I can honestly say that I was “at peace” in the days prior to the race. I slept well, ate well (too well) and hydrated constantly with both water and Gatorade. I overheard good advice a couple of years ago from two pro triathlete/coaches (Jamie Cleveland and Andrea Fisher) in the Austin area. I took a swim workshop with them and they were talking about pre-race rituals. Jamie cautioned us on the strategy of drinking way too much water in the days leading up to a race. He very obviously said that if you just drink water, you’re basically going to flush out any electrolytes in your system. It’s just as important to be drinking the Gatorade along with the water in the days leading up to a race. So obvious and yet something I had never considered…
In any event, the first two days in Boston were typical tourist traps in an effort to try to squeeze in as much activity as possible without overdoing it too much…Dinner at the infamous Fanneuil Hall, Paul Revere’s House, other historical sights, the Boston duck tours which drove you around town and then into the Charles River, the Boston Science Museum followed by an IMAX film.
THE NIGHT BEFORE
We had dinner at the famous Italian North End the night before the race. My brother and sis-in-law who lived here a few years back recommended Giacomos. It’s a pretty popular joint with about 10 tables. Rachel Ray even did one of her “$40 a Day” specials from this restaurant. In any event, a lot of athletes (inlcuding me) get way overparanoid the day before the race and only want bland pasta that they prepare at home. My friend Jason actually makes plain pasta and only puts ketchup on it. I said, “What the Hell! I’m in the Italian part of Boston so when in the North End, do as they do.” I ordered a fettucine noodle with salmon and sundried tomatoes in a creamy tomato sauce. Now, admittedly, I didn’t eat a lot of the sauce or scoop my bread around trying to soak up every last ounce. I did slam the pasta with reckless abandon though and devoured the protein-filled salmon. Afterword, we went to a little Italian coffee shop and split an eclair, a couple of bites of gelato and hot chocolate. OK–so we went a little overboard, but I can honestly say that I had 1 bite of eclair, about 5 bites of gelato and 1/2 a cup of hot chocolate. The whole thing would’ve killed me and rendered me immobile for the race.
Mind you, this was all at about 5pm in the afternoon. We ate early enough that if it was going to mess with my tummy, I’d hopefully have time to recover 🙂 After dinner, we went to the “Tour de France” IMAX, headed back to where we were staying and visited with Shawn’s friends a bit before turning in and setting up my clothes for the race.
Laying out your pre and post race clothes is a ritual unto itself. I start from the bottom of my body and work up…Shoes (check), timing chip (check), socks, shorts, clif shots (check, check, check), body glide, bra, shirt, race number, hat (all check). I felt very relaxed yesterday morning. I think it had to do with the fact that I could actually sleep in until about 6:30am. I actually could’ve slept longer, but I was meeting Amy at 7:30am at her hotel for breakfast before catching our bus. We had a decent breakfast of a bagel with Peanut Butter and I had eaten a banana earlier. I had some coffee and a bottle of water. All was well. I was feeling good. My left hamstring was oddly sore from all the walking, but I ignored it. I had to ignore it.
We hopped on the bus taking us out to Hopkinton and the energy was so electric. Everyone was in a great mood. We were able to get on some fancy coach buses with a nice restroom (which obviously came in handy for pretty much everyone, not once,but a couple of times). Several folks from Austin were on the bus, but we spent most of the time talking to runners from other places. Everyone had a story and everyone had a goal. I stuck to my goal of 3:45-4:15, much to the chagrin of my running partners who were encouraging me to try to set a PR today. Once we arrived in Hopkinton, we got out of the bus to assess the temperature. It was pretty cool–mid 40s. Then the apparel questions started. DO we run in just a singlet? Long Sleeves? Throw away? Athletes Village was cool as we watched people during all of their pre-race prep…some eating, some sleeping, some stretching, some brought tents and chairs, others just brought their iPods and entered their own worlds. The first waved eventually lined up and left leaving several port-o-lets vacant. In the 20 minutes between that wave and mine, I peed 3 times! I must say, that was definitely an advantage of being in the later group…You had double the restrooms.
I can honestly say that the 12:30pm starting time wasn’t the factor that I thought it would be. I can only say this because the weather was PERFECT for running. Partly cloudy/sunny and in the mid-40s. Anything warmer and I would’ve been nervous. It didn’t feel like 12:30pm for some reason. They corraled the last 10,000 of us on the streets of Hopkinton and we paraded down the start corrals like a bunch of cattle. With about 4 minutes to spare before start time, I entered my corral and huddled with some others. I didn’t feel cold at all surrounded by so many. I immediately took off my throw away shirt and felt a slight chill in my sleeveless singlet. That chill didn’t last long at all as they fired the start gun and we were off within a minute or two…apparently LOTS different from years past when it would be every bit of 15-20 minutes. It is a 2-lane neighborhood road afterall! It was a beautiful New England town with beautiful colonial brick homes and friendly neighbors who mostly sat on their porch as I’m sure they do year after year wondering why we do this stupid sport.
