Sunday, April 28, 2013

2013 Boston Marathon Race Report

I will never forget the 2013 Boston Marathon.  Because of the events that transpired, no one else will either.  The Boston Marathon is the Holy Grail of running.  I never fully understood this until this past year.  Most races I do, no one has heard about, or cares about.  But when you say "I'm doing Boston", people perk up and are immediately interested and impressed even if they have never run a day in their life.

I got back into serious training in 2010.  This was basically after taking a long hiatus after my second child was born.  I didn't stop working out altogether, just scaled it back quite a bit.  Then for some reason in early 2011 I got inspired to run another marathon.  My sister was doing her 7th marathon, and a neighbor was doing the Charlotte Marathon that fall.  It had been 16 years since my first and only marathon.  

I crashed and burned hard at Grandma's Marathon in Duluth, MN in June of 1995.  On pace for 2:37 through mile 17, I limped home in 2:53:12.  The pain was hard to forget.  So when signing up for the Charlotte Thunder Road marathon I didn't want a repeat.  You don't always get what you want.  On pace for a sub 3:00 at 20 miles, I crashed the last 10K and finished in 3:08:48.  The upside was that my Boston Qualifier time was 3:15, so I was safely in.

At first I told my wife that I didn't think I would run Boston.  Luckily as the signup and qualifying works, I had some time to think.  I qualified in November of 2011, which is in the qualifying period for the 2013 race.  Signup was in September 2012 for the April 2013 race.  So by that April I decided I would do it.  I didn't want to be 60 years old and wish I would have run Boston.

Saturday April 13th
We drove up on Saturday.  Just under 900 miles from Fort Mill to Boston.  We rolled into Braintree, MA around 6pm.  We checked into the Candlewood, grabbed a shower, and were just in time to meet my sister at the subway station.  She flew in on Friday from Minneapolis and stayed downtown near Copley Square.  We ate dinner that night at Bertucci's, a New England Italian chain.  It wasn't very good, but it was a long day, and we just wanted to get to bed.
My sister picked these up for us.

Sunday April 14th
Sunday morning we took the subway, or the "T", into downtown Boston. We went straight to the Expo to get my race packet.  The check in was pretty smooth from the aspect of lines for getting your bib number packet and then to get your shirt.  The lines for that were not long, but the number of people in there was crazy.  At times, you couldn't move as there were so many people.  We went through the merchandise area and I got a Boston Marathon Hat.  They are making a fortune on those famous jackets, though.  $100 each and you see them anywhere.  I decided to pass on that.

The entire expo was packed

That's Me!

The Unicorn Mascot of the BAA

They sold a lot of stuff

Jam Packed.

We went through some of the expo, but not a lot.  It is supposed to be "the" running expo, but that stuff doesn't do a lot for me anyways and with the crowds we would have been a while.  The girls were starving so we headed out and at some brunch over at the Back Bay Social Club on Boylston. Then we went and checked out the finish line.

Probably won't see this on Monday.

To say that it happened on Boylston Street.

Obligatory Finish Line Pic
Then we toured Boston.  We walked all around.  The finish line, the Gardens, the Commons, Quincy Market, Fanuille Hall, Freedom trail, the Harbor, Tea Party Museum.  Probably walked around too much, but you only live once right?
PhotoBomb Action!

After we got back to the hotel, I checked out all the swag.
All the swag in the bag

I did buy one thing

Morning Clothes Bag

Nice Long Sleeve T-shirt

Ready for Race Morning

Monday April 15th - Race Day
Woke at 5:30am.  My wife drove me down to drop me off at the Commons to catch a bus to Hopkinton.  No traffic and I hopped out of the car at Tremont and Kneeland, a block from the buses.  It was pretty well organized.  They had probably 8-10 buses loading at once.  The area where the lines to get on the buses was sectioned off.  You had to wait in line to get into that section.  So you had to wait in line to get into the area to wait in line to get on the bus.  When I walked up the lines for the buses were quite long, but there were only 4-5 people in front of me to get into the area.  We soon got in and I hopped in a line.  I only had to wait 10 minutes to get on a bus as I was the 3rd to last person on it.  I took a few minutes before we were off.  When we left, the lines to get into the secion were crazy long.  15 minutes made a huge difference.
Bus Loading

