After a week away, I’m back! But… Not to rant about nutrition (althoughI will touch on some nutrition-related stuff). Last week at this time I was hanging out in the athletes’ village, anxiously waiting to run the Boston Marathon. Instead of my usual blog post, here’s my race recap.
I ran the Boston Marathon for the first time in 2014, the year after the bombings. It was only my second full marathon and it did not go well. A couple of years later I decided that I needed to run Boston again so that I could soak up the experience and finish on my own. My brother qualified too so it was a family affair this year. It was good to have someone to sit with on the long bus ride to the athletes’ village. Even if we did mostly sit in anxiety tinged silence.
I figured that I had made five mistakes the last time I ran Boston: 1. we walked A LOT the day before the race, 2. I skipped breakfast, as I usually do before long runs but I usually finish running around the time that I started running, 3. I wore long-sleeves, 4. I ran too fast for sunny weather and long-sleeves, 5. I didn’t hydrate properly. I did my best to learn from my mistakes.
This time around, we only walked as much as necessary the day before the race. Although my boyfriend and I walked around quite a bit, at a leisurely pace, the day before that.
I attempted to eat a small bowl of cocoa shredded wheat with half a sliced banana before leaving for the village. My nerves weren’t keen on it though so I ate the banana slices out of it, and had a few bites of the cereal. I downed a glass of coconut water because there was still plenty of time before the race started to go pee. Side note: I like coconut water but despite what some people believe it’s not a good sports recovery beverage. It’s high in potassium but low in sodium which is the electrolyte that really needs replacing after copious perspiration. I had one of the new peanut butter-filled Clif bars (no, this is not sponsored, I really like these bars because I love peanut butter and they’re not sickeningly sweet like the original Clif bars tend to be) as soon as I got to the athletes’ village and grabbed a bottle of water. Also got in line for the porta-potty as I knew that soon it would be as much as an hour-long wait. There was a girl in front of me in line wearing a Maritimes Race shirt so I asked if she was from Nova Scotia. She wasn’t, she was from PEI and showed no interest in befriending me. Oh well. I had my brother there (until he set out with his fellow speedsters in the first wave).
It was a lot warmer in the village than I had remembered it being the last time I ran. It had been 30C the day before and hadn’t cooled off as much overnight as we would have liked. So, I ditched my extra layers early (this year I worse a tank top and shorts) and got some sunscreen from the medical tent. Unfortunately, I only put it on my face and the tops of my ears so I got nicely burnt on my chest and on my right side where the sun was beating down during the race. Ditching the layers early was a mistake I realised as I sat in the cool shade of a tent after my brother left for the corrals. I did make friends with a lovey woman from Florida who was running for the third time and had run the 5k with her daughter the day before. We were in the same corral (6) in the second wave so we headed to the parking lot together, queued for the porta-potties near the corrals, and hung-out together in our corral. I’m not sure how she did and I didn’t get her last name so I can’t look her up. On the off chance that you’re reading this Claudia, let me know how you did!
When you’re setting out with so many other runners it’s pretty much impossible to pick-up the pace. I decided just to settle into the pace of the crowd and only move ahead into open space. Some people took the fact that it was a race a little more literally and were darting in in front of other runners and jostling a little. I saw one guy get tripped up by another runner and nearly fall over and there were a few times that I had to slam on the brakes to avoid running into people who cut in front of me. Kind of annoying but I guess that’s what happens when you have so many runners together. Most people were just trying to find their strides and soak up the experience, like I was.
It was in the low 20s (Celsius, that’s mid-70s for you chowdah heads) for the race but there were few clouds and the sun was deadly. Normally I don’t bring water on runs. Even during a race I would probably only grab water from a few stations. This time I skipped the first hydration station and then hit every subsequent one. I was so warm and thirsty. My race strategy became “make it to the next hydration station”. They were at every mile so it made the 26 miles pretty doable. Even though the sweetness of the Gatorade was not nearly as refreshing as the plain water I knew that I need the sodium that it was giving me so I alternated beverages at each station, taking a couple of sips every time. When I got water I would take my sips and dump the remainder over my head. It was a lifesaver. I was also hugely grateful to the people who had sprinklers and freezies. I had three gu energy gels for the race. Blackberry with caffeine at the start, salted watermelon with caffeine at 10 miles (my favourite), and lemon without caffeine at 19 miles. My mouth was so parched that I couldn’t finished either of the gels during the race, especially the lemon.
Once again, I nearly missed Heartbreak Hill thinking that it was later in the race. I was running up it thinking “I might have to walk up Heartbreak Hill” and then got to the top and was pleasantly surprised to realise that was Heartbreak Hill and there were just a couple of slight inclines to follow.
I always listen to podcasts while I run and music during races. However, I remembered how loud the crowds were last time, drowning out my music, so this time I didn’t listen to any tunes. People basting music and cheering nearly all the way along the route were so energizing. The best was near the start line where they had Sweet Caroline going and everyone sang along to the chorus as we ran past.
With the warmth of the sun after a cold winter of training, I knew that I wasn’t going to be able to stick with my usual pace. I would have liked to have done better than last time but it was even more important not to collapse. I thought that maybe I would have some energy left in the tank for a push at the finish but there was nothing there. I kept going, slow and steady, through the last mile which was the longest frigging mile of my life until I crossed the finish line in 3:38:56. A personal worst that I’m totally happy with. As great a story and experience it was to have Anne help me across the finish in 2014, it was a much better feeling to be able to walk and talk and not feel like I had the flu and hangover all at once. One of the first things I said to anyone was “now I need a beer”. The volunteer was like “yes! My kind of runner.”
Of course, my brother didn’t back off the pace until he absolutely had to so I found him looking grey in the family meeting area. He had finished in 3:15:23 which was even further off his usual pace than my run was but still way faster than I’ve ever run a full marathon, and fantastic given the conditions.
So, that was how I spent my 39th birthday. I said that I was done with full marathons, I’d had enough. But I meant that I’m done for now. I’m sure I’ll run Boston again someday.