An hour outside of Utica, on the road to Boston, MA, the heat warning messages began arriving from the BAA.org. It was only Saturday, there was still hope for cooler temperatures.
By Sunday, the BAA was offering deferrals for next year. Would I defer? No way. This was another challenge waiting to be conquered. I knew I could go 26.2 miles, I just didn’t know how fast slow or how my body would deal with the heat. I’ve never run more than 1 hour in temperatures over 78 degrees. Heck! I run before the sun comes up in the morning and complain when it’s 70 degrees!
They say “never try new things in a race”. Monday, April 16th was a day filled with new things: food, liquid, electrolyte tablets, clothing, you name it, it was all new. I was on a mission to get to the finish line any which way possible and that mission began the day before the race: Hydrate, hydrate, and more hydrating.
Sunday before the marathon:
Ted and I enjoyed a couple of hours at the expo, photos at the finish line, locating our meeting area after the race, then a wonderful lunch at a Mediterranean restaurant.
A change of clothes required since the weather was warm, even on the Sunday.
We had very little time in our hotel, off our feet before walking to dinner at Toscana’s on Charles Street. It was at dinner that another advisory warning sounded on my cell phone: Anyone other than the elite/paid runners should not treat Monday’s event as a race but an experience. Once again, “speed kills”. I cleared my head of any time goals with finality. I had a sense of relief because, without setting limits for myself, I knew I could make it to the finish line one way or another.
Fueling for the hottest run of my life:
Sunday was all about water and potassium, 2 bananas, a sweet potato and more potassium loaded foods included with lunch and dinner. Before bed, I consumed 20 oz. of water and got to sleep by 9 am. The alarm was set for 5 am, to get up and get the body moving. I ate a 26.2 mini loaf (salty with peanut butter and carbohydrates) at 6 am, left the room at 6:15 and walked to Boston Commons.
*People complain about all the waiting in the morning until race time. I actually enjoy it. Time passes by fast because there are conversations to listen to or engage in with new found friends. You’re all nervous and wondering what kind of day it will be. You have past experiences to share. I relish this time, soak it all in and allow it to take my mind off what’s to come.
The bus ride to Hopkinton took over an hour. You can imagine the state of panic considering all the water runners were drinking in anticipation of the heat.
Once again, Athletes Village, an ocean of people. Exciting! I made sure to go UNDER the “Welcome..” sign instead of around it. Call me superstitious
- 8:45 am, time for a banana.
- 8:55 am first stop at the porto-potties. The lines were still long at this point because no wave had been called to the starting line. More interesting conversations. More interesting people with goals being chucked out the window.
- By 9:10, I had found a small spot under a tent to lay my garbage bag and blanket for sitting. I took off my sneakers and spread Glide in between my toes to prevent blisters. It was also applied under my sports top where the band touches my ribs. Arbonne sunscreen covered my ears, neck, arms, legs, anything that was exposed. I sat back and had a conversation with the lady next to me. Since you’re pretty much sitting on top of each other, it’s hard to avoid conversation. Not that you’d want to.
*I wear Injinji socks and even though my feet were soaking by the end of the marathon, suffered no blisters. The only chafing I had was where my cell phone band wrapped around my upper arm. This was a surprise since I was thoroughly soaked by dousing myself with water the entire run.
- 9:45 am and time for another porto-“pee” visit and 3 Powerbar energy bites.
- At 10:00 the announcement came: “Wave 1, if you haven’t left, you missed the start.” Wave 2, you should be well on your way and Wave 3, you can head towards the starting line.”
My fuel belt held a small water bottle, Hammer Endurolyte capsules to be taken right before the race then one each hour. I had gels for miles 5, 11, 16, and 20. I had Sports Beans with me since they have electrolytes in them, as well as 2 pieces of candied ginger for stomach upset.
Walking to the starting line took a very long time and it was already hot. I broke the line for a last trip to the potties then checked the time. Oh crap! It was 10:34 and I had to get from corral 8 to corral 1 in 6 minutes. There were so many people! I made it with 20 seconds before the gun went off. B A N G! Here we go and I was already sweating.
Within the first 2 miles, I knew this was a bad idea. My face was burning. I was already looking for ice. The first aid station showed up and, as much as I wanted to push through, forced myself to walk. During the course of the 26.2 miles, I stopped and walked at every station, drank 3/4 of the Gaterade cups. I didn’t want to start “sloshing” with a liquid filled belly and suffer over hydration so I only took sips of the water, making sure most of it went on my body.
*Key areas to keep cool are the back of your neck and your wrists. Those are core temperature points. Apply ice to them BEFORE you over heat or, in this case, cool water.
Aid stations started showing up at every mile. At 10K, people were already struggling. I wasn’t alone. I walked half of every incline and ran from point to point. This run was already more difficult than anything I had ever experience and I still had 20 miles to go. It was time to not force any running at all. Go when I felt like it, try to walk fast but make it to the finish line.
