Monday, May 5, 2014

This Post is as long as a marathon...

So, Sunday was a big race day across the land.  I knew lots of people racing all over the place, and my favourite thing to do is obsessively track as many of them as I can, living vicariously through their every step.
Congrats to everyone that ran races this weekend!  Shout out to Lorraine, with a big PB at the Mississauga Half Marathon.  I was there to see her, making it look easy on the roads :)

I do have a very special shout-out to my friend Robert, (you may remember me talking about him on here, smoking me in the Scotiabank 5k last fall, or as part of the duo that brought the "Runs for Buns" to Guelph).  Well.  Yesterday was the day that Robert celebrated a birthday, and became a Boston Qualifier.  I know.
He did this at a tough, hilly (are you a crazy man?) marathon.  The Pittsburgh Marathon.  I was bursting at the seams as I tracked him, (while cheering at another race) knowing he was going for one gutsy race.  Well-deserved, Robert!

I have said (multiple times) that 2014 would be my last consecutive Boston Marathon, as, although I love the race, the city, blah blah blah...I would take a break from it and come back in a few years.  Of course, I did throw in a little clause that stated that I would HAVE to go back the moment Robert qualified.  I think (I know) I knew that he was going to qualify before next year's registration.  So, twist my rubber arm, I will sign up to go back.  Yeesh, I can't go back on my word now, can I?  That just wouldn't be right.

As I excitedly sat and thought about all of the wonderful things he will experience in Boston, I realized that I really should be sitting down to finish my race recap from that big race.  So here it is.

(it's long...but we were gone for FOUR days, we ran for an insane amount of time, and it was Boston)

...but there are some photos.

What an incredible weekend.

We started the weekend at Grandma and Grandpa's house. This entire experience would NOT have been possible, if it weren't for the patience and love my parents so selflessly put forward. They said "yes" to taking our three boys from Friday until Tuesday, and I am certain that they are still napping to attempt to gain back even a small portion of the energy they lost while taking care (very good care) of our crazy troupe.

Papa and I decided to leave home on Friday afternoon, drive/shop/eat along the way, then stay somewhere in New York State. We would get up early Saturday morning to drive the rest of the way to Boston.

Along the highway we saw many, many cars clad with "26.2" bumper stickers, and some even had colourful lettering all over the outside of the car, exclaiming, "BOSTON STRONG!" etc.

Car selfie.

We kept a relatively low profile as we barrelled down the highway, chatting and having fun catching up with each other.   We talked at length about our marathon plan, food, water, mental components, etc.  I do not claim to be an expert on ANY of those things, but it's good to make a plan and talk about it regardless.

Late Saturday morning, we took the exit to Hopkinton!  We were there.  Almost.

Hopkinton.  At the starting line area
We really enjoyed stopping at the start line last year, and it was one of the major draws of driving there again, instead of flying. To see that little town without 36,000 other people before race day is so calm and exciting at the same time!

We took some photos, walked around a bit, then got back in the car. We had a race expo to attend!

Upon checking into our hotel (same hotel as the last 2 years, the Lenox) some of the reality of last year came back. We were told we would be required to wear special wrist bands, that no one other than registered guests would be allowed access to the hotel, and other security precautions.
My "gold bracelet."  I knew I would get jewellery for my birthday :)

The hotel staff at this hotel are amazing. Always friendly, familiar faces.

We quickly dropped our bags in our room, then made our way (about a 3min. walk) over to the expo.

This place was BUSY. Security upon entering (of course) and lots and lots (and lots) of runners!

I teared up (for the first of many times, trust me) as we entered the expo. We were actually there. This was happening.  We picked up our bibs, and I watched as many others felt the emotions of picking up their bibs. Such a journey for so many people. I wish I knew everyone's personal story of arriving in Boston. Especially this year.

We shopped around the expo (ok, we trudged our way through the crowds, trying to catch a glimpse of anything exciting) and my mission was to find a specific booth. The OOFOS booth.

Last year, Papa got a pair of OOFOS shoes, and we also bought a pair for my mom. They are sandals that are cushy and perfect. I didn't buy myself a pair last year, and (every time I throw on Papa's to dash out to the car or garage) I LOVE how soft and amazing they feel on my feet. Even if they're 5 sizes too big. My one mission at the expo this year was to buy a pair for myself.

