25 April 2012

Boston Bake-Fest, Part Two: Tales From the Oven

Ed. Note: For those of you who wandered here via the Marlborough Enterprise or the Hudson Sun, welcome! This article consists of various tidbits from Boston. The primary story on the race can be found below this posting in "Boston Bake-Fest, Part One". Enjoy!

Mama Nature, she is maddening. Last week, it was July. This week, it’s April again. It’s lovely marathon weather, in the forties and fifties every day, even a bit cold. It’s made for some delightful runs, like yesterday’s nine-mile hammer through the north Worcester and Holden hills. But it’s a week late. Mom, check your calendar next year, OK?

The fallout from last week’s Oven Roaster Special has been on a different plane from usual. I’m used to complimentary comments from fellow runners on my pace, to which I remind them that everything is relative, and their views of my times are entirely consistent with my views of the truly fast guys’ times. But this year the runners knew how tough it was, and while I’d considered my three-oh-five to be merely a survival standard, others thought better. I found myself on the receiving end of comments like, to quote a highly experienced co-worker runner (and with apologies for violating my usual family readership standards), “3:05 in that s*** ain’t no joke!” Spoken by a guy who passed out in Boston’s hot 2004 edition. Says it well, I guess.

And I’m used to the “Wow, you ran the marathon?!” and “Gee, I can’t drive that far!” comments from the non-running majority of the population. This year, however, the event took on an almost epic image in the eyes of the public. Everyone knew it was hot, and, we New Englanders being a highly running educated crowd, everyone knew how bad this was for we poor marathoners.

Yes, your average New Englander is quite running educated, and very involved in our annual signature event. More than ever, this was a race of the people. More than ever, the crowd pulled us through. More than ever, they made it possible not just with their vocal emotional support, but with their hugely omnipresent material
support. I am humbled at the goodness that a half-million souls can pour (literally) upon us, and I offer an entirely inadequate thank you to every person with a hose (like the one here in Wellesley), with water, with ice, with other refreshments both virtuous and otherwise, with comforts of every imaginable sort, and even with those young ladies near Heartbreak with their Super Soakers which frankly just about bruised my ribs with their power, but felt great just the same.

And with that, some snippets from the day…

Old Friends, New Friends: Paying it forward, it was fun to provide guide service to my training buddy Issam and show him the ropes of getting to the Athlete’s Village. Unfortunately, I lost him amidst the throngs, but linked up with GBTC compatriot Joe the Plumber (who, in my usual blog style, is not a plumber at all, but as a principle in his family’s firm which does, among other things, plumbing, and as such he’s gained this moniker) …just in time to make the jog as a team to our common starting corral number two. It’s always more fun to head downtown with a bud.

Unable to find the usual Squannacook River Road Runner camp at the Village, I did happen across Central Mass Strider friend Cyndy and her two co-runners, sporting bright color-complimentary shirts stenciled “Forrest”, "Bubba”, and “Lt. Dan”. (Never mind that they were all ladies.) I loved it. Run, Forrest, Run! And though I
missed them before the race, afterward the Squannies once again hosted a fine finish-line fete (feety foto!) replete with goodies, beers (I brought the ibuprofen), and probably most important of all, a shower (though ironically, with the constant bathing on the course, I was pretty clean at the end). Always a good time.

En-route I made acquaintance with a young lady who wisely elected not to run as an elite. That might seem odd, but since the women’s elite race goes off twenty-two minutes early (yes, it’s an odd number, but it does), Elizabeth reasoned that if you’re not going to be in the thick of it, which she wouldn’t, it would be a very lonely race. She opted to run with the crowd, and her reward was a share of the precious ice my friend supplied at mile eight. When Cori held up that bag as I approached, I watched several runners lunge for it. It looked like a game of keep-a-way as she protected that life-giving gift until my arrival. On a hot day, nothing makes friends like a bag of ice!

We ran together off-and-on till sixteen or seventeen (you never really remember when you part ways, though I did see her being interviewed after the finish…) during which time we came across Kim, she of the duo of Kim the Winner and Ryan the Pacer of Baystate Fame. At mile fourteen, Kim was not a happy person. Yet she hauled through it and finished quite respectably. Way to hang in there!

