Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Boston - part IV (post-race)

I found Shawn stretching just past the finish line, so I grabbed him and we shuffled with the other cattle toward the finisher’s medals and food and whatnot.  This was easily the most unpleasant part of the race for me.  As I felt increasingly crammed in, I became increasingly irritated, to the point where I stepped out of the line to just breathe and not be around people for a minute (most heartfelt apologies to Shawn for the crankiness).

We shuffled slowly past the medal people, the space blanket people, the random nasty Gatorade recovery drink people, the bagel people, and into the throng of stinky runners trying to get their drop bags off the buses.  This took approximately 16 hours as far as I can tell.  Luckily, it was not a problem because the Harris family was also having trouble getting to the designated meeting spot due to ALL THE FRICKING PEOPLE AROUND!  When we finally did reunite, we determined it probably just made the most sense for Ronnie and I to just take the T directly to the airport and enjoy the ‘ho bath’ facilities in the terminal.  So we walked to a T station that looked slightly less crowded and parted ways with Shawn and Mina, setting our course toward a reunion of other members of the Durm crew.  I pity the other people on the flight, as there were at least 20 of us who had run that day, and I’m pretty sure a good number of us had not showered after the fact.

A couple of weeks after the race, the official pictures were posted and our official finisher’s certificates arrived.  I was super amused to discover that, despite running together for 19 miles, there are NO pictures of Shawn and I together.  Shawn also astutely noted that he finished in the bottom 40-50% of finishers overall, for his age group, and for his gender.  I checked my certificate and discovered I had done pretty much the same, and immediately pronounced us the bottom of the cream of the crop.  …which, I guess, isn’t that bad when you think about it…

And so ends my Boston experience.  It was kinda fun, but probably not worth the hassle.  Shout outs to Jason, though, for being the first NC finisher, and Ken, for probably getting more black toenails than anyone else on the course.  …and to the other Karen running near me for a good 5 miles – your fans became my fans, which was kinda fun J

Boston - part III (THE race)

The start was pretty uneventful – Shawn came back to my corral, and we started with a girl wearing a Grinnell shirt – I swear I am to be haunted by that stupid school forever…  We staunchly refused to run until we hit the starting line, so Shawn and I power walked up the hill to the start, discussing our pacing strategy (he wanted negative splits, I wanted something in the 8:20-8:40 range… these were likely to be mutually exclusive goals).   And then we were off!

The first several miles of the race were pretty uneventful: my pacing strategy won out, but we were running pretty comfortably and I was enjoying the sights of all the little MA towns.  One very sad note, though, is I ended up ditching my pink lost and found shirt about 2 miles in.  I thought about tying it around my waist, but determined that would be really annoying for 24 miles, and reasoned that it was a found shirt anyway, so this would just be a continuation of the circle of life.  That being said, I miss that shirt.  A lot.  It was a great shirt.

Around mile 7 we saw Shawn’s family for the first time.  Shawn was so excited, he literally shoved me out of the way to go high-five them.  Yes, that’s right – I’m putting that out there in public.  Luckily, I wasn’t injured and was able to also nab a few high fives in the process.  I also high-fived about 800 little kids over the course of the race because a) it was kinda fun, and b) it distracted me from the fact that the course has approximately no turns.  Shawn distracted himself by running wildly back and forth across the road looking for soft surfaces to run on (“Do you think it’s okay to run behind all the spectators if there’s a worn path in the grass?” “Um. Maybe? ..but it seems kinda weird”)

Around mile 9 some guy stepped up to the curb and yelled “Who wants a Fig Newton?”  I realized at that moment that I ABSOLUTELY wanted a Fig Newton.  In fact, there was nothing I wanted more than a Fig Newton.  …except maybe for that licorice that kid is handing out over there…  So I grabbed both and trotted along with my Fig Newton and my licorice, wishing there was a race photographer to document how seriously I was taking this endeavor.

Somewhere in the 11-ish range, we came upon Leigh Ann, who was recovering from an injury earlier in the spring.  We picked her up and headed toward the shrieking up ahead.  What they say is true: it is absolutely the most amazing noise, and you will probably never hear something like it again.  Running through the aisle formed by girls holding signs saying “Kiss me, I’m xxxx”, was truly awesome.  We ran along high-fiving the girls as upper-middle-aged men dodged in to grab kisses and then back out looking immensely pleased with themselves.  It occurred to me at that point, that based on qualifying times, we were running mostly with upper-middle-aged men and young women, which was an interesting combination as we faced this section of the race.  Suddenly, I spotted a girl holding a sign saying “Kiss me, I’m from Boulder, CO!”  “That’s my girl!” I thought, so I dodged over, planted a kiss on her cheek, and dodged back out feeling immensely pleased with myself.