It was a 55 minute bus ride out to the school in Hopkinton.  I'd heard 45 minutes to an hour, so It wasn't too surprising.  I arrived around 7:30 am, so I had about and hour and forty-five minutes before I was supposed to walk to the start.  The Athletes area was just huge.  There were 3 ginormous circus tents that people were trying to stay out of as they wanted to be in the warm sun.  I had long pants, a long sleeve t-shirt, a sweatshirt and gloves on.  I was quite comfortable.  I brought a head band, but didn't need it.  I grabbed a bagle and a banana and got in line for coffee: Newman's Own Organic.  Good coffee.  

Video Board

Serious Port-o-John lines

As time went on it just kept getting more and more crowded.  I had 3 bagels in all and 2 bananas.  I decided not to do any of that Gatorade stuff since I had never used it before.  (Don't do anything new on race day).  I found a spot on the grass and sat on my clothes bag.  With about 30 minutes to go before I was supposed to leave I decided to get in line at the port-o-let even though I didn't have to go.  It took the full 30 minutes to get through the line, and by that time I had to go.  That worked out quite well, so then I headed straight over to the Wave 1 buses to drop my bag.

Baggage Bus

My BQ of 3:08 put me in Wave 1 Corral 6.  I was slated to leave the athlete's village at 9:15 to walk to the start.  From the end of the village, it was about a mile walk.  They have the buses setup per your bib number.  then even a certain window where to drop your number.  A few other guys along with me got our bags ready, but then just kinda waited as long as we could before taking the rest of our warm clothes off.  It was upper 40's at the start and out of the sun it felt chilly. Almost perfect weather for a marathon.

Then we walked (and walked and walked).  Found a good parking lot with trees that a ton of guys were peeing by. There was even a cop there.  Not sure if it was encouraged or he was just making sure we didn't go into a certain area.  I found my corral and then did some stretches before I got in there where they wouldn't be a lot of room.  I wasn't concerned about getting to the front of the corral because my target was a 3:20.  Boston is unique with the corrals.  You are pretty much guaranteed to start next to people in your pace range.  Everyone in that corral qualified within a few minutes.  I was near the cutoff with Bib 5989, as 6000 is in Corral 7.  So I figured it was safe to be in the back since most people will be running 7:10's and faster, and I planned on 7:30+'s.

Assembling at the Start

My Corral
I stood in the corral for about 10 minutes.  They started right on time and everyone started walking.  It took me 3 and a half minutes to get to the start.  We were able to start running before the start line and the timing mat.  I started my Garmin and off we went.  I was running Boston!  As I posted earlier, I originally made a goal of 3:30.  Then as my training was going so well, I boosted that to 3:20, which is a 7:38 average.
The Start of the 2013 Boston Marathon

I figured the first 5 miles would be fast with the excitement and being downhill.  For the first 10K,  I averaged 7:14's.  After that people started passing me, which I expected.  My wife and sister had said they were going to try and be around the 6 mile mark, but coming through Framingham it was packed.  Luckily they were at mile 7 just after all the congestion.  Even then, I almost missed them.  Right after I saw them, I made a bathroom break.  So my mile split was 7:55 because of that.

This photo op was early in the race

The next few miles coming into Wellesly were pretty uneventful.  Pretty soon you could hear the screaming and yelling.  we were about a 1/2 mile from Wellesley college.  Coming throught there was pretty much what I heard about.  The right side was just jam packed with the girls from Wellesly College.  There were a lot signs to "Kiss Me!".  Some were creative, like "Kiss me, I'm Southern" which I found funny being from South Carolina.  "Kiss Me, I use Tonque" I'm pretty sure was a joke.  It was cool to run through, and you really did get a boost of energy going through there.  I averaged 7:33's from 6M to 13M.  That brought me to the Half in 1:37:02 and a 7:24 average.  Well below pace, but I was still feeling good.

