Friday, April 29, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016

Almost two weeks ago I ran my third Boston Marathon. There was a time in my life I didn't know about Boston, I didn't know how far a marathon was, and a time after I knew those things- that I still never believed I'd get to achieve Boston. Maybe those facts make last Monday's race easier to just "let go" of. I ran a 3:16 marathon on a day I was trained for a 2:55. As much as people may not believe me- I really am okay with this. I was in control, and I made the choice that got me to that time.

My first Boston was undeniably the bright spot I needed at a hard time, and was incredibly proud of running to enjoy that experience. Last year, Boston was just as spectacularly epic but in a different way. I didn't need Boston this year, in that sense. I didn't need it to be a breakthrough that was long time coming, and I didn't need it to be some shining light in the dark. So when I got to the half and knew it wasn't the day to push, I was incredibly at ease with that decision. It didn't even feel like a decision.

My peak and taper were far from ideal this time around, after a great training cycle it was tough to see it crumble so late in the game. Three weeks out from the race I took two unplanned days off(personal stress & family loss), but rebounded with the best 24 mile run I've had in training. One week later I had a funeral and followed the next day with a planned half marathon workout turned nightmare. As much as the weather was to blame, my confidence never really came back from that. I focused on trying to get back on track mentally in taper, but a poorly timed bout of the stomach flu 7 days before the race about wiped any confidence I had left for Boston. My coach was awesome through all of this, helping me adjust and also not go insane. We took the repeated hits and just kept going as best we could.

Two days before we were set to leave, I simply found a way to file it under "it is what it is". I had such a strong training cycle with a new coach and I wasn't going to let this ruin all of that. It was still going to be a great weekend away with Brian, and another chance to run a race that so many would love to- I refused to take that for granted. I hadn't ruled out a PR race for myself, but I did not have my happiness tied to the outcome. It was a freeing feeling.

Brian and I spent the weekend bopping around Boston together, and it was so much fun. We did stuff associated with the race (Expo, finish line...the usual) but we also did a lot that wasn't- because life is so much more than running. Don't get me wrong, I love running and I love Boston but this weekend wasn't just about me running it was about US (and the best lobster roll I've ever had).

We stayed a bit outside the city but race morning was a breeze with an uber ride and then a few stops on the red line. I ran into Julia which was a great way to start the morning, as I got to share the morning with her last year too! Eventually I met up with Jessica, Michele and a few other new friends which just made the bus ride and time in Hopkinton that much better. No shortage of inspiration from these ladies, I hadn't seen Jess or Michele since Chicago but it felt like we never left.

Athletes village was the standard sitting on a towel in a field, with the best people watching you can imagine. I always get a huge kick out of everyone's throwaways. I had scrub pants this year and I was sad to leave them behind as they were super comfy.  While standing in bathroom line with Meg, I remember hearing them talking over the loud speaker reminding everyone to write emergency contact info on the back of their bib. I thought about it and was like- meh and went back to chatting. This will haunt me later.
About to board the bus to Hopkinton with these awesome women.
Eventually it was time to head to the start for those of us in the first wave. The good luck hugs went around the circle and then I made my way through the crowds. For the second year in a row, I got to walk with Norman as we made our way through start corrals. I ate another pack of Honey Stinger chews while we walked and chatted about running, life changes, and smiled our way to our respective starts.  I had no idea how I was feeling for the race, but spending the morning with awesome people and knowing I'd get to see Brian in a few hours was enough to tell me that it was going to be a good day (in general).

As I stood in my corral waiting to start, I heard my name and looked over to see Mike! I was so happy to see another friendly face! I've been friends with him and his wife Michelle for a few years now, so it was nice to catch up a little while we waited. It was Mike's first Boston and I was so excited for him- he worked his tail off to qualify and was now training for his first Ironman.

I noticed I was already warm, and made a mental note to double up on hydration throughout.

After the start, I had my watch set on overall time and overall average pace. I had originally made a 2:55 pace band, but left it in the hotel on purpose that morning. I kind of knew off the bat with the rising temps and recent issues that 2:55 wasn't going to happen, but possibly sub-3 if I played it smart. The miles ticked away, I smiled and settled into a groove. In the first 10k I remember hearing my name and whipped around a little too late to see who it was- but I waved to the nice woman (whoever you are, thank you!). I wasn't feeling awesome but I also wasn't feeling awful, so I made a deal with myself to make it to the half and readjust as need be. The sun was blazing and my sunglasses definitely helped but I wish I had brought my visor from the hotel too, live and learn.

Around the 15k I was getting the feeling that I should probably hit a bathroom, but didn't know when I would see one and didn't want to weave too far out of my way to get to one. So I bided my time and just took in the sights and sounds (hello, Wellesley) along the way. My gel wasn't sitting well and I decided that I probably wasn't going to be able to stomach any more of them, but I had drank a bottle of UCAN in the morning so I wasn't too worried about fuel. I continued to double up on water at each stop, I knew it was getting warmer and combating dehydration would be key.

