Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hello Hopkinton

Note: The following is the Final Installment of my guest blogger's, the Hello Kitty Mystery Runner's , experience at the Boston Marathon. The race report! My congratulations on an outstanding race and I thank him for the numerous guest posts. For you readers, I apologize for the gratuitous use of acronyms in the paragraphs that follow. Strap yourself in, longish race report ahead!

Subtitle: "1st Boston, 6th Marathon, 2nd Guessing"

Background: This was my 6th marathon and with the exception of an 18 year break between #1 and #2, I have dropped my time in each race, inching towards equaling my 2:57 as a 20 year old. After running a marathon in December (while breaking out the HK singlet 1.0) that had elevation changes “kinda like” Boston, I had 15 weeks to go until Boston. In that race, I went out WAY too fast and had an awful bonk, and still ran a 3:14:xx During my training, we had a baby in February, resulting in less sleep and less miles. My regular training partner did not run with me during this cycle, so I was left to do my tempo runs solo, which I did half heartedly. I was looking forward to running the race with my brother in law (HKRBIL), who brought his 12 year old son (HKR12YON) along.

Saturday: My wife (Mrs. HKR) and I arrive in Boston early Saturday afternoon. We grabbed our luggage and while at baggage claim, my wife’s best friend (Mrs. HKRBFF) from Michigan shows up to surprise her and to hang out with her for the weekend. Mrs. HKR was speechless for several seconds then all she could say was “what are you doing here!?” I had been planning this surprise since August and relieved to have this monkey off my back. After dropping our luggage off at the hotel, we headed out to the Expo. This is where things start going badly. I could not find where the packet pickup was located at the expo. We finally walked down a hall and I saw three runners with big yellow bags, so obviously, they will be helpful. I approached one of them and said, “Excuse me boss, where is the packet pickup?” He looked at me funny, pointed at his bag and said something in Icelandic or Norwegian to me…nevermind.

I finally found the packet pickup, but in doing so, I lost Mrs. HKR and child (SOHKR). I took my phone out of my pocket to find about 15 missed calls. Whoops. Well, we eventually reunited and when we did HRKBIL and HKR12YON had found Mrs. HKR. We stuck around the expo for a few more minutes, then headed off to dinner. As we walked down Boylston Street, walking in the other direction was Olympian Brian (and Mrs.?) Sell. So I asked if he had time for a picture, we chatted for a few seconds, got the picture and wished each other well for Monday’s race. Mrs. HKR and Mrs. HKRBFF had no idea who he was and HKRBIL told HKR12YON that it was “Ryan Hall”. Good times! After dinner, we got back to the hotel; I went through my “Sunday Night Checklist” and went to bed around 11pm.

Sunday: Up early, short walk to the T station, long wait for the next train, hoped on the train, made our transfers, then and as we walked out of the Hereford Station, I saw the 5k runners go by and cheered them on. Unfortunately, they were the 25 minute 5kers, so I missed catching HKR12YON run. Turns out he ran it in 20:1x and was one of the fastest kids under 13 in the race. After the race we stopped by Trader Joe’s to pick up snacks and while we were in the store, Mrs. HKR’s “little sister” (Mrs. HKR’sLS) who moved to NY about 18 months ago showed up with her family to surprise Mrs. HKR. (I am scoring some very difficult to acquire points this weekend, of course those points can vanish in an instant so I need to stay on my toes.) After another stop at the expo for the Adidas poster and other free stuff, it was off to church, then the girls went there way, and I went mine. Since I had some time to kill, I called a friend (FOHKR) to see if we could grab lunch. After I got lost (I suck) and made a 3 connection (red line to orange line to green line) 2 mile trip, FOHKR found me at Starbucks as I was donning my handsome home knitted hunter orange stocking cap. We hung out for about an hour, talking about a wide variety of things, then we reconfirmed our meeting location for Monday morning.

I then went to HKRBIL’s hotel room to relax with the guys for about 2 hours before we had to go to dinner. HKR12YON had control of the remote and his choice of TV shows was “Jeff and Kate Plus Eight”. Why are three guys watching this show the day before the Boston Marathon when women are not forcing us to? I suck. Thankfully I fell asleep for a while and when I woke up, we were running late for our dinner reservation in the North End, just a block or two from Paul Revere’s house (which I did not see). So we arrived late. The girls arrive even later but thankfully the restaurant still gave us a table after a short wait and had a great meal. By now it was time for bed and then some. We got back to the hotel, updated my facebook profile, packed my yellow bag, and set two alarms for 4:30 am.

