28 May 2009

Belleville: Redemption & Tragedy

Another week in Beautiful Belleville, Ontario draws to a close. The town pretty much redeemed itself after last year’s string of running chaos. But, funny how you grow attached to a place you frequent, and how you actually care when they screw it up, which, sadly, it appears is happening.

As I recounted last week, my attempts to run during last year’s visit resulted in repeated disasters of one sort of another. After that experience, this year simply had to be an improvement. With great expectations I set out Monday morning, a perfect morning, cool, crisp, a pleasant breeze, sunny, green, spring, unlike last year’s visit during mud season. Out of the hotel, around the corner where within one block I can escape Strip Mall Hell and enter West Riverbank Park, which, as it’s name suggests, offers a lovely gravel trail along the Moira River, peaceful, quiet, lovely.


A side tale: My sister’s first child was the Perfect Baby. Her second was the Child From Hell, who projectile vomited for a solid year. My first child was also the Perfect Baby. We wondered why people said babies generated laundry, since ours could wear the same sleeper for three days and look fresh as, well, a baby. Then along came child number two, who on day three let forth one of those projectile emissions, and I had visions of Hell… Here we go again. It must be genetic.

At this moment in Belleville, looking at the construction barriers at the entrance to West Riverbank Park, I had flashbacks to last year and visions of Hell. Here we go again. It must be Belleville.

Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. The road was closed to cars and stripped of its pavement, but sported an appealing packed dirt surface. Heck, I can run around any holes they put in the road! Onward! I plunged into the park, enjoying the soft surface.

Insidiously, fencing snuck up along both sides the road without my notice. Then came the gated entrance to the hard hat zone with the excavators and their craters. No way out. Can’t go forward. Can’t even get off the road! The suddenly noticed roadside fence stretched back a long ways.

You’ve got to be kidding me. Again?

The fence was flexible, I bent it down and crawled over, nearly tearing my shorts, zigged and zagged past the earth-moving disaster, and all became well with the world again. Finally, cruising along the river, gurgling, rushing, redwing blackbirds screeching, the smell of spring. All was well with the world. Hell avoided, false alarm. Just like my second child, who never projectiled again. Following the trail downtown along the river, chasing a flock of ducks floating downstream on the rapid current, a heron poised just feet away from me, all good.

And it got better. After work, I drove out to the end of that road I’d tried to run last year, only to find it blocked. Now, without snow, I could see it appeared to go through, too rough to drive but certainly runable. The neighbors at the end of the street came out to answer my query about where it went and were so friendly I had a hard time leaving. Canadians are just like that. With their advice in my pocket, on Tuesday morning Philburn Road and the jeep trail served up a lovely lilac-scented two mile sojourn from my 9-mile loop otherwise cursed by the area’s typically awful (for running) rural highways. A stretch like that, and the memory of the kind people who helped me find it, are all it takes to call it a great run.

And finally this morning I tackled the one route I’ve never covered but always wanted to: the Norris Whitney Bridge. It’s a high arcing, soaring bridge over the Bay of Quinte, how high I cannot say (nor can I find out even with the help of Google). It’s not quiet, it’s not peaceful, the traffic is rushing past – happily, on the other side of a solid concrete barrier – and it was buffeted by a strong crosswind and drizzle, but it was just plain cool to run. Charge the hill, watch the whitecaps on the bay, soak up the view even though the weather was crappy, plunge down the other side, turn around and do it again. Along the way, it occurred to me that this was probably the largest body of water I’ve crossed on a run.

And so would end a good week of running in Belleville, except for one thing: that construction in the park. As the week progressed I inquired about it, and was troubled at what I found. It’s not rehab or improvement work for the park, it’s murder for the park. The City of Belleville, with 5 bridges over the Moira River in a span of 2.3 miles (6 if you count creatively, plus 2 more pedestrian bridges), is bisecting this lovely open space with a new major thoroughfare and another bridge across the river. To alleviate traffic. Said new bridge will be a mere eight tenths mile from the next bridge to the south, and less than half a mile from the next to the north. For this, they are slicing what I believe is the largest park in town cleanly in two, and replacing the quiet access road from the west entrance with a broad strip of crowded, pollution-spewing pavement. I don’t live here, I’m not an expert on their problems, but it seems to me simple insanity.

