Mind over matter...Never give up

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Boston Marathon, April 19, 2010 - Part 1

At the finish line on Saturday, Apr 17, in case I didn't make it back there on Monday!

Meeting Bill Rodgers after a 2 hr wait

Bill signed my race bib

Bart Yasso tells stories from
his book "My Life on the Run"

Boston is the "holy grail" of distance running it seems. A short year or so ago I am not really even sure I was aware of how many long distance runners had Boston as their ultimate goal. Not sure why I was not really aware of that but for some reason I don't think I really was. Yet after setting a goal in early 2009 of running a marathon by the end of that year and then joining a running group where other runners had similar goals I guess it was only natural that I'd have to look beyond that goal and set out to achieve the next one, which was not just to finish that next marathon in under 4 hrs but then to actually qualify for Boston.

2009 was a great year for running for me, setting a lot of PRs and winning a lot of age group awards in local races. I never thought it was possible and yet not only had I achieved all those things but also managed to qualify for Boston while running the NYC Marathon. I have to say I was not sure that anything could really ever measure up to actually running and doing well in NYC. The sheer fact of qualifying was really enough and to qualify in NYC, the race I'd really always wanted to run was just the best feeling. So it would really be untrue to say "wow, going to Boston was my big dream" because really NYC was that for me.

But how many chances do you get to run Boston? I'd guess not so many so I was determined to run it this year since I qualified and also registered just in time before it closed in record time (Nov 13th, I registered Nov 2nd, the day after NYC while still in bed in the hotel room!). Shortly after arriving back home I had booked a flight and hotel for Boston as well. Gee, now all I had to do was maintain my training through the coldest winter in a long time!

I have to say I did ok through January despite very cold temps (my hair actually froze under my hat once, as did my gatorade a few times) but when Feb rolled around, work and family commitments took priority and training fell behind. I toyed with the idea of postponing until next year. However in the end I decided that likely next year would not be any better than the present. When the Myrtle Beach Half Marathon was cancelled due to snow of all things, I was somewhat relieved but quickly that turned into concern as I felt still quite under prepared. I ran the Tobacco Road Half in late March and did quite well considering the lack of training. Still I recall finishing that and thinking OMG, how in the world was I going to do that times 2 in less than one month's time?! But it was when I had my last 20 mile run the week after that (I had only done a few this time and no 22 milers) which went terrible that I began to panic. I had not been running enough during the week and it showed. So I started to try to run a few times a week in the mornings before work to try to make up for this.

It was pretty late in the game for that (3 weeks to go) and while I am not sure it really helped much physically, mentally it made me feel a bit better to put some miles in aside from the long run. Yet these were quite slow and painful miles. Literally I could never get below 8:30 pace for 4 to 5 mile runs in the morning, no matter how hard I tried. And my knees would start to hurt at 2 miles and sometimes so badly I needed to stop for a few seconds several times during the run. This was not common for me so I wondered how I was going to pull Boston off. But as time went on and I didn't defer my entry, I was too far committed to do anything else but go and run.

A few weeks prior to Boston, Tom, a friend who was also running the race, emailed some ideas on things to do in Boston and some plans his running group had. As a project manager and natural planner, it was amazing that I didn't have any plans made and up until then was just going to "wing it" but I literally had no time to plan during those last few months. So when the opportunity came to join Tom and his friends for some events I was so glad to do that and not have to plan or think about it. It was so nice for a change for someone else to do that, so thanks to Tom and friends for that!

As Boston got closer, I did begin to feel more excited about it, but perhaps that was just the idea of having a few days away from work! I did kind of block out the whole marathon part of the trip. I was going to miss my family since they were not going, but on the other hand they would likely have been very bored with the things I wanted to do (running expo, seminars, etc). Before I knew it, it was Friday, April 16th and I was packing for my trip to leave early Saturday AM.

I got up really early and headed out, wondering what was in store. Would I have fun, would I finish, would I feel ok after the race, would it be as good as NYC, etc? At the airport it was quite obvious who the Boston Marathon attendees were. I talked briefly to a few folks but mainly just sat and observed who was there. I recognized some faces from local races but didn't really know anyone well enough to start a conversation. On the plane, however, I did chat a bit with a man who was heading there with his family to run his first Boston marathon. He had also run the Fall Second Empire series as I had so we discussed that a bit as well.

The flight went well and I was able to get to the hotel pretty quickly, check in early, and unpack. Although I was tired I got over that fast, same as in NYC, and was excited to head directly to the race expo to get my number, shirt and buy some Boston Marathon stuff. I figured out on my iPhone that the hotel was less than 2 miles from the expo so I decided to walk even though it was chilly and starting to rain. I dressed as warm as I could and headed out. I had been feeling like I was getting a bit sick a few days before leaving so had gotten some antibiotics just in case, since I had some fluid in my ear that could possibly turn into an ear infection. I also discovered Afrin nasal spray, recommended by the urgent care doc, which is amazing but because several MD friends have since warned me not to get hooked on it, I have stayed away from it since Boston. Still, can't believe how well it works! Ok so enough about Afrin. While I wanted to rest and not really run on Saturday I figured a walk would be ok as long as I dressed warm, so off I headed to the expo.

