This entry is a little (OK.. a lot) late, but I still wanted to capture a few of my thoughts and memories from our trip to Boston. Quick reminder: this race was dedicated to Ishani and Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation; which explains my bright yellow shirt and hat in this picture:
I had done the Boston Marathon once before in 2009, and that trip was all about the race; with the vacation part being secondary. This time, I decided to enjoy the vacation time with my wife Susie; and the race itself was going to just be a fun part of that vacation. Part of the reason was that I had Ironman Texas coming just 5 weeks after the marathon, but a lot of it was just trying to have perspective on what's really important in life (still working on that...). And then there was the fact that the day we flew out happened to be on my wife's birthday... meaning she spent a good portion of her birthday in airports and airplanes. I'm not entirely stupid, though; and after arriving in Boston and checking in at the B&B, I took her to Boston's north end for a great Italian birthday dinner.
The next day we met up with my wife's cousin and her family; and had a fun time doing some sightseeing in Boston - including a more interesting than I expected tour of the USS Constitution. It's the world's oldest operational warship, dating back to 1797. As the tour guide described the life of a sailor on that ship, it really gave us an appreciation for the life that we get to live today. Then it was some race preparation and early bedtime.
The Boston Marathon doesn't start until 10 am, and my wave was the 2nd of 3 at 10:20 am. However, the runners are all bused from Boston to the start in Hopkinton starting at 6 am; so I was up by around 5 am. After breakfast and getting ready for the race, I walked to the nearby subway ("T") station and made my way over to the buses. I did NOT repeat my mistake from the 2009 race; so this time I took the time to wait out the port-a-potty lines before getting on the bus : )
Once I arrived in Hopkinton, I waited in the athlete's village area; which is basically a series of 3 or so very large tents surrounded by port-a-potties. They have some light food there, as well as water, gatorade, and coffee. Coffee was quite popular.. I ended up having to travel all the way from one end of the complex to the other in order to find a coffee line that wasn't 100 people or more long. Then, they called my group to head for the starting corrals, and it was time to run!
The weather was just about perfect for a marathon, clear and sunny with temps in the low 50's in the morning, rising into the upper 50's by the end of the race. The wind was around 10-15 mph from the west, and since the race is point-to-point in an easterly direction; that meant a good tailwind the entire day! We all really got blessed with a beautiful day.
The first 4 miles or so are mostly downhill, and you can burn out your quads early if you hammer those too hard and pay for it later; so I was careful to keep myself under control in that section. As I mentioned earlier, I had my "A" race (Ironman Texas) coming up just 5 weeks after the marathon, so "steady" was my word for the day. I just wanted to hold a nice, steady pace from beginning to end - with no worries or emphasis on time goals. The more relaxed attitude also made it a little easier to enjoy some of the fun and interesting sights you see out there - including the guy that dressed in Nacho Libre gear (a crowd favorite) and the soldiers who marched the entire course in full gear, including backpacks.
Around mile 5, the course levels out some and breaks into a series of gently rolling ups and downs that lasts until the Newton Hills that start around mile 17. Along the way, you pass through a series of small towns where people line the streets cheering and applauding. And there are the Wellesley College girls just before the halfway point, who scream and cheer so loudly that you can hear them long before you ever see them! Although this year, I really think that the Boston College students (around mile 22?) may have outdid the Wellesley girls in terms of volume and enthusiasm : ) All those people cheering is a big part of what makes the Boston Marathon so special.
I mentioned the Newton Hills section starting around mile 17, and I got through those hills maintaining my steady pace without too much of a problem. One of the funny parts about going through that area is that at the crest of each hill, you'd hear someone saying "is that the last hill?"; and the veterans of the course would chuckle and just say "oh no, not quite yet!" The last hill does come at around mile 21, and is known as Heartbreak Hill. Once I crested that hill, I knew the rest of the race was downhill for a while followed by a fairly flat section through downtown.
Those last few miles would be the biggest test of my "steady" strategy, so at that point I covered up my watch and quit looking at my pace and overall time. I just ran along with my head up, enjoying the excitement and the huge crowds downtown. It was a beautiful day and I was feeling great, glad that I was once again able to have the health and fortune to be participating in such a great event : )
At last I was running down the final stretch and could see the overhead finish banner, and the marathon was coming to an end. I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:31:42; which was only a couple minutes slower than I had finished in 2009 - so I was very happy with that time. When I was later able to upload the Heart Rate data, I found that I had indeed kept things steady; with a max HR about 15 bpm lower than 2009. Mission accomplished!
After collecting the finisher's medal and some food and drink, I went to the family meeting area and met Susie and her cousin; and we headed back to the B&B so I could take an ice bath and shower/clean up. Then it was on to Union Oyster House, my favorite Boston restaurant; where I happily over-indulged in lots of great seafood : )
The day after the race we did a little more sightseeing, including some time at Faneuil Hall and a walk around the Harvard campus. A trip to our favorite pizza place for dinner, and all that was left was packing and heading home. All in all, another great trip to Boston!
Next up - the full version of my Ironman Texas race report...