Thursday, April 23, 2015

My Last Post…But Not My Last Race - Gabe

I have completed the Boston Marathon. I ran the 26.2 mile course from start to finish. I am proud to say that this is one of my biggest accomplishments in my life.   Monday was a wonderful day. While the weather did not cooperate, the emotions of the event certainly made up for the lack of sun.

The race for me started four months ago with the start of training. But I guess, officially, it does not begin until you cross that line in Hopkinton.  On Saturday, I dragged my wife and son, along with my sister-in-law to the bib pickup at the Hynes Convention Center. It was packed with racers, friends and families, there for their bibs but also the huge athlete expo. Tons of vendors, and samples and clothing for sale, but we elected to get my race stuff and get out of Dodge.

Sunday, I tried to keep a low-key day. We did a few errands around the house, and I tried to rest. My goal was to get to bed early, but falling asleep with the excitement of the next day’s events proved to be a bit tough. But after closing my eyes, I was up early ready to go. I drove into Boston, parked my car at my sister-in-law’s place, and walked to the Common. I was nervous, not because I was worried about finishing, but I wanted to make sure I would perform to the best of my potential. 

The ride out to Hopkinton on the BAA buses is long. It makes you realize just how far you are about to run. When we got to the Athletes Village, it was already pretty chilly. I met up with some of the other NWH athletes at the medical tent (fitting) sponsored by NWH. I think we were all a bit nervous. The rain was on and off to this point, more like a spitting rain, never pouring.  Just enough to remind you conditions were less than ideal.

When it was our turn for our wave to make it to the corral we headed out. The rain started to pick up, and I started to get a pretty good chill. I left my sweatshirt and pants on for as long as possible. Discarded clothing was to be donated to charity so I planned accordingly. Right before the start it was time to strip down to my race attire, and I was ready to go.

There is so much hype, and there is such a large mass of people, I wasn’t aware of when I was about to cross the starting line until the last minute, but then boom, there I was, actually running in the race.  My first 5k split was SLOW.  It was really crowded, so between bobbing and weaving around some of the slower runners, it was tough to get into a comfortable pace. But as the race went on, and opened up, my splits dropped.

I came prepared to run, I had my four packs of Gu that I had planned on consuming during the race. I also had my headphones and music, though truthfully with all of the people along the course screaming, I kept the power on my iPod turned off.  The spectators along the course were great.  Out there in the elements, screaming, cheering, having a great time. I just tried to soak it all in.
I felt great for the first half of the race. I was in a comfortable pace (faster than I had planned on) but I had to make up for my first 5k split.  Even through the start of Wellesley, I still felt pretty strong still, and as I ran past the college and the adoring fans I felt my pace pick up a bit. But as I made it to the east side of Wellesley, I started to fatigue. But I got it together as I approached NWH as that is where my family would be watching. I kept telling myself the faster I ran, the sooner I could see them.  Eventually making it to the Hospital, I looked to see friends, but it seemed like a blur with the crowd of people. I did manage to find my family across from the Hospital; I planted a kiss on my wife and kept going.  Just seeing them out there in the cold, screaming for me, gave me the boost I needed to keep going.

When I made the turn onto Commonwealth Ave, I again started to get tired. But I kept kicking away. I know the hills of Newton well, so I was aware of what was ahead of me. I remember going up Heartbreak Hill at what was a snail’s pace, but I kept on moving, never walked, just kept going forward. That was my goal. I did have three very brief stops along the course where I had to ask medical staff and strangers to open up my Gu packs, as my fingers were too cold and swollen to function. But that was it for the feet stopping. Once I made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill, I knew I had made it through the toughest part of the course, and I was going to make it the rest of the way. 

My pace slowed a bit through BC and Brookline as I continued to get a bit more tired. It seemed no matter how hard I wanted my legs to kick, I just couldn’t move faster.  The last six miles of the race is really about mental strength just as much as physical. It’s easy to get sucked into thinking about how tough the race is, but it’s in these moments where your mind challenges you to stop, where you can tell your body to keep moving.

Towards the end of Beacon in Kenmore Square, at the 20-mile mark I got a cramp in my left thigh.  It was pretty uncomfortable, and for about a quarter of a mile I was in near tears. My gait worsened, and I had a pretty bad limp. But after making it that far, there was no way I was stopping.  The cramp began to improve, my stride lengthened, and I was ready to finish. I made the turn onto Hereford and the Left onto Boylston, and I saw the finish! Crowds were screaming, and I just soaked it in.  As I ran down the street, I was able to see my wife and mom again and gave them a smile and a wave. 

I crossed the finish line, and felt a huge sigh of relief.  I felt great for about 20 seconds.  Then I felt cold. Really cold.  Really really cold.  I couldn’t stop shaking.  I got my medal, my blanket, they gave out snacks and I started to walk to our designated family meeting place. I tried to eat some bread because I felt weak, and lightheaded. It made me nauseated. I made it to my car, turned the heat on full blast, got home, took a hot shower, drank some Gatorade and felt 80 percent better. With some food I felt great.

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