10:00am Hopkinton / Boston
I'm on the plane ride home now and the passengers between me and the window seat will not stop getting up to use the restroom. I don't understand why they keep asking for drinks. They are obviously already very well hydrated. Well, since I can't sleep, here you go.
This story actually began last July when a Ragnar Relay Northwest Passage teammate invited me to stay with her family in Boston on race weekend. She made Boston a very memorable experience for us. Michele and her family were so generous to share their home with us I just can't say enough about them! More on that later...
This was a vacation on the cheap and it was a lot cheaper to fly into NYC instead of Boston on race weekend(we actually used miles to get there and they wanted double to fly into Boston). We cashed in our miles and got two seats on Southwest and one seat on Alaska into New York City on Wednesday. We stayed there with Kym's cousin Chevonne for 3 days, toured the city, ate falafels, and Kym did some hilarious comedy on open mic night at The New York Comedy Club. She was awesome! I also got to run in Central Park in perfect weather for what I thought would be my last easy run before the race.
Saturday morning we rented a car and the 4 of us drove to Boston. If you've never driven in NYC consider yourself lucky! It's like real life Frogger at best and Death Race 2000 at worst. Those people are crazy!! Our favorite sign in NYC was on a storage building where the traffic backs up going into the Holland Tunnel that reads "The Holland Tunnel: turning well adjusted people into savages since 1927"
Before we left New York, Michele sent me a text message about a 5 mile fun run in Boston on Saturday at noon with Chris McDougall, the author of Born to Run. I had just read his book on the plane and I didn't want to miss out on a chance to meet him so Kym dropped me off at the library on Boylston St. where they were meeting as soon as we rolled into town at 11:55am. I literally hit the ground running in Boston! Ultra-marathoner, Scott Jurek was also there for the run as well as Michael Sandler - author of Barefoot Running, and a lot of barefoot guys and girls. I kept my shoes on and just tried to watch and understand how so many people in this crowd could run around painlessly with naked feet as we cruised around downtown Boston. After a very easy and interesting fun run I met up with my family again and we wandered around the Freedom Trail for a couple hours before heading out to Newton Highlands to meet our friend Michele and her family.
Michele's parents have a beautifully remodeled 100+ year old home with enough space to give us 2 bedrooms and our own bathroom for the weekend. After getting settled we met up with the FRB crowd for Chinese food at the Empire Garden. It was great to see so many bloggers there although I hadn't even met most of them online. My family ended up sitting at our own table sort of next to the group so it didn't turn out to be the opportunity to get to know people that I had hoped for. I do have to say that both Kam and Smooth went way out of their way to make us feel welcome in spite of the seating arrangement. Thanks for that! After dinner we tried to get some folks to join us at Ben and Jerry's for dessert, but sadly, there were no takers :(
Sunday morning was expo time. We started out in a lecture room with a talk about sports injury prevention given by Michele's dad, Dr. d'Hemecourt, who also happens to be the Medical Director for the race. After that we hit the expo floor where my son quickly filled a huge bag with swag and got a belly full of energy bars, gels, and hydration products. They were so well organized and had so much good free stuff there it reminded me of some of the IT conventions I used to go to. Jake was very exited about all the free stuff and the autographs he got from runners he's never heard of before. He was probably a little hopped up on gu and power bars too :) ...anyway, he was sure they were all super famous or they wouldn't be there right? We also stopped by the Team Hoyt booth to say hello to Dick, who pushed his 148lb son to the finish line in 7:03:04 this year. I don't know which is more impressive, this year's 7 hour finish at 70 years old or their record of 2:40:47! If that doesn't impress you, how about a 13:43 Ironman? This man redefines dedication to sports and even more so to his son.
After the expo we spent some more time on the Freedom Trail before an amazing pre-race dinner at the d'Hemecourt home. They served 3 kinds of pasta, bread and salad, probably the best meal we had on our entire trip.
