Good morning, TEAM LIT!
Thanks for the great words and the support today, yesterday, and tomorrow. The Boston Marathon is such a special event. I am so thrilled I was able to get out there and enjoy the day. Before I go on, let me throw out a very big thank you to MQ: thank you so much for taking a bag into Boston for me and meeting me at the finish. I really appreciate it! And glad that volunteer allowed you to toss the bag over the wall, so to speak, because I went to the family section and connected with my sister in law and her brother and family. It was special because I actually came upon her brother at mile 25, had him grab my shoulder, and took him in! So it was awesome to connect again with him and swap war stories.
I'm not really sure how to sum up my experience. I mean, you all have seen what I've gone through, both in the last 6 weeks, where I've had only 4 real runs and maybe 6 all together, and where I've been hitting PT very hard and religiously. This race should not have happened. But I refused to let "what other people might do" or "what other people are telling me to do" and instead do what I know and believe I can. It is empowering, but it also means it is even more difficult.
My goal was to hit the finish line, and since I knew that even if I was not trained for the distance, I had nothing to lose to run at race effort if I knew or felt as if the injury would hold. I did all of the right things leading into this race, including listening to myself rather than my PT, by resting as much as possible -- PT wanted me to continue exercises through, but you all know the story behind him and my realization that while he's an expert I know my body best. Saturday was questionable. But by Sunday I felt things were connected. And when Monday came, the injury was connected. And so since I could run, I had nothing to lose but to get to a comfortable race effort. After a really slow first two miles due in part to the crowds and in part to rust in my body for having not run much in the last 6 weeks, including very little in the last week, I was pleasantly surprised to get to 7:40's. But the rust never left. I felt heavy in the legs but always kept breathing where it should be -- not too aggressive but still pushing so that I could move along more efficiently. Part of this was that I know I am more efficient running a bit faster, so if my injury would flare, I wanted to be farther along the course, which would bode better for a walk-it-in if needed for a finish.
Between mile 3 and 5 the injury started talking to me. I felt I was running with a hobble. But it finally settled back down. I just had to watch my footing, making sure not to step in a pothole or on a railroad track or tossed water bottle. It wasn't long after that I knew my lack of training coupled with the heat would sooner than I wanted cut into my pace. Not long after mile 11, that's exactly what happened. It's when I saw splits slow to 8:00. I dipped back and forth between low 8:00's and high 7:50's before finally slowing into the 8:00's. It was hard -- much harder than I am used to -- but I stayed focused and made a point to look for friends along the way.
Mile 12 is when I saw my sister in law and her brother's family. I stopped with them for a while. They told me Mike, my sister in laws brother, was maybe 3 to 4 minutes up on me. I told them that I likely wouldn't catch him because my lack of training and the heat, which was now into the mid-70's, was really taking a toll. But I held tough. I know my biggest strength as a runner is being able to get into the hurt box and muscle through. I was preparing myself for a battle by... not thinking about it at all, as I didn't want to waste energy obsessing over it. My time in the endurance hurt box has taught me to prepare for it by staying in the moment and dealing with it not before you get there but when you do. It's about being present. And staying present. That last part is key.
By mile 15, things were getting hard. I had great distractions by seeing so many friends on the course. Most I went over for a hug or high five and picture. The whole time I was thinking about my family -- my boy, my girl, and my other girl (Heather) -- who I knew to be just before mile 16. Even as I'm writing this, I'm smiling just thinking about the moment I spotted them sitting on a blanket on the sidewalk on the edge of the curb. As soon as my youngest saw me, she was started screaming "daddy-daddy-daddy" while running in place and jumping. Then my boy, seeing the same, did the same as my girl totally lost it. That will stay with me for the rest of my life. Talk about happiness. That right there is the definition. Such raw emotion. As I stopped, I picked up my girl and gave her a big hug. She was still shouting "daddy-daddy-daddy". Then I picked up my boy, who proceeded to tell me about his Cimamin Pumpin Muffin he just ate! And the army guy he saw. Then he said, "Are you hot?" Yes son, I am hot. Very hot. But right now I'm in heaven! Two minutes and a family picture later (it's on FB!), I was off for the toughest part of the race: the hills of Newton.
