Friday, April 24, 2015

My Boston Moment

I have no idea how to start or end this Race Review. I am still overwhelmed by the race, the experience, my run and that city. We arrived in Boston 4 days early to do some sightseeing. We saw historical sights, drove the coast to New Hampshire and Maine, and ate incredible seafood. I also had the opportunity to meet some incredible Loopsters (online Runner's World Loop blog friends). The Loopster meets would become essential in my final race preparation. Thank you to all of those that offered advice and support.

The day before the race, the unimaginable happened. Ryan got the stomach bug. Ended up finally puking at 8:00pm...14 hours before THE Boston Marathon...seriously. He had eaten only breakfast so he was planning to run the next day on zero calories, zero carb stores. He had trained so hard and was determined to run, but we both knew that even if he was able to stomach alot of calories at breakfast that it wouldn't last for 26 miles at his maximum effort. 

Ryan was in the first wave so he left our rental apartment before me. I followed about a half hour later. 

So many thoughts in my head. I'd been told by some: "You can't PR on this's just too hard." "The crowd is too distracting to run your best time here, it's too easy to get involved with them." "You go to Boston for the experience...not to run your best." 
Are you kidding me? Why the heck did I train so hard to find this out the week of the race? And anyway, ShaunP45 had told me that the hills in Boston were nothing compared to those in Colorado and New Mexico and that he didn't even really know he'd run up one. And if no one PRd at Boston, then why was Boston still happening...I mean really. And I'm going to Boston to do what I trained to do. I have PRd every. single. time. that I have run a marathon; no stopping me now. 

I had shipped a box of throwaway clothes so we could just have carryon luggage. The box had yoga mats to lay on at athletes village, plus hats, gloves, down vest, and of course pants and shirts for both of us. Well, great planning but the box never came. Actually it did...the day AFTER the marathon!!! Thank you USPS...they said it'd take 4 days to get there and it took 13. Way to go.  Once the weather report came out...48 degrees all day with 20-30 mph wind and "soaking rain" we headed to Goodwill and Walgreens to get more clothes and rain parkas.

Riding the buses out to Athlete's Village in separate waves was weird...honestly it felt sort of like Concentration Camp. Loading separate buses, making up a possible meeting space and kissing him goodbye "I will find you." haha. I did find him right along the fence line that we had agreed upon. It started to rain shortly after. We huddled together to stay warm eating bananas and bagels. Soon, his wave was called and again I had to say goodbye and wait my turn. I was worried about him as I knew this race would be a soul searching day for carb stores, rainy weather, and chilling wind. My wave was called and I headed to my corral. We had to walk about 3/4 of a mile to the start. I was getting overwhelmed that I was headed to THE starting line of the greatest running race on Earth. How did I get here? 

I hit the final group of porta-potties for one last pee and headed to the corral. The announcer told us that we were 2 minutes away from our start and that we should move forward in our corrals with our new best friends. There were girls on either side of me. We put our arms around each other and I said "Good luck new best friends. May today be everything you ever dreamed of." The people of Hopkinton were on their porches singing, playing music and cheering. We hadn't even started yet and I was already seeing more of a crowd than I ever have at any race I'd done.  Moments later, we were off. 

The downhill, the crowds, the forests, the old beautiful New England homes, the screams, the yells, the RAINDROPS hitting my face...WHAT THE HECK????  I mean, I knew it was coming but why so was only mile 2. I told myself it didn't matter. I ran 34 miles through a sandy canyon with wet feet. I can do this. I trained in snowstorms and windstorms. I can do this. Great opening miles. I let myself go on the downhill...I held back on the downhill at the beginning of Colfax marathon and I think that hurt me in the end. Rebecca (Running with Music) had told me that as long as I'd trained hills that I should go ahead and go my pace right away. I knew that no hills in Boston would be like the hills I have at home so I planned on hitting pace right away. I would let myself cruise a little extra on the downhills and I would push up the hills but not overexert myself.  My 5k average was exactly what it should have been: 7:30 per mile. I though of my friends and family at home getting my splits as I ran over the first time strip and I grinned that I was so accurate.  They knew what I was there to 7:30s and break 3:20.

Around mile 4 I took a gel way too fast and choked myself. I was gasping for air...the gel was pluggin my airway. I grabbed water at the aid station and had to pull off the side of the road. I was choking and gasping. Hundreds of people were running past me. I drank water and coughed hard. I had to some serious self talk "Tennille, you idiot. You can't take gel that fast. This is Boston. Pull yourself together and catch up."  And I did. Back at it. It would end up my 2nd slowest mile in the race.

Framingham was off the hook. So loud. Every school kid, teenager, grandparent and puppy was outside to cheer us through their town square. I couldn't believe the enthusiasm for thousands of people that they don't even know. Who am I? Why are they cheering for me? 

