Wednesday, April 22, 2015

More Than A Feeling

I'm a guy with known memory and language deficits but there are weekends like the one filled with the Boston marathon that there just are not adequate words even while they are completely unforgettable. To return there three years from the first time I qualified and to see the enthusiasm, the excitement the energy of that place was somehow both easier and harder to take in the second time around, certainly far more appreciated.

The day before was perfect outside weather where I took in an orchard and apple donuts, a castle and a lake, I don't know if I have a sixth sense but I enjoyed the other five. I'd never had apple donuts before but if anyone is ever hunting for good will, I gotta tell you I really liked them apples. Still, pulling into this old historical down and seeing it's skyline I couldn't help but think, hello Boston my old friend, I've come to see you once again. The point of life, at least mine anyway, is people, relationships so the first stop was a meal with friends old and new.

The pre race meal was where I first got two officially meet two other brain tumor survivors who were going to be
running the marathon. The cute girl wanted to show off all her scars but she had longer hair but still wanted a way to show off our scars next to her... it should take you a second to come up with who came up with the idea that both of us kissing her cheek and showing off the scar was a win/win/win. There were friends from the world of the Austin Runner's Club, friends from Spartan, a friend from LA from over a decade ago who had now run marathons, a multiple world record holder Michael Wardian (who nudged me with the fact that he actually was the one who held the world record for a marathon with a stroller). There was one of the survivors of the Boston marathon bombing, the person who was kind enough to both make my entry possible and let me stay at her place. She also struggled with being called a survivor of happenstance, her with the bombing me with a tumor and the connections of it to a marathon. We couldn't decide which one of us more stubborn, more sarcastic but she was definitely the bettter looking one. Maybe it's happen stance, maybe it's perspective but all those people give you a level of admiration of fighting for something which somehow includes and so evasively exudes yourself. I floated around to all the tables which in those moments that the marathon revolved around getting to know these people and catching more than just a meal but knowing that I was lucky to have it. The meal ended with many hugs and with the other brain tumor survivor Tom who actually is about my speed saying that we hoped we saw each other on the course and would get to take a few strides together.

Packet pick up was special... I had to sign the wall knowing somewhere somehow I wanted to leave a little bit of
Boston since I knew I was taking so much of it with me the next day. I'm always amused at the cleverness of running jokes but in a tshirt that was very cute but not exactly my cut quoting Boston's more than a feeling made me smile the biggest.

I can't remember the last time I slept well the night before a race and this was no exception. I laid my stuff out trying to figure out what was missing but couldn't quite catch it (it was the pins for the bib which when it came time to put on I figured out). And then it was off to the race... a struggle with races like this is you get up at the same time but because of security and it being point to point, you hurry up to wait. Luckily the bus I was on was full of friends from Austin and mostly we made fun of each other with the only person who drew a bad seat was the person who was next to me. It was very very cool to have friends there who I'd known only a few months and those who were there before my first marathon ever happened in 2010. We were all in different corrals so we'd not get to start or race together but it was a touch of home before getting on the official road.

The race started with about decent but I've ran 12 marathons and know that I've had good marathon weather for zero of them. I simply tried to regulate and if you look at my first several splits up to 25k I was nailing the pace I intended, 6:46. The music was pumping, I high fived tons of people, did a bit of singing. At
mile 12 there were all the Wellsley girls offering their kisses with some incredibly creative signs like "If you think I'm a good kisser  you should meet Isabelle" and a few girls down, "I'm Isabelle."  I'd spend a bit of time the last time I was in Boston but I was 31 then and I'm 34 now so I figured it'd be creepy trying to kiss too many college girls at this age. There were some less than creative ones like "Cleavage" pointing at well... cleavage." "Is that a shot block in your pocket or are you  happy to see me." "You've got a great ass." "I use tongue." and perhaps slightly more creative "Oooh you've got stamina, call me." Probably my favorite in that section was actually a girl who you couldn't see anything besides skin of her legs, shoulder and arms. She was behind a big cardboard sign that said "if you run fast enough, I'll drop this sign." I guess I wasn't running fast enough. It's an amusing college tradition that made me both smile and make a mental note of where Kiana will not be allowed to apply in high school. 

