Saturday, April 23, 2011

2011 Boston Marathon

Wow! What an experience!  When I first walked out of the subway and came up above ground into Copley Square, I felt an overwhelming sense of joy and became a bit teary eyed.  I had finely made it:)  This was a moment I had dreamed of for so long and now it was a reality.  For so long I didn't even think I would ever be able to make it here.  Now, all doubts were squandered.  This was Boston baby!  Boston!

Boston stands for so many things to me.  It is isn't just about running as fast as I can to qualify for the race, no, not at all.  It's about all of the hurdles I have overcome that got me to this point.  It stands for all of the tough things I've succumbed in my life. It's about those people that tell you that you can't do this or can't do that.  Well, to the naysayers-I'm in Boston now and I believe I can do anything.

Boston taught me that there is no cap on your potential and I truly believe that.  Boston gave me more and more confidence; confidence that I didn't have before.  Boston also gave my life a renewed sense of purpose.  Once you achieve something of this magnitude you doubt yourself less.  This was the Marathon of all Marathons and here I was in Copley Square on Bolyston street staring at the 115th Boston Marathon sign in absolute awe.

For those that know me, it's become quite evident that I am an obsessed Marathoner and this was especially true in my buildup to this race.  I lived, sleeped, and breathed Boston Marathon training.  If a thought didn't cross my mind about the race for one single hour over the past 18 weeks, I was surprised.  I poured everything into this dream and I was going to give my best effort when I got the chance.  To me, with any Marathon I complete-it's just the icing on the cake.  The real accomplishment is the 18 weeks prior, of grinding day in and day out.  The countless hours of training and busting my ass on the road, in the gym, on my bike, as well as the countless sacrifices I make it my daily live are the real reward.  The day of the Marathon is just something to symbolize all of that hard work.

I could sit here and write a novel about this experience, but I'll try and limit myself to just a few pages.  I have so many difference feelings about Boston.  First of all, I realize it is an amazing feat, something I will look back on when I'm older and be able to tell my kids and grandkids about.  But, it is also another race for me.  So, I still look at it and analyze it just as I would any other race.  That being said, my performance was less than optimal for my standards.  Honestly, I was a bit disappointed in myself.  I know that I am capable of far more than what I brought to the road in Boston.  So, without further adue, here is the race analysis.

The alarm was set for 5am and I knew it'd be difficult to sleep on this night.  I actually was able to sleep pretty much straight thru until 4am.  But, at that point I was wide eyed and bushy tailed.  I hopped out of bed and began the prerace routine.  I shaved my face until it was baby clean.  I showered to warm up my muscles a bit.  I then stretched and put on my race clothes and warm-ups.  The train left for North Station (TD Garden) at 6:02am, so we left the hotel at 5:30.  We'd already had our fair share of late arrivals, hence missing our train, so we left with plenty of time to spare this time.  Once we arrived to North Station, we then rounded the bend outside to the underground commuter rail that was bound for Park St (this is where the buses boarded in route to Hopkinton).  Immediately once I boarded the train, there were swarms of Marathoners.  It was kind of funny seeing how different everyone appeared as far as their prerace excitement.  Some sat nervous and anxious and waited until our stop, while others chit chatted constantly.  I just sat there and listened, trying to remain calm.  When I exited the commuter and emerged above ground in the city, I was greeted by the most massive lines I have ever seen of Marathoners boarding the dozens of buses lined up along the Boston Common.  The winds were gusting at 20+ miles an hour and my warm-ups did nothing to keep me warm out there.  The line moved quicker than I thought, but it still took nearly a half hour to board the bus.

Once, on the bus we were in route to Hopkinton.  At this point it was already 7:30.  I had a slight urge to urinate once I boarded the bus, which only got greater and greater as the hour and fifteen minute journey continued.  All I could think about was how badly I had to pee.  Finally, we got to our destination.  It was a medium sized High School in Hopkinton.  I exited the bus and followed suit of many other runners and darted for the woods to relieve myself.  I had never seen so many people peeing in an unauthorized area at one time.  It was kind of funny.  After that, I followed the long line of runner's into Athlete's village.  This was the area that all of the runners used to stretch, fuel up on water, gatorade, energy bars and gels, etc. before the big race.  I followed the runners to the wave 1 area, which was the wave I was in.  We took off at 10:00am and at this point it was about 8:50, so I had 25 minutes before the announcer would call for us to start filling the corrals.  I did my usual routine like I do before all of my runs.  I didn't change anything for Boston.  This was just another run, well one hell of an exciting one at that.  But, I did my butt kicks, high knees, side to sides, grapevine, a few forward and backward sprints and stretched repeatedly.  I then found the nearest shrubs and relieved myself again.  It was funny, because the porta potty line was pretty long and close by, but I wasn't about to nervously wait in that line.  I was shocked to see girls relieving themselves in the same manner as myself (right in front of thousands of people)!

