I'm not sure where to start. A thank you feels most appropriate... Thank you to everyone who tracked, texted, commented, called to support me on what was, without a doubt, one of the most important days of my running life until now. My mind is always blown by how many people believe in me. Which is why it's hard to swallow a difficult race because you feel like you not only let yourself down, but you let down all of the people that were cheering for you! I know this isn't true because so many people have told me how proud they are of me, but it hurts a little to not hit your goal when so many people are watching.
Now onto the recap of the race and the experience and a few other things I want to share. We left early Saturday for Boston, and this is where I already wish I did something differently. We lost so much time coming in on Saturday, I wish we had flown out Friday or took a red eye on Friday night because you lose so much time coming from the west. We landed just before 4pm and made our way from the airport via train to our AirBnB, which was so dope. It was a recently remodeled brownstone less than a mile from the finish line. Our hosts stocked some essentials for us and it was so nice to feel like we were at home rather than a hotel.
Day 1 - Saturday
I had to do a quick shakeout run when we got there - 3 miles. I wanted to see the finish line asap, so I told my parents and Ricky to meet me there at the end of my run. I ran from the brownstone up to the river, along the path and then made my way to Boyleston. I walked up to the finish line from the opposite direction, but it was just as beautiful. There were tons of people there, but I felt so overwhelmed with joy and started crying. The majesty of the Boston finish line is like no other. Once my parents and Ricky got there, we made our way to the local Trader Joe's to get food for our pre race days. After making a pasta dinner, we were pooped and went to bed. Super exciting right??
Day 2 - Sunday
We did way too much on Sunday and it was HOT. I still needed to get my bib because we got in too late on Saturday and the expo was closed. My dad's mission on this trip was to get to Fenway Park. He bought us tickets to the afternoon game, but he also wanted to do a tour of the park that started at 9 am. So the schedule was - tour, expo, game, dinner, bed. I knew it was too much, and I always struggle with trying to make the people with me happy because they are taking the time to be here to support me. So, we did the tour. Ricky and I went to the expo right after and I wanted to spend so much more time looking around, but I was so tired already. I bought way too much stuff for being there only an hour!
After the expo, we grabbed a bite to eat before Ubering back over to Fenway for the game. At this point, I was exhausted. The game was fun, but I wish we could've gone to the game after the race! The saving grace of going to the game was that I met Molly Huddle - I was completely starstruck. We got home around 5 and made dinner (spaghetti squash with ground turkey and marinara), laid out my gear for the morning, and I was in bed around 9.
Day 3 - Race Day
Let's be reaaaallllll. Race day weather was supposed to be in the low 70s and I was dreading this. I legit thought that the weather would be perfect (I'm soooo naive). I woke up at 5 am and did my thing. Ate my oatmeal and banana, used the restroom a ton of times.... I wasn't sure if this was good or bad at the time. Around 6:30, Ricky, my dad and I jumped on the train to go up to Boston Commons where the buses grabbed us. We met up with Kim and Neil and walked over to the hotel. This was the first time I connected with anyone I knew (from Instagram or real life) all weekend! I really avoided meeting up with anyone because I wanted to stay as focused as possible, although I do regret it a bit now. I doubt all of the people I want to meet will be in the same place at the same race like that again.
Once we got on the bus, it was a long drive up to Hopkinton. Our bus left at 7:30 and we got to the Athlete's Village at 8:30. As soon as we got there, we went straight to the porto potties. I'd heard nightmare stories about waiting in line for an hour to get in to the portos, but was surprised they weren't that bad (that didn't last though). We walked around for a bit and then Kim and I decided to get back in line after Neil left to go into his corral. While we were waiting, I met Katie, Bethany, Sarah, and Mel (all from Instagram)! I was really glad I saw some people I wanted to meet.
