Thursday, May 8, 2008

Boston Marathon Race Report

Finish time: 3:08:02
Overall Place: 2,115th out of 21,963 finishers
Overall Female Place: 133rd out of 8,935 finishers
Overall AG 40 - 49: 24th out of 2,980 finishers

Its been a long long winter of training and I was FINALLY here. Boston Massachusetts. Andy and I arrived on the Thursday before the race to see the sights, take in the Women's Olympic Trials race on Sunday and of course run my race on Monday. It was great to just walk around and enjoy the time with my husband. Boston is a really cool city.

Part I - Seeing the sights

We arrived in Boston in the late afternoon and after buying our "Charlie Card 7 Day T-Pass" we navigated Boston's public transportation system to our hotel. We were advised to avoid renting a car and to just use the "T" and it was darn good advice. You can get everywhere in Boston on a subway or bus and even to the outlaying areas via commuter rail (like our Metra) and it's very organized and cheap! Streets are narrow and confusing making for bad driving. Boston itself is really very small and we found ourselves walking more than anything else.

Over the next two days in Boston we did the tourist stuff by checking out some of the historical sights on the "Freedom Trail". This is a marked path throughout the city that brings you to Boston's most famous historical sights. The weather was beautiful and sunny, it was obvious by the end of the day that we had not worn any sunblock.

Me on the USS Constitution - oldest, still in commission, ship in the world!

Bunker Hill Momument - 294 steps to the top window. I had to take a pass on that.

Andy took this picture from the top of the Bunker Hill Monument to share with me when he came back down.

Friday we had dinner with an old high school friend of mine Leslie Liu (nee Lin) and her husband Ling Yi in Chinatown. I haven't seen Leslie since 1991 and we had a really great time. The food ordered came off the menu that only could be read by Ling Yi so you know we were doing it "authentic" and all. We didn't know what everything was but we ate it and it was delicious!

Saturday morning I went by myself to the 16 mile mark on the course, the beginning of the famous Newton hills of which the last and biggest one is known as Heartbreak Hill. I took the T out to Woodland, jumped off and ran the course all the way to Boston college (about 4 miles). I'm glad I did this as I felt it was important to see for myself what these hills really looked like. My opinion, decent sized hills and something to be respected but not so bad if prepared. Took the T back to the hotel from Boston college. The area around Boston college was absolutely beautiful. To think I could have gone a million different places and I chose Iowa. If only I could do college all over again...

Saturday afternoon we joined up with the sub3 guys (Kevin, Tom and some of their friends) at the expo where we tried unsuccessfully to do something about my assigned corral, hoping that recent performances could get me a better starting spot. Nope, brick wall a.k.a. Boston Marathon Association. Move on. The expo was a mad house and was just rocking with excitement both for the upcoming race and for the Olympic trials. Ryan Hall was there giving autographs but we got in line too late. I got my official Boston marathon jacket, soaked in the energy.

Part II - Women's Olympic Trials Marathon

I was so excited for this! The Woman's Olympic trials was to start and end in the same area as the Boston marathon finish area and they were going to run multiple loops. It was going to be so easy to see the race unfold! Everyone expects Deena Kastor to win and qualify for her second Olympic team having brought home a bronze medal in the 2004 Athens Olympic games for the marathon. Deena's best time was light years ahead of the other competitors...but one never knows. My friend Dot McMahan was running in the Hanson's uniform and we were planning on showing our support for her the best we could. I briefly ran with Dot on Chicago's Universal Sole running team a number of years ago. Back then I knew she was trying to make a decision whether or not to quit work and give training professionally as a runner a shot. Well she took that jump by apply for and getting accepted into the elite Hanson's running team where she has been for a few years now. I was praying with all my heart that today she was going to shine!

Well we got there early at the starting line and watched the women come on out to warm up and get ready. I was shocked at the emotion I felt, it was totally unexpected but I started crying. All my memories and feelings from having run the 1996 Olympic trials and my buried disappointment that in the years since I had not managed to qualify again due to ....well life I guess. It felt like such a loss. Hindsight is 20/20 and if I had known I would have savored that time so much more. Andy noticed my emotion and quietly put his arm around me. The feeling passed and I came to realize that this was yet another example to live fully in the now and that's is exactly what I was going to do.

The women are lined up ready to go. On the front line far left is Magdalena Lewy Boulet, 5th in the 2004 Olympic trials (originally from Poland), next to her is I believe Mary Akor (orginally from Nigeria?), then Kate O'Neill (one of the favorites), then Elva Dryer (another favorite and two time Olympian), Blake Russell 4th at the 2004 Trials after leading most of the way (she has some unfinished business to attend to I believe!) , Deena Kastor (Bronze medalist 2004, American record holder, aka as Queen Deena), Zoila Gomez. Dot is on that front line but she is hidden by the officials on the far right side.

