Thursday, May 5, 2016

Boston Marathon 2016 Race Recap Part Two: Pre-Race!

Did you miss Part One? Click here for all the details of how I got to the Big Dance!

During my taper for the Boston Marathon, I was probably the biggest caricature of a tapering runner that I have ever been. And as soon as I exhibited one of the taper-crazy symptoms, I immediately started beating myself up for caring too much about a race that I was just going to fail at because the weather was going to be so hot and why do I even run marathons when there is so much I can't control and this is definitely going to be the last marathon I ever run where I care about my time!

As the weather forecast climbed ever higher, my anxiety reached Code-Red levels. My coach, a former professional runner, told me that I would probably not need to adjust my goals if temps stayed in the 60s, but we may want to re-evaluate with temps in the 70s. On Friday, cue the panic:

I was due to take off from Hopkinton at 10:50, and arrive hopefully around 2:30.

As I loaded my suitcase into the airport limo on Saturday morning, I basically felt like I was jumping off a cliff.  I had little to no idea about my race plan, and felt incredibly guilty about leaving my family in order to jet to the East Coast to have no fun. It didn't seem the least bit worth it. I'm telling you, the taper crazies were playing with my head BIG-TIME!

Fortunately, when you are flying first class, things often seem a lot better. Thank you, airline credit card miles! 

It was so fun to see the Boston skyline!

It also helped to see this blog post from a local Boston weather station while I was sitting at the gate. It said that the forecast was calming down in a major way. Spoiler alert: At least with regard to the start line temps, this weather guy or gal was completely clueless, but it helped me to enjoy my travels a bit more! 

I was in Wave 3, so you can see why I almost cried with happiness when I read this! Too bad it was completely delusional!

Saturday in Boston

Most of my Saturday was taken up with travel. By the time I picked up my bags, took a cab to my hotel, and checked in, it was already after 4:00. I could have made a quick trip to the Expo or done some sightseeing, but my heart was missing my family and not completely jazzed about running a marathon in less than 48 hours. 

Looking toward Boston from my hotel. Not the best view, but the hotel was nice otherwise!

There was no grocery store nearby, so I spent a small fortune at the hotel gift shop on a ton of bottles of water, so I could continue hydrating like a boss. I ordered some room service, texted with my awesome friend Wendy, and tinkered with my race playlist. I was asleep by 9:30, and slept pretty soundly. 

Wendy texted me a bunch of these photos in an attempt to cheer me up. And it worked; I decided to try to have fun for her, if for no other reason!

Sunday in Boston, AKA EXPO DAY!

I woke up at about 7:00 a.m., feeling very rested. The sleep had improved my mood enough that I was finally excited about going to the Expo. But first, a little weather stalking. I was glad that they were now predicting the temperatures to top out at 70 rather than "in the 70s." Perhaps all was not lost!

Don't get me wrong, this is still kinda warm..
My biggest quandary of the day was whether to wear my Boston jacket (which I had pre-purchased online). I knew from social media that Boston is the exception to the typical "don't wear the race swag before race day" rule, but that rule has been so ingrained in me that I still wondered if I should risk it. A quick trip downstairs to the hotel lobby reassured me that wearing this year's jacket was A-OK -- the place was crawling with them! 

By a little after 9:00, I was in a cab on the way to the Expo. I'm pretty sure the cabbie spotted an out-of-towner and took me the scenic route in order to rack up the fare, but there was no way to be sure so I didn't say anything. As soon as I stepped out of the cab, the atmosphere was electric.  This was definitely runner's mecca!

Even outside the building, the vibe was all-running, all-the-time!
Once I entered, I resisted the urge to shop, and went upstairs so I could get my packet in my hot little hands.

I was in such a hurry to get my bib, the picture is out of focus!
The pickup went super-smoothly, as I expected for a World Marathon Major, and I got my bib and shirt (a sweet long-sleeve in the traditional Boston colors) in record time. One thing I noticed is that more than a few people seemed to be outwardly freaking out when they got their bib packet. Like jumping-up-and-down and squealing. I kept my cool and got the heck back downstairs to the shopping area.

Can I say how much I loved this #RunBold marketing campaign? What a great celebration of the boldness it took to get to Boston, and an important reminder for race day!
My largest takeaway from the Expo was this: Everyone was so incredibly fit. At most race expos, you see a wide variety of runners' bodies. Here, it seemed like every female had cheekbones and thigh gaps for days, and disappeared from view when they turned to the side. Likewise with the guys - there were no Crossfit bros here; everything was lean muscle. In my "real life" I usually feel like I'm pretty tiny, but I felt pretty darn average in this crowd!

I'm going to apologize in advance for the lack of pics. My phone had trouble getting a signal, and by the time I struggled to send a few texts, my battery was on its way to dying. The Expo was the largest I have attended, with two adjoining convention halls full of exhibitors. I actually got turned around and had trouble finding my way out!