I reached the half (1:29:33), and then I put all my energy into finding a bathroom. I had to wait about 30 seconds for one to be vacant, then got in and out pretty quick (and then back in). I did a little self assessment about how I was feeling and knew right then it was time to pull the plug.

Some people say they didn't think the conditions were that bad and ran fine- and that's okay. Everyone is different and I don't take offense when people say that. Because, you know what....last year that was me. While the conditions were far from ideal last year at Boston, I ran a (small) PR and conquered the course. This was not going to be one of those days.

For me, this wasn't even a question- I knew it was the right call to back off at the half as everything inside of me was screaming to just take it easy. The last few weeks had been a roller coaster with a messy peak/taper, which doesn't exactly help heading into a goal race. I was not feeling 100%, the conditions weren't working for me, and I didn't think it was worth it to push. I could push and make myself super uncomfortable for a non-PR and probably finish worse for the wear and with a less than stellar attitude. Or I could back off, run with others, soak in BOSTON and finish with pride and gratefulness. I chose the later.
Pretty consistent first half
and also pretty consistent (yet slower/easier) second half

So, I downshifted mentally and physically and took off down the road. Not too long after I saw a guy on the side of the road, I quickly realize it was Ryan and I stopped to see if he was ok. We took off running easy together, he too wasn't have the best day. He knew he would see his wife Jess around 20, so we just set a goal of getting there and seeing what happened. We ran together for a few miles, walked occasionally and I started taking Gatorade for the electrolytes. My spi-belt wasn't helping my stomach and I couldn't get comfortable with it AT ALL, so I ended up ditching it as I knew it was replaceable.

I also was watching everyone who was flying past us, not feeling negative about it but actually looking for friends. I was thinking of all those I knew and hoping they were having better days, that was a happy thought that helped me keep going. Almost like a "let me take one for the team" kind a feeling.

Eventually Ryan and I got separated, I felt bad that I couldn't find him but I knew he would see Jess soon. I was looking for her as I got to 19-20 but didn't know where she would be. Turns out, she saw me but I never saw her.

I was worrying about Brian and my family worrying (worrying about worrying, is that a thing?). Eventually I pulled to the side to ask a couple if I could use their  phone to text him and let him know I was okay. Well 20+ miles plus 70+ degrees = Laura spacing on the order of the first 3 numbers of her boyfriends cell phone. FABULOUS. The girl asked me if it was on the back of my bib (you know, like it should be) and I hung my head and muttered some choice words to myself. Note: next time just don't be too damn proud to write a number on your bib.

I was frustrated with myself for being a space cadet about a number but hopped in a bathroom again quick and then got back to the race. The last few miles, like any marathon really were a blur. The smell of beer through Boston College was stronger than ever. The cheers and the signs were much needed, and helped pass the time. I walked occasionally, but not too much. I kept telling myself to get to Brian, as I knew I'd see him in the last mile.

Somewhere in the last few I heard my name called out and looked over to see Rachel, this was MUCH needed! I stuck my tongue out and threw my hands up, we had talked a lot the few days prior so she knew it just wasn't my day based on the week leading up to it. But seeing her smiling face and hearing the cheers was such a bright spot.

A little while later I was GLUED to the left side watching for Brian. I wanted to see him. I needed to see him. The good news is, since I was watching so intently I also saw some other friends! I stuck my tongue out, waved and then kept going on my way. Finally I heard Brian before I saw him. I blew him a big kiss (and the guys in front of him thought it was for them) and made the turn onto Hereford with a fire lit. It was just what I needed.

I took a peek at my watch, and took off and made the best left turn and didn't stop until I was officially done. Marathon number 14, I won't forget you that's for sure. It wasn't some epic finish, there were no tears, in fact it was probably the least emotions (good or bad) I've had about a marathon in a while. I was content and proud to have another Boston done. I finished tired, and feeling as if I ran 26 miles. My one sided sunburn and minimal chafe marks were the only "battle wounds" as quality running socks and shoes that kept my feet unblistered and unbeaten. I call that a win.

Not every race will be a PR, this is just kind of a fact of running. Look, I won't sit here and say I wouldn't have liked the race to go differently. I won't say a PR wouldn't have been awesome. I won't say that it's a little sad not to see a killer training cycle with a new coach not come to fruition on race day. But, there is a time and a reason for everything and I can sleep just fine knowing that Boston 2016 wasn't the epic marathon PR. I didn't let the outcome of the race dictate how I viewed the training cycle, or the amazing weekend, or even the day in general. That is leaps and bounds of how I would have acted a few years ago about it- so with that I say it's pretty cool to see personal growth.

The training cycle wasn't a waste by any means. I have a great coach who I trust. I hit workouts I didn't think I could. I set a HUGE 10k PR, and a small 5 mile PR (even though I ran a tempo run right before the race). I ran my second fastest half marathon as a WORKOUT. I ran through all kinds of weather, and also battled the mental aspects of treadmill workouts. I did the work, and come race day I did what was best for me. So yeah, I'm pretty happy about that.

Onto the next adventure, and it's gonna be good.

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