Thursday, April 28, 2011

You Can and You Will (115th Boston Marathon)

Hangin tough on Beacon Street Mile 23

Halfway mark sub two! My Brigham and Women's running buddy Katie is on my heels!

Analisse from Boston College in the gold Superfan shirt finishing in front of me.!

Feeling good coaching up Katie and looking for the Loebers in Wellesley Town Centre

Moments before Medical and I put on a thermal blanket and a brave smile!

So, this is the 115th running of the Boston Marathon. Qualifying and invitation only. In fact, starting in 2012, the qualifying times across the board ARE BEING LOWERED by 5 minutes. Plus a rolling admission policy will grant entrance to faster qualifiers first. Meaning good luck getting in! Like the trends in Ironman, the most select races are left to the elite. But to be fair, that is what the Boston Marathon promoters have always inspired toward. As for further pre-race hype and thoughts, most of you have read my pre-race reports. If not check the blog below then you’ll be in the know.

My “crew” that brought me here is owed 95% of the credit. All I have to do is “represent” and by that I mean run and try my best. This job may not be easy but sure will be fun.

Pre-Race Logistics Sunday April 18th

Sunday is an early departure from New Jersey and Amtrak lets me out at the Back Bay Station at 11am. I tote my bags (including Puerto Rico clothes) to the Sheraton where my cousin Doug is staying to run too. I join his gang, Kristin (wife) Wayne, Steve, and Karen for a South Seaport Brunch at a new swanky arty place called Sam’s. It is new and impossible to find but the views make it great overlooking the harbor.

Then onto the expo and packet pickup at the Hynes Convention Center at Prudential Center. Doug and I grab my number, (the timing chip is embedded within the bib) and snoop around. We pass the runner resources booth and I think back to ICE P with her “Wave upgrade” strategy at the Javits Center in November 2010.

Our wanderings include purchases of bondi band headbands and 2XU calfguards. A crowd of 300 is in a small auditorium watching a movie. It is a course preview narrated by Ryan Hall who will run a U.S. record of 2:05 and still comes in third. The movie has us coming in right at Wellesley and watching the Newton Hills fly by about 25mph faster than they will for us tomorrow! Seeing the course is not only great for race prep, but also serves to gets us jacked up for tomorrow’s race. We are running the Boston Marathon!

I am picked up by my Boston College buddy, Franz Loeber who is hosting my homestay. I am met in the car by 3 year old fireball Ashley. This is no ordinary homestay. I am a houseguest at the gorgeous Loeber’s Weston/Wellesley estate compound hosted by athlete business exec wife Marci, 7 year old son and hockey goalie Paul, and 5 year old law professor daughter Megan and of course the cruise director of the family Ashley. My housing hosts also transport me to Hopkinton in a private SUV the next morning amidst all the school buses.

Hopkinton Common Monday April 19th 9am.

The shuttle buses from the downtown Boston Common deposit the majority of runners for pre-race sequestering in the race village located at the Hopkinton high school which is a short mile from the race start.

My shuttle bus leaves from the I-495 dropoff, folowing the ultra elite (tour buses). The Brigham Women’s Hospital (“BWH”) tent is located directly at the race start on the Hopkinton Common. SWEET!! We share the Common with the spectators, and vendors offering Bill Rodgers Running Store items, to funnel cakes Italian sausage and French fries at nine am.

The air temp is low 40s with a west to east tailwind. However, we are cozy as our tent is much like a wedding tent, equipped with a heat blower, chairs, Astroturfed deck flooring, buffet spread, water and Gatorade, and communal medical items, from bandaids to Vaseline (sorry no glide). There also is an “art” table with pink and maroon duct tape where many of the younger female runners are creating master tape designs of names and symbols to illicit spectator support. It is not long until the majority of us join in the tapestry albeit at our respective creativity levels. I barely manage to craft a GO BC tape stripe, a TIM stripe, and the piece de resistance a BC EAGLE 90 strip to go down my back at a diagonal angle.