The race gets off and pretty quickly Magdalena takes the lead while the pack stays very conservatively behind. It seems like every Olympic trials has a person that goes out hard from the beginning just to get swallowed up and tossed aside but this seems a little different. Magdalena isn't running out of this world splits and the main group seems just plain slow. There will be a point in this race where Magdalena will be 2 minutes ahead of the main pack with only a 10K remaining.

The main pack finally breaks up as Deena goes after Magdalena with Blake Russell following and Desiree Davila(Hanson's runner) looking to challenge Blake for the 3rd spot.

We see Dot (front left) several times during the race and she looks strong and is slowly moving up the ranks.

Joan Samuelson running a steady pace in her characteristic running form. Joan will end up breaking the US 50 - 59 AG group record.

Deena Kastor

In the end Deena takes the lead past the 22 mile mark but Magdalena holds for 2nd and Blake Russell finishes 3rd. Dot finishes an outstanding 8th place (2:35:02) with a more than 8 minute PR, running the race I always knew she was capable of. I was so proud of her.

1. Deena Kastor 2:29:35
2. Magdalena Lewy-Boulet 2:30:19
3. Blake Russell 2:32:40
4. Zoila Gomez 2:33:53
5. Tera Moody 2:33:54 (former Illinois high school runner)

Best wishes to our marathon Olympians in Beijing!!

Part III - Boston Marathon

The day of my race dawned and it was cool, cloudy and gloomy looking. I feared rain but the weather reports said not to worry so what could I do. I left my room at 6am to meet the sub3 guys at the bus loading location on Tremont alongside of the Boston Common park. The pick up location was within walking distance of my hotel (nice little unexpected perk there). Andy would leave later to take the T to the top of Heartbreak Hill a little past 21 miles which would be hours from now. I'm really used to seeing Andy a lot during my races but the way this course is laid out it's about the best thing we could figure out, kind of a bummer for Andy as a spectator and for me for hubby support but I knew this ahead of time and I didn't feel bothered by it. It was all cool.

The sub3 guys were in good spirits as were the rest of the crew that came with them. I was happy to be in the company of friends and we got on our bus. It was really wild to be on a bus just packed with runners all buzzing with energy. We got on the expressway and it was a never ending line of yellow school buses...I found it really amusing. I felt relaxed and excited to be here.

Once we arrived in Hopkinton we entered the Athlete's village and found a spot for our group under the massive tents they had up. I called home to chat with my kids before they left for school, talked to my parents who were taking care of my kids, and I called Andy. I couldn't wait to get going! I thought they were going to call us out by range of numbers to go drop off our stuff and line up but you really couldn't understand what the announcer was saying and there just came a point that my group decided it was time to go and we got ready to leave. I took off my sweats and put on my ultra high-tech garbage bag for wind block and we left. There were buses after buses with race number ranges on them. You hand your bag of stuff to someone hanging out the window of your assigned bus and go line up. It felt like a pretty long walk from the Athlete's village to the actual starting line but it probably felt like it because there were so many people around.

Kevin and Tom bid me goodbye when we reached the 8th corral (my start) and they moved on since they had higher corral starts. I wormed my way as far up the corral as I could and then just waited like everyone else. Everyone seemed in great spirits and the sun came out and it started to warm up.

Elevation chart:

The Course:
"Run" the course in about 4.5 minutes with this really cool compressed video tour.

I reviewed my race plan which was this. Just go with the flow when we cross the start line don't worry about pace and don't expend energy weaving. As things open up slowly move up in pace. I hoped to be able to start running my real splits after 5-6 miles. The half way point should still be comfortable and as I approach 15-16 miles get ready for the Newton Hills. Take the hills with good strong form coming out at 21 miles with energy to continue strong to the finish. Nice plan, eh? Let's see how I did...

First 5 miles

Gun goes off and we start a slow walk/trot. I don't know it at the time but it takes about 4:13 to get to the starting line which isn't all that bad considering I was pretty far back from the starting line. I feel relaxed and definitely not in "real" running mode. I'm already passing a lot of people but only when a hole opens up to allow me to flow through. Leslie had given us a tour of the first 16 miles of the race on saturday so everything I see looks comfortably familiar and I'm humming along. The first mile or so is a pretty big drop in elevation with a small rise right before 5. Somewhere in the 2nd mile there is a quiet part and I listen for a moment and I hear the footsteps of 12K+ runners and a steady even breathing. I look ahead and there is an endless stream of people ahead of me heads all bobbing up and down...a little surreal but very cool. I cross the first timing mat at 5k and I visualize my friends tracking my progress and its weird but I feel this connection with the people I care about who care about me and it just fills me up with energy. (you would of thought I was on some happy drugs). I felt this on every timing mat I crossed. A little "here I am!" to my friends every 5k. I also know some of my friends were watching my splits carefully so it was a nice "see, I'm running far". Paul Clement was texting Andy as I crossed each timing mat as well, so it was also my link to Andy.

