Tuesday, January 14, 2014

2013 Boston Marathon: Pushing Beyond the Limits

Race Date: 4/15/13

Getting There

I took the red-eye flight thinking I would sleep on the plane, but it was hard to do and I didn’t sleep as much as I had hoped to.  It was a long flight and I was tired at the end of it. I didn’t bring one of those neck cushions which might have helped me sleep on the plane?  If I was to do it again I would avoid the red eye flight. 


The great thing about Boston is you can take the subway pretty much anywhere.  When we arrived in Boston we took the bus to a subway station and then took the subway to our hotel.  I should have just taken a taxi so we wouldn't have been so tired.  We did go out to dinner with some friends a few days before the race, it was a great time! 
The day before the race we went to the Boston Marathon Expo - a real highlight - it was huge and there was so much to see!  I got in line to use the restroom and right there in front of me was Dick Hoyt!  I had to get a picture with him!  This was his 30th time running the Boston Marathon with his son!  I wished him luck on his race.
We did some shopping, but much of the clothing was sold out including the jackets.  I really wanted one of those! 

We loved touring around Boston, there is so much to see!   We stayed at the Langham Hotel which is a short walk to Faneuil Hall Marketplace.  At Faneuil  there is a large variety of reasonably priced food and lots of tourist type shops.  Lots of sweets too!  The day before the race I went to get a bagel and they said they ran out!  I was planning on eating this before the race in the morning.  I knew the race would provide bagels and bananas, but I didn’t know exactly what to expect, so I wanted to bring my own.  I couldn’t find bananas or a bagel as I didn’t plan ahead very well.  I was going on the hope that the bagels and bananas the race provided would have to be sufficient.

Race Day! 

The Boston Marathon is a point-to-point race.  The race starts in Hopkinton and ends in downtown  Boston.  I met James Richman at the bus stop.  I was feeling good and very excited for this epic race.  I was able to sit across the aisle on the bus from James so we chatted all the way there.  We arrived at the Athlete’s Village and there were literally thousands runners.  We took some snap shots with our phones, then found a place to sit on the grass.  I brought a blow up lounge but I couldn’t get it to inflate so I just sat on it.  Some areas of the grass were wet so I was glad I brought it.  The bagels provided were not great - they were the kind you would find at the grocery store in a bag as opposed to a bakery.  The bananas were barely edible because they were so green and hadn't ripened!  I ate slowly hoping it would aid in digestion. I thought the athletes’ village was going to be the

last chance to use the restroom, but I was wrong.  About half mile towards the corrals were a bunch of porta potties lined up for racers.  Not very many  were using them when I got there which meant no line!  Nice!

One thing that really impressed me was how the spectators thoroughly embrace the Boston Marathon. I guess it shouldn’t be that surprising since this was the 117th running of this global marathon event.  One of the many examples of the support the marathoners get is observed while walking to the start corrals - you walk through a neighborhood and one of the homes had all kinds water, gels, bananas and anything a runner might need before race start.

Unfortunately, I experienced plantar fascia throughout my training so I wasn’t able to get in all the speed work I had hoped for.  I knew my race time would suffer because of this, I just didn’t know how much.  My dream goal was to go sub-3 hrs., but didn’t know if my body would be able to hold that. So, my strategy was to try and hold my pace under 7:00 as long as I could.


Miles 1, 2 and 3 Avg Pace: 7:06, 6:50, 6:55


I was psyched! The gun start went off and the corrals of runners slowly migrated forward to the start line.  It took a little while before I was able to cross.  The race was PACKED.  It felt like I was running Bloomsday in Spokane.  My qualification time was 3:15 so the runners in my area were going an average 7:15 pace.  I was zig-zagging to pass - it was so surreal to be part of this legendary race.  The temperature felt good, but I started to feel warm.
I decided to position myself to the side of the road where it was easier to pass.


Miles 4, 5 and 6 Avg Pace: 6:57, 6:59, 6:54


The sun continued to warm up.  By mile 6 I was feeling more tired than I had expected at this point. I could feel the sweat on my brow.  There were lots of downhills for the first six miles so that part felt great.


