In other words, grab a snack or a cup of tea, because this could be a long one.
I was at the Run to Remember last year as a volunteer. It was right after my first half marathon and while I felt running another half so close to my first was a pretty bad idea, I really wanted to be a part of it. It was just a little over a month after the Boston Marathon bombings and took on a much larger meaning as a result. Volunteering last year was an amazing experience. The conditions were a little cold and damp, but it was my first experience with a larger race and I knew I wanted to run this one next time.
Boston's Run to Remember is hosted by the Boston Police Department every Memorial Day weekend in honor of all of the fallen police officers who have served. Upon entering the Expo you encounter this amazing display, which was literally too awesome to capture in one picture:
|Each of the flag panels has names of officers and the dates of their tour.|
To top it off the race runs through really iconic parts of Boston, starting in the Seaport, running through the city, continuing across the bridge and up and down Memorial Drive, before returning through the city and finishing on the seaport. It's pretty flat, except for the hills on the bridges, which are not really hills. The course for 2014 is below:
|Course Map for 2014 Run to Remember|
So to recap: Great cause, awesome course, a friend's first half. Pretty much a recipe for awesome, even if things go slightly askew.
Oh, and bonus - the BPD (Boston Police Department) knows how to put on a race for 12,000 runners. I was very happy to see that they had arranged for a suitable number of port-a-potties for the size of the event. (Seriously, this is a quirky obsession of mine. I take pictures of it way too often, and admit, I judge your race by the port-a-potty-preparation, or PPP factor. I know. Obsessive much).
|Many port-a-potties. They had this on the other side too. Well done BPD|
The lovely people at Boston Bodyworker taped up my aching Extensor Tendon, and preemptively taped up my always troublesome calves as well. They are fantastic by the way, highly recommend if you are in need of some kineso-taping in the Boston area.
The Run to Remember starts EARLY. A 7 am start on a Sunday meant 2 things in regards to my nutrition plan. 1) Dinner had to be done by 7:00 pm. 2) My tradition of a early morning venti dark roast from Starbucks along with a multi-grain bagel was out. There are no Starbucks open at 4am on a Sunday in Boston (anywhere?). Plus, I'm a bagel snob, I didn't want a store bought fake bagel. So I had to find something else.
I had dinner with my friend M and her friends J & S. We went to one of the most amazing places I have ever encountered for pre-race fuel. OMG how have I lived in Boston for so long and never been to Rino's? The place is tiny, 13 tables, and everything is obviously homemade. The portion sizes are literally insane (I think I ate less than 1/3 of my food and took the rest home for post-race lunch AND dinner). It was delicious and perfect. Gnocchi may be my new favorite pre-race food:
|Gnocchi for dinner: nom.|
|The rest of our table's food - ie food for 20, not 4.|
I woke up (as I always seem to) 5 minutes before the alarm. I started the coffee, crawled back into bed until 4 am and then got up to drink my coffee and eat my toast with peanut butter and a banana. I also drank a 16 ounce bottle of water, filled my 16 ounce handheld with Gatorade (I prefer to fuel with Gatorade rather than Gu on a race) and was headed out the door by 5:15 to meet M and head into the race. On the way into meeting M/before the start of the race I drank another 20 ounces of water (this obsessive logging of liquids will become relevant shortly, I promise).
J (who is a rock star) drove us to the start at OMG O'Clock (ie any time before Starbucks is open) and had our drop bags. We walked to the start and I realized I'd accidentally left a jacket on that I really didn't want to lose. So we found an extra bag, checked it, and then went to use the port-a-potties before the start. It might have been the fastest trip through there ever in a race for me. 30 minutes before the start and the line was 5 people deep. For a 12,000 person field. Seriously. A+ BPD.
We met up with C by the 10:00 mpm pace sign, snapped a quick picture, sang the national anthem and were ready to start. (Aside-I still get teary every time I hear the national anthem at a race. I thought it would stop eventually, but it hasn't. I'm not sure what it is, but I just feel so privileged to be there and healthy enough to do this thing, in this space. I hope I always tear up at the start of races.)
|Ready to start!|
We ran through the (now very crowded!) streets of Boston and really just had a blast. One of mine and C's coworkers was cheering right at mile 2 and it was really awesome to see her. Then at the mile 3 water stop a friend of mine and M's was working and we stopped for some high fives and hugs. It was great. The first mile was pretty slow while we bobbed and weaved in the crowd: 11:14. We hit a groove after that and JFR through the city, across the bridge and up and down Memorial Drive. It was a blast running this part of the course, really. We chatted, joked around, didn't pay attention to splits, high-fived little kids and police officers, it really was just fantastic. Splits for miles 2-10: 10:29, 10:20, 10:41, 10:05, 10:11, 10:17, 10:08, 9:41.
M & C were going strong at this point and I could feel that something was super off with me. I looked down at my hands and realized they had swollen to something like 3 or 4 times their normal size (I am not exaggerating on this, they were ghastly large). I couldn't really pay attention to what M was saying to me while she was trying to chit chat our way in on the last 5K and at the next water stop I waved them on. I knew they could finish stronger than me and I needed to get a handle on...well, my hands.
Mile 11 I walked through a water stop and then some, with my hands over my head. I got my bearings again and felt less confused/dizzy and started cautiously running. M&C were long gone by the time I started cautiously running again. This mile took me 10:27.
I was similarly cautious on Mile 12. I actually used the water stop here (I never use the first/last water stops in races) just to try and get things stable again. More walking. More hands over head. This took a ridiculously long time for me: 11:37 (not surprised by this at all since I walked for probably close to .2 miles all told.)
When I (thought) I was in the last mile I figured I was really close and could push it again to the finish, hydration problems or not. I began to actually run like it was a race for the first time all day. If my Garmin hadn't recorded this I might not have believed it, I CRUSHED* this mile: 7:32 in what I (thought) would be a very fast finish. *(Part of me thinks this must be a data error. I was going fast, but this is wicked fast for me...I have no explanation for this being the only error in the data though, everything else seemed to record normally. Things that make you go hmmm...)
This is where I realize the course is long (or my bobbing and weaving earlier really, REALLY added on some distance), because I heard the beep from my Garmin, and knew where we were on the course and definitely had WAY MORE than .1 left to go. Since I wasn't sure exactly how much was left I pulled it back a little bit but still stayed faster towards the end. .71 (yes, .71) in 6:38, or a 9:38 pace.
|Garmin splits - what a weird finish|
We walked to a little place called Barlow's and took a picture for my friend S's "Choose Joy" project. We had long leisurely discussions of work, running and life. We just generally enjoyed being there and the amazing experience we had just shared.
I came home and showered before passing out for a really long nap (it was AMAZING) and then started to assess the damage done by this race. Honestly it really wasn't bad. Not too sore, Extensor a tiny bit cranky but pretty good considering I just put almost 14 miles on it. Really, the biggest damage from the day was this obnoxious blister that developed around mile 8. It's the second time I've gotten a blister in that SAME SPOT during a half. Methinks a shoe/sock issue might be to blame (which sort of sucks because that's a rather expensive trial-error process to fix). Warning-gross blister pic below:
|13.1 miles always leads to blisters here. Grrr.|
Even with my slowest half ever and the mile 11/12 shenanigans I feel pretty good. I had a ton of energy left in the tank. That's a ridiculously fast finish for me at the end of a half, and would have been more impressive if it had been 13.1 instead of 13.71. I have very little muscle soreness today at all. Assuming this blister pack works, I may even go out for a recovery mile or two to see if I can join the RW Summer Run streak. I've never felt strong enough to run the day after a half before, so that's a total win.
I will definitely do this again: