Tuesday, April 12, 2011

set adrift on memory bliss

Well, it's that time of year.  Christmas for runners.


One year ago I was getting ready to board the big bird and fly to Boston to run the marathon.  Now, as people get ready to depart and newsy bulletins rule the interweb, I can't help thinking about Boston this week.

Bill Rogers said, "The marathon can humble you".  Simple.  True.  I agree.

Anyone who knew me last year may have already read this race report.  It's long & colourful, and although slightly out of date, this race is really timeless.  Maybe it will give someone inspiration on their way to Hopkinton, or right to the guts of the race on Boylston.  Who knows.  

I have a lot of medals on my wall (most of them "Finisher" medals, don't get your knickers in a knot..) but the blue and yellow one means a lot to me.  I am learning that faster times do not equate a greater sense of pride or satisfaction.  The race is what you make it.  This race meant a lot to me, and I think it is deserving of a race report re-post.

Read on, & grab a snack.  This ain't no short story kids.

April 20, 2010

Hi everyone,
 One big storybook for everyone to read!  If you 
want....you certainly don't have to.  I promise it will take less time to read this than it did for me to finish the race.  I'll cut and paste it below but if you don't want to read it - the important thing is it was awesome, I ran a PB @ 3:20:10, and I was able to work hard with amazing support!

Here's a recap of the race ( I am still tired & on holiday so hope this makes some sense):

The day started with an early 4:35 wake up, drink 2 small cups coffee and a dry bagel.  Looked out the window - not a cloud in the sky.  Huge relief as it had been cold, stormy, and near snowing the past couple of days.  Good sign #1.  

 I had packed and triple checked everything the night before so fairly confident I had everything.  Chip on shoe, number already pinned to shirt, bag with number, wearing shorts, shirt and had shoes in bag so was ready to take a quick cab to the T (subway).  Wonderful Boston cabbie, pointed out to me that my # 9632 was a good one because 3 x 32=96.  He said he'd go buy a lottery ticked that day with that number.  Good sign #2.  Shawn woke up early and came with me all the way to the buses - what a guy.  Organized all the bags and transport and crazy subway riding and made me able to just think about running - awesome!

Slowly as we got closer and closer to the downtown, more and more yellow bagged runners got on the T.  When we got to Boylston Station, and walked up the stairs it was like a Return of the Zombie Runner movie.  Every one was walking in droves, quite truly 10's of thousands to get the school buses to Hopkinton.  It was so well organized.  I waited maybe 5 minutes, got on a bus, and we were off on what seemed like the longest bus ride in history.  Cool though to be bombing down the I-95 in a 10+ bus convoy at 100+km an hour.  I started to get nervous, so I ate a banana, put on the ipod and tried to relax.  

We got there about an hour or so later from leaving downtown, got directly off the bus to pee (waited in line for a while).  It was chilly out, but sunny, so just bundled up in everything I had.  The Athletes Village was crazy - two football fields with undercover tents (not needed really) and various tents with coffee, gatorade, water, bagels, powerbars.  Tons of other sponsors but this was not the time to be spending extra time on my feet.  Grabbed 2 cups gatorade & 1 powerbar (honey nut is actually not so revolting a powerbar), drank, ate and lay down on my newspaper filled garbage bags.  It was sunny and you could feel it on your face - so nice!  People were milling around like cows on Red Bull.  I waited and waited and eventually succumbed to the portapotty lines, came back, put on compression socks, put on arm sleeves, put on shoes, and then it was time to march up to the baggage buses before heading to the start line.  The 2 hours in the village went so fast.  No complaints there.  I would have been complaining had it been raining.  Yuck.  But it wasn't.  Yay.

Dropped bag at bus, put on nice garbage bag top to keep wind away - at this point it was super windy and making me a little nervous.  Visited a mostly male pee stop off the side of the road on the way down the to the start.  As one guy pointed out as I was returning back to the road, "Awesome - co-ed bathrooms!".  I smiled and kept running.  You walk 0.7 of a mile (seems long) and then you're at the bottom of an uphill road with corrals.  I was seeded in the 9th corral (#9632) and jammed in there, again, very much like a cow.  But people were mooing and volunteers were laughing and it was funny.  People were nervous - you could just feel a buzz.  It was starting to feel really warm at this point and I could already ditch my throw away shirt as we walked to the top of the hill.  The gun went off and our line started moving - I think it was about 10 minutes until i got to the start line.

