Thursday, May 5, 2016

Boston Strong!!

I remember sitting on the school bus in front of the Lunt School in Cape Elizabeth. I was 11. I do not remember if I was listening to the radio on the bus or if people were just talking about it. Ronald Reagan, our President, had been shot. I felt scared. What was going to happen to us? I had heard stories from my parents about JFK being shot and killed. Was it happening again? 

Fiver years later, I was downstairs in the hall by the library when I walked by and noticed a small TV on out in the hallway.  They were allowing people to view the Space Shuttle take off since the local teacher was on board this time. Moments later.... it blew up. I watched it live. 

At age 31 while I was  6 months pregnant and the mother of a 2 year old, I was standing in our kitchen watching the Today Show. I was getting ready to go to my friend Linda's house to sit and chat & drink water ( pregnant, no coffee :(, I make up for it now)  with some ladies while the kids played around us.  Right before I turned the tv off to leave, a plane hit the World Trade Center. Huh...that's strange. It's sunny and clear. My husband is a pilot. I know what the risks are and what day makes a bad flying day.  That wasn't an example of one. I scurried around the kitchen and got little Cameron ready to go.  As everyone reading this knows, it wasn't an accident. The chaos and attacks continued. All day. 
It was 9/11. 

Every generation has events that they remember exactly where they were.  Those aforementioned historical tragedies were big ones for me. But the most recent and possibly one that struck the closest to my life, was on April 15, 2013. 

Our plane circled above Logan airport a few times before landing. It didn't seem like a big deal.  It happens. Pilot has to wait for clearance.  I was alone, on my way home from a training camp in Texas. I was getting ready for IMTX a month later. The plane landed, we all got off without issue and I turned on my cell as I walked to baggage. I had been trying to track a few friends and athletes of mine who were running the marathon while I was on layover. I didn't have wifi so my buddy, Mike, had been keeping me posted as much as he could. But when 20-30 texts popped up, many from Mike, I couldn't imagine. His words, "Explosion at finish line!!!!"
I thought he was being dramatic and just using figurative language to tell me about something cool that happened. Somebody went really fast?? Though, it did seem like an odd way to say it.
But then... one by one... people around me starting hearing.  Other texts were more clear. 
What the.......?????
Standing at the baggage carousel, I became a little afraid. I was in Boston. Was there an attack happening on the city? Was I in danger? Security officers and bomb sniffing dogs were coming in. I was confused. I was frantically trying to reach friends who were there. Cell service in the city was getting shut down... Dad texted me, "Get on a bus and get OUT of the city." 

The bus ride back to Portland was long. I was sad. I was angry.  Mary and I reached each other and talked about our horror. Our fear. What do we do now. This is what we do. A 9 year old was killed. Nick had just turned 10. My kids and my husband and my parents were Always at my finish lines. What do we do now??  Stop racing? What was happening?? Why at a race?? It didn't make sense... 
All our friends and athletes were accounted for. Thank God. Though a few of them were much much too close and saw more than anyone should ever seen in a life. 

In October of 2014, I raced the Ironman World Championships in Kona.  Several months later, an email popped in my inbox that read, "Congratulations on Qualifying for the Boston Marathon!" 

How? I hadn't run a marathon since 2011? Then I realized my Kona run got me a BQ. Cool! I ran Boston back in 1995. It wasn't really on  my radar to run again any time soon. In fact, after 4/15/13, I wondered if I ever would.  

I sat at my desk, stared at the email, and said inside my head and maybe even out loud, "#@$*!!@! the terrorist brothers!" ( won't use their names.. )  The people who were injured were going back to Boston. People who were AT the race at that moment, were going back. No way in hell was I going to let those jerks shut me down from doing what I love to do.  

I wrote down my confirmation # and put the Registration date on my calendar. There. I'm going back to Boston. 

Ok, so now I can Finally tell about my race day! Took me long enough to set that up huh?? 