I maintained a 7:32 pace for the next three miles, through mile 16.   My right quad really started hurting.  Like somebody punched it and gave me a bad charley horse.   Then the hills started coming.  None were really steep.  Not like around Fort Mill.  They were long however.  For the next 5 miles to the Mile 21 marker, I averaged 7:50's.   That same guy punched my left quad around the 18M mark.  I thought I might be in trouble and fall apart that last 5 miles like I had in my previous marathons.  From mile 6 to mile 20 I was continually being passed by people.  I took 3 gels at the Mile 17 aid station, and then came Boston College.
Boston College

As I crested the last hill, I saw my wife and sister.  I stopped to give my wife a kiss, and got a boost of energy.  Then coming through Boston College was amazing.  I had heard about Wellesley but not BC. It was loud, they were all partying, and it was crazy.  I felt like I was just floating on air.  My quads were killing me but they weren't getting any worse.  I was high fiving people all over the place.  From then on, the crowds were great.  They were lining both sides of the streets, just getting thicker and thicker as you headed toward the finish.

Making the turn on Boylston street is an experience I will never forget.  The crowds were so thick I saw that people could hardly walk down the sidewalks.  The cheers reverberating off the buildings as you looked down the street made it feel like a huge stadium.  You could see the 26M marker and the finish far down at the end.  There was no pain at that point, just euphoria.  I had a huge smile, raised my arms, and just kinda floated from side to side.  It felt like one of the greatest things I had ever done in my running career. It was a celebration of running, competing, and perservering.  Boylston is one of the things that makes Boston such an iconic race.  The adrenaline you got from that was off the charts.

My GPS mapping shows me just floating from side to side all the way down Boylston Street.

I went across the finish line in 3:16:32.  I had run the last 10K in about 46:25 (7:28's).  (I missed the 20M split initially, so its a little screwed up).  That's over 5 minutes faster than the last 10K I ran in the Charlotte Marathon.  It felt great not to crash and burn after 20M and I thank the people of Boston for that.  I passed a ton of people in the last 6 miles, which also felt awesome. So I came in well under my 3:20 goal.  I averaged 7:29.8's for the entire race.

My Splits
Coming Down Boylston

The Finish
Initially I thought the Boston course would be easier overall.  I mean its a net downhill race, right?  The first 5 miles are downhill.  The Newton hills really weren't that bad.  What I underestimated was how much the downhills beat up your quads.  I had read that Heartbreak Hill wasn't that bad, but the downhill after really gets you.  For me it was the first 5 miles.  I mean it felt great, but that pounding really came back to get me at the end.  Your quads just start hurting so much earlier than any race you are used to.
Looking Back at the Finish

I came through the finish at 1:20pm.  It took me about a half hour to get through the post finish area.  It was packed all through there.  I got my blanket, then my medal.  Then they had water, gatorade,  and bananas.  Everyone was moving very slowly.  Then we wandered to the buses to find our morning clothes bag.  I was standing there at the bus waiting behind 3 guys trying to get someone to help us.  This girl was standing there with a bag that they gave her accidentally, so she was trying to give it back.  After about 5 minutes and no headway, she finally asks one of the guys standing there if we'll take it and give it back.  One guy was like, what number is it?  She goes 5989.  I said it must be my lucky day, that's my number.  So I took my bag. and wandered over to get some clothes back on.
Baggage Claim

By that time it had started to get cold again.  We were out of the sun and the wind kinda picket up.  So I put my pants and sweatshirt on and filed over to the family waiting area.  I found the "W" sign in the family meeting area and started waiting for my wife and sister.  That was at 1:50 pm.  They came about 2:30 pm and so we headed out to get something to eat.  We were at the corner of Clarendon and St. James about 1-1/2 blocks from the finish.  We walked south down Clarendon and found this Mexican place, Zocala Cocina, on Cahners Place.  We sat down, and I got a Sam Adams to celebrate.  We got some chips and guac, that was really good.  They were showing baseball highlights when we first walked in, but a few minutes later switched over to the news.

Post Race Celebration
I looked at the TV and about 8-10 people had gathered in front of it to see what the report was.  Then my sister got a text asking her if she was ok.  She looked at me quizzically and I pointed to the TV where it was reporting Two Explosions at the Boston Marathon Finish.  We were puzzled, what the heck?  We did not hear anything.  It didn't seem real.  The lady at the table next to us could not get any service on her phone.  Our phones were fine.  I said hi to another family from South Carolina.  They had Clemson stuff on and I found out there were from Florence.

