Wow. What a weekend in Boston. Everything up to the marathon was great. Seeing my friend Lisa, the Expo, watching my friends run the B.A.A. 5k and then enjoying the invitational mile with them and a nice brunch, then Donna and Chris’s roof deck in The North End Sunday evening.
Then came the marathon. Weather reports for race day were all doom and gloom. Boston was expected to break heat records on Marathon Monday, with temps at the 10:00 am start already at 75, then finishing temps at 87. Unfortunately the weathermen were spot on with that. Looking at temp profiles for the days leading up and the days after, it was a freak thing. Boston Athletic Association encouraged only the most fit to run it, and for the rest to defer until next year. The deferment option itself was ground-breaking for the BAA…this had never been offered before.
Naturally, me being me, I chose to run. Not running was really not an option. I’m trying to fulfill a 7-year streak, and this was year 6. Plus, despite my injuries, I’m still Marathon-ready, although less trained that I’d like to be. I did give up on my goal of improving my qualifying time for next year. The many, many reports emailed to runners from the BAA scared me into submission for an attempt at speed. “Speed kills,” they said. And in bold, “THIS IS NOT A RACE. Enjoy it as an experience.” I’m in. I’m tough. I’m a finisher. How bad can this be if I take it slow?
Race morning was definitely warm. And by the time I started WALKING to the starting corrals, I was already feeling heated in the sun. I knew it was going to be a struggle. I drank and drank and drank. I even stopped twice to use a porta potties between miles 2 and maybe 7. By mile 2, I was nervous for myself and the other runners. The heat was scary. And I mean it when I say I was scared for us. By mile 10, I was even more so… How am I going to manage to go 16.2 more? Slow and steady. But even slow and steady was a challenge, and the heat took its toll. Towards mile16-17, I felt that I was going to throw up, but didn’t (until later). I could tell that my stomach wasn’t processing fluids/GU’s like it should and that liquids were just sitting there. I continued to drink, though, knowing how important fluids and electrolytes are and carried on.
Sound fun so far? I admittedly wanted to cry when I passed the 17 mile mark as Eric wasn’t there this year. I needed some support, someone to tell me to keep pressing, and luckily I found it within. I walked a LOT through Newton on those tough hills. But when we got to Heartbreak, I trudged up without walking for the small mental victory.
I was in so much pain, everywhere, from 21 onward. Indescribably awful. I can say that from about mile 14 on, I wanted it to be over. Just over. But I can also honestly say that I never thought of giving up. I took some more walk breaks with some fellow runners. I knew that I could make it to the finish, even if I had to walk, so I kept on going. The thing about walking though, I kept thinking, was it would just make the entire effort longer and it was imperative to finish up and get out of the heat.
Finally, I made it to Hereford and made the turn onto Boylston. Once you make that turn, though, there’s still a good bit of running to do; maybe 0.3 mile? The finish line wasn’t getting any closer despite my efforts, so I stopped looking at it, pulled my visor down and kept moving.
I had made it to the finish in just under 4 hours. Maybe 3:57? Don’t know, and don’t really care, and one simply can’t compare times and efforts here. Timing does not matter this year. Survival did. It was over. I didn’t make it very far past the finish, before I leaned over and just cried. Emotions hit me… Mostly from the pain that I felt in that moment, and also being proud to have risen to the challenge, and to have been there at all given the cruddy 6-7 months of injuries. I had to sit down. I saw other runners on the curb, so I joined them. Medical personnel don’t like that too much, but we all had to. I just needed rest. I wanted to sleep. Different medical personnel kept checking in on us and I insisted I was “ok.” I must have sat for 30 minutes, even though I was “only given 5.” I really felt strongly about being responsible for myself. I desperately wanted the help, but so did many others and I didn’t want to be one of the runners to overwhelm the med tent. Finally, I decided to go in when I couldn’t take it anymore, and a nice gal brought me a wheel chair. The line was out the door and many runners sat in line in wheelchairs waiting to get in. I kept thinking, I” don’t want to do this I don’t want to do this” and had a moment where I felt slightly better. I decided to get up and walk…
The thought of getting to Lisa’s felt like another marathon. Lines and walking to get space blankets, medals, then baggage busses, then the “T.” I felt like death. I kept going. The T was crowded and I waited forever, slumped over, oblivious to what was going on around me. I just wanted to lay down. I got on the T after many minutes and rode to Cleveland Circle. Right before my stop, I had the urge to get sick so I quickly unloaded the plastic food bag they’d given me and, well, filled it back up with lots of fluids that my body desperately needed. Fluids that I took in way earlier, around miles 16-17. This happened two more times that night. I made it to Lisa’s and all I could do was lie down. I felt so sick! I wanted it to be “tomorrow;” for this day to be over and to feel good. I’d have given anything at the finish line to feel good. I took small sips of Gatorade and I could tell my stomach wasn’t having it. I knew how important rehydration was and electrolyte replacement was. I was scared. I knew I was suffering from heat exhaustion and googled it, where I learned that you can manage it at home with fluids and electrolytes. But if nausea and vomiting prohibit you from rehydrating to seek medical attention. So I laid there and beat myself up about how stupid I was to leave the med tent. And how stupid it was to run. But how was I to know? I was one of 20,000+ so I wasn’t the only one. I contemplated urgent care or ER, but decided on a little more time. I threw up again, but also had to use the potty so I thought something was getting through.
Long story long, I stayed at Lisa’s and slowly, slowly recovered. Took a quick shower and went right back to laying down. I laid there from the time I returned from the race, about 3:30? Until this morning at 5:00 am. I’ve eaten a half a bagel since yesterday morning’s pre-race bagel and banana. I’m working on fluids and feel much better, but with a little ways to go.
I wish I could shake the negativity surrounding yesterday. Maybe by next week? I don’t really feel victorious, though as the day goes on, I feel more so that way, reading similar reflections from fellow runners. Going in, I never thought I’d be risking my life, and I don’t think that’s the case but I do think I was in some sort of danger-ish zone. I suppose I’ve learned another important lesson or two about myself. Gut check? Check. I got lots of ‘em. But I also am one of those people who simply don’t fare well in the heat. Period. No doubt the heat was awful for everyone, but I don’t think my body can handle it as well post-race as others. Which might explain my frequent post-race migraines. Recognizing that now, I’ll simply have to take that into account in the future. I usually accept the headache that’s coming, and medicate appropriately. But I can’t do heat exhaustion thing again.
I guess I better “hang up” now and post this before I have second thoughts on my admissions. Perhaps a runner friend can learn from my experience in some way. I’d advise: 1: take the race directors warnings seriously (I did). 2. Don’t be embarrassed or too tough to need the med tent.
Peace out, y’all. Thanks for reading. I’ll report back on how I’m feeling in a few days!
Caryn- 7-time Boston Marathoner, 6-in-a-row