1 - 7:39.41; 2 - 7:22.60; 3 - 7:14.10; 4 - 7:05.81; 5 - 7:21.91
5k - 22:59

First few minutes of the race. I'm somewhere about 8 thousand people back. See me? I'm probably still standing still.

Leaders reach the first mile. I've probably just cross the start line 30 seconds before this.

Miles 6 - 10
These miles click along at a nice pace, nothing exciting and I resist the urge to go sub 7 because believe it or not my quads are telling me that the downhills have not gone by unnoticed. The space around me has opened up a bit. The streets are narrow and the spectators are pretty much right on us. The positive energy flow is something else. I'm still just passing and passing. I'm not really talking with anyone as I'm running the pace that people in the 3-4 corral were probably running so there is no one to really stick with. Did I say already that this course is just fantastically beautiful?

6 - 7:06; 7 - 7:10.15; 8 - 7:09.76; 9 - 7:04.09; 10 - 7:09.19
Total 10 mile time: 1:12:23
10K 45:22 (5k split of 22:23)
15K 1:07:28 (5k split of 22:06)

Miles 11 - 15

These miles start to roll a little more and we start entering some bigger towns. The crowds are getting bigger and its definitely starting to get warmer. I should have worn my hat. I'm staying well hydrated but I only started with 20oz of Gatorade on my belt and I'm going through it faster than I had thought I would . I start making more use of the gatorade stations. I'm still fighting the urge to go sub 7 because I'm feeling the quads a bit and I know the Newton hills are coming. Shortly before the half way point there is what people like to call the "Scream Tunnel" or "Scream Alley". The girls of Wellesley college have a long standing reputation of coming out on marathon day and literally cheering non stop from first runner to last. They stick their hands out to high five the runners and a lot of the guys stop to steal kisses from the girls. (Um, no I didn't do that). I could hear the Scream Tunnel before I could even see it. I asked the runner next to me if the noise was what I thought it was and he was all smiles as he replied "Yup! Enjoy, its just awesome." I was getting goose bumps from the excitement that seemed to rise up from everyone as we got closer. It was just this surreal love fest and I jumped right in high fiving a ton of spectators and was lucky to not have dropped a 6 minute mile here as the energy was unbelievable. I believe that somewhere before the 16 mile mark I pass Kevin and Tom. I raise my arm to them as I pass and they cheer me on. Slow climb to 15 mile mark then a big drop before the Newton Hills start.

11 - 7:13.69; 12 - 7:05.31; 13 - 7:04.04; 14 - 7:01.06; 15 - 7:12.97
Half - 1:34:30
20K - 1:29:45 (5k split of 22:17)
25K - 1:51:38 (5k split of 21:23)

( Staff Photo / Dana Giuliana)
( Staff Photo / Dana Giuliana)
( Staff Photo / Dana Giuliana)

Just before the half way point. The Famous "Scream Alley" - Wellesley College. You can hear them cheering before you even see them. I still don't understand how they manage to be so loud. It's truly awesome.

Click to hear the scream tunnel for yourself

Miles 16 - 20

Okay, this is usually the worst part of a marathon for me but I was having none of that today!! I was hungry for those hills and looking forward to seeing Andy at 21. I felt mentally fresh and eager to finally go. My quads were not the happiest due to the downhills but the uphills actually were a relief on my quads. I see Newton hill number one, check, hill number two, check, hill number three, check. I chant "form form form" in my head as I pass hundreds of people. I felt like I was on top of the world. I take mile splits but I don't look and I even miss taking the 17 mile mark - I was on a mission. I keep my breathing steady, my eyes forward, my form quick and efficient and I think of nothing but the next step that is before me. The next and biggest hill comes after the 20 mile mark. The splits in this section vary quite a bit as the sections in between the hills were either downhill or flat and I think I was just keeping my hill effort throughout, maybe should have taken the in-betweens a little bit more relaxed.