Mile 16 to the finish is such a special stretch of race course for me personally because I know so many people out on the course, and I am always tuned in and see just about everybody, including our very own MoCo and AdCo who, yes, I gave high fives to! This is also when the course gets silly tough. And on this day, it was hot and not letting up. It was right about then that my engine was burning so hot that I was grabbing ice from anyone who was handing it out, and I was hitting every aid station for as many cups of Gatorade and water I could get, and it still was not enough. While it was hard, it also was broken up with the energy of friends cheering. I would go over, say hello, and get moving. That brief slow down or stop gave me energy for the next. And in between, I was back to focusing on moving forward and watching my step so as to not twitch my injury, because although I was running I knew I was one misstep away from having the injury flare.
I got over the hills well enough, and while I had slowed down to mid to upper and sometimes lower 8:00's, I was passing most people. That's Boston. If you don't slow too much, you'll be passing people. And on this hot day, it was more than usual. This day wasn't the hottest I've run, but it is up there. Just over Heartbreak Hill, I saw my sister in law and her brother's family again. I stopped for a picture. I didn't bother asking about the brother, how far up he was, because I was just slowing too much even though in the end I only lost roughly 20 to 30 seconds per mile.
As I took stock at mile 22, I was feeling really spent. My body was pounded -- I wasn't trained for the pound. And my arms and shoulders were very heavy. The latter I knew was because I just haven't run much in the last 6 weeks. My upper body is strong. I never have issues like that in a marathon. But I was happy that to that point I had run every step of the way but 2 or 3 aid stations. I was still motoring even though I lost -- but never had -- pace for a BQ. That I would even think about that is kind of funny.
The final stretch of the race, from Cleveland Circle to the finish, is predominantly downhill. When feeling good, you can really rip this up. When holding on to a great race, it's a big easier because it is down hill. But me, I was holding on to a ever slowing pace. I was overheated, I needed water, the heat of the road was burning my feet, but instead of wanting this to be done, and wasting energy obsessing over something is not construction, I got back to focus. A minute later, I got a shot of energy, and a rest, by hearing my name called and running over to say hello and give a hug.
Around mile 24 I saw a runner who looked familiar. It was my sister in law's brother! "Mike," I called. No recognition. The runner, running in slumped position and looking straight down, kept motoring. "MIKE!" Mike heard me. He smiled and said he was hurting. "No talking. Just hold my shoulder." Mike grabbed my shoulder for 10 paces and then fell off. I slowed, got him back on my shoulder, and kept going. As Mike fell off again, I heard my name and ran over for a hug. I caught back up to Mike and had him on my shoulder. Then two more times, all before the One Mile to Go sign, I heard my name, went over for hugs, and caught back up. But then, although I was able to spend energy on seeing friends, I was nearing an end. I was crazy thirsty, a bit light headed, and struggling to power on, as my body was just not trained for this. I worked my way up to Mike; he grabbed my shoulder... and then it hit me. I fell off. This time Mike passed me. I didn't even have energy to tell him to finish strong.
Finally, I made the infamous right on Hereford Street and left on Boylston, and there, all the way down the street, was the finish line. I was able to get back my pace on this slightly down hill stretch, but it wasn't fast, just back to running more than plodding. I pumped my fist to the crowd and awaited their response! I thought about my long battle with Lyme, my recent injury, and how privileged a life I have to be here, with my health, and having the confidence to even attempt or think I can attempt what I just did.
Finish time was 3:37:45. Considering a good 5 minutes of that was spent on the side of the road with family and friends, I am ultimately proud of this, for my fight, for believing in myself, and for listening to my instinct over what professionals have told me. This was a victory. And I know it. In fact, I have raced so much over my time that I no longer buy race gear. Know what I bought as soon as I crossed the finish line? A Boston Marathon Finisher Jacket. Because this was no ordinary race. This was a fucking victory over so much. Through all of the crap that Lyme threw at me, I still have my attitude. You can take away my health, and my pace, and weaken my body for injury, but **** you -- I'm stronger than you! Mentally and physically.
I walked-ran this morning.
Great day, friends!