Boston Marathon 2016 Race Review

This year marked my fourth consecutive year running the Boston Marathon.  I thought I had the training down by now and after an incredible finish in 2015, my confidence was high and I knew I could BQ (Boston Qualify) again this year.  Training began the end of December.  My training program is found in the “Run Less Run Faster” book and I followed the training plan to a T.  You can read about my 16-week training program in my blog.  It is the same training program I have used for the past three years now and it works for me.  I put in the work each week and practiced my downhill running on all of my long runs.  The only thing I didn’t anticipate was the warm weather.  Here is the thing with Boston, you never know what race day will bring as far as the weather goes.  In 2015, the weather had been sunny and warm in the 60s every day leading up to and following Marathon Monday, but it changed dramatically and was cold, windy and rainy on race day.  This year was no exception, but we experienced quite the opposite.  It was cloudy, cold and windy everyday leading up to Marathon Monday, but then it changed into summer temps almost over night.


You would think this Southern California gal would have no problem running in full sun and heat, but I hadn’t trained in those conditions.  I prefer to get up extra early and get my long runs done well before the heat of the day sets in.  Also, my particular long run route has a lot of shady areas, so I am not used to running in full sun for an extended amount of time.  The weather this year really did me in.  I should have learned from Boston 2014 when it was so hot that I needed to slow down my pace in the beginning and conserve energy, but I was too confident in my training that I wanted to start out at the pace I had trained for. 


I arrived in Athletes’ Village around 9:00 AM.  It was already reaching temps in the 70s as I stood in line for the port-o-potty.  My start time was at 10:50AM and I needed to exit Athletes’ Village by 10:00AM to walk to the starting line. In previous years, I arrived with more time to sit and relax a bit before I began my race.  Also, I was wearing my throw away clothes over my race outfit to help me stay warm, but I ended up discarding them the minute I entered the village.  Needless to say, all this didn’t help my body prepare for the heat of this race.  I did, however, drink a full bottle of water with Nuun Energy and Plus for Nuun on the bus so I was well hydrated.  I also started drinking lots of water and and Nuun the previous three days leading up to race day.  So I thought I was well hydrated.


Wave 3 began and I started out running at the 7:50 pace per mile I had trained for.  First mistake, I should have slowed my pace in the beginning to allow for the hotter temperatures.  I drank my Nuun Energy that I carried in my handheld Nathan water bottle and made sure I was sipping at every mile marker.  In fact, I drank 3 full bottles during the race and stopped several times to grab a pitcher and pour the water into my bottle hoping my pace could stay on target.  By mile 10, I just couldn’t keep the pace anymore and the heat was getting to me.  I know when I wiped my brow and realized it was covered in salt that this was probably not going to end well. 


Every hill or even slight incline, felt impossible to conquer.  I remember thinking to myself how easy the race seemed last year in 2015 when the weather was so cold and rainy, I never even noticed the inclines.  It just goes to show you how much harder it is to run in the heat. 


It felt like it took forever to reach the half way mark, Wellesley College.  I was averaging around an 8:30 pace and I wasn’t very happy.  I pulled my iPhone out and decided to take a video running past the college girls scream tunnel.  Usually I don’t take videos or photos, but I decided it might be fun to share the experience with my family.  That’s the thing with Boston, the spectators really make it fun and make you forget the pain you are in.  They push you to keep going and just when you want to quit and walk, someone will yell out your name and you gain a little speed.


By mile 16, the Newton hills had begun and I was feeling every one of them.  I was struggling and having a hard time and needed some encouragement, but in this one particular area there weren’t many spectators.  This is the exact location I was in a year ago when I heard my name being called and when I first “met” Maria, one of my followers on Facebook that had been following my journey to Boston since 2013!  Well, I managed to finally meet Maria this year at the Expo and give her a hug.  To my surprise, she was out there again this year in the exact location.  I was so happy to see her and she started running to keep up with me, I yelled out in desperation, “Pray for me girl!” It was so nice to reach out to a fellow sister-in-Christ and ask for help.  Maria ran along the edge of the course with me for a bit.  Thinking back to that mile, she was the only one that actually knew how I was doing and how I was feeling.  My friends and family were tracking me and getting the runner alerts but they had no idea what was going on in my head and in my body.


