Sunday, April 28, 2013

2013 Boston Marathon - Race Recap Part 2

 Race Day - Marathon Monday - April 15th, 2013

I woke up bright and early on Marathon Monday to catch my bus along Boston Common. I funneled into the lines with what seemed like a million other runners and patiently waited as the buses chipped away at the group. While I waited, I ran mental checklists in my head. Immodium? Check. Bib? Check. Watch? Check...etc.
I was probably crying in this picture - feeling nervous and alone. Haha.
I was feeling pretty nervous and sad at this point in the day - just because I knew I would be on my own for a looooong time and I didn't know what the outcome of the day would be. Just overwhelming. I made small talk with the people around me in line, "Where are you from?" "Is this your first time?" One of the girls around me was saying that she ran in 2004 and there were sharp-shooters on the rooftops near the bus pick-up, because it was still close to 9/11. I remember thinking how eery that must have been. 

Soon enough, we were off! The bus ride seemed to go on forever. We actually had to pull the bus over to let some poor, overly hydrated runner off the bus, because she wasn't going to make it to the Port-O-Pottys. She ran off into the woods and we drove off. She eventually ran back to the bus and was welcomed aboard with cheers and clapping. Haha. 

When we got to the Athlete's Village, I jumped into a line for the bathroom and managed to eat a protein bar - which was kind of a miracle, because my stomach was a mess. I stood in line for about a half hour with a bunch of other people doing the potty dance. I snapped this photo from my spot in the line - and if you look closely - you will see two spotters on the roof. Again - I thought this was unsettling, but probably just precautionary. I didn't see guns, but they were uniformed gentleman with binoculars. Hindsight makes me scratch my head a little bit.

Everyone waited to be dismissed to the Hopkinton starting line based on their Wave. Elites. Wave 1. Me...finally. Wave 2, Corral 1, 10:20. I ditched my gear bag at the appropriate bus and made the march to the start among the sea of runners. I was feeling pretty emotional as we made our way. This is THE RACE - the goal that runners world wide try to reach and here it is, right in front of me. I tried to be mindful of things like that - remembering how much work it took for each of us to get to the start that day and how we would all be making memories and achieving a tremendous goal within a few fleeting hours.

Going into the race, my plan was two-fold: I wanted to match my PR (3:18:45) but more importantly, I wanted to enjoy the race. The course at Boston is much more technically challenging than my hometown marathon, The Lakefront Marathon, which is pretty much flat - so matching my PR from home seemed like a reasonable goal - but still a challenge.

Right on time, the gun went off! Thousands of beeping watches followed as we crossed the starting line. From the beginning, the crowd was amazing - so many spectators lined the streets shaking cowbells, holding signs, clapping and cheering as the herd charged forward. Being in Corral 1, I knew that I would be lined up with the faster runners from Wave 2 - and wow - they went out fast. The first few miles were coming in under 7 minutes - so I knew that I had to heed all of the warnings I had heard: "Don't burn out on the first 13, because it is downhill. Save something for the second half." 

Being cautious, I decided to pull back from the group. Rather than attempting to maintain 6:53, I dropped back to a more conservative 7:13 - 7:20 range, depending on the terrain. (Let me clarify this "downhill" talk for anyone that hasn't run the Boston Marathon yet, but plans to in the future. It is an overall drop in elevation, but there are plenty of inclines in that first 13 miles. It is downhill, but don't be fooled: it is a rolling downhill.)

I felt really strong, so I just kept my pace within a comfortable range and tried to pay attention to my surroundings. The spectators were handing out all sorts helpful things: oranges, popsicles, water, gatorade, petroleum jelly. I went out of my way to read the signs, to engage with the crowd and to slap as many high fives as possible. I ran the entire 26.2 miles along the far right side of the course for that reason - gave as many high fives as I could. I am certain I added a couple minutes because of it, but I really don't care; I had so much fun!
All smiles! CHEEEEESE!
After passing the craziness at Wellesley, I got into a zone. My splits were really consistent and I was on pace to come in under my goal time. I got a little confused around Newton, because I couldn't tell when I was on something considered a "hill" and what was just a moderate incline - so there were a few times when I thought I might be done with the Newton hills when I actually wasn't at all. The hills did affect my times, but not that much. Every time I hit a hill, I repeated my mantra in my head "Equal effort, not equal pace. Equal effort, not equal pace." It helped. Finally, I saw the sign that said YOU'VE MADE IT UP HEARTBREAK HILL! I am pretty sure I cheered or fist pumped when I passed by that sign. Hell yes, I made it up Heartbreak Hill. TAKE THAT!

