Wednesday, April 23, 2014

The 118th B.A.A. Boston Marathon

Post race Celebrating with Will and Dave at The Rattlesnake on Boylston St
Monday, April 21st, 2014 I ran and finished the 118th running of the B.A.A. Boston Marathon. I knew I had to run this marathon within hours of the bombings that took place at last year's race. I know many runners felt the same way, and not only Americans. Running crosses borders, language, and culture. The Boston Marathon is one of the special events in the world's culture.  We all run, we all love. When we run the marathon distance we celebrate the strength of the human spirit and will to push on through pain to achieve our best. I outright refuse to allow anyone to rain on the running parade, I had to be there this year.

Of all the marathon races that take place in our great country, this has to be the best one. Maybe the best in the world! The people that live in each town along the course come out to the roadside en mass. Spectators and volunteers cheer you on through the entire course. The race organizers provide essentially all the things you need to get through, but that doesn't stop the good people of Massachusetts from offering more food, drinks, ice, wet sponges. It is a nice reminder that there are good people everywhere. There were moments during Monday's race that I felt as if I was moving faster from the force of the voices alongside the course lifting my feet and pushing me forward.  The cheering will give you chill, trigger an adrenal response. If you ever wondered what the Runner's High was, it's kinda' like that.

Going into this race, I had a new and mysterious pain in my right quad. The drive up wore me out rather badly and by the time I got out of the expo I was feeling shaky. A bottle of some fruit/veggie stuff helped a good bit and by the next morning I felt ready for one last pre-race run with teammates and friends along the Charles River. The run was okay, my right quad still tight and stiff near the IT band, left knee always questionable.

Fast forward to race morning: 5:08am-wake up. Dress for the morning chill, eat my oatmeal and banana. 5:55a.m.-walk over to the "T" ride over to Boston Common. Teammate, Will Appman, and his fellow Penn State Alum, Dave Moyer, and I, meet up with Ken Walsh, we check our gear for the finish and get on a line for a school bus ride to Hopkinton! Spirits are high on the bus ride, people make new acquaintances and tell stories of their other marathon and running experiences. Just runners being runners on a school bus.
8:10a.m.-Arriving at the Middle School in Hopkinton, the Runner's Village is already hopping, people grabbing last minute food and drink, using toilets, laying out surrounded by heat-sheets biding the time until they called Runners to move out toward the starting corrals. Will, Dave, Ken and I meet up with the Penn State University XC/TF club athletes (about 10 representing).
9:10-9:59a.m.-We start walking with the hoard of runners in Wave 1 toward the start corrals, I'm overly nervous, anxious to a point of discomfort, also a bit emotional. But I laugh at the sign on a front lawn that offers "Cigarettes, Donuts, Beer", no lie! One guy had a pack of Marlboro Menthol open and free for the taking. Still nervous, my body is reacting, you might say I was "shit-scared". Final pit stop done, retying my shoes about 2-3 times, I walk into the start corral after the National Anthem has played. I slink through the back half of the first corral and find the PSU gang with Will and Dave. We wish each other good luck, and finally the starting cannon fires!
10:00 and 11seconds a.m. I cross the starting mat, I can figure I'm probably sitting around 500-600th position. For a brief few seconds, I can see the front of the elite pack up the road. I do not think, "Who will win? Will it be Meb?" I am pleased to learn after I finish, Meb won! Meb is definitely someone to look up to!
The race itself unfolded with much apprehension for me. So now I move to mile splits:
Mile 1-5:56-being cautious, warming up the legs, letting the maniacs make regrettable surges all around me.
Mile 2-5:42-legs are warmed up, oops too quick, "when will my right quad start to tighten?" I think.
Mile 3-5:45-another downhill mile, but it's alright, 5-10secs fast on downhill miles will happen, gravity.
Miles 4, 5, and 6 -5:44, 5:47, 5:47, the last of 6 consecutive downhill miles and I feel alright, crowd support has been amazing already and I spot former GSTC teammate and RSG coworker of yrs past, Mark Del Monaco, we run together for about 2.5miles before he picks up the pace, I'll see him later on.
Mile 7 thru 9- all 5:49's-virtually flat ground through Framingham heading into Natick
Mile 10 thru12-5:55, 6:01, 5:54-my left knee suddenly hurts sharply on a single footfall, this worries me and I back off the pace a touch favoring it, now I'm thinking, "how will I finish this race if this gets much worse?" not long after this I hear/see the Decarlo's, Rob and Meghan, thanks guys!
Mile-13 thru 15-5:54, 5:53, 5:57-Knee still hurting a bit, I can't resist kissing a couple girls at Wellesley College, thanks girls! Great tradition! In the town of Wellsley, I pass the halfway point in 1;16:32 and I think "Wow, I'm on pace for a PR! Don't F*ck it up!"Just before you start the first of four climbs in Newton, there is a significant downhill, but I will say that I definitely got a boost around mile marker 15 from my friend and former teammate, Mike Loenser! You definitely have highs and lows in long races and Mike's voice and energy kept me smiling for at least a 1/2mile!
Miles 16, thru 21-5:48, 6:06, 6:08, 5:53, 6:01, 6:09-Down one hill and up four! The infamous Newton hills! Where many runners fade and crumble. Where the strong ones remember, after each climb there is a brief respite and they take advantage, or at least manage to recover a bit for the next climb. I worked through this section with methodical caution, legs are starting to get heavier here. But Morris Co Strider, Randy Miller was out there around mile 18 on one of the climbs, high-fived Randy! Cathy Stutzman of GSTC was out there around mile 19.5, snapped a nice shot of me climbing.
Working up the hills, battling for bragging rights with another son of NJ, I think I got him in the end.