Monday: SOHKR, my nerves and my phone’s alarm clock all woke me up at 4:30, I slapped onto my nipples some Hello Kitty band aids, got dressed, and after some breakfast was on the hotel shuttle to the T station at 5:20 and arrived at the Park Street Station around 6:10. I made the short walk to Park Street church where I met FOHKR. We soaked in some race morning atmosphere, watched the cops direct traffic, saw the Navel Academy marathon team walk by then headed to the bus lines. FOHKR and I were two of the last people on the bus. I sat down next to Rachel from the west coast, while FOHKR sat immediately in front of me as we entertained ourselves during the hour long ride to Hopkinton.

After a short trip to the Athletes Village for a bagel, banana and some Gatorade, FOHKR and I took the walk to a mysterious house down the street, about a half mile from the start line, where we were promised a warm family room to stay in before the race. As we arrived, we were welcomed by the most hospitable lady that I could imagine. I knew that I would get a warm place to stay for a few hours and short bathroom lines, but she made us coffee cake and offered us coffee, toasted bagels, and juice. Shortly after FOHKR and I fell in love with our generous hostess, HKRBIL and his two friends arrived as well. As we waited to go to the corrals, we watched the marathon coverage on TV and obsessed over our final clothing selections for the day. We all made our final choices, dropped our gear bags off at the buses early and headed back to the house for another half hour or so. At around 9:40, we started the walk, found our corral, national anthem, fighter jets fly by then we were off to the start line. I lined up next to The Principal and behind HKRBIL. My goal time was 3:09, or 7:12 per mile or 22:24 per 5k.

The Start Line:
0-5k (23:xx) It felt like an accordion, jog, pick it up, slam on the breaks, jog again, then pick up the pace again, this time for good as we cross the Start line. The Principal and I have the same goal time so we start out together, chatting it up noticing the steep downhill start, but not letting the vacuum suck us into running faster than we should as runners flock past us. The Principal and I laugh as HKRBIL pulls over to water the foliage, then about a half mile later, I decided to do the same (not so funny now), I’ll see The Principal for the next time about 27 miles into the race. The first mile felt different than most races, just chalked it up to trying to be careful.

5k-10k (22: xx /45: xx) Since I don’t run in crowds often and not liking crowds, I stick to the side of the road. There I find some little spectators who are big fans of Hello Kitty and they show me the love. I am hitting my mile splits right on, but it is feeling harder than it should. I catch up to HKRBIL and chat and run with him for a few minutes. At a water station he takes off and that is the last conversation that I will have with anyone other than myself and God until I crest Heartbreak.

10k-15k (22: xx /1:07: xx) This is the “relatively flat” part of the course, but I feel like I am using too much energy to keep my pace as I am getting side stitches. Even though there are tons of people running near me, I don’t feel like anyone is running at my same pace going both up and down hills, so this feels like a solo run with a bunch of other runners and tons of fans along the course.

15k-20k (22: xx /1:30: xx) I don’t remember much about this stretch of the race except I think I felt the wind more here. Wanted to do some drafting, but didn’t work at finding drafting partners and didn’t run in the middle of the road where the bulk of the runners were. It is weird how lonely this race can be, it seems like everyone is ”all business”, even early on.

20k-25k (22: xx /1:53: xx) Here comes Wellesley and the halfway point in the race. The scream tunnel was a lot of fun, gave some high fives, no kisses and learned that college girls also are fans of Hello Kitty. I pass the Hoyts then cruise through the half in 1:35:xx, or about a minute slower than planned. During this segment, I really want to start picking up the pace, but trust the advice I received earlier from veteran Boston Marathoners to save something for the hills and the downhill finish, so I hold back for now. Rumor has it that FOHKR passed me in this segment. If I had known, I may have tried to latch on to him and see where it might take me.

25k-30k (23: xx / 2:17: xx) I was determined not to let a lack of hill training result in the Newton Hills beating me. As we take the right turn onto Commonwealth, the feeling is kinda somber as I know the next 5 miles will not be easy. I realize that I will lose some time here, but trying not to worry about it. As I run past the 17 mile sign, I think of Nitmos who at this point in the race last year “walked for a minute”, but that one minute walk turned into a positive split of about 25 minutes. I don’t dare walk any of this race. I just keep my head down, not bothering to count the hills, just run up then down then up then down until I am not running up any more. Some point during this stretch I started hearing cheers for “Batman”. Yeah, some guy in a Batman shirt and cape trailed me by about 10-20 yards for about 2-3 miles. He was probably a big Hello Kitty fan or perhaps thought that my shirt had a picture of “Cat Woman” on the back.