Consider, Belleville (named after a person, not after the beautiful aspect of the word belle) is a city of merely 46,000 people according to its welcome sign (and this is Canada, those are metric people, that’s the equivalent of only 39,450 in the States…). In my half-dozen week-long visits, I’ve never sat through more than one traffic light cycle. The desk clerk at the hotel described 5 PM as “rush minute, wait a moment and it’s over”. Others I spoke to simply rolled their eyes. There is no traffic problem in Belleville.

Scouring the web for news of this project was unproductive, but the tidbits I found backed up the traffic justification. I found no mention of resistance to the permanent desecration of their park. It seems that through the city fathers’ lenses, this was perfectly reasonable. Through my lens, it’s a tragic loss of the kind of open space that makes a city livable; space that cannot be recovered once it’s lost.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of believing what you believe so strongly that you don’t see the bigger picture. Let this be a lesson to us all to scrutinize our plans with fresh eyes and different perspectives. Apply that to life, apply that to your running plans as well, it’s always valid to avoid a tragedy.

25 May 2009

Vertical and Mental Cross Training

I’m in Belleville, Ontario, as planned, and this morning’s run lived up to Belleville’s reputation, though there is hope on the horizon. I’ll get to that in the next posting. First up is yesterday’s adventure, a quasi-marathon of vertical cross training and mental re-training in the Adirondacks.

This is my version of making lemonade out of lemons. If I must go to Belleville, I might as well make the best of it. Halfway there lies the mighty Adirondacks of New York. My neighbors happen to have a place there, they happened to be there for the weekend, and their teenage son happens to like to hike. A plan was easily born; they offered me a bed, I offered their son an adventure.

Let’s put this adventure in perspective. I’ve been hiking up mountains for 27 years, since the legendary day in 1982 when my college friends invited me to Vermont for a hike, and I, the na├»ve youngster, thought that meant a pleasant walk across a meadow. After half an hour of nothing but up, I finally caught on that we were ascending the highest mountain in Vermont. How could one miss something so obvious? Oblivion knows no bounds. But a life-long passion was born.

Over two hundred summits later I can call myself an experienced mountain hiker. My 48th and final New Hampshire 4000-footer fell in ’95, and my ramblings have ranged from east to west to a few international peaks. I’m used to the insanity of steep trails, especially eastern trails where horses don’t roam, switchbacks generally don’t exist, and the philosophy is simple: you’re here, the mountain top is there, take the shortest path, you ninny. But the Adirondacks are, to me at least, a breed rougher. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t spent as much time there, or perhaps it’s true.

Apprehension of the unknown magnifies itself. Confronting that unknown solo or with other adults is adventure enough. Confronting that unknown with your kids multiplies anxiety. Confronting that unknown with someone else’s kid – in your responsibility – blows the needle off the chart. In that mindset I set off with said teenage son into the trails of the ‘dacks.

I know from running that a long endeavor is highly mental, but that didn’t stop our dismay when the day wasn’t beautiful as planned. I’ve hiked in plenty of rain, but somehow Sunday’s rain was dampening to the spirit as we made our first summit, Sawteeth, in the drizzle. I know from years of hiking that trails that appear tough, even those described as “very steep” in the always-understated guide, are soon enough tackled. But that didn’t stop our apprehension – no, perhaps it was even dread – when staring from our second summit of the day, Pyramid Peak, at the trail leading up Gothics, our prime objective. From our perspective it looked darn near vertical, running a knife-edged ridge between two excessively steep landslide-scoured faces. A wicked wind, while kindly blowing out the rain, only added to our concern. Having ascended a particularly smooth and steep open face to get to our present spot made retreat an unattractive option as well. I’m dragging someone else’s kid though this? What was I thinking?

But we stand on the starting line of races all the time not knowing what lies ahead. A marathon starts with the first stride. And in a marathon, we help each other out.

We teamed up with another hiker and dropped quickly off that summit, through the col, and up the knife ridge, which was steep, but not that steep. And didn’t feel like a knife ridge at all. Just like pre-race jitters, the fear of the unknown is usually overblown and necessarily overcome if we’re to get where we want to go in life. Minutes later, we were on top, soaking up the views and the camaraderie of fellow hikers – not unlike post-race runner camaraderie. Just like that, our day changed from dismay and anxiety to joy and exhilaration in minutes.

