This must be what authors feel like when they write the final chapter of a novel that they’ve put tireless effort, hours, tears, and work into. It’s a bit bittersweet, a bit rewarding and a bit daunting trying to determine where I should start and how I can ever find the right words to close such an important chapter in my life. So allow me to do this a little bit backwards: first, I’ll tell you about the race. Later, I’ll fill you in on the entire adventure that was Boston.
P.S. This post is GIGANTIC. So grab some tea and ice cream…you may be here for a bit.
I made every effort to be well rested and well prepared the night before. Pasta dinner? Check. Back to the hotel at a decent hour? Check. Prepping all of my race gear the night before and having Chicken Face (i.e. the perfectionist) master the ironing of the letters? Double check. I was in bed by 9 p.m. and was able to sleep pretty well…well, that is if you don’t include my dream of having two of my teeth fall out and my “dream-self” insisting on racing even if I was toothless. I was up only a few moments before my alarm and seamlessly got prepared: clothes, gear check bag, oatmeal…we’re ready to rock. Before you knew it, I was on my way to the buses which hauled you to the start line.
As seemingly innocent as this bus ride sounds, it was a bit daunting. The wind was ripping back and forth, voraciously mocking the runners as we all prayed for it to be a tailwind. The further we rode on the bus, the more I thought to myself, “My God. We have to run this entire way back!” In addition to the wind, it was cold and I cursed myself for not bringing a blanket. Once we arrived at the “Athlete’s Village” I grabbed the free bagel and other goodies, met up with Aron, Cate and Emily, and found a way to entertain ourselves for a few hours until it was go time.
As the loudspeaker beckoned us to our assigned corrals, Aron and I marched the three-quarters of a mile to the start, anxiously excited for what was to come. With a swift goodbye and a hug, we were both on our way to our individual adventures. I only had but mere moments to perfect my shoelaces (runner’s loop, double knotted, not too tight) and we were off. It was a bit strange that there was no gun, no national anthem, no big send off that I could see or hear. Instead, it was just cheers and we were off.
As you may or may not know, the infamous “they” always say to pace yourself during the first portion of the race. With the rolling hills and numerous downhill stretches, it’s easy to be “the jackrabbit” and get ahead of yourself. Being the “jackrabbit” will, in turn, destroy your quads as the downhills are as much of a tricky little devil as are the uphills. I was determined to heed this advice and was cognizant of my effort. However, whenever I glanced down at my watch, I was way behind my pace. The narrow streets were crowded and while I wanted to watch my pace, I didn’t want to gauge my time by staying in a much slower pace group. So I tried to weave a bit to get with the 8 minute pacers, but again, the narrow streets proved to be a hindrance so I worked with what I could.
The first 10 miles were perfect. I felt strong, my legs (I thought) were managing well, and I was effortlessly cruising. This was also the first time that I’ve ever ironed my name on my shirt and I must say — it was awesome. People wouldn’t only scream your name, but almost look at you directly and give a motivating expression as well. I giggled and loved every single person who unknowingly cheered for the girl with the giant letters plastered on her shirt.
After mile 10 or so (I can’t really recall) is where reality set it. For reasons unknown to me, my legs started being uncooperative, I could feel my energy dragging, and my stomach was sloshing around already. The marathon Gods also changed their minds and decided, what the heck, let’s make today a h-o-t day! From wicked wind and cold, to what felt like an overly sufficient amount of heat, it was soon time to readjust my gear. I was wearing my orange Oiselle sleeves – which I LOVE because they almost act like mittens with a perfect little thumb hole. However, this thumb hole that I usually adore proved to be a problem. I needed to completely take off my sleeves and not just push them down, however, my Garmin was strapped on top of the sleeves. Thus, in order to get the sleeves completely off and shove them into my bra, I needed to take my Garmin off. My hands were already a bit full as I was using my handheld water bottle (which worked out perfectly, BTW) and a fresh pack of ClifBlocks.
