Just to follow-up my Boston posts, I’ll quick recap of post-marathon and the fun my mum and me had in Cape Cod (every time I type this I want to say Cape Town…not Africa, Anna, AMERICA).
After finishing the marathon and chilling for a bit in Starbucks we grabbed a bit of lunch…
The world’s biggest salad; it had everything in there from feta to chicken to beetroot to broccoli. It’s what I was absolutely craving. Big indulgences would come later when my stomach felt more up to it.
After this we made the long walk back to the harbour to catch the water taxi back to the hotel. My legs felt tired but generally OK which I was pleased with (though my hamstring was very tight). As we were walking so many random people congratulated me – and people who hadn’t even been near the race. From older people to teenagers, everyone had a kind word for me.
As I was only wrapped up in a foil blanket over my shorts and vest I was starting to get very cold. I had such a craving for a hot drink that we stopped in another Starbucks on the way back (a takeaway decaf, more just something warm for me to drink than anything). As I stood in line with my mum the woman behind leaned over us and said “this one’s on me” and handed the barista the money. I was shocked. She said “you’ve earnt it, amazing job”. It was such a nice thing to do!
As we continued on our way I was still clutching the goodie bag I’d received, which was packed full of really random food, like a bread roll, a protein drink, crisps and other snacks. I knew I wouldn’t need any of it and it felt like such a waste throwing it away. A homeless woman congratulated me and it made me think. I asked her if she wanted some of my snacks from my goodie bag and she was over the moon. I gave a few more items to another equally chuffed homeless person and my mum promptly burst into tears saying “I’ve raised a good’un!”. Bless her.
My finisher’s top and medal
That evening we ate in the hotel restaurant again because honestly the thought of going anywhere else just didn’t appeal. I once again had chicken wings, this time with a delicious blue cheese dip and a cheese sharing platter with my mum.
Yes I’m wearing my medal, and I wasn’t the only one!
The next morning we checked out of the hotel, picked up our rental car and drove down to Cape Cod. We stopped half-way at Plymouth to break the journey up a bit (it was about two hours). I knew there was Plymouth Rock to see so though it might be a nice place to have a look around. It was really windy and quite cold though.
We actually randomly stumbled upon the rock and were, well, a little disappointed as it was very small and not much to it. We moseyed about for a while and then decided we’d carry on. Plymouth was a little bit dull I must say (though we were in the off-season I hasten to add).
We arrived in Hyannis, Cape Cod, a it later and checked into our hotel.
The main street with restaurants, shops and also the harbour and beach were only a short walk away which was handy. At this point we were quite hungry. And lo and behold, a restaurant so perfectly fitting to my post-marathon runger… a Brazilian rodizio all-you-can-eat. Hello, heaven.
There was a huge salad bar which I used to load up my plates with salad and veggie – let’s not weigh myself down with unnecessary carbs after all! And the waiters came round with all different types of meat to carve for you. It was delicious. My mum even enjoyed herself (it’s not really her thing but she indulged me in my post-marathon haze). My only sadness was the lack of ribs *sobs*.
Needless to say dinner wasn’t necessary. But we did go out for a nice drink in a local bar. Originally I was just going to have a diet Coke but my mum ordered a margarita and I saw you could have it iced, like a Slush Puppy, so I decided to go for it.
I don’t usually drink that much at all. I don’t hugely enjoy it – though I do like the odd Prosecco or G&T. But it’s rare. Anyway the alcoholic Slush Puppy was delicious and went down a treat.
In fact, it went down a little too well. I found it very drinkable because of all the ice and found that over half-way through it I was feeling a little drunk. Seriously. How much of a light-weight am I! My mum found it ever so amusing. I was off in my own little tipsy world giggling over nothing. My mum couldn’t drink her non-iced margarita as it was too strong and though I had a few sips of hers (I think that’s it in the photo above) I declined to finish it otherwise she’d have been carrying me home! It was a fun evening though.
The rest of our time in Cape Cod was spent driving to different towns and places and basically just chilling. Things were a lot more relaxed than they were in Boston, especially with no longer having an impending marathon hanging over us. We went to Provincetown, the furthest point of Cape Cod, which had lots of quirky shops. We also spent some time in Chatham, which my mum adored (lots of linen clothing and home décor shops) where the only interesting shop I found for me was a chocolate shop (easily pleased). But it was very pretty and peaceful.
I unashamedly spent $10 on a bag of ‘misfit’ chocolates, which I then promptly munched through as my mum went in yet another linen shop.
One day we went to Falmouth where we had some delicious cake and tea in an American tea-room. Though it was delicious, it was a very odd setting. I think they were trying to get the whole British tea-room vibe going but it just seemed a little strange with the décor and it being almost a restaurant. I don’t think it translated well.
The cakes however did translate perfectly into being TASTY. I had lemon and my mum had carrot. All the about that icing (frosting!).
We then headed over to Martha’s Vineyard on the ferry.
It was such a beautiful sunny day we were very lucky! Martha’s Vineyard is a small island off of Cape Cod and for movie geeks like myself, the home to Jaws. Though sadly I didn’t get to see the famous Jaws bridge as it was just too far out. We had a lovely time regardless, going into the shops, having an iced coffee (Boston seems to go mad for iced coffees, they were everywhere) and seeing all the beautiful “gingerbread” houses.
