Monday, April 25, 2011

I came, I saw, I conquered. Or Boston 2011.

Hoo-ah!  This is going to be long one because people - what a ride!  I've been home 3 days, jet lag has hit us like a sledge hammer (nobody's asleep until midnight and getting everyone up in the morning is impossible, even when there are chocolate eggs hidden in the garden..) Laundry, various domestic problems (no water, no hot water, no internet - we've fixed everything but the first thing) - it's so easy to slip back into it all.

But I'm resisting that - because I'm going to bring you - blow by blow - my Boston marathon experience. Yup - sit back and pop a cold one, because this is, finally, it.

As you know, we all flew to Orlando for 10 days before Boston.  This worked out great - apart from the fact that the kids enjoyed it enormously, I got some hot-weather training in, and we were all relaxing together it also gave me an opportunity for the first blogger meet-up of this trip - I got to meet someone who I have been wanting to meet for years - Shirley-Perly!
Sorry for the poor quality - we should have made more of an effort to get our cameras right!
Shirley and I managed to overlap in Orlando for about 36 hours so I can't tell you how grateful I was that she made the effort to drive across town to come and pick me up from my hotel, take me to the Track Shack where she occasionally helps out, help me pick my tri-gear (yes!) and take me back again.  We talked the whole way - like the old friends we are.  Shirley has always been inspiring to me - not only because she has achieved so much (50 states marathoner?  Multiple IronMan?) but even more because her attitude has always been one of encouragement, support and a deep desire to get everyone on board with the fun and enjoyment of this exercise and endurance lifestyle. She did a great job on selling living in Kona to me - the least I can do is go and check it out sometime soon...

On Friday April 15th we headed north to Boston - after last year, our arrival in Boston was completely uneventful.  But there was no mistaking just how excited Boston was about its marathon - this is our hotel, the incomparable Lenox Hotel.    Not only was the place festooned with marathon posters, the staff were also incredible - helpful, kind, attentive.  Situated about 50 yards from the finish line, we could not have picked a better place. 

So straight off, we all headed down the road (5 minutes) to the expo.  Bad photo but you get the idea.  Big moment.  Even bigger moment when I realised 5 minutes later I had lost my race number.  Hrrmmm.  Had put it down while picking up the 5K race bibs, and the people there very kindly hung onto the numbers for me, knowing full well I'd come speeding, pale and sweaty, into there very shortly.  I then sent off Adam and Felix - the 8 year old - and the 10 year old and I had a wonderful time browsing the expo, buying an alarming amount of booty before heading back to the hotel. 
The kids and I on this momentous moment.
some support from Sophia
View of the finish from a bus in front of our hotel.
The days before the marathon went by in a blur - Saturday morning the lovely Greg came miles in to meet us, walk with us to REI to buy some coats and fleeces (it was COLD!) and cope with the bickering and taunting and general mayhem that is traveling with kids. 
Then in the afternoon I went off to meet lovely Emily, who was not running but staying with her sister near Heartbreak Hill and patiently walked with me up and down the worst bits...  And took this photo!
see what I mean about Bostonians taking the city to heart?
We then took the T back into town to the Marriott to meet with various bloggers there, including Aron and many many others.
Like, even, including, her of the abz - EMZ! I also - yes! - met her PITA and Peanut who are both absolutely lovely and SO proud of this wonderful woman.
The angle does not show how tall and slim this lady is.  Or gorgeous.  And she's hiding her buckle. 
Sunday was the 5K -we woke up at 7:55 (race started at 8am) but once again, our hotel location meant we made it before the gun went off!  We ran it at a leisurely pace - the 8 year old has a LOT to talk about when he's running - but the crowd and other runner support was wonderful and it set us up for a great brunch afterwards at Stephanie's, where we could watch the runners in the local race and Invitational Mile go by.  Before I knew it, it was time to hand over both children to my husband and check into my private hotel room, to chill out before the race.  The hotel supplied both below and I settled in for a bath, some TV watching, a long and lovely phonecall with Lizzie Lee in Seattle.  Pasta meal in the hotel and then bed.  And, thankfully, I slept, all night, until my wake-up call at 5am.