Following that summit, we ran the ridge over Armstrong Mountain and Upper Wolf Jaw on a trail that lived up to my image of Adirondack trails: rough and steep. We cut our potential six-summit day down to five only because we’d promised to return in time for my companion’s trip home, and of course I still had a 5-hour ride to Canada. Still, we were out for eight solid hours of intense effort, our longest break a mere twenty-five minutes for lunch. My companion held up a strong pace to the finish. We may not have covered the distance of a marathon, but my legs and feet felt a lot better at the finish of Boston than they did on Sunday. Plus, this was a vertical marathon, a tremendous upper body effort, heaving ourselves up and down the nearly continuous ludicrously steep bits. Yes, I know I should cross-train. I don’t. I’m feeling the effects today, and loving it.

My thirteen-year-old companion really got it when looking back on how our mental state changed throughout the day. You can’t let a little dismay get your down, and while you must of course be responsible and cautious, if you don’t confront your anxieties, you don’t attain your goals. I knew that, but I needed to get it again, too. We ran a mental marathon. We got our medals.

Finally, a random last note: When you’re out and about, wear those race shirts! There’s no easier way to introduce yourself and bring the world a little closer together. Coming down off Armstrong, along comes a hiker wearing a Reach the Beach (New Hampshire) relay shirt. We were hundreds of miles from home, but it was instant identification. Turns out he lives not too far from me, and we may have a new companion for club events. And as I departed the trailhead area, I offered a lift to a tired looking couple and their son, as the parking area is quite a ways from the trailhead. As he got out of the car I noticed the unofficial (and therefore not obvious) Boston Marathon shirt. Another runner connection, heck, maybe even a blog reader! It was my pleasure to meet you, and even more to lend a hand. Happy trails to you.

22 May 2009

Great White Northern Running Woes

Despite it being a holiday in the States, I depart this weekend for Parts North, where it’s not a holiday, for a week of training in Belleville, Ontario, the center of Universe. Or at least it’s no further from the center of the Universe than any other place on Earth. As a prelude to the trip, I’ve resurrected my account of my running misadventures on last year’s trip.

I take you back to 07 April 2008… for A Tale of Great White Northern Running Woes

There are some places that are nirvana for runners. You might not have noticed, but New England is one of those places. Back roads, hills when you want them, attractive scenery, and despite the legendary traffic, all in all, drivers that are, at least in my experience, pretty aware of and polite to runners. Then there are the places that are sheer hell. Las Vegas comes instantly to mind. Each year I endure my company's sales conference in that dreadful place, where your choice of where to run is either hell (solid concrete) or damnation (in the road with horrible speeding traffic). And it's ugly as sin, which is appropriate, since it's all about sin. Places like Vegas are obvious hell. But more insidious are the subtle hells. The hells you don't expect. Take Belleville, Ontario. Please.

Disclaimer: Despite what I write here, I do enjoy visiting Belleville. I have many work colleagues I like to see, and I mean no harm to their town. Plus, they’ve got a killer sushi joint. But running nirvana it’s not.

Belleville, Ontario. Middle of Nowhere, Canada. On the northeast shore of Lake Ontario, so far from any reachable airport it's not worth flying to get there (if you have to connect to get there, it’s not worth it). I opt for the 450 mile drive that takes about the same time, and offers opportunities for interesting detours along the way. You can save the trip to your map shelf by clicking here.

On the surface, what's not to like? A small town should have light traffic and plenty of roads leading out to the wilds. In reality, there's quite a bit of traffic, or more precisely traffic that doesn't seem used to the concept of runners, and most of the sidewalks - and even the seemingly delightful rail-trail-like pathway along the river - are almost entirely knee- and ankle-crushing concrete. Which make you want to be in the roads. Which have no shoulders when you’re in town. And which are mostly rural highways when you’re out of town, with very fast traffic. So, it's not the best place for a run to start with. And there's another interesting characteristic worth knowing: Canada doesn't think Belleville is important enough to have taken high resolution satellite photography of the area. So Google Earth, my usual guide to finding ideal running venues when out of town, is of no use. So actually finding good roads to run is a challenge.

