Friday, April 25, 2014

Boston Part 2: Game On!

6 a.m. and I'm wide awake.  I'm the only one in the whole apartment.  I don't know WHY I'm awake, we don't have to leave until 8:30... the whole reason we stayed by the start was so we could avoid the crazy early race wake up time (that, and it was $144 a night for a two bedroom apartment with free breakfast and parking.)  I went downstairs to the buffet when it opened and expected to see tons of runners, but no, it was just me.  Apparently everyone else was still sleeping.  I had some oatmeal, a waffle, and some coffee, and headed back upstairs.  Everyone was STILL asleep.  7 a.m.  What was I supposed to do for 90 minutes?

Eventually, after an hour that seemed like eternity, Jamie (and Jack, and my dad) got out of bed, got ready, and headed to the lobby with Tuan.   They ate, I watched the news which was now predicting high 60s by 2pm,-- likely when I'd be in the last 10K, fantastic -- and headed to the car.

I was predicting mass chaos similar to our traffic jam disaster prior to the Philly Marathon, but there was none.  We got to the South Street athlete shuttle in less than ten minutes, and the line moved quickly.  There was a man with a metal detector, and I "went off" when he scanned me.  Why? GU packets.  Haha.  The detector really went off like crazy when he scanned Jamie, who removed a box he was holding under his sweatshirt.  He had Clif Shots.  "How many Clif Shots did you bring?" I asked him.  "Not sure."  he said.  I grabbed the unopened box that I had recently bought for $25.  "Um, honey, how many gels are you going to take?  There are 24 here.  You didn't want to grab, like, 6?"  "Ooops?" he said.  Tuan quipped "He's not taking any chances with his nutrition!"  I just rolled my eyes and we got on the bus.

By the time we got to the Athlete's Village it was starting to get warm.  Jamie, whose wasn't exactly in tip top marathon shape (the whole breaking a rib by falling on the ice back in late January didn't get his training off to a great start... six weeks of recovery, so he really only got in a six week cycle), decided he would go ahead and start in Wave 1 (which I wasn't allowed to start in) to avoid the later heat.  Tuan and I still had a 25 minute wait before I was allowed to walk to the corrals.  Jamie handed me the 18 Clif Shots he apparently didn't really need (which I tried to donate to other runners, but nope, no one wanted them, so I left them on the bagel and banana table) as he headed off.  Tuan and I got in the port-o-pot line.

It didn't move.  At all.  Not one step in ten minutes.  And then they called my corral.

There is no good place to pee in the Athlete's village.  And I really, really, really had to go.  We headed towards the start and I heard my name.  I turned and saw my (fast) friend Andie.  The first thing out of my mouth was "I have to PEE!"  I was really about to cry.  She pointed behind the dumpster.  "Just go!"  There was a police officer standing right down the road.  Game time decision -- I did not want to pee on myself.  So I went behind that dumpster and I swear the officer saw the whole thing.  He did not arrest me, and I felt SO MUCH BETTER.

I drank a half bottle of Gatorade on the 15 minute walk to the start, and when we arrived, I saw this HEAVENLY SEA OF PORT-O-POTTIES WITH NO LINE!  Seriously.  There were like hundreds of them. "I'm going again!" I told Tuan.  So I did.  By the time we got back, my entire wave was gone.  We had missed the Wave 2 start entirely, and Wave 3 was nowhere to be seen. So it was kind of a weird start.... we just started running.  And as I clicked on my Garmin and crossed the timing mat, I welled up with tears. I was really running the Boston Marathon.

1: 7:29 
2: 7:49 
3: 7:46 
4: 7:51 
5 - reset clock to match mile markers so 1.1 miles in 8:01 (7:53 pace) 
6: 7:47 
I was so excited!  I didn't really look at my Garmin much, and as usual Tuan was chatting to everyone, high-fiving all the spectators, throwing cups of water into my face... he qualified for this race with a 3:00:23, so going out at a... hey, what pace were we running anyhow?  We crossed the 5K timing mat just over 24 minutes.  Ooops.  That was not much slower than my 5K split at my last half marathon.  "SLOW DOWN NGUYEN!" I yelled.  "You're fine!  It's downhill... you need to have a little time in the bank for Newton, those hills are tough."  We kept running.  I took my first gel at 4.  I was already hot.

MILES 7-16
7: reset clock to match mile markers so 1.11 in 8:05 (7:58 pace) 
8: 7:50 
9: 7:54 
10: 7:57 
11: 7:57 
12: 7:51 
13: reset clock to match mile markers so 1.1 in 8:06 (7:59 pace) 
14: 7:52 
15: reset clock to match markers so 1.1 in 8:10 (8:04 pace) 
16: 7:49 
The course wasn't as steep of a downhill anymore, and I was able to settle into the 7:55-7:59 pace I had planned.  It felt great.  Tuan told me I'm right on pace to PR, and throws another cup of water over my head.  We get to Wellesley and he leaves me to kiss all the girls cheering on the right.  Their signs are hilarious.  I love this race.  I am running Boston.  This is the best marathon ever.

