Sunday, April 23, 2017

Boston Marathon -- 3:10:16

Boston loves their marathon and I love Boston! The communities from Hopkinton to Boston really poured out their love and support for this race. It was an amazing weekend. During the run, the weather was quite warm (low 70s and mostly very sunny) and even with a tailwind, the heat hurt.

This was Boston Marathon #6 for me, and was my second slowest, at 3:10:16. I started feeling cramps in my calves around mile 19 and I was forced to slow down. With about 0.75 miles to go, my right hamstring completely froze up, so I had to stretch and walk for a bit. But all-in-all, I'm very happy with my race and I remain qualified for 2018. I want to run it again in 2018, too!

I arrived early Saturday morning after a crowded and somewhat uncomfortable overnight flight on United Airlines. This saved money, but I'm not sure this was worth it. With my hotel check-in not until 4pm, this made for a long tiring day of hauling around luggage.

Still, there was excitement in the air! I met a woman on the T who had just flown in from Florida to volunteer as a medic at the race -- unpaid! She said this was her 8th Boston Marathon as a volunteer and 28th marathon overall as a volunteer. Amazing!

The expo at Hynes Convention Center had a small army of happy volunteers. I'm so impressed with the race organization and support. I was wearing my Boston Marathon hand-made scarf from 2014, that commemorated the bombings from the year before.

The invitational mile races were fun to watch. They are so fast!

I did some planning in the Boston Public Library...

And ended up walking two miles to my hotel room, because of interrupted bus service, and saw the very well protected gardens...

The next day, I met up with my friend Amanda (this was her 11th consecutive Boston Marathon!) from the Coastside Running Club, her boyfriend, and an acquaintance of theirs. Amanda had invited me to Old South Church, near the finish line, for a runners blessing. It was crowded, so I'm glad I got there almost an hour early. Standing in the warm bright sunlight, I was starting to get concerned for the race the next day.

The service was very sweet, inclusive, loving, and entertaining. You can watch the whole service below. I was sitting in the left side towards the front, wearing my new yellow and blue 2017 Boston Marathon shirt.
The most special moment to me, starting at 55:30 in the video, was when all the marathon runners were asked to stand, and Carlos Arrendondo, the "cowboy rescuer" from the 2013 bombings (photos), gave a beautiful blessing, and a bagpiper played an inspiring and tear-jerking song. It was a truly sweet moment that brought tears to a lot of eyes, mine included.

I met up with Amanda, Mark, and Jeannie. I tried to meet a couple of other friends, but that didn't work out. I ended up hanging out with Jeannie-from-Chicago, who was a runner but who was in town solely to support and to be inspired by the race! Amazing! We went to the JFK Museum together. I liked the museum a lot and had never been before. It was laid out as a timeline of JFK's life, with hardly a mention of the assassination. The tour ended in this amazing atrium with a huge American flag.

We met up with Amanda and Mark again for a delicious dinner at Lucca's in the North End.
When the manager found out that Amanda had come here every year for eight consecutive years, he sent us free desserts! mmm...! I was 105% carb loaded!

There was a neat walkway nearby, lit up in the marathon's blue and gold colors.

Race Day
The race wouldn't start for me until shortly after 10am, but I needed the meet the buses in Boston Common at about 6:30am, which meant I needed to leave my hotel at about 5:45am, which meant waking up at 5:15am! Logistics!

At Boston Common, before dropping off my gear bag.
The travel to Boston Common went smoothly and as I was sitting on the bus, waiting to be taken to the starting area in Hopkinton, I wondered what time it was. I checked my right wrist. No watch. I checked my left wrist. No watch. Ohhhhhhhhh..... shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit....  I mentally retraced my steps all the way back to my hotel room and realized I had never laid out my Garmin GPS watch the night before. I wouldn't know my elapsed time, or current mile pace, or each mile time. I briefly considered going back to my hotel room, but there would be too much stress and travel involved.

As it turned out, if there's ever a race to forget your watch for, this one was a good one. There was a timer at each mile marker! It would take some mental math to figure out each elapsed mile time, but that worked out fine. I usually eat an energy gel every 35 minutes, so instead, I ate one every 5 miles.

On the bus, I sat net to a guy who was maybe in his 50s who said he had run the Boston Marathon 29 times, 28 times consecutively! He was so familiar with the race, that he shouted out to the bus driver to keep going straight because we were about to take the wrong freeway exit! He said that one year, the bus driver missed the exit which added a huge amount of time to the journey but that everyone on the bus was still able to start on time. It's good to be familiar with the bus driver's route!

There was a young man in crutches on the bus. He said he had broken his leg four weeks ago and was going to try to walk on crutches for as much of the marathon as he could. Wow.

The day was warming up and I was comfortable in short sleeves and shorts. As I walked around, I recognized a friend from the Coastside Running Club -- Cesare!