After the bathroom it was time to go into our corrals. There were more restrooms on the way and I knew I could stop again (are you noticing a theme about my fear of having to go while racing?). It's at least a half mile walk to the start. It was pretty cool, all of the local folks were out in front of their houses cheering for us, drinking beers. Lots of fun! As I was walking, I met Nikki - she recognized me and we started chatting. She had just read my blog post the night before about my race plan and she asked if I'd ever run Boston before. When I told her no, she was surprised. She told me I had a solid plan, as if I'd raced this before, and if I followed it, I'd have a great race. This was her 4th Boston. That made me feel so much better. I told myself I was going to follow my plan and just hope my body could last in the heat. We parted ways at the restroom stop just before the final walk to our corrals, but I swear that conversation got me through the first half of the race.
I went to the restroom 3 more times before finally going to my corral (you'd think that would be enough right?). I tossed my water bottle, stuck in my ear phones (I really needed them), and we finally were off. By 10:30 am when I crossed the starting line, it was about 70°. I was already sweating. I just kept thinking, "You're running the Boston Marathon. Be happy!" And so I tried. Here's how it went:
Miles 1-5: I stayed in the middle of the pack and focused on holding back. I did a good job up until mile 4 when I ran a 7:06 mile. At this point, I couldn't deny the fact that I had to pee and was glad it was early in the race. I ran up to the first bathroom that was open and.... walked in on a woman who was just pulling up her pants! OMG that's never happened before. It worked out and I got to pee, so yah!
Miles 6-15: I held onto goal marathon pace. At every aid station I took water whether to drink or throw it on my head. I somehow had the urge to pee 2 more times and successfully walked in on two more people, so I only got to pee once. I didn't even really have to pee both times! I think I just drank way too much throughout the morning and was thinking too much about it. Al I can think now is, what if I didn't stop?
Miles 15-21: The hills were hard. I kept telling myself they might not be that bad, and even Nikki confirmed that. But hills are a different battle for everyone. I counted the hills, but couldn't tell if the first one at mile 16.5 was really the first one because it was pretty small. By mile 18 my right quad was starting to cramp, so I kept grabbing Gatorade to help subside it, but the damage was done. When I made it up Heartbreak Hill, which was completely brutal, someone held a sign that said "You're at the top of Heartbreak Hill" and I knew it was over. I made it. My pace stayed in the 7:30-7:40 range on the hills, which is surprising looking back, but mile 21 was an 8:20... that heartbreaker was hard.
Miles 22-26: I used the downhill after Heartbreak Hill to pick up the pace, but I knew my legs were shot. Mile 22 came in at 7:37. I couldn't regain any strength though. Mile 23 came in at 8:20, and this is where I started to cramp bad and my pace jumped up into the 9's. My ankles, feet, and shins had barely any movement in them because of the cramping. I was basically shuffling and couldn't get any stride back. I finally took out my music at mile 24 when I saw the Citgo sign. It was amazing to hear so much cheering. I wanted to stop so badly, but I kept shuffling. I saw the "1 mile to go" sign and was so relieved. Once the blue lines appeared, I forced myself to stay on them and follow it to the finish. I knew Ricky would be at the corner of Hereford and Boyleston to get a photo, so I tried really hard to get into a good stride (I know right, like who cares at this point what the damn photo looks like!!!). I also knew my mom and dad would be there and that I looked pretty bad and I didn't want them to see that. As I made the final turn, it was all I could do not to cry. It was so beautiful. The majesty of the Boston finish line is something that cannot be matched.
