Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boston Marathon Race Report!

(photos below were taken from my cell phone while running)

If you've ever dreamed of running the Boston Marathon you've most likely read plenty of course descriptions and commentary about the race. I know I personally read a lot about the race during the months leading up to the race. But nothing quite captured the essence of the race that I experienced yesterday.

I woke up at 5:50am. Sounds late, right?!? Most races in a large city you have to wake up at 4:30 or 5am to make it to the start with plenty of time to stand in line at the port-o-johns. Nope, not Boston. Buses for the 2nd wave started loading at 6:45am. I met up with an awesome mommy runner Dorothy who I met online and her posse (including her mom who was also running Boston) and we loaded the bus. I believe Dorothy and I were the only runners of the 8-runner group from Northern Virginia who had never run Boston.

It was a 1-hour drive to the race start in Hopkinton. The winds were between 10-20mph and cold. Upon arrival it was quite a sight to see the tens of thousands of runners with their mini "campsites" set up. You could tell who was experienced and who was novice by how much equipment they had. After all, we had 2 and a half hours before we lined up at the start. Evidently, you were supposed to be prepared for anything -- terrential downpours, freezing cold temps, heatwave...anything could happen. There were sleeping bags, plastic tarps, crazy looking warm hooded jumpsuits, food and more food. All that was missing was a bonfire and some marshmallows. I was unprepared in the food department so I bummed some pretzels. As with all races, everyone lined up for the bathrooms several times and before you knew it -- time to head to the start.

We dropped our bags at the buses and began a 1/4 mile walk to the start. I took my phone and listened to all the "good luck" messages from the night before and race morning. An incredibly sweet message from my big bro brought me to tears. He is not a runner - but somehow he knew that this was pretty big and he was completely proud. Suddenly we heard "3 minutes until start...1 minute"...Dorothy and I still hadn't made it up to the first corral...we jumped a fence and started running just after the gun went off.

From the absolute beginning of the race there were thousands of spectators. I thought for sure the crowds would die down quickly. Nope! To my surprise the crowds continued through every town. Each town bigger and better. Around mile 3 I bid Dorothy farewell and we ran our own separate races.

I started the morning full of self-doubt. I had not logged many long runs prior to the race and did not stick to my training plan for the most part. So I was worried this would be a really painful day. I had also pulled my hamstring 2 weeks prior - it was super tight the first few miles.

First landmark was the biker bar with harleys lined up and bikers cheering. Wellesley College and the famous "Wellesley Girls" were just as loud and incredible as they say. Coeds offering kisses with bright red lipstick. It sounded as if The Beatles must have been running among us.

Every step along the way people were high five-ing us, handing out orange wedges, twizzlers, drinks, wet clothes, kleenex...you name it. I could not believe the numbers of people who looked me straight in the eye, offered a smile and yelled my name as loudly as they could. It was as if they somehow knew me.

For about 10 miles I ran next to legend Bill Rodgers. He is a Boston winner from the 70's and a famous runner, coach, author. Very cool to run alongside him and his entourage.

Boston College was also a real trip. This is where my father-in-law attended college and was an athlete. Soon my brother-in-law would enroll there as well. What a beautiful campus - it looked more like an old cathedral. I swear the entire college population came out to cheer. Nothing like cute college boys cheering for you!!

We even passed a nursing home who had wheeled many residents out to the curb to cheer. They offered high fives and encouragement as best they could. Later I found out this was where my awesome husband and kids were watching for me. I MISSED THEM!

Each town was electric. Each runner looked strong and determined. To my surprise no one really wanted to chat along the way. So it was a little hard for people like me who can't keep quiet.

I was thrilled to realize that my legs were holding strong. I was feeling no pain. if my quads started burning I shifted my efforts to my hams. If my hams were too tight I shifted my efforts to my knees/quads. I concentrated on form to get me through. I concentrated on form and keeping my shoulders relaxed. I thought about all the things I teach my running students. The miles passed so quickly that I even "lost" a few miles in the process - always a pleasant surprise to jump from mile 16 to 20 without realizing it! I felt so good I was taking pictures with my camera phone as I ran!!!

