Friday, April 20, 2012

Boston Marathon Memories

Boston Marathon 2012
Three other 'YRats' (running friends who met through our YMCA bootcamp and still meet at the Y for morning runs) were running the marathon and Nikki was volunteering, so we shared the weekend by travelling together with spouses and kids.  Rose and Matt came with me and Keith lives in the Boston area so he met us there.  Brenda brought Tom and daughters Trisha and Faith.  Jill's husband Mike came, and Kristal brought Danny and Lindsey.  Two vans, 4 hotel rooms, eating out together, plus other Boston and marathon activities.  Two special activities were the Marathon Expo and painting pottery at the Clayroom.  It was fun seeing all the people wearing Boston Marathon jackets.  We could all feel like we were on the same team.

Kristal, Jill, Chuck, Brenda in our Official Boston Jackets

On race day, Mike drove Nikki to her volunteer duty starting at 6 am.  Then he returned and joined others to take up a place on the course.  Nikki later was able to join Brenda and run with her almost to the finish.  Matt and Lindsey drove the runners (Brenda, Kristal, Jill, and me) to meet a shuttle bus at Hopkinton State Park.  We all rode the bus together into downtown Hopkinton and the runners walked up to the athletes village.  Matt and Lindsey walked over to watch the start before heading back to get to a place later on the course.

The athletes village was of course full of activity and about 20 thousand runners.  After posing for photos, We found a place under one of the big tents, chatted, rested, and began our preparations.  There were some trips to the porta potties and finally we dropped our bags and walked to the start.  Jill left first for wave 2 corral 3, then me wave 2 corral 7, and Brenda and Kristal a little later for wave 3.  Hugs and well wishes with each departure.

It was about a 10 minute walk to the start area and for me included stopping one more time to visit the porta potties.  I got to my corral about one minute before the start, but we didn't start moving for a couple more minutes.  I passed the start line 5 minutes after the start signal, already jogging near my goal pace.  Almost immediately most runners were running faster than me and I was wondering what they were thinking by going so fast.  Since the day was sunny, it was important to find shade when possible.  This meant mainly running toward the right side of the road.  We would be in the heat for a long time.

On the course there was very good race support with water and gatorade every mile beginning at the end of mile 2.  There was an equal or greater unofficial support effort by spectators all along the course.  People seemed to be in front of their homes, businesses, other places offering whatever they thought would help the runners overcome the challenges of the course and the high temperatures.  Water, ice, orange slices, bananas, candy, paper towels (sometimes wet with cold water) for wiping away the sweat.

Many places someone would be standing at the edge of the road holding a garden hose with water spraying onto the road.  Runners were able to run through the spray for help keeping cool. Probably more than 100 people were giving this kind of help over the marathon course.

The Boston Marathon spectators are great supporters of the runners.  They look at runners to find a way to cheer for them.  Runners wearing their name will be cheered for by name.  Otherwise they cheer for you by number or the color or words on your shirt.  "Go for it Denmark".  "Looking good red shirt".  "You can do this Rats".  I heard that one several times.  Even with my name on my race bib, some people noticed my YRats shirt and cheered for me accordingly.  Someone even urged me to run it for the hamster!

The crowd of spectators included many, many families like is common along a parade route.  It must have been some parade.  By the end there were so many desperate looking runners who were reduced to walking.  It would take hours for all  runners to pass some of the later places on the course, so these supporters really showed commitment by being there cheering and helping.  It was so touching to see children along the way standing with their hands out offering refreshment or waiting for a high-five from runners.  Sometimes these little ones would be 3 or 4 in a row and I could give a hand slap to them all in one waving motion. 

Around the 5 or 6 mile mark there was a tent and sign in front of a Dairy Queen that proclaimed a 'quit early' spot and offering free ice cream to anyone dropping out there.  I thought "no way am I stopping now".

Water stops were a series of tables first offering gatorade and then followed by another set of tables offering water.  The usual water table practice in races is to slow enough to take a cup from a volunteer and continue past the table before stopping if stopping is one's intention.  This time the practice devolved into a stop and shop kind of approach.  Most people around me and including me were walking into the table area and picking up one or more cups.  Often even standing until we had gotten what we needed.  Volunteers were mostly busy trying to fill the cups quickly enough; runners were in self serve mode.  And the ground was covered with empty cups.  Near the gatorade the road ws sticky, then by the water tables is was wet enough to rinse off the stickiness.

Many places provided musical support.  Some live, others recorded.  Styles included a blue grass/country band, rock music at the biker bar, a drum group.  I remember hearing the theme from the Rocky movies. 

And the college students.  Wellesley and the scream tunnel with the female students holding posters, offering/requesting kisses.  Boston College was really loud and boisterous, with students standing several people deep along the edge of the road.  Their version of support included handing out beer.

It seemed that further along the course the crowds were thicker and louder.  The final blocks were just an amazing place with thousands of people between the buildings of downtown Boston. The sound in this area seemed like something from a professional sporting event and it was uplifting that they were cheering for me.  I could feel like and Olympian or a rock star.

