Tuesday, May 3, 2022
Thursday, April 21, 2022
And you ask "What if I fall?"
Oh but my darling,
What if you fly?
At the beginning of the year, my coach and I discussed my running plans for 2022. At the time, I had nothing on the calendar before Boston and it seems like the perfect time to just go for it in a marathon. But I love running in so many different ways that I am never just content with a classic 12 to 16 week training plan. I want to go run trails with my friends, run marathons as training runs, and drop into Ultras very last minute.
I'm sure that some of it forces me to never put myself in a place that I feel the pressure to succeed in just one thing. No one can hit their goals in every race and if you do, the saying goes that your goals aren't big enough. But I love the daily running enough and I've raced enough to find a balance that works for me.
I'm sure I'd be a smidge faster if I focused on one type of running and I'm sure I'd be a smidge faster if I didn't race as much. Of course I'm competitive. You wouldn't be reading a race report about me running my 8th Boston if I wasn't.
All that to say is that I felt a strange mix of calm, excitement, and fearlessness when I started my watch Monday morning.
Adam and I got a hotel room for the weekend with Roger in Seaport. It was a long day, but we flew in on Friday afternoon and hit the expo. Adam found a driver who transported him and the motorized scooter all weekend which meant that he could attend the expo and spectate the race - both of which would have been impossible with the rollator alone.
We all shared some pizza for dinner back at the hotel and then I laid out my flat girl for the 5k. I jogged the 2ish miles to the start in the morning and then proceeded to somehow get stuck in the 2nd of 2 waves. Oops.
It worked out though because I ended up running the slowest mile of the weekend at the beginning of the 5K and my fastest at the end. It actually ended up being the workout I was supposed to do on Thursday, haha.
After the 5k, I walked back to the hotel and got cleaned up. Adam was pooped from Friday so Roger and I went to snap some pictures at the finish line, grabbed some lunch at my favorite Irish pub, and got my breakfast for marathon morning.
We then came back to the hotel and rested a bit before going to dinner with my mom and cousin in the North End.
Having just turned 40 on Thursday, we were there to celebrate my birthday. I have long wanted to buy a fancy bottle of wine or champagne for my birthday at a restaurant and luckily, I had some volunteers to share it with. It was a lovely evening (aside from the cold rain at the end) and I really just felt so grateful for that exact moment in time.
All of us went to Glenda's club for a fancy brunch the next day and then we went back to put our feet up. The 3 of us ordered some pasta and then tried to get some sleep.
SOME people (cough, cough Roger) woke up at 4 am and loudly made oatmeal when others tried to sleep until the last possible moment. It was me, I was that person sleeping until 5:45.
We went down to the lobby and met up with Strava-famous Craig and organizer Sarah to catch a cab to Boston Common. The cab was perfectly on time and we arrived when the buses had just started loading the red wave. Roger and I squeezed together in a seat for the long ride to Hopkinton, our plastic ponchos rustling with every bump. I nibbled on my Snickers, hungrier than I thought after my giant muffin for breakfast.
At the Athlete's Village, I got in the slow line for the porta-potty, but we weren't in any hurry at that point. After our pit stop, we sat on the lawn in our deeply opposite states of being. Roger wound tightly and chattering away. Myself soaking in the last moments quietly before the 3+ hours of work.
Gwen arrived at the Village not too long before the second wave was set to leave and she found us in the crowd of thousands. After a quick picture and a brief chat, we all wished each other luck as Roger and I headed out to line up.
Roger was in the first corral and I was in six so we parted ways shortly after we started walking towards where we lined up. I always cherish this part of the race. The walk to the start line with everyone full of nerves and excitement is palpable. No one in this group is nowhere near the podium, yet we all have put in the work to reach this level of amateur athleticism. I stopped at a house that had sunblock dispensers and liberally applied a gob of it on the back of my neck and shoulders.
As we got close to the intersection of the start corral, the group stopped and I saw people leaping over the barricades to my left towards the last set of porta-potties. I wavered a bit for a moment and then decided to crawl through and over, thankfully with the help of a fellow runner who helped me down. They opened the barricades not too long after I crawled over, but I was able to walk straight into a porta-potty without waiting in line. I normally don’t have a gel prerace, but since I ate my prerace Snickers on the bus and they were handing out Maurten gels, I decided to have one about 15 minutes prior to the gun.
Once I made my way to the start corral and ditched my poncho, I was only a few people back from the front of that particular group. However, with 5 other waves ahead, it wouldn’t make much of a difference. I felt comfortable in my tank and shorts standing in the sun and knew I had made the right call to leave the gloves and arm warmers back at the hotel. I fired up my EDM playlist and popped my headphones over my ears with the volume on the lowest setting.
We heard the final announcements and inched our way forward once the gun was fired. Then I found myself on the start mat of the Boston Marathon once again, ready to see what I had in me for 26.2 miles.
