Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Beat the heat" --Boston Marathon 2012

The Boston Marathon. It happened.

I made some rookie mistakes despite tons of advice from friends and family, because until you actually get there, it’s hard to know what to expect. Here's what I learned.

Tips for running Boston (or any big race)

1. Do your whole pre-race eating/coffee/bathroom routine before getting to shuttles or the starting area. Why? See tip #2.
Pre-race lining up for the bus
2. Be prepared for chaos. The. Whole. Way.  Loading the buses at Boston Common was my first glimpse of what ~25,000 people looked like. It’s impressive. The bus ride went smoothly, but I wished I had something to read en route.

Lines of runners waiting for buses.

The starting area was much more chaotic than I thought it would be. Tons of port-o-johns, and tons of people going in every direction. I had visions of finding other Oiselle athletes, but I quickly realized it just wasn’t going to happen.

Tons of people streaming into Athlete's Village
 Here’s what to bring:

-Something to sit on: This can be an old shirt or sweatshirt, cardboard, a tarp, a garbage bag, or whatever.  It’s a way to stake out a small territory and have a dry place to plop down to make final preparations (sunblock application, final gel flavor decisions, etc…)

-Extra toilet paper: Apparently they run out?!?! Panic moment. I had some nightmarish scenarios running through my head for a few minutes, but luckily I got a port-o-john with TP.

-snacks: Bring whatever you usually eat before your morning runs (as in, something you know sits well with your stomach) because you might be waiting for quite some time.

-a sharpie: Writing your name on your arms will get you lots of cheers from strangers and that can be insanely helpful during a tough race. 

3. Aggressively get to the start! Right when you can start dropping your bag to move to the start…DO IT.   If you have a pace/time goal, and you are seeded into a corral, PUSH YOUR WAY THROUGH THE CROWD! Otherwise, you will end up in a corral with folks that have a different pace in mind. I had no idea that I needed to do this, so I just merged with the throngs of people heading toward the start, thinking that somehow we would all get sorted into our appropriate corral. Much to my dismay, my wave started before I could even see the start, and people in the wave behind me had already started lining up, making it nearly impossible to get through the crowd. The result? Wasting who knows how much energy in the first 5-6 miles trying to get around people in order to be able to run a comfortable, steady pace. By that time, all hopes of running my goal pace had been dashed. There was no way I was going to make up minutes of time in 80 degree weather.

4. Be aggressive again! The water stops are a mess of veering bodies so you’ve gotta barrel your way through pretty rudely if you want to maintain pace. I didn’t really do this, because I had changed my race plan several times already and  ‘getting a tan’ had reached top priority.

5. Enjoy the distraction of the crowd! There were so many people out there cheering that the miles just clicked by!

After my lesson-learning was over, it was time to deal with the fact that it was SOOO HOT! To" beat the heat", I drank water and dumped a cup on my head/body at every single station. But that wasn’t enough to stay cool in the blistering heat on a virtually shade-free course. Thankfully the lovely people of Massachusetts were ready for us. Hoses. Sprinklers. Ice. Mist tents. Fire hydrants. Freeze pops. Oranges. Salt tabs. They had it all! And it was so life-saving! I was drenched the entire run, and yet still felt too warm. I tried to keep my pace where my heart rate seemed reasonable and I downed my gels as scheduled although my appetite had fled once the temperature reached 75 ish.

The crowds during Boston were truly incredible. They were so enthusiastic and positive. I could hear them yelling the names of runners around me and I sincerely regretted not having written my name on my arm. The Wellesley girls were impressive, and it was really fun to read all their “kiss me” signs. 

Although the crowds were amazing, seeing my family was WAY better. I waved and smiled for a photo as I ran by my family and high-fived my Dad. The adrenaline high for that moment lasted for several miles and pushed me right over heartbreak hill…which was so wussy! My imagination had concocted something like 2 Stoneway avenues* linked together (Seattle folks know the reference), but it hardly qualified as a hill. It felt more like a gentle incline. Turns out the hill up to my house is more challenging than heartbreak.

Around mile 16, smiling and waving at my family

Towards the end of the race, tons of people were walking. This was startling, since I knew everyone had qualified by, uh, not walking. It was not a pretty sight. Very fit looking people were barely shuffling or walking it in.  It was the kind of day that harshly punished mistakes.

I was so relieved when I finally saw that notorious Citgo sign, and crossing the finish line was amazing and emotional. It didn’t run the blazing PR that I had dreamed about for months, but I held a steady pace, ran smart, and didn’t get carted off to a medical tent. All in all, I am very happy with my performance although the actual time is a hard one to swallow.

Post-race treat :)

1 comment:

  1. It is my DREAM someday to qualify for Boston! This year I only have half marathons planned (6 total) but 2013 I WILL hit a marathon and someday, I will qualify for Boston! Looks like an amazing experience!