It was, in the end, a good idea to walk since it helped me to get to know the area better. I passed the finish line area and took some pictures (in case I didn't ever make it there on Monday!) and then found my way to the expo where I got my race bib and t-shirt. I headed into the expo which was quite crowded but I knew to expect that after being in NYC. It was literally hard to move through the crowd but I was focused on buying a few key Boston items. I felt, while it was quite bright, I had to have the official Boston jacket for that year. I also found one that was black with a silver logo on it and debated on whether to get both or just one. In the end I convinced myself I only really had one running jacket so could really use a few more, so I got both. Since the race shirt we got as a part of the entry fee was long sleeve, I found a short sleeve one that I liked and got that. And finally I couldn't resist the teddy bears with the Boston t-shirts and in fact got 3 of them (one for each kiddling and one for me!). The line was crazy long but moved incredibly fast. On the line I also got a free poster which was pretty cool. Later I found out that the fine print background of this poster actually had the names of ALL of the entrants of the race on it. Wow, the print was very light and tiny, but I did eventually find my name on there.

After exiting the Adidas store section of the expo I wandered around a while to a variety of booths, only to find I went in a small circle and saw a t-shirt I had forgotten I wanted to buy ever since I saw it in a catalog for the marathon. It was a green cotton tee with the Boston logo and some shamrocks across the front. So I did the dreaded thing of getting BACK into the long line which again went fast.

After this I noticed a line of people that were just hanging out and not moving so I asked what the line was for and the guy at the end said it was to get Bill Rodgers autograph. That sounded great to me so I got in line. Little did I know that while the line seems pretty short, Bill Rodgers is quite a friendly guy and likes to talk a lot to each person. Great if you are that person but perhaps not so much if you are at the end of the line. Still I didn't really have any agenda or plans so I stayed put. After about 2 hours I finally got to the front. It was so great to meet Bill Rodgers and to chat for a bit. He really seemed to want to know about each runner that waited in line for him. We talked about NYC and he told me that NYC was much harder than Boston, which I wanted to believe but was somehow still skeptical. Bill signed my poster and also my race bib and I had a few pics taken with my iPhone. It was pretty cool! As I am writing this I just remembered I also have the business card of a woman from Australia that I met while on the line to see Bill and I have yet to email her so I need to do that tomorrow. She also took some pictures of me with Bill.

By this time I had not had lunch but realized that the Runner's World seminar that Bart Yasso was giving was about to start. Right around this time Tom and his friend Darren also tracked me down so we all headed to Bart's seminar. He talked about his book, My Life on the Run. I had bought the book at the expo in NYC and he had signed it, but even though I had read the book the seminar was still very entertaining. His story about his Badwater experience was hilarious. I was so glad I went. After that I was torn between attending the next session on Chi/barefoot running OR going a few stops on the T to Brookline to the Publick House pub. It was a tough decision but in the end I chose the pub. Darren stayed for the seminar and Tom and I met up with his running group friends Dan and Robert and headed to the pub.

The train ride was good as was the pub. We tried several beers and appetizers and timed it perfectly to get back for dinner at the Atlantic Fish Company. Dinner was also very nice. Robert, Dan and Darren were fun to hang out with. Tom got to meet up with his cousin who was also running the race so that was pretty cool. After dinner I turned in to get some rest with no real firm plans for the next day. That is really unsual but I decided that keeping my options open and not committing to anything may be good for a change!

To be continued in part II...

Tobacco Road Half Marathon, March 21, 2010

I am very late in writing this report on the Tobacco Road Half. My excuse is it's been a very busy 2010 so far! The Tobacco Road Half was actually my first race of 2010 and last race in the "under 40" age group. I was supposed to run another race in 2010 before this one, the Myrtle Beach Half. But as luck would have it, that race was snowed out. I did manage to get out there and run about 8 miles on the morning of the cancelled race and even attended the after party where I picked up my not so well deserved medal. All in all it was still a fun weekend despite the race not happening. I was very impressed by just how many runners didn't let a little thing like the race being cancelled stop them from having fun. There was a great sense of camaraderie out there that morning, I only wish I had run the entire half marathon course because I felt like a slacker when I heard that some ran the entire full marathon course anyway.

Ok, but back to the Tobacco Road Half....