Waiting for race start we take several team photos, meet the BWH race directors, eat, partake in port o- letting with no lines!!! Then we hear the announcers and thewheelchairs, the women’s field and the elites in Wave 1 head off in succession. The start is literally 25 feet away and now this is feeling real. Nerves are flaring up and I set to finalize my bathroom, hydration and eating right up to the race start. I may be undertrained but I will not let dehydration or stomach cramps kill my race today.

Race Start

Finally it is our turn. Team BWH is assigned Corral 7 of the 10 Corrals meaning I am in the rear guard of the 23,000 starters in the race. The thing is with this race, we are starting and that is an extreme honor. THANKS CREW!!!

Even still, with over 8,000 in our wave it is 5 minutes to reach the start. I steel myself and remind myself of “THE PLAN”. I cross the line and join the amoeba of runners so dense you cannot see the pavement of Route 9 which we will follow all the way to Newton. Cargo check. Full Gatorade 20 oz G2 bottle. In my waistband, four power gel double lattes, one Cliff Block Margarita with x3 salt, baggie of pretzel squares, and four Succeed 250mg salt pills. Check that let’s take one now just to top off. The fluid intake signals that my urinary track is still a bit in pre-race mode. I stop with 25 others in the woods to water pine needles. The local cop pretends not to see what we are doing.

Back on the course and the two lane road is jammed with runners so I stick to the grassy shoulder and manage a 9 minute 20 mile with the pee stop. I am on schedule. The course is already undulating. Down, up, down, up. Yes the course overall is negative 326 foot elevation drop, however the net elevation change is more like 1500 feet up and 1800 feet down.

5K Checkpoint Race Time 27.44 5K Time 27.44 Avg Pace 8:50 Pace this 5K 8:50


I am already sweating quite a bit in the and keep on drinking. I know I was pressing a bit to rid myself of the slower folks that started ahead. Tim this is silly. DO NOT BLOW UP IN BOSTON. I feel like a horse being held back by its jockey. Tim run SMART!! I think to what Buckeye girl wrote to me over the weekend as a sendoff. Have fun. Enjoy. Relax and enjoy the race. Pressing now and blowing up later will destroy that. I dial it down a notch despite the feeling that all systems are go.

10K (6.2) Checkpoint Race Time 54.33 5K Time 26.44 Avg pace 8:47 5K Pace 8:40


The water stops are every mile now with options on either side of the road. I stay to the left and pick my way to the far ends to keep up pace. Despite the sweat I am feeling that I am within my comfort zone running 9’s. I am in a solid zone and feeling comfortable despite my sporadic training. I am settled in for the race now and look around for a running mate to pass the time. I have an IPOD but this is not a race to isolate yourself from the community. In fact very few are ear budding around me.

15K (9.3) Checkpoint Time 1:23:51 5K Time 29:20 Avg pace 9:00 Avg 5K 9:25


The scenery leaving Natick is light woods sprinkled with houses. Gradually the countryside is being replaced with blocks of houses and small town center shops and restaurants. Man, the fans are into this! The scenery is light woods sprinkled with houses. Clusters of fans line the roads with the most creative signs I have ever seen. The signage is special.

Families sport the photo face cutouts of runners, mounted on sticks to cheer on their peeps. Others have more creative signs of support. I spot two fat Goths townie girls on the side of the road. One is half passed out lying on the curb at noon. Niicee! The other is standing with a sign held high over her head with both arms. In block letters it reads, DRUNK (again) with an arrow pointing down to her head. OMG!! Speaking of drunkard Framingham folk, a shout out to ROACHIE my Framingham BC boy!!!

20K (12.4) Race Time 1:53:04 5K Time 28:55 Avg pace 9:12 Avg pace this 5K 9:20

Chugging along I am paced up with Katie, an accountant at BWH. Having graduated college last year, she excelled at the 400 meter hurdlers. At mile 12 she tells me she has only run farther than this twice and both times were in the last month. I ask her about effort and how she thinks her pacing is. I ask can she go faster. She can. I tell her not to press, as in a marathon you must always have a reserve because after mile 20 the second true race starts.