It’s basically a large collection of summer houses that people can live in when they go on holiday. But as it was the off-season there was no one living there and it was very quiet and actually quite eerie. It was like a mini village of ghost houses. It kind of put us at unease! But pretty nonetheless.
Anyway, we had a fantastic time in Cape Cod. It was the perfect place to chill out after the busyness of the marathon and the hubbub of the city. I ate lots, walked lots and shopped lots. It was such a great holiday. Sadly I found no ribs at all, but I did eat chicken wings no less than FIVE times.
Not even all the chicken wings I ate
They were just so tasty. America definitely does them right! And I found more cake, of course and the biggest side of sweet potato fries I’ve ever seen at the Cheesecake Factory (our last meal before we flew back) – an entire large bowl of them! Even I couldn’t finish them.
I loved spending the time with my mum – neither of us wanted to kill the other one so that’s a bonus
The expectation for this race was insane. The entire city was buzzing with anticipation. Every person I saw seemed to be involved somehow. Everyone knew it was happening and was excited. [Warning: another long post]
Like I said before, I was really nervous. Yes I had no time goals per se but I was genuinely worried about my hamstring (in true Anna fashion, there’s always something, right?). The tightness had popped up the week before and I could feel it when I stretched it. In any normal circumstance I’d have probably given myself a few days off…but I had an expensive race I needed to do. I was worried how it would fair over 26.2 miles. It was just a hint of a niggle, but what if all those miles turned it into a full blown injury?
Anyway, I was going to run it and see what happened. I decided to go for 3:40 and perhaps better if I felt good later on. I was confident with those paces – it wasn’t going too fast and should feel comfortable. I had my mile paces printed out and laminated (with Cellotape) that would be tucked into my sports bra (I’ve done this for previous marathons).
My alarm was set for just before 5am. I had a black coffee and got myself ready. I put on some throwaway clothes to keep warm (one of my dad’s hoodies and a pair of tracksuit bottoms I’d had since senior school!). My mum waved me off (she would be coming down later to stand somewhere on the course). I took my oats downstairs in a container. Handily the hotel had put on a tuck shop of breakfast items and coffee so I used some of that milk to create some cold porridge/gruel which I’d eat later in the race village (mmm…).
I bought a handy container from Tesco the week before
I caught the water taxi with a few other marathoners. I was probably too early as my (white) wave didn’t need to catch the shuttle buses until 6.45-7.20am but I wanted to get out there.
Early morning selfie before the taxi
We walked the mile to the common where the shuttle buses were waiting. It was all fairly easy. We had to make sure we were using clear bags and that our stuff fit into another plastic bag to make sure we weren’t taking too much to the race village (as there was a proper bag drop near the Common) and that security could see what we were taking. I had my phone, some nuun water, a banana, my gels and my porridge. There were security everywhere. You had to get your bag searched before going on the shuttle bus. But it was very well organised, like clockwork.So many yellow school buses lined up
I got on a bus and was off in no time, about 7am. I sat next to a girl from Chicago who I briefly chatted to. I was so nervous that I honestly didn’t fancy chatting too much and I think she felt the same. Instead I ended up listening to some girls behind me talk about all the track workouts they’d done. Joy. I wondered how I could sustain these nerves for another 3.5 hours…surely this can’t be healthy!
That bus ride was so boring. The roads were dull, there was nothing to look at and all I could think about was how bloody long it was taking us to drive away from the place we were going to run to. It was funny though to see so many school buses going in convoy along the motorway. It was also a novel experience to travel on an American school bus!
Finally we arrived about an hour later at the race village. I was in need of a wee and just wanted to get into the race village.
It was nice and sunny but still quite cool. I did my business and then found a piece of cardboard going spare to sit on and ate my porridge. The cardboard idea was a popular one and was easy to get as there were so many boxes of free bagels, bananas, Clif products and Gatorade that new boxes were being opened all the time. The grass was damp from the dew so this was a good plan. There was also free coffee. It was quite the buffet.
I found the one area where my phone picked up free WIFI and stood there for a bit checking up on social media, posting some pics and updates. It was so lovely to get so many well wishers and kind messages. I felt truly loved and buoyed. But it suddenly occurred to me how many people knew I was running and the pressure suddenly heightened. I also realised that as it was Monday lots of people might be bored at work and there was the tracker…
I decided to conserve my battery on my phone and laid down for a bit on my cardboard. It was now very sunny. People all around me were sitting or walking around or snoozing. This was like no other race I’ve been to in that everyone looked fast. Everyone was lean, prepared and focused. The vibe of the place was very different to other races. There were no fun runners here. Everyone had run a marathon before in order to qualify. And, to me, it seemed everyone was well-trained and ready to go-go-go. I felt so out of place. I know this sounds ridiculous as I earnt my place there like everyone else, but I honestly felt like I didn’t belong. I know not everyone was actually running for a fast time, but it definitely felt that way.