Michele and her brothers, Chuck and Mike have all run Boston several times so the race morning routine was nothing to stress about for these veterans. I was still nervous, but it turned out to be for nothing. We stayed up fairly late, slept in until about 8am, and still had plenty of time to get ready before Mike's wife Liza drove us to Hopkinton where we caught a bus that dropped us off about 3 blocks from the start line at 9:45. Michele, Mike, and Chuck all ran together in the 3rd wave so that was the last I saw of them until after the race. Chuck ran in a pair of huaraches he made with the Tarahumara Indians while he was in Mexico for the Copper Canyon Ultra last month.
Mike, Michele, and Chuck
The start line was pretty incredible. I've never seen so many people in such an organized group before. After the gun, runners remained nearly shoulder to shoulder in lock-step motion for miles, moving along at basically my goal pace. If I ran any slower I would have been in the way, any faster and I would have had to weave through the crowd. It felt like I was just being carried along by the masses for several miles which was ok by me. Once things flattened out I was still cruising along at my goal pace without too much effort. My original goal time was 3:10 until I injured my calf early in February and had to take most of the month off. For a while I didn't think I'd be able to run the race at all, but all the time off helped and I ended up having a pretty solid month of training in March. I figured I was probably still good for 3:30 and might even be able to "enjoy" the race. Predictably though, I convinced myself I could do better and decided to run a 7:15ish pace from the start and see how it played out. I knew it was a long shot, but I couldn't see giving up from the start. Back to the race...
The course stayed pretty crowded for the first half. Things didn't really loosen up until we got near Wellesley(no pun intended) where all the girls were screaming and holding up "kiss me" signs. They call this the "scream tunnel". I could hear them a half mile before we even got there and they did make me feel a bit like a rock star. More specifically, Burt, they made me feel like one of the Beatles back in the day, when the girls would scream and faint in front of the stage because they were so AWESOME! As exciting as all that was, my girl was waiting for me at the finish line so these ladies had to settle for some other sweaty and looser lips than mine.
The Newton hills were next and they slowly destroyed my dream pace. At one point I was running next to Kam and asked him how far it was to the top because I couldn't remember if it was 20 or 22. When he said "I don't know" I was crushed mentally, but kept going and found out soon enough that it was 21. As I was gutting out the rest of the ascent I passed a guy in a Eugene Marathon finisher shirt that recognized me from the race(where I BQ'd) last May. We exchanged some very brief words of encouragement as I went by. When I finally reached the top of heartbreak hill I was ready for some of that down hill stuff which quickly followed.
Me and Kam on Heartbreak Hill, I didn't stay in front of him for long. He gained 10 minutes on me in the last 6 miles! Look at all that salt on my shirt!
I recovered better than I expected on the descent, yet not completely. I was getting a little dehydrated even though I had taken water at nearly every aid station. I was passing a few runners during mile 22 and feeling pretty good about what remained ahead. Could I still PR after losing so much time on the hills? Probably not, but I was ready to try. Then the unexpected happened. I felt a sharp familiar pain in my left foot between the 3rd and 4th toes. At first I thought I could handle it. I had run through this before as sometimes it would fade in and out on a long run. Other times it would continue to get worse until it reached an unbearable level of pain and this turned out to be one of those times. Within a mile it progressed from a tack-in-my-foot feeling to a railroad-spike kind of agony. I'm guessing only Wes, aka BNS can really relate to what I was going through at this point. Needless to say, it slowed me to a very limpy walk for over a mile. I'm not sure what goes on in there with that nerve or what's left of it (I recently got a series of injections in my foot to shrink and/or deaden the tumor that has developed on the nerve tissue), but it usually stops hurting as soon as I get off of my feet and sometimes it seems to shift around a bit and the pain will come and go even if I don't take a rest. I was banking on the latter since there was no way I was going to stop altogether.