THE RACE ITSELF
I had read too much. I had heard too much. I downloaded way too many podcasts and read too many articles about this course. Everyone talked about how hard it was and EVERYONE stressed how important it was to start slow. They were right when they said it would be hard to do. As soon as you cross the start line, you immediately start down a hill. I tried to contain myself and was being passed left and right by people. For a competitive person, that’s a hard thing to take. My goal was to go out with 8:45-9:00 pace…very comfortable. My first mile was an 8:55. Perfect. I had set my Garmin in the “Virtual Training Partner” mode for a 3:45 finish. That meant it showed my how far ahead or behind I was at any given time and how much more time I had to go. Unfortunately, It didn’t really show me the pace I was running at any given time. I was able to take my mile splits which kept me in check. It also didn’t show me my elapsed time, but rather it counted backwards from 3:45. (You’d think I would’ve practiced this mode a bit more). Therefore, instead of taking my Clif shots at :45, 1:30. 2:15, etc. I was taking them at 3:00 to go, 2:15 to go, 1:30 to go, etc. Not complicated math, but a little stressful when your mind is already going in a million different directions.
The crowds were great in these neighborhoods…Most of the towns had the day off so there were kids everywhere holding their hands out to get hi-fives, passing out oranges, freeze pops, bananas, water, etc. It was as if every street had it’s own refreshment stop for the runners. Early on, I didn’t pay much attention to the crowds. In fact, early on, I got nervous because I didn’t seem to be having much fun. I wasn’t “taking it in.” I was just running and really focusing on the people around me. Another huge difference between this race and other Major marathons is that there are no pace groups so you really don’t know what other pace people are going or what their goal is even though they’re surrounding you. It’s not like there were pace group leaders anywhere. They probably figure since you were savy enough to qualify, you can pace yourself. I’m actually a good pacer overall. I can run a steady race and that’s what I was doing for the first few miles. I hovered around the 8:20-8:30 mark with each passing mile. Everytime I would want to speed up, I would consciously stop myself knowing that I wanted to conserve for the hills. Plus, Coach Gilbert told us to run conservatively at first. But, how conservative? My pace felt slow even though I was plugging along at a decent clip. I was petrified of bonking on the infamous Newton Hills. Plus, as I mentioned before, it just didn’t feel like my day mentally. At Mile 11, I felt a twinge in my left knee. Oh shit. What’s that? It felt like my knee wasn’t attached to the bottom of my leg, like with each step, my calf would just fly off. Weird sensation. I prayed for it not to get worse. It was a new pain that I had never experienced unlike my traditional IT Band pain on the outside of my knee. I thought of my Mom who just had Arthroscopic surgery on her knee two days prior. C’mon Mom…get me through this. I kept plugging along wondering why the miles felt so long. The pain disappeared. And then I hit Mile 13 and Wellesly College. The campus is picturesque and beautiful. In fact, most neighborhoods we ran through looked like something straight from Norman Rockwell. The college girls were crazy!!! It was then that I felt a mental shift. I could see how much fun they were having. For the first time during the race I finally felt like I was running BOSTON–this was special. I picked it up ever so slightly because of their cheers. Once I could start counting the miles backwards, I started changing my mental focus. Instead of Mile 14, I only had 12 to go…At Mile 15, I only had 11 left. I was taking my Clif Shots religiously every 45 minutes or so. So far, my tummy was feeling good. I alternated drinking at the water stops…water…Gatorade…skip one…water…Gatorade…skip one. This seemed to be working as I felt hydrated the whole time. At Mile 17, they passed out Power Gels. I grabbed a tangerine one because I had tried it before and loved it. I heard the volunteer say it had double caffeine. This would either make me or break me. Most runners know that too much caffeine while you’re running can do bad things to your tummy. At about Mile 18, I took the Power Gel. We were beginning the Newton Hills section. My strategy was this: If I can hold the overall pace of 8:20-8:30, I will attack as soon as I get to the top of Heartbreak Hill at Mile 20. I was still expecting Mt. Everest. No sooner had I taken that shot when my energy level skyrocketed. It was as if I turned on an engine. I attacked the hills. I was passing people left and right. Believe me when I say that I respect the hell out of this course, but these hills weren’t nearly the size of hills we train on in Austin. I would look down, speed up my cadence and just try to maintain pace. I could hear GIlbert in my head, “Tighten up your abs, knees