The past week or so has been quite the whirlwind. Pre-Boston, work was hoppin’; we signed a new lease and knew that we’d have tons of move-related stuff to do; and did I mention that the thesis is still under construction? Oh yeah, and we went to Bah-stun for a little vay-cay and so I could run my 13th marathon on 4/19. And since we returned to Chitown on 4/20, we’ve had all the aforementioned tasks ahead of us, times a million (or so it seems).
Well, as my previous abbreviated post indicated, the vay-cay and the race were equally awesome and much better the second time around. The weather was pretty lackluster for Friday-Sunday, which made for some creative “what can we do that doesn’t require romping around outdoors?” plans. From seeing KickAss (awesome!), to doing a DuckTour (amazing!), and then discovering an ancient Egyptian Tomb over in Fenway (5W!ts = loads of fun), it was a ball. The pre-race dinner with the FF BB group was lovely (thanks, Filippo’s, for accommodating my no-meat-no-cheese-nothing-fried wishes), and come Sunday night, I actually got a healthy amount of sleep.
This year’s Boston experience was similar in some ways to last year’s. The FF BB group also chartered a private, bathroom-laden bus out to Hopkinton, so we had the luxury of chillin’ on it for several hours pre-race. Unlike last year, I actually ate quite a bit pre-run, so I think that (and the sleep factor) got me off to a good start …
Here, I’ll mention that I really despise reading running-related blogs when the author recounts every single mile split, or tree, or child, or whatever she saw on the course. I’d rather pluck my eyeballs out than read that stuff. That said, I’ll spare you the mile-by-mile details (especially since you know the ending already!) and list what I think, in one way or another, contributed to my improved performance. (I bested last year’s Boston time by 7 minutes, didn’t crash and burn, and managed to BQ for 2011 by the skin of my teeth… not that my skin have teeth, but whatev):
- Food: I already mentioned that I consumed a fair number of calories pre-race. During the race, I threw my fear to the wind and took oranges, bananas, popsicles, and maybe a couple other food items from perfect strangers. I still ingested water and Gatorade, but I barely made it through 1 gel since I instead ate the “real food” that was available. I think this kept my energy levels high and allowed me to stay one-step-ahead of depleting my glycogen stores. (Seriously, the course is like a traveling buffet and could put Old Country Buffet to shame. There’s a lot of food out there).
- Pacing: Experience is the best teacher out there. Last year taught me to a) slow the fuck down for the first 16 miles and b) be patient. For much of the first 16 miles, I didn’t hit my exact splits, sometimes missing them by as much as 20 seconds (plus or minus). I’d begin to mentally fret for a second before I remembered that the hardest was yet to come (miles 16-21) and that whatever I “lost” by not hitting right on, in the beginning of the course, would more-likely-than-not be to my advantage later in the race. Learning how to pace Boston is something that, I think, only really comes from running the course at least once before. Again, experience is the best teacher out there.
- HAVING FUN: Taking food and drinks from strangers is probably only socially acceptable on race courses… a bit dangerous, sure, but fun as hell. I’ll take a sugary popsicle over a gel any day of the week. Giving high-fives to all the kids on the course also makes running 26.2 miles willingly a bit more entertaining. The kiddos think you’re a celebrity, so let them revel in the fact that your sweaty, sticky paw and their little hand made contact. Hearing them brag to their parents afterward (“She gave me a high 5!”) is worth it. And finally, though I didn’t smooch a Wellesley girl like I had planned to, I did it by proxy (smooch hand = touch smooched hand to cheek of girl requesting smooch). It still got a heightened scream 🙂
I think all these factors compounded to make me run really relaxedly—so much so that, in the first part of the race, I had to have a mental moment with myself to remind me to be NOT so relaxed. Seeing the race as “just another training run” that was fully supported gave me a healthier perspective on it, allowed me to have fun, and when I realized that I could BQ for 2011, let me lay the pedal-to-the-metal (or my foot to the floor, I guess?), knowing that, in my mind, I had already had an awesome time that day… regardless of what the clock told me at the end.
A corollary to point 3, about having fun, which made this year’s Boston experience so lovely was the company of folks with whom I dropped many a Wednesday night and Saturday morning (hello, gang!). For many of them, this year’s Boston was their first, and their nerves, anxiety, enthusiasm, and excitement were mega-contagious, to say the least. Last year, I think I was more nerves than excitement, which, in retrospect, probably seeped into my race + travel weekend experience. You’re only as good as the company that you keep, and my company was friggin awesome. So thanks, friends 🙂
The marathon was the icing on the cake of a wonderful vay-cay with C. I’m not certain if I want to run Boston again—of the 13 races I’ve done now, I’ve only repeated about 3 of them (Chicago, Akron, Boston)—but I guess I have time to decide.
Happy trails to you and yours. Sorry for the longish post.