Tuesday, March 17, 2015

The Bangle Chronicles - Episode 10: Boston! (2013)

So. Finally. After 37 years of running, I was going to run Boston. After Twin Cities I had knee and ankle problems and didn't run much for 3 months. I was able to get back in gear by January, but I didn't have enough time to get into top marathon shape. But good enough to run it and enjoy my victory lap.

This is a little long. I broke it into 3 posts originally, but will put them all together here.

Act 1: Meeting and hanging out with Loopsters

Act 2: The race

Act 3: After the race

ACT 1:
So, on Friday, DW and I took off over the Pacific, banged a left u-turn, and made for the Atlantic. Five hours later we were landing in Boston to start the dream-come-true trip (for me anyway. DW said this weekend was all about me and subjugated any desires of her own. Love that lady.) The flight was full of runners, which, as you know, are pretty easy to spot. Boston jackets helped.

We were a little late, and took a cab directly to the first loop meetup, at a bar right next to our houseboat. We dragged our bags to the back and found a table of internet celebrities!

baa 010
Ken and MTF (Maranda), Whitey102 (Mike), Chris and TOSuperstar, Joe and Lauren, QuickRunna24 (Nicole), Bookerman (Scott), and me. It was nice to meet some new people, including our Boston area hosts, Lauren and Scott. Sampled the local Sam Adams draft a few times and called it a night.

We stayed at a rental houseboat with TO and his dear wife Chris. It rocked a little that first night since a storm had just passed through, but it was perfectly fine and a great option for us.

Saturday we slept late and then took the T (subway) to the expo. I felt like a kid at Christmas picking up my bib and shirt, and then buying my Boston Marathon jacket. Very proud and excited and soaking in the awesomeness. Unlike other expos (like LA), every runner there was a serious fast runner, and it definitely lent a different vibe. Like we were all special.

The booth area was very crowded and was basically like other expos, although bigger and better. My favorite part was a little theater area where we watched the course video which was interspersed with interviews. It was a great summary of the course, the history, the momentousness of the race. And even my DW (who knows very little running history) was getting excited about it. I was fighting back tears often during the video (and all weekend, who am I kidding). Soon I would be running through these famous landmarks.

After the expo we walked the 3 blocks down Boylston to the finish line which was closed to traffic and everyone was taking pictures. We also had some random loop meetups. JJ (26.2) found me in the expo, and I met up with Mr. Andante who happened to be in town. We also ran into Dean on the street.

baa 024

Sat on the finish line, and said "See you later".
baa 027 - Copy

and it is not a loopfest until Bangle kisses somebody...
baa 029

Pre-race BP for luck?
baa 030

Saturday night, Tom and I and our wives walked the North End which has over 100 Italian restaurants. And they were all full with wait lists! Runners were everywhere. Yet somehow we found a nice one and got a table with no wait. Had to sit outside which was a little cool, but it was great food, and really fun.
baa 043

We also were told to get some cannolis at Mike's bakery, but there was a line down the street! So we put that off until it was less crazy. Instead we walked back to Faneuil Hall and met up with JJ and Whitey, and a certain speedy Pittsburgher that I had been looking forward to meeting.
baa 050

Yes, that is Lady Capulet herself. She and her DH were a pleasure to meet. One more amazing loopster - it seemed each one had their own story of how they got to Boston. Of course, having read all of their blogs earlier, I not only felt like I knew them, but I could appreciate what it meant for each of them to be here in Boston.
One or two more drinks and we called it a night.

Sunday we headed back into the North End and saw Paul Revere's house and picked up some cannolis.
baa2 003

Then Corcorama arrived in town and moved in to the boat with us. I had met Erin in Philly, but it was great to see her again and hang out with a like-minded cynic. And then we walked over to do the Boston Duck Tour. More Loop Meets as we met Chicago Phil and BlairBear. I remember rooting for Phil and advising him as he trained for and got his BQ just in time to get into this race, so it was great to meet him. Then we enjoyed a very funny (and educational) tour of Boston by land and sea. Bonus - I got to meet the famous Juju. She lived up to her reputation as adorable.