The entire route was a series of ups and downs. It was a really tough course - toughest I've ever run. But the real test came mid-race when you hit the REAL series of hills. 2 grueling steady climbs then the steep and dreaded "heartbreak hill" then another steady climb. People had written messages in chalk on the streets to help you dig deep and make it up the hills. Spectators picked you out of the crowd and coached you just when you needed it most.

Luckily, one of the most incredible running buddies in the world text messaged me positive affirmations every mile!!! She rocks! Heather virtually coached me all the way from VA!

At this point in the race your legs are definitely feeling it. But amazingly my legs still felt strong!! I never hit "the wall." I never wanted to quit (which had been my experience in before). I never doubted my abilities. I don't have a ton of experience with marathons - this being my third. But I was amazed that the wall never came. I simply thought about all of the amazing runners running alongside me and all the runners throughout the 113 years before me and tried to imagine their stories and their strength. I thought about all the amazing women I now call friends who I've met through seeMOMMYrun.

The final 4 miles of Boston were amazing. Crowds and crowds and more crowds. Energy like you've never felt. The wind picked up and was cold - but no one cared! I pulled out my cell phone and called my husband to tell him I had only a couple of miles to go. Tears welled up in my eyes when I heard his comforting voice. I was feeling no pain. I felt like a champion and so did everyone finishing around me.

Things I think I did RIGHT (for those training for marathons):

1. I did TONS of core and leg strengthening drills during my training (thanks to coaching my fabulous EZ8 runners and Coach Al!)

2. I continued my strength training for upper AND lower body with heavy weights (previous marathons I lightened my lower body weights thinking I would feel heavy).

3. I ate a ton during the race. Luna sports chews, GU, oranges, candy offered along the course.

4. I hydrated well - mostly gatorade at every water stop - even if it was just a tiny sip to wet my mouth.

5. I wore Oiselle running shorts and bra - no chafing and felt as if I was running in nothing!

6. I trained smart but did not overtrain (very important) and I ran only 1 race in the 3 months leading up to Boston.

7. I stuck to a high protein diet with enough carbs to power my workouts but not weigh me down.

8. I asked my friends to encourage me throughout training. When life was busy and I fell off my training plan - I asked friends to kick me back into it. I didn't wait for people to offer to run with me. I asked and asked and never felt bad about asking again for help.

That is my Boston story. I won't even get into dragging my poor 2 and 4 year olds in the car to Boston (9 hours) with me and them falling apart the day before the race. You're a mom. You know how that can go and the most inconvenient times. We all survived.

Train hard. Run Boston if you ever get the chance. Enjoy it.

~Andrea Vincent, founder of seeMOMMYrun


renae said...

Wow!!! Fantastic race report, Andrea! How incredible to be able to run along side Bill Rodgers! What a day you had.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

You rock!

Run U Mother said...

Congratulations Andrea - great post, I felt like I was right there with you! I can't imagine what's next for you...do you ever stop!?!?


Catherine said...

Congrats Andrea- way to go!

Al said...

Congrats! So proud of you...
All the best!


amy said...

I'm so proud of you! You are such an inspiration.

Crumbs said...

Man - what a story! This is the big league!
I don't see qualifying in my future ever, but I sure can aim to WATCH the race in person someday. Thanks for the inspiration!

channelmarker said...

iNCREDIBLE!! I miss living near you and your over abundant encouragement and motivation.

Trice said...

Gosh I love these photos. Boston is my hometown. I was not a runner until after I moved away at age 25. I used to attend the Red Sox Game on Patriot's Day (Marathon Day) and then watch the racers come in. I'm sure I did not know a marathon was 26.2 miles either. So much has gone on since- so many awesome miles. Thanks for sparking great memories of my favorite streets.