Well, I took the challenge and I worked my ass off. For the first time in many years I focussed about 5 months on running. Running fast, running long. Cycling and swimming took a backseat. The training nearly broke me, but worse than that it nearly took my love of running away. My quads were so wound up all the time that it pulled on my knees. For the last couple of months I ran in pain. Not injury pain, just pain. Then, come race day I was so fit and ready everything fell into place perfectly. The race was much easier than the training. Not only did I qualify, but I got the 5 minute extra qualification that would allow me to register early.
What started out as a group of 6 of us trying to to go together turned into just 3 of us. Because of the Boston Bombing, qualification standards were changed and some who DID actually qualify weren't able to register. There was no doubt in my mind I was going. This was a one time thing for me!
Then some of my plans changed. Shane & I decided to rent a house in CDA for the summer, and with that came, well you know, I just had to do the race as well! CDA is only about 10 weeks after Boston so I had a chat with Michelle about what that would do for my "A" race. While I had planned on running Boston for fun, this meant I had to not focus at all on the marathon, but continue my Ironman build. This is EXACTLY what we did. I trained 15-18hours per week, running 20-30 miles and had one 20 miler that was at the end of our TeamBSC Scottsdale training camp. I felt fit, but not marathon strong and I was 100% ok with that.
June and I made plans to run together. We wanted to enjoy the experience and take it all in. The plan was to run 9 minute miles, or whatever around there felt good. We planned matching outfits (duh!) and had everything set to have FUN. Jen, June & I had hundreds of texts going back and forth with excitement for the trip, the experience, the FOOD, and most of all the fun.
Since June was arriving a day later, Jen and I made plans to meet at the expo after a short run on Saturday morning. Both coming from different hotels, we planned to meet at the front of the convention center and when we arrived everything changed and became so surreal. As we approached Boylston Street, right in front of the convention center and in the last .25 mile of the run there was a memorial walk going on. Even though the streets were packed with people, it was silent. Somber. This is when it all set in how incredibly blessed we were to be there and part of this event, just one year after the tragedy.
As soon as we entered the expo our demeanor changed to HOLY crap this is so exciting, lets go SHOPPING! We got registered and were soon buying (all the same, of course) up some Schwag!
We walked down Boylston Street to see the finish and had a great lunch on the patio overlooking the street and crowds. Seafood salads, beers and lots of laughs about all our purchases!
After lunch Shane and took a tour of the Memorial in the Public Library. It was emotional, beautiful and sad all at the same time. Words can't describe what it was like to see the pictures, the letters, the SHOES, but I did snap a few photos to share.
"Run for those who can't." You GOT IT!
The next couple of days were awesome. We walked around, visited pubs and had amazing food. Relaxed and there to take it all in, not taking anything (about the actually running part) too seriously. Who knows, maybe I actually needed this mental break from Ironman training. Camp took a lot (mentally) out of me so maybe this was exactly what I needed!!
Race morning could not have gone more smoothly. June and I met in the hotel at 7:50 (I know so late!), grabbed a cab and got dropped off for the bus pickup. Since Jen was in a different hotel we all carried our phones and texted we were on different busses but would meet at the drop off. Again, it all went smoothly. We met up and immediately and got in line for the restrooms all bundled up!
Once we were out of the shade and walking to the corrals it was actually nice and warm! We ditched our snow suits and started walking. The neighborhood was amazing! People lining the streets cheering, giving away water, food, BEER. What a way to get us fired up. This was the most fun few block walk and pre-race energy I have ever felt. We were able to all get into the same wave, or corral, whatever it was so we could hang out and start together!
As soon as we started the energy was AWESOME! June and I ran side by side, having to really hold back. The first part of the course had a lot of downhill. I immediately had to pee, so we found an open porta potty around mile 3. Our garmins were clicking off really early, so I reset my lap to match the mile markers at mile 4. Then by mile 5 it was off again, by almost 1/4 mile. I did the math, and even though the garmin had us avg like an 8:40 (way too fast for what we had planned), the calculation of our total time and mile 5 was just under a 9 min mile. Pheww. We plugged along by PE, with me doing math at every mile since the garmin wasn't really accurate. The effort was super easy, but my legs definitely felt heavy. My left quads was almost twinging. I started to wonder if maybe not enough run miles was going to play out today. Before we knew it we were at the half way point and right on target for about a 4 hour marathon (taking into account heart break hill, which I had no idea what it was or how much climbing it had because I didn't take a look at the course map!).
Just like a typical endurance athlete, somewhere around 2 hours my legs and everything else started to feel amazing! I wanted to RUN. I held back knowing I wasn't racing today, and just kept taking it all in. The spectators were unreal and so creative! As we approached Wellesley I was on a mission to "kiss a girl." I knew nothing about this tradition, but once I heard, of course I had to take part! June got her camera out and we found (not hard) someone to stop for. She immediately tried to kiss me on the lips. Hilarious! We told her the plan was for both of us to kiss her on the cheek and snap a picture. Then the guy next to her wanted a kiss as well, so we obliged. This had us laughing for a couple of miles.
I was having the time of my life. While the plan was to stick together June and I were having different days. We all know that anything can happen in a race, and as much as I wanted to do this whole thing with her the fact that we were feeling different made it hard for us to really enjoy it all without any pressure, so I did finally pull away a bit and just keep running.
I continued on my path of enjoy it all. I high fived everyone I could. I took otter pops, and licorice from spectators. I ran across both sides, where ever the crowds were more crazy. I remember thinking there were lots of hills. s this heartbreak? I never had a clue where I was, or what pace I was running (my garmin lost satellites at mile 19), but I didn't care. I felt amazing (outside of the left quad) the entire run, and had to hold myself back, knowing that if at any time I dug it would just add to my recovery time and take away from my Ironman training.
Before I knew it I was at mile 25. I heard my name being called (I have no idea how), looked to my right and saw Shane and June's husband standing there. I got a huge smile on my face (as if it wasn't there already), waved and did let myself pick up the pace (or effort) a little bit. I crossed the finish line somewhere under 4 hours, grabbed my phone and texted Shane.
June was not far behind me so I waited for her, and we started our incredibly short walk to Jen's hotel. We planned everything perfectly and had a key to her room, and clothes to change into.
Happy, Happy Finishers!
The boys met us at the hotel, and after a quick cleanup we had beers in hand! Jen was back just a few minutes later and shortly after we began a never ending walk to get away from the crowds and find a way to FOOD and more drinks! We didn't realize how chaotic it would be, so by the time we hit our destination we were all a bit hangry. Thankfully the food was fast, and the drinks yummy and filling!
After filling our bellies we headed to a fun pub called the Whiskey Priest. We had a blast there, and when we finally hit our point of exhaustion (way later than expected) we walked a bit more back to the hotel and crashed for the night!
This trip was so much more than I imagined. I enjoyed every step of that marathon, the crowds, the scenery, my friends. Again, I feel so incredibly lucky and blessed to have experienced this day, just one year after such a tragedy. The city, the neighboring towns and the incredibly ambiance of the entire week were something I will never forget.
Boston, you are simply AMAZING!