I had been training for that race by running part of the course a few times. Still I was nervous since I hadn't been putting in the miles overall and also hadn't run a race since Dec 2009. But I was excited to run a new local race like this one, especially with so many other RTR and other running friends also doing it. The kids and Keith were away for that weekend. Though the race wasn't very far away, I got up extra early so I could carpool from Tracy's house near Thomas Brooks Park, where the race starts and ends. We packed two cars full with five people in each (a tight fit in the Jeep Wrangler for sure!) and made our way to the park. It was quite crowded and the port a potty lines were very long, so long in fact that I knew I'd never make it to the front in time. So I used what little woods and remaining cover of early AM darkness to my advantage and then ran over to the starting line to get a good spot.

I decided to start near the front by the 1:40 pace group. That was the fastest one for the half and while I figured I wouldn't run with them, since I always prefer to do my own thing, I figured it would be a good place to line up. Alexis started where I did but everyone else must have lined up farther back. The mayor of Cary announced the race start and we were off running pretty quickly. I started at a pretty fast but comfortable pace. About 1 mile or so in, a crazy guy who lives on the the road the race runs along, who clearly had somewhere important to be, sped out of his driveway directly in front of the pack of runners just in front of me. He's lucky he didn't hit anyone and he didn't get a warm reception for pulling that crazy stunt. But it certainly got the adrenaline going early on!

This first leg of the race is just under 3 miles and consists of rolling hills until you get to the Tobacco Trail. This is where the half and full marathons split and the half goes right and full goes left. I was pleasantly surprised to be cheered on by a friend from RTR, Randy, at this point. It was so nice to see some familiar faces at this race. You can't get that when you are far from home. I started to feel tired and a bit intimidated the minute we hit the trail. It's just strange to race there for me. I could only see a few runners ahead of me and heard the crunching of the fine gravel/dirt trail with every step. Very different than a road race for sure.

By mile 6 or so, I ended up running next to an older gentleman who was keeping the pace pretty well. He seemed to be really enjoying the day and chatting with folks here and there. After getting to about mile 7, the front runners started to head towards us and they were staying to the right instead of following the signs that said to stay left. It was at that point that I knew the older gentleman running near me was actually one of the race founders since he began immediately to redirect the runners and volunteers (sometimes very passionately!). He even ran back to ensure things were all fixed. I commended him later on his leadership skills as I passed him going the other direction after I hit the turnaround at mile 8. Even with doubling back I later found out he didn't finish very far behind me! Also later found out he'd run Boston several times.

I was very happy to hit mile 8 and turn around but quickly realized that as cool as it was to know a lot of people in the race it was also a bit distracting to be running in the opposite direction of them and saying hi while you are starting to get tired. By mile 9 I had had enough of the trail part of the course and was looking forward to a change in scenery. Plus by that time the crowd heading North on the trail was very large and there was too little space for those now heading South. I felt I was nearly being run off the road a few times. I kept saying to myself that all would improve at mile 10 when we'd make the left (thus the need to keep left and not right) onto the road again. It was nice to see some RTR friends manning the aid stations along the way. Dan was at mile 6 and 10 and Brandy, Kristine and Heiko were at the "unofficial" aid station which I did not partake of since I was struggling enough without adding beer to the mix!

I was very relieved to finally make that left turn back onto the road. But while the change in scenery was good, the uphill climb was not so good. I was pretty tired at point after maintaining about a 7:15 pace up until then. I was running out of steam and knew the course enough to know the 3 miles that remained were going to be challenging. Just as I started my climb, an older but extremely fit woman who had been running near me on and off during the race steadily moved ahead of me. I knew I was slowing down and would just not be able to stay with her.

By mile 11 I was so ready to be done, but unfortunately had 2.1 miles to go! I knew that Mike, another RTR friend, would be at the mile 12 aid station and it felt like that was so far away. I just kept plugging along knowing that my pace had slowed a lot in those last miles. As I passed mile 12 however I felt a bit more energized at the though of having only one more to go. The best feeling was rounding the left turn onto Green Hope School Road. Somewhere at or before that a guy said to me that I'd be in the top 25 women if I could pick off 2 more. Unfortunately I knew I did not have that in me and at that point was just trying to finish for time. I knew it would not be a PR but it wasn't bad at all. Of course the second half was slower than the first so no negative splits that day. But I did give it a good sprint at the end and finished 27th overall of 1261 women in a time of 1:37:15. I was 7th of 294 women in my age group. This was the second best half marathon ever for me.

I met up with my group at then end and we went back to Tracy's place for breakfast and to clean up. It was a great race and a fun day. Several RTR friends also completed the full marathon that day. I am not sure I'd be able to do that one, the half took enough out of me. Still I was very pleased with my time. It was a good way to end my last race before entering the "masters" group.

Next stop...Boston! I found it hard to believe at the time that it was only a short month away.