Friday, April 20, 2007

How does it feel to run in a Nor'easter?

As I said below a LOT can happen in almost five hours. It's been really hard to process all that happened and put it into a coherent story.

Marathon Day started at 5:30 am with ritualized race day prep. I always do the same things in the same order, just to make sure I don't forget anything. Monday, this ritual also included putting three layers on to keep warm during the anticipated wet,cold, and windy conditions.

Dad met me downstairs around 6:00 to walk to the hotel where the buses were waiting for the team. It was an ominous sign that it was already windy, rainy, and cold that morning and it did not look like it was going to warm up. I was extremely nervous, so it was really great that Dad was there to keep me calm.

After some waiting, we got on the bus and drove the 26 miles to Hopkington (which takes an hour or so). Once there, we were lucky enough to be able to wait on the bus (most other people had to wait outside or in the high school gym). On the bus, the talk of the morning was all about clothing and temperature, and the air was filled with the confidence that can only come BEFORE you run your marathon.

It was infectious! I contemplated a four-hour finish in epic conditions as I watched the rain while assembling my shoe solution (sock within taped grocery bag, grocery bag within shoe). Before I knew it, the first wave had started (those are the fast people) and it was time to put up my hood and start moseying down to the corralls.

Boston is the biggest marathon I have ever been in, and it was truly amazing at how many people were running. Like cows, we herded ourselves towards the start line, following the sound of a bullhorn.

People were incredibly friendly. Hopkington, where the race starts, was so geared up for bad weather that homes along the start corralls actually had opened up for people to take shelter from the rain. The entire town was out cheering us on as we got ready to race.

The gun started, but it was about 10 minutes before I actually got over the start line -- even then, we hadn't started running yet. Once people cleared out enough so that we could run, everyone around me took off downhill.

The first few miles of the marathon were downhill, wet, and warm. At around mile 3, I got started sweating, so I had to toss my REI vest.

Soon, but I guess not soon enough, we got out of Hopkington and into the next town. Suprisingly, everyone at that town also was cheering for us. Little did I know, this would be how the entire race course would be!

Somewhere around mile 6, despite all the cheering, my bad second quarter began, and I started to feel cold, queasy and out of juice. I was using a training-tested nutritional scheme, but it just did not seem to be working in this weather. I ducked into a bar for a restroom (everyone cheered me on as I left). About that time, I also decided to switch back to my tried and true gel (luckily, I had brought four gels along with me). Combining fuel I could stomach and a few more downhills, I started to feel better, and around mile 10 or so I finally got back to "normal".

Around mile 12, I started to hear this high pitched roar, and it took me a while to figure out that it was Wellesley college. The ladies of this college take it upon themselves every year to create the loudest, most inspirational mile of the course. This was the first time during the race that I got teary as I slapped the hands of all the kids. The fact that they were still out there, considering that we were now many hours into the race, was inspirational.

We climbed out of the Wellesly sound tunnel, and made our way closer to Boston. Along this way, I started really trying to realize that I was here, actually running the Boston Marathon, and that by golly I was going to have a great time! I continued the high-fives, especially to little kids, and also started sampling various confections that people were handing out on the side road. During the race, I also got interested in the baseball game (anything other than the marathon became interesting at this point), and eventually the Red Sox won. I also got a chance to encourage a few people who had fallen behind that I knew as well.

This made a lot of miles 13-20 a blur to me of hands, cheering, cookies and gatorade. I was having a blast, and to me, I was really going pretty fast. Mile 20 starts the infamous heartbreak hill, which is pretty substantial, but not as horribly long or difficult as people say it is, especially since the Boston College kids come out at the top to cheer you on while drinking beer -- imagine, they were lining the street five deep and overflowing the metal barricades.

I kept looking for the haunted mile -- the mile where there were supposed to be very few fans and a cemetery on one side, but I never found it. Miles 22 through 24 for me were really more high fives, cheering, gatorade and jolly ranchers. At one point, I got to play someone's gong on the side of the road; at another, I jumped up and down with my hands in the air along with a group of spectators. I was pretty loopy, and luckily, it was just like a very big (and long) party.

Suddenly, we went down an underpass for a street, and I knew we were really close to the finish! Around this time, another runner in a yellow rainsuit "befriended" me and decided to motivate me by cheering me on and slapping me on the back in a firm but friendly manner. This is not a good thing to do to someone at mile 25 of a marathon but honestly, I didn't have enough energy left to get upset. The throngs at the side of the road got louder -- I noticed there was a big left-hand turn coming up in front of us was Boyleston Street! "That's where the marathon finishes!" I shouted to my yellow friend. And I took off for that left hand turn with all I had left.

Around that bend, you could see the Boston Marathon finish line -- the most famous finish line in all of running. I got teary for the second time on the course, and had to stop sniffling because it makes me hyperventilate.

As usual, I "sprinted" the last 250m or so and as I crossed the finish line (4:49:37), I celebrated by screaming something inaudible and flinging my fists in the air. This awkward act at the end of a marathon produced a massive shock wave of pain throughout my entire back, rendering me incapable of moving my arms for a few minutes until (very very luckily) the pain subsided.

It's amazing how good it feels to stop running sometimes.

Immediately I focused on following the crowd through the post-marathon chute. I got a heat blanket and luckily since my arms were still immobile, they put a little happy sticker in the middle to keep it on my shoulders. The next thing was to get the chip off my leg, and after a bit of discussion with my leg, I was finally able to get my foot up high enough that the lady could get the chip off my foot and tie my shoe back up. We discussed the complete success of my grocery bag shoe solution, which kept my feet dry and blister-free. Then the shoe lady put the unicorn finisher's medal on me -- you can't imagine how excited I was to see that little guy!

After all of that, it was so very great to have Dad at the finish line. Of course it's always great to have someone at the finish line after a race, but especially great to have your Dad there. He'd just finished the Glass City Marathon the day before, and had flown all the way to Boston just for this moment!

So, to summarize, the weather in Boston was not great, but it wasn't as bad as everyone said it was going to be. The Boston Marathon is hands down the best marathon I have ever been in because of the spectator support. It might take until I'm 80, but I'm definitely going to try to run it again -- maybe qualify next time :)

1 comment:

Shawn said...