With all my gear laid out the night before, it didn't take me long to get dressed and down to the hotel lobby where they'd laid out a free runner's breakfast (did I mention how GOOD this hotel is?) which I packed up to take with me to eat on the bus.  And somehow did NOT have with me when I walked out of the hotel door.  Oh well. The buses were about a 5 minute walk away, but the line!  The line!  By the time I had got myself another bagel the lines were enormous.  I started queueing and immediately started talking to the lovely girl below - Allison.  She was on her own as well and so we hung around together while we were moved from line to line.  I was amazed we were on a bus by 7:30 as the lines were so horrendously long.  The bus ride was long and uneventful while Allison and I overshared our lives and running stories.  By the time we reached the athlete's village (does that sound professional or what, by the way?  A very glammed up term for a field with portapotties..) we were firm friends.  And so I managed to convince her to join me to try to find Steve Runner and Chris Russell - the former was located very quickly after some intervention from the announcer on the soundstage, the latter was, unfortunately, in a portapotty line. 
Allison and I on the bus to Hopkinton

Steve Runner!  I would not have KNOWN about Boston had it not been for him. 

In all seriousness, meeting Steve really was a big deal to me - especially at the starting line of the Boston marathon.  He, more than anyone else, imbued me with the mystique of the Boston marathon.  It was incredible to meet him and I was so thrilled that he had decided, on the 16th of April, to run Boston after all..

Finally - the race.  The race.  What can I say?  I did what I said I would do.  I went balls to the wall.  Pretty early on I realised that my Garmin was measuring the miles slightly short and so I went by my pace wrist band and aimed for 8:15 min/miles on my Garmin to get to my 8:20 min/miles on the course.  The beginning of the course is downhill and rolling - and I pegged it.  I reached the halfway point at 1:49, exactly where I needed to be for a 3:40 marathon.  But - here is the but.  I could tell the pace was costing me.  Even on this, the first (and easier) half of the race, the pace was hard.  By mile 14, the cramps in my legs started.  I've never cramped this early and I could feel that I would soon have to slow down, or stop.  While I'd used all sorts of mental strategies to get through the first 14 miles, it now was very clear to me that my choices were to either slow down, or risk a DNF.  And I was not risking a DNF.  I suddenly had this insight that I was not going to ruin this amazing experience of running this amazing race by walking half of it, or sitting in a medical tent, or crying for the last 10 miles.  I decided to slow down, and soak up the love.  Which I did.  At mile 18.8 I got some very personal love from Emily who was waiting for me and who cried along with me (I was hurting here) and ran up Heartbreak with me for a while.  And then, at mile 21, a banner told me "the Heartbreak is behind you" and I relaxed and enjoyed.  More than any race before, I loved this race.  The people were incredible, I felt like a rock star with everyone calling out my name, I was running as fast as I could given where I was and how I was feeling, the sun was shining - all was good with the world.  And when I crossed that finish line - in 3:47:02 - I did cry.  With happiness.  What a wonderful, wonderful day!
Could I look any happier? 
There is stuff to reflect on, stuff to build on, so much to work with.  But right now I have to say a HUGE thank you to all of you, my friends out there in the blogging community, my friends at home in the UK and the Netherlands, my wonderful family and all of you who cheered me on - not only for this race but for the whole long road that led to it.  I felt I owed it to you all to get EVERYTHING out of myself and this race - and I did.  I truly left it all out there this time - and there was no death walk (like London) or time in the medical tent (like Berlin). On a course that is much tougher than either London or Berlin, I achieved my second fastest time ever and I crossed the finish line strong, but spent.  I soaked up every cheer, every high 5, every single well-wish and thoughful email you all sent me.  I thought of everyone during the race - I felt surrounded by a wave of love and support.  Thank you - you are - all of you - incredible. 
So - I'm signing off this LONG race report - have a Von Trapp family ale on me!


Amanda@runninghood said...

just saw this pop up and can't wait to read every word later today when I get a chance to sit down for a break! So far, loving the pictures of course! I'll be back for a thoughtful read soon! :) The beer at the end looks like a great way to end anything...a race, a trip, a long day...yummy! And could you look any cuter holding it?! Cheers!

Lindsay and James Cotter said...

oh my goodness what an amazing time!! I love hearing about it. Conquered it indeed!

Anonymous said...

great post. looks like your gang had a blast in the us. many congratulations on running a great race despite a tough course.

Jill said...

