Mind over matter...Never give up

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Boston Marathon, April 19, 2010 - Part 4

Bill Rodgers Running Center

Faneuil Hall

Well deserved glass of wine at the airport

So the race is over, but just thought I'd write a little on the post-race and beyond. I had a great time in Boston, really enjoyed the expo and the seminars put on by RW magazine. The race was tough, especially the last 1o miles. But it was a great experience. I still think I love NY better but now that the pain has subsided I think I'll have fond memories of Boston as well. I did a little sight seeing my walking from the hotel to the expo both days. Now I know my way around Boston a little to know what I'd like to see when I visit next time, likely not for the marathon!

After finishing the race and finding Tom's running group, we waited for a while trying to find Brandi. I won't write too much about that since I am not sure she'd want me to but long story short her stomach was feeling a bit upset after the race so she walked back to the hotel. But since neither she nor I had cell phones I didn't know and waited for her and even checked the medical tent just in case. Daren was great at getting us in there and getting some answers. :-) Once we knew Brandi wasn't there we parted ways figuring she had left already. Tom's running group went to get a cab back to their hotel and I thought about taking a cab to mine but then recalled I had no money! But it was only just under 2 miles and the weather was fine and walking is good after a race so once I got my bearings (had to ask a race volunteer and then a Boston cop) I headed back on foot. I was really tired so was very glad to get back. I called Brandi and found that she was at the hotel safe and sound. I then took a quick shower, called my husband, and headed to find food. I was so hungry and tired that I just went to the pub across the street and sat outside since it was pretty crowded inside. I had a yummy sandwich and a beer and then hobbled back to the hotel. I was able to nap on and off but wasn't up for going out again for dinner so just stayed in.

The next day I felt sore but walking around did help. Brandi and I had breakfast at Au Bon Pain and headed over to Faneuil hall. We visited the Bill Rodgers Running Center and I had some really good NY style thin crust pizza (or maybe in Boston they think it's Boston style). We didn't have time for more sightseeing (duck boats, museums, shopping in other parts of town) but that was ok, I was ready to come home after a great weekend. We headed for the airport and parted ways there since we were on different flights. At the airport I finally got a chance to sit and have a nice glass of wine with lunch. Life is good!
I met several Raleigh area runners again on the way back and it was nice to chat with them while waiting at the airport. I think most everyone had similar things to say about the down hills and that Heartbreak wasn't as bad as they thought but the last 10 miles overall were pretty tough. While most did not PR, I think everyone was glad to have had the experience whether it was their first Boston or not.

I can't say that this will be for sure my last Boston, but it likely will for a while. I don't see a big need now to do it again but perhaps I'll feel different someday. I also can't say it will be my last marathon but again not sure when I'll do another one. For me it's not just the challenge of running marathon but the experience of the race itself. I have only done 3 of them and each one I did for a reason beyond just running. Marine Corp had a great historical setting in DC, lots of monuments to see and I had heard the Marines and crowds were really supportive so it was a great choice for a first marathon. I have to agree, it was. And I was able to visit my friend Kim from college who lived there. For NYC, well that is such a great race and city and near my hometown in NJ so I've always wanted to run it. It has a great history and runs through so many diverse neighborhoods in the 5 boroughs. What could top a start on the Verrazano Narrows bridge! For Bart Yasso, who has done many races, it's the Comrades Marathon that is his life goal, which he's running this year. For me, NYC was like my Comrades. It was the race that I had entered and had to postpone doing in 2000 and then had to withdraw from in 2001 due to work priorities. and was too busy for after that with work, house, kids, relocating, etc. So I always wanted to go back to do it, which I did, and did well. And finally Boston, while I had not really dreamed of it personally for a long time, I had certainly thought more about it over the last year and knew it was a race many of my friends were aiming for. I was proud to be part such a well respected race with such a long history.

So what's next? Well I'd like to focus on speeding up in my shorter races. I won't be doing one every weekend but will probably pick a few that I'd like to do this year. So far I would like to go back and do the Great Raleigh Road Race (GRRR), which is on July 4th, provided it's being held this year. After that, not sure yet. I have thought about when or if I'd do another marathon, even though I had said I was done with that after Boston. For the next one if I do one, I think it would have to be one associated with a trip someplace nice or a close by one that is a fast course so I could aim to PR. Not sure I'd like to run one that is any farther of a flight than a few hours though and if I do, that won't be soon since our vacation plans for this year are already set. I am considering Richmond since it's close by, I've heard it's fast and we have family there. Not sure if this year would be an option for that though so that's likely something for next year. Chicago someday may be something I'd do since it's supposed to also be fast and I've really not been there except for business so didn't see any of the city. But that would require more advanced planning since it fills fast I believe.

So right now I am trying to continue running a few times a week in the mornings before work and then once every week or two in the evening w. RTR if I can, in addition to long runs on Sunday. I discovered in my panic to get miles in during the week that getting up early while a bit painful is actually not so bad and feels much better than not running at all that day. I am recording the miles I run with my Garmin still but I have no specific training plan yet beyond Boston. I guess I better get on that soon if I want to run a faster time at the GRRR though. Right now the next big race is (or actually "was" since I'd already run it by the time I wrote this) the 1 mile fun run at the Second Empire race. I ran the 50 yd dash with Grace and the 1 mile with Owen and it was awesome. That will be the next blog post!

Second Empire 1 Mi Fun Run and 50 Yd Dash, May 2, 2010

Grace and Mommy in the 50 Yard Dash

Grace getting her medal

Owen "coming in first" ahead of Mommy

Owen and Mommy getting our medals

Although my blogs to date have been about races I have run, I have been wanting to write one about this particular race from back in May, even though I didn't "race" it. It was probably one of the best races I have participated in and the reason is because I got to run with Owen and Grace. Owen decided he really wanted to run a race, probably just for the medal but hey, he was excited so why not! But no 50 or 100 yard dash would do this time. Instead he decided he was ready for the 1 mile because he had been running almost enough laps around the track at his school to equal a mile.

We did one practice run at the track before the race and Owen ran the 8 laps to make one mile, so I knew he was ready. He stopped and walked here and there and had a lot of water breaks, but he was smiling at the end so that was good. Grace also came along but she was easily distracted by the "flowers" in the field nearby (aka weeds) so she decided to stop and pick some.

We registered them both for the Second Empire race, Owen for the 1 mile fun run and Grace for the 50 yard dash. Owen and I went to pick up the race packet a few days before so we'd have our t-shirts for the race. His was a bit big but it was a pretty cool tech shirt that matched mine.

On the day of the race, which was in the afternoon in downtown Raleigh, it was pretty warm out. One benefit to the race location is that it's around the corner from The Flying Saucer, a bar with lots of great beer options and good food. So Keith was convinced to come to spectate. :-) We arrived as the first group of 5K runners were finishing and I saw a few running friends finish the race. Everyone looked very hot and sweaty and I was kind of glad to be running the 1 mile instead.

Grace's race was up first. The year before, in the same race, she turned around and cried at the start so I had to carry her the 50 yards to get her medal. I was hoping this year would be better. We didn't know this in advance, but thank goodness her friend and classmate Elizabeth and her mom were running too. This distracted Grace for a bit and she was all smiles at the start. We held hands as we raced to the finish. Grace was very proud of her medal and happy that she and her friend ran the race together. I was happy she ran with no tears and no carrying!

Next it was Owen's turn. Lots of adults, even those without kids, were lined up at the start. But there were also a lot of kids Owen's age as well. He was very excited but a bit nervous. But once the gun went off, he took off at full speed. He continued that much of the race, running at super sonic speed and then walking in between. A good speed workout I guess but not how I'd usually advise running a mile race. He didn't really seem to want mom's advice so we just kept running along according to his training plan.
I think Owen thought it was pretty cool to be running down the middle of a street all alone and not having to hold anyone's hand. He kept trying to pick off other runners and was not extremely modest about doing it. Of course then he'd stop and walk and they'd usually pass us again. It was really great to reach the half way mark and turn around toward the finish. Owen had a few times that he wanted to give up, but he kept plugging along and we'd agree to run to a particular light post or sign and then walk a bit. Soon he could see the giant inflatable arch finish line. Once he could see it there was no stopping him. He picked up his speed and took fewer breaks and of course passed mom to win the race. He clarified, after bragging about coming in first, that he really just meant he came in first in front of me. :-)

Owen was quite proud of his medal and I even got a medal too. It was a really great first race to run post-Boston Marathon. Afterwards we had some beer (well not Owen and Grace) and snacks at The Flying Saucer. And on the way home, Owen fell fast asleep from his big race.

We haven't signed up for any other races yet, but I hope that Owen and Grace will want to keep running. It was great fun and I was very proud of them!

Boston Marathon, April 19, 2010 - Part 3

Map and elevation from my Garmin

Somewhere on the course, looking in pain, maybe on Boyleston?

Crossing the finish line!

Big cheesy grin showing how glad I was to be DONE!

I got up around 5am to get ready for the race, which started at 10am. I am not sure why but I still was really not able to grasp the idea that today I would be running a marathon. Denial! I ate my oatmeal and bananas and rechecked the bag I packed. This was the first time I would be checking a bag so I could change after the race since I heard that you could drop your bag off pretty late and since I didn't have anyone to meet me there to bring my stuff. Here is a tip however when doing this...remember to pack some cash in there because you can't get a cab back to the hotel w. out that. But more on that later...

I met Brandi in the lobby at 6:10am and we walked over to Boston Common to the start (with my handy hand-drawn map since there was no way I was bring my iphone to carry or check). We got there with no problem and I took the first option to use the port a potty there and then we lined up for the bus. I think we probably did some line cutting but to be fair the lines were crazy unorganized from the standpoint that some were short and then there was one long one that seemed to feed into some but not all of the short ones. So there was no way we were getting on that one. We got on a bus pretty quickly and were off to Hopkinton. I am not sure how long it actually took but I heard on the bus that it was going to be 40 minutes or so, so I ended up needing to move seats because I was sitting right on the wheel well and my knees were in my chest. I figured that while it seemed like a good stretch to do, doing it for 40 min was likely not a good idea before a marathon.

I sat next to a woman from NYC who had run something like 20 marathons but she was younger than me so that was impressive. Of course no kids yet. She had run Boston a few times so we talked about NY vs Boston and some other races. Once we got to the start village Brandi and I found a good spot and did the ritual stretching, applying body glide and aspercreme (can't believe with that around bengay is still in use...very old school), eating a second breakfast, and several port a potty stops. Before long, they were calling us to the start, so it wasn't too bad of a wait, about the same as NY. We commented though that since it was at the Hopkinton Middle (?) School and we rode school buses it felt just like a big cross country meet instead of a big marathon. The start village for sure had more of a small town feel rather than a big city race. It was a nice contrast to NY, not better or worse just a nice difference.

We headed to the buses to drop off our bags and then proceeded to the start about 3/4 mi away. And of course I needed to use the port a potty again. Turns out that they had them near the start thank goodness but not actually in the corrals. So the lines were pretty long and they were policing those trying to just go outside of the potties. I got in line and was still freaking out when it was less than 10 min to start and I still was in line. But some other folks who were more relaxed about it said not to worry, yeah right! I got in and out and ditched my throw away clothes since it was fairly warm out (above 50 I would guess). I kept a very light ls shirt and my gloves. I sprinted to the corral only to find a log jam. No one moving in, a huge group standing outside it. Very concerning based on my NYC experience where once the corrals were closed, too bad, you had to wait until the next wave. Boston it turns out is less formal. And I didn't realized until the start that it would take 10 min to get to the start line anyway so I really was ok even standing outside the corral. But being the person I am and since I didn't know that, I did manage to convince people to move in a bit and got in.

The start was much less exciting than NYC I have to say. In NYC you are moved up close enough to hear the cannons signal the start right after Mayor Bloomberg and Mary Wittenberg (NYRRC president) and some professional runners said a few words. As Frank Sinatra belts out New York New York you can't help but feel goose bumps and almost ready to cry that you are there. Boston, not really so much. I didn't really even hear the start but saw the crowd moving far in the distance after a few minutes. Since in Boston you need to qualify the field is pretty fast so I was in corral 11 of the first wave, which only went up to corral 13. After about 10 minutes of mainly walking, I finally reached the start and started to feel excited.

