Thursday, April 21, 2011

"Thank You Dad, Title IX, and KV Switzer"-The 115th Boston Marathon Race Report, Part I

I spotted the above on the back of a woman's shirt about 24 miles into the 115th Boston Marathon, and I couldn't think of a more fitting title for this race report.

Boston Marathon weekend came after that flurry of will-I-or-won't-I-race excitement, and I felt relatively unprepared to make the trip. There are certain things I tend to plan out well in advance, like ordering my S-Caps combo pack (salt and electrolyte capsules to be taken before the race, recovery packs that are basically good multivitamins to aid with recovery post-race). I typically buy new compression socks and new racing shoes for the big races, and didn't have those either. Then, of course, there is the totally non-essential purchase that's still a big part of building mojo for the big race-the new running skirt for race day. Yeah, I know. Sounds silly, but when running a goal race, it's a part of getting that game face on. I figured I'd just hit up REI for some energy gels, scare up some electrolyte capsule sample packets from another race, and take my chances on finding the other things at the expo.

My Dad arrived to town on Thursday to hang out with the kids for the long weekend, and my packing went into high gear while trying to work, along with all the other usual stuff I've got going. I was glad that my Dad would be here with the kids-it meant my mind would be at ease during the trip. Give the man a list of who needs to go where, at what time, and with whom, and I know they'll get there one way or another. My Dad is actually one of my running influences-he ran the Marine Corps Marathon six times, and countless other road races in the DC-area when I was growing up. I distinctly remember being at MCM to spectate one time as a kid, and thinking in the back of my head that "this is cool. I wanna do this some day." He's kind of a Yoda when it comes to running advice-just little bits and pieces on occasion, but always something pretty relevant or useful.

After spending six plus hours on airplanes on Saturday, I finally arrived at Logan International Airport in Boston, Massachusetts. People were trickling in from all terminals sporting marathon jackets from the current year as well as years gone by. It was cool to see so many different people coming in from all over, getting ready to do the same thing.

The rest of the weekend was spent getting together with different groups of people from the RWOL forums,

(the second is a re-creation of last year's inadvertent photobomb by Dave of the "BQ Babes," or the Women's BQ Thread Group from one of the training forums. He got tagged in a gazillion pictures as "Random Dude.")

hitting up the expo to get my bib and race packet,

and doing some general wandering around. I visited the Running Skirts booth at the expo (my typical go-to skirt for big races), and found some stuff that was colorful and springy to celebrate race day. I also hit up the Kinesio Tape booth and grabbed a roll in K-State Purple to tape up my ankle on race day. This stuff is amazing-the tape is supportive but still flexible, and the roll came with pretty specific instructions for how to tape different injuries or parts of the body.

I also sat in on one of the race seminars featuring the "Legends of Running" panel. This session really deserves its own blog post, with the likes of Dick Beardsley

(who battled with Alberto Salazar in the "Duel In the Sun" at the 1982 Boston Marathon, on the right next to Dave McGillivray, race director of the Boston Marathon),

1968 Boston Marathon Winner and frequent Runner's World contributor Amby Burfoot (he's a tall red drink of water),

and one of the women who was instrumental in paving the way for those of us who came later, Kathrine Switzer.

Though most of us who do run know her story and have seen the iconic pictures of Jock Semple trying to pull her off the Boston course in 1967, I'd encourage everyone to read the full story and view those pictures here. The chain of events-from her decision to officially enter the race by her initials "K.V. Switzer," the press truck being right in front of her on the course, and her ultimate decision to keep running and finish after the on-course altercation played a huge part in disproving misconceptions about what women were capable of as runners, and left an indelible mark on Boston Marathon History.

With race number and all gear items in hand, I was relieved to be good to go with everything. Things seemed to be coming together. I attended a pre-race dinner with some other runners at Maggiano's Little Italy near my hotel, and then it was time to lay out the gear and get some shut-eye.

