Friday, April 20, 2007

Perspectives on Boston 2007

I don't think it has completely settled in with me just what I accomplished.

There are so many runners and so many stories and so many individual experiences --this one is only mine, and everybody else's is different.

The email alerts on severe weather that the BAA sent out days prior to the event were a little intense.
Saturday was calm in Boston - like the calm before the storm. Sunday morning it started to drizzle and a lady from somewhere in Texas described it as 'bone-chilling' cold. We drove up the coast of New Hampshire and into Maine - it was snowing up there while we were geocaching.

Sunday night the weather got crazy and the news media had a heyday. Every channel showed the storm system and hour by hour forecast of the tremendous power of the nor'easter with 40 mph sustained winds - gusts higher, many inches of rain, and temps near freezing. It became nerve-wracking figuring out how to layer for a race in such conditions. I heard one man interviewed who said you train in rain, you train in wind, you train in cold - but the likelihood that you'd train in all three is pretty slim.

By Monday morning the weather was pleasantly warmer - high 40's - and the predictions were that the rain would die down as the race started. Shuttling around all morning from the hotel to the state park to the start line to the athletes village and back to the start was messy.

This is a picture I took while sitting under the tents at the village - on a plastic garbage bag where I huddled on a 2 foot square patch for over an hour - wearing many many layers of polar fleece, goretex, and thankfully not the shoes I was to run in.

This picture is of the area between the two large tents at the village (the field at Hopkinton HS). It wasn't a fun place to cross.

Just as the race began, the rain stopped, it was warm enough to run in shorts, and for me, the wind never factored in. I actually felt great. I anticipated going out a little fast the first few miles with the downhill, but made sure I stayed really relaxed and comfortable. My first 5 miles were all in the 8:00 range, and that was fine, but I went conservatively after that and intentionally slowed my pace to what I thought I might accomplish in this long run. My next five miles averaged around 8:20's - perfect. I actually felt pretty good - all that cross-training has left me with relatively good conditioning - sorta.

At mile 9 my IT band started acting up. It was just mild at first - just sorta sore/tired feeling - but I could feel it - the same as that last long run I did in February. I hung tight for a little while, thinking one thing at a time - just get through the half. And I almost did that respectfully enough. I stopped for a couple of minutes - restroom stop and just to sorta gather myself. I started noticeably slowing down in there somewhere after the half and by miles 15 - 20 the pain just got worse and worse. I consider myself to have a pretty high pain threshold - (I've had 3 kids all natural childbirth :). But for me, IT pain gets pretty intense. It sorta feels like there's a big wide rubber band stretched along the lateral side of my knee and it's being pulled at the ends and plucked from the side. My gait become pretty awkward and my favoring my left knee was obviously creating a whole host of other issues for me. I walked every now and then - it was less painful and it gave me a break, and then I'd start again, only to go a little while and have it continue to get worse.
The Newton Hills approached. Having been a seasoned ITB runner, I know that uphills are easier than downhill. And truly, compared to the hills in the Pacific Northwest, I'm not sure what the worry is over those hills in Boston. The inclines, I'll call them, helped me tremendously. The uphill rolls felt better, but it got to the point that any kind of downhill decline had to be walked because I couldn't run anymore. So through the Newton Hills and continuing on. By mile 22, my pace was between 11 and 12 minutes. My right calf was doing all the work for my left knee, my quads were pretty pissed that I hadn't put in the appropriate miles in the months leading up to this, and my left ITBand was shot to hell. But I could still limp. Many a person would pass and touch my shoulder or say, "hey, you're doing great - you'll make it." I remember some bystander hollering to the masses, "Remember what race this is!" That comment stuck with me. This was the Boston Marathon. That thing I'd watched on TV when I was a kid and only dreamed about. That race I used to record every year and force my family to be silent while I watched it in awe and reverence. I spent many an emotional mile during this portion of the course - I cried every now and then when I wasn't holding back tears. It was hard to be walking at times when there were so many spectators lining the course and cheering and being supportive.
Around mile 23, I started feeling my other ITBand - it came on pretty suddenly to the point where I felt like I couldn't limp well anymore. I wondered what it would be like to come this far and have to stop. I never thought about what I might be doing to my legs by running on them. I just wanted to finish. Just before mile 24 I had some serious anxiety. It had gotten to the point where I'd stop to walk, and then I couldn't start to run again - my legs just wouldn't work right to complete the motion. I had a tense moment where I started hyperventilating and couldn't catch my breath. I actually considered the thought that I didn't know for sure if I could finish. Then I got mad. I'd decided way back somewhere that I didn't wanna come back and do this. I didn't wanna have to. And I didn't wanna live on, saying, "Yeah, I went to the Boston Marathon once - I never finished." I dug deep from somewhere within and started running. I told myself that I couldn't stop and walk at this point, because if I did, I knew inside that I wouldn't be able to continue. I blocked out everything else and focused on the thought that this was Boston, and I was going to be a finisher.

The finish line before the runners arrived.
I'm somewhere in there with that white space blanket on.

