Before I recap Boston Marathon 2016, let’s flashback to Boston 2007 because I would have never been at the starting line without this person…
My mom has run Boston 7 times…SEVEN TIMES. The Boston Marathon was something I always heard growing up, but it took time for me understand just how big and incredible the race is. When I was in Middle School, I went to Boston to watch my mom run. That day has become a joke between my mom and I because it was not an easy race for her. She was experiencing serious calf cramping. When she reached us, she begged my dad to massage her calf. She was in so much pain and the only words of encouragement I gave her was, “Mom, can you hurry up. We are getting bored.” Trust me when I say that I am NOT proud of that. I guess the only thing we can do now is just laugh at how rude and ridiculous that was. Point being, it took time for me to realize what the Boston Marathon was all about.
Fast forward to 2007. I was a senior in high school when I wrote this note to my mom the morning of the marathon. I had some making up to do after that first comment.
Fast forward again to the last three years where I have spent Patriot’s Day morning GLUED to my laptop as I watched runners achieve something so great…something I so desperately wanted to do..but something I thought was never possible. In just a year, I not only accomplished my dream of running a full marathon but managed to qualify to Boston and found myself no longer glued to my laptop but lined up at the start.
Before I get into the race recap, I will start with the expo and some background on my race day nutrition. On Saturday, my boyfriend and I drove to Boston for the day and tackled the crowded expo!
I picked up my number, finagled my way through the expo and then hit the streets to see the finish. Before we headed back to the car, we connected with my brother who was also running the marathon and in search of his bib…#38!! But casually placed 10th overall and first American.
My boyfriend and I headed home around 1:30 and had a nice dinner out before getting a good night sleep. Sunday was all about shaking out, relaxing and distracting myself from the race. The weather was sunny, beautiful and warm which made relaxing very easy! I did a morning shakeout run followed by some yoga on the deck which the turned into sunbathing on my mat 😉 It was definitely warm and I started to realize that the predicted race day forecast of 75 and sunny may actually be accurate and the heat may come earlier than I anticipated. I wouldn’t say I am a fan of the heat but I certainly like sunny weather over cold and windy weather so I wasn’t too stressed out about it.
My plan for race nutrition was to start increasing my carb intake 3 days out rather than keep my diet the same and then inhale as many carbs as possible the night before. I knew it would be tough because I wasn’t really running/working out thus did not feel like having having carb heavy meals but I knew it would be help steer off GI issues. The 3 days leading up to the race consisted of lots of bananas, rice cakes, oatmeal and granola, toast and dates. The night before the race we went out for some pizza and I ordered a personal margarita pizza without cheese. It was the perfect size and although I was full, we ate early enough so that I had plenty of time to digest by morning.
Race Morning – I did not stay in Boston because I only live about an hour from Hopkinton so I took a local bus that departed at 6am. I had a rice cake with peanut butter and a banana when I woke up and packed a bowl of oatmeal with granola and sliced bananas for a meal about 2.5 hours out from the race. I foam rolled, put on my racing outfit and throwaway clothes on and rechecked my bag 100 times before we headed out the door. My boyfriend dropped me off at the bus and I was on my way to Hopkinton! When my bus pulled in, I immediately spotted my lovely friend Bethany waiting and was ready to jump of the bus and start this crazy adventure. Within minutes of the bus stopping, I stuffed my phone, GU and salt tab in my bra, grabbed my water and my beetjuice shot and flew off the bus. Bethany and I made our way to the Athlete’s Village looking like total rookies. Bethany introduced me to her friend Mario and eventually Katie met up with us and we spent the morning chatting, laughing and trying to stretch in our little space…and taking selfies.
And within no time, we were off to our corral! Nerves started to pick up… as well as the temperature!
The Race: The gun went off and we were still packed like sardines. We finally got running (slowly) and from that moment I knew it was going to be tough to stay with together. If I turned to look for Bethany, I would trample the person in front of me. I felt like all I could do was hope that she would be right behind me and eventually when the pack spaced out we would be side by side. Well, with my inability to pace myself, that didn’t happen.
Mile 1-6 – The first few miles passed quickly and comfortably…almost too comfortably. Every time I clocked a mile I would look down at my watch in shock and fear as I saw splits ranging from 7:02 – 7:20. I didn’t have a specific game plan going into the race but knew I wanted to capitalize on the down hill and hit a bit faster of a pace in beginning but I was not expecting to go that fast. In the back of my mind I could hear everyone’s warnings and advice about not going out too fast and being careful of the downhill eating up the quads. I was trying not to be arrogant and careless but I also am a huge believer in knowing your body and running by feel..hence why this was my first race using a watch in over 2 years! It was also probably the first time in a while that I was actually discouraged by FAST splits. Ha ha.
Miles 7 – 12 – My splits were becoming more consistent but were still faster than I had anticipated (7:15-7:20). It felt a little less comfortable but manageable. I constantly asked myself, did you start off to fast? Can you hold this? What changes do you need to make? I tried too come up with some life-altering answers and solutions but it all came down to just staying calm and realizing that the pace is a bit fast but it was not forced, this was clearly what my body was prepared and ready to do and I need to take pride in that rather than seek out potential problems.