My pre-race night of sleep wound up being pretty good. I wasn't out for a long time, but the sleep I got was pretty deep, and not restless at all. That's perfect for me-I'm kind of "quality over quantity" in that department. I'd gotten the hotel restaurant to make me two large cream cheese bagels the night before, got my ankle taped up,

and noshed on one in the room before heading down to the lobby to meet Lynn for the walk over to the buses. When we hit the lines to board, they really were not bad at all. Imagine my surprise when we got in line, out of 27,000 people, to find two people I knew right in front of us. One was Neil, who organized the pre-race dinner I attended at the Missoula Marathon last summer, and the other was Dee, also from up that way, and the women's Masters winner at the Canyonlands Half last month. Further up, I saw some other familiar faces from the RWOL Boston forums. We all were on the same bus in a few minutes and I thought, man, small world. As we drove off, Lynn and I marveled at how huge the bus lines had become right after we had boarded.

The ride to Hopkinton is probably about an hour tops, but it really just flew by, along with the time spent in the Athlete Village (the grounds of the high school in Hopkinton). For those unfamiliar, the town of Hopkinton is NOT a big, urban area-it is a small New England town with narrow residential streets. Not exactly the kind of place you'd expect to be starting 27,000 runners, but the race was never this big in the beginning.

This year, to keep things less crowded, the BAA moved to three starting waves instead of two in an attempt to thin out the crowds in the early miles, and move things along in a more orderly fashion. I thought this was a good move, as my friend Miranda and I barely made our corral last year in trying to fight our way through the crowds. I had taken my large rubber band from Bryan, the physical therapist, out to the athlete's village, and did some exercises with it for awhile to get things loosened up. I also managed to get through the port-a-potty lines twice, though a third trip really would have been nice. We laughed but also cringed in a "that would suuuuck" way at the PA announcement that the Hopkinton police had a child of a runner who had sneaked onto a bus and made it out to the Athlete Village. Time really flew between that stuff, and just shooting the breeze with Lynn and the other folks I knew out there.

Before I knew it, the guy on the mic was calling for Wave Two runners (that would be me, and most of the ladies in our group) to start moving to the sweat trucks and start. I shed my warmup pants and jacket, stuck them in my gear bag, and handed it off at the appropriately numbered school bus. I just kept on a very old long sleeved shirt that would be my throwaway garment. The sun was out but it was pretty breezy. Soon, I was wandering down with the masses to the start. I couldn't help but grin-I knew there was a chance I might DNF in this race, I knew I had to go conservatively and not kill myself trying to PR, yet was giddy and happy just to be there at all. I was surrounded by fellow hard-working midpackers, mostly females around my age who are part of the current post-Title IX running boom, along with some older male runners. It was cool to be with the people who weren't naturally speedy, but who had trained to get fast enough to make those qualifying standards, sometimes with no time to spare.

I made sure the old Garmin watch was zeroed out and ready to go while waiting, but truth be told, I didn't plan to obsessively check my pace. I just knew that I would not let myself drift faster than an eight minute mile in those early downhill miles no matter how good I felt. Another year, and without the injury, I might be tempted to go balls to the wall, but I was content to stick with my plan. Being in the sixth corral, I couldn't really hear the start, but when the crowd started walking forward and I saw 10:21 on my watch, I knew it was time. The sun was out, but it was not too hot, and the wind had let up.

And then, we were off. Wave Two at the 115th Boston Marathon had officially started, and I was actually there participating, not standing on the sidelines back in Boston.

More tales from the race coming soon. They do include a barefoot caveman in a loincloth.


Girl In Motion said...

LOVING this report so far! The videos brought back all sorts of memories. Can't wait for round 2!!

Rachelle Wardle said...

Awesome! I am so glad you were able to run and that everything seemed to go so smooth. I love your bright colors. You are so cute and just so positive.

I am so glad I found your blog and can't wait to here the rest about Boston. :)