This 10K to the finish is what makes any marathon distance special. You need to try and be fast but too fast for 20 and you die. Marathoning is all about pacing. Sure a 50 or 100 mile race is about nutrition, mental will, training, and fortitude, but a marathon you need to run with urgency but not to the point of crossing your 80% max heart rate into your limited aerobic and then anaerobic zones. The key to the pacing is to be on the point where you can process your lactic acid as fast as your muscle produce it, or “buffering”. Once lactate builds up in your bloodstream, the check engine light appears and you need to slow down or even stop.

Wellesley Half Marathon 13.1 One hour 59 min and 16 sec. Avg Race Pace 9:10

Reaching the halfway point is always a good feeling, and I do so in comfort and on plan in just sub 2 hours. I am at Boston and now I am excited. Why? Because of the Wellesley Wall. The upcoming half mile of Route 9 passes the Wellesley campus, and the curbing is lined with bicycle rack crowd fencing to keep crowds off the course.

However, the fencing allows the co-eds to stand upon the fence and lean over to gain a better view of the runners. Also to flash hand held signs to the runners as they fly by. Faces fly by and then I see several runners in front of me stop, and receive a peck on the cheek and even lips. What? No way! Then I see a sign, Kiss me, I’m Irish, another, Kiss me, I’m hot, and the even bolder, Kiss me, I won’t tell your wife! OMG! There is even a guy with a sign, (My sister goes here, female runners I am available!) I must say I am tempted. (No, dude, not by the guy)

As the girls on the wall fly by, the catcalls (from them) become more pronounced. More and more faces appear disappointed without any attention as I fly by. Hmmnn. . Finally I see a pretty blond co-ed, with no sign, but looking hopeful. Man I am a sweaty unshaven mess! I stop, and she pulls me in to grab a smooch and then a high five and I am on my way. I am jacked up and the idea that Boston runners are treated like celebrities still has not hit me. This is beyond running a big city marathon. These fans know how difficult it is to become a runner here. Running Boston truly is a special experience.

Leaving Wellesley is a bit of a downer. (wonder why) But I have peeps coming up soon. At mile 15.5 is the Loeber family crew. I scan the crowds through downtown Wellesley. They must be at lunch. The running crowds have thinned a bit but are still a powerful pelotonic force moving forward at 9 minute pace. At mile 14 is primarily when the “Selection” process starts.

Most people in decent shape can generally run up to two hours on guts and mental resolve alone. After that, your training, food, hydration, and willpower all play roles to keep you in the peloton. I spy a 20 something guy in long hoops shorts and a cotton shirt. He is wet and gassed and stops to a walk. I hand him some pretzels and a pat on the shoulder as I glide by. I yell over my shoulder to him "This is Boston and you can run more." He does, and catches up to me. After a few minutes his check engine light illuminates again and he disappears in my rear view. Then Katie, my BWH running mate since mile 4 gets dropped too. We are together at one water stop and then poof, I look back and she is gone.

Running is physical, but also requires mental resolve and toughness. I need some power right now. I think to my support crew. I think to the women like Heather that are fighting for their lives from a disease that is mutating your own cells. I think to how lucky I am to have a body that can do this. I think to what I need out of this experience.

I steel myself for the pain of what is to come. I head down a steep descent and I know the steep ascent to cross Route 128 is coming next. After that the Newton Hills and the one called Heartbreak. The steep down here twinges the left hammy. Ahh right on schedule . .mile 16 . . .but not today I tell myself. I stop for 20 seconds to stretch it out and I pop a salt tab and Cliff Block. Not today I say again to convince myself. No way Jose. I head back out in baby steps at a decent turnover. Small strides but lots of them and I find I can stay at 9s.