The crowds were there for sure, along the entire course, just like NYC. But as I ran I noticed it was a much more homogenious crowd than NYC. In NY you knew when you entered the different neighborhoods and boroughs. In this race, unless you were really looking for landmarks for each of the 8 towns the race goes through you'd likely miss a few. Not to say the crowd was not great and supportive, because they were. I also noticed fewer runners from over seas, fewer different languages being spoken at the start and fewer crazy costumed runners than in NY. The only one I recall seeing that made my day was a tall lanky bald man with a British accent, who was dressed all in pink complete with fairy wings, tutu, wand and pink running shoes. I don't know where he finished but it was certainly funny to see. A woman wearing a running skirt with a t-shirt that said "You've just been passed by a skirt" was running near him and he sprinted past her for a bit and said "ha, now YOU'VE just been passed by a skirt". Quite entertaining for a mile or so. :-)

The start is always billed as being one long down hill that you will fly through if you don't watch out. I noticed that I was feeling ok and keeping my normal marathon pace (which is only based on one marathon, NY) but I didn't feel I could easily go faster than that or that I was sailing along. I did maintain that pace, of just under 8 minutes, for the first half of the race and really not too much more than 8 min pace until I hit the hills in Newton. I was well aware of the dreaded hills of Newton, which peaked at Heartbreak Hill. I feared them of course but I did not think I'd fare any better on them by running a deliberately slower pace. I kept telling myself and others that I'd go slower in this marathon since I didn't have anything to prove and since I had not been training as much. However, really, who was I kidding? If I didn't feel bad, I wasn't going to go slower on purpose.

I have to say I didn't spend time looking at the sites as much as in NY. I also didn't do too much "high fiving" of kids because I was trying to focus on keeping the pace I was comfortable with. I knew that the race started in Hopkinton and passed through Ashland and then onto Framingham. I did see a few landmarks I recalled reading about such as the Framingham train station. I've never seen a big race where you have to be careful not to trip over train tracks in several places as well as be careful not to run into a few medians that divide the road. They did have some poor teenage volunteers (or more likely they were college students but just looked younger to me!) standing on the medians in bright clothes making lots of noise. Which to me says that often runners do run into the medians. I can see how it could happen and in fact I bet I'd have been one of them if I was running in the middle of the road but I was actually running closer to the right site most of the race.

I also recall passing over a bridge with a nice lake around 9 or 10 miles and I know I read about that but didn't recall the name of the lake, which I have now looked up and it's Lake Cochituate. I recall there was a hill after this that felt pretty long. I think that this part was through Natick but I don't recall a lot else. I knew at that point that the half way point, just on the other site of Wellesley, was coming up. I had heard of the Wellesley "scream tunnel" and had heard that you could hear it from far away. I think I probably did hear it faintly before I saw the girls lined up along the right side of the road. I guess that this part of the race is more exciting to the men running than to me, but still it did mark the nearly half way point, which to me was more exciting. The high pitched screaming was actually a bit distracting and I didn't even see any of the guys kiss any girls but heard later that some I knew did. I did not do any kissing because I was assuming that I was probably not what most of the Wellesley girls were hoping for.

After Wellesley College you enter the town of Wellesley which seemed very nice. It reminded me of some of the neighborhoods in the NY race for some reason. There were again lots of spectators on both sides of the road again but a bit less distracting than the girls were. I still tried to maintain the pace and keep saying my mantra which is "run the mile you're in". That worked pretty well but I was curious about those Newton hills and would soon find out what all the fuss was about. Well actually it's the first down hill that really got me, not Heartbreak as you'd expect. My right calf, which was the one that cramped around 23 miles in the NYC race, was bothering me from early in the race. Which is strange because it really hadn't been an issue in training. Just a race related injury that seems to surface in marathons I guess. Weird. Anyway, after the first big down hill between mile 15 and 16, my quads also joined the club and were really bothering me. So I knew that quads and calf would be in a race to see which one would be the bigger problem later.