Finally, the race start drew near. Walking to the starting corrals, I was impressed by the security. There were armed officers every two or three houses along the streets where we were walking. I heard the sounds of vomiting. There was a runner, a young man with a mohawk, leaning over the railing and throwing up into the grass. Amazingly, he apparently was running pretty well because I saw him again at mile 16 as I slowly passed him.

After a beautiful singing of the national anthem, and a flyover by two Air Force jets, we were off!

I felt at ease, but warm. I think the first mile took me 7:15 which I was fine about. I was hoping for a 3:03 or so, in order to run my fastest Boston.

The first aid station was at mile 2, and then there was an aid station at every mile thereafter! The amount of support is just incredible. I was getting warm and it wasn't long before I started pouring water on my head from aid station cups.

Around mile 10, a spectator was offering a bottle of water. I grabbed it and thanked her as I ran by. It was ice cold! Joy of joys! That helped me feel much better for a few miles.

Wellesley College was amazing as usual. (You can see a sample of posters here.) My favorite was "Kiss me if you voted for Hillary." I laughed to myself but I stayed in the middle of the road and gave some thumbs up.
Courtesy of Scott Dunlap
The Newton hills at mile 16 and 17.5 went by quickly. My pace had to slow down, but I felt good! I was warm though. Around mile 19, I felt my first twinges of cramps, in my calves. Oh  no! I was on edge. I still don't know what the proper solution is, but my toolkit includes: 1) slowing down. 2) getting more salt. 3) drinking more water. Well, I wasn't carrying water, so I ate another energy gel and slowed down. In hindsight, I think I was most likely getting dehydrated.

I ran up the final Newton hill, Heartbreak Hill, at mile 20.5. I felt pretty good and had plenty of energy, but cramps were close. I didn't even realize that was the last big hill at the time.

I saw the famous Citgo sign. I was close to the finish, and ready to stop! But with about 0.75 miles to go, my right hamstring suddenly locked up. !@##$!  I hobbled over to the side of the road and a steady stream of runners started passing me. I stretched a bit and started walking. A minute or two later I was able to slowly run again (8 minutes a mile, maybe), but I couldn't sprint to the finish.

Right at the end of the race on Boylston Street, with the finish line in sight, a man in front of me pulled off suddenly to the side of the road, got down one knee, and opened up a small jewelry box which he had carried for 26 miles. He proposed to his girlfriend who was a spectator and she was in shocked happiness as she screamed, "Yes!" I was in an emotional state already, bursting with happiness and relief, but that proposal pushed me over the edge. I crossed the finish line with my arms in the air and tears in my eyes.

I recovered for a while in Boston Common and soaked in the feeling of relief and love and the beautiful day. I was definitely on a huge natural high.

When I went to ride back to my hotel on the T, the transit employees were at the gate and were letting all runners ride for free. Very thoughtful! I received dozens of "congratulations" on the way back to my hotel.

After recovering for a while, I went out again to meet up with my "interesting and unusual" friend (as he happily reminded me that I had described him in the past), Ron McCracken, whom I met by randomly sitting next to him on the bus to Hopkinton in my first Boston Marathon in 2007. It's been 10 years and we've kept in touch ever since! Ron, always the gregarious guy, made friends with a somewhat inebriated local who was a staunch marathon supporter. Hey ladies, he's single! Catch him if you can!
 Ron has now completed his 17th consecutive Boston Marathon. Nice!

I already wanted to come back in 2018!

What Went Well
  • I'm super grateful to the 9,500 volunteers and race organizers for making this race possible and so special. The organization and support are just amazing.
  • The crowd support and community support were outstanding -- so much love!
  • No injuries, no chafing, no blisters, no bathroom problems.
  • I think I generally paced myself well.
  • I had plenty of energy.
Things To Improve
  • Considering the heat, I probably should have carried a water bottle from the start, filled with sports drink, and refilled it as necessary. The aid stations were crowded for most of the race for me, and I would have preferred to drink more which may have helped prevent cramps.
  • I left my GPS watch in my hotel room! I've done this once before, before the New York City Marathon, but that time I had realized the mistake right away and I could go back and retrieve it. Before a race, I need to pause and stop worrying about the logistics and make sure I have everything I needed for the race. Or use a checklist, which feels lame (shoes! hat! watch!), but that would reduce the chances of mistakes.
  • I could have used another long tempo run or two.
  • I could do without the red-eye flight on a Friday night.
  • My hotel was about 2 miles away from the race events (expo, bus pick-up area, and finish line), and was a mile away from the nearest T station. I need to make reservations sooner next time.
Random Data
  • This was my 2nd slowest Boston Marathon, but overall, I'm happy with how I raced.
    • 2007 -- 3:05:31
    • 2008 -- 3:09:44
    • 2009 -- 3:03:33
    • 2012 -- horrible
    • 2014 -- 3:07:00
    • 2017 -- 3:10:16
  • I weighed 166.0 lbs three days before the race.