And finally, taking a needed rest on a downtown Boston curbstone, chatting up some New York Road Runner guys about my plans for NYC this fall, who happened to meander by? None other than arch rival BadDawg EJ, his three-seventeen putting me up three-to-two in our series. Nyah.

Are You Kidding? The day before I was chatting with friend Michelle, who oversees the “Sweeps Team”, the two hundred or so volunteers who patrol the finish are for people in medical trouble, the open end of the triage funnel. In her usual chipper way she insisted that I stop in to say hello at the med tent upon finishing. In the face of an expected onslaught – which certainly did materialize – her insistence of hospitality was charming, but I couldn’t fathom getting in her way. Needless to say, not needing medical services post-race, I left her to her Herculean task undisturbed.

Germs? What Germs? In a world overburdened with hand sanitizer, which I am convinced does nothing but kill off the easy marks and leaves the nasty ones to evolve on, this marathon was a celebration of the power of strengthening your immune system through shared everything. Water was simply not to be wasted. If it didn’t get drank or poured on the body, it was passed on, cups, bottles, whatever, we simply didn’t care, we shared. And I didn’t catch Ebola. Imagine that.

About That Headband… I mentioned wearing the freebie expo-provided headband. I mentioned that it worked wonders. I mentioned that it was Geeky as Hell (can’t get much geekier than this photo before the start, eh?). I should also mention that it’s in my genes. Way back in my First Lap days, my red, white, and blue headband (shown here in black & white, we didn’t have color photos, it was so long ago) was a trademark, ultimately geeky, yet so well known that I still own it
and stuff it in my pocket for a good laugh at high school reunions. Check out those sweat socks!

Ever the Obsessive? In a low-tech throwback tradition, we set up the VCR in our non-TiVo, non-DVR household so we can catch the race coverage. Entertaining in its own right, it’s always fun to look for Dear ‘ol Dad on the tapes. We usually get lucky and get a good long shot or two, and this year was no exception. There’s that long shot up Boylston Street, and sure enough, there I am, a minute from finishing this beast, and, what? After a week of telling people that I didn’t care about times, there I am, caught in the act, looking at my watch. Ten Yard Penalty, Excessive Obsession.

I confess, I did click a split. But I didn’t care what it was. Really. Trust me.

And Did It Work? I’d been told that wearing Greater Boston Red would bring out the crowd support. And the verdict is? You bet it did. Granted, the awesome Boston crowds will yell out just about anything written legibly on a runner, but it was clear that wearing BOSTON while running BOSTON brought out the hometown spirit. And yes, it lifted me. Especially the guy who yelled out, “Greater Boston, this is BOSTON, this is YOUR RACE!” He got to me. Really. It WAS my race. Cool. And I got to pay it back as second man, scoring for our Greater Boston Masters team. No dramatic victories here, but thirteenth out of sixty-eight masters team, hey, I’ll take it.

Translating to Normalcy: I pulled out last year’s results and saw that my time would have only earned about 220th place last year. No surprise. What was interesting was that my 742nd place would have meant having run about a two-fifty-two last year – right around my target time had we had somewhat normal weather. Deep and mystical, I know, I know.

Damage Report? Minimal. I expected major blistering from wet shoes. Somehow, my body was drenched, my feet were not. I expected major chafing from wet clothing. Didn’t happen. Half a bruised toe, but as someone’s sign read somewhere along the course, toenails are overrated. The usual quad burn, maxed out on Wednesday, but not bad. Miles of Cape Cod beach walking that day probably helped. Thursday I found myself going sub-sevens on the Rail Trail. Go figure. Truth is, dropping the pace to lower the temperature made it pretty mild on the mechanics, even if the overall effort in the heat was mighty. In general, ready to get back on the horse.

And the Crowd: I have to mention them again. Thank you again.

1 comment:

  1. Great report! Great Run! And thanks for sharing the ice! :)


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