Miles 22 thru 26.2 5:43, 5:48, 5:47, 5:57, 5:58, 1:15(final .21875miles-5:42pace)  After the last incline "Heartbreak Hill", a runner says to me "Was that Heartbreak?" I say, "I think so, but don't quote me on that." We both chuckle, we're both tired, but sure enough that was it. Funny how you can loose count of hills you are climbing in the middle of a marathon. I manage to comfortably roll down into Brookline. At the 21mile split my elapsed time is 2:03:49, 5.2 to go. I think, "keep em' under 6 and you've got it!" I'm blowing by faders along the way. This is a good feeling past 20 miles in a marathon. I see a guy with a Runner's High Singlet, I push to reel him in, I'm battling a guy wearing the colors of the Chinese National flag, he gets away but I keep passing runners, including Mark which was a bit of a bummer. I'd hoped he would hit his goal, he is very dedicated to his training. For the rest of the 26th mile I continue to pick off some faders, and find myself too far away to pip anyone at the line. I have the last .2 miles to myself, I know I've got some fast twitch muscles that I haven't completely trashed yet, and I open it up as best I can. I raise my arms up as I run the last 50 meters or so, I pump my fist! I finish! I take 2 steps and my left calf is done-zo! Almost fall over, but keep it moving...somehow. I shout to the crowd, "PR! That's a PR!" Few moments in life match breaking a 4yr spell of "No PR today".
I try to linger to congratulate those who I had narrowly beaten, I recognize a few that I had run near or alongside going up the hills for several miles. Mark does catch up to me and we chat, pose for a photo, he's disappointed, but I tell him, "I'm glad we were able to run together for a while and that we both were here on this day."  We walked back to the gear check area, and then just spent some time waiting for others on Boston Common. On the walk to the gear check from the Finish line to I chatted with a guy from Alaska, and a guy from Scotland. And the aforementioned Chinese guy, Liangwu Ma, I saw later at the gear check, I had to congratulate the guy for running so well over the last 2k, but he spoke no English! As I spoke to him, we were both smiling, he showed me his finish time on his Garmin watch, and I congratulated him and shook his hand again. Running speaks volumes across the world.

Final Numbers
Finish time: 2:34:18 splits of 17:59, 17:56, 18:06, 18:33, 18:18, 18:45, 18:25, 18:09, 8:09
Position: 160th overall, 137th male, 128th 18-39AG, 3rd NJ Male
Am I happy with this? YES!! I wanted to crack the top 100 this yr, and honestly, this race went better than I expected given my mental and physical state 48hrs before the race.

Statisticians will find this race was faster in my range, simply lots of good runners came to Boston this yr. 4yrs ago I finished 145th overall, 131st male, and my time was 2:15 slower.

Did I say that the Boston Marathon is the best Road Race on the planet? Well I just said it, it is. If you can't Rock n' Roll, then start running, and you will know what it feels like to be a Rock Star!

Thereafter: Celebrated at the Rattlesnake on Boylston, went to a rooftop party in the Fenway neighborhood, went into another bar near Northeastern. And today, Wednesday, my knee hurts...a lot. Worth it.

Thank you to Rob DeCarlo for coaching me, GSTC, RVRR, Randy Miller, Jess Hyland, Mike Loenser, Pat McCloskey for both organizing the race that qualified me for Boston but for also shouting my name in the 25th mile, Cathy Stutzman, Meghan DeCarlo, Mrs, Appman, the Moyer family and anyone else who I couldn't spot out of the corner of my eye as they cheered for me. Thanks and Congratulations to Meghan Bruce, Will Appman, Dave Moyer, Erin Higgins, Karen Auteri, Aysha Mirza, and all my teammates who were in the race, tracked us online, made the trip with me, celebrated with me, and sent the good vibes that carried us through 26.2miles of awesome! I didn't win the race for real, but I sure feel like I did!
A Northeastern student congratulates me on a rooftop near Fenway. I'm working on growing the fanbase in New England.

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