Oh, and did I mention the word BLEAK? Belleville in early spring, which is really still winter in the Great White North, is bleak. Still plenty of extremely dirty snow. And mud where melting is occurring. And just plain bleak anyway. Flat. Not terribly naturally attractive, at least away from the water. Not terribly economically vibrant. I suppose in the green summertime, the path along the Bay of Quinte must be delightful. I've never had the pleasure of seeing it at that time. In late March, umm…

And so it was with no great expectations that I departed for said ville last Sunday for a week's sentence in a training class. But this week would exceed my typical Belleville Blues. Let's tally the score:

Day 1: Monday morning. Pouring rain. Cold. Miserable. But, I'm determined this will be a good running week! So I out at 7 for my "usual" 7 mile loop. I do the ugly part first, and return via the river trail, the last 3/4 mile of which is though a nice park. Disappointed to find that the gravel trail along the river is still covered with a foot of snow, I am forced to stick to the road in the park. Two-thirds in, the road is blocked and unplowed. Tomorrow is APRIL, people, don't you plow your roads? (I learned later it's been under construction all winter, so the answer is, apparently, no.). Choice #1 is to backtrack, but I'm short on time. Choice #2 is a semi-plowed path across the grass out of the park, and it's a rain-sodden mud pit. I choose the Cross Country edition, and they consider hosing me down before letting me back into the hotel.

Day 2: Tuesday afternoon. A bit windy, I think, but warm (Celsius is just SO hard to figure, but really, it was over 50°!). Out in shorts, no gloves. Surprise! Windswept tundra. 25-30 MPH sustained, 40+ MPH gusts (I'm kind, I already translated those kph numbers for you). And of course the temperature drops. Sandblasted and chilled, I return from my 11 miles rather shell-shocked, though the downwind ride back to the hotel was quite amazing!

Day 3: Wednesday morning. Oh, glorious day! Sunshine! The air outside my hotel window seems calm! And I've found what looks like a rural route with potential on GMaps Pedometer. Ahh, foolish me, I should know better. It's minus 6°C, which is close to 20°F, and who am I kidding? The wind hits my face like a brick. A very cold brick. The 2.5 mile outbound leg is downright frigid, especially since I didn't think I'd need (and didn't bring) my face mask. After all, it's APRIL! People, why do you live here? But I reach the target rural road. It's lovely. Packed dirt, no traffic, and OhMyGosh, a HILL! Not a big one, but a real live hill. Almost joyously I sprint up it to find... the road is blocked and unplowed! Again! What IS it with this town? Fortunately I'm far enough out that turning around still results in almost 8 miles, and I'm happy with that. Later investigation shows that GMaps (which showed this road) doesn't match Google Maps (which showed no road). And remember that thing about Google Earth? Curses! Foiled again!

Day 4: Thursday afternoon. Last chance to get it right, I'm leaving for home in the morning. It's not very windy! It's not very cold! It's not even very cloudy! YES! Let's try that course out to the east I'd been eyeing... And the result is? DOUBLE BLEAK. I mean, REALLY depressing. Industrial decay. Steadily depressing low-down mind messing runnin' past the rail yard blues. But, past all that, I'm out on a rural road, no traffic, good surface, lessee, we go out here about 2 more miles, and take a right...what else can this town throw at me? How about a half-mile-long freight train doing 8 MPH crawling into the yard blocking the turn onto the next leg of the loop. You've gotta' be KIDDING? And, it's slowing down. I run laps up and down the road waiting, waiting, waiting. Finally it passes, onward. Astoundingly, the rest of this run is almost pleasant. Even encountered a group of local runners, first I've ever seen in this town in half a dozen trips.

After 4 days, I'm 4 for 4 in the "something bad/weird/unpleasant happened today" column. I give up, take my ball, and go home. My ankles hurt from the concrete. I am humbled by the ability of a small town to make running so difficult. I long for the scenic cruises down New England Roads.

All ye travelers, be wary of what the world can dish out!

17 May 2009

Inspire a Kid

Amidst frustration, gems appear that makes the journey worthwhile. Put in the time and effort, bear the frustration, and you reap the rewards. Working with kids is a great example.

Two autumns ago I fell into the role of assistant coach for my daughters’ middle school cross country team. The volunteer athletic director of our small Catholic school organizes the school’s entire sports program, but he’s not exactly the runner type. Since my daughter wanted to run, well, you know how that goes. Two cross country seasons and now working through our second spring track season later, I guess I’m pretty much hooked into this.

