September 14, 2015

2016 Indy Mini Ambassador

Sometimes I sign up for stuff on a whim just works out!  Never imagined I would get picked for this gig, but I did...AND I LOVE IT!

Such a great honor to be one of the 33 Mini Ambassadors - the first ever program for the Indy Mini!

So how does it work?  
Easy, when you register for the Indy Mini, you'll have the choice to select my name as the ambassador who referred you to register!  My goal is to have 100 referrals for this year's event!  
Will you help me out?
If we can make it happen, I will organize a carpool, prerace meetup and host a tent/tailgate afterwards

Registration is OPEN! and as I reflect on my many experiences running the Indy Mini, I decided to count down my top 10 reasons that you should should join me in May!

10  It is a landmark year! The 40th running of the Indy mini promises to be a huge celebration that kicks off the month of May leading to the 100th running of the Indy 500!

9  Chance to run inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and even Kiss the Bricks!

8  On course entertainment! With 100 entertainment groups and spirit squads lining the course, the Mini-Marathon has arguably the most entertainment of any road race in the world! 

7  PR Bell is back...and better than ever! When was the last time you rang the PR Bell? There's no better feeling! Will you ring the PR Bell in 2016? 

6  The start line! How can you resist being a part of this sea of inspiration?! The goosebumps of counting down to your start with the music pumping and the roar of the crowd echoing off the buildings around you! 

5  The FINISH LINE! It doesn't matter if you are the first or last across the line - either way you are a FINISHER! If you think the cheers at the start line are memorable, wait until you cross the finish line! You feel it before you hear it, you hear it before you see it, you see it...and then you FINISH it!

Have you heard about the new challenges??
Mega Mini Challenge - Run the 5k AND the Indy Mini back to back! 
Mini Maniac Challenge - Run the Miler Series AND the Indy Mini 

3  THE VOLUNTEERS ROCK! We couldn't do it without them, and they're fabulous! If your friend or loved one is running and you are not, why not volunteer on race day? It's a great way to give back and have a front row seat of your participant! 

2  THE EXPO!  The Indy Mini expo is one of the largest half marathon expos in the Midwest!  And it is packed with over 100 exhibitors with great deals for you!

1  THE PEOPLE!  Your experience at the Indy Mini is what you make of it, but if you surround yourself with your family and friends - before, during and after -  it promises to be an experience you can carry with you for a lifetime!

May 4, 2015

Flying Pig Marathon Relay Race Report

Flying Pig Marathon was this past weekend, and last Monday I had this message from my good friend Mark show up on my computer, "Totally last minute, but one of my relay members had to pull out for this Sundays race.  Any interest in running?"  Let me think for about 2 seconds, ...YES!   I've always wanted to do a relay, but had never put the effort into getting one going, and no one had ever asked me to be part of one.  Sure it's only 13 days after the Boston Marathon, but why not!  

Had to get permission from the Mrs (she loves me), and make sure I could crash with him on Saturday night, and I'm in!  I didn't even care which leg he had me run!  I did the Flying Pig Half Marathon last year, so I had already run the first leg 6.84 miles, and most of the second leg 5.16 miles, so when Mark told me I'd be running the 3rd leg, I was glad to run a new section of the course, even if it was the longest leg at 7.67 miles!  

I arrived to Mark's house around 8 pm on Saturday night, and his cousin Shaun came over to meet me.  Shaun would run the 2nd leg and it was important that I knew who I was looking for in the exchange zone.  Shaun is a Cincinnati firefighter and I enjoyed getting to meet he and his wife and son.  I was settled into my accommodations around 9:30, got all my gear ready and fast asleep before 11, which meant less than 6 hours of sleep before that 4:45 alarm went off!

The race starts at 6:30 and we had to allow time for the commute, traffic, parking, and then board our buses that would transport us to the start line!  I learned later that there were over 600 relay teams!  That's 1800 people that have to be transported to 3 different exchange zones!  They were ready for us, and it could not have been better!

So the only negative to the relay is that if you run a later leg, there is alot of down time waiting on your teammates!  It reminded me of the long wait I had at Boston before the start, only this time it was not raining.  In any case, I was in my exchange zone by 6:15 and was pleased to see that they had space blankets for us to wrap up in since it was still a chilly 48 degrees.  I took a "nap" for about an hour wrapped up like a homeless person in a warehouse parking lot as I watched a beautiful sunrise!

Once the first runner came through about 7:35, everyone became a little more active.  I got the text from Shaun at 8:00 that he could see John finishing leg #1 and was now starting his leg, so I knew I had about 50 minutes if he was running a 10 minute pace.  I got up and stretched.  Had my second granola bar of the morning and some water.  Went to the bathroom and began the lookout for his red shirt!  I cued up a text to Mark and when I spotted Shaun, I sent it, zipped up the phone in my spibelt, and awaited the handoff!