Mile 13 – ONLY A HALF MARATHON LEFT!! In this training cycle, I had two weekends that consisted of racing a Saturday 10k and a Sunday half marathon back-to-back. It was in this mile that I was thankful for being a crazy racer that can’t say no and signed up for back to back races. I truly believe it helped me mentally more than physically. At the start line of both half marathons, I felt a little beat up, tired and even sore from Saturday’s fast 10k. At mile 13 I told myself that I am just as beat up now as I was for those races and I averaged 7:10s in both of those half marathons…I CAN DO THIS.
Mile 14 – ARE PEOPLE ACTUALLY KISSING THE WELLSLEY GIRLS. Did that man just run up to a group of girl waiting to be kissed? This is all very strange ha ha. I am just going to keep watching this craziness, read these insane signs and…oh look mile 15! (Definitely my favorite mile!!)
Mile 15-19 – I’m tired. My pace is slowing (7:27). Am I going to hit the wall? What adjustments do I need to make? It was at this point that I realized it was going to be a long, tough fight to the finish but I was confident and willing to do it. I drank as much water and Gatorade as possible while being conscious of what it could do to my stomach. I wasn’t having any GI issues so I was willing to take the risk for the sake of being hydrated. I grabbed my salt tablet at mile 15 and it nearly dropped to the ground before I made an impressive grab to save it. I knew I had friends in Newton and Brighton and was desperately searching for them. I was searching for energy anywhere I could find it.
Mile 20 – One foot in front of the other…tackle this final hill. Damn, these hills were not as bad during my training run!
Mile 21 – I MADE IT. TAKE THAT HERATBREAK HILL. I didn’t hit the 20 mile wall! Positivity in the small accomplishments is key right about now! My legs were experiencing minor cramps and I focused on short and quick strides. My training run only covered the first 21 miles of the course so although I was struggling to find reasons to be excited at this point, I was able to find some excitement and thrill in embarking on the final 5 miles of new territory.
Mile 21-24 – So close yet so far. I told myself over and over that in 24 hours I will be experiencing post-marathon blues. I need to embrace these moments NOW.
Mile 25 – Only one mile. My legs are shot. Totally shot. I am trying to pick it up but I am not willing to risk a giant cramp this close to the end. I see Hereford and am immediately relieved. Here it is…RIGHT ON HEREFORD, LEFT ON BOYLSTON….uhhhh and then another mile until the finish?!?
Man, they don’t warn you that the finish is pretty darn far after you turn! Slowly the finish line becomes more visible and eventually your pain turns into a thumbs up and smile. Runners..more like actors 😉
I crossed the finish line and the clock read 3:18. I am not going to lie, I was bummed. I was hoping my net time was less than that. I wanted that PR that I had been training for. There were moments in the race I actually thought a 3:10 was feasible so 3:18 was a downer. As I was walking toward the medals and food, my friend texted me with my time, 3:16:35! Not the sub 3:15 I was shooting for but a 2-minute PR! I am more proud now than I was in that moment. I don’t think I realized how tough of a day it was. PRs were not happening for many and I realize now how lucky I am for having a PR day and for being able to fight the heat. I truly am wondering if hot yoga 2-3 times a week was key in my success.
I have done a lot of reflecting on this race. For 3 months, I watched people put in insane work. Multiple long runs, super fast tempo runs and impressive speed workouts. On multiple occasions, I felt guilty that I was still only running about 3-4 days a week and doing my Crossfit instead of tempo runs and recovery miles. I questioned whether my loose training schedule would put me behind everyone else (not that it really matters) and often felt insecure even though my training cycle was far from unimpressive. I had strong races, strong training runs and high mileage on top of challenging crossfit workouts but I constantly felt compelled to compare myself to others. The week before the race I experienced a small hip ache (taper phantom pains..grrr) I was extremely nervous and decided to take Saturday off. I knew it was the smart thing to do but off course, I would look on Instgram and people were STILL doing tempo runs and 7-8 miles only 3-4 days out from the race while I am just going on short walks and rolling out. Moral of the story, this race taught me A LOT about myself and the importance of being true to what works for YOU regardless if it feels like the rest of the running world is doing something different. I say this following statement with no intentions of being cocky…most of the people I watched/saw on Instagram with such intimidation of their workouts and their ability to log such crazy miles at such crazy times… I beat them. Am I better or faster? No. Do they have faster PRs? Some. Did this race reflect their training? No. What I am trying to get at is sometimes these big and intense races cause people to put SO much effort into one day. I can’t help but find myself wondering if the poor performances were caused by a mix of heat and overtraining and pressure. I hope to use this race and training cycle as a constant reminder to myself that everyone is different and I need to keep doing what I am doing because it works and has been working for me regardless of what others are doing. We are hard-working runners that expect results but we are also human and things happen..embrace the successes, learn from the failures…and just keep pushing on! 🙂