Saturday, April 23, 2016

Boston Marathon 4/18/16

After my difficult experience at the Queen City Marathon, where I needed to manage my back pain with a lot of walking, I was able to run a 10k race (Cherry Blossom 10k on 4/10) in 7:22 pace with a negative split and a 6:14 pace for the final .2 miles. When my back hurts, I need to walk. When my back doesn't hurt I can run without any indication of there being a problem. I just don't know how I will feel until I start running. I have noticed that long drives and hotel beds seem to set me up for pain the next day.  I suspected that Boston (a 5 hour drive from home) would not be a pain free run for me.

Since 2013, Boston triggers PTSD symptoms for me.  As a result, every April, as the event nears, I stop sleeping at night and I lose the ability to shake a pervasive sense of anxiety. I have learned to expect this. Now that I accept and expect this as my new normal for April, the anxiety does not impact my life too much. I avoid reminiscing about the events since that triggers more intense anxiety for me, without doing any good. I don't read posts others share. I don't offer myself as a support system for others who need to process their feeling about 2013. I am not the best person for that job. I need to look forward and build new positive associations.

This year Kim planned to attend the race with me and spectate.  Having her along changed the tone of this experience for me in a tremendously positive way.  It was exciting to bring her to an event that many marathoners dream of running some day. Her energy was positive and healing. Boston is an amazing event and I knew her experience spectating would be special.

The expo closed at 6:00 pm Sunday. It was already passed 4:25 pm when we were looking for parking a few miles from the expo. We wanted to run around the city before getting my bib.  I was starting to get stressed so we gave up on our plan to run through Boston and drove directly to the expo. As we turned off of Massachusetts on to the very busy Bolyston, a car pulled out from spot just one block from the Expo.

Kim asked "How's your parallel parking skills?" (I know how, but I can't remember the last time I needed to). "Today, they better be perfect!" The traffic was very heavy and it would be horrible if I screwed it up.  LOL.

The car pulled out as the light turned green.  Traffic starting moving forward but in one quick forward and then backwards swoop I was in my new spot perfectly with minimal disruption to the flow of traffic. I could not have don't it better if I had more time to focus. A passerby on the street actually cheered me on and excitedly called out "You nailed that!" LOL!! After getting my bib, we enjoyed running a few miles around Boston.

Race Day
The way I felt in the morning was no surprise. As soon as I woke, I had back pain. I was stiff and walking hurt.  I had over 4 hours until my gun time, so I hoped it would loosen.  There was nothing I could do except hope for the best.

Kim and I ran the course backwards from the 3.6 mile mark. It was nice to have her company on the quiet empty streets.  Kim turned back as I finished the last 1.6 miles to the start.

I don't go to the Village.  I don't want to sit trapped in a field for hours surround by 20,000 anxious runners all waiting to use a potty. Instead I prefer to hang around the starting area. There are no crowds.  It is very peaceful while being exciting at the same time.

I stood at the start with a very nice woman from United Arab Emirates.  She was an older woman, and said she used to be a half marathon runner. She was in Boston visiting her daughter.  She decide to stop by the start to watch the races.  She did not have any friends or family running.  She looked cold and told me security would not allow her to bring anything to the start with her.  She had a small ziplock bag in her hand with her wallet and a print out of the start schedule. She was impressed with the athletes lined up for the mobility impaired wave.  She vowed to run a marathon herself, saying she had no excuse not to if they all could do it.  Before I left for my start, I gave her my warm up jacket, my throw away gloves, my banana, and my clear plastic gear bag.  She promised that she would keep all those items (except for the banana) and wear them to HER first marathon.

I had been standing for almost 2 hours and my back was not happy.  I was hopeful that once I started moving I would feel better. Had I known that my pain would not subside with movement, I would have seeded myself in the back of my wave instead of going to my assigned corral. This would have made my start more pleasant and less hurried.

Once we got moving, my pain got worse.  I did not have a choice but to run fast.  I had a fast seed time and the wave I started with were fast runners.  I was running about 7:30 pace or faster off the line because moving slower would be dangerous. I made an effort to get all the way to the dirt shoulder in case I needed to stop.  I was able to slow to a 7:59 minute pace for mile one.  As the runner spread out, I was able to slow down further to 8:30 pace and I got slower from there.

The first 25 minutes of the race was excruciating. When my back spasms a few things happen. First I can't inhale.  Breathing hurts.  Next, I seem to loose power to my legs. I feel like the gas line has been cut.  I can't lift my legs no matter how hard I try. Third the pain and pressure in my back grown so much I get dizzy and nauseated. Sometimes I feel like I might throw up. Stopping causes an sharp RISE in pain level until it subsides.

Just before 4 miles, I pulled over to the sidewalk and stopped to stretch.  I am dizzy. I call Kim.  I wanted her to know that I was not having a good day and I would be walking a lot if I wanted to finish.  "Oh you are finishing!" she said.  "That's my plan" was my response, but I already new that if I saw her at 22 and I was still in this much pain, I would be DNFing.

I started moving again and walked much of Mile 5, taking over 12 minutes for that mile.  I was very very sad to not be able to run without pain but I was grateful I could walk. As my back loosened up, I started to use a Run/Walk plan. I connected with a man named Don who was struggling like me.  He pulled a glute two weeks ago and was not able to run the way he wanted.  We hooked up with man named Brett, who reported that the only reason he was running was because this was his 14th Boston and he wanted to finish.

From mile 5 on, our entire wave pulled away from us.  We were in a pocket of temporal space that was created by the gap between waves.  Brett predicted when we could expect the first runners form the second wave to run us down.  In the meantime, our Boston temporarily felt like a local road race with only a handful of people sharing the open road.

By mile 12, I was starting to feel the beginning of things turning around. I was able to run downhills again as long as I had some uphills to balance me out. The energy at Wesley helped me. The second wave had caught me and the leaders looked strong!

Don and I ran/walked together through the half marathon when he decided he wanted to walk more. I picked up my pace and started to run longer between walk breaks. The hills help my back to loosen.  I was starting to feel stronger. I was able to run longer. I made a promise to make sure I ran every single step of Heartbreak Hill.

Kim was planning to be at Boston College. She would be on the right side. She had a cow bell. I knew she would not expect me so "soon" after considering my desperate call to her hours earlier. I ran through and crested Heartbreak like I promised myself I would and I did not stop running! Just before mile 22 I found her!  She didn't see me until I was right on top of her.  By that point I was feeling phenomenal!  Heartbreak helped me!

From the bottom of Heartbreak through the end of my race, my back no longer hurt.  I could run. I could run strong. I could run fast and I would run as hard as I could all the way home!

My half marathon split was 2:07. This meant I was on pace for a 4:15-4:20, but that was before the hills saved my race! With each mile, I watched my average pace drop.  I was running faster than I could at the start. I could breath. My legs had power. Nothing hurt! I moving easily between 7:30-7:40 per mile for most of the last 5 miles. I felt amazing!

I ended up with about a 9 minute negative split with a finish I am really proud of.

My final time was 4:05, which is not a bad performance considering how horrible this race started for me.

1 comment:

  1. What a fun weekend this was!! So happy I was able to experience my first Boston with you :)