We finished eating and went outside.  That's when we started seeing that something was going down.  The car was parked in a garage on Huntington Street at Northeastern University.  We walked back up Clarendon to Stuart and took a left.  As we passed Dartmouth Street we could see ambulances lined up at the med tent.  When we got to Huntington and looked to the left, there were ambulances as far as you could see.  They were 2 or 3 aside where we were at, but then strung out all the way down Huntington.

As we walked down, police cars were flying by, light ablazing.  Then fire trucks, then the SWAT team trucks.  People were talking on their phones and we were hearing all kinds of things.  They said the airport was shut down, the subway suspended service, and that all the bridges were closed down.  For a little while we were concerned the entire downtown was on lock down and we would not be able to get out of the city.  We kept walking. Luckily the garage as a quite a few blocks from the finish.  At that point we really didn't know what had happened.  We didn't know if it was an accident or not.  We had no idea so many people had been hurt.

As we drove out onto Huntington, it was a total traffic jam.  Bumper to bumper with people in both lanes trying to get out of town like us.  To make matters worse, several ambulances were trying to get out as well with injured people.  We had to pull up on sidewalks to let the ambulances go by.   Obviously didn't know it at the time, but there were several hospitals in that direction (Children's Hospital Boston, New England Baptist, and Faulkner). My wife was driving, my sister was navigating, and I was just plain out of it in the back seat.  My sister's smart phone's battery died, so she had to go "old school" with the atlas.

She decided to take us down Jamaicaway.  No one was going down there.  I mean no one.  Huntington was packed, but Jamaicaway was clear.  I was a little concerned at first, but as we made the turn, two cars followed us down that way.  It took a while but we finally made it to I-95 and our hotel in Braintree.  It's about a 20 min drive from Braintree to downtown.  It took us 2 hours that afternoon.  We got back, and turned on the news to get some updates.  I took a shower and by then I was hungry again.

We headed over to 99 Restaurant, a local chain and had some more Sam Adams and some wings.  I was still kinda out of it.  It was all so surreal.  I had run a marathon.  The bombings just seemed like you had dream with a fleeting memory.  Like I was still watching it all on TV and it didn't really happen.  As we watched more on TV, I just seemed numb that night.

Tuesday April 16th
We had an early start the next day.  We dropped my sister off at the airport at 4am and started our trek.  900 miles between us and South Carolina.  We listened to the news reports as much as possible that whole way down as information slowly trickled in.  The reports of the wounded were staggering as it affected over 170 people.  We spoke and texted with a lot of people that were checking up on us.  We talked to the Rock Hill Herald for an article.

Honestly it didn't really hit me until Wednesday.  That day was tough.  I got extremely emotional every time I thought about it, but I couldn't stop thinking about it.  I was scattered brained at work all day.  It took until Friday before I could finally sleep.  I would just lay awake in bed and stare at the ceiling.  I felt better when they finally caught the suspects.

Obviously I was never really in any danger.  I came through 90 minutes before the bombs went off.  As we know now they didn't set the bombs down until 10 minutes before they went off.  Still, I ran within 10 feet of the first bomb.  They had a big camera setup in the middle of the finish line and they were directed you to go right or left. I went left, near where the first bomb was to go off.  It gives me an odd feeling when I think about it.  The 9/11 terrorist attack was 1,000 times greater in terms of lives lost, injuries and damage, so I won't compare that to Boston.  But I will make the analogy that sometimes I feel like I was in the World Trade Center the morning of 9/11, but then walked out to safety before the planes hit.  Maybe that's melodramatic, but I'm not typically a drama person.

The three big things I learned from Boston:
1. The course is hard.
2. I can run a marathon without injuring myself for 6 months.
3. Life is short.  Don't waste it.

I sincerely hope that the Boston Athletic Association grants everyone who got pulled off the course and could not finish, entry to the 2014 race.  They missed the greatest part of the whole day: Running down Boylston street to all the cheers.  People have asked me, if I will do Boston again.  Right now the answer is no.  I went into it like it would be my one and only.  Emotionally I can't even fathom running there again.  I would like to keep the 2013 Boston Marathon as a special place in my heart.  Somehow I feel running it again would dampen that.