Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Mission Accomplished

My "secret" goal of Boston was to run under 4-hours so I would re-qualify for it again next year, even though I am already qualified from my St. George 2008 time. But something told me that I needed a qualifying 2009 time to make it legitimate and so, going in to Boston, that was my true goal. So mission accomplished.

But that's not exactly true. I don't believe my mind ever got tangled, like in marathons past, and I got into the "zone" many times, especially the first 17 miles, but as I took off and was consistently averaging about 8:30 minute miles and not thinking it was too fast, I kind of thought that despite what countless people have told me, this may be a PR course. And I was on track for that for about the first 17 miles. I hit the half-way mark at 1:50:30. Double that and add about 4 or so minutes for the hills, I could possibly run this thing in a 3:45. Ok, that's where it all started to get ugly; this is not a idea for my mind.

When the hills came, they were merciless. Of all those you encounter from miles 16-21, the first Newton hill was, by far, the hardest. Steep. I slowed to about a 9:30 pace here...and never really recovered from that haunting 9-plus minute mile. Having only studied the course elevation a few times as to not wig out over them, I thought I was done with the hills at mile 20 and thought the infamous Heart Break was over and checked. Nope. It came, and it came with sheer force, unforgiving in duration and when I reached it's peak, my legs were screaming and I just had very little left in me.

Somewhere around mile 21, you turn left and are now headed directly towards downtown, and head-on into the wind. The winds had been strong since the start but they was even more fierce now. This is the point I also started having some major stomach problems. Intestinal. I took an orange slice from a spectator along the side and that tasted great and settled in my stomach fine, but anything else other than water was not appealing whatsoever; a true sign that I was suffering. From mile 22 on, it felt like a death-march and it took all my internal strength to not walk.

I crossed in 3:51:55 (or so I'm told, I have not looked on the official website and I forgot to stop my watch at the end). I thought I'd be overly emotional, like I was in Atlanta a few weeks ago when I PR'd, but I wasn't; I wanted that race to be done so badly by mile 22 that it was just such a relief to be crossed. All those years of dreaming and planning were over and I was glad!!

The start of the race was chilly but partially sunny; deciding what to wear was causing me so much stress but in the end, I wore a sleeveless shirt and a long-sleeved shirt over. I figured if it got warm, I could tie the long-sleeved one over it and tie it around my waist in case it got cold, as I hear it does, when I reached the water (and it DID). I thought about Dennis and his running group and how they would never dink around with their garments; they'd wear one shirt and be done with it. I just didn't want to have any regrets. I took the long-sleeved shirt off about mile 5 but by mile 22 on my ever-so-slow pace, I was cold and thought about putting the warmer shirt on, but honestly...I just didn't want to waste one second more on this course and wasn't going to waste time changing clothes. Even if it was just a few seconds. When I crossed the finish line, I was freezing and it was probably a good 200-300 yards before you got your shiny mylar blanket. It felt great but it was short-lived before I was shivering uncontrollably again and took quite awhile to get my sweat bag checked in before the race and to meet Karen under the "P" lamppost. She was a doll helping me into layers. I sat on the curb awhile trying to muster up enough strength to walk the 3 or so blocks to my hotel. Steve, from the running group called me and we had a great talk about the race; he told me, "Yeah, I didn't want to freak you out when we met earlier in the week about how hard the course was, but now you know, it is hard!" Yeah, thanks for that. ha. He told me he suffered at the end also and that felt good to know that someone that can run under a 3-hour marathon faltered severely at the end like myself.

One thing I must say is a huge, HUGE thank-you to the organizers of the Boston Marathon and the citizens of Boston and suburbs, who lined the streets many deep, showing their support. The girls of Wellesley were unbelievable with their roar; I've never heard anything like it before ever! The weather was cold but it didn't keep anyone inside. The organization of buses, sweat bag check, a billion port-a-potties before hand (how does one plan for 25,000 runners who have spent the past couple weeks over-hydrating?), the phenomenal aid-stations at every single mile after mile 2. It was incredible and the most well-run that I have ever seen. Thank you! I was truly impressed!

My friend, Sheri, had to leave to catch a flight home before I got to see her at the end but she did see me cross the finish-line along with my other friend, who is still here, Karen. Karen and I went out last night and had a great dinner and a few drinks. A great way to end a great day!

I mentioned to Dennis yesterday to shoot me if I ever told him I wanted to run another marathon other than Boston next year; I hurt that much at the end! But as I sat at the bar and listened to a few other runners off to the side talk about the race, my marathon heart started tugging already and I thought to myself that maybe yes, I will run another in the fall. Somewhere. My friend, Jonathon, has run an astonishing 64 marathons and while talking to him in my post-race celebratory bubble bath yesterday, he told me to not give up on the marathon, not to let it defeat me. Maybe he's right. And maybe, I need to see if I can sustain that 8:30 pace for the remaining 7 miles in another marathon that I couldn't do on Boston. As I sit here unable to move my legs (my quads are about as sore as they've ever ever been and my left knee is throbbing) something is telling me that I am NOT done. I am blessed to be given the gift of running the marathon and I don't think it's time to call it quits. I have the determination ... now I just need to find the courage. I know the simple glory of the start line and all it's power; I will not take it for granted when I start back up again and will play my cards better next time.
Are we endurance athletes driven by the solopsistic need for self validation; we hurt, therefore we are? Or is it that we love it and more is better?
In the meantime, I finished my first Boston marathon....and I am very proud!!!

It's been a whirlwind 4 days; I've had a blast.... but I am ready to go home! Thank you, Karen, from the bottom of my heart for being there for me these past few days - I laughed so much (oh the stories!). And thanks to ALL those who supported me along the way for the past several months. It's been a moment filled with portent and I could never have done it without you guys! Thank you!! And I wouldn't be here, of course, without Rob and all his knowledge about my core...it held up great.

Okay, enough of the Academy award speeches! It's been a great ride, Boston, I'll see ya' next year!

Karen, me, Sheri; Fenway Park


Dennis said...

Congratulations for running a great race. That's a great time for you on a tough course.

I'm happy you fulfilled your goal of running Boston.

Nice Write Up on the race.

Anonymous said...

Great succinct write up on the race. As my good friend and countryman Sir Winston Churchill one said, " We will never surrender to lactic acid and post-marathon fatigue. Never, never." ( ok so I added a bit to his real words)