Thursday, April 23, 2015

Perfect. Part 2: Race Day

To hear about the couple of practically perfect days we made prior to Marathon Monday, check out Part 1 of this post. Here, we begin with the Big Day.

After two beautiful Boston days with cool-but-not-cold temps and delicious sunshine, race day dawned blustery and cold, as forecast. Lauren spent a hilarious amount of time deciding between wearing running tights or shorts. She decided on the tights. Definitely the tights. Until she changed her mind and it was obvious that she should wear the shorts. But then again, tights might be better... Spoiler alert: she wore the shorts and it was the right call.

I had not prepared for the windy, raw weather in my packing so I made an impulse buy at (Won't You Take Me To...) NIKETOWN on Sunday. I was aghast at the $110 price tag for women's tights... and then I went upstairs and found the girls' section. Not quite as high quality, maybe, but I scored a pair of size large capri tights for $30. Coulda been cheaper at Target or Kohls, but I was not in a Kohls-adjacent vicinity. And I will wear them a million times more.

Lauren snapped a pic of me so my friends and family could try to spot me on the live finish line webcam. You will note the pink, which is in honor of my cousin, Polly and the many other breast cancer patients we have known and loved. You can see the pink boxing glove hanging off my bib number. It's from a "Fight Like a Girl" party that was held for Polly after she told her cancer had returned.

The shirt is Lauren's and it is Team in Training, a fundraising marathon training group. They do great work.... I felt like a tool on the race course bc many people cheered for me because of the shirt. Gah! I am a fraud!
We had breakfast in the hotel. It was a buffet-breakfast-comes-with-the-room-but-we-are-going-to-bill-you-for-it-and-see-if-you-notice situation. Really delicious stuff, actually, but kind scummy/scammy IMHO.
Final 'click' before we hit the shuttle.
Caught up with the boys & Scott briefly before we headed out. Sweet, sweet boys!
Sweet, sweet husband.
With plenty of extra layers for tossing, we headed to the lobby where we had signed up for the shuttle to the starting line. It was well worth the $20 because it meant we didn't need to take the long T ride into Boston, board a school bus, and then take the REALLY long bus ride back out to Hopkinton. Some nice chatter with other runners of various ages, goals and talkativeness. (I was NOT the most yackity on the ride, believe it or not!)

One wrinkle was that the driver was not able to get us to Athletes' Village. Like, not even CLOSE. Like, over a MILE away. This would have been OK because we had plenty of time, but Lauren and I HAD. TO. PEE! We seriously thought about making pals with a friendly neighborhood tree or shrub, when we came upon this beauty:

It was kind of like a locally owned Whole Foods. Totally clean. Totally empty of customers. Totally no questions asked . It was PERFECT and made the rest of the long walk much  more bearable. 
Empty of bladder, we made the rest of the walk to Athletes' Village quite happily. We went through security, paused for pics, and headed straight for... the portapotty line. Where we waited in line for slightly longer than forever and Lauren said something like, "I just hope it doesn't start raining until we get to the starting line." (FORESHADOWING!) We pee'd and then... got RIGHT back into the portapotty line. Yes, that seems like a lot of peeing but believe it or not, by the time we got to the front, we had to go AGAIN. It 's a very special super power. Don't question it.

Set Your Dorkness to 11.

Final Prerace Selfie. Who's worried?

When our Wave (3) was called to the starting line, I was startled and delighted by how many folks from the neighborhood were out and cheering for us... and we were JUST walking to the start. The volunteers were just as positive, offering to take any clothes were ready to ditch (they collect them for donation). Before we knew it, it was raining (See: FORESHADOWING) and Lauren and I were both cursing her previous comment. 

And then, we started. 

Much has been said about the Boston Marathon course. Mostly, as far as runners are concerned, are Heartbreak Hill and "It starts off with a lot of downhills so you have to hold yourself back a little.