Finally there was ice offered by the spectators. It felt FANTASTIC on my neck and swollen hands. I put ice in my mouth, in my hair, under my visor, and into my sports bra. The banging ice cubes in my sports bra gave me some interesting thoughts! I wondered if it might be a bit “dangerous”. My biggest discomfort was my fingers. They looked like huge sausages! I must have looked at them about 20 times in amazement. By Mile 23, the Garmin, usually loose on my wrist, began to get tight. This WAS a new experience.
Early in the race, about the 10 mile point is when I heard running partners urging each other on. Some were saying “I’m starting a conversation and you’re going to respond” others “how do you feel? you ok? talk to me? do you want to walk?”. We were all going through the same tough experience.
The spectators were AWESOME! They handed out ice, popsicles, frozen sponges, paper towels, bananas, oranges, sprayed runners with hoses, everything we needed to keep going. There were 3 water tunnels which were down right cold. Runners started to drop at the 12 mile point. Spectators were calling for medics. I was discouraged at the amount of walking I was doing but knew it was the right thing. If I wanted to make it across the finish line, I was looking at 4 hours plus.
Mile by mile:
1 – 5 miles: Although the course drops sharply, it didn’t feel so easy this year. The crowds were in full force and the fiddler players were out as were the bikers at TJ’s Lounge. This was suppose to be where everyone had so much energy and felt great. On this day, I was looking at the Dunkin’ Donuts thinking of jumping out of the race and calling Ted for a pick up, thinking I never should have crossed that starting line. This was a bad idea!
6 – 11 miles: A tough part of the course as it levels out. There was very little shade but the crowd was handing out more ice and it was getting a little easier to make it mile by mile. I was cooling myself down with ice and water, I was taking in a lot of Gaterade and water but keeping a good balance. I was on schedule with my fueling, gels, Endurolyte tabs, and I was moving forward, slow but steady. I made a quick porto-potty stop then took off running.
*By the way, good time to check your fueling based on making a pee stop. If your clear as water, DANGER zone. You’re getting too much water and need to worry about hypernatremia. If you’re urine is very dark, you need to drink more because you’re dehydrated.
12 – 16 miles: Wellesley wasn’t quite a scream tunnel on this day. The small med tent was already filled. I was still contemplating dropping out at the half. When crossing the 13.1 mat, saw my time at 2:04 and thought “My longest half marathon ever.” Discouraging but based on seeing the suffering other runners were going through and the way I felt, there was nothing to be done. I also knew if I made it to mile 16, I could make it all the way and forged ahead.
17 – 21 miles: The Newton Hills. By this time I was ready to walk the length of every hill. I had been jogging up most of the hills, at least part way and running the flats and declines. The sharp right turn onto Commonwealth by the big red brick building was relief to my eyes. I was ready for the hills, not to run but just to get over them and get the hardest part of the course out of the way. I did jog some of the first hills but walked all of Heartbreak.
*So sad to walk Heartbreak. That’s the hill you are determined to conquer in your training for Boston. Monday, April 16th, that hill conquered many of us. There is a big display that shows the runners as you all proceed up the hill. As I looked at it, and then looked around me, there were more walkers than runners. This was Boston, we should be running but we couldn’t. The heat had tapped all the energy from our bodies and so we walked.
22- 26.2 miles: Those last miles were hot and even more challenging than the hills. The crowd support was once again amazing as they tended to fallen runners and urged us on to finish this thing. There was one situation that engraved itself in my mind: An older athlete was being dragged to the side, out of the way from on coming runners. He was completely out of it and his color was grey. I was so afraid for him.
As for me, my body felt good. My hands were still very swollen, my Garmin felt tight, but I was doing a great job at cooling myself and not exerting myself. I thought I could make an effort and run a bit harder but instead continued to run- walk since that last stretch to the finish on Boylston Street was a RUNNING must! I walked up Hereford and turned onto Boylston at a run. I could see the finish getting closer, it was going to happen.It was a challenge and this body did it!
Ted made me cry by saying “I was so worried about you all morning and now I’m so proud of you. You ran the Boston Marathon in all that heat!”
*Ted cycled the course before the start of the race. He rode his bike from the starting line to the 2 mile point when a police officer said the remaining course was closed to all traffic. He then cycled back and was at the hotel eating breakfast by 10:30 am.
Except for intense pain across the back of my neck I felt good. My feet weren’t sore, my legs felt good. I definitely didn’t “leave it all out there” but at least I could say I finished and would enjoy the hours that followed.
*They say that heat will add 10% to 15% to your running time. I fell right at the 10% mark. Not bad for my English blood.
After the finish line:
Ted and I walked to Quincy Market for drinks then dinner. Look what Ted made us do:
It looks like water but it’s a shot of Malibu Rum. One glass of wine, a shared shot of rum, Phew! Now I was walking funny. We ate a delicious meal of cheese pizza, spinach salad, pan seared salmon with snap peas and a spicy rice cake then made our way back to the hotel for an Irish coffee.
Tuesday morning is when I felt some regret because I knew I took it easy on the course. I got up and worked out for 45 minutes. Oh well, there will be others and maybe one of them will give me that PR I’m chasing. This year, the 2012 Boston Marathon was just a very memorable experience and I am SO glad I ran it.