Having been injured for the 2012 and 2013 Boston Marathons, I cannot even begin to describe how thrilled I was to finally run this year and be a part of such a special and historic day. For the past three winters I have been dealing with a chronic medial tibial stress syndrome on my left lower leg (sometimes referred to as “shin splints”). I have run successful fall marathons after training all summer, but the winters in Vermont have been unkind to my shin. This winter my shin splint nightmares came back to haunt me once again. I was shocked at how sore my shin felt especially since I didn’t have any major problems with my shin for the Baystate Marathon last October. I had to stop my training three different times this winter and then start back up. Plus running 100% in the constant polar temps and frigid wind chills began to wear down my body and spirit. Perhaps a treadmill investment will be in our near future.
Luckily in March and April my training went well and my shin pain subsided enough for me to make it through each run. I even ran a strong New Bedford Half Marathon in the middle of March with no shin pain at all. I logged in some good training runs and was feeling confident. I wasn’t sure if I was quite as strong as last fall, but I felt like I had enough fitness to do well. I am lucky to have a great running coach who helped me navigate all those bumps in the road this winter. She reminded me that I overcame a lot to get myself to that starting line this April. That alone was a dream come true for this 44 year
old young lady.
However, after training in one of the harshest Vermont winters, the Boston Marathon was my slowest and most difficult marathon due to a combination of the bright sun, very warm temps and the unforgiving terrain that makes Boston so challenging. It was only about 70F+ degrees but this felt so hot after training in the freezing cold all winter. (I was not alone in having issues with the warm weather. It was a common theme for many people). It was still an amazing experience to run Boston after last year’s tragic events. It wasn’t so much about the numbers as it was about solidarity and “running as one”. This year’s marathon meant so much more than personal records and fast times. It was about joining together as a special community and taking back Boston after last year’s tragedy. There were so many people there to run and support Boston even if they were injured or hadn’t been able to train all winter. It was truly touching. I was inspired and humbled by so many people I met during the weekend. While my body felt shattered after the 26.2 miles, my soul was nourished and my spirits were soaring. I have never in my life seen such an amazing display of humanity from the runners, fans, volunteers and people of Boston.
We drove down to Boston on Saturday morning and went right to our condo which was located in the North End (Boston’s famous Italian section). Our condo was right next to the Freedom Trail and many historic sites. It was tiny and cute, but served us well. Parking was a crucial goal as we were told all the lots would fill up fast. So that task was done immediately and we didn’t see our car until Tuesday morning. Luckily we were an easy ten minute walk to the Haymarket T station. We got a seven day pass for the T (Boston’s underground subway system) and headed right for the Expo on the Green Line. Picking up my number was surprisingly quick and hassle-free. I was amazed that there was only one person in front of me. We then headed to the Expo shopping area which was amazing. I ended up splurging for a boat load of running apparel with the Boston Marathon logos. But the first order of business was finding my Boston Marathon jacket which I have coveted for years now! I normally don’t splurge like I did on clothes of any kind, but Scott kept reminding me that it took me three years to get here! The Expo eventually got insanely crowded within a couple hours and we actually got lost a few times. I was getting nervous at one point because we had a 6 o’clock dinner reservation back in the North End. Luckily we did make it (more details in my “Food and Beverage Report”).
Boston Strong in my new marathon apparel!
Sunday we were up early and made our way out for a crisp morning run before 7am. I love the mornings especially in a city when it is peaceful and quiet. We ran along the Freedom Trail over the bridge for a 2.3 mile out and back to shake out the legs. I enjoyed seeing the ocean and all boats. We then found some soy lattes at Caffe Vittoria and headed back to the Expo around 9am before it got crowded again. Scott wanted to find some nice running shorts and we scored him 3 pairs. I always feel better when he finds something nice for himself too. We then took the Red Line out to Cambridge for a big carb load at Veggie Planet. Scott was running 17 miles on Monday with Marty, so we both indulged in some yummy vegan pizza. After our bellies were full, I took Scott to the Harvard Coop which is one of my favorite bookstores. We could have easily spent hours in there but we knew we needed to get back to the Condo for some much needed relaxation. I might have done too much walking around on Sunday.
Enjoying soy lattes after a nice morning run at Caffe Vittoria
What should have been a peaceful afternoon and evening at the condo turned out to be a nightmare. Massachusetts celebrates Patriots day weekend the same weekend as the Boston Marathon so there was a noisy celebration right outside our window. Imagine listening to a very loud fife and drum band for hours. This was on top of the very loud church bells chiming away incessantly right next to our condo. I was hoping to be in bed a little after 8pm but this racket didn’t stop until 9:20pm. I was not a happy camper to put it gently. This was the Sunday night before the marathon! I almost felt like I was in some crazy, surreal dream. Luckily it did end before 9:30pm but still, it was not the ideal evening for someone who highly values her peace and quiet.