I had no game plan really. I knew I wanted to be around 3:20 on a good day which was what my time was in October. But I also didn’t want to hold myself back if I felt good. So on my 45th marathon, I truly just ran as much by feel as I could. I peeked at my splits as my watch chirped for the first few miles, but then I really didn’t look at it too much until I got to the halfway mark. I didn’t want to feel bad if it wasn’t going great and I didn’t want to pull back if I thought I was going too fast.
As we rolled down the first few miles, I enjoyed the full Boston experience back in effect. The weather was cool, but sunny, and spectators were out in droves. It is like nothing else! I wasn’t feeling particularly good or bad, but I took that as a sign that I was relaxed enough.
In October 2021, there was a rolling start due to Covid and it seemed luxurious to have so much space in the beginning. But we returned to normal with this race and the first few miles were PACKED. I tried very hard to not weave too much though and waste time unless I absolutely had to pass someone. And I tried to remember just how freaking cool this experience is to run with people who are within SECONDS of your marathon pace, trusting that we will all keep going.
I was taking water and/or Gatorade at every stop after the first one and took my first gel right at the mile 4 mark. Everything felt very business as usual. 7:40, 7:27, 7:27, 7:17
Into Ashland and Framingham, I used the crowd to amp me up and high-fived a bunch of kids to remind myself that THIS was the celebration. If my day went south, I needed those reminders that there was so much more than the clock. I took my second gel at the mile 8 mark and was actively dousing myself with water over the head at this point (side note: Roger wore a long sleeve and gloves the entire race). 7:16, 7:23, 7:15, 7:26, 7:26
Past Framingham, the course flattens out a bit in Natick. It gets a little quieter near Fisk Pond and in my experience, this is where the race actually begins. The extra push of the start and downhills has now worn off and there are still 17 miles to go. I open my third gel at mile 12 and am starting to feel it harder to choke down. I know the calories are needed so I make myself swallow it. 7:14, 7:25, 7:20
As the course nears the infamous Wellesley section, I hear chatter from other runners around me about how they can hear it in the distance. I had turned up my music a bit at that point so I turned it back down to start anticipating the cheers myself. They were out in full force with their screaming, their signs, and energy. I veered over for a few high fives towards the end of the line, jumping in the fun, albeit briefly. 7:26
At the halfway point, I knew that I had a bit of a cushion now to hit the 3:20 mark and even if the race started to wear on me, I could run 9:00 minute miles and still BQ, But I definitely was feeling still in it and wanting to just seeing what I had. This is where the “but what if you fly?” phrase kept circling in my brain. When it started to hurt and I was mentally struggling, I thought about this. I’d back off a few strides, allow myself a bit of comfort and then push on. 7:22, 7:30
The hills have plenty of downhills though and I was trying to remember to use these to my advantage. The sun was wearing on me and I started taking more than one cup of liquid when I could at each aid station. A sip or two of Gatorade and then a sip or two of water, dumping the remainder of water over my head. I swear this cooling effect shaved actual minutes off my race time as I always felt so much better a half mile or so after coming out of the water stop. 7:21, 7:36
Heading up the Heartbreak Hill, I craned my neck for the top the whole time. Once I finally saw the sign that I’d reached the top, it felt almost bittersweet. I was happy that there were just 5 more miles to race, but a part of me was a little sad that it was almost over. 7:41
But I still had work to do. The last 5 miles of the marathon can easily break even the strongest runner. I have felt great at mile 21 only to crash and burn at mile 24. But I glanced at the overall time on my watch at the mile markers, did some quick math, and realized that while a PR wasn’t on the table, a really freaking great marathon time was. I didn’t want to just let it slip away. I went into a flow state. I started shutting out the noise of the crowd, put my eyes down when I could, and worked. 7:21, 7:19
With just over 5k to go, I was ticking off the things to expect. The Citgo sign finally coming into sight, the 40km marker, the last water stop on the bridge. I saw the race photographers right after the sign and got my now-traditional pic. 7:33, 7:27
After the Citgo sign, I started looking for the Charlesgate Bridge, knowing that if all went well, my cheer squad would be waiting for me after I went under the bridge. I veered towards the left, positioning myself towards the far part of the turn of Commonwealth and Hereford. I was scanning the crowd and finally, heard them calling my name and waving wildly. I kissed Adam and hugged my mom and cousin Glenda. As I bounded away, I wore a giant grin and continued to keep it plastered across my face as I continued up Hereford. 7:28
Coming down Bolyston, I couldn’t believe that I was about to run my 3rd fastest marathon ever. Somehow it didn’t seem possible. But all race long, when I started to get wimpy, I remembered to ask myself “what if you fly?” and gave myself a chance. Maybe it’s Boston magic, maybe it’s knowing I’m being tracked, or maybe, it’s just believing that there is still a little something in these ol’ legs.
I pushed the pace over the final hundreds of meters, soaking it all in and pumping my arms to try to entice the crowds to roar even louder. It would feel silly to do this anywhere else, but on Marathon Monday, it feels perfectly right. 7:11
3:16:58. What a day to fly.