Wow, I can’t believe that over a month has flown by already! I better finish up this recap before I start forgetting details…though the day was so memorable, I’m not sure that will ever happen.
I left off as my wave was being called, and I was ready to start heading to the start line. I had just changed into my race shoes, and immediately became concerned, because now I had to get from inside the tent, across the sea of mud, to the pavement, without getting my feet all wet and disgusting. Ugh. I became jealous of all those people who had the forethought to put plastic bags over their feet. But, then to my amazement, I saw the congo line that had formed. A parade of single file runners, walking on top of a strip formed by discarded towels, yoga mats, mylar blankets, garbage bags, etc. to keep the sludge from sucking our feet under. We moved slowly, but I don’t think anyone was really concerned about time at that point. I made it across the expanse unscathed.
photo credit: Victoria Balfour
Once on the concrete, everything seemed to relax. I felt warm enough, the rain wasn’t too bad, everyone was chatting and laughing and taking the conditions in stride.
I passed another sea of portapotties, and decided it would be wise to make one last pit stop. As I stood in line, I watched people struggling to remove their throwaway layers. It suddenly became clear to me why I had heard some women on the bus mentioning how they had their pants with zippers on the bottom on: Several women were attempting to remove tights without taking off their shoes. Their friends were literally pulling on the skinny end of the tights, while the other friend held the individual’s upper body in a strange tug of war. Seemed like a recipe for disaster, or possible injury, if you asked me. I was glad my throwaway layer was a cheap pair of sweatpants: once I was done with the portapotty, I simply slid my pants off and was on my way!
As I exited the bathroom parking lot, I heard them announce the 2 minute warning for my wave. I had no idea how far I was from the start line at that time, so I began to hustle a bit. I passed a race official and lifted my layers to show my bib: “Corral 5, you are in here, get in there now!” Oops. It actually worked out perfectly. I was a tad bit nervous that I would be slower than my qualifying time pace and wanted to start on the slower side, so I had hope to shift to the back ion my corral. As it turned out, I was lined up with the front of corral 6- which was perfect!
I continued moving along, and heard the countdown and the start of the race for our wave. I never had to stop and wait. Before I knew it, we were all jogging across the start line…we were off!
At this early stage of the race, I truly believed that I would warm up enough to toss my green jacket off within a mile or 2. I had attempted to run in the rain with it before, and always felt disgustingly hot and sweaty within 1/2 mile. I only bought it for a Ragnar event 2 years ago as a “just in case” there was rain. There wasn’t, and since then had only had the opportunity to use it a handful of times. It was $10, so I wasn’t too heartbroken about losing it.
Mile 1 ticked by. My pace was good- not too fast. My temp was good- not time to toss the layers yet. Maybe by mile 2.
Mile 2- pace was right on target. However, it was a giant pain in the ass to pull my layers back and look at my watch. So I made the decision to forget the watch, and just run by feel. If I survived and kept this pace, great, but if I didn’t, honestly, just finishing was going to be a feat. Also, I still did not feel ready to toss my layers. Maybe at 5K? I noticed a lot of people around me still running with garbage bags on, and some still had plastic bags on their shoes (is that safe???I would slip and break my face).
For the next several miles, I just remember feeling reasonably good. I remember attempting to pull my hood off my head, and that lasted about a minute, when a big gust kicked up and I decided it needed to go back on.
At around 5 miles in, I figured the jacket was going to stay on at least until halfway. I’d reevaluate then. By 10 miles in, I knew it would stay on until mile 25. My bib was buried, so there wouldn’t be any photographic evidence of me running the race until the finish line. I supposed I could have stepped off and repined my bib, but stopping and dealing with pins and cold wet fingers did not seem worthwhile. No one had attempted to kick me off the course, so until that happened, I was fine just how I was.
Every time the rain would come down harder, or a big gust of wind would blast us, I just laughed. What else could you do? We had all worked so hard to get ourselves here. To run 26 miles, which was punishment enough, and now this weather? It was pretty comical to me. We WANTED to do this.