Sleep alluded me once again before the marathon. The noisy celebration wound me up and stressed me out . It was difficult to calm myself down for sleep mode. And then around midnight the neighbor on top of us started snoring loudly as I was finally winding down. Yes, this was really happening! I don’t make this stuff up! I could not believe it! I did manage to get a few hours of sleep which is better than none! We were up early at 5am as the goal was to leave the condo around 6am. I was in the first wave of runners to go off, so I had to board the bus between 6 and 6:50am. We took the T to the Boston Commons where over 500 school buses would be transporting runners out to Hopkington. I was pleasantly surprised out how smoothly it was to arrive at the Boston Commons and then board the bus. It was a nice cool morning and I was really getting excited to run! The starting line was so close! Just hours away! I said good bye to Scott and he left to meet up with Marty for a run. I boarded a school bus and sat in the first row to avoid any problems with motion sickness which has plagued me in the past. I was so lucky to have a nice young ER doctor named Amy sit next to me in case things went south. But luckily I did just fine on the bus. We chatted the entire hour it took to arrive in Hopkington which really calmed my nerves. Amy was fantastic and I hope to meet up with her again at a marathon or future Ironman!
The Athlete’s Village was just as expected. It was calm when we first arrived but very chilly. We were given these sheets of tin foil type material to use as blankets on the grass where we sat for a couple of hours. We arrived a little before 8:am and our wave went off at 10:00am. Because it was so chilly, I opted to sit in the sun to stay warm. I was wearing the warm “throw away clothes” I purchased from the local food shelf, but New England mornings are still cold! And the sun felt good! I would later pay the price for sitting in the sun all morning before the race. But I was having a great time taking in the experience and all the other runners around me. Everyone was so friendly which made it such a memorable time. I met up with Tommy who I ran with at the Baystate Marathon back in October. I was hoping to run again with him as he was great about pacing. But we got separated before we got into the corrals as I had to relieve myself behind the bushes. It was a half mile walk from Athlete’s Village to our starting corral. But before I made my way to the corral, Amy and I ran a few laps on some pavement to get us about a 1/2 mile warm up. I never did catch up to Tommy during the run like I had hoped. I was having a tough day and my pace plummeted after mile 16. I later learned he had a personal record and a great run that day. I am so happy for him! He is actually one of the very few people I know of who had a great race out there. It was a battle for many of us that day!
As I said above, this was my slowest marathon out of the four I have run so far! I was actually five minutes slower than my first marathon which was run in 85F temps at the Vermont City Marathon 2011! I know I am much stronger than I was three years ago. My previous marathon last October was over 13 minutes faster and it wasn’t that much cooler (3:07:56). I spent the week painfully analyzing my run and Garmin stats. I needed to understand why I didn’t stay on pace like I had done in my last marathons even when the going got tough. But the simple truth is that it was hot and my quads weren’t ready for the challenging terrain. I had a bad day. It happens! I keep joking about getting a PW at Boston (personal worst). But in reality having a bad race is going to eventually happen to everyone who dedicates their life to marathons and other endurance sports. Achieving a personal worst isn’t always the worst thing either. Having a bad race once in a while builds character and makes us stronger. Life is about experiences! And these types of experiences fuel the fire to do better at the next marathon or athletic challenge. I’m all fired up for my return to Boston next year. The Boston Marathon in 2015 will be about personal redemption. I can’t wait!
Being a financial analyst during the day, I do love studying and analyzing running statistics. So here it is! My Personal Worst
I was in the eigth corral out of nine so it took a while to cross the starting line once the gun went off. As we got close to the starting line, I could feel the emotional energy all around me. There were signs that thanked us for running which was very heart warming. There was so much love and support from the fans. I was in tears crossing the starting line and I am sure I wasn’t alone. It was truly a spectacular feeling and a very amazing start to the race. I’ll never forget Hopkington 2014!
My goals were a bit ambiguous and never really set in stone due to my shin problems and the crazy cold winter. I kept saying that I wasn’t there for a Personal Record, but I did have high hopes of running a similar time to Baystate which was a 3:07:56. My plan was to run the first 11 or so miles conservatively. The course is a rolling downhill for a good 16 miles which truly beats up the quads. The second half of the course is SOOO much harder than the first 13 miles. The first few miles felt good even though it was a little warm and the sun was super bright. The downhills were fast during the first 4 miles and I had to check myself several times and apply the brakes. My paces ranged from 7:16 to 7:05 minutes per mile which seemed right on to me.