I worked really hard all winter.   I swam some and biked some but my focus was certainly on logging many miles on the feet and training to hit my goal time.  Race week came and I felt good... except... I had this KNOT in the middle of my back. Ugh. No clue why. it hurt A LOT!!!   I went to see someone for a massage and it helped, that day. But it came back. I was totally distracted and worried as it hurt just to be as Mark and I often ask each other regarding injuries or illness. "Does it hurt just to be?"  You know, vs. when you Move. I swear I spent 90% of the drive time to Boston with my arm torqued around my body trying to self- massage. Not very effective. At some point, my son Tommy ( age 14 ) asked me if I remembered what I suggested he do this past winter when his hand was killing him before his State meet nordic race. ( We actually thought it was broken...  )  Ahem... yes, I remember hun. Something along the lines of, "put it out of your mind? You'll be fine while you're racing? Are you sure you want to do it? If so, suck it up and worry about it when it's over? adrenaline will fix it? " hmmmm... Touche Tommy, Touche! It was time for me to SUCK IT UP ! :)    

We went to the expo and I got my Bib and Tshirt and a few other little things we all thought we needed that day.' I bought my cool Marathon jacket. I stood in front of the 'picture wall' and got my photo taken. I'm glad I did it, but it looks a little like, "Hey wait.. I should take my picture here."  haha
Someone asked me if I still had my jacket from 1995 when I last ran. I laughed. I was a 25 year old Graduate student!! I didn't have any money for a fancy marathon jacket!! I did, however, get this cool T shirt and somehow I still have it! ( who am I kidding, I keep all that kind of stuff.) Big enough? These over
sized cotton T shirts are what we used to race in!!  Too funny. 

We went out to eat in the North end at a great little place. It was tiny and packed and 100% Italian.  It was fun.  I stuffed my face with pasta and loved every second of it.  

Sunday was chill day for me and explore day for the guys. They even did a Duck Boat tour, which cracked me up.  After, Cameron studied and the others went to the pool. At dinner later on ( @Quincy Market... everything full that night! ) , I was super psyched to bump into my friend and former TriMoxie athlete, Aubrey!! She was there with her 1 year old adorable daughter and her husband, Jon.  What are the chances!!  Made my day... 

I got  up super early, ate a dry untoasted  bagel, drank beet juice and sports drink  in my hotel bathroom. Ahh.. those race day routines and the non glamorous part of these sports! I tried to be quiet but.. you know.. By 6:00 I was hugging Mark goodbye and headed down to catch shuttle #1. I was wearing about 4 layers.  I was cracking up at myself but you know, it was chilly, I had 5 hrs to wait and I'd rather be warm and have stuff to sit on than be cold before the start!!  We were dropped at Boston Common where I waited another hour or so. I chatted with some lady from the mid-west.  Finally, I went through the security check to board the school bus to Hopkinton. I was feeling fine... my back was OK!! But I refused to even think about it.  listen to Tommy.....suck it up Mom!! 

After an hour ride ( I got a seat to myself) we were there. The exits from the highway to Hopkinton were blocked with police. Nobody was entering the athlete zone except athletes and authorized personnel. Fine by me. I felt 100% safe, the whole time. But security measures were... noticeable. They were solid. They were there to protect and to allow us our day. I am very grateful and impressed. That city comes together in 100% force. There is no doubt they are Boston Strong. 

Athlete village was like a giant summertime concert scene. That's what I thought when I walked in and people were EVERYWHERE. People and portapotties and tables with bananas. I just found a small grassy square and sat. I talked some. I stretched a little. I watched the bathroom line grow and surround me. I waited.  I wondered if I should eat more.  It's an atypical race morning.... point to point marathon with uber security.  It was an experience. 

Eventually, it was time to go through step 1 to get to the start. I waited until guards said "WAVE 3 foward". Up on the buildings surrounding that area, were police. Armed. Watching. Protecting. It was comforting. And sad. And Sobering. I saw others notice and comment.  Whatever it takes, the Boston marathon goes on. 

