Mountains and Marathons- Lake Sonoma 50 & the Boston Marathon
I’ve learned a lot in my decade racing long distance. For example: racing a 50 miler with tons of vert and then running a major marathon 8 days later is generally not advisable.
Which is kind of why I had to try it.
When I lined up for Boston this Monday, I had no idea how my body would handle a long run, just 8 days after the Lake Sonoma 50 had beat the crap out of me. Seriously… four days before the gun goes off in Hopkinton and I am still using my arms to get myself out of chairs. I was thinking that this was probably not one of my better plans. But I should back up a bit…
Lake Sonoma 50 is a beautiful course in Healdsburg, CA. It draws an amazingly fast field and is put on by the one and only Tropical John Medinger, which pretty much guarantees a good time. Add to that amazing volunteers who are literally the best in the world (Anne Trason, Rocket Jones and Meghan Arbogast all crewed that day) and you have an incredible experience. Which is a good thing, because the course is going to demand your full attention. It boasts 10k feet of elevation change and the hills are constant. There is no flat section to recover ANYWHERE. For an East Coast kid like me, this was trouble. By mile 11 I had warned my crew that I wasn’t feeling great and it wasn’t until nearly 30 that I felt any sort of a steady rhythm. My time goals went out the window and I spent an awful lot of time trying to convince my quads not shut down completely.
Patrick, Susan and Marnie were awesome: they kept me calm, sane and moving in the right direction. When I finally crossed the line in 11:02 I was completely spent and could hardly think about Boston the next week.
I love these guys!
Coach Ian was very practical about my recovery plan: run twice and see how it goes. The first run back was abysmal; I had to beg Michael to slow down and run with me. It was really hard not to cry, I could hardly move. How the hell was I going to line up for Boston?
Thankfully, the second run went a little better and I was able to get some of the kinks worked out. A quick trip to Saul the Amazing PT and it was all systems go for Monday. The big question was, what kind of day was it going to be?
The answer turned out to be amazingly simple: It was epic.
The entire city showed up.
I have always appreciated a really good finish line; it is one of my favorite things to participate in. Running in Boston on Monday was the equivalent of running a whole race’s worth of finish lines. Signs were everywhere, exhorting us to stay Boston Strong and to take back our finish line. An older gentlemen held up a huge cardboard placard that said simply ” we own that finish line”. He locked eyes with me and I tipped my visor and said thank you. The emotion on his face was nearly overpowering.
I spent much of the first 20k being very conservative. Then, just past the half I realized that my quads were going to make it the whole way! It was game on from there on out- I smiled and high fived every person I could find, sang along with the music pouring out into the street and cheered.
November Project rules!!
Now, my mom and aunts have crewed for me at each of my 10 Boston marathons. Each year they work really hard to make it memorable for me and over the years that has included cowbells, chalk, giant signs and stuffed animals. This year, as I approached our regular spot at the Woodland station, I couldn’t find them anywhere in the huge crowds. I was incredibly sad; how could I have missed them? I was composing a text in my head ” Dear Mom, I think I missed you…” when I saw Dave, the Minion.
Floating high on a flagpole at the foot of the Newton hills was a giant Minion, with three much smaller minions underneath. Please observe the awesomeness:
Energized by my family (and the icy cold can of Coke they had). I tore off up the hill and charged on to Boston. For the last 10k I thanked every police officer, volunteer and spectator that was within 10 feet of me. I smiled, laughed and hugged all kinds of new friends. My pal watched all of this go down from the window of the trolley (it was so crowded he couldn’t get off to get to me) and said it looked like I was “smiling my way through the opening credits of Saving Private Ryan” with all the late race travails around me.
One mile to go and I could hardly believe it was almost over. As we made the ascent up to Hereford street, I was stunned by the number of people who had lined the OPPOSITE side to cheer. People were hanging out of windows, standing on lightposts and balconies. The turn onto Boylston was incredible… more people than I have ever seen lined both sides and every single one was screaming for joy. When I approached the site of devastation from last year, I slowed and turned for a big thumbs up and the whole crowd on the sidewalk cheered.
In the last few meters, I rubbed the initials written on my wrist, my father’s and my grandparents, and thanked them for helping to make the day perfect. I crossed in 3:53, not my fastest time by far, by certainly the most memorable. As I collected my blanket and medal I noticed that there were even spectators by the chutes. A petite Spanish woman was hopping up and down yelling ” you did so good! we are so proud of you!” A tough looking southie type character yelled out ” Hey red, nice work out there today. Thanks for running; Boston loves you”. With tears in my eyes I shook his hand and said thank you.
Right back at you, Boston. See you next Patriots Day.