After the warm-up the announcer began directing wave one runners towards the corral.  I met another runner that was shooting for a similar time goal as myself and we jogged a bit towards the start and chatted about our running history and goals for the race.  Once I got to the corral, I thought for sure I couldn't go past my corral but they weren't too strict.  I was in corral 5 and since it was only about 9:25 at this point I continued walking forward and realized that the elite women were about to take off.  They were scheduled for a 9:32 start time. I though, wow, I could actually watched the official start of the elite woman taking off in the Boston Marathon.  I was not about to squander this opportunity.  So, I headed for city park right next to the starting line.  I found a good spot and peaked through other spectators.  On the far right hand side was none other than Kara Goucher all ready to go.  Unbelievable, absolutely unbelievable.  The elites did a few stride outs, the National Anthem was sung and off they went.  I couldn't help but experience an adrenaline rush at that moment.  I then gathered myself and continued with a light warm up and relieved myself one last time.  The time was finally here as I headed for the corrals with just 5 minutes to go until the official wave 1 start of the Boston Marathon.  The race officials started announcing the elites at the front of the pack (Mutai, Mosop, Gebre, and of course Ryan Hall-the American).  This was absolutely amazing, I couldn't help but get in on the hype.  I of course still had a race to run myself though.  The National Anthem was again sung and after that all I could do was smile until the gun went off.  I smiled as I passed the volunteers and then nearly 3 minutes later I crossed the start line.  My 26.2 mile journey to Boston had officially begun....

I took off and immediately found it difficult to get into the rhythm and pace I had planned.  The streets were narrow and extremely crowded.  I hung around the outer edges and try to pass people that way, but it was still difficult.  I was only able to go at a 6:57 pace for the first mile.  However, I was not detered.  I knew this was probably a good pace to start off at anyways.  I was able to pick it up and settle into a pace I was more comfortable with after the first mile, but still had to weave in and out of the crowd.  The first 5 miles were all downhill, which sounds easy to the nonrunner, but that puts brutal stress on the quads which can kill you later on in the race.  One thing I noticed was that this course was one big rollercoaster.  I thought I had trained on hills, but nothing I did prepared me for the Boston Marathon course hills.  Back to the race....I got to mile 5 (Ashland) and the course flattened out a bit at this point.  I was a bit behind the 3 hour pace, but there was no need to panic.  I figured I could make it up slowly but surely.  Next up was Framingham (miles 6-8).  These towns were lovely; it was amazing to see how many people were out there to cheer us on.  There was literally no point in the entire course that lacked a spectator.  Absolutely unbelievable.

We then headed into the town of Natick.  I was hitting miles at between 6:48 and 6:49, but my Garmin's miles were a bit quicker than the courses miles so it probably marked me at a 6:52-6:53 pace (putting me a bit behind pace).  Next up was the town of Wellesley.  This is where the famous Wellesley girls scream, cheer, bang pans, rattle bells, and give kisses.  Yes, that's right, kisses.  At about the mile 12 mark I heard the loudest screams I'd ever heard in my life and I knew we were close.  It was an unbelievable sight passing through the town as the thousands of girls cheered us on and held signs that read things like:  "kiss me I'm from Oregon" or "kiss me, I love runners".  It was hard not to go too fast at this point as the adrenaline rush kicked in, but I held back.  Also, I resisted the urge to stop for a kiss haha.

Next up was the half way point at which I was clocked at a 1:30:02, almost exactly on pace to a 3 hour marathon.  I was feeling pretty good, but somehow out of sync.  I  just didn't quite have it mentally on this day.  This frustrated me, but I kept pushing on.  I knew the hills loomed ahead and I needed to continue to bust out mile by mile.  At mile 16 I saw the sign that said Newton and I admit I cringed a bit.  That meant hill time.  Sure enough, shortly after came a gigantic hill which I was able to cover with fair ease.  There was then a slight down hill and back up another hill.  I believe there were 7 in total and by the time I hit number 3 the first cramps set in.  This is something that any marathoner despises of. I was starting to hit the wall.  At mile 18 I felt slight twinges here and there and I had to slow the pace a bit to avoid a total collapse.  I started seeing the 3 hour dream slip away.  This disappointed me a bit, but I still held on to hope that if I could get through the hills, maybe I could coast a bit after that.

I got to mile 20 and then Heartbreak Hill was looming before me.  Heartbreak itself wasn't really that bad.  I honestly thought the one prior was worse.  What came after Heartbreak is what really put a damper on my race.  There was a slight up hill after Heartbreak at which point both of my calves decided to completely cramp up at the same time.  I am very stubborn though and refuse to stop in a race, so I kept pressing on in complete and total agony.  Nothing was going to stop me.  I knew at this point that achieving a sub 3 hour Marathon was out of my reach, but I still wanted to finish as strong as possible.  I made it to mile 23 without losing too much time.  I was on pace for a 3:02ish Marathon at this point.  That is when the cramps really started to hit the legs.  Twinges shot up different areas of my quads, groin, calves, etc, you name it.  Every step had to be taken ever so carefully to attempt to avoid a total cramp up.  It was extremely painful, but hey I live for this so I can't complain.  I just kept pushing on as the crowd thickened.  I tried to savor the moment, but the pain was so intense I just wanted to finish.  There was a girl that I was passing and she looked like she was in extreme pain as well as she let out squirmish sighs and then uttered profanities.  I encouraged her to keep going as I passed and said, "you're almost there, keep it up".  At this point in a Marathon something like that can go a long way in getting someone to the finish.  I would want someone to do the same for me.

These next few miles were absolutely killer, probably the toughest I've ever run in my life.  I just kept taking it mile by mile.  I kept telling myself you have to finish the Boston Marathon (like I was going to quit anyway).  I told a guy before the start that I would have run this race if I had broken my leg the day before.  Nothing was stopping me now, well, except for the damper these stupid cramps were putting on me.  I slowly but surely rattle off the miles (the last 3 were in the 7:33-7:37 pace).  So, I lost a good 2+ minutes in the final 3 miles.  As I rounded the right turn on to Hereford Street I saw the largest Marathon crowd in my life.  It was like I was floating on air.  It was absolutely amazing!  I looked from side to side as I ran as fast I could turning on to Bolyston for the last quarter of a mile as the finish line came into site.  I felt an overwhelming sense of joy as I ran down the street and admired the crowd.  I through my hands up in triumph and teared up after I crossed the line.  I had just finished the Boston Marathon and I was very proud.

Aside from my excitement of finishing the race; from a race standpoint I was very disappointed in my performance.  I know that I am fit enough to run a sub 3 and things just didn't go my way on this day.  Unfortunately it happened to be the day of perhaps the biggest race of my life, but I knew this was just the beginning of my running career anyways.  Plus, on the bright side I did set a PR of 3:04:44 (smashing my old PR by nearly 6 minutes) and again qualifying for Boston (barely however, since the new cutoff is 3:05-meaning I had only 15 seconds to spare).  I preceeded to get my foil heat sheet to stay warm and at this point the tears started to flow a bit.  They were tears of happiness, for I had prevailed and I realized I had just finished the most prestigious Marathon in the world with some of the world's top athletes.  I then continued down the road where I was proudly presented with my Boston Marathon finisher's medal, some post race food and electrolyte replacement.  Then I headed to retrieve my bag and found my family in the family meeting area where I proudly covered myself with my official Boston Marathon T-Shirt and Jacket and gleamed from ear to ear.  Looking back, this will be a race I will absolutely never forget.  I am very proud to have completed this race and although I fell short of my goal of a sub 3 hour time, it just motivates me to push harder in the future.

I realized after Boston that my running career has just begun.  I am an absolute addict.  I love the sport with all my heart and it drives me day in and day out.  I look forward to the countless races the future holds for me and I know without a doubt that I will crush times down the road that I thought were inconceivable.

Next major goal:  the Chicago Marathon in under 2:48 minutes.  I truly believe I can do this.  Boston has already lit a fire under my ass in terms of things I need to improve for Chicago.  I have already begun mapping out my training plan which will include more miles, yoga, a bit less strength training, plyometrics, and a focus on my diet (I need to lose about 10 pounds to be at racing wiehgt).  I believe I can do this and I am going to alter my focus going forward to do what I can to achieve this goal.  I have some tune up Marathons set for the course of the summer that I will use as training runs for Chicago.  I am certain I will break 3 hours at one of those.  I am excited for what the future holds and I thank you all for your support, it means the world to me:)

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