Not going to lie to you- I am STILL processing everything that happened on marathon day/the season leading up to it. It all happened so quick and then I rushed off to London the next morning without a lot of time to dwell on it. And now that I've had a little time to dwell on it, I'm trying to process it… and process it well. So here goes!
THE BOSTON MARATHON.
I really had no clue what the Boston Marathon was before becoming a runner 3 years ago. No clue that it was one of the most prestigious races out there. No clue you had to qualify. No clue that I would ever want to run- and that I would ever dream of qualifying. When I started running (which was just supposed to be my Hail Mary attempt to complete a marathon on the ten year anniversary of my first/only marathon that I registered for the day before/didn't train for AT ALL and completed in 6:08), I had no idea that I would KEEP running after completing this 10 year anniversary redemption run. Once I realized I liked it and within 5 months of starting to run, had run a 3:51, I thought- well if I run for a little longer, I'm sure I can qualify for Boston. And there you have it. Once you have that thought, it nags at you until you accomplish it.
Qualifying for Boston at Mountains 2 Beach was easily one of the happiest moments of my life. I knew that I would qualify for it while training for it and was pretty confident that I could make it happen. On the course, I felt great and was under pace for most of the race. Dream race scenario.
Leading into the Boston Marathon training season was tough. I did a fall marathon [Big Cottonwood] that was pretty disastrous on my body [4500 feet descent in the first 16 miles] and so after the race, I felt like there was no point in holding back from doing any races (because I really do love races). So I did them. ALL OF THEM. I did 6 half marathons, 1 Ragnar, and 1 10k between the marathon and starting up marathon training for Boston. Basically I started out so burned out and so physically done before Boston. Not an ideal way to start marathon training- especially for a marathon you've built up in your head like Boston.
- It's Boston- so they obviously have race logistics down to a science- bag check, transportation- all SUPER easy and uncomplicated
- Tents in athlete village- better than being out directly in the rain- still felt like a runner's refugee camp
- Hydration on point on the course- pretty regular stations
- AMAZING spectators on course- really special
- No heated buses along course or at finish-a lot of races I have run if there is a chance of it being too cold will have heated buses along the course or at finish to prevent hypothermia. (A casual 1300 runners were treated for hypothermia at Boston.) Not only did they not have anything like that at the finish line- but Boston Commons (bag check - i.e. MY JACKET) was FOREVER away. I honestly thought I would die of cold before I would get there. Truly one of the most miz experiences.
- You are put into corrals based on the time you qual-ed with. It's SUCH a crazy packed course that if you are trying to do a lot faster than what you qualified with- it's pretty near impossible for first 5 or 6 miles because it's like a wall of people staying pretty firm to your qualifying race pace.
In the morning I was super nervous about the weather and still so optimistic that by mental willpower alone I could keep it from raining (spoiler alert: I didn't). I got over to Boston Commons - but too late to meet anyone to ride over with. Next Boston I will be so much more on top of that because it was pretty depressing riding over alone and then being in the Athlete Village in the cold alone. Haha.
On the bus ride over it started to pour and getting to the Athlete Village, it was just a mass of people all huddled in the tents trying to stay warm. The best moment of the morning was when I saw Cuong and it just felt AMAZING being so nervous and cold to see someone I knew. Then a couple minutes after, Adri walked by- and then she knew where another group of girls was. By the end, we had a little SDTC crew which made everything seem so much better.
After waiting for awhile in the Athlete Village, we had to head up to the Start. I had my throwaways on and was planning on throwing them away when we started but it was just too cold- so I ditched my sweatpants but kept the fleece (which was ginormous on). When we started, the crowds at the start line were so wonderful that I started tearing up just so excited that I GOT to run Boston. Then after the initial excitement, I realized that I was pretty much locked into a solid 7:50 pace by the sea of people around me- which was off of my goal pace- and there didn’t seem like an end to the solid wall of people. That was just terrifying thinking that I couldn’t do anything to make sure I would keep my goal pace because of how thick the crowds were.
Around mile 2 or 3 is when the rain started back up. I definitely was happy to have the fleece on (which I kept on until mile 9 and it became so heavy with water and I strongly considered whether throwing it away so I wasn’t weighed down was better than freezing. Tossup. I ended up throwing it because I felt like there would NEVER be a time that I would WANT to throw it away, but it was just so heavy and wearing it didn’t make me feel like I was in a race.)
Mile 3 is when I realized that the race was pretty much over for me. My legs were dead, stale, used up, not there- basically the legs that I had been so familiar with during training. I was pretty devastated. I just thought that taking the weight off my legs during taper would change everything- and all this hard work I had put in (just a casual 1 week at 75 followed by 5 weeks at 80) would pay off. Just the worst moment realizing that pretty much my greatest fears during the thick of training were my Boston marathon reality. It’s like you have those days in training for the marathon where things are just OFF- like you can’t keep pace, or you feel lethargic, or your legs just feel beyond heavy- and you think, so relieved- man, I’m glad that this was just a training run and that the marathon wasn’t today. Well- my marathon WAS that day. And I was running it in truly miserable conditions- 40s, freezing cold rain, and a headwind on our point-to-point course. I was so devastated and did NOT want to be there. Like I was just wishing myself off the course. I had no control over pace or over my legs and I was so cold and miserable plus I was seeing the Boston experience I dreamed of crash and burn in front of me. Just a really heartbreaking experience.