I admit that I love playing up the “I’m not just your coach, I’m a runner,” part to show the kids that a fit lifestyle should last a lifetime. My daughter tells me the team has decided I am of another species, and I take that with pride. Call us Runnus Humanus, we who think 5 miles is a short day. I want the kids to see that they shouldn’t be afraid of it. I want to give them a little inspiration by what I do, to help motivate them in what they do.

Any group of kids is bound to present a mix, and the middle school age adds another dimension of mix. At this age, the range of physical maturity is measured in feet of height difference, which makes planning workouts a real challenge. When I ask them to run a lap, they stumble in several minutes apart – on one lap. Since a big benefit of any interval workout is to not wait too long between reps, not let that heart rate drop too much, well, you can see the challenge here.

I know you’re saying, that’s simple, put ‘em in groups, right? No, that’s not right. It’s like herding cats. We hold these truths to be self-evident, Mr. Jefferson said, something like the fact that people must know basics like starting lines and so on. At this age, many don’t. Just getting them to do the same thing at the same time is tough. For that matter, getting them to do anything can be tough. Getting them coordinated to do things in ability-related groups? Very funny.

The level of emotional maturity is actually pretty surprising, considering we’re dealing with fifth through eighth graders. They’re pretty sturdy. But at least some of them have the attention span of gnats. Did I mention it’s like herding cats? Now, quiet down and listen up! …Generally, no attention is paid. Organizing the relay teams? It is to laugh (though they do usually get it done).

Motivation? In any bunch of people, let alone kids, motivation levels vary. At this age, motivation just for being there varies wildly. Some are definitely into it and want to work to improve themselves. Some joined the team mostly for social reasons. Hey, whatever gets them out is fine with me. I’ll take a kid who at least gets in a lap around the track over a couch potato any day.

Finally, remember this is middle school. We’re not about winning, though we don’t mind if we do (and for a tiny school, we’ve had a pretty good run of it). We’re about getting exposed to the sport, we’re about improving fitness, we’re about feeling proud of what we’ve done, and having fun along the way. So we’re not going to put in killer workouts. We only meet twice a week for practice, and attendance even then is spotty, with no consequences. This is a no-pressure environment.

Now, take this mix and imagine trying to get these kids to do a simple interval ladder. First, just explain what it is. Maybe, if you’re lucky, with more then half of them listening. I had them run a ladder that reached up to a single 800m, and you’d think I was the leader of the Spanish Inquisition. EIGHT HUNDRED METERS? No, don’t collapse after each one, walk it off, put in a good effort, be proud! No, you will not die. Yes, you can do this. You did, after all, come out for the track team!

But from the moans and groans emerge the gems. On a recent evening I shocked them: Tonight we’re doing a timed mile. “OH MY GOD, A MILE?!” But they all did it. Every one of them. Some finished it the following Tuesday, but that was fine with me. And the lead boy knocked half a minute off his best. Yes, with Coach pacing him, but he wasn’t working that hard, and he was deservedly proud afterward. Which gave him the confidence at our next meet to smote the field in the 800 like they were standing still (mind you, he didn’t smoke ‘em, we’re a Catholic school, he Biblically smote them). And at that same meet, the girl who moans the loudest, protests most bitterly about anything over 100 meters, and who has never met a finish line before which she can’t slow down or stop before arriving; who, with only my strongest urging jumped into the 800, likewise smote ‘em. And at the other end of the scale, there’s the smallest girl on the team, a tiny wisp of a thing, always at the back of the pack, but she never gives up. Look at what you can do, kids!

Of course, it’s easy to be proud of our best achievers. We’ve got one eighth grade girl who, if she sticks with it, has high school champion written all over her. But it’s even more satisfying to be proud of the ones who rise up to new efforts and realize what they can do. I’m proud of my kids – not just my biological ones (to think that my 70 pound daughter is tossing the shot? Love it!) – but all of them. In between complaints I hear them call me Coach and it sinks in that this frustrating service has its rewards both for them and for me.

Give one forward. Get out there and inspire a kid.

04 May 2009

Foolishness Averted

I think of myself as a smart guy, but I’m capable of some pretty foolish things. As of today I think (repeat, I *think*) I’ve averted a bit of foolishness. But nothing is ever final.