I started what I though was the first of 3 hills in Newton and just kept going up and steep down and up and down, some were longer than others but in the end I counted more than 3! When I look at the Garmin, it looks like at least 4 to me between mile 16 and 21 which is Heartbreak Hill. My quads were pretty torn up and the calf wasn't much better but I was expecting Heartbreak Hill to have a big sign or something but all I saw was a woman holding a sign that said what I think was that we had made it over the hill. I read somewhere that not everyone notices that they have even finished Heartbreak because there is no big sign. Well I wouldn't say that I was that oblivious since I knew about where in the race it was and figured this long climbing hill was it. It wasn't too bad considering the reputation but again right after it is the down hill again which was painful. It was my slowest mile of the race, at 8:40, but that's probably to be expected.

It was at this point that I really couldn't stick to thinking about the mile I was running, even though I tried. Again the rest of this part of the race reminded me a bit of parts of the NYC race, in particular as we headed into Brookline. I was not really sightseeing at this point though since the quad and calf issues continued. I found it kind of amusing that my big issues had been my knees for the last few weeks prior to the race and yet despite a bit of soreness early on, they were now fine. In fact everything else was too. I wasn't tired, wasn't having any trouble breathing, etc. The quad and calf were the only thing slowing me down. I stayed around an average of 8:30 pace at this point for the rest of the race. I simply could not go any faster and every mile felt longer. I felt some relief when I got to mile 23 since that was where I had major calf issues in NYC enough to make me stop for a few seconds to rub it. Still I knew it could give out at any time. I also recall some small but painful hills in these last few miles. Nothing like in Newton but ever mole hill seemed a mountain by this point. I had been expecting flat or down hill from Heartbreak onward but that was not really the case. Still somewhere around here I saw someone holding a sign that was pretty motivation that said "find your happpy place". So I tried to do that to get through these last few miles.

Between mile 24 and 25 I also experienced some foot cramping which I just basically "willed away" by saying "nope, that is not happening" and it seemed to work! I knew a bad foot cramp could really be a problem but I just kept going. I know that the big Citgo sign in the distance is a signal that you are nearing the end of the race but since you can see it from pretty far away you aren't quite as close as you think. Still it was a welcome sign. But still bearing right from Beacon onto Commonwealth at the sign feels pretty good. This means that there is just one mile to go and for some reason I always think about this as just 4 laps around the track, hey I can do that right?!

I knew my time would not be under 3:30 at that point but I was ok w that. It would have been nice but I was not really aiming for that time and really knew I couldn't have run faster anyway in those last few miles. I wasn't at Boston to BQ, and I was really pretty happy to be under 3:40, so the possibility of 3:35, which I didn't really start to calculate until about mile 25 or later, was pretty good to me. I knew the famous (well I guess it's famous if there is a t-shirt at the expo that says it) right on Hereford, left on Boyleston was coming soon, though not soon enough for my pained legs. As I turned right on Hereford my foot cramp tried to come back but again I willed it away. But when I turned left onto Boyleston, and I could see the finishline in the distance, a lot farther in the distance than I had hoped, the calf muscle finally hit it's breaking point. Just as in NYC, I was stopped dead in my tracks by it. I am not sure if I was imagining it or not but I thought I heard a few moans or roars from the crowd sort of indicating that I couldn't stop now. I had actually run the entire way, and never stopped or walked once, not even through water stops, so if I was stopping it was bad. I regrouped and looked at the finish line and just started to run despite the major pain and figured I could stop at the finish and sit or whatever I needed to do but once I looked at my watch and it was 3:33 (and I couldn't see the seconds) I was motivated to sprint to get in under 3:35.

