Friday, May 20, 2011

Boston Marathon 2011

I put the year in the title because I do plan on going back again and crushing the course next time.  As for this Boston, I did indeed toe the line and finish it

My roomies convinced me to at least get out of bed and go to the starting line and see how I felt.  We said good-bye to e-speed and wished her luck as we headed for the buses (she got the elite treatment -- we were just average citizens).  The walk to the bus was maybe a mile and all windy as hell!  JP and I did everything we could to keep JU and BB in sight as we had no idea where we were going.  We got there just in time as the lines went from manageable to HUGE in less than 5 minutes. 

The bus ride seemed to take forever and JU and BB were kind enough to ask me "Can you believe how long this is and we have to run all the way back?"  That comment didn't do much to make me feel better, but everybody else got a good laugh out of teasing me.  I texted e-speed one last time to wish her luck and go after her OTQ (I think I wanted this almost as bad as she did -- haha).  JP had hydrated like she was some kind of camel and threatened to pee on me the whole ride as her bladder just would not cooperate (thankfully, I did not get peed on and she made it to a porta-john.

We were able to hang out at the church for a few hours and stay warm and avoid the wind.  I was not happy.  I barely spoke to my mom when she called to wish me luck.  I felt like crap and had let myself slide into a funk.  Not wanting to spread my joy, I mean lackthereof I laid down on the floor of the church, turned on my IPOD and slept.  I was just tired and not psyched at all for this.  I got in a   about a 15-20 minute nap, before we returned to the buses to drop our bags and get ready for THE BOSTON MARATHON!

I was able to catch the wheelchair and the elite women's start since I was way the hell back there.  I even got to see the elite men and some of the SERC peeps go off in wave one before I had to get into my corral for wave two.  I had to walk back over a hill and down a ways to the seventh corral and I hesitated to go near the front because I had been told people have peed in the corrals and I would have lost it if someone had peed on me like I was some kind of tree to a dog!!

There was a lot of hype and everybody, the fans, the runners, the commentators were all jazzed up and you could just tell EVERYBODY was excited.  I saw a friend AC in the corral with me and we walked up the hill to the gate.  I pitched my throw away shirt, but kept my arm warmers on.  We crested the hill and there it was the starting banner, TV cameras, crazy cheering fans and just like that I crossed the starting line.

It was just like my friends had said.  A sea of runners as far as I could see and in that moment I forgot I was sick and just let the weather, the race, the whole day of awesomeness wash over me.  I trotted along just trying to take it in and relax.  My chest was a little tight and I felt like I was being really conservative and still hear 8:30-8:40's for the first 2 miles.  WOW!  This mother of a course really is fast.  I saw the biker bar with tons of bikers screaming and drinking as we ran by ...  I loved it and yelled "THANK YOU!!"  They just screamed back louder.  There were little kids everywhere from the get-go looking for hi-fives and I was running down the left side thinking, if it wasn't my day I was gonna help make it someone else's.  I must have hi-fived 5-15 kids each mile, some were counting "85, 86" as we went by.  It was really cute.  Istripped my arm warmers by mile 2 and realized it was going to be a really hot run for me.  I began hydrating at every aid station, even grabbing an extra cup of water to pour down my arms, to keep them cool.

As we entered Ashland, people were out on the street, set-up like they were watching a parade.  Some people were even on roof tops cheering.  I crossed the first 5k marker and thought "I bet my mom will be so relieved to see my first split that means I am actually running."  I figured she would be sitting at home praying I would start and survive the race.

I worked my way to Framingham and had thoughts of my undergrad days at the University of Akron, when it seemed like every other week we were discussing the Framingham Heart Study in one class or another for exercise physiology.  The course was so fast as I easily continued on my 8:30-8:45 trot.  Lots of people had their names on their clothes and people would scream for them "Go Karen!!" "Go John!!" and then Karen and John would wave a thank you, never knowing the insta-fan.  I talked to a few people along the way "Which marathon was this?  Is this your first time at Boston?  Are you going for a PR?  Good luck!"  was the exchange.  I continued to be enamored by the course and the fans.  My chest still felt a little tight, but no diseaseness or nausea.  My knees and ankles were a little achy, but completely manageable -- SCORE!!

The quietest spot on the course was probably around Lake Cochituate, but the landscape was beautiful and if I was dead, this could be my heaven.  It reminded me of Wisconsin, of my home as a child.  It was around this time that my chest finally let go and I could breathe a little easier. 

I rolled into Natick where the biggest crowds of fans were thus far!  There was an a singing Elvis impersonator on stage singing his heart out as we ran through.  I don't even remember what he was playing, but I do wish I had had my camera to take a pic.  I continued to hydrate and pour water on myself, pretty wet already. 

By this time, I was pretty hot and the aid stations weren't close enough together to keep my arms and back cool.  I was drying and fast.  I could tell I was going to have a nice sunburn too, especially on the right side of my body.

It was shortly after this I started to hear the screams.  They were high-pitched and shrill-like.  I knew what was next, either I was about to meet my first set of Banshees, or Wellsley college was just ahead.  It was paved black-top and it got just a tad hotter as we came upon hundreds, hundreds of crazy screaming girls holding signs that said "KISS ME, I'M _____ "(fill in the blank, from Wisconsin, Irish, don't wear underwear, you name it).  I was still on the left and the girls were all on the right but I definitely saw a lot of men stopping to offer smooches to the girls.

