Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Boston 2015 Story

Collin and I sat on the bus together again this year.  You’d think we’d have planned ahead and brought something to entertain us this time.  Something more entertaining than each other, but no, we sat there quietly every now and then commenting on the cloud coverage, politely listening to other people’s conversations around us. Our seats this year ended up right next to the toilet on the bus.  Convenient, but not.  Even though it was forecasted, it wasn’t until the rain started drizzling down the windows there in Hopkinton that reality settled in and we knew it was going to be a chilly, wet day for running.  It eased up for the start of the race which was a courteous thing to do; Collin and I got our pre-race photo taken, and our mile-ish walk from the bus to the starting line wasn’t hurried or uncomfortable.

Despite a long run ahead that I was barely prepared for, I wasn’t nervous; I wasn’t there to race -- the plan was to keep things in perspective:  enjoy the crowds and cheering along the 26.2-mile course, take it all in, not push it, not get injured and not aggravate remaining sore spots from the previous injury in February, and finish the marathon.  Might sound stupid to run a marathon without 18, 16 or even 12 weeks of focused pain-free training and show up without a time goal, but people, it’s Boston! It’s kind of like falling in love, sound decision-making isn’t always available or wanted. It’s more than earning a jacket and qualifying times (feel free to disagree), because this is The Marathon.  No, this wasn’t going to be a “fun run” but it was going to be memorable.  And fun.

Saturday and Sunday were spent with my wife and runner friends in Boston, doing the usual things: expo, meet-ups, dinners, drinks, cheer, fun… 
Okay, so it’s not all unicorns -- the expo is my least favorite part.  It’s jammed packed with too much good stuff in too small a space.  Everyone’s gotta buy the stuff they want before it’s all gone, and Adidas makes out like a bandit.  Lots of hype in the air, but feels a lot like a high-pressure flea market, so I get in and get out fast.  I know I miss some good stuff in there, but it’s just an expo.  I came for the other stuff.  Otherwise, it’s gotta be the best pre-race weekend of any race I’ve ever done.  Last year was much the same.  It’s where everyone comes together. Dailymile meets BRC meets FFBB (aka Boston365) meets wife meets complete strangers…  dare I say, all become good friends fast.  This year the Saturday DM meet-up included quite a few: Lynton, Annabelle, Meredith, Marcie, Ann, Kelly, Anita, Austin, Mandy…  Pretty fun group right there.

On Sunday Anita and I met up with Collin and headed to dinner with the rest of the FFBB group for a big pre-race meal at Filippo Ristorante. Another good event. 

Back at the start, the temperature was in the low 40’s F, with winds out of the east at about 11-12 mph.  Throughout the race the wind would remain steady and the rain would follow suit.  Only our pre-race photo showed an absence of droplets suspended in air. The temp would have been great without the accompanying elements, but the chilled rain angled by the east wind found its way right into your face, through your top, arm warmers, gloves, shorts, socks, shoes and, well, it wasn’t long before that umm… got *cold*. 
That was certainly one of the more memorable highlights from this year’s Boston – the cold wet. I tried to ignore it, I should have had the ability to do that by now, at least partially. I certainly don’t know how the crowds of people managed to cheer all day, to say nothing of the amazing volunteers out there unprotected as runners knocked cold water and Gatorade continuously out of their hands spilling it everywhere (I mean come on, even if I average a 75% cup hand-off success rate, I still manage to spill a good amount of icy liquid either onto myself or those nearby).  Running in a singlet was cold enough, but at least we were running and generating *some* body heat, the volunteers and crowds of people weren’t able to do even that. Hello, amazing Bostonians, you people are awesome!

Right.  Back to the “fun” run.  The start of the race. I felt pretty good actually.  Most of my “training” consisted of me steadily increasing my distance over the prior month to get to a point where I felt like, “okay, I can at least finish this.” But I didn’t expect to feel great – the symptoms of hip bursitis which began in February have lingered and I knew I should be resting, not increasing my mileage.  But I really didn’t want to sit out another Boston (missed 2012 due to a not-so-stellar BQ time, missed 2013 due to stress fracture, but I did run 2014).  Lately I’ve also been sorta excited about the possibility of running Boston without pressure, and being able to soak up the details I missed while bonking early on last year. Ha, well wouldn’t you know it, just my luck, it became silly obvious early in the race that running 26.2 miles over Massachusetts topography drenched head to toe in 35 °F wind chills really wasn’t going to be a “fun run” no matter what flavored candy coating I could dip it in.  But I was determined to stay positive, and remember why I was here.  After all, how many years did it take for me to get to Boston, and how many people would give up their comfortable dry Monday morning to be in my squishing cold shoes then and there?  I imagine at least a few runners would gladly have switched spots with me.  So I wasn’t going to start complaining (much?) (out loud), even if I was really looking forward to finishing even before the halfway point. 

So anyway, the race started as it does and we were all off bounding down the steep slopes of those early miles, and hallaaa, I just felt great.  …Not race-shape great, but nearly pain-free great.  So I went with it. That feeling lasted for several miles and I even had the brief notion that I could try for goals more noteworthy.  Last year, shortly after mile 10, I felt dehydrated and knew I was in trouble as far as my goal time was concerned, and coincidently, after mile 10 this year I could tell my legs were not going to be up for anything more than what I originally set out to do, so I set the daydreaming aside, went back to work high-fiving and side-fiving the supporters, searching for someone offering a beer to grab.  At mile 11.2, right where she said she’d be was Kelly, our DM friend, volunteering at the Gatorade aid station.  I saw her right away, yelled her name, and grabbed a cup from her! It wasn’t beer, but it was good enough. Hopefully I didn’t spill much on her, but it was raining anyway.  Always, ALWAYS, great to see a familiar face in any race. That invisible transference of energy is real; the instant pep immediately felt and put to use in carrying you another couple miles.

