Thursday, April 21, 2011

Boston Marathon 2011, part 2

OK, so the big day arrived. I woke up a minute before my alarm clock went off (3:00am). Got out of bed and got dressed, braided my hair, double and triple checked my bag and made sure I had everything I needed. I made myself a cup of tea had a piece of toast with peanut butter on it and made myself a PB, Banana, honey sandwich for later in the morning in Hopkinton. Turned on the TV and started watching the early pre-race coverage on WBZ Channel 4 at 4:30am. Charles was picking me up at 5:15 so I had another cup of tea and tried to relax. I checked my bag again and grabbed the sunblock off my shelf, held it in my hand and thought, "I should probably bring this", then.....the decision I would seriously regret later in the day, I put it back on the shelf and said to myself, "Nah, won't need it."

Charles showed up right on time (for him) about 15 minutes late. I poured one more cup of tea into a disposable travel cup and headed out the door. We drove into Boston, parked the car and made our way to the Common to get in line for the buses. This has to be one of my favorite views, right on par with a gorgeous sunrise or a finish line within reach, thousands of people and a sea of Boston Marathon bags neatly lined up like ants filing into an ant hill and buses one after another filling up and taking off for the invasion of a small town called Hopkinton, MA. The bus ride took a little over an hour, but it went by fast. Talking about training and the excitement of race day and expectations and goals, then we arrived. The experience was a little different for me this year. I was not going to the DFMC retreat at the church and hanging out with all the other Dana Farber runners. This year I was going to the Athlete's Village. WOW! It's like Woodstock for runners. Gatorade and Poland spring and bagels and bananas and mylar blankets and port o potties. Soooooo coooool.

Speaking of cool, the temperature was pretty chilly. In the low 40s, but sunny. I didn't really want to give up my sweatshirt to walk to the start corrals, but I did and curled my throw away shirt over my arms like I always do to stay warm. This year they had a 3 wave start and Charles was in the super fast first wave. I had to wait 40 minutes after he started to get into my somewhat slower 3rd wave. It was fun though, watching all the other runners go and watching their families wish them well on their 26.2 mile journey. One little girl started crying and didn't want her mom to leave her, but through the tears mustered a wimpered "good luck" as her mom walked away to the corrals. So cute!

Finally, it was my turn to go. I lined up in my start corral. I looked around to see if I saw any familiar faces. I found a few Greater Lowell Road Runners and chatted and before we knew, "BANG!" the start gun went off and we were running. The tail wind was definitely noticeable and I ran the first 5K in a little over 28 minutes - WAY TOO FAST. Next 5K and the next 5K in 28:30 - Still too fast. And I knew it. I kept trying to pull back and slow down, knowing that this was a mistake and I would pay for it later. I tried to play mind games with myself and think I was going that fast because of the tailwind and I would be fine. I was about 30 seconds per mile faster than my goal pace and right around the halfway point in Wellesley, the sun came out and Mother Nature, the douche, made what I knew was going to be a slower second half a little more challenging. I crossed the 13.1 mark at 2:01 and I had a feeling today was not going to be the day to break 4hrs especially now with the sun baking me and my sunblock back at home on the shelf where I left it.

At mile 15, my body decided to start showing me how much it hates heat. I threw up at the water stop. This is my first warning sign of severe dehydration (usually I can tell when I stop sweating, but I was dumping water on myself and it was tough to tell if I was still sweating). I slowed my pace by about a minute per mile and started sipping electrolyte replacement fluids from my fuel belt and got some more water at the next water stop and managed to keep it down. Coming up on Newton my favorite part of the course I was getting excited to see my friends and family and then almost exactly at the moment I saw the "Entering Newton" sign, I felt a pain in my right side like someone stabbed me in the liver. The dreaded side stitch that every runner has experienced at one time or another (tolerable during a training run, but devastating during the BOSTON MARATHON!).

I made it to my friends at the corner of Rt. 16 and Rt. 30 and just kept on running. I tried pushing through the pain and breathing into it. About half way up the first hill I saw my friend Tim and his wife and I was running with my right arm over my head and my left arm pressing on my flank trying to get rid of the pain. He asked if I was ok and I grunted "noooooo" to which he responded, "suck it up!" And that's exactly what I did. I gutted it out and started to feel better just as I got to Heartbreak hill. I practically sprinted to the top. The 30K was my slowest 5K on the course, but after that damn side stitch went away I picked up the pace and finished strong. My friend Cherie met me at mile 21 and ran me in the last 5 miles. I passed my Lowell friends at mile 23 and then my friends Ann and Jack at mile 25. From there I knew I could do it.

Cherie stayed two or three steps ahead of me and kept me going. We made the turn right onto Hereford and then left onto Boylston and Cherie said "this is it, don't leave anything on the course". I could see the finish and I picked up the pace and sprinted past people on that last stretch (I thought - crap if I had this much left maybe I could have done a little better on the hills, but who cares I'm almost done). We crossed the finish line and I gave Cherie a HUGE sweaty hug and looked at my watch - 4:16!!!!! A new PR by 11 minutes!!!!

We made our way through the finish corral and got water, food, and then of course, the medal (just for me, not for Cherie, in case anyone is thinkin' she grabbed one just for running 5 miles with me, she didn't). And just like last year, as soon as the medal was around my neck it hit me, I had just finished the Boston Marathon and I started crying.

I pulled myself together and we continued through the finish area, got my bag, and more food and met up with my friends and family. Here we all are (Ann, Jack, my brother Aaron, me, my mom, and Cherie):

Check out the awesome t-shirt Cherie ran in to draw attention to me and make people cheer for me. It was great!

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