Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Boston Marathon 2009

We arrived at the airport around 1pm Saturday. We had no problems on the flights. We grabbed a cab to our hotel, checked in, and headed right off to the Expo by quickly beginning to learn the subway system. Our hotel was about 3 blocks from the nearest subway station. We arrived at the Expo to find it jam-packed. It was a nice big Expo but hard to get around. We got my packet and browsed the gear and goodies. The lines for the Boston clothing gear were ridiculous. Having said that, I felt like the only runner not *already* wearing an official Boston race jacket. I never did get one and don't need one because I have a really nice jacket from the Detroit Marathon that my sister got me. I got a good technical long sleeve shirt in my packet. We were there close to three hours and my feet were starting to hurt so we got out of there and headed over to Faneuil Hall (pronounced, we were told, sort of like Daniel). This large marketplace area encompasses a number of buildings and shops. An outdoor fish/fruit/veggie market was winding down when we arrived. Nearby were also some bars and steak and seafood restaurants, including a bar called Sam's Place, based upon the show Cheers. Inside the Quincy (pronounced Quin-zee) Market building we found a food court with about 25 places serving all kinds of pasta, seafood, bakeries, and ice cream. I had pasta from one place and Clams Casino and Clam Chowder from another. Here we met up with the Riggins clan: Kelvin and Barb, Freddie and Sabrina, and Miriam. They had already eaten so we all had some dessert. I had a strawberry shortcake and a big chocolate chip cookie. After this we headed back to the hotel.

Top row: Me, Freddie, Deb. Bottom row: Miriam, Kelvin, Barb. Barb teaches with Deb. Kelvin is married to Barb. Freddie is Kelvin's brother. Miriam is Kelvin and Freddie's Mom.

Sunday morning we got up and had a little fruit at the hotel and a granola bar or two for breakfast. We then headed to the Science Museum subway stop where we met up with the Riggins' and took a "Duck Tour" of Boston, with our tour guide "
Duck Pin". It was about 90 minutes long and quite good. The Ducks (actually DUKWs) are actual WWII amphibious vehicles that run on both land and water. Eventually we went right into the Charles River and floated around that for awhile. The tour guide did a good job of pointing out famous places, explaining bits of history, discussing architecture, and keeping us laughing. Deb and Kelvin also got to drive the DUCK when it was in the water. Definitely a worthwhile tour. (Read about their history.)

Deb driving the DUCK.

After this we headed off to have lunch at Abe & Louie's. It turns out this place was right next to the finish line, which was pretty cool! We took some fun photos there. I'm glad we did this because the next day I couldn't linger there at all. We all had burgers at the restaurant. Nothing like a big ol' cheeseburger 22 hours before a marathon.

The Winners Podium!

The Finish Line

After this we split up for awhile and Deb and I headed back to Faneuil Hall. We stopped by Bill Rodger's running store which was kinda cool b/c the walls are full of photos and momentos and we also saw Bill's brother Charlie working there. Then Deb insisted I sit a bit so I went back to the Quincy Market food court where I had an oatmeal cookie. Deb wasn't gone long though and then we headed to the Union Oyster House for dinner, meeting up with our friends again. This place claimed to be the oldest restaurant in America. I settled for a lighter meal of seafood soup and some of Deb's Boston baked beans. After this we headed back to the hotel and I got ready for the race, but didn't get to bed until well after 11pm.