25K (15.5) Race time 2:22:07 5K Time 29:03 Avg. pace 9:12 Avg Pace this 5K 9:22

At the bottom of the hill, HEY! there is my buddy Franz, with a photo op to boot. I told him to expect me at 1pm and it is 1:03. Not too shabby,, crabby! Franz is one my BC guys. What does it mean to be a BC guy? For me it means if you need, he will find a way to help. Whatever it is. He can party, ski, socialize, woo grandmothers, play with kids, and generally be great to be around. He attends as many BC sporting events as possible yet does not know many of the players as he never watches on TV. He is a doer and also he is a DAD. and like Franz of three great kids. I try to be like a BC guy. Franz is a BC guy. BC guys pick great women too. Franz's wife Marci not only put me up prior to the race but she fed me, he picked me up in Boston, and he drove me to Hopkinton. Do I have the best friends or what!!

Franz hands me my 1990 era BC cap to wear through Heartbreak and sends me on my way. Off I go up the hill to Route 128. The girls of Wellesley are gone and the BC campus is still 4 miles away.

30K (18.6) Race time 2:53:05 5K time 30:58 Avg pace 9:19 Avg pace this 5K 9:59


Time to get serious now for the hills. Up I go. Not like Mohawk in Chatham Township, but similar to Van Houton on my 5K Chatham Turkey Trot route. (COME OUT AND REPRESENT THIS THANKSGIVING!!! We need over 200 runners this year!) I pass a few walkers but 95% of folks are running. This is Boston after all. At the top I am winded but carry on. My legs are jelly and the 2XU calf guards are the only thing holding my “rider in charge over my 'elephant”. I carry on and the peloton has slowed but still rolls on. Up, down, up, down. We hit the Newton Town Centre and finally leave Route 9 for the right hand turn onto Route 30.

After all of these rollers I scan the runners around me looking for a runner with resolve, mental toughness, and desire. Someone to tag team with up these hills. I pal up with another girl. But this time, she is a 50 something year old qualifier, tough as nails. We charge up the first hill from Newton Center weaving through runners. We rest at the top and then mount another charge. Now my heart is racing and my legs still are done. After a downhill we mount a third charge, passing many more. I am pumping my arms now to force my legs to turnover. This has to be heartbreak, right? We get to the top and nope, no Towers of Gasson Hall, no loud BC kids.


We go down another roller and there it is. You can see it turn to the left and head up out of view. Heartbreak is not as long as the first or second of these last hills. But about a third of the way it steepens a bit, just enough. The peloton has thinned out now and here over half the runners are walking. My elephant rationalizes the reasonableness of this idea. My rider screams no!!! I grab a Cliff Block and keep running up (albeit like an old wounded dog). At the top I finally slow to just over a walk. I made it!!! I made it up. I can now hear Boston College before I see them. They are in the form of dozens of SUPER FANS, males, females all with solo cups screaming at runners, chanting slogans, singing, hooting and man they are freakin wicked pissah wasted!

35K (21.7) Race time 3:25:46 5K time 32:41 Avg pace 9:28 Avg pace this 5K 10:31

Boston College

As I crest Heartbreak and see the Boston College campus and crowds, it hits me, and hits me hard. Not the fatigue, but the emotion. I hear roars of cheers. Next to me appears a Boston
College girl in a Superfan shirt with Anellise written on it is running nearby. (Photo above) The crowds literally are screaming at her and forcing her forward. She will not quit. Some fans even pop out and escort her for a 100 yards or so like she is Hank Aaron circling the bases after number 715. This is crazy!

I move close to the crowds alongside Commonwealth Ave. I shout out a “Let’s Go Eagles”. I raise my arms. The crowds respond. The high fiverrs are out and lined up, and the cheers for me are like rocket fuel. I am flying down Comm. Ave now. I am crying, but I feel no physical pain. The crowds are awesome, boys, girls, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, the kids are all there cheering for me. Man, I love my school. Before I know it I am passing the grave yards and making the turn down Chestnut Ave to Beacon Street. Coming down off the emotions now all I want now is the finish line on Boylston.

40K (24.8) Race time 3:58:34 5K time 32:48 Avg pace 9:38 Avg pace this 5K 10:32

Beacon Street

I am in bad shape. "Tim just hold this together." I gain a momentary lift passing the BWH tent, but I am on the wrong side of Beacon. Everything in my body wants to stop and curl up in a ball. Tim “you can and you will”. I feel more twinges in the connective tissues of my legs and know the ghosts of cramps past are readying. I have one S Cap left but no water to drink it with. I scan my surroundings. No water stops as far as I can see. The bars and crowds line Beacon street. Damn! None passing out water.