I'll get to the former thought later, but about the latter, I gotta say - never, ever, did I feel like I was holding myself back. I had a nice taper of 3 or so weeks so I should have felt like my horses were jumping to get out of the gates. I didn't. I didn't exactly feel like I was pushing it, but I also did not feel like I wanted to go faster.

Truth be told, I think I had two opposite things happening as the gun went off. I was the most psychologically and emotionally ready for the this marathon than any other I had done. IT was the Big Thing. IT was the dessert I got to enjoy after working so hard to qualify (again)... to recover from The Fall... to survive the Bastard Known As Winter 2014-15. I just wanted to get on the course with the other athlete's and live the race at long last.

But, I was also the least physically fit I had ever been before a marathon. I knew I could get through the course, that was not a concern, but I also knew this was not going to be a speedy effort. All of the issues from the above paragraph pretty straight-forwardly explain why I maybe wasn't my tip-top best. I am not sad or annoyed with myself about this. I don't think I had a lot of better options for getting myself in PR shape. I'm just, ya know, sayin'....

Anyway, the race goes off and sometime in the first mile Lauren and I dare to maneuver ourselves out of our extra clothes and get them over to the side for charity collection. I immediately realize I have to pee. Great. A few miles tick by. I am noticing plenty of the downhills people talk about, but I'm also noticing that there's no lack of uphills either. Huh. Also I am noticing that it never completely stops raining and neither does the wind ever really stop blowing.

I pretty much did exactly what I had set out to do: soak it in. The first mile of the marathon alone had more spectators and energy than any other race I have ever done. Like, all 26.2 miles of any other race. It was a feeling of triumph and joy

The mass of heads going East in down the road is just breathtaking. I've seen pictures of it but there's nothing like seeing it in real life. I know it wasn't a million people, but honestly, if you had asked me and I had know idea that there were "only" 7,000 or so people in that wave, I would have guessed the number to be in the hundreds of thousands. Like Barbie said, "Math is hard."

Lots of the early part of the course goes through towns where people are already up and partying. Biker bars, front lawns, churches... it's amazing. There are plenty of less populated areas, too, which make a girl strongly consider finding a shrub to squat behind. 

I asked Lauren a couple of times what our pace was and she said we were at 8:45 or 9:00 or whatever. I still really had to pee. I was still loving all the humanity around me (guy dressed as Olaf; guy who was running the course for the 26th time, and oh, this was his second time THAT day because he started at 4AM at the finish line, turned around and was not heading back; mobility impaired runners with their guides....), the chatter from runners and spectators (including Santa Claus and a very inebriated dude carrying a beer down the street and trying to give a pep talk to a runner who was clearly having a very had day out there), the little kids looking for high fives and giving their count as they competed with their friends to score them. But, I still really really had to pee!

Finally... finally!... around mile 9 or so there were a row of port-o-potties that didn't seem to be all occupied. By then Lauren said she would like to go too, so we scooted off the road and there, like an Angel from Heaven, was a volunteer pointing out to runners which johns were unoccupied. (Whoever she is, she might be my favorite person on earth. She definitely was at that moment!)

Our strategy to take in energy gels every 5 miles went well. I discovered along the way that I could not deal with whatever flavor of Gatorade they were serving (Buuurp with a little barf. Nice!) so I stuck with water after that. Nothing hurt too much. The Wellesley 'scream' was fantastic and I blew kisses to lots of young ladies whose mothers would not at all like the suggestive signs they were holding up. Tsk tsk. (Titter, titter). But this whole time I was only thinking of mile 17, cuz that's where where my family would be. And there they were!

Poor Gabe. It was so wet and so cold. He was a trooper. His dad was a straight up Miracle Worker. (Mom took these pics, not me... in case you were confused...)

I asked for a banana. They came bearing bananas. Four of them, actually!

Mom and Dad were down the road a bit from Scott and the boys so I am searching for them here, while trying to eat a banana.

