|Goal||If Good Weather||If Bad Weather||Completed?|
|A||3:15||PR (3:17)||LOL nah|
|B||3:18 (few second PR)||3:20||Nope|
5k: 22:31 25k: 1:57:51
10k: 45:53 30k: 2:23:47
15k: 1:10:34 35k: N/A
20k: 1:34:09 40k: 3:22:19
Half: 1:39:16 Finish: 3:35:41
The start of training was slow. On December 3rd, 2017 I raced the California International Marathon (CIM) and had a ten-minute PR for a 3:18. I was thrilled, but also feeling pretty wiped. I followed a Jack Daniel’s Training Plan for CIM and it was pretty intense. It was more weekly mileage than I had ran in a long time, and definitely more intensity. In retrospect, it was a pretty big jump in training, maybe too big. A month before CIM I was struggling with some minor IT Band issues. Nothing a few off days couldn’t fix, but enough to prevent me from completing a 20 miler before race day, which gave me some anxiety. Anyways, all of the hard work and tempo effort long runs paid off and lead to a huge PR. However, when I crossed the finish line, I couldn’t help but think, “I need a BREAK.” So the rest of the December was either taken completely off training through the holidays or incredibly low intensity. Once we got back into town after Christmas, I eased into mileage again very gently, not doing any speed work or even anything specific at all. I just ran. While I did start adding in some biking and swimming again, I don’t think I started to feel run motivated until late February. I got back with my amazing triathlon coach, Terry Casey, and started to add some more structure to my training. Turns out my “lazy weeks” really weren’t as lazy as I thought they were, because I was still averaging about 45 miles a week. I actually think the month of low intensity and steady mileage was really good for me both mentally and physically. Once I started with Terry again, we added some speed work back in and I was surprised to see that I was actually still in great running shape. Maybe even better shape than before CIM. I was strong and healthy, still averaging between 40-50 miles a week with the added speed work, and approximately 2 swims and 2 rides a week. I also was lifting every Monday morning with Kathleen Stabler at TrueNorth. I was feeling strong and consistent, and even in PR shape come the week leading up to Boston.
We knew the weather was going to bad. Even if I didn’t want to know the details, I did, because Ryan was checking the weather constantly. It was for the better though, or else I would have been even more underprepared for really dreadful conditions. On Sunday (the day before the race) the wind started to pick up, the temperature dropped, and the rain began to sprinkle from dark clouds over the city. After considering just doing a pre-race shake out on the treadmill, we decided to brave the elements. “Hey, this isn’t so bad! We can do this!” I said to Ryan between strides, stoked to see how low my heartrate was now that we were at sea level. We jogged back to our hotel, talking ourselves into believing the conditions really weren’t that bad. “If it just stays like this, it’ll be totally fine.” The weather did not just stay like it was that Sunday.
Sunday night was pretty restless, but thanks to a later race start, I still felt well rested by the time the alarm went off. I planned on heading to Athlete’s Village with Ryan that morning, since it was his first Boston Marathon and I wanted to see him off before what was bound to be a challenging day. His start time was at 10:00a and mine was scheduled for 10:25, since he was in wave one and I was in wave two. I was a little nervous about the extra time in the cold, but I was promised Ryan’s drop layers once he left for the start line and companionship (aka body heat) on the bus and in Athlete’s Village. We left the Hotel and it was already raining out. We walked the mile to bus pick-up in pretty vicious wind, and I tried to ignore the fact that I was already pretty cold and my feet were already wet. Once we got to the bus loading area, we realized that bag drop was on the other side of the park. We headed through the grassy park, which had already turned to mud. The shower caps over my shoes were not sufficing, and my feet were freezing. Regretting not bringing dry socks (or shoes, for that matter) I focused on avoiding the worst of the mud as we walked to bag drop. Long story short, I lost Ryan in a sea of other skinny runner dudes all wearing ponchos. I internally freaked out a little bit. I was upset that I lost Ryan, felt so bad that I couldn’t see him off to the start line, and was really worrying about the extra time in the cold. I couldn’t stop thinking about the fact that I could still be in bed and getting up early was unfortunately a waste. After searching for him briefly, I decided it was a lost cause in such a huge crowd and boarded a bus. Trying to mentally reset, I took off my shoes to dry my feet, ring out my soaking socks, and set my focus back on the race.