There were 4 marked areas to hang out in and wait for your teammate.  Someone with a sound system was positioned about 30 yards down the road and would announce the bib numbers as runners came in.  Then another person with a bullhorn would repeat it if no one made a move into the alley.  Each team was provided a timing chip, placed inside a small tube that must be transferred from runner to runner.  Some teams put the timing device in a belt with a strap and just passed it on to reclip from runner to runner.  Others like us took the chip out of the tube and just handed it off and carried it all the way.  Every team had a different method for the exchange.  Some teams would handoff just like you would in the 4X100 track relays (they were in it to win it), and others took 3 minutes to talk, snap a selfie, exchange gear, etc.  One side of the road is reserved for full marathoners continuing through and the other side is for the exchange.  It got really congested as the race wore on, but the energy was so high and very exciting!

I took the timing chip from Shaun and blew out of the zone.  (Shaun crushed the hills with a sub 10 pace)  It was so much fun for me to actually be passing people!  Tried not to get too cocky since these people were 12 miles into their race, but it still felt good.  All relay runners wore a yellow bib that read RELAY on the back of their shirt, so most of the people that were passing me were fellow relay runners who also just received the handoff.  My first couple miles had some hills, but I just wanted to go fast and crush them, so I kept running hard and knocked out the first two miles in 9:33 and 9:47!  I kept the press on during mile 3 at 10:12.  Shortly after that reality set in.  I would guess it was a combination of unrecovered legs, pushing too hard on the early hills and just a touch of heat (it was into the 60s now), but it was all I could do to hold on to miles 4 and 5 at 10:59 and 11:04.

I was feeling good that I had yet to walk at all and thought with only 2.7 left I might make it until I turned a corner and found THE hill that broke me!  It wasn't a necessarily long hill, but was VERY steep.  I made it about 3 strides into it and felt my legs quit and fall into a heavy walk.  I don't know about you, but once I walk, it is so hard to get going again.  At the top of the hill I tried to find a little jog, but I rarely could go more than a minute or two before I had to walk again.  Miles 6 and 7 were a dismal 12:50 and 12:42 even though the course flattened out significantly, and many of those people that I passed were now catching back up to me!

With 0.7 left, the thought of not wanting to let the team down comes in to play.  It gets in your head and really motivated me to just push through it.  Once I could see the relay zone ahead, there was no way I was going to walk again.  It was pretty cool to see Mark emerge from the crowd into the alley and raise his hand to get my attention.  Handed it off and he was gone!  1:25:48 on my watch and 1:26:06 on the official clock for an 11:14 pace.

The exchange area here was just like the one I started in with apples, water and gatorade.  Plenty of folks milling around and cheering as well.  A short walk to the waiting bus, and we're on our way back downtown!  Once off the bus, I follow a gated area that leads to the actual "Finish Swine" where I get my medal and all the same great post race food and drink that everyone else gets!  Pretty decent medal considering each runner gets one!  I had a text from Shaun who was waiting on me at the exit and we met up to cheer Mark in to the finish line!

When it was all said and done, our official time was 5:00:04!  How crazy is that!?  It's like I have a curse with that darn 5 hour mark!  Can't even break it with a relay team!  It's just not meant to be!  We ended up 471/607 relay teams!

I love this picture of Shaun, Mark and I!  Had such a great time and met a new friend in the process!

April 26, 2015

The 119th Boston Marathon Experience

I hope I can capture the full experience in this blog post for myself as much as anything.  There are small details that I never want to forget and the feelings that should forever stay in my heart so that one day I can retell the story of how I ran the Boston Marathon to my grandkids!

We left the house at 5 a.m. on Sunday morning for the Indy airport to fly to Atlanta where we could connect a flight that would have us into Boston by 12:30.  All was smooth until we boarded the plane in Atlanta and were notified of a mechanical issue that would delay at least 45 minutes.  The Delta crew worked hard to ensure myself and the other 20 marathoners (they literally counted us) on this flight that they knew we HAD to be checked in by 6:00 pm and they would do all they could to get us there on time.  They ended up taking us all off the plane and bringing in a new plane to get us there, almost 2 hours later!

Carry-on luggage made it easy for us to get around once we got there.  Hotel shuttle was waiting on us and we were checked in by 3:00 and had 3 hours left to get to the expo and check in.

First ride on the Boston subway system was about as scary as I expected, but truth be told the MBTA system is fantastic and somewhat easy to navigate, once you got a feel for it.  Due to some construction, we had to use 3 different trains each time we headed downtown.  Blue line to Orange line to Green line.  We quickly learned to just relax because no matter how much you stress you can't make those trains move any faster.  By train it was roughly 45 minutes from hotel to expo.

When we emerged from underground to the downtown skyline it was a bit overwhelming.  People everywhere!  Sidewalks packed.  Restaurants flooded.  When we reached the convention center, it was still very busy.  All the way up to the third floor for packet pickup and shirt distribution, which wasn't too crowded (given that there were only a couple hours left to get checked in) as most had done it in the previous two days.  But once we reached the expo, it was very congested!