The start: was crowded.  And the first mile opens with a 8% grade downhill.  I'd been reading about this course for weeks (I think I knew it better than Victoria before I had even run the course) and knew what was coming so I just held back and tried to enjoy everything around us.  I could say it a million times but it would get repetitive - the crowds here are unbelievable - it takes running to a whole new level to be a part of it here.   I couldn't get over it - especially when I got to Heartbreak Hill - but I'll get there in a minute.

I can't remember all the names of the towns but I remember most miles.  I chose to pace by miles, which was new for me but I now know I like it better (there are less of them, for a start).  It was hard to keep consistent splits (my plan of 7:38 min/miles), as the downhills would come I'd have a 7:22 then a 7:48 (and I was trying to run with quick turnover, short strides to save my legs on the downhill).  You come down some amazing # of feet on the 1/2 half of the marathon so I was trying to conserve.  

Somewhere along the first half I saw Santa Claus (not bonking at this point I'm sure), and not too long after, a very flirty transvestite (cowgirl, riding a horse - not bonking at this point either).   Then it was Wellsley College - an amazing amount of super attractive girls pleading with runners to kiss them.  You couldn't not watch the guys with huge smiles on their faces as they tried to kiss and run.  There was this huge surge of energy after this leading up and into Wellsley itself, the half way point and a huge crowd of screaming spectators cheering you on.  It was funny not to turn around at the half way point, nice actually to just keep going.

The 3 compliments I received in this race were:
1. Girl holding sign over her head that read "DRUNK": shouted militantly at me, "GO 9632, 9632, 9632!" (in loud low woman voice)
2. Man coming out of aid station beside me, "You spit like a man".  Still drinking I gave him the thumbs up and then replied, "Well trained", which is sort of a lie - no one taught me to spit.  Then I spat again and ran past him.  He was really encouraged by my abilities, and no lie it was motivating.  
3. Although I didn't know it was directed at me at first, I must have passed some man in the last 4 miles who liked my pace, because he shouted "Great running white".  I was a bit bonky at this point and it took me a while to realize I was wearing nearly all white.  Thanks guy.  Now hopefully this wasn't a shot at my compression socks, which I have received before from nerds on bikes in West Van.  "Hey nice socks".  Who insults a runner girl, honestly?  


I was feeling pretty good - hit a 1:39:50 half marathon split and was happy with my time.  Splits still were uneven due to ups and downs but whenever I hit a couple of straight miles my times were close to what I wanted, maybe even a little faster by a few seconds, but I figured I would lose those back in the hills.  I still felt good, quite hydrated, on top of nutrition.  They had fluid stations at every mile, which was really nice and made a big difference, especially in the last 4 miles.  I started to tell myself little stories about how much I liked running up hills.  Really, I was excited to do it.  If I can do nothing else, I can run hills.  I have the hamstrings to prove it.  Thank you soccer.

So just kept pushing on and made my way over what I thought was the first Newton hill but when I made the famous right hand turn into Newton I realized I had just gone over the I-95 - it was a BIG overpass.  So, going right, into Newton, Hill #1.  Nice hill, lots of fans (over 500,000 fans on the course that day) and up and over in not too long.  Relief, longer hill but gentle grade.  Hills # 2 and #3 were sharper.  I then encountered one of my favorite spots in the race.  Where the fast guys start bonking (sorry guys).  I feel for them and then I feel better for myself because I feel stronger.  It's wrong, I know but it gives me a boost.  So I just kept going up, fuelled fuelled fuelled.  It was getting harder to drink but I was getting thirstier.  

Heartbreak Hill.  Honestly.  I get it now.  It really could be a Heartbreaker.  You approach it, and you watch it curve up fairly steeply and out of your sight.  Barf.  But so many people on the sides of the roads with cowbells screaming at you and you just can't stop (they had signs, "Don't stop, people are watching you").  You just go.  Short quick strides and lifting your shoulders up and looking ahead and passing TONS of people on your way.  Boston College also coincides with this location and the college boys and girls were out in full form, cheering like champions, drinking like champions, and it was awesome.  Little kids constantly line the roads with orange slices or water cups or signs that tell their Daddy to keep running.  Shawn was here but I didn't see him - I sort of had tunnel vision - but he managed to get a clip of me running up the hill - I haven't over analyzed that one yet.  You are almost at the top and people are just going nuts and you start going a bit faster and then you realize you're there and it is truly awesome.  Getting that injection of pride at mile 21 ish is so motivational.  I managed about 7:45-7:50 mile splits on the hills - I was happy!  Now, you have to go downhill....