Getting back to the beer, seriously though, I am a bit surprised I never came across anything that looked like a beer in an outstretched arm, waiting for me to whisk it away and guzzle it down – providing me with all the nutrients, vitamins, and liquid courage I’d need to face those Wellesley girls at mile 13.  Womp, womp, oh well…  The scream tunnel was, like last year, simply deafening, but the constant side-fives, which I believe I skipped last year (all I can remember from then is my head hurting from the shrieking), perked me up and gave me a boost for another few miles. 

I kept my eyes open for Ann around mile 17, but unfortunately wasn’t able to identity her in the crowds. Shucks and dangit. I arrived at the hills of Newton and when my legs asked if we could go slower, I slowed down for them; no need to punish them unnecessarily by trying to hit the uphills hard.  (Goals were to finish, have some fun, and not beat up my body, remember?)  Legs thanked me and helped me climb the hills without further discussion. 

In spite of an overabundant application of BodyGlide that morning and to my freakish horror, I noticed a red stain on the left side of my singlet at about mile 20.  How was my left nipple bleeding after all that BodyGlide?  Damn cold rain.  I realized I had been feeling an irritation in that area for a while, but not really paying attention to it. I tried to readjust my singlet, pull it away from my skin, and not swing my upper body more than I had to. It continued to bug me, but it didn’t seem to get any worse. Thank you running gods.

Things started to get a little wacky during the time shift of what I now perceive as miles 21 - 23.  It was the cold. I felt dizzy, wasn’t able to focus very well, couldn’t tell if I was experiencing double vision, but that is what I was calling it at the time (to myself). I wasn’t sure if I should drink more [cold] liquids or back off, leave on my soaked gloves and arm warmers (wet socks actually), or remove them and risk getting colder arms and hands. So I just kept going and decided why bother changing anything at this point, just finish. It’s about time to wrap this up anyway. I tell myself, “Don’t wobble, don’t zigzag, and most of all, don’t fall over.”  It’s a funny feeling, I’ve only experienced it a handful of times but usually in much cooler weather.  I kept trying to blink it off, and finally started to feel a little better once I hit mile 24.  Perhaps the cheering as we closed in on the finish was enough to pull me back into the present, or the running gods made another appearance.  My legs were about done for the day and no one was coming to fix them, so “right on Hereford, left on Boylston…” started playing on repeat.  During those last two miles, I envisioned crossing the finish.  Which naturally led to, what will my time be?  Hmm, what mini-goal can I place in front of me right now?  I settled on a time and asked these legs to give it a little more for the finish. 
Finally hit that turn onto Hereford; from there it’s a short distance to Boylston, and not much further to the finish…  Marcie and my wife Anita would be cheering around here, so I better wake the heck up now, there’s at least 3 million people screaming all around me.  Somehow, I see Anita cheering and yelling my name as I turn onto Boylston, so with a big swerve toward her location I made that last side-5 for the day, and finally bring it on down the home stretch feeling exuberant with the effects of the cold sinking in one last time.  And then just like that the finish line was right there underfoot.

Seems like everyone’s running 26.2 miles these days (and that’s great), but I swear no matter how often you do them, your first or 20th, it is always a huge and wonderful relief to finish, standing on your own two legs, alive and intact.  A volunteer placed the medal around my neck and another helped me into a thermal wrap – so many awesome people volunteering for strangers just like me in the cold, wind, and nonstop rain.

I could tell right away I wasn’t limping afterward (mini-goal!), I was only cold.  I thanked the volunteers and began the slow shaking walk back to my hotel, even though it was one of the physically closest hotels to the finish, security precautions route you around the longest possible way.  Nah I didn’t argue, I just went with it.  I was so cold but soon I’d be warm again, back with my wife, friends, and crew…  having a pickleback together. Celebrating PR's and everyone's finishes. Fast times and good times. Isn’t that kinda what it’s all about?


  1. Great job Ken. You accomplished what you set out to do in the first place: Have fun and get in lots of side fives. Too bad about the weather, but it shows how awesome the Boston Marathon spectators are that they would stand out in the cold wind and wet stuff for hours to cheer on total strangers! Sounds like a totally awesome friend-filled weekend. Makes me want to go back again next year! Congrats. :)

    1. Yeah makes me want to go back again too, haha. Thanks Pete!

  2. Awesome recap! I think that you did a phenomenal job of describing those horrendous conditions. I completely agree that it's about more than a jacket and a qualifying time. It's all of those other things you've touched upon - the camaraderie (e.g., the DM/BRC/FFBB meetup), the scream tunnel, how everyone in the city and area comes together for this event. Congrats again! Awesome meeting you there, and hope to see you again at another race!

    1. Great meeting you too Austin, and you had a fantastic race! Take care and see you next year maybe!

  3. Congrats Ken and thanks for sharing!

  4. Great race and amazing recap!

    1. Hi Meghan, thanks for reading, appreciate the comment!