Athlete’s Village was muddy, wet, snowy, and freezing. I got under a tent and buried myself as deep into my poncho as I could. My feet hurt from being so cold. “Well, numbness could be a good thing, right?” I tried to rationalize with myself, not ready to give up on my goal, as I sat and shivered for the next hour and a half.
Ah, race time. It’s worth noting that I have so much unfished business at the Boston Marathon. The one time I previously ran it (or walked, really) was in 2015, coincidentally also a rainy year. I am sorry to everyone else that I am apparently a Boston Marathon curse. 2015 was my first time qualifying for Boston, and though I had a pretty serious piriformis injury heading into the race, I was determined to at least try. I mean, it’s the Boston freaking Marathon. I ended up limp walking the race that year in 5 and a half hours. It was really miserable and I was determined to have a better experience this time around. If nothing else, I was at the start line healthy, and that in itself was a victory.
I had already spent hours shivering and was so excited to finally start running, so I could hopefully warm up. As I began running, I was surprised by how quickly I started to come back to life. Hey, this isn’t so bad! I was thinking about a PR and how the possibility still existed. Running in the rain has always felt so liberating to me, and it was bringing me back to the many miles spent training back home in Ohio. Turns out it’s pretty hard to set pace when your body is already mostly numb. I hopped back and fourth between too fast and too slow, just trying to settle in and find a group to run with. I came through the 5k at a 7:15 pace and was pleased. The start of the race is downhill, so now was the time to get in some faster miles. My heartrate was low and the effort was easy. I high-fived spectators, danced and sang when passing crowds playing music, and was feeling incredibly rejuvenated. My feet were still undeniably wet and cold, but it was bearable.
The next several miles became mostly about navigating through the crowd on the course. While I wanted to keep my head down to avoid the rain and the wind, I had to keep my head up searching for openings so I could maintain my goal pace. My shoe came untied at mile 4, so I jumped off the side of the course to tie it. Turns out that’s a really challenging task with numb fingers and soaking wet gloves. The next several miles were spent weaving through runners and trying to ignore the fact that there was definitely going to have to be a bathroom break in my future. I weighed my options. Stopping at mile 9 when my legs were still fresh enough that I could resume running at goal pace seemed like a better option than having to stop at mile 20 and attempt to pick up momentum again during such a challenging part of the race. I hopped in a portapotty, did my business, and came running out of it like a bat out of hell, determined to make up time for my stop. I went back to weaving through the crowd and trying to find a group of tall people to hang behind. Every time I thought I found a good group I would settle in behind them and realize it wasn’t quite the pace I wanted. Back to weaving.
It was around the half mark that things took a turn for the worse. I heard the Wellesley girls ahead and got excited. The loud cheering and energy was definitely contagious. I searched for a girl to kiss (it’s tradition, don’t judge me) but didn’t see any with a sign that said “I kiss girls.” That was my cue in 2015. I didn’t want to put anyone in an uncomfortable position. You know, consent and all. It is worth noting that I saw a Wellesley girl holding a sign that said “I’m wet, kiss me” and that made me laugh really hard. So, I continued through Wellesley, slowing down a bit to high five the girls and just enjoy the moment. I felt like that was just what I needed, and then I would be good to go. Mile 14 was still on pace but felt harder than it should have. I looked at my watch to check in on my heartrate (Only 161. To put it in perspective, I averaged 168 at CIM and thought 170 was feasible for Boston) and saw it was still low so didn’t fully understand the fatigue I was feeling. I went through my mental check list to see where I was at and try to get a grasp on what was going on. “Okay, feet are wet and painfully cold… it’s fine. IT bands strangely already throbbing, but that’s fine, just pain management…. Hands are numb, okay, don’t need those to run anyways…. Huh, my teeth are chattering.” I don’t think I fully realized how cold I was until that moment. How long had I been shivering for anyways? We left the hotel at 7am, at this point it was roughly 12:30p. Okay, Rachael, you are fine. It’s just cold. You can handle that. Despite all of my positive self-talk, mile 16 is then where my pace dropped off pretty bad. I didn’t understand what was happening. My heartrate was low, I had done plenty of long runs so I should not be hurting this early in, why aren’t my legs listening to me? MOVE! I think my body just froze up on me. That’s the only thing I really have to say about the last ten miles. It was a really strange sensation to have my head in it, the fitness there, my heartrate low, but my legs just telling me no.