From there we walked straight back to Faneuil Hall for the Loop Carbo-load dinner at Bertucci's. More loopmeets, food, drinks, photos and fun. We spent over 2 hours there and had time to move around and talk with everybody. We also had a surprise special guest as Senior Runner and DW arrived! SR made a little toast to all the runners, and we all felt like someone sprinkled holy water on us or something.
baa2 028
Bonnie777 and her new baby!

baa2 032
Whitey and Chicago Phil

baa2 040
JJ and SR

baa2 041
TO and Quick Runna

baa2 045
Me and SR
Me and QR
baa2 046
Maranda and her soon to be husband Ken
baa2 047
Me, Corc and JJ
baa2 048
QR, her DH and Brother Elias

Eventually we wrapped it up and some of us went to a little pub for one more round.
baa2 050
baa2 051
Me and the Monk! Great to meet you, Elias!

Sunday night came and it was lights out at 9:15, but I had my usual pre-race insomnia and tossed and turned until after 12. Probably slept about 4 hours total and was up before 5. Race day! Here we are inside the boat as dawn arrived. Time to head over to the T and run the Boston Marathon!!!!
baa2 052
Tom, Erin and I got up plenty early, and left plenty early, worried about crowds, but everything was smooth, The subway wasn't full and we got to the bus loading area early. We saw huge lines, but it appeared that there were much simpler ways to get in line. So we just slipped on in and got on the next bus. We weren't cutting! People just didn't know any better.

So we were feeling good and settled in for the over an hour bus ride to Hopkinton. We all brought our phones and were getting FB updates on who was arriving and who was behind us. Some people chatted on the bus. Others were focused and silent. When we got there we found a short potty line and knocked that off. And then it was down to the massive tent. It was a lot of people, but not overwhelming. We found loopster Bonnie, and settled in to camp Loopville. A few FB posts later, and about ten of us ended up hanging out there. It was great fun to share the pre-race excitement with a bunch of awesome loopsters. Took my mind off being nervous I think. I also happened to spot OntheBusRunning so he joined the group. So glad I got to meet him and share a little of his amazing day.
I ate a second whole bagel, and drank gatorade. One more trip to the potty lines of about 20 minutes, and then it was time to go! Most of us were in Wave 2, so we did the 3/4 mile walk to the start line together. Every step was more exciting. We're checking our bags!!! There's the corner!! Let's all pee again!!! OK, time to get in corrals!!! OMG!!! It's the Boston Freaking Marathon!!!!!!

As we walked up the side of the corrals, loopsters peeled off with last wishes and hugs. Corral 8 - see ya Tom! Corral 5 - good luck JJ! Corral 4 - Lady Cap and I head in, but first wish the best to MTF, Quick Runna and Corc. And get a photo.
OK - about 3 minutes to go. I feel relaxed, but excited. I try to warm up a little with hops and running in place. I don't have a real goal for this race. I just want to run it, soak it in, and finish running down Boylston. OK, sub 4. My plan was to just run my usual long run pace. I expected it would be just under 8, so I would try to hold it as long as I could, hopefully get to 20 at sub 8 pace. The rest of the way, I expected a big bonk, but did not care.

Off we go! All corrals just go with one start, and it took about 2 minutes to get to the start line. By then we were running, and cheering and high-fiving. It was crowded, but most of us were the same pace, so it was comfortable. I felt good. About mile 1 I passed MTF, and said a quick hello. That would be the only loopster I saw on the course all day. First mile was a nice downhill, not too steep, followed by a little rise that was just enough hill to get my breathing going. I was still in warmup mode, and it was a little wake-up call. Mile one: 8:06 Perfect.

From there I was in a groove and just cruised. The fans were great. I must have slapped hands with 500 people altogether, mostly little kids. I was smiling and making eye contact with fans, which got me more attention.I was soaking it in. Weather was perfect. Pace felt good. I ran the tangents as much as I could in the crowd, which helps keep me focused.

