Wednesday, April 18, 2007

2007 Boston Marathon Results

3:09:50 (7:15/min pace)
1888th place overall (out of 20,348)
1262 in division (out of 4525)

Oh my oh my! What an experience! I am now in very select company as I am now officially a Boston Marathon finisher. It truly is one of the most memorable experiences of my entire life, no doubt.

The weather forecast three days before the race was downright horrible. Low 40’s, steady rain winds 20-30 MPH gusting to 50 MPH. There was serious talk of cancelling, mostly for safety issues. Runners were talking about nothing else in those last 48 hours. It was a bona fide Nor’easter that ran through the area but luckily, the brunt of it was done by early race morning.

The expo (imagine 250 businesses selling running stuff to them most dedicated runners in the world) was huge and seriously cool. I bought very little, but received a whole lot of free stuff, food, blister stuff, sunscreen, chap-stick, etc. It was wall to wall runners all day long. The ‘energy’ of the expo was seriously cool.

After the expo, I got to head over to finish line to take some pictures as I knew it would be hard on race day. It turns out, lots of people have the same idea. :)
Boston finish

My race day started early, waking up at about 4:45. I took my time drinking my tea, a warm slow shower, heading for the subway at about 5:20 am. I needed to ride the subway for 10 minutes to get to the buses that took us to the Athlete’s Village, a staging ground 0.7 miles from the start line. Since it takes so long to get everyone there (23,000+) they started the buses early. I got there in time (2 hours before I needed to leave for the start) to stake out a small parcel of land (2′ x 5′) to sit under the big circus tent.

The temperature at this point was in the high 30’s so not bad. I took my time getting ready, stretching, eating a bagel and connecting my homemade gators to my shoes.
This was a custom system that I built just before I left Michigan, a two piece operation that allowed my feet to breath yet stay dry in the hardest of rain. You can tell who my father is (Thanks Dad!). In the end, it did keep my feet drier that without it. People complimented me on my ingenuity. Some people were wearing plastic bags on their feet right up until the start.

At about 9:10 (50 min before the start) I started my walk to the starting line. My drop bag (my clothing and stuff I wanted at the end of the race) was put inside a well labeled bus and then it was just me, my shoes, my running clothes and a 26.2 mile run to the finish. I got to the start line just in time to watch the elite women start (25 min before my start time) and then I entered my corral. Your starting location is based on your qualifying time. I registered using my 2:59:04 from Sunburst which put me in the second corral. I found out I could have updated my qualifying time with my 2:55:30 from the A1A Marathon and then I would have been in the very first corral, but decided that since I was not racing this one, it was fine. 2 min before the start I removed one layer, a cotton t-shirt under my windbreaker. The nice lady holding up the rope separating corral 1 from corral 2 took it from me with a smile.

The gun went off right at 10 am, and surprisingly, I passed the start line within 20 seconds of the start. Another fear that did not come up was that the first few miles would be spent running on top of people feet. The seeding of the start is a great idea so everyone was moving at the same pace around you.

The course starts out with a whole bunch of downhill running, and I knew that and LISTENED to everything I hear that said to hold back. I did that, just getting into a groove that felt comfortable. After less than a mile I knew that I needed to ditch my other cotton shirt I was wearing, but because of my windbreaker and how it was fashioned, it would have taken me 2 minutes if I stopped and removed it. I decided to do my best Incredible Hulk impersonation and unzipped my windbreaker halfway and literally ripped the shirt apart to take it off. And guess what, the shirt was a bright lime green color :)

My biggest concern for the race was the cold. I wore enough clothes to keep me warm, but the clothes that kept me warm slowed me down, probably adding 5 pounds to my weight once they were wet with rain/sweat. That was fine. Survival this day was more important than a fast finish time.

The miles rolled on, and if you recall, I got more than a little dehydrated back at the A1A marathon, so this time I was much better at hydrating. At every water aid station (roughly every mile) I took a cup and walked for 4 steps while getting a good swallow. After the half way mark I switched to Gatorade and took 2-3 swallows walking for 6-8 steps. Hey, I was getting tired…

They say that this is the largest spectator event in the world with 500,000+ watching it ‘live’ throughout the course. I am sure the weather kept some people away, but there was pretty constant crowds the whole way which was really cool. There were lots of kids holding out their hands for high-5’s and I obliged for about 100 of them throughout the course.

There was of course the famous ’scream tunnel’ which is where you run by Wellesley College and the women of Wellesley stand there and scream at the top of their lungs for you and beg for kisses. It is true, you can hear them a little over half a mile away and it is deafening. Thousands of co-eds screaming you encouragement. Because it is tradition, I had to stop for a kiss, well I got three. The last one from a nice young woman who held a sign that said simply ‘Take a break. Kiss me.’ I did both, but quickly. The excitement gave me a nice shot in the arm in terms of motivation, but only lasted for about a mile before my body reminded me that it was cold, wet and tired. I remarked to the runners around me that Wellesley college needs to be at mile 22, not mile 13.

I was never planning on ‘racing’ this one, meaning I was not shooting for a PR or anything. I am currently in heavy training for the Hatfield/McCoy Reunion Marathon in early June and I did not want to take a week off from that training schedule to recover from a hard Boston, so I took it easy. My training schedule for this week called for a 18 mile run at a 7:00/mile pace. At mile 18, I checked my watch, 6:55 pace. Great, I said, now I have a nice gentle 8 mile cool down run. My pace slowed and I tried to enjoy the crowds a little more, using them to get me through the numerous gentle, but long, hills that ended with that famous one, ‘heartbreak hill’. I was happy to get to the top, but then annoyed as after that there were still a bunch of small ones that I did not realize existed. I am sure they seemed worse than they were, but remember, I had already be running for 20+ miles.
Once you turn on to Bolyston street, it is less than 0.5 mile to the finish. After you take the turn you can see the banner over the road. It just calls to you, drawing you in. Literally with less than 0.15 mile to go, I got a nasty cramp in the back of my leg. I stumbled for a few steps, laughed out loud and said ‘good timing’ yet ran on.

The finish line was a well-oiled volunteer machine. Medical personnel, Mylar space blankets, chip removal, food/water, finishers medal (which if you ask me is pretty lame). Everything was great, right up until the time came to get my drop bag. Thousands of runners stood outside buses with bags, trying to stay warm as volunteers tried very hard to get bags to the appropriate people quickly. It took a while, and some runners began to get rather upset. I was just getting very cold and starting to shiver. Once I had my bag I found an entryway to a restaurant to do a quick costume change into warm clothes. That made a world of difference.
A short walk back to my hotel ended in a nice hot shower. My toes held out good considering how wet they got. I did put a lot of Vaseline on them before the race and I think that really helped. A few small blisters popped, dry socks, clean clothes. All was good. A nice dinner at the hotel restaurant with a big juicy steak (NO MORE PASTA PLEASE!!) and it was off to bed.

The experience was great. Now, two days later, I feel a little depressed, only because a joyous event that I had been focusing on and looking forward to for so long was now complete and behind me. Anticipation is now all gone, replaced by memories.

Thank you all who gave me words/emails of encouragement. They helped me through the crappy conditions. I love you all!

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