I don't really blog anymore, but this was an epic day for me so, I'm blogging tonight. It probably won't happen again for another year or two. :)
It has been a good running year.. After hitting the wall at mile 20 and passing out at the finish of the Newport News marathon in March 2015, I went on to set personal records in every distance, from the 5K to the 50 miler (to be fair, it was my only 50 miler.) I had a strong finish last fall at the Chicago marathon, and decided to just train hard for this race with the goals of having a good time with running buddies, getting in some good workouts and shorter distance races, and staying injury free. With all that in place, my goal for the day was to run my best Boston and finish without a complete crash and burn in Newton and beyond.
Weather for race day was looking pretty bad a few days prior, predicting a high of 75 for a majority of the time I'd be on the course. So although the temperatures we were given -- 72 at the start and gradually cooling as the race went on -- were not ideal, they were certainly better than what was originally forecast, and kind of similar to Chicago. I decided to wear as little clothing as possible, to go out no faster than marathon pace, not make the same mistakes I did last time I ran it. (Note: my 7:29 first mile in 2014 was not planned marathon pace.)
I also decided to run by myself. In 2014 I ran with a friend and we were chatting most of the way. I probably ran faster than I should have because I was distracted. This time, I would run my own race.
Go time. The first two minutes were so crowded I couldn't get under an 8:20 pace, but then the crowd thinned and I noticed my watch was at 7:30.... oops. Then, all my GU fell out of my race belt. All six packets. I had to turn around and get them - and could only find 4 - and almost got trampled while profusely apologizing and feeling like a total loser, but I was pretty sure I couldn't get to mile 12, where they give out the first gels, without any fuel and still have a decent race. I crossed the first mile in 7:48, including the GU snafoo. I know the first 8 miles are pretty much all downhill, and I managed to keep a pretty solid 7:48-50 pace. For the next 8 miles I tried to settle into marathon pace but take some advantage of the downhills. I had a couple 7:30ish miles in there. It was still very warm with no cloud cover, and I started the routine of drinking Gatorade at each aid station and dumping a cup of water on my head.
Then I hit Newton. This is where I fell apart last time. My pace had been too fast for the first 8 miles, and after the first hill my quads didn't work anymore. I did the first of the four hills and it wasn't so bad. The legs felt like they could keep going. Hill two is the steepest, and I just kept chanting "Pickett Hill is steeper than you! Pickett Hill is steeper than you!" (Pickett Hill is a .34 mile beast with a 5-9% grade that I run least twice a week on my morning route.) Hill three didn't feel bad at all. And then there was Heartbreak. It wasn't all that steep, it just seemed to go on forever (in reality, it was a half a mile.) It was my slowest mile of the race at 8:27, but I knew I could still PR if I didn't fall apart in the last 5 miles.
I decided not to turn on my iPod, which was clipped on just in case, and instead to focus for those last miles on keeping pace. I was starting to get a little tired, I managed to keep mile 22 just under 8 minutes, but then I couldn't do sub-8s anymore. And I was running straight downhill. My legs actually felt pretty good, but I was low on energy. Focus. Focus. Focus. The crowds carried me though those last few miles that were feeling like eternity. Finally I saw the finish line and looked at my watch.... If I managed to run a sub-8 pace for the last half a mile I could come in under 3:28... so I pushed it, and ran a little faster down Boylston St. 3:27:41. PR. At Boston. I was stoked.
I wish I could say that my race story ended there, but things got a little scary later on. I met up with my husband and friends and we headed to a restaurant for a celebration drink. I just stared at my beer - it didn't look appetizing. Nothing did. I started to get those hyponatremia warning signs -- nausea, headache, dizziness... so I asked the waitress for some salt. I drank a tablespoon of salt which usually helps in about ten minutes, but I was still feeling bad. I walked to the bathroom and realized I was close to passing out. My friends and husband walked me to the med tent, and on the quarter mile walk I started to lose feeling in my limbs and lips, and turned blueish. By the time we got there I was shaking. I've never felt that horrible after a race, and was terrified. They did blood work, and I had low blood sugar, low sodium, and dehydration. I was there for 90 minutes, and after an IV and some time flat on my back, I started to feel better. I was able to eat dinner a couple hours later and am back to feeling normal.
I'm thrilled about the PR, but the after situation scared the pants off me. This is the third time I have ended up with an IV after an endurance race, and I have had three other similar situations where the onset came well after I'd left the race site. Looking back, I actually felt fine when I finished the race.... and then I didn't eat. For two hours, I didn't eat or drink anything. I am so angry with myself - likely if I'd downed the recovery shake they handed me, I would have been fine. Instead I ended up in a potentially life threatening situation, and halted the celebrations of my husband and friends who waited nervously outside the medical tent. I guess every race comes with some lessons to be learned.
Other than that, though, couldn't have had a better weekend. Boston knows how to put on a race -- I was congratulated by everyone in the entire city, including police, subway drivers, and passersby. This city comes together for the marathon -- there is nothing like it.
Boston, Take 2: 2016