Saturday, April 26, 2014

Boston Marathon 2014 Recap

Ben and me on Marathon Monday - 6:15 a.m.

Boston Marathon weekend was wild! My parents drove here on Saturday in their big Suburban, packed with Ben and Hannah and Marissa and Tevita and their two girls. We filled every inch of space in our condo, then sent Ben and Hannah down the hall to our super-kind-and-generous neighbor’s place so they could get some baby-free sleep. Oliver had a few good weeks of sleeping, but slipped back into the every-three-hours-or-so schedule when he cut another tooth and developed a cold and cough. Thankfully, Saturday night was the first time in weeks that he slept for six straight hours. Ahhhhh. 

On Sunday, we celebrated Easter at church and then with an egg hunt and Easter baskets. Ben and I picked up our marathon bib numbers at the expo, and I picked up a special bag and tag so I could take my breastpump with me to the starting line (and have it waiting for me at the finish). Ben had a round of energy bar samples for appetizers, then we went home for our pasta dinner. 

My sole sister, Anna, came all the way from Japan to join us for dinner – and run the marathon of course. Anna and I ran thousands of miles together until about a year ago when I was hospitalized and she graduated from Harvard and moved to Japan to be a schoolteacher. On Sunday night, I laid out my things and tucked Oliver in; it is nothing short of a miracle that he slept for 6+ hours straight. 

On Marathon Monday morning, I fed Oliver, put my hair up into battle mode, put on my uniform, layered warmly with old BYU sweatpants, and grabbed a cup of oatmeal. Scott drove me and Ben to the Boston Common, where we were to board a shuttle bus bound for Hopkinton. 

There was a heavy security presence, but we made it to the entry gate. A policeman glanced at my bag – a clear plastic bag with a giant orange sticker that said “MEDICAL DEVICE.” There was a no-bags policy this year, but an exception was made for the breastpump (thank goodness!). Ben and I boarded the bus and began the journey to Hopkinton. 

The bus ride feels like forever – mostly because I kept thinking I had to run alllll the way back to where we came from. It was fun to chat with Ben though; it was his first Boston Marathon and we chatted about what to expect. When we arrived in Hopkinton, we got off the bus and found a patch of grass to stretch out on in the Athlete’s Village. We hung out for awhile, then decided to get in line for the port-o-potties at 8:45 so Ben would have plenty of time to get to his Wave One start time of 10:00.

We waited and waited. The line moved slowly. Ben bailed at 9:15 so he could get to the starting line on time. I waited some more. It took a full hour to finally go! After that necessity, I grabbed my breastpump bag and headed to the Operations Tent. When I emailed the BAA awhile ago about needing a breastpump, they emailed me a lengthy set of instructions about what to do and where to go and who to talk to. At the tent, they pointed me to a small unmarked tent: the “pumping station.” 

I went inside and discovered that I wasn’t the only breastfeeding runner momma out there. Two other women were set up with tables, folding chairs, and pumps. We chattered and found that we’d all thought we were completely alone in this; there were five other bagged pumps on a table in the corner, so there were at least eight breastfeeding moms in the marathon (out of 38,000 runners!). One woman had a five-month-old!!! I felt wimpy. 

By the time I finished and packed my pump, it was already 10:20. I was in Wave Two with a start time of 10:25. Or was it 10:30? I couldn’t remember, but I saw plenty of other runners with white bib numbers (the waves were color-coded) trudging toward the start, so I didn’t worry too much. I walked a bit, pulled off my sweatpants along the way and tossed them to the side, walked some more, tossed my sweatshirt….

It is about a ¾-mile walk from the Athlete’s Village to the starting line and by the time I got there, I noticed that the corrals were gone. The start was at 10:25 and I’d completely missed it! In the end, there was a 12-minute difference between my “gun time” (when Wave Two officially started) and my “net time” (my actual time from starting line to finish line). Thank heavens for timing chips. I walked up to the starting line and started to run. 26.2 to go! 