And so I was. I finished the Boston Marathon. According to the BAA, I ran a 4:07:13 - with an injury, and without really running much for 2 months. Aside from childbirth, I don't think I've willingly and intentionally put myself in that much pain in my entire life. It was truly a grueling experience. It helps to wear a Boston Marathon shirt around when you can't walk - people look at you funny, then they just smile. It's 4 days after the race and I can almost walk normally. The inability to walk made vacation highly interesting.
I'll have to post more later in tidbits on perhaps what I really learned from the experience - like I said in the beginning - I think I'm still figuring that out. There's a lot still in my head. I know that I'm tired. Mechanical airplane failures - switched flights - missed connections - airport food vouchers - shuttles that never arrive for some hole hotel the airline puts you up at in a city which will not be named somewhere in the middle of the country . . . a 6 hour flight that passengers can accomplish across the country took us 23 hours. And our lost luggage arrived on our doorstep late last night.
Vacation was amazing - but that'll have to be another post. And I've got loads of blog-reading to catch up on.


Just12Finish said...

That was a gutsy performance, and a strong performance in more ways than one. Congrats to you.

Anne said...

So much of what you experienced was exactly what I remembered from my first marathon -- the weather, the IT band, the accomplishable uphills followed by inexplicably painful downhills and the will to finish, regardless of the long term reprecussions (which for me was three months of pool running and starting from scratch). Hope your recovery goes more smoothly. You did it!!!! Embrace your victory, you deserve every ounce of pain it took to earn it.

D said...

Wow. What an incredible finish time considering all that you were going through and the tremendous amount of pain you must have been in. You're one tough lady! I was following your progress and was so impressed with your first half especially knowing you had to cross train instead of running for a fairly long period of time prior to Boston.

13akbal said...

You will look back on this experience every time you feel down, challenged or uncertain. You'll remember that day in Boston - that EPIC day in Boston, one of the worst race days in 111 years.

You stared uncertainty, fear and pain squarely in the face. They challenged you to stop. They taunted you with thoughts of "Go home" or "I can't". You overcame and accomplished your goal to finish. You showed them you can. More importantly, you showed yourself.

You truly inspire me.

The Salty One said...

Awesome Ginger!!! I am so proud of you for sticking it out with that testy IT band! I know that could not have been easy at all!!!!

UGH! Damn airlines!!!

Anyway, no matter what happened out there to any of us, we finished the Boston Marathon! Woo!

JustRun said...

Congratulations. That word seems such an understatement for what you accomplished, though. I tracked you that day, along with 2 other friends, and felt like at each split I was like "Yeah, Ginger! Keep going!"

The way you described the IT pain is how I feel everytime mine flares up. It comes suddenly, comes and goes and gets more intense. I applaud you for going on and though I'd like to think I'd have done the same, I just don't know.

I'm always in awe of your running and today is no different!

IHateToast said...

i bet many runners of the BM are in your shoes. you've worked so hard to qualify and then to keep up the fitness that i wouldn't be surprised that parts break. eh... but you did it. and you found that ugly stubborn troll in you to get you over that scary bridge.

the glory comes from qualifying and then finishing is great. you don't have to finish with a qualifying time. you should be very proud of these achievements. you did mucho. too-cho mucho, perhapso, but you did it.

no regrets.

and i bet your hubby did not give you a finisher's shirt or medal for the natural child birth. it's time to collect!

(i love lost luggage. i know it'll come, so i don't worry. then i enjoy that it comes directly to my door at the cost of someone else's shoulders. whee!

Sarah said...

I wish it could have been a better experience for you. But you did it!!! You have a lot to be proud of. Congrats! : )

stephruns said...

Keeping running with an injury is master-work. You did awesome! It takes guts to pull through so much pain. Now you are G.I. GingerbreadMan !!!!!!!!!


iliketoast said...

there is something special about a marathon and the pure accomplishment of finishing regardless of the time ..... everyone must cover the same distance no matter what time it takes .... i admire your strength both physical and mental ... you should be proud of what you did and the fact it was boston makes a memory of a lifetime ..... congratulations, that was awesome!

Kurt said...

You did it. I am proud of you and think of what you accomplished. Amazing to say the least.

Great report I hope you rest up and recover now.

When is your next race?

Joe said...

> It sorta feels like there's a
> big wide rubber band
> stretched along the lateral
> side of my knee and it's
> being pulled at the ends
> and plucked from the side.

That's a good description of IT pain. Can I use that?

> I cried every now and then
> when I wasn't holding back tears.

Oh my!

> I dug deep from somewhere within
> and started running.

Yay, Ginger!

Way to go! You might be sore for days or even weeks but I'm sure it is worth it.

Impey said...

And I didn't wanna live on, saying, "Yeah, I went to the Boston Marathon once - I never finished."
I liked this one. Good for you!

Robb said...

I love how you dug and found the courage to begin to run again near the end. You are an amazingly strong woman. True grit!! And, really cool about your rental car. As the crow flies, you were pretty close to Nova Scotia…where did you visit in Maine?

E-Speed said...

you are so tough. When we do something like this where we really had to dig down deep I think it changes us a bit. You should be so very proud!

Bob said...

Great job considering, I was hoping the IT band would leave you be on your big day. Way to go finisher. :-)

Angie said...

holy sh-t.

Danielle said...

I'm finally able to catch up and it almost brought tears to my eyes...reading about reaching down to finish...that's it. It's don't not finish at Boston. If only I could get there one day.

Robin said...

I'm finally able to catch up reading blogs and have been so looking forward to reading about your Boston experience. I'm sorry you had to go through so much pain, but I'm happy for you that you dug in to that deep spot inside that had the strength you needed to finish. It's an amazing achievement and one you can count on remembering all those years in the future.