Sunday, April 21, 2019

Race Report: Boston Marathon 2019

“Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight.”
~Ben Franklin

I did it!  I am a 2x Boston Marathon finisher!

I ran my first marathon back in October 2012 in Chicago as a bucket list experience.  I was out of grad school, two years into my job at Cape Cod Rehab, all my friends were moving away and I needed something to keep me busy.  I slowed myself down in training while building on the miles so that I would feel comfortable covering the distance.  I finished in 3:48:44, which is 8:43 pace.  Crossing the finish line in Chicago is still one of my greatest accomplishments to date.

A few years later I started to think about giving the marathon another try.  I’d been running pretty well and feeling very comfortable around 8:00 pace.  If I kept training at 8:00 pace, could I race 26.2 miles at 8:00 pace?  That was my goal.  I signed up for the Houston Marathon in January 2016.  I was feeling very confident until I get injured during my last 20 miler before taper—3 weeks before the race.  I went down to Houston with my family and was on pace and feeling good until I crossed the 30k mat—then I had to walk to the finish.

The next year I signed up for the Miami Marathon.  The goal was still 8:00 pace.  I needed to run a 3:30.  I ran 3:28:47.

Boston Marathon qualifying time for my age group was 3:35 at the time.  After accomplishing my goal in Miami I had no plans to ever run another marathon.  I was done.  You all know this.  Then I got peer pressured into signing up for Boston as my “victory lap” because I couldn’t qualify and NOT run it.  So I ran it.  I was prepared to run 7:40-7:45 pace but 2018 was the coldest and wettest Boston Marathon in over 30 years.  I was so angry.  I hated everything about the experience.  It was a miserable day.  I honestly didn’t even know my time until my certificate came in the mail months later.

My time from the 2018 Boston Marathon did not qualify me for the 2019 race and Miami was outside the qualifying window.  I felt a sense of relief crossing the finish line knowing this however after a phone call from my friend Matt offering me his waived entry, I had this new sense of determination.  I wanted 50 degrees and sunny.  I wanted spectators cheering loudly.  I deserved a fair shot at Boston and I wanted to enjoy every minute of it.

I registered with Matt’s waiver and started training in December.  I tried to keep things pretty low key—just going through the motions of training, completing all my long runs, lifting 2x per week and adding in some speed work—but never putting any pressure on myself for a slow, lazy day or if I needed an extra day off.  Last year I was dealing with a lot of stuff mentally so I was trying to stay as calm and stress-free as possible this time around.  Everything was going well until I got injured.  I missed a solid 3 weeks of important training but with Kathy Carroll’s help I was back in time to get in another small build leading up to a 20 miler 2 weeks before Boston.  I wasn’t feeling fast or as prepared as I would have liked but I was confident I could cover the 26.2 distance on April 15th.

The week of the race I had a lot of mixed feelings.  The first weather reports 10 days out actually showed 50 and sunny—exactly what I had been dreaming about for an entire year.  It soon changed to 50 degrees and rain.  A few days before the race, the BAA sent out an email to runners warning of the potential repeat of 2018 with rain and cold temperatures of 30-40 degrees at the start.  I did NOT want to run.  It just wasn’t fair!

Part of my Christmas present from my parents was 3 nights at a hotel near the finish line.  We were going up Saturday afternoon so Friday was my day to just chill.  I woke up in a bad mood, still upset about the weather forecast.  “You’ve done it before, you know what to expect and you can do it again.”  Exactly.  I didn’t want to.

I went out and got my nails done—dark blue on my toes, “Feelin’ Hot-Hot-Hot” bright pink on my fingers.  After I made a stop at Cotuit Liquors and picked up a 6-pack of 26.2 Brew for after the race.  I got in a short run then started to lay out all my clothing options for the weekend.  I totally overpacked but I just did not know what we were going to be dealing with on race day.  I also sprayed my shoes with waterproof spray in anticipation of the rain.  

I think even Georgie could tell something was up on Friday because she stayed by my side all day.  She even followed me into my room that night and didn’t sprint out as I closed the door and got ready for bed.  She NEVER sleeps in my room.  It made me so happy.

Saturday morning we woke up to heavy rain.  I dropped G off at her doggy day care then came home to a major cleaning of my house.  My parents picked me up around 1 and we were off to Boston for the weekend!

We checked into our hotel then went right to the expo.  There was a long line outside the convention center but we didn’t care—the sun was out and the air was warm.  The expo itself was a zoo.  So many people and a little overwhelming.  I got my number then we quickly went up and down the aisles checking out the vendor booths.

We put our name in for a table at Boston Burger Company then walked down to the finish line for some pics.  From there we went to Marathon Sports to say hi to Steve.  He surprised me with a customized pink throwaway poncho to wear to the start.  My dad joked that I wouldn’t wear it race day because I wouldn’t want to toss it—instead I’d keep it for about 30 years.  He’s probably right.  It’s so cool.

