nothing I would have done differently other than I probably should have worn different gloves.  I gave Boston my all and I left everything I had out on the course.  I’m happy with the way I paced myself.  I don’t think going out any slower would have made a difference in the last few miles.

With my time of 3:42 I did not qualify.  My 3:28 in Miami was outside the window to count for 2019.  I can say with 100% certainty that I will not run another marathon to qualify however I have an in to Boston *if I want it* next year.  Right now it’s hard to say what I am going to do. 

Do I want to give that course one more shot?  I guess I can never say never…


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  1. Jen, I love your Boston Marathon report. It refreshed my memory of how challenging it really was! Of course you'll run it again next year!
    Sandy

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