Of course, we couldn't find the booth :(

I figured maybe real-estate at the expo was at a premium this year, so perhaps they didn't attend :(

We left the expo (aka, claustrophobiaville) and shopped around downtown. It was a gorgeous sunny day, and people were everywhere!  We couldn't believe how busy the streets were. We shouldn't have been surprised, with almost 10,000 extra runners in the race!

After a lovely dinner (Papa had seafood and I had the only non-seafood dish on the menu...I am so adventurous) we walked to a sports store that was sure to have my OOFOS shoes. I was on a mission.

They had them! Ahhhhhh

We settled back into the hotel fairly early and I made plans to sleep in the next morning, as it was my birthday that day, and opportunities to sleep in NEVER happen.  In a king-sized hotel bed, to say the least!

After a relaxing run of 35 minutes, (35 for my 35th!) we lazed in our hotel room, spending quality time together (ok, he caught up on twitter and I caught up on Facebook).  We had lunch reservations with our friends Donna and Randall.  We met Donna in the lobby of a different hotel in 2013, directly after all of the bad stuff happened.  She was alone and couldn't locate her husband, as he had been running.  We spent some very long hours hoping and waiting for good news with Donna, and (thankfully) met Randall when he did eventually return to the hotel.  I have kept in touch with Donna throughout the year that has passed, and I know we will be friends forever.  We love this couple.

A perfect lunch date with Donna and Randall

Obviously we get along well with them, as we spent over 3 hours chatting and eating lunch with them. We also went to the library to view the curated display of makeshift memorial items left after last year's tragedy.  It was emotional, to say the least, but very nicely displayed.

a great deal of people left their shoes along the barricades last year

We arrived back at our room and received a lovely surprise from the hotel.

balloons and champagne for my birthday!

Ok.  The pre-race meal.  This is crucial in the success of the race the following day!  Or is it?  I still haven't figured out my perfect "pre-race" meal, and I really feel like if I had one, it would be based on superstition only anyway.  Obviously there are foods I would avoid the night before a marathon, but they're probably things I would avoid while away from home also :)

We went to a super-tasty Italian (obvs) restaurant with a large group of fast runners from Calgary.  My friend Heather is one of said fast runners from Calgary, and she invited us along.  It was good food and fun.  I was a tad sheepish talking about my race strategy (run until I can't, then limp it in) and the fact that my longest run to date had been a 14km run one week out. Preceded by a 2 1/2 month "taper" of hobbling and pool running.

WHY was I at the Boston Marathon, of all places?!  This went through my head more than once, trust me.

We carefully figured out all of the details of the next morning, plugged in all of our electronics (2 phones, 2 garmins) then we went to bed.  I slept very very well.  I think Papa also slept well.  I wouldn't really know, as he was allllll the way over on the other half of the king sized bed.

Hotel Breakfast at 6am? yes, please!  We toasted our bagels, (he ate) oatmeal, and downed some orange juice.  The "runner energy" was high, mixed with the bleary-eyed disbelief that we all had to get up so early for a late-ish start time.

With some quick squeezing into compression socks, we were off to Boston Common.  This year, the finish area was closed off.  We had to walk around it.  There were already spectators setting up for the day.  It was 7am.  The *earliest* any runners (ahem, elites) would be passing through here would be noon.  But they were ready.  It was cold, but they were happy and ready for an amazing day.

In previous years, when you arrive for the buses at Boston Common, there is just a big, serpentine lineup of runners, waiting, moving slowly, until the next bus is ready.  No frills.  I would argue that once the last bus is filled, there are no remnants that anyone had even been there in that park, let alone thousands of people.

This year, for a couple of reasons, it was very different.  There were baggage tents set up and marked, volunteers everywhere, and very easy to navigate bus lines.  I think they had more buses, which probably helped, but it was great.

We got on a bus that had "two seats left!"  That's us!  We're TWO!  When we got on the bus, of course, the two seats were at polar opposite ends of the bus.  No biggie.  We could deal.

Then I did a (tiny) frowny face.  A man in a single seat got up without question and said, "You two should sit together."  Well, ok!  Yay!  Thank you, stranger!