30k-35k (24:xx/2:41:xx) As I slug through the second half of the Newton hills, I am passing a lot of walkers and getting passed by a few runners who are having a better day than me. I am leaking time, not trying to burn all my energy before the downhill finishing miles. As I approach mile 20,the plan says to take a gel, but I am not in the mood so I don’t take a gel between here and the finish. I start looking for my “fan club” holding a cardboard Hello Kitty face that my daughter created. Just after cresting Heartbreak, I found my fan club. This was my favorite part of the race. I ran up to my family, said my hellos then right when I got to them I gave HKR12YON a kiss on the cheek, then took off again. The little speedburner chased after me with his camera, and ran alongside me in his jeans for about 30 seconds, interviewing me as he videoed the interview. This was by far my favorite part of the race including the start, scream tunnel, “the left turn” and the finish. I need to figure out how to get the video off my facebook page.

35k-40k (25:xx/3:06:xx) By the time I reached the top of Heartbreak, I know that I was not anywhere near my goal and most of my focus and competitiveness left me as I just wanted to run fairly strong to the finish. I think I could have run these last few miles about 2-3 minutes faster, but the reward of a 3:14 or 15 did not seem worth it. As I crossed over the turnpike a guy was stumbling on and off in front of me. As I approached I decided to bag my time and help him to the side of the road to get him some help from a spectator or help from the railings on the side of the road. However, as I passed him he seemed to be doing better so I left him to take care of himself.

40k-42.195k (11:xx/3:17:xx) Keeping it just under an 8 minute pace, not killing myself to squeeze out a few extra seconds. I take the right hand turn onto Hereford, not even noticing that it is uphill, then I turn left onto Boylston and run to the finish line. About halfway down Boylston, I run up to Captain America, I think about running with him to the finish line, perhaps getting my picture in the paper, but decide against it and pass him quietly. I get about 100 yards from the line and make good on a promise to my kids. I break into their “Hello Kitty Dance”. I complete it just before the finish line then cross the line with arms in the air, fairly happy with my results.

Post Race: I think the hardest part of the race may have been the never ending finishing chute. After getting my bottle of water, I got my space blanket (asking for a size medium) then off to the food bags and finish medal, my calves started cramping up in the cold. Just before I got to my baggage bus, I went to the medical tent for some salt, they gave me a chair and a crappy cup of broth. It was the best tasting crappy cup of broth that HKR has ever had, then out of the tent to my bus. After a short wait, I got my gear bag and bumped into a very happy and warm The Principal as I got dressed in warm clothes. The Principal’s goal was 3:09 and he ran a 1:35/1:31 for a 3:06. I walked for another few hundred yards on my way to the “H family meet up section” where I found HKBIL (3:10) and short wait later Mrs. HKR, SOHKR and HKR12YON arrived.

Shortly after the race I was pretty happy with my time and the experience. However, as the days have passed, I have gotten angry with myself and my performance. Even though I didn’t have much spring in my step, I still left a lot of time on the course and I feel that around mile 18 or 19 I just quit on myself. I will be taking another week off from running, but when I get back, I will reduce my mileage for a few months, but run more “quality”/speed stuff and shoot to break or get really close to my 21 year old PR of 2:57:xx.

Until we meet again…Hello.

Thanks HKR and Congratulations! You didn't find my cleft calf on Heartbreak by chance did you?

Now, back to regular scheduled programming...


X-Country2 said...

Great race report! I love reading all the stories from everyone.

Marlene said...

Love the report. Sounds like a great experience! Congratulations HKR and thanks Nitmos for hosting HKR.

Xenia said...

Great job, HKR! And don't be too hard on yourself. I think it's more important that you were able to soak up the experience of Boston. Save the goal time for the next time around.

Irish Cream said...

I have to agree with Xenia. You ran a great race, HKR . . . and you'll get that PR the next time around. Besides, the most important thing is obviously that you got the HK dance in! Wish I could have seen it! ;)

Spike said...

HKR, great race! Sounds like the entire HKR family is full of great runners! I'm glad you did the dance, way better than hang'n with Cap America. enjoy the week off.

tfh said...

Great job, HKR. Yeah, it's pretty easy with some time and distance to start replaying how you coulda run differently. Hope to see you back here someday. Oh, and consider your manliness restored by the fact that you mistakenly called Jon (of And Kate + 8 fame) Jeff. (I suck.)

Roisin said...

Great report! It was almost like I was there...neat-o :)

carpeviam said...

I totally went through the same feelings regarding Boston this year. Was initially happy with my time, but each day since I've become a little more disappointed. Ah!

joyRuN said...

Excellent report, HKR! Don't let the passage of time make you second-guess yourself now.

Did you have a cheatsheet somewhere to keep track of all these abbreviations? HKRBIL, HKRBFF,...

Shannon said...

Awesome job even if you don't think so! Your rundown from race day was interesting to read, like we were there with you. Hopefully I'll have my own Boston race to share one day.

The Laminator said...

Congrats, HK on a great run and an even better race report! I, at Nitmos so aptly points out, can't finish mine for the life of me...