The moment I walked in, I just stopped and did a 360 in place.  I just wanted to take it all in.  It was so grand.  I wanted to take my time and see everything.  I approached the first table and someone handed me a sharpie and said "sign the wall" - I still have no clue what I signed, or where it is going, but I wanted to do exactly what 30,000 others were doing, so I did!  The next table was empty, and the gentleman behind the table looked up at me and said, "sorry, we're out of posters"!  This may be one of my biggest disappointments with arriving late.  If you've been in my garage, you know I have posters from all the major events I've done.  Still researching a way to get one!

The first main merchandise area is sponsored by Adidas and is the primary place to get all the official gear!  The yellow long sleeve tech shirt that all entrants get is awesome, but Molly already told me I needed an official jacket.  We'd seen runners from previous years wearing theirs everywhere starting with the airplane from Atlanta all the way to the expo where most athletes were wearing one.  Again, being late...sold out!  Unless you were a size small (which I'm not), you could only get one by ordering from the Adidas booth there.  So I did, and it was delivered to my home on Wednesday!  Awesome!  I picked up another short sleeve logo shirt without the year, and Molly got a nice one as well.

We toured the expo for the next two hours stopping at various booths to take it all in.  Bought a few things, sampled a few things (including Sam Adams 26.2 Boston Brew!!), picked up some freebies and just enjoyed it all, but by 5:00 we'd had all we could handle, and had dinner plans for 6, so we left.

 The sidewalks were still packed as we made our way toward the finish line.  The road was blocked off to all traffic and people were milling the area like it was a block party on this beautiful afternoon!  The sight of the finish line from the distance was breathtaking, but to get up close and touch the finish line was truly the best!  Police officers everywhere were being treated like celebrities as everyone wanted their picture taken with them with the finish line in the background.  It was a must have photo for Molly and I as well.

 As I disclosed in an earlier post, I'm here on a VIP invitation from John Hancock.  Besides the gear that I had already received from them, the first VIP experience came at 6:00 with dinner at the Fairmont Copley Plaza hotel.  Molly and I arrived early and waited in the lobby to do a little people watching and rest our legs, but when the doors opened at 6, we were greeted with a beautiful ballroom full of finely decorated tables, buffet style dinner, open bar, and an upcoming stage presentation.  We were starving so we wasted no time in grabbing a table close to the pasta bar and near the stage.  We dug right in to some delicious food and laughed at the bottles of Gatorade sitting next to the Jack Daniels at the open bar!  They truly catered to everyone!  As other guests arrived, I was quick to realize this was more than just guys like me who were topping off the tank before tomorrow's run, but based on the paparazzi style photographers in the room, this was about to be a Who's Who event of New Englanders!

A slightly older and very fit lady asked if she and her friend could sit with us.  Sure, why not?  She asked if this was my first Boston and I said yes,.  She asked what other marathons I had done, and I replied I had done 5 and Chicago was the biggest prior to this.  Enough about me, so I asked, "what about you?"   Long story short, I was talking to the legendary Gold medal marathon Olympian Joan Benoit Samuelson, who has won Boston twice.  Admittedly, I recognized the name, but had no idea what her running resume was like!  Seriously, click the link and imagine how I felt, having just asked, "How many marathons have you run?"  She was very gracious, and simply answered, "I've lost count", to which I ignorantly replied,  "Well that says something".  The gentleman next to her was Greg Meyer, yeah he's won Boston too!  As I'm googling Joan's name on my phone, I'm 99% certain that the empty chair next to Molly is now being occupied by 4-time Boston marathon champion, Bill Rodgers!  Bill just starts talking like we're old friends and sharing stories about Joan and Greg.  I jokingly say, I've got to get a selfie of this table, and someone else says, no let me take your picture, so Molly and I hop up and got this great picture!

What a memory!  There are 6 Boston Marathon wins, and an Olympic Gold medal between the four of us - just sayin'!  Bill didn't run, but Joan ran a 2:54 and won her age group!  Still got it at 57!

Our conversation was short lived as they were called up on stage and were the first three introduced, followed by dozens of other Boston sports figures (past and present) from the Pariots, Celtics, Red Sox, and Bruins.  It was amazing.  The final introduction of the evening was for Sean Astin, or as I most recognize him as - RUDY!

 I had to get a picture, but enjoyed a lengthy conversation about race strategy and nutrition plans.  (Sean ran a 4:49 by the way)

It was getting late, and we needed to get back to the hotel, but I needed one more photo.  I grabbed Joe Andruzzi and asked if I could have a photo with him.  I didn't really know much about him other than that he had played for the Patriots.  There is a famous photo of him carrying a bombing victim from 2013 that kind of tugged at my heart.

After Molly snapped it, I confided in him that I was a Colts fan, to which he replied, "sucks to be you".  We both laughed and he could not have been nicer.