Everything was fine until Mile 24. Up until that point, I felt great - but Mile 24 - ugh. My left quad was trashed. I felt a little frustrated, because I thought I was going to PR. I watched that goal disappear with the reality that my left leg was more like a tree stump than anything else. Although frustrated, I didn't feel defeated at all. It was kind of like, "Well, your time will be close to your PR anyway - so just enjoy the rest of the race." The bum leg gave me permission to absorb the last few miles with less pressure, more clarity. 

That was particularly helpful when I rounded the final corner to the finish. The noise was tremendous. I smiled, waved, got a little choked up as I made my way through those final strides. I crossed the line with my hands raised in the air.


Celebrating with hot chocolate. This was taken when the explosions happened two blocks away.
Part Three: After the Finish - TOMORROW


Saturday, April 27, 2013

2013 Boston Marathon - Race Recap Part 1

Much like all of the Boston Marathon recaps I have been reading lately, I have been struggling to find the words. I wasn't sure I would write anything at all - because - how do you capture what we experienced? I decided it is important to write it down. This was one of the best weekends of my life and I want to share it with you all. Most importantly, I want to put the experience down in words while it is still fresh in my mind. 

Boston Magazine Cover - April 2013

Just like everyone else preparing to run the 117th Boston Marathon, I was so excited in the taper weeks building up to the race - picking my race outfit, packing, making tourist plans for time in Boston, talking to my students about the race. On Friday before the race, I woke up to a house fully decorated in Boston colors - streamers, balloons, a sign stretching across my kitchen that just said "BOSTON." I wore my Boston jacket to school and everyone showered me with good luck wishes. My students had me in tears when they presented me with a "Good Luck, Miss Zerzanek" poster that still hangs in my classroom. I was definitely feeling the love all around me.

We arrived in Boston early Saturday afternoon. After getting situated in the hotel, we decided to grab some oysters at our Boston favorite, Marliave. From there, we took the subway over to Cambridge based on some recommendations from my Twitter friend, Stacey (@runzor.) It seems strange now - and it seemed strange then - but when we came out of the subway on the MIT campus, police were out with sniffing dogs. In hindsight, I wonder if they had some knowledge of a threat ahead of time. Just seems coincidental. We ended up having some wonderful food in Cambridge and headed back toward the North End before calling it a night.

Truffle Fries at Lord Hobo in Cambridge - YUM - Thanks, Stacey!
The hotel - while beautiful - was extremely chaotic that first night. We were staying at the Millenium Bostonian right next to Quincy Market. Gorgeous. Great location. Super comfy. 

Photo: Steve Dunwell - Quincy Market/Faneuil Hall at Night
BUT SO LOUD. It sounded like there was a night club directly below our room. I could hear the lyrics to the songs and I swear the bass was making me bounce in the bed. I'm the worst sleeper in the world, so this sent me into a panic - straight up sobbing because I thought I would not be able to get any sleep before running the marathon. The hotel was very responsive and kind - agreeing to move our room the next day. Around midnight, the alarms went off in the hotel along with an announcement saying "An actual emergency has been detected in your hotel. Evacuate immediately." Unsettling, right?! We ran down the eight flights of stairs in our pajamas (stuck behind a woman in stilettos) and poured into the street with the rest of the hotel guests. Fire truck after fire truck kept coming. Alarms going off. We had no idea what was happening. Then shit got real when the Boston Fire Dept extended their ladders and dragged hoses into the building. All I could think, was "Oh no - my runner's passport is in the room!" It turned out to be an electrical issue with the elevators but geeeeez. Way to start the weekend! 

Sunday morning proved to be equally exciting but for a much different reason. My hometown paper, the Journal Times, ran an enormous article about me running the Boston Marathon. As soon as people back home started to see the Sunday paper, they saw my face on the front page. Facebook and my phone started to go nuts. It was very surreal to see my big face and congratulations messages popping up all morning, but the article was very kind. It made me feel proud to be representing my town and my students in Boston. 