In the process of removing my beloved sleeves, my Garmin flew out of my hand and back a ways. Noooooooooo! I have no idea how this happened, it just did. So there I was, with the heat seemingly starting to beat down on me, shoving sleeves into my bra, fists full of other gear, and I had to back track to go and find the damn thing. Upon finding it, I noticed that the clasp-thing-a-ma-jig that enables you to actually strap it on your wrist had broken off in the fall. Again, I have no idea how this happened, it just did. So I scooped my Garmin up, probably spouted off a few profanities, and made my way forward. A mile or so further, I could feel my legs getting ever heavier. When I glanced down at my Garmin (which I was now holding in my other hand), I noticed a fairly decent pace. What? No way. Upon closer investigation I noticed that in the great fall of the Garmin, it had stopped working. So there I was, with no idea what my pace was, what my actual mileage was, or even my overall time. I started to really beat myself up and wondered if this entire race would be a wash.
But then, I thought of my dad. As much as we may have rolled our eyes at him as kids, I can honestly say that I have used every single one of his mantras, despite how much cheese they may consist of. This time, the one that renewed my focus was simple…
It’s not what happens to you, but how you handle it.
This race was just like life: shit happens. And more than ever, I’m trying to adopt the mentality that as much as we think we’ve prepared for something, it’s likely that something will not go as planned. So instead of throwing your arms up in defeat, do something about it. Life will happen – the good and the bad. When the bad times roll in, the only thing you can do is slap on another smile, dig deep, find a solution and keep moving forward. And that’s what I did…
I made my way through Wellesley and the screaming co-eds, laughing at their clever signs. I vowed not to walk any of the Newton hills. Oh and that whole “Heartbreak Hill is a killer” rumor? Um no, that’s a lie, it’s totally manageable. What aren’t lies are the two hills that came before Heartbreak – now those are gasping-for-breath-worthy. Nevertheless, you keep on keepin’ on.
At this point, I have more stuff shoved in my bra than I can remember. I’m dousing myself with water every couple of aid stations. I made two bathroom stops and instead of beating myself up for the time wasted, I accepted it and just moved on.
The specifics of miles 20 through 25 are actually a bit of a blur for me. But I do remember seeing the throngs on drunken college kids get deeper and deeper. I remember the distinct smell of someone barbequing along the course. I remember the Citgo sign peeking above the skyline in the near distance. I remember hearing more and more people shouting my name and giving me thumbs up. I remember telling myself to embrace it, but also begging for it to be over.
All this time, I had no real knowledge of my time or pace, but as I have always told myself: finish fast (plus, Chicken Face told me I need to pick up my feet so the final stretch photos actually look like I’m running – ha!). So the final sprint began. What seemed like thousands of people packed the final stretch and somehow, you find it deep within you, buried behind the past 25.2 miles of pain to pick up your feet and turn them over faster than before. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Go. Finish.
I finished with a new marathon personal record!
More important than deconstructing what went wrong and why I didn’t meet my goal time is discussing what went right and why I am so happy with this new PR. What seemed to be race hardships were actually challenges that tested me and forced me to become an even stronger runner – both mentally and physically. It’s not what happens to you – but how you handle it.
I must admit, after I finished I went to the med tent because I was shaking pretty badly. Not from being cold, but most likely a bit of dehydration (which is odd – given that I fueled exactly as I normally do. I’ll discuss this in a later post). No worries though – I came out ok and Chicken Face was oh-so-kind to capture my exit from the med tent – lil’ jerk!
This race was the most challenging marathon I’ve ever done. It pushed my limits and enabled me to dig for something I wasn’t sure I had at first. As tough as it may be, I hope that everyone gets to have this experience – even if it’s not at Boston. Oh, and you better believe I ripped open that jacket as soon as I could!
And again, THANK YOU for every single one of your comments, tweets, thoughts, emails, calls, everything! Checking my feed after the race was the most uplifting and encouraging moments ever – you all never cease to amaze me!
I loved this race and the memories that accompanied it. Until the next post where I’ll share our weekend nonsense…