Miles 2-7: 7:48, 7:46, 7:34, 7:51, 7:39, 7:36

A little too fast. But it was downhill, and I was trying to hold back. I wasn't working hard. I tried to find Loopster Lauren at mile 6 or 10K, but it was very crowded and I had no luck. But that kept me occupied for a mile. A FAST mile. By this point, my left calf which bothered me last week, was feeling tight. I wore my calf sleeves, and I think it helped. It got tight, but never cramped. Still, by mile 8 I was already feeling tired, like I knew that I couldn't keep this up forever. I was trying to ease back, but the 7:45 miles just kept coming.

Miles 8-12: 7:45, 7:38, 7:37, 7:48

I started checking my time at the actual mile marks (since G was adding a few tenths), and kept track of how much time I was "banking" under 8 minute pace. For a while I thought about holding on to a BQ, but my gut told me that I did not feel nearly as good as LA, and it was just a matter of time before I gave that time back. And there were those famous hills ahead...

By mile 12 I was already thinking "just hold on until...". First it was the half marathon mark. Then it was mile 15 because there was a big downhill after that. Then it was 30K. I knew that a lot of people were tracking my splits, so I wanted to put up a good mark at all those spots.

Mile 13 was Wellesley, of which I had heard so much about the wall of sound and the girls offering kisses. I was definitely looking forward to it. However the noise, while loud, was not as deafening as I anticipated. I've heard louder places many times. The girls were great though. There must have been several hundred signs saying why I should kiss them. I was enjoying it thoroughly, and pulled over twice to lay a sweaty wet one on some lucky coed. That was fun.

13 and 14 were 7:45, 7:44, and I hit halfway in 1:42:08 (nearly 3 minutes banked).

15 I finally felt my energy levels dropping, yet the pace held at 7:56, and mile 16 was 7:50 with the help of a big downhill. Then the first of 4 Newton hills.

I slipped into a shorter stride, and plugged on up without working too hard. Soon I was over and thinking that wasn't so bad. But I was getting tired. My feet hurt, a lot, and my legs hurt. It was just kind of overall pain starting to whisper to me to stop and take a break. I set the voice aside for now. Soon I happened upon a runner from California and we ran together a little. She was suffering like me. I had happened upon her during LA, and now here we were again at Boston. I really hardly knew her before (she coaches CC at my kids high school) but after today we were friends. I went ahead, but we hooked up again at mile 25 and after the race.

17 and 18 were 8:19 and 8:31, both had a pretty good hill. 19 had no hill and I managed 8:19 again. And at 19.3 I hit the third hill and finally gave myself permission to walk a little. But the walking really didn't feel much better than running, so I kept going up and over and got to 20 with an 8:56. 2:39:40 at 20 - still 20 seconds under 8 minute pace. I called it a victory and felt pretty good about my race. Surviving the last 10K would take care of itself. I would get my sub-4. Seriously, I was happy and content in the midst of big-time pain with over an hour to go. I stopped and walked right after the 20 mile mark.

But it still had to be done.

Mile 21 was heartbreak hill. It was a nice little hill. I ran some of it, walked a little, and crested knowing that the rest couldn't be too hard... Mile 21 was 10:12

I kept plugging. I knew Loopster Scott would be at 22.3 so I looked forward to a friendly face. By now I was trotting at about 9 minute pace, and walking a little every half mile or so. I would walk enough so I actually did feel better, and then started up again. I managed to see Scott and said Hi and had an orange and smiled and kept on going.

Boston College was louder than Wellesley,and especially loud because some guy in Captain America gear passed me then so they were going crazy. That was fun. I was hurting, but with the walk breaks it wasn't too bad, and I was still smiling and enjoying it. The fans were great, and I think they liked me because I was one of the only smiling runners!

Soon I saw the Citgo sign, and it didn't seem too much longer. Miles 22-26 were 9:36, 10:23, 10:14, 11:30, 11:14. The last two miles I could only run about two blocks without a break. But at least I wasn't cramping. I could still run.