I work for a large, well-known company in the networking & telecom equipment business, which, like many others, is not a particularly healthy business these days. We beat Chrysler to the punch and went Chapter 11 back in January, and are currently awaiting expected word on restructuring that we all see as very positive. Meanwhile, we maintain normalcy; life goes on.

One aspect of normalcy means that about once a year I trundle off to a place called Belleville, Ontario, for training on the latest iteration of our stuff. Belleville is a pleasant town that reminds me of where I grew up in that it’s geographically removed from the rest of the world and has an economy that was once dominated by a technology giant. On the good side, they’ve got a reasonably priced killer sushi joint. On the bad side, it’s a lousy place to run. (I’ll post my article on my running adventures during last year’s trip sometime before I go.)

About that “removed from the rest of the world” bit. If you draw a line from Toronto to Ottawa, there’s Belleville in the middle, a bit west of Kingston if you know the turf. As we say here in New England, you can’t get there from here. In fact, you pretty much can’t get there from anywhere. It’s a two and a half hour ride from Ottawa, and direct flights to Ottawa are mighty rare. It’s two hours from Toronto’s airport, but that airport is on the wrong side of Toronto traffic. Add it up, with allowances for Boston traffic getting to Logan, early airport arrival, security, and so on, and long ago I said the heck with it, I just drive, even though it’s 450 miles. It takes about the same time, and it’s more fun – read: interesting detours.

What does all this have to do with running, you ask? Read: interesting detours.

Turns out the Ottawa Marathon is the day before I need to be in Belleville. And I’ve always wanted to run Ottawa. I pick up a rental car for a week anyway, so for the price of a cheap night’s sleep and the entry fee, why not? Just go up a day early, run the race, then it’s a short jaunt to Belleville.

I’ve been contemplating this for two weeks since I got word of my impending trip. Ottawa in spring, a whole nation’s tax dollars poured into gorgeous architecture and perfect landscaping, not to mention about six billion tulips from the grateful Dutch for harboring the queen (or was it the king?) during World War II. And I have a lot of work friends up there. And I just love the place.

It’s so tempting.

It’s so foolish.

Reality check! Earth to self! You had no right to run Boston. It was the equivalent of a publicity stunt. It was a lot of fun, but face it, had you not been pre-registered, already paid, the money gone, and zero dollars in travel costs, there would have been no rational reason to do it. It was a risk to the foot (more on that later), it was silly. But admittedly it was a hell of a lot of fun.

Ottawa? I’d have five more weeks of training in, for a total of – wow – eleven! My training pace is dropping, but it’s still a far cry from where it was. Every run is still an effort, even if a joyful effort. If I ran it, I’d inevitably become a tourist again (thanks, Chris, I’ve permanently adopted that phrase).

As an old friend used to say, “Don’t be a fool, you idiot”.

And so today I resolved that it really is a silly idea. Ottawa will be there next year, even if it costs me a few more bucks. I’ll settle for a week of unexciting runs in Belleville. I think.

Post-script: About that foot… I saw Dr. Foot Doctor for my final follow-up last week. He was tickled pink to hear I’d run Boston and insisted on photographing my medal (of course I brought my medal, what do you think?) draped over his work – my foot. He swung it in the air and exclaimed, “This was NOT supposed to happen!” Not as in, “You’ve been a bad boy!” but instead as in, “This wasn’t supposed to be possible!” And then he told me that his partner plans to write a paper on my rare injury and the unique treatment they used, and present it at a conference. Everyone has always told me that I’m a case. Now it’s certified.

01 May 2009

Boston Pictures – Part 5

And finally, the last segment, number 5. We left off a mile from the finish, now let’s finish it!

For the final time, I’ll repeat that the posted pictures are reduced resolution. Please email me at secondlap@comcast.net and identify the pictures you’d like by their number, and I will be happy to send you the full resolution versions. Don’t be shy, feel free to ask for as many as you’d like.

To see my article on the race itself, follow this link.

To see the first batch of pictures, follow this link.

To see the second batch of pictures, follow this link.

To see the third batch of pictures, follow this link.

To see the fourth batch of pictures, follow this link.

Now, let’s finish the pictures!

BM-159: Coming out of Kenmore, 1 mile to go! The roar of Kenmore, a mile to go, and not expecting to be here, it doesn’t matter that this is my ninth marathon, this is a rush!