It was an amazing event to be a part of, and I did not feel worthy of being there.  Time to commute back to the hotel to get everything ready for tomorrow.  I set the alarm for 5 a.m.!  Must. Sleep. Now.

5 a.m. alarm goes off, but naturally I've already been awake for the last half hour.  First order of business, check the weather - yikes!  It's going to be miserable.  Cold.  Rain.  Wind.  Wind chill near freezing.  Ugh!  I decided to go 3 layers, but stuck with the shorts and calf sleeves.  Was glad I had packed my gloves as well!

I layered up, kissed Molly goodbye, and headed downstairs to the hotel shuttle.  Only 3 others on the bus with me to get dropped off at the train station.  Those 3 and almost every other athlete up before the sun is in wave 1 and is headed to the general bus loading area, but this big guy is staying on the train all the way downtown, to the VIP tent.

See that little V next to the 4 on my bib?  Yep, that will get you into some pretty cool places on race day!  I was told to be in the VIP tent by 6 a.m., and I was.  It was fully stocked with bagels, bananas, powerbars, chips, water, Gatorade, coffee, tables and chairs, live television coverage, and HEAT inside the tent!

Once I entered, I found Bob.  Bob and I met last month in the Dominican Republic and shared the plan to meet up.  Bob introduced me to his friend Bo and Amy (Amy is also an Edward Jones financial advisor from Vermont).  We shared our nervous energy as we debated strategy.  It was not yet raining, but was cold and windy.  We had our own port a pots in the lot next door that sat less than a block from the finish line, so I took a little stroll out to take in the stillness of the area imagining what it would be like later that afternoon.  Streets were lined with officers from every level and it was fascinating to watch the bomb sniffing dogs at work!  Back inside, I opted for half a bagel with some cream cheese and a bottle of Gatorade, and then continued to sip water all morning.

At 7:10, they announced that the buses were here and it was time to roll. Since VIP includes athletes from all waves, we all had to get out there early for the first wave runners.   Athletes in the village will board school buses, we got charter buses!!  Our driver was a retired police officer from Hopkinton, and he told us how proud he was to be driving us today.  Sitting shotgun on every bus was a designated speaker.  Ours was a 70 year old male who was about to run his 23rd consecutive Boston Marathon.  He talked briefly about the course, but in greater length about the power of the mind over the physical.  Some inspirational words on an otherwise lonely bus ride.

The commute was roughly 45 minutes despite the 8 state trooper motorcycle escort we had.  It was awesome.  One would speed ahead and block the on ramp and then fall in behind the convoy of 12 buses.  We were cruising, but my nerves were on high alert.

I took my phone with me, and planned to run with it in my spibelt so that Molly could track me real time.  I even thought ahead to bring a portable charger and a ziploc baggie to keep it all dry.  Molly and I had been texting briefly during the ride, but it was a surprising text that came out of no where that reminded me I wasn't alone today.  A colleague of mine sent a simple text that just said, "Run your race Chris!  How awesome to run in the Boston Marathon!!"  I replied thanks and that I would appreciate the prayers today.  And then I got this reply...
This text came in literally as we were rolling up to the athlete village, and darn near brought me to tears.  I can't describe the emotions, other than to say, it was clear that we were about to be part of something very special.

The Hopkinton Jr/Sr High School is the location for the athlete village, and the 30000 athletes hang out in these tents.....unless you're a VIP!  I got to sit inside the gymnasium.  The same full spread of food, drink, and our own private port a pots!  It was a HUGE advantage on a day like this!

I got a message from my friend Jill that I had met at Ironman Louisville.  We had not seen each other since, and even though it only lasted a couple minutes, it was so great to squeeze her tight!  She played an important role in keeping me calm that morning in Louisville, and offered to do the same today by inviting me to hang out with her prerace, but my digs were pretty great inside, so I opted to stay in the gym.  Bob and Bo got separated from us, so Amy and I bonded.  We talked about running, racing, business, Edward Jones, family, and life for almost 2 solid hours.

All the while I was more and more convinced it was going to remain a cold and miserable day, and that I should keep my big red shirt on for the extra warmth.  This was the black shirt I had intended to wear on top (sorry YRC friends).  Instead, I repinned my bib to the red shirt and had mixed emotions about the decision.  Sure it would keep me warm, but it would also get wet and heavy.  The other aspect may be hard to understand, but this shirt has special meaning.  I brought it with me for a reason.  This is the shirt that I wore in my very first marathon!  I had decided it would be somewhat symbolic to let it be my throw away shirt for this race.  In case you don't understand, runners often wear extra clothes the morning of a cold race to keep them warm and then as the race starts, or shortly thereafter, the runner will shed that article of clothing and throw it to the side.  Volunteers then collect those shirts and donate them to charities.  I thought the idea of throwing this shirt back was in some way bringing the marathon journey, full circle...but that didn't happen!  I kept it on!  All day!