up, knees up!!” I got to the top of a hill and the crowd indicated that we had done it! We were at the top of Heartbreak Hill. I guess I expected there to be banners or signs or some indication that we had done it. It wasn’t so bad!!! I knew I had to “drop the bomb” at this point. I had a 10k to go and it was time to dig in and just go for it. As I looked at my Garmin, my focus shifted again…I realized that I was probably going to re-qualify. Now, my goal was to see if I could beat my PR. Again, I was looking at a 3:45 time going backwards so I was trying to do the Math in my head. Not an easy thing to do…In any event, the last 5 miles felt like someone else was running the race. I heard so many shouts of “Go Carrie” –thanks to the name plastered on my shirt. I was weaving in and out of people to keep going. My quads hurt pretty bad at this point and I was just hoping that they wouldn’t cramp up on me. I can run through the pain. Cramping will kill any momentum. As we got to within one mile, it was magical. We passed the infamous Citgo sign wich indicates one mile left. We ran over an overpass. That took away some momentum. Fenway Park was on my right somewhere and the Red Sox had juts pulled out a victory. The crowds were nuts! (and drunk)
We made a 90 degree right turn and then a quick 90 degree left turn onto Boylston. OH-MY-GOD–there was the fininsh Line. In bright yellow and blue, I saw “110th Boston Marathon Finish.” I didn’t look at my watch. I didn’t look at the crowds. I just stared at that sign. More shouts of “Go Carrie…Looking good! Great finish!” etc. I crossed the chip mat and hit stop. My Garmin told me what I needed to know. “Congrats! You finished your workout with 10 minutes to spare.” Even though the Master Clock said 4:08 (it started when the 1st wave took off), I knew I had PR’ed by a mere 2 minutes.
Usually after I stop running, I start feeling the pain immediately. I didn’t…I felt great. No limping (OK–at least that I could tell)…I shouted to the crowds how much I love this town and they went crazy! As you continue walking, the volunteers treat you like a queen–handing you bottles of water, gatorade, bags of food, putting the mylar around you like a royal cloak. I continued walking and a volunteer stopped in front of me and said, “This is what you came for.” And then he put the medal around my neck. What a chill-invoking moment. I continued walking to get my bag so that I could put on my jacket and slippers. I grabbed my cell phone and already had 4 messages from people. How cool that they were all following along on-line. I called Shawn to let him know I was alive and he found me about 2 minutes later. He was stunned at my time seeing as though I went in very nonchalantly about my finishing time. We walked over to the Boston Common park and laid down for a while so that I could stretch, call my parents and just let it soak in a bit. It was a beautiful afternoon in Boston…not too cold, not too hot, not too windy. It was a day made for a PR and I had done it somehow. We walked a couple of blocks trying to get a cab, but it was pretty futile at this point. When lo and behold, I saw a sign for an Irish Pub across the street. Hell Yeah…We walked in and it was filling up with runners. We found a small table and I had my first drink in almost 2 months!! It was even a pint of Bass Ale. I’m not really a beer girl, but you could’ve given me a pint of gasoline and I would’ve drank it.
We eventually made it home in time to shower up and head to a Pizza Place in the North End called Pizzeria Regina. My high school friend Greg met us over there. He had a run a 3:08!!! We slammed down some pizza and I had a glass of chianti. Most of my other friends also had kick ass races. My training partner Amy ran a 3:18!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Wow…The Gazelles had a great showing at the Boston Marathon. I think every Gazelle had a sub-4:00 race, with the fastest being a 3:04 (I think).
Today, Shawn and I are off the explore the East Coast. Now, my vacation can really begin.
As I reflect about yesterday, I can definitely say it was a very well-run race from beginning to end. My strategy worked perfectly. Start slow and hammer at the end. Finishing with energy to burn makes me realize that I probably could’ve picked it up a tad sooner, but I just didn’t know what to expect in the hilly area. It turns out that it wasn’t so scary afterall. It also made me realize that Tangerine Powel Gels are the nectar of the Gods and they helped me at the exact perfect moment! The coolest part?? I get to do it all over next year if I want to 🙂
Mile 1 8:55
Mile 2 8:24
Mile 3 8:30
Mile 4 8:20
Mile 5 8:27
Mile 6 8:22
Mile 7 8:25
Mile 8-9 16:58 (I missed a mile marker)
Mile 10 8:19
Mile 11 8:27
Mile 12 8:16
Mile 13 8:15 (Wellesly)
Mile 14 8:22
Mile 15 8:32
Mile 16 8:19
Mile 17 8:19
Mile 18 8:21 (Newton Hills begin)
Mile 19 8:12 (let the Tangerine Powel Gel begin)
Mile 20 8:10
Mile 21 8:15
Mile 22 7:25
Mile 23 7:29
Mile 24 7:20
Mile 25 7:31
Mile 26.2 9:01 (1.47 miles on the Garmin)