16 - 6:43.92 17/18 - 14:19.74; 19 - 6:56.92; 20 - 7:14.99
20 mile total time: 2:23:16
30K - 2:13:34 (5k split of 21:56)

Mile 21 - 26.2

Heartbreak Hill!! Ha! A doozy but didn't break my heart! I see Andy at 21 and he runs down the sidewalk with me for about 20 seconds cheering for me the whole time. God, I love this man! The crowds in this area are thick, the road has widened, and the cheering is all around us. Some people are struggling up Heartbreak and the crowd sends those people concentrated cheering. I'm thinking at this point that Boston spectators need to get medals - they just rock. Now that the toughest part of the race is done it is time to set my sights on the finish. The downhills come hard and furious here and I have to keep a check on form and ignore the rising tide of discontent from the quads. I remember the posters about town that say "My quads were screaming but the crowd was screaming louder." Yup I'm starting to live that about mile 24. I finally see the famous Citgo sign that is supposed to signal a mile to go and I can't do anything but just keep form the best I can. I was running with some women from 22 to 24 but I can't stay with them anymore so I focus inward again and I can hear the announcer from the finish line that of course is hidden around a turn (why do they do that??, ugh). I see that finish line, I'm hurting and I'm pushing to the end. Total time 3:08:02. Done!!

21 - 7:27.31; 22 - 6:54.86; 23 - 7:10.95; 24 - 7:00.16; 25 - 7:19.16; 26 - 7:20.28; 26.2 - 1:34
2nd Half split - 1:33:32 (negative split, yeah!!)
35K - 2:35:49 (5k split of 22:15)
40K - 2:57:59 (5k split of 22:10)

The Aftermath
Wow! What an incredible day. I have never in my life run a marathon with such a great crowd! There is all this hype surrounding "doing" Boston and I wasn't disappointed. As a course Boston is definitely a course requiring a sound strategy. The downhills slowly but steadily do their damage and of course the hills have to come at the back end. I'm so glad I listened to all the advice given to me on how to run this course, by listening to them I was able to really run this course well.

I only got to see Andy once during the race, he couldn't even come to the start with me, and he had a really tough time getting back to the finish line. The T was literally jammed with people and Andy had to get on a train going the opposite direction just to be assured of a spot when the train returned. I called and we decided I should just go back to the hotel. It was hours before he got back. It was a beautiful day so I just kind of shuffled back to the hotel with all my stuff. I wasn't able to find Tom or Kevin but I talked a while with their friend Steve.

Time to give thanks:
Thank you Sub3 guys - Kevin, Tom, Mike for inviting me to train with them for Boston. I'm glad to have become friends with you all and I hope to continue training and racing with the Sub3 guys!

Thank you Leslie Liu and Ling Yi for your hospitality and to Leslie for an unexpected drive of the first 16 miles of the course and taking me to the grocery store to get everything I needed for the morning of the race (I know you needed a nap badly). Your kids are great and it was a pleasure to see you again after so many years.

Thank you Dan Iverson, and Jon Sinclair for sound race strategy. I listened.

Thank you Paul Clement for tracking my race online and texting Andy. It helped Andy to know that I was okay and moving forward.

Thank you to all my friends who tracked my progress throughout the race. I touches my heart that I have friends who care and I take great pride in your accomplishments as well.

A big thanks to my parents for taking care of my children during our trip to Boston!! I know it was a lot of work and we really appreciate it!

Thanks to my children for "bragging" about your Mommy at school and for letting me hear your sweet voices the morning of the race. Love you both!!

Big hugs and kisses to Andy as usual for his support before, during, and after the race. Won't you run a marathon some day so that I can return the favor? No chance, eh? :-)

To Katie Owens for a monster PR at Boston, a 17:32 minute PR to be exact! The Boston Association allowed her in after just missing the qualification time at the Chicago Heat-a-thon (which was a PR as well). Katie definitely proved she deserved to be there. You rock Katie.

Okay I better end this monster of a post.

Runner Girl Janeth

Friday, May 2, 2008

RunnerGirl Kyla Shines in First Mile Race

Kingdom Youth Run - April 26th, 2008
3rd Overall
2nd Girl Overall
1st AG 10 and under

Let's hear it for RunnerGirl Kyla in her first full mile race! She had done a few of those short little dashes a race sometimes puts on but today she was doing the "big kids" race. A whole mile! She wasn't even nervous!

I ran with her so I got to see the whole race right up front and it was really interesting watching her race. She hurt for going out so fast, not being experienced in running a full mile distance, but her ability to push was a little scary. I told her before the race that I wanted her to have fun first and foremost but there was nothing that was going to squash her competitiveness that day! I seriously thought she was going to dry heave mid race. She eased back just a bit, powerwalked twice for a few seconds each time, but as we circled around the block that would lead us to the finish line and with about a quarter mile to go she put the pressure on, broke the three boys or so that were still around her, tried to chase down the lead girl and flew through the finish line. She looked amazing.

8:47.5. I barely could run that fast as a 12 year old! She was all smiles at the end.

Kyla - making it look easy!