As I crossed the finish line I felt a great relief. I checked my watch and determined I had just made it under 3:35 with a time of 3:34:56. I was pretty proud of that. I also saw another Raleigh area man who I had seen at the airport on the way to Boston. He finished right in front of me. I had passed him in the last half mile but then when I had the calf cramp he passed me in the end. We chatted for a few minutes and he said that the City of Oaks marathon in Raleigh was actually about the same or harder than Boston, so that certainly didn't encourage me to really ever want to run that one! Going through the post race chute area, I was definitely wiped out and thought I may need to sit down at one point but never did. I was thirsty and hungry so gladly took the strawberry kiwi protein drink and some cookies but really wished I also had ice for my calf and quads. I know they had it somewhere because I saw people with it but somehow I'd missed it. I got my medal and heat sheet and posed for a post race picture. The volunteer nearby said I looked like I was determined to get that picture because it was the last time I'd run this race and I agreed that she was probably right, at least for now. My stats for the 2010 Boston Marathon were 3:34:56, 8538 overall of 22629 finishers, 1898 of 9524 women finishers, 287 of 1685 women in my age group (40 to 44, first race in the "masters" group).

I wandered to find my bus with my bag of clothes and found Daren who had finished within a few minutes of me. We changed and went to meet the rest of his running group. It was a great race and trip and my only regret, which isn't a biggie, is I wish I'd bought that "Wicked Fast Runnah" shirt at the expo. ;-)

More on the post race and beyond in part 4...

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Boston Marathon, April 19, 2010 - Part 2

Amby Burfoot reading from his new book "Going Long"

At the 26.2 mile mark (at the expo)

Cheers bar

Cool but dangerous looking ceiling in the ladies room at Bin 26 on Charles Street

Not so nice side of Boston in Little Italy (Go Yankees!)

Sunday began with sleeping/lounging a bit which I never do. I played around on the iPhone and was really in no hurry to rush out to do anything. I thought about a quick run but then realized that another Runner's World seminar was starting around 10am or so and I had little time to get there so I didn't have time and if I ran there I couldn't bring my purse and copy of RW magazine which I hoped to get signed by some RW staffers. So I rushed to get ready and for some reason decided to walk again (taxi would probably have been a lot faster), this time a better route through Boston Common. I stopped for a quick (which actually took too long) bite and coffee on the way and then ended up needing to literally sprint in my jeans with my purse to the expo center to make the seminar in time.

Bart Yasso was just finishing introducing the RW staffers who were going to discuss "How to Run Your Best Boston" as I arrived. It was a good seminar with each editor sharing their Boston experiences. Mark Remy had the funniest list of "how to run your worst Boston", so it really was a fun session. I decided in the end to stay for the next session with Amby Burfoot and David Willey and another RW writer who each read excerpts from their new book "Going Long". It was also a great session and I am sure I'll buy the book soon but have not yet. I got to talk with David and Amby after the session and they even signed by RW magazine, which was very nice of them. Definitely a great day for a runner thus far!

I headed back to the expo to check out some things I had missed the day before. I am sure I didn't even get to see everything, it was huge. In the end I decided to head back to the hotel and to stop and get my pre-race stuff on the way. First I had lunch (pasta and a splash of wine) at Bin 26 (I think it was 26?) on Charles Street. Then I picked up the race staples (bananas, gatorade, water, etc) and the DeLuca Market across the street. Finally a trip to CVS to get a few unmentionables (um we can say that some antibiotics have a bad effect and leave it at that). Then back to the hotel for a very short nap before dinner.

I met up w. Brandi from RTR to walk over to meet Tom and friends for an early carb loading dinner in Little Italy. On the way we saw a lovely display of Boston Red Sox pride, a Yankees Suck t-shirt so I had to snap a picture even though I am a Yankee fan. Dinner at Lucia's was nice. We met a few others from Tom's running group. We headed back from dinner fairly early to turn in early. On the way Brandi decided she needed some sweat pants and some very persuasive local shop owners convinced her that their fine high quality sweat pants that said "Italia" down one leg were just want she needed, for a bargain at $40. I fear that if she did not purchase them we would have been followed back to the hotel and perhaps fitted with cement running shoes, but that's a story for another blog. ;-)

I think I organized and reorganized my running stuff many times but actually slept better than I usually do the night before a race. In fact I had no race related dreams at all which is probably a first. Just goes to show how much in denial I was about this whole marathon thing actually happening on my lovely vacation to Boston!

Continued in part 3...