Hey Girl...been waiting to get all the details of the race. Read every word and soaked it in and felt like I was there with ya!! I can't tell you how proud I am, how you never gave up and never let that course take you down. You are so incredibly strong and this race showed just how tough you really are - mentally and physically!!

Congratulations, Petra - I couldn't be more happy for you. Finally, you got to Boston!!!!

Much love to you!

nylisa said...

You are so amazing, Petra! Thank you for keeping me so motivated and inspired!

A very big congratulations on beating Boston!

Running and living said...

So glad you posted this. I was getting a little worried. I do not know your last name, so had no idea how you did. SO HAPPY that it was the experience you deserved and needed. You ran a GREAT time. That is a 3:37 on a "regular" course. I hope you are still celebrating!

Emz said...


I cannot express how awesome it was to meet you.

YOU my friend are beautiful...but I already knew that.

And seriously ..... the pita thought you were "lovely". That's the hugest compliment ever from the Pita.

I only wish we could have had dinner together one day!!

S Elliewood said...

What an amazing time! You're an inspiration!

lizzie lee said...

Dear Petra... what can I say? Through your story, I felt the excitement, I felt the passion, and I felt the triumph. Congrats for a race well raced.

All my love across the Atlantic
lizzie lee

Susan said...

I'm crying. Need I say more?

lizzie lee said...

A lot is a good answer for my wood question. A lot, however not finite!!!

Happy Feet 26.2 said...

it was an extra long road for you to get to Boston and I'm so happy it turned out so well. Congrats!

Worth the wait, right?

Drusy said...

After two years training you finally made it Petra! Wow fantastic time and your incredible charisma attracted new friends and old ones everywhere you went. I suspect that not even domestic woes can bring you down off of cloud 9. All the best to you and your family and CONGRATULATIONS!!

Fran said...

What a fantastic race report. I'm reading it with tears of emotion in my eyes. I can feel your happiness from this report about finishing Boston. I'm so proud of you!

Thank you for your sweet comment on yesterday's post. It made me cry and reading it again made me cry more. Thank you for being a friend.

Aron said...

Congrats on such a great race Petra!!!! You are amazing and I am so glad I got to see you again :) So proud of you and you finally after EVERYTHING got to have such an amazing day in Boston <3

Anonymous said...

I KNEW that was you at the meet up! I KNEW IT! But, i didnt want to feel like a tool and say hi :(

Great race girl!!!

jeanne said...

Wow!!! What a race! What a day! What a pre-race! Soooo jealous about the meetup...that coulda been me there, too! (Funny how I can turn your race report into being about me. I'm talented that way!)

I have to say it too: you are truly inspiring. I wish you'd write your book already. SERIOUSLY!

But: You call that long?!?! Honey, I need more details! I want a mile-by-mile account!

You're an amazing woman, Petra. Don't ever forget that. :)

jeanne said...

Also? You look positively radiant.

(And steve runner! WOW!!)

Patrick Mahoney said...

Super race report. I must have missed you at the Marriott by 1 minutes. I just happened to be in Boston that weekend and came by. Saw EMZ...

Julie said...

Congrats to you Petra!!! Wow, you did amazing...what an accomplishment! I really enjoyed reading your recap and was smiling the whole time! Go you! Take care...hugs to you:)

jen said...

Better late than never! Belated congratulations on your amazing Boston performance. I was rooting you on from my office all morning and was so proud to see you hold on for an incredible finish time. That course is no joke, that's for sure. But you owned it. SO proud of you, Petra! Love you and can't wait to see you. :)

Kim said...

congrats on an amazing race! wish we met up, so you better come back to boston!

Irish Blue said...

I'm speechless and teary. It's just so great to see the photos of you in the moment and soaking it all in. Well earned and well played!

ShirleyPerly said...

Wow, what a wonderful race report! I have goosebumps reading it and am SO glad I got to part of your Boston experience, albeit in Orlando. You are so inspirational, Petra, and such a good writer too. Really, you are. Much congrats on your Boston experience and I look forward to reading about your journey to your first tri!!!

Alisa said...

Awwwww, great race report. So glad you made it to Boston and had a great experience. Wish I still lived there and could have spectated.

Yay for your first tri.

Drusy said...

Hope we'll see you and Adam Sat! Steve Chopper might come too and run as Nick. Billy could shuttle the kids if you want to bring them too.