April 20, 2009
Training through the winter proved challenging this time around. I spent my first winter in Midland MI, which saw me learn how to shovel snow and run in sub 0 temperatures for the first time in my life! There were also the unusually cold temps that gripped NYC in January/February—yes I went home for some long runs-- and the occasional spills on black ice or on the trails, and an encounter with a car mirror (thankfully he was parked)! But no real damage done, so training went on!
As some of you know, I sometimes had to split my long runs into two legs, some miles with one crew, and the rest of the miles with another crew—sometimes the "crew" was just one person, sometimes it was my group of gals, and other times it was my group of guys! I'm grateful to have been able to persuade each of you to run with me, as I couldn't have put in the miles otherwise. Well, some of those long runs felt great, and some felt terrible. This led me to wonder, "How will Boston go?"
Despite plenty of nerves, the excitement was high. Julia and I headed for the Sheraton on Dalton Street a few minutes before 6AM; that's where I was meeting the rest of my team, and where we'd load the busses that would take us to the start. Along the way we found an open Starbucks! Awesome, I could get my soy hot chocolate and Julia her Soy Latte!
I had my bagel with peanut butter and honey as well, and temps were to be
between 39-48 degrees. I was set!
At the Sheraton, we met Francisco and Grace (who would be pacing for the first half), and Kelly (A New York Running Divas teammate) and loaded the bus. As it turns out, we ended up having the whole bus to ourselves, and were escorted by cops on motorcycles! After what seemed like a long time, really only because of my nerves, we arrived in Hopkinton with 2.5 hours till the start of the race! Time flew by though, and after numerous visits to the porcelyn throne, we were off to our corrals.
Standing in our corrals, with the wind blowing from what seemed like every direction, we stripped off our throw-away cloths. Then, the Star Spangle Banner was performed, and a couple of minutes later, the race was underway. Julia was on the tether, Francisco and Grace got us off to a great start, and Joe was right behind us—making me feel like I was in a nice safe pocket of space. A few minutes into the first mile though, there was a mini hill. Funny, I didn't remember that hill being there last year. But it was too soon to panic I thought.
We hit the 5K/8K/10K right on pace for our 3:20 goal, and the 10K with a few seconds to spare. But another baby hill had caught my attention around mile 4-5. Hmmm, had we turned the wrong way? Not possible, there was no where to turn or to veer off the corse…Onward…Suddenly, the winds seemed to calm down, and the sun was peaking out, but mile 8 felt like a long mile! I had already taken my first chocolate gel,
but seemed to still be waiting for it to kick in. Another hmmm moment. Thankfully the 15K mats were beeping just ahead now, and the clock still showed us on pace. Miles 10-11 went by unnoticed, but the wall of sound from the Welsley Girls as we approached mile 12 seemed further away than in previous years. For some reason, it also seemed that there weren't as many of them out there cheering as in the past. As tough as the high pitched screaming can be on your ears, it certainly gives you a boost of energy. Unfortunately, I didn't feel it this year though. So I was hoping for some music, a band, something to perk things up a bit. No such luck.
We crossed the 20K mats, and just before 13.1 I told Grace to go on without us. She was feeling good, and we would be meeting Charles shortly, so guide wise we'd be OK. I remember checking my time at the half way point, and as I did, the winds started gusting up again. My legs felt drained, and I knew then that I'd have to slow down if I wanted to finish the race. That's a tough thing to acknowledge at that point in the race as that's where the hardest part of the race begins. But slow down by how much? I tried not to think about it as by mile 14 Julia and Francisco had to drop back. That's a difficult moment for everyone especially because they've worked so hard with me to get me this far, and to leave them feels almost like I'm losing part of myself.
Marathons in particular are all about team work for me. Someone is always doing a bit of crowd control/management, someone's always getting water/Gatorade, and someone's always on the tether. Without all of those things happening simultaneously, I couldn't be out there!
Back to the race…Joe was on the tether now, and Charles was the crowd/drinks man! A chat between Joe (who's originally from Ireland) and a fellow Irishman provided some brief entertainment, mainly because it turns out they were from neighboring towns in Ireland, and were just meeting here on the corse! At the 25K mats the clock still showed us under 2 hours. I was surprised, perhaps a recovery was possible! But again, no luck. Here came the real series of rolling hills. I remember just tucking my head down a bit, and telling myself to pump my arms as they would make my legs move up the hills. The winds were blowing, and they were cold. I would feel a bit of a chill, and then a bit warm as we crested each hill. Not a good feeling. By the 30K, with Heart Break hill still to come, my pace had slowed down, and I remember thinking, "just finish, go under 3:30." But the lack of music on the corse, the winds, the other runners slowing down right in front of us, and tired legs made even a 3:30 seem impossible!
I remembered my 1200s repeats, and my mile repeats, mainly b/c those were long intervals just like the long climbs we were running, and tried to used those to get me to the top of Heart Break Hill. (Thanks Gary and Sidewalk Rob.) Then we came across some of our friends who were spectating all the way from mile 21 to the finish. That energy was better than any gel I had had thus far! Finally too, some down hills. Ooh, tight quads didn't appreciate those as much as I did though! And then, the "YMCA" song came blaring over some speakers! Yes, music! I wish it could have followed me along the rest of the way!
Feeling thirsty, but with no desire for water or Gatorade, we finally reached the 40K mats! Just 1.4 miles to go. Some more winds though, one last hill to climb (albeit small/short), could we break 3:30? The crowds were cheering us all on from both sides of the road, and with Charles now getting the hang of politely yelling "Sorry, blind runner coming through!", I dug down for the last bits of energy I could find.
Just a tiny bit was hiding deep down inside, and I opted for Charles's hand over the tether. The final turn on to the straight away towards the finish was approaching! Just as we made the turn, I remember hearing him say, "I can see the finish!" Those words were magical! I tucked in my arms, focused on my turnover, and with the race announcer within hearing range, I gave it all I had left! We crossed the mats in 3:28:32!
Well, having felt like I never really got into a rhythm, my legs feeling like they just didn't have enough fuel, losing a couple of guides, and strong head winds, just makes me want to train harder, and smarter, and to do it all over again!
I extend an enormous "thank you", and much appreciation, to all of you for having a part of either my training and/or my race experience. Whether you ran a 5K race, were in Church (out in nature) on some Sundays, or ran 23 miles with me, were willing to learn how to guide, and put up with my chatting which was my attempt at slowing down the speedsters of the crew (and you know who you are, Ice Cold Tooth Pick!), you all contributed to my being able to run this year's Boston.
To running many more miles together!