It was shortly after this that I crossed the half point and ran under a big banner with a photographer on top and figured, I might as well try and make the most of my photo ops.  Here is my half photo (You can see the big bruise on my right thigh still from my crash -- unfortunately).  
It was probably at this point where I slowed the most in this race.  I just kinda got lulled by the magic that is Boston and I started to see people cramping and hurting -- already!  I knew the hills started at 16 and even sick I refused to let those things slowed me down, even further.  I kept telling myself "easy to the hills, easy." 

Then the most awesome part of my race happened (and I almost missed it).  I was running along on sensory overload and then I saw it to the right of me!!  I had missed them at the expo and been kicking myself figuratively for it when there they were.  It was TEAM HOYT!!!
I immediately cut across the road and ran right up to Rick and Dick Hoyt and as I was crying started cheering for them and said "You guys are freakin' amazing!!"  Dick was walking this year, not sure if it was because he was feeling ill or because he is freakin' 70!!  I continued on blubbering and crying for a bit completely inspired and in awe of what I had just witnessed.  Thank God, I had my sunglasses on to hide my teary eyes.

The hills started shortly after this and I was ready.  I took a gel and was slowly getting my game face on, better late than never.  I took the hills through 18 at an easy effort.  There was one that was fairly steep that made me wonder, "what the heck was heartbreak like? This one was pretty good!" 

Around 18, I heard some silly "Let's get it" or "Let's Go" song and thought, "even if I blow up  now it's only 8 miles to the finish." 

It was on!!!

I watched people walking and stopping all around me.  It was carnage.  I could tell I was moving faster than most around me because I could see a few others zig-zagging through like myself and I earned my nickname for the race at that time.  People started screaming "Go green socks!!!!"  as I pushed forward.  I loved the hills.  My quads were a little tired, but never had my legs felt this great after 18, even in a training run. 

Near mile 20, I passed an unsolicited beer station and the fans were cheering and trying to get runners to chug a beer.  I ran by smiling thinking about how I had wanted to do that in Philly and then it hit me.  I wasn't running for time.  I had nothing to lose.  I turned around and ran back down the incline/hill and said...

"All right, what the hell, give me the beer.  I will do it!!
You would think I scored a touchdown.  They errupted in cheers, screaming "Whooo Hooo!!" and "Hell YEAH!!" 
Somebody gave me a dixie cup of beer and I downed it.  It was amazing!  Usually, my stomach goes south by this time in a race, but man that beer was good!!  I hollered "Thank you!!" and was on my way. 

I started up a long incline and before I knew it was nearly at the top, when I saw all these signs that said "Kill This Hill" and "Don't let Heartbreak, Break You!!" 

WHAT!!?!?!?  That was Heartbreak -- it wasn't a hill it was an incline!!  I whomped on it like a champ.  I crested my last Boston marathon hill and headed for home, the finish.  I was pumped.  I had survived the course and run the hills well.  I was home free. 

Around 22 my quads started to feel a twinge of pain and weariness.  I was still moving better than most, but a quad seizing cramp was not how I planned to end my race.  Instead of opening it full throttle to make up time.  I played it cautious and maintained my effort, trying to keep my feet low to the ground on the downhills. 

The crowds were insane at this point and the Boston College boys were partying like rockstars.  I even saw one fall over the railing onto the street.  I heard the police constantly yelling "Get Back!! Get Back!!"  trying to keep the street clear for runners.  Someone from the crowd even grabbed my left arm and almost whipped me back on my ass as I ran by.  I moved toward the middle of the street after that. 

The crowds wasn't even screaming at this point.  It was a constant roar.  I ran down Beacon Street, my feet starting to burn, but my excitement building as I knew I was so close, so close to finishing my first Boston!!  We had run the last mile or two the day before and I knew it was a long straight-a-way, then a right and a final left would take me to the big blue banner. 

I hit the Citgo sign and knew it was just a mile now.  I started opening up my stride, not caring what happened.  I knew the course couldn't stop me at this point.  This marathon was less than 9:00 minutes from done. 

The course turned onto Hereford and pushed, made my last left and there it was!!  I ran hard for the line, but for the first time ever in a marathon, I looked around at the finish.  I waved.  I took it all in!!  I threw up my fist and played to the crowd -- they cheered right back.   I passed a young male limping to the finish with his 2 buddies running by his side in flip-flops.  I ran by and yelled "Keep going!!  Bring him home guys!!" 

So many things went through my head in the last 1/2 mile.  This was it!!  This was what you had promised you would do in 2007.  This is what you had worked and fought so hard for at Cleveland in "08 and Philly in '08, then getting hurt and having to re-qualify and finally being sick.  This was my Boston.

I had done it!!  I crossed the finish in 3:51:40.
Not my fastest marathon, but definitely the funnest.  I missed negative splitting the damn thing by 0:36 seconds.  My mom thinks, going back for the beer cost me...

It was worth it!  I can't wait to do it again.


Trisaratops said...

That is AWESOME.

I love that you chugged the beer! Hilarious!

Debra said...

Awesome write-up of your race. I wish I could have been there! Great job!