10k timing strip...exactly on pace. 7:31 average. Holy crap. I am doing what I wanted to do at Boston. 

I had taken off my extra shirt before the rain began. It was a throw-away but I decided to tie it around my waist in case the wind picked up at the end. I had to unpin and repin my bib and did a terrible job. Kept trying to redo was crooked, it was sticking out, it was too tight, too high, too low, ugh. Seriously it's 2015. Can't we come up with something better than this??? 

Mile 10 had passed and all the sudden I was at 12. I feel a tap on my shoulder and it's my "new best friend" from the start. I asked how she was doing and she said great. What happened to 11? I don't know but the race was going by too fast. I'd be in Wellesley in no time and that was halfway. At 12.1, I heard something ahead like I had never heard before and can't be described. wind through the cracks of an old barn. When I reached the Scream Tunnel, my watch read 12.6. I could hear them a full half a mile away. I imagine when the weather is nice that it's even louder but I couldn't imagine that right now. It was so loud. I am pretty sure my jaw was dropped as I ran past. Runners were grabbing kisses and high fives and there were so many funny signs. "Kiss me I'm a math major." haha.

Halfway and my shoes were going pshhh, pshshh with every step. Totally soaked. No point in trying to stay out of the puddles now. It wouldn't matter. The rain was really coming down. My new turquoise Newton visor had been continuously dripping water since mile 5. I hit halfway. 1:38:xx. Yes. I can SO do this for 13 more miles. Left hamstring was nagging a little but nothing serious.

I was getting concerned about the wind. I knew as we neared the coast it could get worse so I was trying to bank as many fast miles until then. We hit Newton and passed the fire station and I could only grin. I had given alot of high fives and was taking in every beautiful town along the way. Natick's clock tower, beautiful huge homes, gorgeous tall trees. This race was incredible. The hills...hmmm...were more like slight inclines to this high-altitude-New-Mexico-girl. As I plunged up Heartbreak Hill, I wasn't completely sure that it was it until I read a sign that said "This hill can't break your heart." People in the crowd were yelling my number, 11792. "Go 11792." "Way to kill it 11792." "Go 11792 got this."  I plowed ahead. I felt amazing. This was nothing. These people need to go run the hill at mile 22 in Denver's Colfax Marathon. I'd like to start calling it "Soul-crushing hill". Anyway, this Heartbreak Hill had nothing on me. I got to the top and asked "Was that it?" and a guy in the crowd said "YES you're done...go runner!!" I gave a bunch of high fives and stomped through puddles, letting them splash. Everyone was saying it was all downhill from there. I felt so good except for that left hamstring but it's been like this for months so I knew it wasn't going to effect me today.

I began doing the math. How slow could I run and still break 3:20? Hmm....8:00s? 8:15s?  "Tennille, you idiot. GO! Run! This is Boston. No calculating how to make it easier. You go hard the whole way." At the same time, my nose was so cold I couldn't sniff anymore. My hands were completely frozen and my toes had not been warm since I was in bed that morning but my legs felt fine and that's all that mattered. There were moments that the wind mixed with the rain flirted with being soul-crushing. Luckily whenever it started to get to me, I'd head over to the side and get some high fives from adorable children and incredible racing fans. I even saw a beautiful golden retriever holding a Boston Strong flag in his mouth. Ahead I could hear another "scream tunnel", I knew it must be Boston College. It was so loud...and incredibly exciting. I high-fived hundreds of students and I was flying down that hill. My legs didn't even care about this downhill. Quite a few of my long runs ended with a downhill 3 mile stretch from running buddy Allison's house where I would often flirt with marathon pace. That paid off big time. I felt great....I mean I was tired but my legs had so much pop in them still. I come around a bend and see the famous Citgo sign.'s HUGE!!! I had no idea it'd be so giant. I was getting so excited and picturing the finish line in my head. Would I smile? Would I throw my hands in the air?  The faster I run, the sooner I will be there and the sooner I can get on warm clothes. I was so cold. The wind was brutal to the bone through my wet clothes. Everyone around me looked freezing too. I passed the "One mile to go" sign and realized if I pushed that I might break 3:18. That'd be more than I could have ever hoped for. 

I arrived at the famous right onto Hereford St and felt like I was running on a cloud. When I arrived at the famous left onto Boylston and saw the banners lining both sides of the street, I was holding back tears and trying hard to just breathe. What a moment. What a street. The crowd was so loud. I was waving and the crowd would roar. I gave more high fives up the right side of the street. I was trying to take it all in. Then on my left was "my new best friend" from the starting line and she said "Hey new best friend, congratulations!" How crazy in these thousands of runners we would start and end together?  I crossed the line, head held high with the biggest smile ever. When I looked down to stop my watch it said 3:17:59. Only time will tell what my official shows up as but I was SOOOO happy. And freezing. I started to shiver and shake. I grabbed a bottle of water and drank the whole thing. I kept walking. Wow. I mean, I COULD walk. This was a first. I usually can't walk at all. I was tight but I could actually walk almost like a normal person. I got my medal and posed for a quick photo. The volunteers were all so amazing. So nice. So genuine. A girl had one of the heat shields open and helped me into it. She velcroed it and pulled my hood on. I was so thankful. The wind was terrible. I have never been so cold in my life. No day of skiing compares with this. The soaking wet clothes and no energy left to produce warmth was turning out to be miserable.