Eventually I thought I better go to the loo again. Good job as it took 40 minutes in the queue despite the obscene number of portable toilets! And I was just in time for when they called my wave to go to the start. Again, everything was super organised. And the place was full of police, military and sniffer dogs (and snipers on the roof!).
At this point I was really concerned with the weather. I kept my hoodie on as long as possible, not from the cold, but from the sun. It was beating down and I knew I needed to find some suntan lotion or I’d be in trouble. Luckily as my wave made our way to our corral at the start there was a collection of Vaselines, waters and suntan lotion bottles that people had kindly left behind before going to the start.
Lots of runners were stopping to use this pop-up facility and I joined in slathering myself with lotion.
Just before we headed down to our corrals there was another area of loos. Honest to god with the many, many loos in the race village I’ve never seen so many for one race. I knew I didn’t have the time (or patience) to queue up again but mentally I needed to be certain. I saw lots of people going over the material fence to some bushes to have a quick wee so I followed. There was nowhere to hide though. I say bushes but really I mean leafless branches. Girls just squatted down as best as they could and I will unashamedly say I joined them. Needs must! The funniest thing was that if I turned to look one way all I’d see were the men lined up to pee right in front of us. So many willies on display!
Anyway after that lapse in human dignity, I headed to the start feeling ready.
I hung about in my corral, doing my leg swings and dynamic stretches – more to calm my nerves than anything. It was hot. I was sweating already. Then we were off. I was actually that distracted by everything around me that I almost forgot to start my Garmin as I crossed the start line!
Miles 1-3: It was very crowded at the start but I didn’t really mind this as it kept my pace in order. I was surprised that people weren’t zooming off but I did get overtaken a fair bit. I kept in the middle of the road and felt happy. There weren’t a huge number of supporters but there were sprinklings of people cheering and people on their front lawns, set up for the day with chairs and drinks. It was full on downhill right from the start and I felt comfortable at my pace. But there were a few rolling hills as the initial miles tick by. I glanced at my pacing paper each mile to check where I should be for the next mile and it gave me a good indication of where the hills would be.
Miles 4-7: So far I’d been keeping nicely to my plan, though perhaps slightly quicker but I expected this. I heard one man suddenly gasp when he realised he accidentally turned off his Garmin by mistake instead of switching the screens and he hadn’t realised. I felt his pain – what a bummer! He was then in a dilemma as to what to do. I never found out…
I kept looking at my pace paper and felt on track but it was starting to feel really tough. It wasn’t supposed to feel as tough as this. I grabbed water from the aid stations (thankfully they were so regular) and began pouring one over my head and sipping the other. Annoyingly they were cups which meant drinking was tricky but I squeezed the top together so I could create a spout. I also had to dodge the Gatorades as they were always first (could you imagine if I accidentally dumped one of those on my head?? #sticky).
The course was fairly dull. As a non-American I wasn’t sure what was significant and what wasn’t. There were spectators along the way but not as many as I thought they’d be. As the course is pretty much a straight line to Boston you could occasionally seen straight out in front of you and the 1,000s of runners ahead. It was mentally tough to see that. I crossed over the 10k chip mat and thought how my time would ping back to my dad (I thought it was only significant markers. I’m thankful I didn’t know it was every mile as that might have freaked me out).
Miles 8-12: At this point I knew things weren’t going well. I was struggling. My hamstring was fine (just a tiny niggle barely noticeable) but my brain wasn’t happy. I was losing motivation fast. The heat was really getting to me and I was struggling with the paces. I heard a girl next to me say to someone else, “It shouldn’t feel this hard this early”. I was so thankful that someone else was feeling the strain like me. I realised the heat was affecting everyone (of course).
My piece of paper was difficult to read now as I’d sweated through to the ink. Then a gust of wind blew it away – I kid you not. I watched it fly over my shoulder and gave a little scream which scared a nearby runner. I briefly contemplated going back for it but realised it was for the best. My 3:40 (and definitely 3:35) goal weren’t going to happen. Now I just wanted to finish. I switched my watch to miles rather than the pace I was doing.
Water wasn’t helping and I wondered about Gatorade but knew that would be dangerous having never tried it and the thought of a sickly drink made my stomach heave.
I was in marathon hell. Nothing about the course was helping, there was no shade and I was quickly spiralling into a dark, dark place. I took my gel early in the hopes that it would perk me up and then decided “sod it” and put a podcast on. I needed something to take my mind off the race. I wasn’t enjoying the race and was having a mental battle with myself about stopping. But stopping would be a) embarrassing and b) I’d have no idea where the hell to go or what to do.
We then came into the Wesley area. I didn’t think it was this soon but suddenly there was a long (and I mean LONG) line of girls hanging over the barriers with bright red lipstick on screaming to be kissed. They had signs with funny messages and it took my mind off the race completely reading them. I’d heard about this before the race so it was fun seeing it live.
Their screaming was deafening. I found myself laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. Some runners went over to have a quick peck and I even saw one guy get a selfie. It hugely lifted my mood.