The stretch between Wellesley and Newton was pretty uneventful.  Leigh Ann dropped back and I think we got to turn somewhere (or maybe the road just bent?), but otherwise, we mostly just chugged along, making our way to the hills.  In all honesty, the hills really aren’t that big, but as noted many times before, they do come at a time that just makes them kind of a pain in the ass.  Also, I really feel like the first hill was worse than the famed Heartbreak hill, but maybe that’s just me, and maybe it’s because I wasn’t expecting that first one.  …and maybe it’s because I stopped to refill my water bottle in the middle and sent Shawn ahead, so I was a) a little bit rested, and b) probably a little bit of a slacker.  Regardless, I made it through the hills without incident, though I did walk the water bottle aid station not so much because I was tired, but more because I was sick of running with the exact same stride in the exact same direction.  Walking was a nice change of pace (HA!  Get it???   pace???).  The back side of Heartbreak was amusing, as apparently nobody told half the pack that the finish was not at mile 22.  People literally went sprinting by me down the hill.   I suppose its possible that they had all saved up for a 5-mile kick, but the carnage I saw walking/sitting/stretching by the side of the road miles 23-26 leads me to believe this was not the case.  I hit mile 23 and thought “Gosh – if you had run here as fast as you did at Des Moines, you would be almost done.”  Stupid slacking.  Though, to be fair, I don’t know that I was really in the same shape as I had been in October – like I said previously, the mileage was there, but the speed was lacking.

So I motored into Boston, noting the guy in the singlet who was already on the train BACK OUT OF TOWN, and consoling myself by noting that he had probably been in the first wave, which had a 20 minute head start on me (yeah – THAT’S the reason…).

The finish was uneventful – I caught the girl I had decided in Newton shouldn’t beat me, so that was good, and I cruised in 5 min under my arbitrarily set goal time of 4 hrs, so I felt reasonably good about the affair.  Then clusterf*ck #2.

Boston - part II (pre-race)

Okay, so now that I’m on a plane heading for the next adventure, I will finally address Boston.  It’s been on my mind lately because last weekend I had the chance to see a whole bunch of people that I may not have run across in the last month, so the question “How was Boston?” came up several times.  My answer varied in the specifics, but the gist was always the same: it was fine – I’m glad I did it, I think I generally had fun, but I can’t say that I have any burning desire to go back and do it again.  I mean, if a bunch of people were going and wanted to spend a couple days in Boston, I could probably be talked into it, but I won’t be leading that brigade.

In my esteemed opinion, Boston can best be described as two clusterf*cks with a  longass straight run in the middle.  There are no points in the whole ordeal, aside from maybe the expo, that are designed to handle 27,000 people.  None.  This is not to say that the folks running the show don’t do a good job with what they have, but they can only do so much with tiny New England towns and a downtown area that was constructed before the era of big cars (read: the finish area is bounded on all sides by tiny narrow roads).

As noted previously, we escaped much of clusterf*ck A by staying with Shawn’s amazingly generous brother and sister-in-law, who got up and drove us to Hopkington so we could avoid the pre-dawn bus ride from the city and the 3-hour wait in the field/parking lot up the hill from the start. I was particularly pleased with my ensemble: brooks hat, original green horsefly umstead shirt, pink long-sleeved zippy lost and found shirt, black half tights, and awesome rainbow leg warmers created by cutting the feet off awesome rainbow socks from Target.  …and a garbage bag…because it was really windy and we had to part with our warmups quite a while before the race actually started.

Shawn and I located our drop bag buses and made our way down to the start area, hoping to get in a quick pee before taking off.  Predictably, we were not the only ones to have this grand idea, so the portajohn lines were suuuppper long.  Luckily, there was an open lot next to the portajohns, and even more luckily, the masses had organized themselves into a ‘his’ section to the right, and a ‘hers’ section toward the left, so we did our bidness and met back up at the street.  Unfortunately, as I was making my way back to the road, I ran across someone who had missed the his vs. hers memo and a got an eyeful of the ‘shaking out’ part of the procedure.  So now I have that in my arsenal of experiences.