Miles 7, 8 and 9 Avg Pace: 6:53, 6:56, 6:54


This is by far the most spectated race I have ever experienced.  The people of Boston were out in full force!  They were handing out tissue paper, water, freeze-pops and all kinds of things for the runners.  There were spectators everywhere!  I felt great and I was taking in the race!  I was high-fiving people and running by packs of spectators trying to get them to cheer louder by waving my hands up.  I was smiling and having a blast!  One 2-yr. old was on his dad’s shoulders giving high fives, too cool!

Miles 10, 11 and 12 Avg Pace: 6:56, 6:56, 6:49


I had a flask full of gels in which I mixed in a little water to get it to flow better, but it was still an effort to get the gel out.  I literally had to use both hands to squeeze the bottle, but only a small amount of gel would come out at a time.  This would haunt me later in the race. My biggest error of judgement - lack of fuel/nutrition. I was able to drink the PowerBar Peform that I carried, but in hindsight, I wasn’t taking in enough carbs.  More on this later.
Wellesley College is an all-girls school at Mile 12.  You can hear them well in advance.  That is why they call this section the "Wellesley Scream Tunnel".  Hundreds of girls are there with “Kiss Me” signs.  I high-fived about 60 girls hands within 100 feet.  They were yelling, cheering and kissing. Enthusiastic girl-power!


 Miles 13, 14 and 15 Avg Pace: 7:03, 7:00, 7:19


It was such a highlight for me to finally see Rosi and Cindy!  This is the only time I was able to see them until after the race.  I heard Rosi yell my name and waved! It was only a matter of seconds but it meant the world to me to hear a familiar voice cheering in my direction.
The heat and lack of carbs started to affect me at this point.  I should have forced myself earlier to eat more gels/carbs, but by this time it was too late.  I was slowly deteriorating.


Miles 16, 17 and 18 Avg Pace: 6:58, 7:45, 7:44


Two words.  Newton Hills.  The fun and games were over.  I trained for the downhills, but didn’t train enough for the uphill’s.  The Newton hills were destroying me piece by piece.  I had finally hit the pain-cave with no return home. At this point though, I was too focused mentally and just kept pushing forward unable to look past the next mile.


Miles 19, 20 and 21 Avg Pace: 7:31, 7:58, 8:18


I was now in pure survival mode.  I felt dizzy and light-headed.  Each time I slowed down the light-headed feeling would diminish, then as soon as I picked up my speed, it would reoccur but more intensely.  This was a balancing act that continued until the end of the race - those were some of the longest miles to endure! 
I knew it was coming... the notorious Heart Break Hill.  It certainly lived up to its reputation.  I struggled up the hill, but I refused to walk!  At this point I knew I would not hit my target goal, but I kept pushing forward - a warrior at heart.  I arrived at Boston college at Mile 21.  Lots of party-animals!  I wish I could add that I partook in a couple of alcoholic shots here causing my light headed/dizzy feeling.  ;-)


Miles 22, 23 and 24 Avg Pace: 7:29, 8:02, 8:14


All reasoning was GONE!  I was not thinking logically - an almost outer-body experience.  My peripheral vision seemed to get smaller and smaller as I focused on the racers in front of me.  My body felt like a machine that kept on going, but with no logic left.  Even though there were a lot of downhills at this point, I think I was only running on fumes.  My body seemed to be handling it well, but little did I know that my engine was running on empty, zero, with no-return.


Miles 25, 26 and .2 Avg Pace: 8:40, 9:03, 9:04


The finish line was in sight!  I was so looking forward to crossing the Boston finish line so I could just stop running. There were thousands and thousands of spectators and runners near the finish line, packed from one end to the other, and from one side to the other side, with what seemed like over a mile-long finish shoot - the famous Boylston Street - fans screaming from all sides.  I finally put up my arms, defeated to the core, yet triumphant to have finished and crossed the end-line.  DONE!  My official finish time: 3:15:27 - I realized I had missed re-qualifying for Boston 2014 by a mere 27
seconds! That was tough to swallow.