BM-160: The last insult. Several years back the BAA tweaked the course to take the underpass under Massachusetts Avenue. This of course means a small rise at 25.5, a minor slap in the face if you’re having a tough day. I’m having a glorious day and know I don’t care that I’ll take one last walk out of that pit so as to run Boylston strong.

BM-161: Three of Boston’s finest apparently checking to be sure we all made it out from underneath Massachusetts Avenue. I didn’t get a chance to give these guys a blog address slip.

BM-162: And here comes the turn onto Hereford Street.

BM-163: Hereford Street, the Hynes Convention Center is in sight, and I’m oddly surrounded by pink and red runners.

BM-164: This pink lady looks just as happy as I am to be here.

BM-165: Heading up Hereford Street, nearing Boylston Street.

BM-166: Making the final turn onto Boylston Street. The Marathon Photo guys got an amusing picture of me rounding this corner, camera held high.

BM-167: And now the long trek down Boylston. The finish line always looks like it’s several miles away, when in fact it’s just a few blocks.

BM-168: The finish looms closer as we make our way down Boylston.

BM-169: …and closer…

BM-170: …and closer…

BM-171: And we’ve arrived! 42 days of training, 140 miles total, and a strip of horse heart stitched into my foot, and yes, I ran Boston. It’s my slowest by far – 3:43 vs my first marathon at 3:29, but I’m simply elated. And better yet, having taken it easy, I’m in fine shape to enjoy the aftermath.

BM-172: #12943 William Peters of Manchester, New Hampshire crosses the finish line behind me.

BM-173: #9303 Avery Saunders of Edmonton, Alberta is clearly relieved to be no longer running.

BM-174: One of the many iterations of St. Finish Line Staff, this lady is of the Order of Medical Assistance. She and hundreds more line the finish, and I can’t say thanks enough to them.

BM-175: Post-finish shot of yours truly, taken by St. Finish Line of the Order of Medical Assistance. I’ve never felt so un-exhausted after a marathon. Maybe taking it slow is a good thing? Aw, who am I kidding?

BM-176: #10812 Fernanda Jacobs of Avon, Connecticut and – I believe – #10616 Kathy Braga of Farmington, Connecticut. Kathy’s number (if that’s Kathy) was obscured, but I believe these two ladies ran together and a quick scan of the results makes Kathy, coming from Connecticut, the most likely ID.

BM-177: Local dude runs good: #12361 Norm Robbie of Attleboro, Massachusetts.

BM-178: These guys have the ultimate DJ gig. Get them a turntable and let them spin the oldies.

BM-179: #9495 Yoshiaki Kamada of Osaka Moriguchi-shi Japan. I was pleased to find him in my collection of pictures since I’d snapped a lot of Canadians but really no-one else from far away. Welcome to my backyard, Mr. Kamada! Hope you enjoyed your trip!

BM-180: We filter through the rehydration stations. Look, there’s Lizard Man who I snapped just before Kenmore!

BM-181: #2102 Jeff Goates of Englewood, Colorado. Easy to spot.

BM-182: #4014 Riley Jungquist of Mount Vernon, Washington. Look, they brought in a whole truck of water just for him!

BM-183: #10546 Julia Lewis of Burlington, Vermont. Burlington – there’s another race I have to run someday!

BM-184: She’s not just St. Chip-Removal, she also must be a queen since she was Knighting me and the others with the Order of Boston.

BM-185: No numbers showing, but a pair of runners clearly happy with the day’s experience.

BM-186: And another, unidentified, but grinning big. [ Ed. Note: This is #12485, Gord Fairman, of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Gord wrote in with a nice note. Thanks Gord, glad you enjoyed the pictures! ]

BM-187: Someday an archeologist will find evidence of mobs of people in silvery space blankets and misinterpret this ritual somehow. I‘m not exactly sure what they’ll surmise, but it will happen.

BM-188: What happens when you blend post-race euphoria with a truly biting cold wind? Expressions like this one.

BM-189: And a race volunteer got this last shot of me near the baggage busses.

BM-193: Back home, my daughter caught the ‘afterwards’ shot. A little sunburned, but otherwise relatively undamaged.

And that’s it. I had a ball taking, editing, captioning, and posting these pictures. I hope you get at least half as much enjoyment out of viewing them. And if you’re in them and not identified, write me so I can know your name. See you next year!