I exited the runner's area as soon as possible. I had to walk a half mile to get home. Three different medics asked if I was ok. Each time looking me in the eye and making sure I meant it when I said "yes."  So amazing. The support. After I got out of the family meeting area, a hotel doorman was urging runners to use the hotel lobby to get warm. "Please come in. You don't need to have a room here. Please come get warm." I couldn't believe this. So inviting. So welcoming. So generous. It was frigid though and many runners were hypothermic. I'm sure my temp was low but I asked one medic if my lips were blue and he said no so I figured I could keep going. I turned the next little corner and was hit with a ridiculous amount of wind. I couldn't take it. I ducked into the next hotel lobby where a bunch of other runners were. I took the cape off and started to put stuff down. I though maybe the white top around my wait might be dry on the back and that I could put it on. I couldn't untie it. This girl from Toronto CA whose husband had run came over and helped me. I asked her to help me sit down and she did. It felt good. I looked over and another runner had to be suffering from hypothermia...I mean I was shivering and my entire body was convulsing with the shivers, but this guy looked bad. I was actually very mentally ok too. Usually I'm super emotional and all over the place but I knew exactly where I needed to go and what I needed to do.  I took my watch off and visor off and headband off and the nice girl helping me took my shirt off for me and helped me put my more-dry shirt on. It was damp, but not dripping wet. I tied the wet one around my waist and sat a bit longer with her husband's heat shield doubled on my legs with mine. After what seemed like only about 5 minutes, I decided I needed to get moving. I hadn't eaten and knew I would crash if I stayed too long. I was still shivering but I asked the doorman to pull up google maps on his phone so I knew exactly how far I needed to go...I needed my mile I left the hotel and only went about 100 yards before I saw the subway station that is only .4 from our apartment. I cut through the station. I stopped in the middle for a moment to get warm. I made it. Ryan was waiting. He was showered and dressed and not shivering so I knew there was hope. I began dropping everything on me and went straight to the warm shower. 

Ryan had run great for 16 miles and then his body was empty. He jogged in the last 10 miles. He walked some and pushed through. I'm so incredibly proud of him. I would have been so broken-hearted and that weather would have been the last straw for me. I am not sure I would have endured. He said he had come all that way, and paid that entry fee so he wanted to finish...whatever it took. He said other runners would pat him on the back and push him ahead and say "Run!"  The crowd cheered him on and worked to lift his spirit. 

I am still flying high on what an amazing race and experience this was. From the day we decided to do this race, we said that we were only going to do it ONCE. So much of the motto stuff this year read "There's only one."  It seemed like it was specifically for us...this ONE Boston. 

I am so thankful for Pfitzinger's Advanced Marathoning and how it worked for me; how I hit my taper right on; how I gave the finger to the rainy weather and did what I planned to do at Boston. 

And now for the splits. When I saw my sister's facebook feed after the race and then looked at the text alerts she was getting, I realized her excitement. She knew I was on pace and she and many friends were cheering me on on fb during the race:
Real splits:
07:37  1
07:29  2
07:17  3
07:45  4
07:19  5
07:19  6
07:16  7
07:28  8
07:30  9
07:33  10
07:34  11
07:38  12
07:24  13
07:25  14
07:27  15
07:11  16
07:32  17
07:38  18
07:30  19
07:42  20
07:48  21
07:20  22
07:32  23
07:37  24
07:34  25
07:26  26
03:09 (.47 on my watch..I shouldn't have avoided so many puddles but the traffic surfing is unavoidable)

Endomondo tells me where my fastest sections of the race were. The fastest 13.1 was through the middle..mile 5-18.  The craziest thing was that my fastest mile was form 25.2-26.2 (or on my watch 25.47-26.47) and it was a 6:58. Are you kidding me?????  I have always aimed to just keep the last mile under 8...and this was under 7. I cried when I saw it. 

My little Boston moment will be treasured forever. I will never forget that day; that race; that weather; that moment turning onto Boylston. 

 Our apartment rental was on a perfect little Boston street:


  1. I stumbled upon your blog when doing a "next blog" browse. I loved reading your story. I loved the writing and was on the edge of my seat and teary eyed with empathic happiness for you by the end of it. I'm not a runner myself but have always admired those who do it. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Hi Suzan- That means so much. Thank you. I love writing down my stories right away so I can reflect on them. Thanks for reading.