We moved into corrals at that point. I was in wave 3, corral 7. It was verrrrrrrrrry hard for me as I am verrrrrrrry anxious ( I know I know... ) pre-race and want to just BE at the start-  ready. But I kept getting put 'on hold.'  My # was 22,067. About 30,000 run this. I was not near the front. :) We waited in our corrals for a bit and then we were allowed to walk ( almost a mile? ) to the start area where we got back into More corrals. Phew. It was Very organized. I was impressed. I was antsy. 

My run time in Kona in '14 was fine but it was quite a bit off my 'flat' marathon time.  As a result, I had a challenge with all the crowded roads to get so I could run at the pace I trained for and was capable of. (Hopefully.. :)) I wasn't too worried about it.  I'd just do what I could do. 

It was hot. The forecast had been hot, and then cooler, and then back to warm. Typical New england. In the end, it settled on hot.  ok.. no big deal. I loaded on the sunscreen. And, planned to drink. A lot. 

Finally, we were OFF!!! Sort of. For as far as the eye could see... bobbing heads. It certainly prevented me from going out too fast! But I was frustrated. I had a pace plan and well... starting from mile 1 and then 2, I was off.  A lot.  Every time the road opened or a sidewalk presented itself, I surged. Surging isn't really a good idea. But... 

Mile 3 and 4 were net down hill ( most of the first 6 ish are... ) and I made up some time and got on track.  But my ave was still off.  It's alright... I just kept telling myself I'd have time. 

Miles 5-10... were not great. My legs were not really feeling that "I'm just floating" feeling that you should have for the first ~13 miles of a marathon. Hmm.. My pace was high 7:20s to 7:30. It was ok. But about 15 sec off my 'plan.'  Hey, it's still going to put me in my 'goal range' that I was ok with. Keep on- Ange. Just 'keep on' was my plan. I checked my HR a couple times and while my legs felt dopey and tired, my effort felt 'easy' but my Heart rate read super high. 170s? I didn't believe the garmin, so I stopped looking. If I could have, I would have ripped the strap off and tossed it. But then, I'd have to buy a new one. Like the nice arm warmers I accidentally brought to the start and had to ditch. :( 

Backing up to the start-- the thing people talk about but it's hard to truly convey, is the INSANE amount of support on the sidelines at this race. I have raced in big races, but Nothing compares.  The cheering just does NOT let up.  It grows at times, but it's never gone.  One critique however. It seemed that everyone, for  a few miles, thought that all of us, should slap All their hands.  Um... no. I had to run a marathon. Not high 5 everyone. I was running on the very edge of the road and I can not believe how many times I got Whacked in the chest and gut. Seriously. If the runner isn't putting their hand up, put yours down please. :)  It hurts and you know, it gets old to be hit like that.  Otherwise, all the screams were incredible. more on that... 

There were hills mixed in with flats and descents. I can't begin to tell you what was where even though I studied it pre-race.  I know that around mile 11 I felt better. My legs woke up, my energy was great, and my pace improved. A bit. 7:15s weren't happening. I had accepted that. I was watching the average and trying to get it back to 7:23 where it had landed for a while. I was make some progress. And then I'd lose it. Back and forth. 
But you know........kind of the story of my day, and what I remember the most, is what I saw on the roads and all around me.  
I saw a women with an escort group. She had a prosthetic leg. A young blond woman. A survivor of the bombing. I had a lump in my throat. I could barely run.  Mile after mile I was staring at the crowds screaming. I was watching all the police along the sides. Totally focused. Keeping us safe. So we could run.  So we could continue to race.  I felt such a huge sense of pride in being part of the thousands that refused to give in to evil.  HUGE huge huge enthusiastic crowds and volunteers. I was overwhelmed for 26.2 miles. I was focused on running THE Boston Marathon. Three years later. I was not focus on Running. I realized this later. My game face took a bit of a break. And, I am more ok with that than ever before. 
The day was hot and somewhere around mile 13, not sure, it got windy. ugh. A headwind. oh well.... keep running. Ignore that force trying to push us the wrong way!! After all, the best miles were coming up!! 