Miles 13-16: Suddenly I was back in the groove. I was back in race mode and pulled myself together. This is BOSTON, I told myself. Don’t waste it. I saw a girl in the crowd handing out bottles of Vita Coco coconut water and I decided to grab one. Hands down this probably saved the race for me. The water was deliciously cold and tasty, and it perked me right up. I kept pouring water on my head at each water station but I kept that coconut water with me to sip on as I went on. Now I was just ticking the miles down until the hills would begin at Newton (mile 16). I saw a guy with a parkrun 50 shirt on and this made me smile too. I had my second gel.
Miles 17-21: I hit the first hill after a sharp decline and it was a long slog. It was tough but there was lots of support and I just remembered that after every hill there was a decline. I also envisaged myself running up my local hill. I could do this. I remember reading a sign saying “May the course be with you” with a picture of Yoda and this made me smile. Another said “Motivational message for people I don’t know”. Random but funny. And my personal favourite “If Trump can run, so can you”.
When I was at the race village my mum had text me saying she was on the left next to a fire station (I do love my mum’s vagueness). I had no idea where that was. I assumed it wouldn’t be early in the race but at best 17 miles onward. So I now spent lots of time searching the supporters for my mum and any fire stations (thankfully I wasn’t aware that she was actually about 800m from the finish…).
The hills kept coming but I didn’t really notice them. It broke the race up nicely and I found myself overtaking people who were walking or struggling. Amusingly I was only aware of Heartbreak Hill after I’d climbed it and saw a huge sign saying I’d conquered it. Personally I’d say the first hill was the hardest as it dragged on, Heartbreak was more of a sharp but shorter hill. I enjoyed the downhill and found my quads were fine (I’d be warned that your quads could seriously hurt on these later downhills) and felt giddy that I’d gotten past the worst of the race.
I grabbed a Clif gel from a volunteer at the energy station (this was always my plan as I only wanted to carry two gels). I realised it was Vanilla flavoured and that there were other flavours going so I picked up a few more and then made my selection (oh the luxury!). I went for Citrus in the end, and threw the other gels back to the energy people’s feet. I took it at mile 18 and it was gloriously tasty. Like lemon curd.
22-26 miles: Aside from Bournemouth, these miles have always been good for me. I felt I was almost home, I was running strong and was happy. There was a gentle breeze which had a lovely cooling effect. The crowds were thick. I finished the coconut water and ditched it. I raised my hands and smiled and this made the crowds louder (other people were doing this too, I wasn’t the only loon).
My only annoyance was a painful stitch in my side. I tried stabbing my side, breathing differently, putting hands on hips, stretching upwards…nothing shifted it. My only relief was bending over as I ran – this, I know, looked weird but it provided me with minutes relief after I did it. At this point in the race you do whatever you can to stay comfortable. I saw that famous Citgo sign in the horizon and smiled – finally another landmark I recognised.
We went under a bridge where the words “Boston Strong” were painted.
I took this photo on our last day when we drove back to the airport
And then it was time for the only two turns in the entire race, the famous: “Left on Hereford, right on Boylston” (I’d only heard about that the day before). And then the crowds were crazy. I pumped my arms and smiled and smiled. I could see the finish in the distance. Still so bloody far away but within my grasp. I felt strong and overtook people as I headed to the finish. And then it was done.
Finish: My time was 3:38:46. I am fully shocked by this – somehow I managed to get my goal despite giving up earlier and ignoring my watch.
I stumbled along, my hamstring now saying hello to me, it was very tight. And within minutes I had text messages off people saying congratulations and then my dad rung me. Blimey! I answered saying “I’ve finished! I did it!” and he goes “I know, it’s just said on the tracker. I’ve been tracking your every mile.” I blinked, my every mile!? Thank god I didn’t know that.
Looking behind at the finish line
I plodded along talking to my dad, telling him it was the hardest road marathon I’ve ever done. He replied that he could tell by my splits (thanks, Dad). He also said he could see from the TV coverage that it was a hot day and the elites struggled too. Hilariously my dad had said he’d already text my mum to tell her I was finished as she didn’t know. I got my medal and thanked every volunteer I came near. I was euphoric. I’d have probably given away half my savings to a charity at that point I was so glad to be finished.
After getting my medal I walked along to collect the various food items, a goody bag and water. I asked a kind volunteer to take my photo…
And then stumbled along to get a foil wrap. I wasn’t cold but I knew I would be soon.
I’d pre-agreed to meet my mum at the Prudential Centre which was such a good idea. I could see it because it was so big so I couldn’t get lost and it wasn’t too far away.
It seemed every single person I passed congratulated me. I got to the Prudential Centre, saw my mum and she ran towards me and grabbed me in a hug. She said, “I’m so proud of you! I saw you! You were smiling!” I hadn’t seen her, which is such a shame but I’m so glad she saw me. Apparently the lady next to her said, “How can she be smiling at this stage!?”
I almost cried hugging my mum but managed to hold it together. My dad is such a supporter of all my races and has seen so many and of course I know my mum supports me too but to have her there at a marathon and to be so happy for me, it was really very special. She always tries her best to come and support me but she worries about leaving their dogs for too long so she’s never seen me at a marathon. It was a lovely, lovely moment. She was so excited for me and buzzed by everything. It made my day as I was worried it would be a long, hard day for her that she would grin and bear it (as mothers do). But she was smiling from ear to ear.