MILES 17-18
17: 8:31 
18: 8:34 
The Newton Hills begin.  I had budgeted on an 8:30 pace for the UP parts, and a 7:40 pace for the down parts..... unfortunately after I got up the first hill, the down started to hurt like crazy.  My quads were not happy. This suddenly was the worst marathon ever.

MILES 19-21
19: Reset laps so 1.2 in 9:35 -- 8:55 pace. 
20: 8:48 -
21: 9:07 

I'm seeing a lot of 9:XX registering on my Garmin.  That isn't boding well for a PR. I'm really hot, and I know I have two more miles of hills.  My quads are revolting.  I turn to Tuan after the 19th mile and say "We went out too fast."  He says "Well you aren't PRing today.  You might as well just have fun."  I look at my watch.  I can still BQ... maybe... but it's going to take some hard work.  I stick in my ear buds, which I had set to my favorite playlist "in case emergency motivation is needed", but instead of what I thought I had it cued to -- my hip hop mix of running songs (BORN TO RUN, CHARIOTS OF FIRE, etc.), out blares THE WIGGLES.  THE FREAKING WIGGLES!  You have got to be kidding me.  What happened to my playlist?  I am not listening to my two and a half year old's favorite band while I run up Heartbreak Hill.  I ripped my iPhone out of its case and shuffle up hill #3 as I find MY playlist.  It made Heartbreak a little more bearable, but I think that half mile was at a 10 minute pace.  I started to wonder if a re-BQ was even possible.

MILES 22-25
22: Reset clock to match mile markers. 1.2 in 9:15 -- 8:40 pace. 
23: 8:54 
24: 8:51 
25: 9:14 

After Heartbreak, the course is pretty much downhill, so I was sure I could make up some time and finish under 3:35.  Except I couldn't run downhill anymore because MY QUADS HURT SO BAD!  The sun was blazing.  Tuan had given up on me and kept telling me to "run for fun."  I didn't train this hard to give up at the end, and I was going to give it all I had, which at this point wasn't much.  Every time I saw a 9 on the Garmin, I'd try to put some surges in.   They didn't help my overall pace, and 3:35 was no longer attainable.  Under 3:40 and try again next year?  Maybe.  My legs felt like they were going to fall out from underneath me, and I was beginning to wonder if I could even pull THAT off -- it would mean no ten minute miles.  And the pace was really starting to creep up there.  It was so hot, and Tuan had disappeared, so that meant he wasn't dumping water on my head anymore. Screw this marathon.  I hate everyone.  I think there might have been people cheering on the sidelines, but all I could see was pain.  I am never running this far again, ever.  Ever, ever, ever.  And where the heck was Tuan?   (Apparently, I found out later, he saw me suffering and ran off to get me water, then accidentally dumped it on the wrong girl, who was not pleased... and then lost me completely.)

26: 9:11
.2: (which came in at .3) - 2:41 (9:20 pace)
 I ripped out my ear buds because even MY PLAYLIST was annoying me, and figured I should listen to the crowds at the end.  Except my legs hurt so much I couldn't enjoy them.  WHERE WAS THE FINISH LINE?  I crossed the 26th mile marker, and spotted Tuan, who wasn't running... he appeared to be looking for me.  He was on the left side facing the oncoming runners, and I was on the right.  I feebly attempted to wave my arms and call out his name, but I didn't have any energy left, and I knew I was only a couple of minutes from the end, and very close to having absolutely no BQ cushion.  So I just kept my eyes on that finish line.

And then I crossed that timing mat that comes a few yards from the finish, so they can call out your name as you cross, and I knew I was going to make it.  And I smiled.  Big time.  I finished Boston.  Not in the time I had set out for, but I did requalify by a little over two minutes and I did give it my all.

3:37:52.  The Garmin says 26.55.... way to run those tangents, Gretchen.


A year ago I had a pelvic stress fracture.  7 months ago I was running on an Anti-Gravity Treadmill.  6 weeks ago I fell on ice and wasn't sure I would be able to run this race at all.  On April 21, 2014, I finished the Boston Marathon.

My phone, fully charged at the start, was almost dead even though I didn't turn on the music until I was well into Newton... how did that happen?.  Jamie called me and said something about he was done and his legs hurt so he was getting a massage.   Tuan was nowhere in sight, and hadn't brought anything with him except his drivers license, so I had no way to find him.  My dad met me at the end of the finish chute (he has some iPhone app he can track me with, which come to think about it probably was the reason my phone was dead.)  I posted something on Facebook that Tuan and Jamie should meet us at the Family Meeting area (and later I found out there were TWO family meeting areas -- what kind of ridiculousness is that?), and eventually - like an entire hour later, after Tuan checked his Facebook page at the AT&T booth for some clues on where we might be -- we all reunited.   But too late to get the train back to our car and retrieve Tuan's backpack.  He just got on the T and went straight to the airport, carrying nothing but a credit card and his drivers license.  He claims that 75% of his flight were runners. Wouldn't you love to be the non-runner on that flight.....


  1. What a wonderful, heartwarming and humorous account of the Boston Marathon. Congratulations to you, Jamie, and Tuan.

  2. You did great, it's a tough course to PB though we always seem to try...You did great though and should be very proud. You had a tough year and came out shining! Nice work.