The next 6 miles were still going well for me but I could tell it was going to feel warmer and warmer. I was slowly heating up but wasn’t too worried yet during those miles. I have run well in past hot races. I enjoyed the passionate fans so much and loved the huge wave of runners all around me. It was fascinating to look ahead and see a long line of runners filling up the entire road for as far as the eye could see. I wanted to be in the present moment and soak everything up and appreciate this special experience. I was also doing a good job of keeping track of my pace and not running too fast. From miles 5 to 10 my pace ranged from a 7:05 to a 7:09. Miles 11 and 12 started to feel a little harder and hotter for me and I thought I better slow the pace down and try to regroup. So I ran a 7:13 and a 7:09 for the next couple miles which still didn’t help me recover. At one point we ran through a town with lots of BBQs going and fans cheering away. Perhaps the smoke and aromas made it feel even hotter. This was before Wellesley College.
For years I’ve only heard and read about the screaming Wellesely women fans at mile 12. And believe me they were awesome! I have never experienced such enthusiasm and spirit along a race course until that moment! Thank you Wellsely girls! You rock! Next year I’ll be back and running faster!
The halfway point was next up and it was around that time that I knew my goals were not going to be realistic. I was hot and not feeling well at all. But I still clung to hope of having a respectable second half. In order to achieve that I decided to slow my pace down to around 7:19s for miles 13 through 16 and see how the hills would treat me. The last steep downhill on mile 16 felt like a welcome relief but in reality it was probably the worst medicine for my aching quads.
The Newton hills including the famous Heartbreak Hill would all happen between miles 17 and 21. There were four of them and none of them felt good or remotely easy. These “hills” are nothing like the hills we have here in Vermont. But after beating up your quads for 16 miles on rolling downhills, they are no picnic in the hot sun. And the temps felt the warmest plodding over the Newton hills. It was along the hills like I have read in so many blogs, articles and books where my race goals got shattered. I couldn’t move very fast and my splits went downhill . I sadly watched my garmin average pace take a nose dive during the hills. From miles 17 to 21 my pace ranged from a 7:49 to an 8:33. I run faster during my long training runs! This was the slowest I have ever run in a marathon! And there was nothing I could do about it. I was giving it my all. So I accepted that this was not going to be my day and still try and appreciate the roaring and screaming fans on the hills. Heartbreak Hill was full of heart felt support for us tired and battered runners. I was actually amazed at how many people I saw walking on the hills. It was hot and many people had shattered goals that day.
Once I had 5 miles left to go I decided that I would try and stay around a pace of 8 to 8:30s. I didn’t give up. I was still giving Boston everything I had. But I just couldn’t get my battered quads to move any faster. This was the first time I could not maintain my pace or fully control my legs. My body was shutting down on me. So I took it one mile at a time. Miles 22 to 25 were a pace between 8:08 and 8:33. There were some smaller hills and rollers which felt like hell on those miles. My goodness the course felt like a beast! When I saw that big Citgo sign at mile 24, I felt joy return to my pour shattered body. The last mile was tough and I was running close to a sub nine minute mile pace. I never run this slowly in a marathon! But I was so excited to be in Boston. The screaming fans were amazing and I wanted to take it all in. There were a few times I felt tears of joy knowing I was about to finally finish the Boston Marathon. It was a bitter sweet feeling. When I crossed the finish line I was moving a bit faster and it felt exciting. I never did experience the fear of a copy cat bomber at the finish line. But I was very emotional when I received my finishers medal and kevlar blanket. I was crying tears of joy and it was one of the best feelings! I had finally run Boston! It wasn’t a stellar performance but it was the best I had in me that day.
I had to wait a while before Scott met me in the family meeting area. With so many people around the finish line he had to walk almost 3 miles to get to the place where we agreed upon. And I knew he was going to be tired after a long run that morning with Marty. Getting back to the condo was a small trek but luckily we found a close by T station in the Back Bay. We got on the Orange line and then took the Green Line back to Haymarket. Walking around a little probably helped my legs. The good news is that they were no worse than my previous marathons. I had read that it takes longer to recover from Boston due to all the downhill pounding. But since my run was slower than expected that might have saved my legs a bit.