I kept taking in signs... One I'd actually seen in preparation that I stole outright for my facebook status without giving any credit was "this is a lot of work for a free banana." There were a lot of good ones but I can't remember most of them but a  clever one I saw twice was "The patriots say it's okay to run it in right now." While I've often seen go random stranger go, this was the most I've ever gotten cheered for "Go shirtless guy." Still someone had a good spirit and a good sense of humor because they had wrapped a sign in great plastic on the kind of day that you watch TV that said, "You run marathons; I watch them on Netflix."

At mile 17, someone moving over to a water stop accidentally stepped on my shoes and I went down; nothing really critical but my shoes came untied and so I triple knotted them and got back up but it kind of messed with the mojo a little bit. It had been cold and rainy and windy and it kept getting worse. For the first time in any race, I was regretting not running with warmer gear. The humidity got to me to where I chocked back up a bit of breakfast and when a slight bit of vomit came out was near some college kids who cheered for me vomiting louder than I've ever been cheered for doing better things during  race... Didn't know what to do about that other than high five and fist bump them as they requested. They offered me a Samuel Adams beer to feel better... I passed.

At the beginning of heart break hill there were two cute girls holding signs for me and the crowd in general... that
definitely made my heart have no chance of breaking on the way up. I couldn't quite seem to hold speed for the rest of the race but kept trying from the encouragement. At the 23 mile market, a man who was wearing a sign
that said he was 60 slipped and I offered him a hand. He got up and bolted and I was wishing adrenaline was contagious. With about 2 miles to go, Tom the other brain survivor and I met up and we'd run a few strides together. About a mile to go, there were friends with Texas flags and signs for our running group and then I turned it on hoping to qualify for Boston at Boston, something I would miss by 32 seconds but my last mile was actually at the pace I started which is one if not my fastest closing mile so I'll take it. (Plus the kiss I'd planted on a really cute girl had to have taken at least that long right?) Two shipmates and I finished within seconds and we high fived. The other tumor survivor Tom and I hugged it out and while I finished ahead of him his time was actually faster at 51 and 6 years with a tumor than mine at 34 and 4 years with one and I assure you that made me smile. He said he'd never run without a shirt because hypothermia can cause a seizure (which I know) as can hyperthermia.... oddly enough the two times I've run Boston have been the hottest marathon I've ever run and the coldest one.

As I picked up my medal and my wrap around one of the volunteers said I had to go to the medical tent. I said I
felt fine but they thought I was shaking too much. They insisted and put me in a wheelchair. At the tent a few minutes later, they took my heart rate (77) and my pulse (110/86) and my body temperature (92.9).  When I was given some beef broth was when I realized how bad it was because I couldn't hold it to drink it without splashing it everywhere so a volunteer held it while I sipped it... When I answered if I had any medical history, they said I'd be staying till my temperature was better and they kept me till it was 97 degrees. As I was sitting there smiling in a medical tent where some people were struggling more obviously and I felt guilty about taking up a spot... a volunteer said why are you smiling so big in the medical tent and I said "I just finished the Boston marathon, what else would I be doing but smiling." She smiled back.

There were thoughts on the course like the 26 donors who had supported it. There were memories of that Boston was the first race that I'd ever stopped to hug someone, my mom and daughter. But 12 marathons in and 2 of them being Boston, all I can say is I'm incredibly thankful to still be going. A little later I got to the happy hour with local friends and we had beer and  happiness. While only three of the group there got their fastest marathon ever for a good chunk of the group including me, it was our fastest Boston which no matter what the weather is has an unusual difficulty of never being able to completely find your own rhythm because of the crowded narrow streets. There are zero times where immediately after I finish a marathon I wonder why I sign up for this and even less times where when we're trading stories after with friends I train with where I don't have an immediate answer. About half of the crowd there I knew last time I was in Boston and half I've met since. Like any marathon the better half to me is always the one you're currently running and I hope I still have half a lifetime left of making friends like this no matter how tough the weather or hills.  

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