Finally, the announcement came, it was time to make my way to the start line.  Wave 1 was nearly an hour into their race.  Wave 2 took off 25 minutes later.  Wave 3 was in their starting corrals, and now, the final wave, wave 4, my wave, was making their way to the start line!

The walk to the start line is a good 20 minutes, and the rain was really picking up as we made our way there.  Volunteers lined the fencing with bags to collect throw away clothes.  There were residents offering a last sip of water, orange slices, Vaseline, and every other imaginable prerace need.  It was loud.  It was exciting.  The energy was electric.  And then we reached our corral, #4.

I pulled my phone out one more time and sent Molly one last "I love you" message while I hovered over my phone to protect it from the intensifying rain.  The announcer said "2 minutes until the start", so I recorded this video...


Then I hurried and tried to post it to Facebook as the starting gun went off!  I could see the bar scrolling across that it was trying to post, so I left it on, stuffed it in the ziploc and tucked it in my belt as we followed the masses to the start line.  In short, it never posted, and likely drained my battery trying.  My best guess is my phone went dead around mile 6.

It took roughly 3 minutes to reach the start line and with a little jog, I wished Amy well, started my Garmin, and crossed the start line!  (That was the last time I saw Amy.  An injury at mile 6 slowed her way down, but she did eventually finish)

I'm doing it!  I'm really doing it!  I'm running in the freakin' Boston Marathon!  100 yards downhill into one of the greatest marathons in the world, and I feel like a million bucks!  How do I get so lucky?  I puffed my chest out and ran tall.  I surveyed the area and took it all in.  I waved to the cameras.  I high fived the children.  I blew kisses into the wind.  I was as carefree as one could be in that moment, and I will never forget how that felt!

Unfortunately, this feeling couldn't last all day.  The first mile is almost all downhill and once off the start line, not overly crowded with spectators.  I saw a sign with a 1 on it and was shocked to see how soon I had reached it.  Turns out it was the 1k marker, not the 1 mile marker.  (Every single kilometer and mile was marked on the course!)  A slight rise in elevation at the end of mile 1 kept me honest with the strategy to just relax out of the gate and let the jack rabbits bounce around me as I stayed in the middle third of the road.  I had no problem, and actually enjoyed checking out those around me.  Most of which are there by invitation or running for charity, so in the first mile, everyone just kind of trots along at roughly the same pace.  I'm not one for conversation, so with one ear bud in one ear, I'm just out for a Monday morning jog at this point.

Miles 2 and 3 continue downhill and I could not have been happier with my pacing.  Almost exactly where I wanted to be, and hit the 5k split with a 10:47 average pace.  Just slightly slower than where I wanted to be, but very happy with how I felt.  Lots of runners were diving off into the woods to relieve themselves (yes, women too), and clothes are still being shed and tossed to the sides.  I'm not entirely sure when this photo was taken, but it had to be early because the road is soaked, but my red shirt is not sticking to me yet, and I'm still running tall.

I'd love to tell you more about the surroundings, but to be honest, I was so focused on just being patient with my pace and taking inventory of how I felt.  Mile 4 is all downhill and while that normally is a great thing for me, I've been going downhill for over 40 minutes and it's starting to take a toll on my quads already, but at a 10:34 pace, mile 4 was indeed my fastest mile of the race.  I remember a bar, almost like a biker bar, with loud music and "Uptown Funk" was playing.  Those around me were singing their heads off and dancing.  It was pretty cool to see, though I may have detected a "hint" of alcohol and other substances in the air coming from the building!  

Mile 5 is a slight uphill the whole way and I was shocked to hear my watch beep at an 11:00 mile.  I felt like I was working harder than that, so this was my first wake up call to a lagging pace.  I carried on proudly to hit the 10k mark with an average pace of 10:52 - I stomped my foot on the timing mat as I crossed it knowing that anyone who was tracking me would be getting a text message with the update!

This was the first time I remember seeing a landmark that I was expecting to see.  It was a train depot in Framingham.  Very cool looking and very crowded with people on both sides of the streets and some marching drums being played under the canopy that echoed loudly through the small town.

Somewhere between miles 6 and 7, I passed a large group of people in the middle of the road.  They were all carrying umbrellas and there was a buzz of media around as well.  I looked over my shoulder to see a man walking awkwardly at an incredibly slow pace of less than one step per second, and a very short stride.  It wasn't until I got home on Tuesday that I read of the last finisher of the Boston Marathon.  If you've missed this story, please take the time to check it out.

