Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Boston Marathon 2015: Race Recap

Two months ago I put a giant checkmark over a running career goal to finish the Boston Marathon. It was a long time coming; with years of fitness gaining, making mistakes, learning hard lessons, and bouncing down trails, up hills, and through new adventures with running friends. When I set out to qualify for Boston, I could feel it in my bones. I didn't know if I would succeed, and that was the most satisfying, stomach churning part about it.

Boston is special for many reasons, but for me, this year, this race, was the cherry on top of the sundae. There are a million reasons to run and keep running, but as someone who loves to compete and train at the edge of my ability, Boston made tangible the feeling that I'd made myself into a real competitive marathon racer. Running is a super power, a gift, a curse, an addiction. Boston is Christmas and your birthday all rolled into one. I didn't have the race or trip of my dreams, but I learned much more than I'd bargained for and loved every piece of the experience. It's true what they say: There's only one Boston.

Let's start from the beginning. For Christmas this past year, I surprised my parents with plane tickets to Boston to watch me race. The three of us planned and schemed for the trip and all the while, my sister had some tricks of her own in the works. So, with bags packed on the Saturday morning before Marathon Monday, we were greeted at the airport by an unlikely visitor holding a rather large sign:

"I'll always be by your side no matter how far,
and I know you'll always be by mine.
Will you be my maid of honor?"
Which, naturally, was a super thoughtful way for my sister to wish me well and ask me to be her MAID OF HONOR (yes yes yes) before this big, nerve-racking, race. So we hugged and I said I'd love to stand by her side on her wedding day and I thought that was the whole show. This sneaky lady turned and grabbed her bag – "Oh, I'm coming too."

I lost it. The feels.

I think I'll keep her :)

And with our newest addition in toe, the four of us headed to our gate. I was jittery for the entirety of the flight.

Race expo insanity, hectic Boston Marathon road blocks and traffic, lots of eating, and a shake out run later, we were at a Red Sox game on Sunday afternoon and I was trying to ignore the nagging reports that rain might be overtaking the race the next morning.

Go Sox!

Sunday Night: Sitting in my hotel room alone, setting out my clothes, calling my bf for the final pep-talk, crawling into a big comfy bed, and trying to thoughtfully absorb all of the love and passion and stress and happiness that had landed me in this very cozy, very on-the-brink-of-it-all spot. I love reliving the contentment of that moment.


For the most part, marathons go by much faster than you might think. It's 3 and a half-ish hours of your life and, comparatively, that's not a terribly long time. Boston, however, was a lifetime.

I started my morning dressed in a giant trash bag hastily pulled over my faded Goodwill sweatshirt and throw-away sweats (over my race attire). Security is so tight at the "athlete's village" (code for holding area for 26,000 runners with a massive amount of police and military personnel and lots of porta-potties) that we were each patted down multiple times before entering the field we were asked to wait in before the race – fully armed snipers and bomb-sniffing dogs were visible from every vantage point under the make-shift tents. The weather was dreary, but the rain was sporadic and light for most of the early morning.

My wave went off around 10am and enjoyed about a quarter mile of dry conditions before the sky opened up. At first there were battle cries from the people around me: "Bring on the rain!", "Give 'em, hell, y'all!". I loved those first few moments of getting soaked – camaraderie instantly bonded everyone on that Hopkinton street.

But soon the wind picked up on the slick streets (all painted lines on the road were to be stepped on at runner's own risk). At times it was over 20mph gusts throwing freezing rain into our faces. I figured I had two choices in my attire for the day: either I wear layers and carry heavy, wet clothes for 26.2 miles, or I go light, don't carry extra weight from damp layers, and count on the running to keep me warm. I definitely chose wrong.

Shorts, an ultra-lightweight tank top, and tall compression socks was my outfit of choice and it was COLD. Really, really cold. I couldn't recall at what point I lost feeling in my arms, hands, and torso; but I do remember realizing around mile 17 that I was not fairing well.

For the first time in my marathoning career, I thought about giving up. I thought of a million reasons why I had earned that finish line. Why it needed to keep moving and how hard I had worked to get myself to this place. But I also thought about what a space blanket would feel like and some wool socks and piping hot tea and dry clothes. I'm not super proud to admit it, but I was suffering and my hazy brain was pretty single-track about its needs.

Somehow I didn't dash into a medical tent or walk in desperation. I put my head down and trudged up Heartbreak Hill with an inch of water cascading down over my shoes. It wasn't inspiring, but I was moving, and at the time that was the best I could do.

By the time the last 5k of the race came within reach, the rain had lightened up. I haven't had brain-fog like that ever before; it was a mix of caloric depletion, exhaustion, and pre-hypothermia. All I know is that I had to book it. Like, really booked it. I ran my fastest continuous 5k. Ever. These were sub-7 miles and I couldn't feel a thing – my whole body was numb.

Crossing the finish line was every bit as satisfying as I could have hoped. Boston is so much bigger than any one person and you can feel it in every fiber of your being when you cross that line. Officially a 3:29 finish – 4 minutes slower than my personal best.

Uncontrollable shaking, an inability to make decisions, and severe loss of appetite and energy quickly followed, but were things I felt I earned in a crazy-runner sort of way. I was pulled into a medical tent for "hypothermic symptoms" shortly after finishing the race.


Jolly popsicle

A wicked-hot shower and many layers of compression and spandex and wool later, I was feeling human again. I walked away from the race with some hard-learned, valuable lessons, including how the body burns 1.5x as many calories (at least) when you're very cold and therefore, you'll need a lot more calories during the race to keep you out of the brain-fog world. Or how it's a bad idea to give your parents your bag of dry clothes and your cell phone because they might just get lost (!!) trying to find you after the race. Or how soaking wet clothes on soaking wet skin for many hours sometimes results in gnarly chafe burns along every edge where seams met skin.

The Love :)

Lessons learned aside, there are many parts of this journey – training, preparing, traveling, trouble-shooting – that I could not have done on my own. My parents have always been such ardent supporters of mine and my siblings' endeavors; I'm so grateful for their presence, patience, and humor at this race and in my life. My sister, with her quirks and silly mannerisms, is one of my personal heroes. It meant and means the world to me that she put aside time and spent weeks planning to make this experience special for me. I hope to be that selfless someday! And, of course, training for a marathon would not be possible without the support, love, care, kindness, humbling, camaraderie, and empathy of those I have trained with, learned from, and grown as an athlete alongside. Some lovely familiar faces braved the brutal weather and long wait to cheer me on during the race – JB even drove down from Ithaca! I am extremely fortunate to call all of these people my real and adopted family.

My lovely Gamma Phi ladies!

Right Now:

Two months of retrospect under my belt, I'm 6 weeks into rehab on a hamstring injury I incurred during a race 2 weeks after Boston. I'm feeling strong, finishing my PT work this week, and looking forward to continuing to train! Sunday marks the 13 week mark until the Berlin Marathon!

-- --

"It was that time when everything seems hopeless, when to go on seems futile, and when a small act of kindness, another step, a sip of water, can make you realize that nothing is futile, that going on – especially when going on seems so foolish – is the most meaningful thing in the world."

~Scott Jurek, Eat and Run

1 comment:

  1. I was so proud to watch you run, and to support you. It warmed my little heart to see you accomplish this amazing feat that I know you've dreamed of for so long. <3