DRB 50k/Boston Marathon (part 2)

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Alright, this one is going to be a bit more emotional to write! After Sunday's DRB, I immediately focused on recovery. I knew that after all that climbing, I was going to have heavy legs on Monday if I didn't keep moving, eat a lot and drink tons of water, so that's exactly what I did. I wanted so badly to have a beer and a giant pizza, but I opted for sweet potatoes, beans, avocado and "chicken", and then some indian curries, rice and samosas for dinner later. Carbs, proteins, some fat and loads of turmeric. I spent awhile stretching, foam rolling and doing the neural flossing exercises my PT recommended for my sciatic. After dinner, I took the dog out for a walk which ended up turning into a slow jog. Only a little over a mile, but afterwards I felt so much better. I headed to bed early for yet another sleepless night. I could hear the rain and wind all night long, and I knew tomorrow was going to be tough, especially with tired legs.

 So excited!!

So excited!!

Waking up that morning was tough, I was so tired, but getting to the start was seamless. My husband dropped me off around 6:45am and by 7:00am I had dropped off my drop bag and was on a bus to Hopkington while eating a bagel and sipping on coffee. It was raining hard. On the what felt like forever bus ride over you could see snow on the side of the highway. I was dreading getting off the bus but relieved to see that there were tents at the pre-race area. Before Boston, you are dropped off at a large area to then wait until it's time to walk over to the corrals. I arrived around 7:45am but I wasn't allowed to walk to the corrals until 9:55, and then my starting time wasn't until 10:25am. Long morning. Luckily I bumped into Brian Beckstead, co-founder of Altra, and we chatted for awhile before he had to take off for his wave which settled my nerves and made the time go by fast. From under the tent, you could just see the rain blowing around everywhere. It seemed like I was in a dream, possibly a nightmare, but I was so ready to get started. Right before it was time to walk over to the corrals, I decided to use the porta potties one last time.  It was easy to stay dry under the tents but outside the tent where the porta potties were you had no protection from the weather. I got drenched and the fields were covered in mud which was impossible to miss. My feet were soaked and freezing, so I stuck a couple handwarmers in my shoes that I had planned on removing right before starting. Finally it was time to head over. I removed my poncho, hoodie, sweatpants and extra pair of gloves that were keeping me warm, and jogged over to the start. Jogging felt slow and heavy, and I laughed to myself thinking, wow this is going to be a slooow moving day. My only goal for the marathon was finishing without getting hypothermia (what a goal huh?). I knew that if for some reason I couldn't run and had to walk it in, which I was prepared to do, it was going to be a really tough day. With that said though, in the back of my mind I was also thinking, how fucking cool would it be if I re-qualified? I decided to start off at 3:30 marathon pace, 5 minutes under BQ time, and just see how things went from there, because why not? I knew I would be ok running the first few downhill miles fast because I have quads of steel and it would be better to gain a little bit of time on the downhills because after yesterday, any sort of uphill running was going to be slow. 

By the time I got to the starting corral, it was almost go time and I totally forgot about removing the handwarmers from my shoes (the handwarmers that never actually got warm but instead rubbed against my toes). I was wearing two pairs of socks, injinjis and then my vegan knee-highs over them, a pair of shorts, my new fit belt that I hadn't run more than 5 miles with, my SHVP t-shirt, arm warmers, a light hooded form fitting Nike rain jacket, and my RunFastah hat with a warm headband underneath. I definitely looked more like an ultrarunner than a roadie! I wanted to remove the jacket, but it was just too cold. Before I knew it, the gun went off and it was time to go. Even though I was elbow to elbow with runners, that first mile felt FAST. I was so overcome with emotions and was already crying. It just felt so overwhelming to be at the starting line of Boston after the last couple of weeks. I pulled myself together and started focusing on my nutrition, pacing and also footing! There were rain jackets, gloves, ponchos and so many other trippables on the road. Runners would almost knocking each other over to avoid puddles. Why? No idea, because it was down pouring. There were also a lot of people pushing each other out of the way to get ahead which seemed so silly. Each downhill you could see a wave of runners miles ahead. Time to just sit back and ride the wave. 