Miles 6-10 are mainly level with some rollers that work your legs just enough to remind your legs that you can't be on auto pilot today.  Mile 9 was a nice area as we crossed Lake Cochituate, but the view was the only nice thing.   For me, it was the beginning of some major abdominal pains.  It started mild and dull and even crept into my back, but turned into a very sharp pain, and unusually high in my stomach, almost as part of my diaphragm.  Not sure if it was a digestive issue from eating late in the morning and running at a strange time, or if it was weather related from the cold air I was breathing in.  All I know is that the rain was picking up again and the pain got worse with every mile, and my pace was dropping with every mile until the end of mile 10 which paced out over 12 minutes, and my average pace at the 15k mark had increased to over 11 minutes.    
That was where I took my first walking steps.  Mile 11 is almost all uphill and I walked most of it making that mile over 13 minutes and was becoming quite upset about how the day was turning, but that's when I heard it...the scream in the distance...the women of Wellesley College who were waiting for me!  I know this because they were all screaming my name!  (Yes, this is the reason you use duct tape and a sharpie to write your name on your shirt!)

If you've not heard about the scream tunnel at Wellesley, check it out here on YouTube, there are over 1200 videos to choose from!  You can hear the screams from over a quarter mile away, and as you enter the area, it is truly deafening!  You can't help but smile, and you can't help but run.  It's nearly a half mile long of nonstop screams, kisses, and awesome signs.  (No, I did not stop for the girl holding the "I use tongue" sign)  It was a part of the race experience I will never forget, and I'm not sure any of those videos really do it justice!  It also doesn't hurt that it's a little bit down hill as you lead to the 20k mark which for me dropped my average pace almost 30 seconds from the 15k mark.  

I spotted an Edward Jones office on my right, but couldn't make out the name on the door.  Didn't look like anyone was inside, but the lights were on and the front window was decorated.  Bob passed me at this point, and I remember patting him on the back and encouraging him on, apparently Bo passed me too and they both went on to finish their first marathon around 5:10-5:15.  It was everything I could do to will myself through every painful step to the half way mark, but when I hit the mat at 2:33, there was no denying that my 5:00 goal was gone.  I would say I was disappointed, but not surprised.  I said all along there was very little about my training that made me think I could do it, but on this miserable weather day, there was no way it was going to happen!  
Miles 14 and 15 are almost all uphill.  I was really dealing with some pain and discomfort at this point.  The hill was not steep, but it required an extra umph that I just didn't have.  Mile 15 paced out over 14 minutes and I was quite discouraged.  Thankfully mile 16 was the exact opposite!  This is the steepest downhill on the course and drops over 100 feet of elevation down to lower Newton falls.  It feels like you're just falling down the hill!  And even though everything hurt, it was easier to just let gravity take me down, so I jogged/fell down the hill and pounded my quads like never before, but didn't gain much time on the clock.

This is where my race turned from bad to disastrous!  After going down, it was time to go back up.  Miles. 17-21 were absolute hell.  I can think of no other way to describe it.  It was easily the most miserable hour of 2015 thus far.  I was in pain.  It was pouring rain.  The wind was picking up.  I was chilled to the bone, and as I walked up the hill, I decided to reach in my belt and pull out my phone to let Molly know how it was going.  After fumbling a bit and trying to protect it from the weather, I get it out of the baggie, only to realize that its dead.  Or for all I know, its destroyed from the weather.  No clue what to do other than put it back and march on. 

At the peak of 17 there is another landmark I had read about.  The Newton fire station.  A beautiful building that you make a 90 degree turn at (one of very few on the course), and crowd is thick and supportive through here, so I jog a few steps but am unable to avoid my first 15 minute mile.  This is getting bad.

But not as bad as mile 18 which continues uphill and I swear I tried to jog some, but the time just kept dropping, slower and slower.  Mile 19 is actually somewhat flat, but I had zero ability to make my body go any faster.  It was at this point, that for the first of four times as I passed a medical tent (there was one every mile), someone came out on to the course to ask me if I was okay.  She said I looked a little wobbly and was swerving side to side.  Couldn't tell you, I don't remember.  I was numb.  I told her I was fine (I wasn't) and went on.

I thought that last 3 miles were miserable, until I took on the next 2.  First let me say that I can walk the dog 2 miles around the neighborhood, slow down for traffic, stop to let him pee, and yell at my kids to stop hitting each other and still average a 16 minute mile.  But for these 2 miles, I couldn't even do that.  Mile 20 is a good rise, similar to 17 and 18, but mile 21 is the famous Heartbreak Hill.  I will say that I can count on one hand the number of people that I witness actually trying to RUN up this hill.  Nearly everyone walked it.  Heartbreak Hill leads up to Boston College and I had read that the students would be out to cheer me on and give me the extra boost to reach the top, but on this cold wet day, they were no where to be found.  Sure, there were a few folks there, but not like there was at Wellesley, or any other community that we ran through.  Folks, at one point I walked for 30 minutes straight!  (pretty sure that's when this picture was taken) I was embarrassed to call myself a runner at that point clocking back to back 16+ minute miles.  