As the day went on, the weather forecast started to change.  It was now looking like the rain was supposed to stop around 10am and start up again around 2pm.  Instead of 30-40 degrees, it was now around 50 at the start and possibly up to 70 at the finish.  The warm temperatures could lead to a whole other set of problems but I didn’t care—as long as I wasn’t freezing!

Dinner was amazing.  They are known for their big burgers and “freak frappes.”  I had been there once before with Lizzie and her boyfriend Ryan.  That time I had mac and cheese on top of my burger.  This time I opted for guac and pico de gallo instead.  And speaking of Lizzie and Ryan, they stopped by our hotel room that night and hung out for awhile.  Ryan was also running on Monday and it was his first marathon so it was fun to catch up and chat about the race.

Sunday morning I met up with friends Sarah and Nicole for coffee and brunch.  Nicole was in town for the weekend from Florida so Sarah decided to drive up for the morning.  It was a nice distraction and so good to see them both.

The rest of the day I hung out on the couch in the hotel, playing on my phone while my dad fell asleep watching the Masters.  We made reservations for an early pasta dinner.  I was off to bed early because the next day was race day!

When my alarm went off at 6am, I was wide awake.  I got ready, read a few texts, checked the weather one more time then bundled up in all my throwaway gear.  It was pouring!  I didn’t know at the time but apparently Wave 1 buses were held up due to lightning.  Joe took his team bus to the start so I was on my own this year.  My parents walked me to the buses.  I got on one right away and sat in the front row with a girl named Kristen from NYC.  She was running her 3rd marathon, 1st Boston.  We chatted the whole way and stuck together right up until we had to split up for the corrals.  By the time our bus got to Hopkinton, the rain had stopped.  We got in line at the porta potties then found a spot to sit inside one of the Clif Bar tents.  It was pretty sweet although we were probably only there for about 5 minutes before Wave 2 was called.  This is where we split up.  I was in corral 8—same as last year.

It’s about a mile walk from Athlete’s Village to the start line corrals.  I was so excited the rain had stopped and in pretty high spirits waiting for the gun to go off.  I turned my Bluetooth on so I would start get texts through my watch and right away I received a text from Joe.  He was walking down the side of the street looking for me.  We found each other for a quick hi.  The effect of seeing a familiar face on race day is incredible.  

My corral started moving towards the start line and I switched sides of the road so I could give a big hug to Mashpee Fitness member Helen who was volunteering at Corral 5.  From there it was game on!

I didn’t start my watch until I was 0.15 miles into the race so splits will be a little off.

Mile 1- 8:15
Mile 2- 8:07
Mile 3- 7:53
The first 3 miles are downhill and everyone always warns about starting out slow.  I ditched my headband, arm sleeves and gloves almost immediately.  It was warm but so far I felt very comfortable running.  I crossed the 5k mat and got the notification from the Boston Marathon app through my watch that I had run 25:21 with a pace of 8:10 per mile.  I usually put my phone on airplane mode when I’m running but my whole approach to this race was to enjoy myself so I thought it would be fun to see texts as I was running.  I even told friends that would be out on the course to text me key words of where they would be so I would know what to look for.  I didn’t want to miss anyone!
(5k/3.1 miles – 25:21, 8:10 pace)

Mile 4- 8:06
Mile 5- 8:09
Mile 6- 7:56
The first half of the race was pretty uneventful.  Last year I ran with my head down to block the rain.  This year I was looking all around.  Paying attention to what town I was in.  Reading signs.  Giving high fives to kids.  Taking it all in.  A highlight was seeing Spencer the golden retriever.  He was made famous on the news in 2018 for cheering on runners in his rain jacket holding Boston Strong flags.
(10k/6.2 miles – 50:37, 8:09 pace)

Mile 7- 7:50
Mile 8- 7:55
Mile 9- 7:58
No real memories of these miles.  Just cruising along looking forward to getting to Wellesley where my coworker Craig and his family were waiting—the first of many friends out along the course. 
(15k/9.3 miles – 1:15:19, 8:05 pace)

Mile 10- 7:46
Running through Natick I was thinking about last year.  Mile 10 was when I faced the first major downpour.  Guess what happened at when I passed the mile 10 sign this year?  The sun came out!  Happy Jen.

Mile 11- 7:58
Mile 12- 7:53
Mile 13- 7:48
I know I keep mentioning last year’s race—it’s hard not to—but I was disappointed with the lack of spectators out on the course last year.  Honestly I don’t blame them because even I didn’t even want to be out on the course last year.  There were areas of guardrails literally blocking off NO ONE.  I cheered with Lizzie back in 2012 and there were 5 or 6 people deep at those same guardrails.  That’s what I was hoping for… and that’s what I got this year!  Fans were out in full force and it was awesome.  They make each and every runner feel like a superstar.  Running through Wellesley College was a blast.  The girls are hilarious.  And so loud!  I passed through the half at 1:45:17, which is about a minute slower than last year but I felt really relaxed and gaining confidence with every mile.
(20k/12.4 miles – 1:39:57, 8:02 pace)

Mile 14- 8:19
I received a few texts from Craig that his family was in front of the Whole Foods in Wellesley right around 14 miles.  Earlier in the week he asked me the toughest part of the course and honestly right after the halfway point is mentally a challenge for me.  It was a huge boost seeing him—in his unicorn Christmas sweater holding the giant Jen head that Steve made for me last year!  It was also nice because I was able to give him my sweaty headband and gloves that I had tucked into my shorts during the first mile.  I later found out that his family had a blast experiencing their first Boston Marathon and that also makes me very happy.  I love sharing my love of running and I love when others get to experience it as well.