For a few miles I found myself near a woman who was dressed as Wonder Woman. Everyone loved seeing here and the constant cheers of “hey, it’s Wonder Woman” made me smile too. Another runner joked with her about all the attention she was getting, and her response was “hey, it’s been proven that running with a smile on your face makes you more efficient as a runner, so why not do something to give yourself a boost?” I laughed but I kept those words with me, even miles later when I had lost track of Wonder Woman. Whenever I would catch myself getting tired, I would put a smile back on my face, and my energy would come back.
At around 14 miles in, the cold, damp air started messing with my joints. I have arthritis, and had been having some bouts with sciatica leading up to the race, so this wasn’t a surprise to me. I could feel my knees stiffening up, and every so often I’d get a shockwave through my right knee and lower leg. I had to change my gait and push through it for a few minutes before it would fade. Eventually, I had to take a few seconds to stretch my piriformis and IT band.
As I approached Newton, I began trying to scan the crowd for my husband and his mom. This was not easy. Everyone was bundled up. I didn’t know exactly where they would be, or even which side of the street they would be on. Raindrops in my eyes made it difficult to focus. I had never turned my music on, so I could hear the crowd and tried to listen for my name, but with so much stimuli, I became overwhelmed. By the time I reached the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, I just wanted to concentrate on that. Apparently, that is roughly where they were standing. They saw me, but I was too in the zone to notice.
Speaking of HH- everyone asked me how it was. Honestly, with everything else, I barely even noticed the hill. In fact, the only reason I really noticed the climb was because I passed a poor soul in a wheelchair, struggling to get any traction to go uphill. I so wanted to be able to give him a push, but could only do so emotionally. I hope my words of support helped.
I remember seeing the sign “Entering Brighton” and realizing how close I was. As I ran along the B train tracks towards Cleveland Circle, I started thinking about the year following college when I lived there. But as I entered Cleveland Circle, nothing looked familiar. In fact, I got a little turned around and forgot which T line I was running along, and which street I was on. I also started to feel sleepy. Not fatigued, as I have often experienced in the later miles of a marathon, but sleepy. Like, I wanted to curl up in a ball in the side of the road and take a nap. I have only ever experienced that at a Ragnar event when I was truly sleep deprived and running in the wee hours of the morning. I knew this was likely due to the cold, and possibly early stages of hypothermia. I shook it off. Only a few miles left- just get through it!
Mile 24- I was looking forward to taking a short walk through he water stop. At every single mile stop along the course, there would be water/gatorade along the right, and then about 100 feet down the way, there would be water/gatorade along the left. I had primarily been running along the left, so I didn’t want to dart across runner path’s to get the right hand side, so as I pass ed the water on the right side of Mile 24, I grew excited for the stop on the left, where I could take a quick walk and catch my breath. Except….there was never a water stop on the left. Unless I was so spaced out I missed it. Of course, I could have just taken a little walk without the water stop, but I wouldn’t. Nope, I would just have to wait til Mile 25.
OMG, the Citgo sign. There it is, there it is! The sight I’ve been waiting for. And the mile 25 water stop. I took a 10 second walk stop. The wind on the bridge over the Turnpike was ridiculous. But I kept moving. Now to find the right time to strip those layers off.
I crossed the chip mat at 25.2, exactly 1 mile left. Unbeknownst to me, apparently it was at this point that the tracking system simply stopped working for me. Several people watching my progress saw my little dot stop moving, and worried that something was terribly wrong. Why would she stop with only 1 mile to go??? But I was moving, steadily and excitedly. I stripped off my green jacket, and looked for a place to drop it off to the side to make sure it was out of the way (there were a lot of discarded items in the middle of the street which had become dangerous for the runners- i was trying to be courteous!). Next came the long sleeve technical layer. It was so heavy I could barely pull it off. I tossed that to the side. Then my gator- I was going to leave it on, but it was so heavy and wet that it seemed pointless. I pulled it over my head, and lobbed it to the side- and almost hit some poor spectator in kenmore Square. “Sorry!” I yelled. They seemed not to notice. OMG, it’s cold!!!! Thank goodness I have less than a mile.