We headed straight to the Barnes and Noble Starbucks where I could finally sit down, have a giant iced coffee and just absorb what had happened.
It was strangely quiet and peaceful in the shop, whereas outside was mental with runners and people. It was the perfect location to decompress. And the goody bag had an APPLE. A GLORIOUSLY CRUNCHY TASTY APPLE. It was absolute bliss. No apple has ever tasted that good. Big words.
It was definitely the hardest road marathon I’ve done, despite going into it without a time goal. My easy pace I’d planned didn’t feel easy – I’m assuming because of training through winter and than having a very sunny and warm race. It was definitely a fantastic experience. But not one I’d do again. I’ll save my reflections for another day!
How do you motivate yourself when you find yourself in a dark patch during a race/workout?
Would you prefer to train cold and race warm, or train warm and race cold?
Where do I even start?? [Warning: long post alert]So I’m back from Boston. I got back Saturday morning (about 2am Boston time, 7am UK time). Saturday was a tough day staying awake! The flight time was only around 6.5 hours so it’s not fully overnight. But anyway, I’m back and feeling more human (just). I haven’t finished my race recap of Boston yet so that’ll come (hopefully) towards the end of this week. So for now I’ll recap the days leading up to it.
My mum and me flew to Boston Friday early afternoon. I watched two films (Spotlight and The Big Short – both really good. Spotlight was especially interesting as it’s set in Boston). I do love long-haul flights for their movies!
We arrived in the afternoon Boston time (Boston is 5 hours behind the UK). We were staying in the Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor. I’d booked through the Boston Marathon so got a discounted price and as it was connected to the marathon the hotel knew lots of information and themed the weekend for the runners (free yoga Saturday morning, free water taxi to Boston mainland on Monday, carb-based meals in the restaurant, etc.). They even put a finish line on the floor.
The hotel was located very close to the airport which was very handy (and had a free shuttle) though we were, as I mentioned, a water taxi ride from Boston proper. At first I thought this was annoying but actually it was lovely. The views from the restaurant were phenomenal.
We had such good views of the Boston skyline and a lovely path to walk along the water.
As we were tired we didn’t fancy getting the water taxi over and hunting for somewhere to eat. We caught an Uber (honestly, this app blew my mind – it’s like magic!) and went to Angela’s Cafe, in East Boston, which I’d seen on Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives and I’d also been heartily recommended by Anthony Rodriguez, a member of the DDD team.
As we weren’t hugely hungry we kept it simple with a soup for my mum and a chicken salad for me. We also had a HUGE stone bowl of guacamole and tortilla chips. Heavenly! I was worried that the place would be a bit ‘off-beat- for my mum but she loved it. Honestly the food was awesome and so fresh! The restaurant was very small but clearly a local favourite. I wish we could have gone back there to fully try out some of the other food but sadly we didn’t have time.
The next morning we got up early as we were jetlagged and had an early breakfast in the hotel before catching the water taxi over. The water taxi took less than eight minutes and was a lovely way to travel as the views were great.
Another cheeky selfie
It was a bit chilly and windy but otherwise lovely and sunny. Our mission was to head straight to the marathon expo first to get that done. We used the metro system, the “T”, and then followed all the other marathoners to the convention centre. It was easy to spot runners – they were everywhere and most of them either carrying a map that came with the marathon info or wearing Boston marathon clothing. It was very exciting.
Some firemen were stood watching the 5k ear their fire station and I couldn’t not say hello to their adorable Dalmatian
We stopped a few times to take photos of course. The Boston 5k was going on at that time so there was lots going on.
We found the expo and headed straight to the bib pick-up area. We were actually slightly early as they hadn’t even started giving out the bibs yet. But we only had a few minutes to wait – our timing was awesome.The expo was great. Similar to Berlin where there were large areas of different companies selling running-related stuff. As Adidas were the clothing sponsor for the marathon they got the largest area and I was literally in heaven.
I decided to treat myself to some Boston merchandise because it was all so lovely and I wanted a few items with Boston Marathon 2016 on. It was expensive though as you can imagine! I decided to go for a black Adidas jacket and a blue tank top. There were the traditional blue jackets but I found the colours quite garish, though so many people were going for them and we’d see them everywhere the days after.
We carried on moseying about but I didn’t buy anything else. It was starting to get busy so we headed out to start a day of shopping, something we were both excited about. My mum, bless her, was wonderful joining me in the expo and I could see her getting into the excitement of it all as she was beginning to realise just how big a deal running Boston was to the US.
We got to the shops just as they were opening. We mainly stuck to the Prudential Centre, which is basically a mall with an observatory on the top floor (it’s a huge skyscraper).
Though we were tempted by the observatory and seeing the city from so high we were too distracted by shops
I found a Lululemon and almost bought one of their swiftly tops which I’d be hankering over for ages on the Internet. It’s so expensive for basically a long-sleeved running top but it’s such a lovely fit and lovely material. It also had “Boston 2016” on the back. In the end I decided not to buy it (MISTAKE).
