Thursday, April 21, 2016
This past Monday was the 120th running of the Boston Marathon. It was my fifth time participating, and was my 4th finish (DNF in 2012 due to heat). Like the Dipsea, this race is one that I will make every effort to attend every year I can. The energy in the city is incredible and seeing friends from near and far so fired up for the same event makes the trip all that much better. It’s not often that almost everyone’s goals align in such a manner as they do at Boston.
This year was a bit different for me. In 2013, I came in fit and ready to run fast. And I ran my PR. In both 2014 and 2015, I was 9 days removed from Lake Sonoma, started out hard, and took what my legs had. This year, I was coming off a planned DNF at Sonoma due to a hip issue that I’m still working out and the main goal was to have fun, not push too much, and most importantly, not do any further damage.
The days leading up to the race were fun as always. I arrived Saturday night, grabbed dinner with a couple friends, and was in bed not too late. Sunday saw a big SFRC crew shakeout around the Charles and then I got my bib at the expo, napped, ate, and was in bed around 10pm, along with Rudy, Ezra, and Staples (we shared a hotel room and it was like being back in college – great for a weekend but thankfully not a situation I have to live in very often :-P). I slept terribly on Sunday night, but wasn’t too worried. I didn’t have any ambitious goals. We were up early on Monday, dressed in our suits, dropped our clothes at the finish, and took the BAA buses out to the start line. No one had to pee in a bottle on the way out, but if you start hydrating early, bring a bottle for that purpose as there are no bathrooms on the buses.
The athletes’ village was full of excitement and we all noticed that the weather was warmer than the forecasts had predicted. There were also no clouds in the sky and by the time we lined up to start, it was probably 65-70 degrees. I made sure to drink early and often but it still wasn’t adequate.
The first miles rolled by very calmly. I ran most of them with Paddy (who ran a great race despite the warm conditions) and basked in the cheers of “USA USA” brought on by my singlet choice. There is no other feeling like the one you get when you raise your arms and ask for support from the crowds and they just roar for the runners. I get chills even when running and it was impossible to keep a smile off my race. Around the halfway mark, Paddy started pulling away from me and I was more than content to let him go. My legs were feeling a bit tired and I just wanted to run a bit slower. I kept him in sight for the next 5-6 miles but was constantly losing ground. Things held together fairly well until the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, where I went from grinning to walking in about 5 steps as my left hamstring threatened to cramp. I stopped to stretch it out and from there until the finish, cramps were constantly threatening. I had to stop a couple more times to stretch my legs out and walked through 3 or 4 of the final water stations in an effort to take down as much Gatorade as possible. I had a friend planted at mile 21 with a beer and it was delicious. The police officer who happened to be 3 feet away kindly turned a blind eye for about a minute but then shooed me on my way when it became clear I was milking the beer break.
The last 4-5 miles were a combination of fighting the cramping on the downhills and moving when I could on the flats. Jonas caught up to me around mile 23 but he too was fighting cramping and we were quickly separated when his legs seized up on a little downhill. I don’t think I stopped smiling the last 2 miles. The crowds are incredible and they responded whenever I asked for support. Rounding the corners onto Boylston, I really made an effort to soak it in. My previous 3 finishes found me in a pain cave at this point, so I wanted to take my time and enjoy the final half mile.
I crossed the finish line, staggered around a bit, saw Nate cross and wandered with him to get our clothes and then to the bar our group had picked as its meeting place. The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent reliving the cramps, awkwardly stretching out to avoid said cramps returning, and drinking and eating. I saw a lot of old friends, made some new ones, and had a great time before collapsing into bed around 2am to wake up 4 hours later for my flight home, where I slept probably 90% of the way back to SF. And before I knew it, I was back home and had memories of the weekend I had been looking forward to for 6 months. We’re already making plans for next year and I can’t wait. In the meantime, I’m going to try to figure out what’s up with my hip (I think it’s a gait issue) and start training for the Dipsea in June. I’m seeking some redemption there.