That’s when I started peeing. Yup, while I was running. I wasn’t trying to pee. I think it was my body just giving me an additional “fuck you.” It was raining and I was so drenched anyways that I guess it didn’t really matter. But what freaked me out was that this continued to happen several more times during the last ten miles. What the hell?! The most disgusting part of it is that when it happened my first thought was, “ahhhh, warmth.” Yeah, I’m a disgusting human being, this isn’t news to me. Feeling so out of control of my body made me very nervous. This was my seventh marathon and that has never happened to me before.
The last 10k was ugly. As we got closer and closer to Boston, the rain turned into a downpour, the occasional 20 mile-per-hour gusts turned into a steady 30 mile-per-hour headwind, and it was cold. So cold. I basically jogged it in because my body would not allow any more than that. Every med station along the course was so, so temping, but I couldn’t do it. I walked this race in 2015 and still finished. I have family, friends, and teammates back home tracking me, I would be so ashamed if I DNF’d. I have never DNF’d a marathon and today will not be that day. So, I dragged my defeated ass to the finish line, even though my legs did not want to take me there. So many spectators yelled “you got this, Trail Dog!” (I was wearing my Trail Dog hat) and it gave me a rush every single time, but regardless, my legs would not listen. I crossed the finish line in 3:35:41 and got my hypothermic ass dragged to a med tent.
I’m not the type of chick that cries at the finish line. In pretty much every aspect of my life I am so determined to not be a cliché. That Monday, I sobbed at the finish line as a volunteer dragged me towards a med tent. The sweet older gentleman clearly had no idea what the hell to say to me. “What is your name? You’re done now, you should be so proud.” I cried, my teeth chattering, “R-R-R-Rach-ael. I’m c-c-cold.” I don’t think he could really tell what I was saying between my sobs, shivering, and the finish line cheering. He passed me off to a young female volunteer, “Here, you should talk to her. She’s emotional and needs some help.” Oh, God. Poor, sweet man. I’m so sorry for my estrogen. I have never been inside a med tent before, and it was incredibly impressive to see all of the volunteers, beds, and level of preparation that went into it. I was taken to a bed, stripped, warmed up, had my vitals checked. Volunteer: Your blood pressure is 90 over 60. Me: Is that bad? and fed warm broth through a straw. As the volunteers asked about an emergency contact, I begged them not to call my mom (Sorry, mom) and to call Ryan instead. I didn’t want to panic my family while they were in Ohio and couldn’t do anything about it anyways. Ryan could grab me warm clothes and we could get back to the Hotel together. And that’s exactly what Ryan did. God bless him. I waited for my dry clothes to come in the med tent, insisting I give up my bed to someone who needed it more (I saw a lot of runners in really bad shape, and there was a line to get in) and the very attentive volunteers continued to check on me the whole time. Once Ryan passed on my clothes to a volunteer who went out in the rain to hunt him down, she helped me dress and walked me out to Ryan, making sure I had a Gatorade, a race medal, and some sort of snack.
Getting back to our Hotel turned out to be a nightmare. We figured walking the mile and a half would be quicker with the closed roads and traffic, but maybe made it a quarter of a mile when we realized we just didn’t have it in us to walk back in the weather that still just continued to escalate. After several attempts, we finally got an Uber. Once we got back to the Hotel, we turned up the heat to 78 degrees, ordered two pizzas, found the remaining dry clothing items in our suitcases, and remained in bed the rest of the night, feeling emotionally and physically defeated, but just laughing our asses off at the dreadfulness of it all. Well… It was faster than my first Boston.
At the end of the day, while it really was a rough day, and I was pretty miserable for the majority of the race, I don’t regret the experience. Being part of the Boston Marathon on the five-year anniversary of the bombing was a touching experience that reminded me of the grit, determination, and spirit that Marathoner’s have. While I was so stoked to hear about Desi winning (the first American woman to win since 1985) I was even more moved to hear about her selflessness in achieving that victory, waiting for fellow American Shalane Flanagan as she ran into a portopotty and pulling her back up to the front of the pack. A lot of people ask me why I do this, and Desi answered that question for me in her comradery. The spirit of the marathon, of racing, is something that cannot be matched. Going out there on a shitty day and giving it everything you have makes us better. Better runners, better people, who can say for sure, but I’d like to think so.