After lots of of shopping we started to feel hungry so decided to try out the Cheesecake Factory as it was close by, relatively inexpensive and easy. It was ridiculously busy everywhere now (runners everywhere). We had a 20 minute wait but we decided it was worth it as everywhere else was rammed. We’d never been to a Cheesecake factory before so it was a new experience.
I couldn’t believe all the cheesecakes and cake that were in the display cabinet. It was amazing! As we instantly knew we were going to have cheesecake for pudding, we decided to be a bit sensible and have a light salad for lunch.
The salad was delicious, with goat’s cheese and chicken. But obviously the cheesecake was the winner here. It was ginormous.
I went for the Ultimate Red Velvet Cheesecake while my mum went for the Salted Caramel Cheesecake. I’d love to say that I couldn’t eat all of it but that would be a lie. I’m such a greedy cake monster that I polished the entire thing off. I felt ridiculously full afterwards of course but I fully enjoyed it! That cheesecake will forever haunt my dreams now…it was so good. My mum, being a far more reasonable human being, couldn’t finish hers. Luckily the waitress took it away quickly as I was eyeing it up. God.
I rationalised that as the marathon was on Monday I could enjoy my eating on the Saturday but on the Sunday I’d be more sensible. In theory. During the meal we chatted away to two ladies who were running the marathon the next day in the table near us. It was incredible, everywhere there were marathoners.
We did a bit more shopping and sightseeing then headed back, by walking this time, to the harbour area. We decided to go back to the hotel to chill for a bit and then head out again for dinner that evening. We made sure to book somewhere before we got the water taxi back as it was so busy. We booked dinner for a lot later as obviously we were stuffed!
The next day I got up with the intentions of doing a shakeout run. I asked at reception where I could do this and they provided me with a handy hand-size map that showed different options – a longer 6+ mile run or a shorter three mile run. This was fantastic! I eyeballed it for a while then decided I knew where to go for my three miler. It basically ran alongside the water so it was lovely and scenic.
In true Anna standard, I did get lost. But amazingly I managed to find my way back and run exactly three miles! I saw lots of runners about and we all smiled and waved at each other.
Then my mum and me had breakfast again in the hotel. The breakfast at the hotel was lovely; it was a buffet-style affair but you could order off the menu as well. I ordered a bacon, cheese and lobster omelette to have alongside my oatmeal and black coffee.
This set me up nicely for another day of walking around Boston. We decided to follow the Freedom Trail, which would take in the main historic sights of Boston on foot. It was quite fun as we used an app on our phone which would tell us information about each thing we saw and it was a bit like an Easter egg hunt trying to find the different things.
Basically red bricks would guide you to each different place and there would be a plaque giving information about different buildings and places. The app helped though giving a map and some context (you could use it offline).Not knowing a huge amount of American history (or barely any…) it was quite interesting. It also helped us get a good bearing on the city. This was really helpful for me as the next day, marathon Monday, I’d need to get myself to the Boston Common ridiculously early on my own from the hotel (catching the water taxi, then walking about a mile) to catch the shuttle buses to the start of the marathon, 26-something miles away from Boston.
Whoops, my mum cut off George Washington’s head!
We walked down Newbury Street which was teeming with people. The sun was shining and it was a lovely day. We found a lovely little Italian restaurant, called Trattoria, for a light lunch.
Again I had a salad with chicken and goat’s cheese (I know what I like!). It was delicious and the atmosphere was lovely. We chatted to a table next to us who’s dad was running the marathon for the seventh time. It was great to chat to someone who had done it.
We did a bit more shopping in the Prudential Centre and I decided to go back to Lululemon to buy that top I’d seen the day before. Alas though they’d sold out of the Boston 2016 one… I was fairly grumpy but tried on a load of stuff and decided to treat myself (I had gone with a shopping budget) to a few things. Lululemon is expensive but the quality is good. I treated myself to two jackets and the swiftly top sans the “Boston 2016” on the back. (It wasn’t until later on when I checked the receipt I realised they hadn’t charge me for one of the jackets. Though I had watched the sales person ring them up and fold them! Unknowingly I’d walked out of the shop without them charging me for a £90 jacket!! My lucky day it seems! My mum joked that we could now never go back to that shop).
I also treated myself to a few Nike items (one long sleeved top and a tank top with Boston on it and personalised with my name – for free!).
We checked out the finish line as well – which was ridiculously busy.
The Marathon Daffodils were lined up all along the streets and outside shops
We then spent some time around Quincy Market as well, which again was just heaving with activity. So many people! It was mental. In fact the entire day we couldn’t move for runners running everywhere or just people wearing Boston marathon jackets or just lycra-clad people. Everyone looked super fit and healthy. It seemed the whole city knew about the marathon. In shops the staff would be talking about it, wondering whether to go down and watch it (it’s a holiday for them on the Monday) and people would ask if you were running it. Though it was nice, it was making me exceptionally nervous. My hamstring had been really tight for a few days and I was so worried it would cause me issues. I could feel it when I ran that morning – not pain, just a tightness. I was worried about all those hills. My mum, bless her, did her best to calm me down.