The Athlete's Village was a little crazy.  Because we were in a later wave, the village was FULL of people waiting around, and 95% of them were waiting for porta potties!  We got in line, and waited a full HOUR before we got to the front of our line.  We chatted, enjoyed the lovely weather, ate some of our snacks, and met other runners.  It seemed odd to be eating while in line for a toilet, but (news flash!) marathons are not a glamourous event, so it was all goooood.

Before long, it was our turn to head to the start.  That walk down to the start is thrilling.  Walking along, floating on the energy and excitement of everyone around you.  Last ditch efforts to hydrate, throw away the last extra layer of clothing, and to enjoy the peaceful calm of walking before the big running trek ahead!
Right before the gun went off!  Garmins and legs ready!!

The gun went off and we settled in.  I was worried that it would be very tempting to go out fast, but leaving in a later wave really made it easier to keep a modest pace.  We tried to keep to 10min/mile, which is more than 2 minutes slower than I went out last year!  And, I was hoping that this pace would be enough to keep me going for those later miles.

Papa was impressed with the crowds.  I was too.  Boston, you never, ever ever cease to amaze me.  The sun was shining, my hip was feeling good, and we were pumped.

The mile markers seemed to come up quickly.  I swear, every time I looked up, there was another yellow sign and a water station!  I took a sip of water at every single one.  I had a sip of gatorade about 4-5 times, (lemon-lime. ick) but I was fuelling with Gu gels so I knew I would be ok.  I had 4 gels total.

The spectators never let up.  The course is basically one big, long, straight line, and the spectators line the whole thing.  This year the signs and people yelling, "BOSTON STRONG" were out of control.  I loved it.

By the time we hit the fire station in Newton, the flow of energy was radiating.  It was funny, not having to keep my eyes on the sidelines at that corner for Papa, as this was his cheering spot in the last two years.  He conveniently was right there beside me.

I mentioned to him around this time, that I would not believe how good I felt.  Really.  I had no pain at all in my leg, as I had anticipated, and furthermore, I felt really energetic and fresh.  Apparently, he wasn't all that impressed that I was saying those things, as he was feeling (rightfully) like marathons indeed are very, very long, and that his wife really is some sort of crazy person for doing so many of them (on purpose!).

Fast forward through some miles of hills (ya, he hated those hills, but my peer pressure had him running up them) and a Big Kiss (!) from the Wellesley girls for Papa (I made him do it) we approached the famous Citgo sign.  I thought, "This is it.  This is where I will get him to speed up with me.  We can just float to the end!"

He wasn't feeling that floating feeling, but he was still upright and running, so I resigned myself to the fact that he would be keeping that same pace.  Fine.

We rounded those last two turns, and we were on Boylston.  The crowds were insane.  People were hanging out of windows.  People were so joyous.  This year, unlike any other marathon I have ever run, I wasn't pure tunnel vision to the finish line.  I smiled and looked into the eyes of the people in the crowd.  I cried, (lots) and said to papa, (over and over again) "We did it.  We win.  Nothing bad happened."  I surprised myself as those words came out of my mouth.  I didn't expect myself to think that, but I realized in that moment that those words were the reason I was back running down Boylston street toward that finish line again.

I was in awe of the spectators that lined that street, and the entire route.  People were cheering with their children.  People had set up picnics.  People were handing out goodies to runners just like every other year.  These people don't get medals.  These people were cheering just for us runners that soak up all of the glory of finishing.  For that, I still cry tears of amazement.  I am so grateful to every person that has ever made it out to cheer for a race.  The people that have made me laugh, smile and feel that extra push to get through this thing I had volunteered to do.

We crossed that finish line in 4:31:12.  Yes, a personal worst (PW).  Who cares?  Certainly not me.

The volunteers were smiling, proud, and helpful (of course) and we proudly received our medals.  We walked the long walk around the block in our super-fancy blanket ponchos (these things were seriously amazing. good call, BAA!)

My favourite post-race moment, was the dude that was walking down the street, happily saying "congratulations" to runners with medals around their necks.  He was saying, "you're a rock star!"  Then he saw us, holding hands, complete with medals and he said, "woah, rock star lovers!!"  It was super funny in the moment, but maybe that was the lack of electrolytes in my system.

Post-race, a photo with one of Boston's finest

It was an amazing race, and it's an amazing city.  I am so excited that I have a reason to return and enjoy it again!

So long, Citgo sign!  Until next year...

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