I finished in 3:26. I despise that number. I've finished 3 marathons with that ridiculous time and I will be damned if I get that again. I wanted to cry out of anger and disappointment, but my family wasn't close and the Boston finish shoot is long, so there was no one to cry too. Once I crossed the finish line, my legs were still cramping. I took as many water bottles as I could carry before getting my medal. I kept stopping because my legs felt like they were going to buckle. After the 4th medical person asked me if I was ok, I asked to be taken to the medical tent because my legs weren't allowing me to walk. They got me in a wheelchair and I got to the med tent. I figured they'd give me some fluids and send me on my way. A nurse asked me to tell her where my legs hurt when she touched them, so I responded. Finally, a doctor came over and told me based on some of my responses they thought I might have a stress fracture so I needed to monitor it and if the pain didn't subside or got worse, I'd need to see a doctor and get a boot (hence the reason why I thought I had a stress fracture up until a few days ago). After about 15 minutes, I finally felt like I could walk successfully and made my way through the rest of the finish shoot.
My dad was waiting as close up as he could get to where the runners exited. I was so happy to finally see my family. He told me I looked like I was dying when they saw me coming into the finish. I couldn't help but laugh. When I saw my mom and Ricky though, I started crying. I was so disappointed in myself and couldn't help but think I'd disappointed everyone who was following and supporting me to this point.
We walked back to the brownstone and before we made it home we checked in at a restaurant close by to see if we could get a table in an hour when I was done showering. Everyone at the restaurant started clapping for me when I walked up with my medical blanket on. It was so awesome! We went home and I got ready and we finally ate around 4:30. I drank a couple beers, indulged in fried chicken and brussel sprouts, and finally got my long awaited pint of ice cream when we got home that night.
We spent the following day exploring. We made it to the Cheers bar, walked the Freedom Trail, and ended up at the Sam Adams Brewery and did a beer tour. I was hobbling for most of it, but it was a lot of fun! I'd definitely recommend an extra day or two to spend time in the city - Boston has so much history.
Final Thoughts on Boston and Why I Won't Be Back Anytime Soon
Boston has been my dream. It was hard to get here, and it was even more difficult to race this marathon successfully. Logistically, it's unlike any other marathon. The start time, the course, the entire thing is overwhelming. I loved being here, so please don't mistake that. I am completely honored to have made it here and graced these historic streets with some of the best elite and recreational runners in the world. I won't deny this - any race I do poorly at seems to leave a bad feeling in me. I rarely want to redo them (which explains why I'd love to go back to CIM and Chicago - they hold my best marathon experiences and PRs). This is probably the biggest reason I won't be back to Boston next year. You'd think I would want to come back and crush it, but no. I want to move on to a different race.
I talked to my coach after the race and shared my experience. She told me she thinks Boston is the toughest marathon to do well and she didn't want to share that with me before. She told me "You've got to go into every marathon reaching for the stars, even Boston." She's right. I would never have tried to stick to my 3:15 race plan if she told me it was very unlikely I would get it. But if I didn't try, I'd never know. If I went into the race holding back the entire time, I'd have unfinished business. But I didn't. I tried as hard as my body allowed me to on that day, and I came up very far from my goal.
I've also limited myself to 2 marathons/year. This works for my body and it's all I can really handle if I want to do well. I don't want Boston to be one of the 2 each year. To be honest, its a huge chunk of change to get here, and its really hard to race. I've got a few good years left in me and there's quite a few other marathons I want to experience in the Spring (I've got my eye on the Eugene Marathon in May of 2018) before I call it quits on this distance. I also just don't run marathons for fun right now. With the damage they do to my body, I can't take them for granted. I want to get as fast at this distance as I can before I can't run it anymore or I start to slow down. Boston is a fun marathon if you can enjoy it. I just can't at this point in my running life.
I'm walking away from Boston for now, but I do hope that allows others the opportunity to go. I've already qualified for 2018 at Chicago and did it again at Boston, but I know that takes away from other runners getting in and makes the qualifying times more strict. I will be back. I think putting a few other marathons between me and Boston 2017 will give me the ability to come back and tackle this course again.
Thank you again to everyone who has taken this journey with me and supported my dreams from my first marathon to Boston. I've enjoyed this process and am excited to continue building on this awesome training cycle and reaching for my goals. I hope you'll stick around for the next part of my running adventure.