The wreath Bill Rodgers wore after winning his first Boston Marathon

Monday. Race Day! I got up at 4:30 and got ready to go. I gave Deb a kiss goodbye and headed to the subway, taking it to the busses at Boston Commons. I got right onto a bus and after about 15 minutes we were heading to the start line in Hopkinton, which took at least a half hour. We arrived around 7:30am I think. We filed out of the bus and headed to the Athlete's Village. At this point I realized that I was a complete numbskull because I, for some reason, thought village meant "indoors". I thought we'd get to sit inside until the race started. But instead there were two vast fields to choose from and we had to wait outside. Both fields were basically the same, with a huge tent and some drinks and bagels and fruit. Luckily I did have a sweat suit on but it was still cold and for the next 2 hours I was basically freezing. I huddled on the ground and noticed people in sleeping bags and blankets. An announcer was trying to keep people entertained. There were many porta-potties but the lines were huge, since roughly 26,000 people were here. When I sat down, a girl next to me turned out to be from, of all places, the Quad Cities. Small world. I did have a bagel and some other food from my bag and tried to stay hydrated without overdoing it because of the bathroom situation. At about 9:15 my wave (Wave 1, there were two waves) headed the 0.7 miles to the start line. There were last chance portapotties there and I managed to get in and out fast enough (more lines) to get into my corral with 5 minutes to spare. We were almost ready to go! Our wave would begin at 10am. (Wave 2 at 10:30)

I was in the 11th corral, near the end of wave 1, so I never heard any gun go off to start the race, but eventually I could see up the hill that things were moving and we started walking towards the start line, taking about 7 minutes to get there. The actual running of the marathon itself, the nuts and bolts of the race, were in a way rather uneventful. I had trained well for this and there were no major problems or issues along the way. Having said that, the whole thing was fantastic. Really really fantastic. There was crowd support nearly the whole way and it was great. We started on a downhill and after that it was generally flat and I hit my 10K time about right. We passed through little towns and I knew that Deb and the Riggins should be in Natick which was at the 10 mile mark. Uncharacteristically I had overdressed some, wearing gloves, sleeves, and two shirts (long and short sleeve). I was worried about reports of a strong headwind. I soon removed the sleeves and gloves and carried those and around mile 9 I managed to pull off the long sleeve shirt (which was under the short sleeve). I really hoped I'd see Deb in Natick to give her my clothes! I ran on the left side of the street and looked on the right side, but luckily I spotted them on the left side and stopped and kissed Deb, shoved my clothes at her, hooted at the Riggins and kept on going. It was really cool to see them during the race! I was very psyched up and feeling good.

This is where I saw Deb and the Riggins. Feeling good at 10 miles!

At mile 13 is the famous Wellesley College and the Wellesley Girls. Heading up a hill towards them, you can hear them well before you see them. A wall of cheering. It was great! Then we were passing them for about 3 blocks, girls holding "Kiss Me" signs all over. I didn't kiss any but lots of guys did. I did high-five lots of them though and surely my pace was a good 30 seconds faster that mile. What a blast. I wanted to hit 13.1 miles at 1:44 and hit it around 1:44:20, so I knew I was a bit off my pace, but close.

About mile 14 was the very first time I started to feel any noticable slight discomfort in my legs. Nothing major but after Natick and Wellesley there was a little lull in crowd support. I knew too that the famous four hills were coming up starting around mile 17. However, the truth is that the hills were not very impressive. They definitely slowed me down but I wasn't even sure when I was on which hill for sure. I knew that Heartbreak Hill, the final hill, came after 20 miles and so thought I was on it then, but it is not a steep hill and I only was completely positive about it after I crested it and an announcer said, "You just passed Heartbreak Hill!" I took them steady if not a bit slow and they really were not a problem. If I ran the race again I might push it harder on these hills.

After Heartbreak, it was only 5 miles to go, much of it downhill. However I started to feel the familiar near-cramping and this modified my pace slightly, but it never did become a major problem and eventually I pushed hard to the finish. A few small hills near the end actually felt tough because I had very little left. I had given it my all and probably ran a near-perfect race for me. The crowds and the excitement of it all helped me push it hard the last couple of miles when I was completely exhausted. When I crossed the line, I really was completely done. I feel like I couldn't have run another block. My legs were through. I could barely continue to stand and walk. It's kind of amazing how one can go from what seems like a near sprint to not being able to move.