I decided to roam around one of the convention halls to get the lay of the land before I started to spend my life savings in the Adidas "official race merchandise" area. I was stoked to see Michael Wardian in the Hoka booth, just shooting the breeze with whoever wanted to do so! What a personable guy. I didn't know what I would say to him, however, so I just took cell phone photos from afar like a stalker. After I left, I realized I could have bonded with him over treadmill running!

An amazing world-record-holding runner, just standing there waiting to talk to people. No biggie.
I tried to buy some unofficial Boston merchandise at the Brooks and New Balance booths, but nothing really appealed to me. Over to the Adidas booth it was, then. I bought a "traditional Boston colors" t-shirt for me, and a hat for my coach. When I texted my coach a picture of the hat colors available, she called me, and I settled into a corner by the Boston accessories to talk last-minute race strategy in light of the weather forecast. She also threw in a pep talk for free!

When that was over, my phone battery was dangerously low. I put it on low-power mode and soldiered on to check out the booths in the other convention hall.

What an honor to see Dick Hoyt in person!
When I had heard earlier in the week that my favorite runners Shalane Flanagan and Desi Linden (not to mention Amy Cragg and Ryan Hall) were going to be at the Expo, I couldn't believe my good fortune. I packed my Running Times and Competitor magazines with Desi on the cover, in preparation for getting her autograph, and I carried them to the Expo with me.

I follow the marathoners at the front of the pack very closely, so this was my dream come true!
Imagine my disappointment when the line for Shalane was already incredibly long, over an hour before she was to show. I forgot that this was the Boston Marathon, where presumably a larger percentage of the runners follow the front of the pack. Suddenly, waiting in a line for hours the day before a goal marathon race (with no guarantees of being able to sit down) was looking less appetizing. Shalane finally made her appearance when I was thinking about leaving the Expo. I decided to try to sneak a photo of her while I ever-so-casually strolled by. Security was super-tight, so the photo quality isn't the greatest.

Talk about a tiny runner -- she is literally pocket-size in person (the Internet says she is 5'5", but she looked much shorter)!
I did not get a glimpse of Desi, which I do regret. However, after the race, she did answer my Twitter question on one of my favorite podcasts, House of Run, so it is kind of like I talked to her? I asked if she had any favorite mantras when races got mentally tough, and she replied, "Calm, calm, calm, relax, relax relax," because you need to be relaxed to run fast.  I could have used that advice on race day, but it will keep until I toe the line again!
Before I left the expo, I had two more orders of business: I circled back to the Brooks booth so I could get my photo taken with my bib (the glare from the flash conveniently blurred my bib number to prevent bandits):

I'm glad this booth was there, since it saved me from having to ask a random stranger to take my photo!
I also wanted to check out the huge wall where they had a mural containing every runner's name. We also got a poster of the mural to take home for free -- it's super-cool and I hope to have it framed:

It's official!
Once I found my way to the exit, my phone was about to die. Although I could see the finish line down the street, I decided to forgo the pilgrimage, in favor of viewing it for the first time on race day. My legs also didn't feel like trekking along the Freedom Trail sightseeing, either. It was time to hop in a cab to the hotel. That is, after one very important photo:

Right on Hereford, Left on of the most famous intersections in running!
 Sunday, Post-Expo

The Expo had definitely gotten me pumped for the race! Once I was back in my hotel room, it was amazing how fast the time went. My first order of business was to pin my bib on my tank and lay out my "flat runner"...after a selfie, of course...  

As ready to rock as I'll ever be!
Then I moseyed down to the lobby to look for some friendly runners, because I wanted to grill them on the best way to get to and from the race from our hotel. I choose some veteran-looking guys with Boston jackets from previous years, and they were super-helpful, which went a long way toward calming my nerves and finalizing my pre-race timeline!

I retired to my bedchamber, ordered some more room service, called home, and then signed off social media for the evening. I got a little sucked into a replay of the NCAA Women's Bowling Championships on ESPN2 (awesome comeback, Stephen F. Austin University!), and I was asleep by 10pm.

To be continued...


  1. Oh, now I feel guilty for bombarding you with all those texts! I probably was responsible for that battery drain...

    I'm so proud of you for navigating this entire thing by yourself! I think my nerves would have been too much for me. Looking forward to the next installment.

  2. Oh my goodness your texts gave me life! It was my texts to you of packet pickup and Michael Wardian that did it, and I don't regret those for a second because I needed to share with someone! My phone has never drained like that before, it was quite shocking and annoying. As a result I took a total of one picture on Boston morning, so my post will be a bit text-heavy. ;) Again, THANK YOU for being the most supportive and hysterical running friend ever. Working on the race recap now - just want to do it justice! :)