After the race we had a prearranged spot to meet.  The walk to that place seemed to take forever.  After finishing I trudged along through the finish area, receiving a finishers medal, drinks and food, a reflective heat sheet, and my checked bag.  There were photographers taking finisher photos and I posed for one of those.  Eventually at the meeting place I met up with Jill and Kristal, who finished before me, and with Matt and Lindsey who were there to meet us. 

Jill, Chuck, Kristal, Brenda

Soon I was lying on the ground resting and taking some food and drink for recovery.  It took a while but I eventually felt revived and went to change into dry clothes and shoes.  Brenda and Nikki arrived.  Then Rose, Keith, Mike, Danny.  We swapped some stories, posed for pictures, and began making our way to the subway to start back to the hotel. 

During the subway ride I started feeling too hot again and then weak.  I asked to sit down.  This was a scare none of us wanted.  It seemed our whole group switched into emergency services mode.  I was given things to drink and eat to get calories into my system.  Some were fanning me to help me cool down.  I even had help taking my long sleeve shirt off.  When we got to our station, they made me lay down on a  bench and did more things to cool me off.  A metro station worker came over and asked whether to call 911.  In a little while I felt better and walked out of the station to the waiting van.  I still am unclear whether this was a heat issue or a blood sugar problem.  I think I was always clear enough mentally though this, but maybe that was a hallucination!

Back to the hotel, showers, and out to dinner.  We encountered some other marathon runners and enjoyed the camaraderie of Boston Marathon finishers.  Wearing the jacket or shirt seems like membership in an exclusive club.  And it's just fun to be part of something special.

Bedtime about 11:30.  Then Keith called because of a health crisis with his cat Michaux.  Rose and I got up about 2 am and spent the rest of the night with him.

Boston Marathon 2012 Race Report

April 16 , 2012 - the day was too hot for racing, sunny and 70's at the start, rising into the upper 80's.
During training my goal time for this race was 3:30 - requiring an average pace of 8 minutes per mile.  I finished with 4:30:29, 45 minutes slower than in 2011.
There were many warnings from the BAA about the hot weather.  They recommended only highly trained runners participate and to abandon time goals.  And they offered deferment/guaranteed entry for next year.
Considering the hot conditions I decided to start at 8:30 pace and adjust as needed.  By 5k I realized that pace would not work, so I purposely slowed by taking more time at water stops.  I had to continue slowing throughout the race. I added walking some between stops and then walking whenever I was too hot. Each mile took longer and was becoming more uncomfortable for me.  There were fluid stations every mile with gatorade and water.  As the day went on and got hotter, the drinks got warmer.  I was soon 2 or 3 cupping every water table - dump a cup of water, drink a cup of something, dump another cup of water over my head and upper body for cooling.  One time the "water" running down my face tasted like gatorade.  Oops!  My first thought was whether anyone noticed what I did.  I quickly used a couple extra waters to rinse.
Runners also had several opportunities to run through misting tents and fire hydrant sprayers to help keep cool.
By midway my quads were hurting and any slight downhill stretch was painful. The Newton hills from miles 17 to 21 tired and slowed me even more.  About mile 20 it seemed I was no longer sweating.  Before arriving at each water stop my arms would be dry.  But I felt ok to continue.  No headaches, dizziness, shaking.  No serious cramping.  My skin recovered from a pinch test for dehydration.  I considered checking at a medical tent but didn't want to risk them taking me off the course.  I had invested a lot of effort to get this far and didn't want to leave without finishing and getting the medal.  It seems foolish now as I put these stubborn thoughts into words.

Walking again, thinking constant forward progress.

For a long time I had been looking forward to the end of the hills where family and friends were watching.  I made sure I was running as I approached the spot in case there was a camera was ready for pictures.  Finally I arrived, found them near where I expected at mile 22 and stopped to talk with Rose and Keith and the others.  Rose offered water to pour over my head - I suppose I didn't look so fresh.  And then I went on to face the last 4-something miles.
More run-walk effort made slow progress. I realized if I could or would run more, I'd get done sooner.  At last I reached the final mile with only 2 turns before I could see the finish a few blocks away.  I managed to run without walking from the end of Boyleston the last whatever that is (half mile?) at a little under 9 minute pace.  I felt some emotion welling up as I ran along this last stretch in front of big crowds making big noise.  Crossing the finish gave simply a feeling of relief.
This marathon was difficult in such a different way than others I've run.  The conditions were the biggest challenge, not the distance or a time goal.  Early on when I realized I had to slow down to manage the heat, I surrendered any time goal.  When I checked my watch it was either to see what the total distance was or out of curiosity over my ever slowing pace.  My goal was only to finish safely.  Even that was not easy.

Even with this year's challenges, I am still very glad to have done the Boston Marathon. There was awesome support over the entire course from race workers and spectators acting as unofficial volunteers!


5k splits recorded by BAA:
0:26:21, 0:54:07, 1:22:21, 1:52:50, 1:59:12, 2:25:18, 3:00:31, 3:38:49, 4:15:58
mile splits from my watch:
  829,   828,    824,     821,     844,     858,     916,    917,     904,     900,     944,    1001,     942,
1007, 1103,  1012,   1149,   1130,   1123,   1142,  1305,   1142,   1239,   1147,    1108,   1103,  348 (828 pace for 0.45mi)