After the half way point at Boston it starts to hit you that it won't be long before you are going to be heading up those famous hills. I felt good other than the searing pain in my quads. My hydration was going well, grabbing a cup of water at each stop and doing my gels every 5 miles starting from mile 7. The sun was out and as usual when it's over 50 I get warm. The awesome spectators and Boston were ready to help out offering ice occasionally. The few times I saw the ice I grabbed it and held it in my hands and then threw it down my shirt to help lower my core temp. Between that and the headwind I seemed to be handling it well (tell that to my sunburn I had later).
About mile 14 you hit a steep downhill, AKA time to thrash those already thrashed quads. Sucked up the grimace and just tried to enjoy the fact that my pace would be faster the next mile. But whew it didn't feel good! I just kept thinking to myself this is a sick sick sick sort of fun. It is amazing how you can put these painful moments out of your mind during training and you can never really simulate the pain a marathon delivers, it is never quite the same, but it is always worse than you thought it would be.
It was about this point that my mantra became "Hero's run 3:16 not 3:25" One of the Adidas signs was "Be a hero for a day." So I guess it was just my little twist on it. As I crested the first hill and managed to stay under 8 minutes I thought there was still a chance for sub 3:20. About mile 16 I hear a "Looking Strong Elizabeth" and turn to see my team mate Dawn. I was just so happy to see a familiar face and started to ask how her race was going before she replied with a stern retort to stop talking and focus, so I moved ahead with a bit of new energy.
Mile 17 I opted for one of the power bar gels instead of my E-Gel so I could get a caffeine boost. My plan through the hills was to keep even effort. No need to waste myself on the hills and come walking into the finish. There's a reason it is called heartbreak (This is teh hill Johnny Kelley passed the first runner only to be run down in the final miles because the other runner had saved more through the hills) I had hopes that I could do that and still stay under 8 minute miles.
I realized at some point that I was passing the Johnny Kelley statue. Lots of memories here and it was nice to know that shortly I would be over all the hills. I got a little boost passing my original TNT coach CK up heartbreak hill, felt bad that he wasn't having a great day and tried to get him to pull uphill with me but had to pull away. Even though I was trying to get to the top without losing too much steam it was amazing how many people were suffering. Other than my quads I felt really strong and was just disappointed my pace wasn't a little quicker. I forgot the course here a bit and thought that Heartbreak was over before it actually was and had two miles over 8 minutes. I was bummed but I knew that just meant I had to work that much harder in the final miles.
Once you get past mile 22 the course changes, not only are you done with the major hills but you start to enter the city. Spectator crowds get bigger and the streets seem to narrow. From about 10 to go I just kept trying to convince myself that this was no different than any other Sunday run. Meanwhile my quads are pretty much telling me to take a hike :) I basically was just trying to hold on to any semblance of my former pace at this point. Managed to keep the miles at 8 or under but I just couldn't get them back down to 7:30. In the last few miles you start to see more and more people faltering. You just have to keep your fingers crossed that the pace your pushing isn't going to make you one of those people.
Mile 22 I felt the blister that had been forming on my left foot pop. Holy cow that hurt. At that point you just have to laugh it off, I mean what are you going to do? It's like as if the searing quad pain wasn't enough? I've never actually had a blister pop quite like that so it was a new experience for me.
After mile 22 the crowds on the course just got out of control. I started to get cut off more often and a clear path would get clogged more often than not by someone weaving back and forth. Around mile 24 I walked my only two steps of the whole marathon when I got cut off for a third time by the same runner at the same aid station and had to stumble around the volunteers to get out of the back up. I can understand one or two cups but did this guy really need a third? And did he really need to cut in and out of the course three times? Uggh. At least he didn't elbow me in the process.
The last few miles I really focused in on my relationships. Everyone who had helped me get to where I was at this point. I have a wonderful running club, wonderful running friends, wonderful friends in real and Internet life, and a wonderful family, but most of all I have a wonderful husband. I had forgotten to take off my rings at the hotel before the race and had decided to put them on my watch band. My hands tend to shrink and swell and I always get nervous that I will lose the rings during an enthusiastic high five on the course, hence putting them on the watch band. In the last few miles I just kept looking at my rings and thinking "Come on baby, clear a path for me, keep me strong" over and over again.
About mile 25 I noticed the crowds all of a sudden got even louder and realized it was because Rick and Dick Hoyt were just ahead of me. This was the same spot my friend Brian got to run with them two years ago and luckily my sister had been there to get the perfect photo of it. This made me smile thinking of Brian and how inspired we all are by the Hoyts. I ran next to them for a moment and congratulated them before using that energy to push on. I knew that the new slight down and uphill were coming up and I braced myself for the literal impact it would have on my quads. I saw several grown men here hobbling down or up the hill and vowed not to be one of them as I hammered down and up the hill getting that much closer to Hereford and then the final turn onto Boylston. On Hereford I took the opportunity to ham it up a little bit urging the crowd to cheer just a little bit louder. This would be the last of the inclines and then turning onto Boylston it was a straight shot to the finish. I knew mile 26 was around Walgreens and once again failed to see any sign but looked down to see a 7:45 mile split which I was happy with. I pushed as hard as I could hoping to eek out any seconds, knowing I had missed my goal but that I was going to PR by nearly 5 minutes.
Crossed the line in 3:22:50. A 4 and a half minute PR. I wasn't entirely happy with it at the finish line. I was disappointed my quads gave out on me so early, but I was excited to note that my calves didn't feel bad, as normally one or both are also a mess. As I wandered through the post finish area I noted an extremely sore lower back but no signs of dehydration or exhaustion. It appeared that at least my nutrition had gone well. I still had plenty of energy, it just hurt to move :) But I moved along congratulating and commiserating with those around me. Happy to have the majority of the pain done with and looking forward to seeing how all of my friends had done and cracking open a few drinks. It took me about 30 minutes but eventually I got through the crowds, managed to take off my own chip and grab an ice coffee and a smoothie at the grocery store. Also got stopped in the mall by one of those vendors who proceeded to ask me what I do for my nails and skin. I couldn't help but laugh and made some retort about how could he possibly think my skin didn't look great after running the Boston marathon. It's like didn't he notice that I was sweaty, covered in salt, hobbling, wearing a space blanket, and oh wearing a big shiny medal around my neck? I just wanted to get back to my hotel!
Finally made it back and I hit the Internet to check on all my friends. Noted a nice bit of blood on my sock and took a post race finish photo to show my wrecked state. Dawn got back shortly after and I hit the showers. Then it was off to the parties! Which I will save for part 5.