At mile 25 I was surprised to see my DW and Mrs TO! I thought they were further back and I had missed them. So I pulled over for a hug, but she wouldn't put down the camera.

And then I shuffled on.


She also got these photos: MTF
Brother Elias



Turning on to Hereford I saw my local friend again. She was gallowalking as well, but we vowed to run it in. However she had to walk a little more so I lost her.

Then it was one last left turn on to Boylston and I could see the finish. This was it! Dream come true! The crowd was loud. I was soaking it in, smiling, got choked up a bit. I managed to run it in at a respectable 9:25 pace for the last .44 miles, probably faster at the end. And of course I had to give it one of these...

Yes!!!  3:45:28

And here you can see my walk breaks:

garmin boston

And then the pain, the cold wind, and big crowds made the next few minutes pretty brutal, but I eventually made it to my bag and got some clothes on, after figuring out how to bend my legs and get to the ground without dying. I found QuickRunna24 at the bag bus, so we got to share a moment, and eventually we hobbled over to the group meeting area where I found Corc and Whitey.

It was about 2:45.

ACT 3:

So I was sitting on the curb at the L in the family meeting area. Hanging with a few loopsters and waiting for more to show. Also waiting for my wife to meet us here. It was crowded and the wind made it darn chilly. If you went past the finish line to the next street, turned right and went two blocks, that's where we were.

Suddenly we hear a loud boom, which seemed out of place. "What the hell was that?" was the general reaction. My first thought was it was some kind of cannon celebration, although that made no sense at that time. Then the second boom. Quizzical looks. Speculation started. A gas leak? In the sewers? A transformer blown? No one knew. It took maybe 5-10 minutes before someone said bomb. Soon, someone was definite; Yes, there were two bombs near the finish line. Some people are hurt.

We still sat there, or stood. Waiting for friends and family. Some came by. We texted a lot, but many didn't go through due to the cell volume. Gradually we heard that there was blood and limbs, and it was bad. We heard a lot of sirens. We were kind of in shock - not knowing what to do. Thankfully we didn't see anything, no smoke, no panicked activity. It was relatively mellow with lots of people standing around trying to get info. Occasionally people would arrive and hug each other. Eventually we realized no one else was coming to the L, and we needed to get out of there.

Erin and I both needed to get back to the boat so we started walking. We knew the subway was closed, but we also knew it was only about a mile and a half or so to walk back, so we started walking. We weren't sure where to go exactly, but we had a general idea, and found a map that got us on track. Of course we were both hurting and moving slow, with every step off of a curb avoided. But with all the stuff going down, we didn't feel like complaining about sore muscles.

The sirens kept coming and going. We walked along Boston Commons and I was trying to get TO on the phone, when suddenly, there he was next to us! A lucky break! And then the three of us walked on back to the boat. But we had no key, as it was with Toms DW, so instead we stopped in at the next door bar that we had inhabited on Friday, and collapsed into a table in the back. There we would refuel, drink beer, and saw our first TV, where we first saw the images that you are all familiar with.
baa2 233
TO was closest to the finish, having finished only a minute or two before the bomb. So we got to hear his account. Otherwise we reacted basically the same as anyone else; What? Why? This is insane. Grief for the victims and their families. Deep sadness and depression. We shared our race details, but it was the opposite of a post-race party. They stole our celebration from us.

Eventually DW and Mrs TO arrived at the bar. They ended up walking over 5 miles to get there. Long hugs. More beer. The loop party was canceled, but at least we had each other. We ended up spending the rest of the night on the boat, reading internet updates since we had no TV.

I'm not going to editorialize about the killers or what this means to the marathon or anything. Plenty of others can do that. I'll just say that I'm not letting them ruin my Boston. I have my memories of the first three days, and I'm keeping them in a separate place from the ones after 2:50.

The next day we said goodbyes and headed to the airport. But first we managed a victorious Boston BP pic, and treated it as a giant F.U. to the bombers.

 shirts 005
Next: Episode 11 - New York (2014)

No comments:

Post a Comment