If you want to run, run a mile. If you want to experience a different life,
run a marathon.
run a marathon.
~ Emil Zatopek
Let's just pick up where we left off, shall we? Saturday night we had a rager and stayed up dancing until midnight. Kidding. We went to bed at 9:30. In another life maybe. Sunday I had to get up early and take Grace to her soccer game, which I was psyched to watch as I'd missed it the day before due to the 5K. As I mentioned in the last post, the rest of the Hotel Trax crew also got up early and scattered in different directions for the day; the plan being to meet back in the afternoon to get ready for the Oiselle team dinner, an event that I've had the pleasure of hosting for the past five years. It was a gorgeous day and after soccer and lunch we re-grouped and started decorating. That's right, Chicken brought party supplies and she and Grace dove right in to the paper chains while I went to grab the food.
Chicken hanging paper chains
I love this shindig because it gives me a chance to catch up with Oiselle birds from all over the country that I don't normally get to see. I also get to meet new people, like Laura Darrow, who flew her entire family in from Hawaii and brought all of 26 of them, including her in-laws. She also brought me local coffee and chocolate so I will forever welcome her and anyone from her extended family into my home from this point forward. Seriously, though, it's pretty cool to throw a bunch of strangers together who share a common interest and watch as everyone becomes fast friends. The energy in the room is always so incredibly warm and positive at this gathering. It's such a nice vibe to surround yourself in the day before a marathon.
We ate large amounts of pasta and hung out until around 7:30 and then everyone began to scoot in preparation for the next day. It would be a big one for all of us; both runners and spectators alike. For some reason, Jackie and I decided it would be a fun idea to cover our arms in temporary tattoos. A few of us got really into the application process, because it's hard to put those suckers on by yourself. I'll never got a sleeve, but I won't lie and tell you I didn't feel pretty badass when it was done.
All the tats with Jackie
Jackie and I also happened to be the only ones racing the next day so after everyone left we quickly started gathering all of our gear so we'd be ready for an early departure the in the morning. When I run as a TWAV guide, I pack a little differently than I do if I'm running on my own. I don't bring music, obviously, as one can't guide with tunes blaring. I bring more food, as we wait around for a long time before the race starts. I also bring plenty of extra clothes and plastic bags, which I assumed we would need based on the weather forecast. And then, of course, some cash for post-race coffee and a cab. The nice thing about prepping in guide mode is that there very little stress compared to the normal stress I feel when I'm actually racing for myself.
When we woke up on Monday it was pouring. Like...buckets. And thundering and lightening. It was crazy and we were laughing about it, but also crying. And praying that the weather would shift as the forecast had predicted. Jeff got up and drove us out to Hopkinton so we didn't have to catch the bus from Boston which would have required that we be downtown at 5:00am and would have been beyond brutal. Bless him.
I got to the Vision Center around 9:00am and quickly found Michaela, the young gal that I'd be guiding. We had spoken via text throughout the winter, but we'd not yet met in person, so it was nice to finally connect. She was admittedly and understandably nervous. I couldn't do much about this but I told her to just let me know whatever she needed from me as waited until our wave to be called. I also met her other guide, Kelly, who had coached Michaela in high school. Around 10:00, they called for us to head over to the start so we went outside and grabbed a team photo before walking over to our corral. It was grey and rainy when we headed out but we could feel the humidity rising and asked Michaela if she wanted to shed her long sleeve, which she decided was too much to deal with. We would later regret this. It was kind of chilly as we stood around and waited, but this wouldn't last long. Finally, at 10:25, we were off.
Michaela had trained hard all winter and we had no doubt that she was ready to rock. This was not her first marathon, so she also knew what to expect, which was good. Her goal was to finish somewhere between four and four and a half hours; a very reasonable goal given her training and past race times. For our first few miles, we cruised around 9:30 pace. Not surprisingly, this was way too fast. It's just so hard to reign it in during that first stretch as the nerves are in high gear, the excitment is even higher and the course is a slight downhill. Kelly and I worked to pull back the pace and then to settle in there. Not long after we started, the sun began to peak through the clouds and the temperature and humidity began to rise immediately. This was not what we'd assumed we'd be dealing with and was a big fat bummer given how early on it was in the race. But, there was nothing we could do it about it, so we tried not to talk about it.