If I had one small complaint about the whole weekend, it's right here. We were herded like sheep very very slowly to get our space blanket, our medal, our chip removed and a little bag with water, a bagel, and chips. Then down to the bus to retrieve our drop bag to get my sweat suit. This must have taken well over a half hour and I was freezing. It would be nice if they could have an actual post-race party area but I guess there is no place to put one there. I could barely sit down to put on my sweat pants and shirt. That took probably 5 minutes. Eventually I wound my way around countless barricades to find Deb and we very very slowly got to a subway and headed back to the hotel, along with thousands of other runners. Exhausting, but still wonderful to be a part of it all.

As I said, in the end I ran a nearly perfect race. I never did feel the wind that many commented on about afterwards. Nor did the hills bother me. But the hills did likely slow me enough that I missed my first goal which was to beat 3:28:05, my PR. I finished in 3:29:37, beating my second goal of 3:30. No complaints at all with that time! However I did make a mistake. Because there were no pace groups, I had decided to use my Garmin to pace me. I had to run a 7:56 pace. In fact, I finished with a 7:55 pace, but the Garmin was off. This is my fault because I know the watch is only so accurate, and I also knew it was off at the halfway point when I was slightly behind my time there. Still, I am not sure I could have run this race any faster even if my Garmin were perfectly accurate. Experience with the course might have helped some.


On the way back to the hotel we stopped at a Dunkin' Donuts and I got a Boston Creme donut. Yummy! At the hotel, Deb got ice for me so I could take a cold bath which I probably wouldn't have done otherwise. That was very helpful and I think I recuperated quickly. In fact we left maybe 2 hours later and I was still walking slowly but doing okay except for going downstairs. (Two days later I was able to do a very slow 4 mile run.) We headed to the North Side of Boston, where there are numerous Italian restaurants. I had an enormous calzone and a Sam Adams. After that we got some gelato at a nearby gelateria. Yum. From here we hopped on the subway again and went to Cambridge to a bar called the Plough and the Stars. My brother had heard about this place and in fact it was a nice little low-key neighborhood bar. I ordered a Rapscallion beer (7%) and Deb had a Cosmopolitan. I then called my old friend Wade whom I had not seen in probably 25 years. He came down and hung out with us for a couple of hours and another Rapscallion. Fun! He even gave us a ride back to the hotel. It was nice to see Wade. I think I was asleep about 5 minutes after arriving at the hotel.

Yeah that's a proper calzone!

On Tuesday we checked our luggage in at the desk. Breakfast included another donut (yay!) and then we were off to do some last minute exploring. We headed to see the
USS Constitution, otherwise known as Old Ironsides. We took a tour of the old boat which was very interesting. Named after the Constitution of the United States of America by President George Washington, she is the oldest commissioned naval vessel afloat in the world. The only bummer is that it was undergoing restoration so the masts were down and there was construction in the way of some parts of the boat. But still very fascinating. Active Navy personnel provided us with the tours. There was a small visitor's center there that we visited.

Guns on the USS Constitution

After this, it was back to the hotel. We grabbed a shuttle to the airport, which took only 10 minutes, making me wonder why the cab driver took about 30 minutes to get TO the hotel. Hmmmm...

I have to mention that this whole experience was made most special because I shared it with Deb, who encouraged and cheered me the whole way. And thanks to the Riggins for coming out to cheer as well. And finally thank you to EVERYONE who donated money for Lupus research and support. I wore a bib on the back of my shirt with your names on it, so you ran the marathon too!


Deb said...

Thank you for sharing this experience with me. I had an amazing time! I hope we can go back some day with Tiana. xoxo

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finishing the marathon, Tim! Also, thank you for choosing a local, craft brew in your after marathon celebrations. Every pint sold matters to us and we hope it was an enjoyable one! (Although, after a marathon, any beer would taste good, right?) :)

-Rapscalion Brewery
"Reducing our dependency on foreign ale...One pint at a time."

Deb said...

Tim's calzone was so large that the pizza sauce they brought with it looked like a bowl of soup!