Quincy Market is full of restaurants, food stalls and shops. We wandered around for a bit and then I spotted someone with a chocolate covered apple. Where was this!? I soon found a stall inside the market hall and bought one immediately.
Nothing calms me more than apples
We had already decided to eat a meal in the restaurant that evening as it was easy and I didn’t want to have too late a night. The hotel’s restaurant was very posh and looked out onto the harbour. We’d booked in the morning (or so we thought) and at 7.30pm arrived for our table. They looked confused and said there was no reservation. We clearly saw a woman write down our names, our room number and our time that morning so we were a bit annoyed. Especially as we had nowhere else to go really for dinner (without stress) and it was fairly important I ate a good meal. It was busy though and I started to get nervous.
Thankfully the hostess was very apologetic and got us a table and told us our appetisers would be covered, which was a lovely touch (and quite appreciated as the menu was quite expensive!). So it actually worked in our favour. Boringly I went for a salad for my main as I wanted to keep things simple but I just could not resist the chicken wings for my starter.
The chicken wings fully rocked my world. As a starter there were LOADS. It was pretty much a main meal (for a normal person). Perhaps not my wisest choice before a marathon but they were bloody awesome. And you know I love my salads
And then we headed to bed. Saturday and Sunday we’d walked over 30,000 steps each day. I was shattered. I knew this was a bad move before the marathon but at the same time, we had a great time and I would rather be busy and walking than sat contemplating the next day. It also helped me fall asleep quickly and deeply both nights.
And then the marathon…
What expos have you been to before?
Have you ever been to Boston?
Do you do a lot of walking the days before a big race?
I’m trying my best to not overthink or panic about next week. It’s not like I’ve never run a marathon before. And, like I said in the last post, I’m not aiming for a PB at Boston. I think I’m just worrying because to me Boston is a big deal. It’s a race I’ve always wanted to do as soon as I heard about it.
The fact you need to qualify for it, the fact that it’s in the US, the fact that it’s the equivalent to the London marathon to Americans… So I’m trying not to freak out or overthink things. Though this is inevitably happening of course. I’ve been comparing the elevation chart of the Boston marathon to other runs I’ve done so I can try and envision how tough the hills will be. And I’ve even been looking at other Boston marathoner’s Strava to see how they paced the race. I’ve been obsessively checking the weather forecast as well.
This is not normal for me. I rarely check the weather forecast in normal life let alone before an event. My motto has always been “well, you can’t change it so no point worrying”. However I obviously do need to have some idea so I know what to pack.
In Celsius this is about 16 degrees (on my phone app it’s 18 degrees but I prefer this result…). Now obviously this is great news for general holiday-terms (my mum is rather pleased) but for running…considering the majority of my running has been done during the winter this is going to be a bit of a wake-up. HOWEVER, I much prefer this to cold, windy and wet.
But aside from my over-analysis of everything, I’m feeling OK. I still haven’t decided what time I’m going to aim for though. Maria made a great point that I should aim for the slower time because if I’m not aiming for a PB then why does it matter at all? Best to fully enjoy it. But then my ego gets involved and I wonder how well I could run it on my current fitness without going mad. My dad (AKA my coach ) said to judge in on the day before. He knows I’m too much of a control freak to leave it to the day of course, but he said leave it to the day before when I know for sure what the weather’s going to be like, how I am in terms of getting over jet lag and tiredness and what food I’ve been eating. So that’s the plan.
On to my current running… I had a good parkrun at Netley on Saturday. I am on 97 parkruns! This is really exciting. My friend, Geoff (a fellow set-up crew member), is close to his 250th (!!) so we’re going to see if we can hit our milestones on the same day. The only issue there is that I hoped to do the Bath parkrun when I’m there for my friend’s hen do in May but if I do each parkrun as planned that’ll mean Bath will be my 100th. This is obviously not ideal – who wants to celebrate on their own!? So I’ll have to either miss Bath (which sucks because I do love ‘collecting’ different parkruns) or miss a Netley one, which also sucks because I love parkrun. Hmmmm.
Anyway, parkrun was good. I was four seconds faster than last week. It felt comfortably tough but not eyes out painful.
What did really annoy me though was on the final lap a small lad was in front of me and his dad was ‘cheering’ him on from the side. Except he really wasn’t. He was just yelling at him “come on! Keep going! The race is behind you! Head up!”. Constantly shouting at him. It was firstly quite off-putting as I was quite near to the boy and subsequently his dad, who by this point was now running next to him yelling, and secondly I really felt for the boy. He didn’t look older than 13 and he was trying his best. Out of spite to the dad I decided to put a surge in to overtake the boy as he was annoying me so much (the dad, not the boy). I said to the boy as I passed “you’re doing amazingly, well done” and he sort of sadly said “thanks”. Me overtaking the boy drove the dad further into a shouting saga of “catch the orange!”.
The boy overtook me at the end (good for him) but it left a sour taste in my mouth on finishing. It’s a parkrun, not a race. It’s to be enjoyed. Sure everyone wants a PB from time to time and wants to do their best, but there is a line to be drawn from what is encouraging and what is over-the-top pushy parenting. Rant over.