It is steep!  To try to avoid smashing my thighs into kibbles n' bits, I kept my turnover quick.  I definitely took charity water from a lovely woman with bottles drank two big gulps and poured some on my head (it was probably about 14 deg outside, perfect weather, occasional head or cross-wind) to cool down after running the hills.  Felt amazing.  Love water.  Decided I couldn't stomach more gels but knew there were lots of stations with gatorade for sugars.  Love 1 mile aid stations.  You go down and down and down, make a big left turn at Cleveland Circle, and now you on on the outskirts of the Boston subway line, and you start running to town.  

As you come off the left line you see a beautiful old church - a big one - and it helped to see something that pretty at this point.  I was just focusing on trying to keep from slowing down.  I almost didn't want to look at my split at the 23 mile mark - but I was still on pace (I am always falling off pace at this point, feeling a little discouraged) and wanted to keep it that way.  I went through a barrage of positive thoughts in my head, just continued to repeat them and make myself believe them and get through the rolling hills that the course throws in at the end (going up any more hills, even small ones, took guts at this point, and there were at least 4 seemingly big lumps to run up and over.

  Between miles 23 and 26 I passed an amazing amount of people, a slow steady stream.  I didn't even pay that much attention, just needed to find a relatively clean line to get through without slipping on a billion paper cups at an aid station.  I started to get little twinges in my calves at about mile 24, reminding me I had run out of a suitable supply of electrolytes.  So I kept my stride short, and kept turning over as quickly as I could.  Swinging arms became a good distraction for a while.  I also counted steps to 100 at one point to distract myself from an onset of pain.  That was about mile 24.5.  Then you see the Fenway CITGO sign, run up and over the overpass of the Mass Pike (I walked over this before and it was no big deal - not the case now).  You did not hear the Red Sox fans cheering because they lost 8-2.  Sorry socks.  But thousands of fans were cheering for runners!

As you run down Commonwealth Ave there are people everywhere, there are cops lining the other side of the course, you honest to god feel like a rockstar (well, a rockstar in pain, but aren't they all....?).  It's deafening.  And you're not even done yet.  You have one brief respite where you go down under a ramp and it's quiet for about 30 seconds.  And it was so peaceful, then you run back up (up, ugh) and back onto the street and then you're at this famous point, "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" and you're about a half mile to the finish.  I stopped looking at my watch but figured I had a shot at a PB, and a shot at 3:20, the time I wanted.  I turned up Hereford and then a big left onto Boylston and it's an amazing sight - the finish line is still about 600 ish metres away but you see crowds stacked 10-15 deep and you see a blue banner with yellow and you're really happy.  I gave it all I had without losing control of my calves and just kept watching the sign get bigger and bigger. 

 I don't remember the bleachers at the finish line, but I did put my hands up (difficult task at this point) and that was it!  I had finished.  I was so happy.  Even happier when I checked my watch and realized I had PB'd.  I had got 3:20:10.  I felt more emotional at this point than I have ever felt at a race before.  I was pretty close to tears but tried not to cry because I didn't want to get sent to the medical tent.  I just tried to keep walking.  I could tell my legs were going to feel this later.  But people all around congratulating each other.  I talked to a nice man from Ottawa and he was happy and I was happy and we made our way to the space blankets, the medals, the gatorade, the lunchboxes and finally out to the baggage buses.  Again, SO well organized.  If the Boston organization ran Canadian Government....

 It took a couple text messages back and forth but Shawn came and found me, cold and bonky at the family meeting station.  Thank god it was still sunny, making it easier to stand around (or shuffle around).  Then we were off - picked up our bags at the Taj Boston and changed into dry clothes, and we were off to the subway, massively jammed packed but eventually we made it to the trains, to this lovely B&B in Rockford, Cape Ann, MA about an hour later.  

 Able to shower quickly to rinse gatorade residue off my sticky legs, the very nice Howard of our Inn drove us to the Fish Shack (and picked us up).  I had a delicious lobster roll and was just totally on cloud nine.  And that's that.  Bed.  Slept like a champ.

 So this is more novel than note but hopefully for anyone who wanted to know about it, I wrote down as much as I could remember right now.  This race was really a wonderful experience and I am so glad I did it.  This is an amazing city and the fans were the best.  People in this city are some of the friendliest people I have ever met.   

I love this town.

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