Mile 15- 7:44
Mile 16- 8:01
After I passed Craig, I ran my fastest mile of the day.  I knew Lizzie was planning to be around mile 16 to cheer for Ryan but she wasn’t totally sure if she would make it there before I passed.  She texted me that she was at Newton-Wellesley Hospital and I got really excited all over again.  I could be exaggerating but that hospital has got to be about a mile long!  I slowed down a little bit watching the crowd because I didn’t want to miss her.  She was in a perfect spot, keeping the momentum going for me and right before the Newton hills.
(25k/15.5 miles – 2:04:53, 8:02 pace)

Mile 17- 8:02
Mile 18- 8:14
Next on the course was running friend Jen.  For some reason I was thinking she said she would be at 17.1 on the left side.  I looked for her from about 17 to 17.5 but no luck.  I made the right hand turn by the Newton Fire Station and started making the climb on the first of the three Newton hills.  I just happened to look up and there was Jen and the manager of the Marathon Sports Yarmouth store—both cheering loudly.
(30k/18.6 miles – 2:30:38, 8:05 pace)

Mile 19- 8:09
Last year my friend Trask was volunteering at the mile 19 clock and she was the only familiar face along the course until I reached Boylston Street.  She was there again this year and I was equally excited to see her.  She is close to finishing all 50 states—running in honor of her dad—and her plan is to run Boston to make Massachusetts her last state.  She’s an inspiration!

Mile 20- 8:37
Mile 21- 9:19
The hills were definitely a struggle for me this year.  I don’t like to make excuses but I could feel my lack of training.  I missed a few key weeks in of running and when I got injured my lifting also suffered.  By this point I felt like I was running in slow motion, especially up Heartbreak Hill.  The only time I walked was through the water stations—walking a little more at each station as the race progressed.  When I saw 8:37 and 9:19 on my watch I had to remind myself that I was out there to have fun.  There was absolutely no point in pushing myself to the point of failure or complete exhaustion.  If my legs were slowing down, go with it—as long as I was still moving forward.  I relied on the crowd for energy.  My friend Katrina was texting me every couple of miles and at one point she sent “G is cheering for you” and then “woof woof.”  I was laughing out loud and then I started thinking that I was now just running at Georgie pace.
(35k/21.7 miles – 2:58:50, 8:13 pace)

Mile 22- 9:11
Mile 23- 9:40
Mile 24- 9:16
Early on in the race I made the decision to take Gatorade at every other water station.  I have cramped up in the last few miles of every marathon I’ve ever run and with the warmer temperatures, I didn’t want to mess around.  Guess what?  No cramps!  The next few miles were slow but I kept smiling.  Somewhere along the course I saw Dave—the old manager of Marathon Sports Mashpee.  At Kenmore Square I almost missed run club friend Meredith, who took a hilarious video of me passing by.  She said I was in the zone.  I think I was just fighting the urge to walk before I got to the next water stop.  I crossed over the bridge by Fenway and Lizzie’s old apartment then saw Mike from run club at the 40k mat.  I was so close to the finish line!
(40k/24.8 miles – 3:29:05, 8:25 pace)

Mile 25- 10:08
Katrina was around mile 25 but I didn’t know what side of the road she was on.  I ran down the middle actually thinking I had missed her.  I felt so bad and was about to stop looking when I saw her jumping up and down.  I was too far away to run over to her—even though I would have loved to stop and give her a big hug.  Her text messages helped keep me going the whole way.  I passed the Citgo sign at 25.2 miles and was psyched to have only one mile to go.  In less than 10 minutes I’d have my second unicorn around my neck!  A few steps later I saw my parents.  They were just past the Boston Strong overpass.  I stopped for a second for high fives and thank yous and gathered myself for a strong last three quarters of a mile or so.

Mile 26- 8:49
When I made the right on Hereford, I don’t think I totally knew this was it.  I had to look to the street sign for confirmation.  The crowds were unreal.  I glanced to the side of the road and I randomly thought I saw Kelly’s boyfriend.  I had to do a double take and then right in front of him was Kelly!  I had no idea they would be there but I loved it.  I made the left on Boylston and looked for Kathy.  I felt amazing.  The crowds totally lifting me up and I felt like I was flying to the finish. 

26.2 miles – 3:40:56

Average pace – 8:26

Overall I had a great day—actually my entire weekend was great.  It wasn’t my fastest marathon but definitely the most fun and it was everything I hoped it would be.  Thank you to each and every one of you that supported me and helped to make this experience one I will never forget.


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