I actively thought of how I could get myself out of this situation. I had no money on me- but I know I can usually talk most people into anything- so I figured I would just walk off the course and ask someone if I could borrow money to take the metro back into the city. I thought if they said no- that I would say I could Paypal them or give them my Garmin- ANYTHING. The point of these sentences is that I really thought through what my walk-off the Boston course would be like and what Option Z (as in my worst case scenario of not wanting to do a marathon and leaving a course) would be like. Then I told myself that’s not YOUR option today. I had people who had flown in to see me who were waiting for me on the course, it was the Boston marathon and really the realization of my dreams and prayers, and I don’t walk off courses. As terrible as it is to have a bad race and a time I want to be divorced from, I’m not the girl that quits- even on my worst day.
And so I suffered through. I stopped looking at my Garmin (because, really- what was the purpose at this point except to mentally punish myself) and I just ran in the rain. When a race feels hard from mile three… TRUST ME, it’s going to be a very long day. My feet that usually love my Skechers Go Speeds were so sore throughout the race – I honestly chalk that up to everything going wrong at once and not them being a bad race fit for me. I was just so cold the whole race and wanted the race to be over.
I went through so many different emotional phases during this marathon. From the initial Boston tears to be on the course, to true fear that I wouldn’t be able to do the pace I wanted, to disappointment that my legs were done and not on deck to do what I had planned for them to do, to just extreme frustration with everything happening, to having such an attitude of gratitude for the people there cheering. Once I realized my race was over, even though the experience was not enjoyable since I just was in pain and freezing, I just became overwhelmed with how kind people were to be out there in that type of weather to give us such support. I would just run by crowds and mouth “thank you” and they would go wild and just give such incredible support. I was trying to be in the moment and just really thankful for the opportunity to run and to be healthy and to pursue what I love. Because even on a bad day that irks my competitive self, I have so much to be grateful for.
The Newton hills were… the Newton Hills. I mean, I was already SO over the race and so far off what my goal was, I just didn’t care. My only goal in the race was to not walk off course and to not walk. You’re in a really weird state when running and I couldn’t keep track of how many hills I had hit- or what constituted a hill – so I just focused on the mile markers, knowing that they started at mile 16 and would probably go until mile 21. I didn’t know which one was Heartbreak- and did it matter- I was already just focused on the finish line and being finished with this race. I saw Tyler and his parents at mile 21 and just felt so bad that they were out in the rain cheering and I was putting on such a poor show. Then I kept trudging along. My ipod playlist finished at 24, I think. And I kept trying to get it to work but the rain was making everything act funny. For the last four miles a short man was “drafting” off of me. I mean WHO KNOWS what he was doing – but the road was wide- and he was on me like white on rice. Believe me, my patience is NOT more abundant towards the end of a marathon.
I finished the race- I don’t think I had any kick at the end. I didn’t babysit my watch basically at all after mile 5 or something. I just knew that it wouldn’t have mattered. There are some races when you have control over your legs so you police your Garmin to make sure you’re on pace. Here- I was doing the very best I could with the tools I was working with. I just cared about finishing since there was no way to get my legs to do my goal time.
When I finally stopped running, I was pretty elated to be finished, which then changed into pure desperation and cold on the LONG walk to Boston Commons. It was so very miserable. I had a couple medics stop me to make sure I was alright. I told them I was obviously cold but wanted to keep going to get inside. I talked to someone the next day who was treated for hypothermia. What did they do for him? “Treat” him outside in the medic tent for an hour and a half. How does that even make sense? Luckily in as bad of state as I felt, I had enough sense to get myself out of the cold.
The Boston Marathon was not what I had planned or hoped for. And I think having back-to-back bad marathons really does a number on you. Luckily at my last bad one (Big Cottonwood) I qualified for Boston 2016, which I had planned on running next year- but honestly, going back to Boston next year may be too soon for me. I do know that having one bad marathon makes you appreciate when a good one really comes together. I know I am that much more hungry for Berlin to be an amazing race. Sadly, all of my hard work did not end in a PR race at Boston- in fact it was probably BECAUSE of all of my hard work that I did so poorly (haha). But you know, you live (and run) and you learn. What your body can handle some training cycles, is too much during other training cycles if you have a lot of other stressors going on as well (work stress, no sleep, etc).
So my Type A/competitive/hungry for redemption personality would have me running more and doing everything possible to make Berlin great… and I think for me, right now, I need to do just the opposite and give myself the rest and recovery that my body is desperately asking for. I always think I can handle high mileage or high intensity because I have been (thankfully) pretty resilient to injury- but sometimes fatigue is your body's way of saying enough is enough- and unfortunately I didn't pay enough attention to those signs this season. I overtrained and had an off race.
I am BEYOND thankful for all of the amazing friends and family that were on this journey with me. From the tough days of training to giving me an encouraging word when I needed it, to consoling/comforting me when I was really heartbroken about Boston being a complete disaster. What would I do without you. I learned some valuable lessons this training cycle. Trained far harder and sustained it longer than I thought possible (really, I am so proud of myself for how hard I trained and how disciplined I was- even if it didn't pan out how I wanted it to). And I'll be taking all of these lessons on to my next marathon pursuit: Berlin, September 27th.
I am blessed to get to do what I love. I know that my fastest days are ahead. And I choose to be joyful and thankful even in the face of disappointment.
Thanks for reading this monologue- it may have taken you longer to read, than it took me to run Boston. ;-) I hope you get out there and do a run for me- because I'm not starting up running again until next week.