 Trying to put my hood back on!

Trying to put my hood back on!

I had my watch set to show elapsed time, mileage and overall pace. I was prepared for anything, but I really wanted to keep that overall pace under 8 minute miles if I could. However, I wasn't looking at my watch the whole time. I was yelling, high-fiving, laughing and having the time of my life. The first 7 miles went by SO fast. I couldn't believe how great my legs felt. I was also shocked at how many spectators were on the course. Again, I really wanted to remove my rain jacket to expose my Strong Hearts Vegan Power t-shirt and RunFastah hat, but I decided to wait until after halfway to even attempt that. My average pace stayed around 7:43-7:45. Each mile I kept thinking, holy crap you're still running under BQ pace. I was definitely worried about a major blow up later on, but the pace felt so comfortable and my heart rate stayed pretty low, which was also shocking after a hard effort the day before. There a few uphills at the beginning and each time I would slow a bit, and the pick things back up on the other side. Around mile 10 I remember thinking, ugh 20 miles to go. My brain was totally in ultra mode still and it took me a second to realize, wait you're only running 26.2 miles today! That happened so many times throughout the morning and each time I was given an extra boost of energy when I realized I wasn't running as far. At mile 12 I bumped into RunFastah teammate and Forest Hill Runner Thomas Gennaro running with his wife Alicia. They were CRUISING and I was so excited to see them. They seemed pretty shocked to see me running so well and I jokingly mentioned how easy this without having to worry about rocks and navigating. After seeing them, I could feel my sciatic becoming unhappy with all the pavement pounding. This worried me a bit but there wasn't anything I could do about it except to keep moving. Around the halfway point, I entered the scream tunnel at Wellesley College. I was so excited about this part of the race after hearing so much about it. I was on the opposite side of the road from all the girls with their "kiss me" signs, but I knew I had to get over there. I stopped to kiss the first girl I saw and her friend was right there as well, so I kissed her too. I think that was probably my favorite part of the whole race!

I hit the halfway point in 1:40 according to my watch, only 5 minutes slower than my halfway point at the Chicago Marathon when I qualified. This made me freak out a bit. What was I doing?! Seemed like an epic disaster waiting to happen, but I felt really damn good. The rain and wind were relentless but the only time it really bothered me was when I had to get gels/bloks out of my waistband with soggy gloves. I ended up eating more bloks than I usually do when I'm running that fast because it's all I could get out. At one point I took off my gloves to get a gel and open it, but then it took a couple miles after to get them back on so I decided not to do that again. With 10 miles to go, my average overall pace was still the same. I was so distracted by the all the spectators that I didn't really know what my exact splits were. There would be some gaps in the cheering every now and then but not much. There's was tons of music on the course, I sang to every song and I high-fived every kid's hand. Every time the wind blew harder or the rain came down faster, the spectators would cheer louder. It made me feel like superhero and so damn proud to be from Massachusetts. 

 Heartbreak Hill... praying that this is the last hill I'll be running this weekend.

Heartbreak Hill... praying that this is the last hill I'll be running this weekend.