Thanks to Maria, I had the encouragement I needed to keep going.  I knew the Nuun crew was going to be out cheering somewhere near mile 17 and I was determined to find them.  Once I did, I received cheers and high-fives and a surge of energy came upon me to keep going knowing I still had Heartbreak Hill ahead of me.


Surprisingly, the last part of the race went by rather quickly.  I managed to make it up and over Heartbreak Hill and that’s when I heard my name being called again, so I turned to look and saw my sweet friend and her daughter cheering me on!  I met Melissa a few years ago at the expo and we have met up each year since. She even got some cute photos of me blowing her kisses as I ran by.  By mile 23, my Garmin lost satellite and I had no idea where my pace was.  Trying to do math in my head to figure out if I was still on pace to BQ was comical.  I still had the elapse time on my Garmin so I could try to guess my pace was at least at a 10 minute per mile pace.  Trying to estimate my finish time, I realized I could still BQ if I didn’t slow down.  There was a turning point when I wanted to throw it all away, all 16 weeks of hard training and just walk but I didn’t want to train again and have to run another full marathon so I sucked it up, prayed HARD and kept going.


The spectators grow by the hundreds during those final 3 miles as we head into Boston.  I was searching for the Citgo sign, knowing it marked the final mile of the race.  Seeing it in the distance, praying it was closer, I kept going to the finish.  My husband was trying to meet me near the final left turn onto Boylston Street.  I kept looking for him in the crowd of spectators as I made my way towards the finish line.  Unfortunately, we missed each other.  This was my 15th full marathon and the first time I didn’t see my husband.  By this point, I was just relieved to be on my final .2 of the race and trying to take it all in as I crossed the finish line.  As with tradition since 2014, I always grab the first volunteer and give them a hug and thank them, then I take a quick photo before I head over to get my medal.  My legs were heavy and I was thirsty.  I grabbed a bottle of water and drank half of it and poured the other half into my handheld water bottle.  I made my way over to get my medal when my phone rang; it was my best friend Heather at home congratulating me.  Not feeling good, I quickly went from telling her how hard the race was to thanking her for the call to good-bye. 


After receiving my medal, my body began to shut down; I fell into the arms of a volunteer and asked for medical attention.  By the time I was wheeled into the medical tent, my body had completely shut down and I couldn’t move.  My hands, feet and bottom lip went numb.  I had to be lifted out of the wheelchair and onto the cot.  Then the muscle cramps in my calves began.  They came in waves and it reminded me of child labor!  It was so incredibly painful and my crying out in pain and begging for an IV embarrassed me.  You see, this wasn’t the first time I experienced severe dehydration, it happened to me after the finish of the Boston Marathon 2014.  The only thing that helped me feel better was an IV.  I had physical therapists working on my hands and feet trying to ease the cramps and uncurl my hand that were now bent and stiff.   Broth was given to me through a straw since I was laying down flat on the cot.  It was hard to drink, but I tried to hydrate as much as possible, in between the shaking and severe muscle cramping.  Finally, I was given an IV and after the initial shaking stopped, I was finally feeling better.  I was in the medical tent for a total of 1.5 hours.  My poor husband was waiting out in the crowd for me, but don’t worry, I was able to call him and inform him of my condition.  When I was able to sit up and walk again, I was escorted out of the medical tent.  Never have I ever been in that much pain post marathon before.  It was almost impossible to walk, my quads were stiff and didn’t want to function on stairs, and my calves were so sore from all the cramping I was limping with every step. 


With all that, I am proud to say that I stayed strong to the end and finished with a BQ of 3:49:45.  Yes, I will be returning to Boston in 2017 and Yes, I did suffer at the finish but it was all worth it!  My heart will always be in Boston and I have been forever changed by the bombes of 2013.  The people of Boston are so special and I want to return every year for as long as the Lord allows.