Michaela's family and cheer squad was out and ready to meet us around mile 6 and all three of us were looking forward to seeing them. Unfortunately, Michaeala's stomach began to cramp up pretty soon after we started, the pain ebbing and flowing sporadically as we ran. There wasn't much we could say to help the situation, so Kelly and I did our best to distract her and to make sure she was hydrating as it was now very hot and humid. Around mile five, we all stopped to use the bathroom. Kelly and I then told Michaela that she really needed to get rid of her black shirt as it was undoubtedly making things more uncomfortable than necessary. Getting this off in our sweaty state was no easy task but we managed and after waving to her family, I passed it off to them.
We were now in cruise control, running steadily around ten minute pace. Michaela's stomach, however, was not cooperating and she was often bent over in pain as we ran, which was awful. We tried stretching, slowing down, eating chews, nothing worked. She kept saying, Whatever. It hurts. But it's fine. Let's just keep going. Such a trooper, she was. Kelly let me know that she'd had stomach issues in past races but they'd never been this bad. I was guessing that the heat was not helping the situation as I saw a lot of other runners struggling with it. There was nothing we could do but encourage her to keep moving and to support her when she needed to take breaks, which we did often.
After the half, we were stopping at almost every water stop either to fill Michaela's water bottle and to grab fluids for ourselves. We were also pouring water over our heads to try and bring our body temp down. You can see all the smooshed cups in the photo above. It was like running through a sea of paper at each stop and it got worse with each mile. It was nuts. Despite her stomach issues, Michaela actually crushed the hills and then finally we were on our last 10K. She was still hurting, but she had a new, determined drive and we could tell that she was ready to get it done.
The above photo was from mile 24. People were going crazy, both the runners and the spectators, cheering for Michaela and Team With A Vision, and she was getting really fired up. At one point, she started high-fiving people, which takes a lot more effort and energy when you're blind. Kelly and I had to remind her that we still had two miles to go and she needed to bank whatever she had left in the tank, at least until we got to Boylton Street. She agreed and settled back down but she was really moving now, better than she'd flowed all day. She was checking her watch often, so ready to be finished. Naturally, it started to rain at this point. Wouldn't be a Boston marathon without all three seasons to deal with, right? It was coming down hard, but we had been so hot that it felt good. Very different from last year, thank goodness.
About four hours and fifty minutes later we were finally on Boylston street. I turned to Michaela and told her she'd made it. That we could see the finish line. And that she should soak it all up because she'd earned every second of it. It was the first time I'd seen her smile since we'd started. It was a really magical moment.
Right after we crossed the line we hugged and then passed Kelly's phone to another finisher asking him to take our picture. In hindsight, we probably should have waited a bit as the guy was definitely a little thrown off given that he, too, had just finished. But, we just weren't thinking straight at that point and we really wanted to celebrate the fact that we'd done it right at that moment. Sorry guy. We walked slowly to grab our metals and then a woman wisked us away to a VIP tent, which we weren't expecting but were more than happy take advantage of. I'm not sure if this is new or they just started giving TWAV runners access to it, but there is no question that someone like Michaela should get this special treatment after running a marathon. We sat her down and got drinks and food and grabbed our bags to get dry clothes, all of us very eager to take off our wet socks. Michaela's shins and feet were killing her so she laid down a bit and regrouped as Kelly and I got ourselves together. After about thirty minutes, we made our way out of the tent to find Michaela's family. She was so sore and tired. We all were. But despite this, we were happy. Happy to be done. Happy to have crossed the line in one piece. Happy to have worked together to help Michaela reach her goal. And happy to go home, lie down and do nothing for many hours.
The next morning it was a crisp, cool, beautiful sunny day. Of course. Last year, after we'd run in a Nor'easter? Same exact thing. But Boston is gritty, you know? The city. The winter weather. The people. The marathon course. That's what what makes it Boston. It wouldn't be the same if we knew what we were getting ourselves into every year. And it definitely makes crossing the finish a hell of a lot sweeter. I'm always a little sad when this weekend is over. It's like a seventy two hour window of bliss, when everything is good and right in the world. There's really nothing else like it. It's such a privilege for me to be a part of it, especially as a member of TWAV. My hope is that, for as long as I can keep doing it, in any way really, I'll be on the line in Hopkinton and crossing the finish on Boyslton. Huge congrats to Michaela. I've no doubt she'll be lining up again, too.
Listen to this:
Dreamin - Mind Bath