Before the Newton Hills around mile 16-17, I attempted to take my jacket off. My friend Skott was going to be at mile 23 and I was worried he wasn't going to see me if my SHVP shirt wasn't showing. I started with removing the hood and as soon as I pulled it back, the wind blew so hard, that I immediately flipped it back on. Oh well. Hopefully he would notice the tiny person with the vegan socks dressed in all black! The hills were a lot more manageable than I thought they would be. I took my time going up (which in this case meant going from a 7:45ish pace to an 8:30 pace, versus yesterday's power hiking). I was scared that if I kept running at a hard pace uphill, my sciatic nerve was going to burst... no that's not really something that can even happen.. but in my mind, you never know. I knew Heartbreak Hill was between 20-21 but I didn't realize I had climbed over it until I got onto the other side and read a sign that said "Heartbreak is over". That was such a relief. Even with only a 10k to go, I still was very skeptical about even finishing nevermind finishing in 3:30. I passed so many runners in rough shape. Lots of cramping and death marching. Mostly runners who were very underdressed, but even some who were not. My legs were feeling great, even my sciatic nerve that started bugging me halfway now felt completely fine, but you never know. Finally I made it to mile 23 where Skott was supposed to be. I was like a hawk clinging to the left side of the road looking for him. I found a couple other friends, who I was stoked to see, but no Skott. Not going to lie, I was a bit heartbroken. Then a mile later, there he was! I screamed "I LOVE YOU SKOTT" and gave him a high five and as I was running by he said, do you need anything??? Apparently he had a whole aidstation for me, complete with warm coffee, but I was running much faster and much better than anticipated. I should have stopped but in my mind, if I stopped, I wouldn't be able to start again. 

 About to finish. Pure euphoria

About to finish. Pure euphoria

With less than 2 miles to go, I decided to finally break free from my rain jacket. I tossed my wet soggy gloves aside, unzipped my coat, revealing my RunFastah hat and my SHVP shirt. As I was removing my jacket, people were screaming at me. It felt so epic and I imagined myself as a vegan superhero. Of course after that, I got a lot of "GO VEGAN POWER!" which felt awesome too. When I saw the Citgo sign, I had a hard time holding back my emotions. I dropped the hammer and was running what felt like the fastest I had been moving all day. When I took the right onto Hereford, I almost crashed into someone being carried by two other runners, which made me run even faster. Get me out of this weather before that happens to me too! When I made the left onto Boylston, that was when it finally hit that I was going to finish and I was going to BQ. Full of tears, smiling from ear to ear, I cruised into the finish line running the last 0.36 miles at a 6:57 min/mi pace (thank you Strava segments!). I crossed the finish line, I later found out, in 3:26:20. Less than 6 minutes from my personal best of 3:20:57 at Chicago 2016. I also managed to run right past my husband who was yelling for me! Whoops!

 Did I mention chafing?

Did I mention chafing?

It's been a couple days but it still all feels so surreal. My body feels pretty good, minus some horrendous chafing, but mentally I am exhausted. I didn't realize how much Boston would mean to me until I was running it and it's the first time I finished a road marathon and immediately thought, I can't wait to come back. I don't know if it would've been as special if I hadn't done the back to back. The entire weekend I just felt so damn proud of how far I have come the last few years, proud to be a runner, and proud to be from the Boston area. There is no place quite like it. I also feel incredibly lucky to have such great support. All weekend I could feel the energy of people rooting on me from afar, friends, family and complete strangers who just wanted to see me succeed. I never felt pressured to do well either day, in fact I felt like if something were to go wrong I would be ok because of everyone's support.  Every time I hit a timing mat on Monday, I knew there were people cheering for me. It was hard to describe exactly how that felt, but it was unlike anything else. Thanks to everyone who has reached out before, during or after the race. Thanks to my husband who came to both races in miserable weather to support me, who has dealt with my non stop chatter about both races the last couple of weeks. Thanks to my coach whose words of wisdom are always so encouraging and keep my thinking positive and grounded during races, and also who prepared me physically and mentally for this weekend. Thanks to my family who surprised me by showing up to the finish line. Thanks to ALL of the volunteers and spectators at BOTH races for proving what Boston is all about! This is going to be a weekend I will certainly never forget and I already can't wait for next year. Now time to recover and get ready for the TARC Wapack and Back 50-Miler in a few weeks.

Stats from Boston

First Half Split- 1:42:18

Official Finish- 3:26:20  (BQ by 9ish minutes)

Samantha BelangerComment