I dropped under the Mass Ave underpass. One runner later told me he stopped there for a moment to enjopy being out of the wind and rain. “Why?” I thought- “when so close to the finish- who cares?”
Then came the moment every marathon runner dreams of, Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. I spent so many years in Boston making that turn just during casual daily walks. I could see the Hynes Convention Center in front of me, and memories of my first weeks in Boston as a nervous college freshman flooded my brain momentarily. “Home. I’m home. I did it.”
I was scanning the crowd for my friends, but again the see of umbrellas and winter coats was overwhelming. I turned my attention to the finish line. Some say the Boston finish line seems so far after turning onto Boyslton. To me it seemed so close- guess it’s all those years of running LA where you make a left on Ocean and still have a mile to the finish. I don’t know where it came from, but my knees just started lifting and I felt my pace pick up. I had a giant smile on my face and was sprinting to that finish line. Some poor dude was walking and I nearly ran him down in my excitement. And then, it was over. I crossed the line. I started walking. Still beaming. I was walking quite quickly…shit, did I leave too much on the course? Why do I feel so good?
That feeling did not last long. Within a minute, everything seized up from the cold. I was shivering. Where is my medal? Where is my blanket? Where is the water. Everything seemed so far away. Especially those blankets. They are pretty nice though- with armholes and a hood. And they velcro close- which I didn’t realize until a volunteer stopped me to adjust it for me.
Gear check- ugh. There was a huge line. And my hips were aching at that point. I wanted to keep moving, but I had to wait for my stuff. I didn’t even have the energy to change- i was regretting my decision to even bother with gear check, and if there hadn’t been stuff in that bag that I really wanted back, I would have just skipped it. What felt like an hour long wait was probably 10 minutes. I could hear myself groaning as I stood, and my brain was saying “shut up you sound like such a whiner” but I was truly miserable.
Finally I retrieved my bag, and wandered back towards the family meetup area. Off to one side was the finisher medal photo area. Normally I would stop, but not today. Being warm and with my friends and family was more important. I was over “savoring ” the experience.
As I waddled along the street, clutching mystuff and shivering, I was stopped by volunteers checking on me, letting me know there were warming buses just ahead. I briefly considered hopping on the bus, but then I saw that the “K” meeting area was right in front of me so I kept moving. All of the sudden I heard someone yell “Hey!” and felt a pair of hands grab me. It was my friend Toni. “You are so cold, omg!” She hugged me and kept her arms around me to warm me up. Her friend took my bag away from me so my arms could rest. Then I saw Will about 10 feet away, scanning the crowd and looking very concerned that I had not yet arrived. Toni walked me over to him and handed me into his arms.
“I just want to get warm!” I said.
“Can you make it up the street to the Westin?”
He chaperoned me up the street, it seemed so close yet so far. When we walked in the doors to the Westin, the entry way was filled with runners trying to warm up. One security guard saw me shivering, and directed me to a heat vent, so I could open my blanket and let the heat flow in. Toni gave me her down jacket. I stood there for about 5 minutes, did a couple of stretches, and was ready to move on. Fortunately, the hotels and malls of Copley Square and the Prudential Center are all connected, so we could walk the rest of the way indoors- as I had done many hours earlier on my way to the buses.
When I got back to the hotel room, I jumped in the shower and cranked up the heat. I probably stood there for 10-15 minutes, just enjoying the warmth. When I got out, I was still shivering. My hips still ached, and I grabbed a muscle relieving cream called “Punch Gunk” which was created by a friend. I slathered that stuff all over my legs, and learned something new- not only does it relieve aches, it can also be very warming!
It took me about 20 minutes to finally stop shivering.At which point, I was ready for a burger and a beer. As long as I didn’t have to go outside. And we didn’t. At dinner, several other runners were seated near us, and I had a great time swapping war stories with complete strangers. We survived. Would we be back? We hoped so!
Before and after. photo credit: Will Kennedy
And now it’s time to hit Mountains 2 Beach to try to qualify to do this all over again!