At the top of Heartbreak Hill, there was a medical tent.  I'm guessing this was a busy one.  This time a medical volunteer came out and handed me a space blanket.  Told me to keep the silver against my body and tie it around my neck with the open part in the back.  I did as she said and it did help.  With no hills to block the wind now, I was being hammered by no less than 20 mph winds and a driving rain that had me pulling my hat further and further down to keep it out of my eyes.  She asked if I was okay, to which I said yes (again, I wasn't).  The reality is I had identical symptoms to the time I ended up in the hospital with hypothermia after my first triathlon!  My guess is the wet cotton gloves and the wet cotton shirt were actually sucking my body heat out, but I wanted to keep them on because the layers made me feel warm.  I know I should have stopped, but I was afraid if I did, they would not let me continue!

The good news is, it's all downhill from here!  Literally every mile is a drop in elevation, and I allowed myself to jog the downhills, but that was all I had.  The crowds were thinning and I knew the next landmark I was looking forward to was Fenway Park.  The CITGO sign can be seen almost a mile away on a good day, but with the low cloud cover and fog, you could barely make it out until you were right on top of it.  One of the great traditions of marathon Monday, is that the Red Sox play a home game at 11:30 a.m.  The idea being that when the game is over, the crowd spills out on to the street as the marathoners are running by.  The crowd is thickest at the same time the bulk of the runners are coming through and the extra cheers are good for everybody.  Red Sox made short work of the Orioles today and won 7-1 which had the crowd (who just sat through the rain to watch the game) dissipating quickly to seek shelter, so there were only a few extras cheering when I passed by around 4:30.

I kept my head up and pushed on.  It was never a question of quit, it was just a question of pride.  I wanted to be proud of my day.  I wanted my wife and kids to be proud of me.  I wanted my friends to think it was cool to tell their friends that they knew someone who finished the Boston Marathon today.  I found out later that for some reason my 35k split never got recorded, and in fact, many of my friends and family, including Molly, were quite concerned that I had quit.  Molly even went to the medical tent to have them search for my name on their list.  Nope, no clue why it never showed, but I never stopped.  Not once.  When my 40k split came up, all were relieved and knew that I was nearing the end.  The rain was pouring harder than ever.  Check out how soaked my shorts are the amount of water coming off my shoes!  MISERABLE!!!

When I reached the 1 mile to go sign.  I untied my space blanket and threw it to the fencing.  I pulled up my sleeves and adjusted my hat.  Maybe if I thought I looked strong, I would feel strong?  Maybe!  I forced myself to jog a bit.  There's an underpass as you near the end of Commonwealth Avenue that was fun to run down, but not so much to run back up.  Yeah, I walked it.  


But as you emerge, you are literally at the right hand turn on to Hereford.  Hereford is the second most famous road because of the traditional saying associated with the end of the race, "Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston" - I decided to walk most of Hereford, because I wanted there to be no doubt that I could run all of Boylston.  

The crowd on Hereford was quite thick, and there are lots of restaurants with open air seating that were filled to capacity.  It's 5:00 in downtown Boston.  If you started at 10 a.m. and ran a 3 hour marathon, you were done by 1:00, have had a shower, a nap, and are headed out to dinner!  And that's who was there, cheering for me.  Many wearing their medals and cheering loudly.  With the convention center in sight, and the Boylston Avenue sign on my left, I galloped into a little jog and made the "Left on Boylston" - Instant Goosebumps!


Panoramic View from Molly's grandstand seats!

The road is wide, VERY WIDE!  The noise is loud.  VERY LOUD!  It echoes off the buildings and despite the other athletes around you, it feels like it's all for you!  I pulled the earbud out of my ear and took it all in.  I was 100% committed to running every step of it.  It's quite a stretch but the finish line is in sight the whole time.  

The emotions were on high alert.  It was hard to fight back tears while I scanned the crowd to the left and then to the right.  Then my focus went ahead to the right of the finish line where I knew Molly would be.  

Part of my package included 2 Grandstand passes for the finish line.  The grandstands are placed right in front of the Boston Public Library and directly across from where the first bomb went off in 2013.  Everyone else has to stand on the sidewalk, crowding the front row of fencing, and hoping to catch a glimpse of their athlete a block or more away from the finish.  Molly was in an elevated grandstand just feet from the finish line, and I knew she'd have the navy and orange umbrella with her - easy to find indeed, and once I spotted it, I have never run taller in my life!  

I pointed at her with both hands and lengthened my stride.  

As I got closer I pulled my cap off and waved it in circles over my head!  I waved again, and blew her kisses as I fought back the tears through my smile!  

I tried to put the cap back on, but then fumbled it so just kept it in my hands.  Here is the video that Molly took as I crossed the line!


I felt absolutely no pain.  I was numb.  Every ounce of remaining emotion boiled over as I crossed the finish line.  It was such a feeling of accomplishment, pride, satisfaction, and relief all rolled into one!

