Thursday, April 24, 2014

Race Day: 118th Boston Marathon

It's very difficult writing a summary of such an amazing experience. From the moment our plane landed in Boston I felt a buzz like no other race. Last years race was an amazing experience and had a buzz like most normal Boston years but this year was different. Maybe I wanted it to feel different, but I don't think it was just that. I was wearing last years marathon jacket and people noticed. I got many smiles and "good luck" as we traveled. We got to Boston really late after a full day of travel, so it was a quick "hi" to some friends as we checked in and quickly off to bed.

Sunday was a day to balance having fun but also keeping in mind I had to finish a 26'er the next day. As we made our way to the convention center the city was cranking with excitement. The check-in and packet pick up was smooth as butter and we made our way to the expo and visited as many booths as we could fit in before getting hungry and needing to find food. I had one or two spots on the radar and I wanted to go check them out. Boylston Street served as the marathon finish stretch and finish line. It's famous. If you were to watch the marathon on TV the announcers almost always make it a point to shout out, "Right on Hereford and Left on Boylston to the finish". It's an amazing feeling to run that stretch and many, many people hang out to watch. It was also the site of the two explosions last year, one of which was right in front of a bar/restaurant called Forum. They had room for two hungry runners and we made our way in to have a wonderful lunch. I didn't say anything but I just took in the site of it all and paid my respects to those harmed one year ago.  After lunch we continued down Boylston and visited the memorial at the site of the first explosion. It was a moment I needed. I took in a few deep breathes, shed a few tears and just walked away not really saying much outloud. Not many people were. We did what we needed to do and it was time to continue the day of activity and get ready for the big race tomorrow.

Monday was the kind of day most marathoners dream of. I woke up and it was 36F with the sun on the horizon. I had a small breakfast and then quickly made my way to the buses that would take us to the start. This year there were no gear bags allowed on the bus to Hopkinton. What ever a runner wanted he/she wore and could carry a small amount of food/water bottle with them. What that meant was, the clothes that were on your back you would be leaving for the local needy as the clothing would be collected and brought to a shelter. We looked a bit ragged but it was a good idea. I actually found a pair of running tights/jacket in my closet that was 13 years old! I guess it was time to say goodbye to some old friends.

After lounging in the athletes village in the sun for a bit it was time to make our way to the starting line and ready ourselves for the run to Boylston Street. One heads to the starting line about 45 minutes before the gun goes off. There are 4 waves of 9000 people so they have to start early. I was in the first wave, about 1000 people deep into the field as they have you lined up according to ones qualifying time. As the sun beat down on us I knew right away it would be a day that would require diligent fluid intake to help ward off any late race fatigue. *more on that later

The gun went off and we were sent on our way. The first 4 miles are an insane downhill and it you really need to monitor your pace and keep things under control. I had one problem. My Nike GPS watch would not link up to the satellites and I had no pace indicator. I was running on effort and once I knew my watch was not going to be part of the race I just turned on the timer so later in the race I could attempt to do some math and measure a mile here and there. (I would mark the 2-3 mile and was running 6:05 pace which was 25 seconds per mile too fast) After the watch issue I was just running on my effort and keeping myself loose and attempting to keep my legs/quads relaxed as I ran down the steeps. Early in the race, somewhere near 10K I realized I would have to be monitoring my muscles and really concentrating on keeping them loose as I could as they just were not feeling good. I really never had the feeling like I was floating and easy like I usually do for most of the first half of my marathons. Today would be a day I consider a "mental marathon". They all are at some point, but for me, the entire race required me constantly monitoring my legs, arms, stomach and making sure I didn't forget to do anything along the way.

As the race miles clicked past I kept using the aid stations for one/two cups of Gatorade and one cup of water. In fact, I took fluid from mile 2 to 25. I did NOT miss one aid station and took fluid from them all. I had to as the sun was beating down and race temps at the finish would reach into the low 70's. In total I took in all the fluid mentioned plus 7 Poweraide Sports Gels with caffeine in addition to 7 S-Caps (salt tablets with 300mg sodium each) and I had consumed all this by mile 23. I figured I had enough fuel to make it to the finish. Wrong! At mile 24 my quads went from severe fatigue to severe pain! I call it the type of pain that feels like someone beat you with a baseball bat. (im guessing) The last 2 miles are a beauty and if you are lucky, you can really pass some people along a stretch that has hundreds of thousands spectators! I did my best shuffle and kept things rolling. At 25.5 miles there is one more small downhill that hurts like hell and then its time for the finish.  My wife and I had set a place for her to watch and I looked but didn't see her so I figured I missed her. (we had missed each other last year as I was looking on the wrong side of the street) This year the screams were more pronounced than last and I knew it would be near impossible to see her, but then I heard it. I heard, "GREGG!!". As I looked back over my left shoulder I saw Kari leaning over the fence and screaming, so I pointed to her, gave her a thumbs up and returned to focus on my footing moving forward. I turned onto Boylston and had to really keep my emotions in check. I ran/shuffled my way to the finish but not before making my way to the sidewalk area in front of the Forum to pay my respects one last time. I high-fived one of the spectators right in front and blew them all a kiss and thank you before making my way to the finish.

Crossing the line of any marathon is an amazing feeling. Crossing this years Boston was nothing shy of amazing and I really felt great. My legs were toast. I just wanted to sit down but it takes some time to get through all the aid station area and then off to meet family. At the end of a long finish/recovery area I met my wife and we hugged and then walked to the Hostel nearby.

It was a great day. The organizers, volunteer's, and spectators were nothing short of spectacular and that race will forever by in my heart. Thank you all!

As for all of my family and friends that supported me and gave me well wishes along the way, thank you to you as well. There are times in a marathon where all you want to do is stop because it is instant relief from the pain you are feeling. Problem is, it is tough to get started again and makes it really easy to stop again. So I used all your well wishes and support as well as the crowds to keep going and not stop. My mantra in my head, and sometimes out loud was, "just don't stop, just don't stop, keep on moving". You do what you have to do to get to the finish.

Boston Marathon:
2:54:11 (6:39 pace)
1379 place


The Unexpected Runner said...

Congratulations! What a great experience you had!

K Hutchins said...

Very well written Gregg. Thanks for sharing. It was definitely a special Boston in a different way than any other year.