Purchasing some street art after my marathon
Overall the Boston Marathon 2014 was my personal worst in regards to running performance. I have always been able to execute my race plans and grind it out in the end even when the exhaustion becomes nearly unbearable. I have always stuck to my planned paces in a marathon or half marathon. But on Monday, my goals fell apart after mile 16. It is difficult to swallow but at the same time I know I gave it my all. And that is all we can ask of ourselves. While I had a disappointing run, the Boston Marathon was still my personal best in regards to overall experience and being a part of a historical marathon. I still had an amazing day out there! And a 3:21:40 is not too shabby for a very warm day after a brutally cold winter of training. And after all I’m 44, not 24!
I am grateful to have had so much support from my husband. He was amazing all weekend. He took care of me in so many ways. I don’t think I could have run Boston without him. Thank you Scott! I am also so lucky to have a super awesome coach. Thank you Kelly for all your help and believing in me. I also had support from the people I work with in the corporate world. My boss’s boss was tracking me on a big screen in his office all morning. They were all excited for me. I have to say I was cringing a few times along the course knowing people were tracking my performance. I still can’t believe I tanked! But it’s all good! Next year I’ll do much better! I promise
The world’s Best Husband!
While I’m all ready to go back for the Boston Marathon 2015, we both have a lot of exciting plans for this summer and fall. We both purchased triathlon specific bikes and will be training for our first 70.3 mile (half Iron) triathlon in the beginning of September. We cannot wait for the Pumpkinman Triathlon as we will be sharing the experience with several of our run/bike/swim buddies! And we are also planning on doing a couple sprint triathlons in preparation down at Lake Dunmore. For a fall marathon, we are now thinking about doing the California International Marathon in early December. And we may sprinkle in a few smaller running races throughout the summer and fall. It’s going to be a great season!
Food and Beverage report:
Finding vegan food in the North End (famous Italian section) of Boston is difficult because almost all the restaurants put eggs in the noodles and dairy in the sauces. Luckily we found a couple places online that had a few vegan options. So I made reservations at Gennaro’s which was a 5 minute walk from our Condo. They had a couple appetizers and dinner entrees marked as vegan which was great. The food was good. It did the job and I was grateful to have vegan Italian food in the North End. Here are the main entrees:
I had read in a previous blog about Caffe Vittoria having soy lattes. Now this was a special find in the North End! And Caffe Vittoria is a place I have been to in the past during my younger years when I had the opportunity to visit and party in Boston. It’s a super fun cafe and I only wish they had some vegan pastries. Maybe someday!
For lunch on Sunday we made our way out to Harvard Square in Cambridge to visit Veggie Planet which is a great vegetarian and vegan restaurant. It was an easy ride on the Red Line from the Park Street station.
We ordered the vegan pizzas for a good carb loading event. They were out of Daiya non-dairy cheese which was disappointing as it’s the best vegan alternative. So we had their homemade tofu soy cheese which was good but I had to scrap a lot of it off the pizza as it was too much. The service was great and it was fun to see other runners sporting their Boston Marathon jackets as well.
Sunday night we cooked a big quinoa pasta dinner in our condo so I could relax. Scott was so wonderful to do all the cooking and cleaning up. So for dinner after the marathon I wanted to go somewhere fun that he would really enjoy as well. Luckily Chris and Jess were up for meeting us at Harvard Square and having beer and good pub food at the John Harvard Brewery and Ale House. We had a very good vegan veggie burger which we both enjoyed so much. The beer was great too! Myself and Jess had a couple Pale Ales which hit the spot! Chris enjoyed the IPA and Scott was a fan of the darker beers.
After we said our good byes to Chris and Jess we walked around the North End in search of some Grappa which is one of my favorite Italian liquors. This was the start to a super fun night! We had a blast and met a super fun couple from Minnesota who both ran the marathon. We also met other really nice and friendly locals who bought us drinks. They were genuinely happy we came to Boston for the marathon. I have to say we did drink a lot, but it was a night for celebration on so many levels!
And for our recovery meal on Tuesday we drove to Cambridge on our way home to visit Life Alive. This is an awesome vegetarian and vegan cafe that we have been to in the past. We even ate at their Lowell location before the Baystate marathon last October.
I can’t say enough good things about this cafe as the food is so delicious and nourishing. We both had these fantastic juices and the Green Goddess dish for lunch. SOOOO good! And it was helpful after running a marathon and partying a bit the previous day!
Meb my running hero winning the Boston Marathon! I cried when I learned this wonderful news! We love you Meb!
“Every runner has a specific motivation and inspiration for running a marathon. This year all 36,000 of us will ‘Run Together’ to demonstrate the spirit of the marathon. We will still have our individual motivations, but we will be unified under the Boston Strong umbrella.” – Meb Keflezighi