I've retyped that last paragraph 12 different ways.  There are just no good words to describe that raw emotion of finishing a marathon.  And feel free to exchange the word marathon for whatever race distance you view as a near impossible challenge.  The point is, I am grateful for every finish line I cross, no matter what the time on the clock says.  Today was extra challenging.  Beyond emotional.  And unforgettable. 

Molly ran down to me and snapped a few pictures and spread the word to family that I had finished safely while I hobbled through the finish area.  A spotter noticed my VIP sticker and pointed me to a private walkway that sent me right back to the VIP tent that I started my day in.  3 volunteers were waiting for me with a medal, and another wrapped me with a blanket.  Once inside, they retrieved my gear bag for me, offered me food and drink and the option to sign up for a table massage.  Reluctantly, I passed on all of it as I agreed to meet Molly just outside the gated area, and wanted desperately to get out of these wet clothes.

Found Molly and she had me follow her into a nearby hotel that she had scouted out earlier.  She wore some extra layers of mine so that she could take them off for me to wear, but it wasn't enough, so she hopped into a gift shop and bought me a Harvard hooded sweatshirt!  Desperate times...

After 30 minutes of sharing stories intermixed with the occasional whine (me not her), we decided it was pointless to stay there and try to thaw; we needed to find our way back to the hotel.  Once we started walking (hobbling), I could feel my muscles seizing up repeatedly.  We tried to flag a cab, but no luck.  It was a long slow commute in the wind and in the rain to get to a train station that was open.  Once underground it was a little better, but the entire commute back to the hotel took nearly an hour, and the subway was packed with other finishers. 

I couldn't wait to plug my phone in and see all the messages.  Over 100 FB notifications and 30+ texts!  It took me the rest of the night to read them all, but I was also excited to post a pic of me smiling with my medal, and I'm pretty sure it's the most "liked" photo of myself I've ever shared on social media.  It may sound juvenile, but it really warmed my heart to get so many comments on this day which was very difficult for me both physically and emotionally!

Molly filled the tub with hot water.  This is normally a no no in post race recovery, as an ice bath is recommended, but I believe I was still in a moderate hypothermic state and needed to raise my core body temperature quickly.  I sat in the tub with the water as hot as I could stand it, with the shower water raining down on me continuously for a good half hour.  Meanwhile, Molly ordered a pizza on a local recommendation and we spent the next hour devouring it - Okay fine, I ate "slightly" more than my half - okay fine, Molly had one bread stick, a bite of pizza and tried the cannoli - I ate the rest....I was HUNGRY!!

Molly spoiled me yet again with a little foot rub, don't worry I returned the favor before we fell asleep watching the replay of the race on the local channel.  It was awesome to get to see the women's sprint finish, and to see how strong the men looked at the end of their race compared to how I felt really raises my level of respect for what these elite athletes are made of.  Too bad there were no Americans on the podium this year.

It was a short night sleep as we had to be leave for the airport by 7 a.m., and yes, I wore my medal! 
And yes, they made me take it off going through security!

I can assure you I was not the only one.  It was very rewarding to see so many athletes in the airport doing the marathon shuffle.  The plane home was full of Indiana finishers including Michael Scott of Run Nerds Rock who I've followed for years.  He sat right behind us on the plane.  

Now for some fun data:

For Garmin users - Here is the data from the run!  The Heart Rate monitor failed me once I started walking, but the elevation and pacing is right on, though my swerving got me an extra 3/10ths of a mile!

For FitBit users - It was a record day!  The walk to get downtown in the morning, and the walk to get back to the hotel added up.  you can see the hour I sat on the bus in the morning.  You can see where I walked to to the start line before I started.  You can tell where I really struggled.  And you can tell when we were making our way back to the hotel.  All very easy to pick out!
 As for the results, well here are the statistics as reported by BAA. My research confirms that to be an official finisher, you must finish in under 6 hours.  If you're slower than that, you'll still get a medal and such, but you will not be listed in the official results.  I did not know this, and had no idea how close I was really cutting it.  My official time of 5:48:41 placed me 26337 out of 26610, which means 555 people did not finish within 6 hours.  Some of which, just didn't finish at all.  I consider myself fortunate to race with 26000 of the best runners in the world!  Gender and Age group is pretty funny though, out of all men I was 14464/14858 that started, and of men 40-44 I was 2098/2136 that started - better yet, 2098/2109 that finished, yep, I beat 11 other dudes my age!  LOL!

Final thanks to my sponsors - 

John Hancock Financial for the invitation and the VIP treatment!

Headsweats for the gear to keep that driving rain out of my face!

X-1 Audio who sent me new water resistant ear buds the week before to keep my tunes going!

Additional thanks to Team Chocolate Milk, even though there was none to be found at the finish!

So that's it, marathon #6 is in the books.  My slowest time and my most cherished medal of the 6!

So what's next??  The first text I sent when I got back to the hotel was to my running partner Pete, which read, "I'm retired".  Now 5 days later, well, let's save that for another blog post!   Thanks for reading friends!