Adding to the excitement of Sunday morning, another Twitter friend, Sara (@SaraBradley15) had great news for me: free tickets to see the Red Sox later that day if I wanted to go! Are you kidding me? HELLS YES! So, we got ready - headed over to the Expo and got ready for what was turning out to be an amazing day. We started with a subway ride to the Copley Square stop. We got out and saw all of the pomp and circumstance for the first time. Blue/yellow jackets everywhere! Nerds in running gear. Officials. Bleachers. Banners. Like-minded homies in all directions. I had entered runner heaven - holy ground. Here is the obligatory picture at the finish line before you actually cross the finish line.

We went straight to the Expo and wow - amazing! I felt so much relief when I finally had my bib in hand. 9079! WHOOP! The place was packed. I was so glad we had skipped breakfast because they were handing out a ridiculous amount of samples - some delish, some not. Either way, I was stuffed to an uncomfortable degree by the time we left the Expo. 

Strike a pose! All in for Boston!

From the Expo - straight over to Fenway Park to meet Sara and see a Red Sox game. Amazing. It was a little cold, but it was so cool. 

Look how close it seems! Screw you, Miller Park.

The last stop for the night was the Pre-Race Dinner put on by the BAA. I thought it would be a lame pasta buffet, but we had an amazing time. We hopped from table to table meeting other runners, making friends and plans for the following day. It was the first time I got to try the Sam Adams 26.2 Brew - made special for the marathon - and it was wonderful. The whole event was wonderful. Sunday was one of my favorite days of my whole life...true story. I went to bed happy and excited for Marathon Monday.

(I'll post tomorrow)


Friday, April 19, 2013

Boston Strong

I just wanted to stop by and say just a few words about Boston. I've been trying to wrap my head around it all and I just haven't found the words. I can't capture how my head or my heart feel yet. 

I will eventually post a recap of sorts - or maybe I will just post what I've learned from this event. Either way, the support from everyone has been amazing. We all need to remain Boston Strong in the upcoming days. God bless everyone affected.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

2013 Boston Marathon: 10 Day Countdown

Here we are: 10 days before the 117th Boston Marathon. I can't believe it is finally here! These miles will soon be behind me. Wow...

So - here's what has been going on building up to these final days:

a. My computer died (TOAST - lost a bunch of stuff) so I've been on a technology detox
b. I'm tapering, of course. The miles I have put in have felt strong and easy. Taper is the hardest part for a lot of us, because it seems counter-intuitive. I have been starving. I have been unsure of what to do with my extra time. I have been a little grumpy, to be honest. Oh, the sacrifices of a runner.

Trying desperately to remember this.

c. I am mostly confident about the race. My legs have been feeling strong and I have put in the work - but I'm still not sure about setting a time goal. I have times in my mind, but it will come down to how I'm feeling on race day. The only two options are: I feel like kicking ass OR I feel like kicking major ass. Time aside.

(But - let's be real. I'm going to totally watch and live by the clock.)

d. I will begin weather stalking tomorrow. They are predicting cloudy drizzly nonsense for the few days before. Hopefully, Mother Nature gets that out of her system before I arrive on Saturday.
e. I don't know what I am wearing yet. Shoes only. I'll figure it out.
f. I went to a foodie/fitness blogger event on Tuesday. It was great to be around like-minded people. They inspired me even more for the race and some of them even offered great tips for Boston specifically. More on the Milwaukee Foodie Fitness Fete to come! 
g. My diet has been right on point. Lots of protein. Proportionate carbs. Staying hydrated. Getting sleep. Clean livin' - minus Tuesday's soiree, but that was for a good reason.

And finally - my list of worries. If I write them down, the god of marathoning will be sure that none of these things happen to me. I am a neurotic, paranoid, doom and gloomer. None of these things will happen. None of these things will happen. None of these things...:

a. I am afraid that I will forget my Runner's Passport.
b. I am afraid that I will have travel problems.
c. I am afraid that the weather will be shitty. I'll take cold over heat. 
e. I am afraid that I won't wake up on time.
d. I am afraid of pooping my pants during the race. (Legit concern.) 
e. Also, vomiting.
f. I am afraid of my knee acting up. Please, be good.

Those things aside: I PLAN TO ENJOY THE DAY AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. I am so excited!! Good luck to everyone in these last few days and see you there!