I spot a gang of kids drinking out of red solo cups. I pull up. A girl looks up and I reach for her glass. She says, “But its Beer?” I nod and she hands it to me. I guzzle down a healthy slog and hand it back to her. Her buddies high five me then her then themselves. They yell go dude!!! You are AWESOME!!! Tim, I start back up. A mile later I make the turn to cruise down Boylston Street for the final three tenths feeling and no doubt looking like a Ford Pinto spewing oil and riding on flat tires. It is not pretty but still I move forward. I do not walk, and I have not walked this race. “You can and you will”, and I do.

The Finish 26.2 Miles Race Time 4:12 :57

Total Race Pace 9:39

RACE PLACE 18427 Male 11210

I glance up at the clock 4:12 something . . .my sugar and oxygen deprived brain tries and compute. “ is that without the 45 minute time lapse” from the elites?” “Can’t be”. I am finishing so late that the clock has already rolled over to our wave start time. I pause and bend down with hands on knees to collect myself. Each step every breath, every movement forward is an effort.

The goal of the finishing volunteers is to move you through the chutes to collect water, Gatorade, a snack bag, a thermal blanket, a race medal, and finally release into general population and the family meeting areas. I am maxed out. Each step every breath, every movement forward hurts. I look to sit. No sitting allowed unless it is in a wheelchair and then right off to medical.
I think to myself, “A two time Ironman finisher and 100K finisher is going to medical? Preposterous!” I slowly work with the crowd moving forward. I had dug deep down the well for this effort. My eyes feel glassy and glazed. I receive water. Then Gatorade recovery, yuck! Then a food bag. Chips, powerbar apple, nothing appeals. In fact I might vomit. Then my medal, and a photo with my medal.

I am feeling woozy. I lean against the fence. A volunteer signals to medical. They ask me my name, age. I tell them and then ask to sit. They show me a chair. I consider it. I discount it and say I will just lean here for a spell. They are persistent. They know that my decision-making skills are impaired. They are right. Then my stupidity morphs into brilliance. “Yes, I will go to medical.” No my brilliance is not for the warm blankets, shedding my wet cold clothes., the hot soup, the electrolyte level blood testing. My brilliance is for the IV saline bag and the walk will be 3 blocks closer to the BWH gym at FITCORP with the hot showers for me to change.

HONESTLY , the key to the brilliance is this. I have to now find the gym and showers, go to Doug’s hotel, find my friends and dinner in Brookline. Find the airport on time. Fly on a redeye. Why not get medical attention? I have a big day ahead of me still. Plus there is the other small matter of post race celebratory libations to consider. I have beers to drink! The attending staff caters to me for an hour and send me on my way. They even offer a runner to Fitcorp to retrieve my drop bag, but the FITCOPs said no.

Post Race Fluids

After I sign out of medical, the adventure to FITCORP through the Prudential Center is like being totally wasted and having to find your way in a foreign land. I wandered for 20 minutes before finding the right place. I shower, change and used the $15 in my bag for a cab to Brookline and the Publick House.

No wallet, no ID, but with a Boston Marathon Technical Shirt and a green bag, I am a celebrity. The cabbie doesn’t care that the fare was actually $22. The bouncer is carding everybody; I have no ID and he escorts me right to my table. My cousin and his crew pick up my tab. (I will reimburse him someday) and we eat drink and are merry in our stories, my finish and Doug’s 420. No not that 420 you California tokers, his 4:20 finishing time.
Then we hop the “T” and take the elevators to the top of the Prudential Building for a final toast overlooking the city of Boston and the bright lights that are visible to Boston College, Wellsely and beyond toward Hopkinton. Then I am off to Logan Airport, and the joys of working in Puerto Rico in a suit off of a redeye!! Boston Bye Bye, you will never be forgotten as a truly special running day!


$3,876 for Brigham and Women's Hospital!!!

No comments: