Boston Marathon 2018: X-TREME EDITION

Hi Friends:)

So, I’m super excited to share with you my BOSTON MARATHON RECAP!

In case you missed it, Boston was hit by yet another full-on Nor’Easter during the marathon yesterday. So throughout my time along the course, I was hit with 25mph winds, heavy rain/sleet, and a wind-chill factor that made the already chilly 40-degree temperatures feel like 20 degrees. I’m going to admit that training here in Boston prepared me well for this; it’s been a terrible winter here, and I’ve had to log miles in pretty extreme conditions throughout this training cycle. That said, I was more used to the snow than the rain, so I had to make an emergency run to L.L. Bean the day before the race to get a waterPROOF (because water resistant wasn’t going to cut it) jacket. I chose to wear that over a tight-fitting climalite, my race singlet, water resistant gloves with glove warmers, light Lululemon leggings, compression socks, a headband, and a baseball cap. It was A LOT of gear!!

My day started really early. Although my wave didn’t start until just after 11am (they pushed all the waves out early due to the weather) I had to be on the bus by 7am.

 

I woke up and had my typical pre-long run breakfast: Oatmeal, a banana, diluted gatorade and black tea. I’ve been cutting out caffeine throughout my taper, so that cup of tea left me feeling really great! I got dressed and layered a throwaway sweatshirt, sweatpants and poncho over my gear. I also wore super old high-school sneakers out to Hopkinton and carried my race sneakers and dry socks to put on right before the start.

 

My dad picked me up at 6:15am; so many roads are closed in Boston around Marathon weekend, that the 20 minute drive from my apartment to the busses took much longer, plus we wanted to play it safe. It was already pouring by the time  reached the busses, and I was so thankful to run into one of my friends on the team on the way in. We waited in the cold rain for a little while, then boarded a school bus to the starting line.

The busses took the absolute longest way to Hopkinton EVER. Everyone who isn’t from around here: HOPKINTON IS NOT ACTUALLY 55 MINUTES AWAY!! It’s like 35 minutes; the Marathon busses just take the long way.

Athlete’s Village was a sea of humanity. There were just 3 tents, and nearly 20,000 qualified runners were huddled beneath them.

A weird benefit of being a (slow) charity runner is that most charities rent out whole restaurants in Hopkinton Center for the team to meet at on Marathon Monday. After a LONG walk from Athlete’s Village towards the starting line, I found my Stepping Strong Team’s meeting spot and hunkered down with my running buddies to show off my DIY marathon manicure. I ate a gluten free peanut butter and jelly sandwich and some gluten free pretzels. I washed it down with two cups of warm green tea!

We all covered out feet and any areas where chafing might happen with Vaseline. This was CLUTCH with the rain being like it was; rain can really exacerbate chafing, and vaselline has the added benefit of protecting exposed skin from the cold. I also rubbed some on my face and neck as a precaution.

I was feeling great. TMI: I often have a nervous stomach on race morning, and I’d put an immodium in my fuel belt just in case. But I honestly woke up in a positive place and just made it a point to remain positive. MANY of my teammates were first-time marathoners and were way more nervous than I was, so I tried to reassure them and not let anyone else’s doubts get in my head. My stomach was fine, and my face was hurting from smiling so much by the time we began walking to the start line. Our start time was supposed to be 11:15am. Realistically, this would have me crossing the start mat at 11:30ish. But they pushed it up to 11:00 because of the weather. I crossed the starting mat at 11:16am and started running east!

This might be a little controversial, but I decided that for me it was important to run this race alone. I have LOVED training with a group, but I have noticed that I can’t listen to my body as well when I am trying to be social at the same time. So I stuck with my friends until about a half mile in, then waved farewell and headed off on my own.

My pace was actually a little quick at first, but knowing that the rain and wind was only going to get stronger, I was comfortable picking up time during the first half of the race. I ran the first 5k at a 9:51 pace, and ditched the disposable poncho in Ashland, about 3 miles in. I was warmed up and ready to go.

But boy, was it raining.

I was careful to grab water or gatorade at every other hydration stop. the Boston Marathon has water stops about every 1.5 miles, so you can absolutely skip a few. But the BAA had sent out an email the night before the race reminding us all to dress for cold and rainy conditions, and also to not forget to hydrate! It’s harder to notice the symptoms of dehydration in cold and damp conditions, so I made sure to pay close attention to my fluid intake. I practiced taking gels every 4 miles during training, so I did that on race day too.

I hit the 10k mark with a pace of 9:39 min/mile; the headwind clearly hadn’t kicked in yet! I took a second gel at Mile 8 with water, then I took a pit stop at mile 9 to use a porta potty and text my parents with progress; trying to keep in contact with people without water-damaging my phone was ROUGH. I just hoped that I’d started the BAA app correctly as I crossed the starting line and that people knew where I was. I hit the 15k mark with a time of 10:42 per mile, mostly due to that pit stop. I took my third gel at mile 12 with some water.

Not long after that, I went through the Wellesley College “Scream Tunnel.” Because of the weather, the spectators were a little sparse in places. But the Wellesley girls came on out, and I think I high-fived about half the student body! I loved their enthusiasm and their signs were so funny.

I then headed into Wellesley center, which is the halfway point and where I’d stationed my family with dry shoes and gloves for me. They were right where we’d planned to meet, and I stopped and chatted with them while I switched into dry shoes (SO MUCH LIGHTER THAN WET!!) and snapped a few pictures with my big brother who continues to be confused by this whole “running” thing I do.

I also had my parents look up who won, and I was SO EXCITED to hear that Desiree Linden had gotten 1st place! I gave them all like 10 hugs each and didn’t care one bit that the stop added a full 5 minutes onto my split time. I headed back out there light-footed and rejuvenated, which was so needed with just 5 miles to go before I hit the Newton Hills.

I took my next gel around Mile 16, and I knew from training that the hills were coming. As soon as I saw the “Entering Newton” sign- about 4 miles after I saw my parents- the heavens opened up and it started to POUR even harder than it already had been… and then the sleet came. Slush was literally falling from the sky and slapping me in the face. My new, dry, warm sneakers got just as saturated and heavy as the pair I’d passed off to my brother. Oh, well.

I was feeling a bit cold as I turned up Firehouse Hill, the first of the Newton hills. I have run this and all the Newton hills 2947204983 times during training, so I wasn’t actually nervous about it.

 

But that didn’t make it any quicker or easier! It’s true what they say; Boston beats up your quads. And yesterday offered so many other challenges; the headwind on these hills was INTENSE and those bands of thick rain just kept coming. My headphones got waterlogged and stopped playing music correctly, so I only had the backbeat of my playlist for the rest of the run. This is the only section of the run where I wasn’t smiling much.

By now I was averaging more like 10:45 miles, which was fine for the hills. Heartbreak Hill, which spans from miles 19-20, took me 11:19, which was my slowest mile (without a stop) of the race. Then I skated down into Boston. I grabbed another gel around this point, as well.  There were lots of supporters as we passed by the Boston College Campus, but (disappointingly) fewer as we passed through Brookline. I ran into a teammate and ran alongside her in silence for a while. We were slogging.

By this point in the race my thoughts got a little jumbled. This always happens when I push my physical boundaries. If I’m not careful, I fall down a rabbit-hole of self-doubt and anxiety and I panic. My strategy for this is simple and kind of bizarre; I count to 100 in my head. And sometimes out loud. Over and over and over. I like to keep my thoughts as un-emotional as possible when I am that tired, so mantras are a no-go. And with my music being garbled, counting was very therapeutic.

Spectators picked up again as we got into Kenmore square, and so did my speed. I crossed the “one mile to go” painting on the road and literally shouted “YAS” out loud. I’d been really slogging through Brookline and averaging 11 min/mile, but somehow at this point I managed to really kick it and pulled off a 9:53 for my final mile.

When I took that right turn onto Hereford, I could not believe I was THERE. Where I’d always dreamed of being. Where I’d worked so hard to be. I started getting emotional, but then had to scale it back because so many people were throwing their ponchos off at this point that Hereford was treacherous. It was covered with slippery plastic ponchos that runners were tossing so their finish line photo would be better. I had to stare at the ground in order to dodge them, which was not what I wanted to be doing during my last .2 miles of the best race ever. Like, toss it to the side guys! I tossed mine into a trash bin in Ashland like a good citizen.

Then I took a left on Boylston.

The finish line looked like the freaking emerald city. It was lit up and glowing against the storm-darkened sky. It was fantastic. All I could hear was encouraging screams and cowbells and just JOY.  An insanely thick band of rain and sleet pounded into me right then, and I could not believe it. I just could not believe any of it.

 

And then I finished…

 

And immediately started crying and laughing at the same time, was handed a medal, and got this photo snapped of me while crying and laughing at the same time. I look completely insane but I am okay with it.

 

I went into this worrying about hypothermia at the finish; I average a fairly low body temperature and I am fairly small. It was a long walk to my family meeting area; I had a heat blanket, but I was soaked through and it wasn’t doing much. I had no apetite so I hadn’t even grabbed my food bag at the finish line. I just guzzled half a bottle of water, threw it on the ground and started wandering around the Back Bay, searching for my family. When I finally found them, I was shaking really hard.

Luckily, the BAA had stationed dozens and dozens of coach busses along the roads in the family meeting area with the heat blasting. I told my parents I needed to get warmed up before we headed to the gym where my charity team was meeting, and climbed into the nearest bus. I later learned almost 3000 runners had had to drop out of the race throughout the day due to hypothermia, and many others were treated for it at the finish.

I sat in the warming bus for about 15 minutes, until I stopped shaking and I was able to move my fingers enough to look at my finish time on my phone. In my first marathon two years ago, my goal was just to survive. I finished that one, which occurred under PERFECT conditions, in 4:52. Yesterday, I finished Boston in ABYSMAL conditions in 4:33. I’d been hoping for 4:30, and dreaming of 4:20. But I am beyond satisfied with 4:33, as it shows that I’ve made progress in both physical and mental strength!

My parents and I power walked to the gym where my charity team was meeting, and I was stripping out of my wet race clothes and walking into a hot shower in the locker room before I even knew what hit me. It was only after that hot shower that I managed to drink a gatorade, eat a protein bar and pound a protein shake to get some recovery going. I’d brought my most insulated leggings and heat-tech top for post-race, as well as warm socks, a hat and rain boots, and I was SO thankful for that.

Running Boston has always been a dream of mine. And running it on the team that I did was even more amazing. I am thrilled and thankful for the opportunities that Brigham and Women’s Hospital has given me. First through their outstanding medical care, and now through this amazing Stepping Strong Marathon Team.

Thanks to all of you who have braved through this EXTREMELY LONG post. I love reading detailed race recaps, so I figured someone out there who is flipping out about running a marathon in the rain might someday find this and find it soothing:)

 

 

Photo Note: The photos in this post are made up of pictures that I took personally, pictures friends and family members took and sent to me, and my official race photos which I purchased the rights to digital usage of:) 

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