The Med Tent


Upon crossing the finish line I felt very dizzy.  One of the volunteers asked, "Are you OK?"  I couldn't answer.  My knees were buckling.  I was completely drained and super tired! I was having short spurts of blackouts and could barely stand.  I felt so exhausted thinking I might just pass out.  I have never felt so worn down and spent in my entire life.  All I wanted to do was sleep - right there in the med tent. I knew I was paying the price for all of my prior decisions. The volunteer brought me into the med tent and gave me Gatorade which I drank slowly.   I tried to sit/lay on the cot, but my legs kept cramping - so excruciatingly painful.  I had to move slowly and tactfully so as not to cramp up too much. I did lay on the cot for a few minutes, but they kept asking me questions and wanted me to drink and walk around. They were not going to let me fall asleep and I'm grateful I was in good company that had my best interests at heart. They took my pulse and looked at my eyes.  I was relieved I didn't need an IV so I figured I wasn't too bad off.  I believe I was in the tent for 35 minutes.  I stopped stumbling when walking and the blackouts diminished.  At that point they wanted to release me. What?!  I was thinking, "I just want to stay here and sleep".  They said, "Please sign here".  They gave me one of those protective blankets so I wouldn't lose too much body heat.  As I was walking out of the tent I noticed I was the only one with a blanket.  The runners who finished had to walk a few hundred yards before they got theirs.   It was very cold out, the sun had disappeared and I was so glad to have the blanket.  I saw one woman shivering and other runners throwing up on the sidewalk.  I walked very slowly still feeling light-headed and dizzy.  I wept and kept walking.  I felt this race stripped me of everything except my soul.  For many reasons mentioned this was the hardest race I have ever participated in.  I made quite a few errors that contributed to my downfall.  I started and stayed at a pace my training didn't justify, my pre-race nutrition wasn't what it should have been and I didn't have the consistent carbs throughout the race.


Rosi was worried about me because I finished the race and I hadn't shown my face yet after what seemed a long time.  She asked James to go look for me several times, since he was allowed to go back to the buses and the restricted athletic areas.   I finally made it to the bus to pick up my bag of clothes.   James found me there, my legs were really tight and I needed assistance getting my sweats on over my shorts.  I was physically and emotionally spent.  Then I finally saw
Rosi, gave her a hug and just wept.   After a few minutes we all walked over to the subway station and purchased our tickets.  The first bomb went off 54 minutes after I crossed the finish line.  Had I not been in the med tent for so long afterward, we would have not been in the area when the bombs went off. Cindy heard it first, "Boom!".  She asked us if we heard it and wondered what it was.  As we walked down the stairs to get on the underground subway people were shouting "That was a bomb!". A few minutes later someone else said "Someone was killed in that bombing!" and was shaking.  All this wasn't making sense to me, "A bombing at a marathon?"  WTH? We got on the last subway before they halted all trains.  We were all told to get off near Faneuil Hall. That's when Rosi decided to get me something to eat/drink at the Market Place.  At the same time we started getting texts and phone calls from friends and family panicking to see if we were ok.  Once we were back at the hotel and saw the news coverage we couldn't believe what had happened and what was going on. It is indescribable as there was nothing we could do -- we were in lock-down for the night and it was not safe to go anywhere. It didn't matter that we couldn't celebrate that night or enjoy the athletic parties that had been planned. Everything had turned around for the worst in an instant and all that mattered now was our safety, our timing had been everything, and we were hopefully going to be ok. It was shocking and hard to put into words.
However, the Boston Marathon, and the running community globally were profoundly affected by these events -- and we would never be the same again, that we knew for sure...

We are grateful to our friends Deb and Lee who watched our girls while in Boston and fortunate they were safe in Spokane and didn't witness this horrific tragedy in all its ugliness. In total, 3 people were killed and approximately 264 injured by the bombings.  At least 16 people lost limbs, at the scene or by amputation in a hospital, and three lost more than one limb.  One of the victims was an eight year old boy, the same age as our youngest Raelene.  God bless all those victims and their families!



Soon after we got back to Spokane there was a "Spokane Loves Boston" tribute at the statues downtown and a tribute run was organized.  Any Boston Marathon finisher was asked to lead the run and everyone was invited to participate.  What an honor and blessing it was to do that!! 

Miscellaneous Pictures

Celebratory lunch the day after the race

(Pictures by Rene Guerrero Spokane Photographer)

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