My original plan was to take it easy for at least the first half, then reevaluate. I decided the best way to take it easy was to not look at my watch until getting to Wellesley; that way, I would be forced to run based on how I felt and not what my watch said. I stuck to my plan: chatting with runners along the way, enjoying the scenery, taking cups of water and Gatorade every mile, high-fiving little kids at the side of the course. 

The first few miles of Boston have significant downhill, which you might think would make it easy. It would be easy if it was a six-mile race, but this is a MARATHON. The early downhill requires you to either go really fast (rough on the joints, great way to get injured fast) or put the brakes on a bit (straining the quads). I opted for the brake method, sticking to my conservative plan.

I went through Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, and Natick while chomping on homemade dried apple slices. I high-fived some screaming Wellesley girls and checked my watch at the halfway point – 1:45. I was on track for a 3:30 and thought for a moment maybe I could go under that. I figured I’d get through the hilly portion of the race next and see how I felt around mile 21 before going all out. 

From Wellesley to the Newton hills! I started counting down the miles until I could catch a glimpse of my family at Mile 19. When I did make it there, the streets were so much more packed than usual so I had a hard time spotting them. I spotted them at the last moment; actually, I only saw my mom. She handed me a waterbottle and I threw my sweaty sleeves at her (good trade?!). 

Mile 19: getting cold water from my mom

Mile 19: Still smiling, but more hills to go
I carried the waterbottle up the next few hills, chugging it intermittently. I slogged up Heartbreak Hill and felt pretty tired doing it. At Mile 21 after all the hills, I was feeling beat: my quads were feeling the effects of the early downhill, my hips and calves were tight, my left foot was cramping. 

I passed an amputee runner (mobility impaired athlete for those of you who are PC) at Mile 22 or so; several people were helping him adjust his prosthetic leg. I wondered if he was involved in last year’s bombing. 
Everywhere along the course there were “BOSTON STRONG” signs, but they had a bit more meaning the closer I got to the city. The phrase Boston Strong – to me – means to come back stronger after adversity. I may have been cramping, tight, and in pain, but I wasn’t going to let that stop me. Not now! 

 I wish I could say I finished strong, but that would be a lie. I finished – but it was a long, slow shuffle to the finish line. I high-fived just about everyone from Brookline to Boston, then finally made the turn on Hereford Street and finally Boylston Street! I could see the finish line and I had mixed emotions. I was so happy to see the finish line of course, but I also remembered all the footage of the bombings. 

I finished in 3 hours, 36 minutes. I shuffled through the tunnel of volunteers that gave me a metallic blanket, food, drink, and finisher's medal. I found Ben, who had been waiting for me for more than an hour, and together we shuffled to the subway and headed home. I nearly passed out on the train, but felt better after a few salty snacks. We walked slowly home, but we finally made it.

After the race
Oliver was happy to see me. It was the longest we have been away from each other since he came home from the hospital, but he did better than I expected. Scott said he only cried for a few minutes and even smiled and let other people hold him.

There was a lot more to the weekend, but this post is already too long. If you've read this far, you probably deserve a finisher's medal and a blanket.

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Blogger ellen said...

I love cheering for you at Mile 19!

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Rachelle Payne said...

I loved reading this. You are a true champ!!!! The little girl in the pink shirt in your photo at mile 19 is my daughter Jaden. It was so fun to cheer for you!!!!

10:11 AM  
Blogger Erica said...

Congratulations Emily! Even if you feel like you shuffled along, finishing a marathon is still a great accomplishment, especially with a breastfeeding baby at home!

5:09 PM  
Blogger Pamela said...

You're amazing, Emily! Wish we could have been in Boston to cheer you on!

6:42 PM  
Blogger mccannann said...

You are AMAZING! Thanks for sharing. Gretchen Edwards

12:28 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Way to go! I always think of you this time of year with the marathon. Good Memories!

12:38 AM  
Blogger mithu said...

You really are a champ! And I always love reading your blog! Big hugs!!

3:41 PM  
Blogger Lorraine Leavitt said...

So happy to read this Em! ! ! OX's

1:10 PM  

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