There was a barrier but I wanted at least grab my parents hands to connect with them. mission accomplished! 
That encounter gave me a great boost, but things don't get much easier in a marathon after mile 17. They get harder. And of course, this is where the Real Hills began. Thankfully, this is also where living in a very hilly region of our fine nation really pays off. There's no such thing as a training run around here that is not also a hill run. The Newton Hills were no joke, but Lauren and I pounded up each one, focused and passing folks all over the place. And remember, we were passing people who started the race around the same time we did, which means they had a qualifying time about the same or better than ours. POW! It was super hard but super motivating to never, ever stop.

Among the hills I was also looking forward to mile 20 where I knew another friend would be. Ellie is a lifelong family friend (formerly my babysitter, poor dear). She has been a Boston Regular for (sommmme??) years in order to support a friends who raises money (I THINK for Mass General, but I'm not sure...) through the race. She always cheers at mile 20. She is a music therapist with a theater streak a mile long so I heard her LOUD AND CLEAR when I came upon her. I even managed to scoot over to her and say "THIS IS OUR MOMENT!" because I promised her I wasn't gunning for a great time and I would try to get in a squeeze. Yay!

"I see Ellie!"
And then, guess what? The hills continued! And we continued to rock up them pretty well. Our running joke through the course was about how many miles we had left to run. At mile 13, for example, "Hey, Phoebe, you wanna do a half marathon today?" "Sure, just let me do a .1 mile warm up and we'll start." We cracked ourselves up with this many many times. When we hit mile 23, however, neither of us joked about having a 5K left. Neither of us found it amusing. We both HATE 5Ks because they are just hard hard hard all the way from start to finish. Nope. No 5K joke. We were not in a good place. I was, frankly, thinking, "Screw it. There's no reason to run faster. I'm gonna finish when I finish." But I also kept thinking of the kids at school waiting to watch me on the webcam. If I didn't cross before 3:15 or so they would not see me. I would be a tool!

But then, we hit Boston. And the crowds were getting more and more excited. And someone in the crowd said something I really needed hear: "YOU DIDN'T TRAIN YOUR ASS OFF THROUGH THIS CRAP WINTER JUST TO GIVE UP NOW!"

That did it. I focused and brought everything I had to the finish. Well, some of my energy went to the spectators, who I grinned at and fist pumped to get them cheering for me. We continued to pass lots of people at this point. We got to the mile to go mark and I felt like a rock star. (Okay, a tired, sweaty, stinky rock star. But a rock star none the less.) We got to Hereford, took that famous right turn and I started to get emotional. I am not really a crier, but I was just overwhelmed. We took the left on Boyleston and the finish line was in sight. WHAT??!?!?  At that moment, Lauren heard her name called in the crowd. It was her husband and kids!! She did not know they would be there. A beautiful surprise... and she almost turned back to talk to them - but we went on.

We were then just 30 or so yards from the finish line, realizing we made it in under 4 hours, when the announcer asked for... a moment of silence in honor of the victims from 2013.

Okay. I'll admit, my first thought was, WAIT! I want to whoop and be excited. This is not what I wanted at ALL!

Then I remembered when 2013 happened I said to anyone who would listen that the time the bombs went off would have been almost certainly the time I would have been crossing the finish line. I was right. They had the moment of silence at the exact times the bombs went off. I was crossing the finish line. Whoa. Goosebumps.

My confused/deflated feeling quickly subsided because literally when we were 1 step away from the line the announcer said, "And now let's hear a mighty roar" (or something like that, because what I heard was "Let's hear it for Phoebe & Lauren rocking this freakin' marathon and passing like a jillion people in the last 6 miles!!!!"

Yeah, pretty sure he said that.

3:57:20. Finish line photo. Jay Leno, you can have your chin back now....

I promised you a two-parter. And here I am way past my bedtime and I'm just getting to the end of the race. There's SO MUCH MORE to tell. So, Much. MORE!

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