Wellesley College is famous for their screaming at this event and wow, it did NOT disappoint.  I could hear their roars for about 1/4 mile before I got there. I KNOW my pace was faster during that mile! 
Mile 14 is where the Maine Track Club was to be stationed. I was looking for a few people there. I saw Jill and she yelled to me! I missed Kate, but I looked!  I saw a guy running with a Beach2Beacon shirt and we exchanged, "Yay Cape E" sentiments...  
I got gel on my leg and it dripped to my knee. It drove me Nuts. my legs were sticking to each other. how does that happen?? I hate 'sticky'. A lady on the side had papertowels! yay! I took one but, ugh, it was dry. ? I tried to wipe the gel but ended up with a stip of towel on my leg. Cute. 

Mile 16 was the spot my family planned to be!! I PRAYED I could see them. Who knew with the crowds. I scanned and scanned and then, ahead a bit, I saw my Tall Mark. :) Yay! I ran over to them and found NIck and Cam and kissed them both and hugged Mark. Just then I heard, "DAD!!!!" I knew the voice. I turned to the opposite side of the road ( a wide stretch I'll tell ya ) and Tommy was running full stride. He had been on "Mom lookout" on the other side. :)  I dodged runners and made my way across to kiss him. :) Happy!!!!

Now... I can't remember which mile.......but Shortly thereafter I heard, "ANGE!!!"  I believe I was on one of the Newton Hills. I turned and saw Marisa and Sean!! Friends up all the way from PA!!  I ran back a tiny bit for a quick hug there too.  And at mile 18, I saw Jeff and Samantha and had quick hugs there!! Jeff offered me Coke and I declined, but about 50 steps later, I would have paid $ for a few sips!! lol  All of these sightings happened during the famous Newton Hills. I felt amazing. I was having so much fun! I truly think I smiled during most of this race.  I was completely distracted by everything around me. The run itself.. an afterthought much of the time!  Unreal.  The hills were fun because I was seeing everyone!! 

Then, I was coming upon mile 20 and I knew that where Mom and Dad were planning to be. I think that was Heartbreak Hill but I was so focused on seeing my parents, I didn't even really think about it. AFter all, I do live in the hills and it didn't feel all that bad. Lots were walking at that point so I felt faster than I really was since I was able to run. 

Mom said Dad would wear a red shirt. ok! I was scanning for red. It was Crowded!!  I was really worried I wouldn't see them. They came for the weekend for a 15 second wave and Hi!!  Imagine if we missed one another! 

And, boom, right on cue at mile 20 were my parents! I saw them first. I ran over and hugged my Dad even though he was determined to keep the video rolling. :) Yay! 

So now.. I had to keep my legs moving for that lovely final 10K. I was certainly spent. My legs were trashed. And yet, I was having a blast. I was emotional. I was grateful. I was so dang happy I'd seen all 'my people.'  LIfe was good.  That last 10K of a marathon is really never the best part... but I was in a really happy place despite my time being a bit off. 

I finally looked at my watch. I had a few miles left-- I'd be around 3:20ish.. not bad. It wasn't too far off my goal "range."  I ran down the city roads. I thought a buddy might be in the Fenway area, but I didn't see anyone.  The miles were going by pretty fast. I was pushing but knew my pace was only ok.  I was on that tiny road ( Hereford? ) right before the final turn and my chest felt tight. I had to concentrate. The memory of what had happened was a bit overbearing. I turned onto Boylston and looked down at that beautiful blue and yellow sign. The roads were FULL of people. They were there. Everyone was back.  The  roads are barricaded and full of police. I found myself move to the middle of the street. It was an awesome moment to stand up for what we do and to go back to the Boston roads after 21 years.  

My final time was 3:22.  I was 35th in my age group out of 1901.  I feel good bout that! And, 852nd / 12,167. Big numbers at this thing!!  I'm very happy even though I was a bit off. I was >20 minutes faster than my 25 year old self had been. That feels pretty darn good. However, the experience and memories and meaning of this was much bigger than any time in a log book. 

We left the city the next a.m. and headed off for some perfect R and R in the  Caribbean. A perfect April vacation.