My time was 22:02 just shy off of breaking 22 minutes, damn!
But I’m still happy with my pacing. Somehow I’ve turned from someone who used to blast it right from the beginning to crash at the end, to someone who holds back at the start and then lets go at the end. I’m happy with that!
On Sunday I had my last long run before the marathon. I did my usual coastal route around Titchfield and Lee-On-Solent for 13.1 miles (can’t not do the .1 and make it into a half marathon). It was ridiculously windy and gusty. Luckily for most of the run it was going across me but as soon as I turned to go along the front it was straight against me. The amount of gurns I probably did during that section was laughable.
Apart from one mile fully against the wind (can you tell where??) the rest felt reasonably comfortable and I was amazed at how quickly the run flew by. Though I do feel tired, mentally and physically. When I finished I just felt a bit overwhelmed with “oh god, that was only half of what I’ve got to do in a week.” But this week will be nice and easy and hopefully I’ll feel lovely and fresh for the big day. Hopefully…
Do you check the weather before events and races?
Have you experience pushy parents before?
How many parkruns have you done? How do you celebrate the milestones?
So my next marathon is the Boston Marathon, which is Monday 18th April. Less than two weeks away. I fly to Boston, with my mum, on the Friday (15th) beforehand, which should hopefully give me time to de-jet lag and acclimatise.
I’m really excited. I’ve done big marathons before (Paris and Berlin) but never a US marathon. There are apparently going to be around 30,000 people running. I think Berlin was around 40,000 so I imagine it to feel similar. I will never be alone on the course and it’s like London in terms of supporters and crowds. I’ve never done London but I’ve heard it’s amazing. So yeah, I’m really excited.
When I PB’ed (3:24:06) and got my BQ in the Liverpool Marathon last year I thoroughly enjoyed myself but it was hard work and I was very much focused on getting a good time (for me). For Boston, I’m not aiming for a PB because a) I’m not in as good shape as I was before Liverpool and b) I’d quite like to enjoy the marathon and feel somewhat relaxed so I can take everything in.
I’m not saying I’m not aiming for a PB to then secretly go out and smash a PB and be like “oh it just happened, didn’t I do well la di da”. No. I am literally not in that shape and as the course for Boston is quite challenging I would need to have the clear intention of going for a PB. I’m not the type of person to just go with whatever pace I fancy on the day. I am a Type A personality and will have paces written down that I aim to stick close to (as I have done in previous races). I just haven’t decided exactly what my time goal is right now.
The Boston marathon is somewhat undulating – long downhills and short, sharp uphills throughout the course which can “trash your legs”. The first four miles are downhill. I’ve been advised by everything I’ve read and heard to NOT just go off flying at a ridiculous pace “banking time” as this would then ruin my quads and kill me later on when I hit the four clustered hills from mile 16 to mile 21 (this includes the Heartbreak Hill). Handily, I found a very cool pace calculator from the Runners Connect website which takes into account all the undulations and gives you paces to stick to in order to reach a certain time goal.
I’ve plugged in four different time goals: 3:45, 3:40, 3:35 and 3:30. Despite saying I have no time goals, I’ll be honest, if I go over 3:45 I’ll be disappointed. If I go anywhere near 3:30 (8:01 pace) I’ll be really pleased. I just need to think sensibly about how I’m feeling as I get closer. I’ve been running most of my long runs around 8 minute/miles but the undulations of this course (especially being so far through the race) make me doubt my ability to have that pace as an average. In all likelihood I’m probably going to aim between 3:40 and 3:35. I see those range of paces as achievable (8:12-8:23 min/miles).
My big fear is the weather as last year’s weather was awful. I don’t mind a cold start, I just don’t want relentless rain and/or wind. I’ve done that for other races but never for a whole marathon. I’d like it to be enjoyable and I’m not sure almost four hours of rain and wind could make that possible! But you can’t control it so there’s no point worrying.
My absolute number one goal is TO NOT GET INJURED. I am scared that, despite my training going really well (bar one foot niggle that lasted a week due to poor trainer choice), I could have an injury crop up during the marathon randomly like I had in Bournemouth. I just hope that for Bournemouth it was because I had done too much beforehand and hadn’t really done structured training or had a pace strategy. Who knows. But saying all this, I do want to finish Boston so if I do get injured, it could get ugly.
Anyway, my bib is 13445. Feel free to track my progress on race day if you’re bored on that Monday. There are ways to track athletes I believe HERE (I’m not that self-obsessed to think you all will, I just know this for my dad as he’s not coming!). I start in the second wave at 10.25am (3.25pm British time), which I’m quite happy with (though I do have to catch the shuttle bus to the start at 6.45am and made me have major anxieties about what the hell and when the hell I’m going to have for breakfast).
And that’s that. I’ll be packing about five different race outfits for different weather scenarios (I’m sort of joking…), old clothes to wear at the start and keeping my trainers in my carry on luggage…just in case. And my passport has stayed far away from my washing machine
Have you ever done a US marathon?
How would you pace Boston?
When and what do you eat for breakfast before a marathon? I just feel like 6am will be far too early for breakfast but this causes me issues about having porridge.