While I was hobbling along, Eugene guy caught up to me and tried his best to get me running again, sacrificing his own stride by walking with me for several steps. This was a huge boost for me when I really needed it, but I was still hurting too bad to run so he continued on without me. A little farther down the road, a crowd of what looked like some very rowdy college students started urging me on and offered me a cold beer. It had been a while since the last water stop(they seem a lot farther apart at the speed I was currently moving) so I accepted their offer and chugged it down as they cheered me on. I felt a little like I was back in school or in one of those really dumb party movies. Anyway, it felt good and by now I was really eager to get running again after such a long break and a cold drink. My foot was still hurting, but not like it was before. I hoped I could gut it out from here and thought about really stepping it up for the last few miles to try and salvage what I could, but as the finish line got closer the crowds got thicker and I was happy to just soak it all in at a reasonable pace. I wasn't going to break any records after my stroll through mile 23 no matter how hard I tried.
As these thoughts were still going through my head near the end of mile 24, I caught up to Eugene guy who was now tired, discouraged, and walking. I returned the favor from earlier and literally gave him a little push as we walked a few steps together and talked about all the cameras at the finish line waiting to snap our photos. Walking pictures would be a bummer huh? He responded much better than I had earlier and managed to pick it up to my 8ish minute pace for the last couple miles as we talked about living and running in the great Northwest. I still have some mixed feelings about my finish. I know I could or should have been a little faster, but coming across the finish line feeling strong and coherent was something new. Usually I am exhausted and somewhat if not completely delirious after a race of any distance. Not far off from the guys you see crawling across the line or puking their guts out at the finish. I guess that kind of effort has it's place, but not for me this time. As it turned out, I ran an enjoyable marathon overall and I finished with a decent time for a grandpa. And it was a historic marathon at that! Geoffrey Mutai ran the worlds fastest marathon, and Ryann hall and Desiree Davila both shattered the American records! Memories of this race will last for a lifetime!
Not as fast as I hoped for, but I am still very happy at the end of the race!
After the race while we were looking for a place to buy some baby wipes for a much needed sponge bath, my son ran into the Bally health club near the finish line and somehow got permission for me to use their shower so I got to clean up before going to the Warren Tavern for a post race meal. Way to go Jake! The Warren is the oldest Tavern in the country and was one of Paul Revere's favorite hangouts according to his journals. I love all the history in this town! After lunch we spent some more time walking the Freedom Trail before the post race feast back at the d'Hemecourt's in Newton where we stayed another relaxing night swapping race stories and stuffing our faces. I just can't say enough about how generous this family was to us! They made my Boston experience first class all the way and Michele's dad even gave my son one of the special red and white Boston Marathon logo jackets they had for the Medical staff. How can I possibly express my gratitude for all of this hospitality? A thank-you card just doesn't seem like enough.
Jake in his sweet new Jacket
Tuesday morning we packed up, said our goodbyes and spent most of the day back in Boston again on the Freedom Trail before taking Chevonne home to NYC. We saw Paul Revere's house, several Churches, Monuments, and had Lobster and Brick Red for lunch at the Green Dragon(Headquarters of the Revolution).
After dropping off Chevonne in NYC we headed to Lancatser, PA for a night and day where I started my morning with a 14 mile run through Amish country. My legs felt great after only one day of rest (if you count walking about 10 miles as rest) and the scenery was so nice that I didn't want to stop. I ran as long as I possibly could without missing my free breakfast at the hotel. I would love to live out there if my boss would let me tele-commute.
After an Amish buggy tour and a day of shopping we continued on to Washington, DC to stay with Kym's friend Sara for a couple days. We must have walked at least another 20 miles in those 2 days, there are so many monuments and museums to see. We tried to see everything in spite of my son's complaining :) Why are teenagers so lazy? I managed to escape for an early morning 10 miler on the Mt. Vernon Trail while we were there too. It's a very nice bike trail next to the water with some great views.
We finished up the trip with a few more days in NYC and visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Statue of Liberty, and the Ellis Island Immigration Museum. I really wanted to get back to Central Park for another run, but had to settle for a quick 5 along the East River before Easter Service on Sunday. If you're still reading this, you must be really bored. Thanks for gutting it out :)
For you Seinfeld fans, this is Tom of Tom's Restaurant in NYC.
Distance Split pace