Tag Archives: Boston Marathon

So, What Did We Do In Boston Last Week?

We’re back from five days in Boston (plus one in Manchester, NH) where we did a lot of touristy stuff and I snuck in a marathon. More on that to come, but I’m a bit rushed getting ready for Trail Marathon this weekend, so here are some quick highlights from our trip.

(Note for the TL;DR crowd: If you get the chance, do it. Go to Boston, run the marathon (or cheer someone on), and make time to take in some of the area’s 400-year history. If you want more details, read on!)

Location, location, location

We stayed at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, across the Charles River from downtown Boston and about a 5K away from the Expo and finish line. We enjoyed our stay there and we’d recommend it to anyone traveling to Boston.

Need to walk or run? Step out the back door and onto a paved path that runs along the river for miles. Watch university sailing clubs and crew shells practicing with the Boston skyline in the background. Or go the other way and run through several pretty parks on your way to:

The Navy Yard – USS Constitution and Cassin Young

 

Nowhere else in the world, as far as I know, can you walk on board a warship that’s been in continuous service since 1797. Old Ironsides was in drydock undergoing repairs, but still open to the public. It’s crewed by active duty Navy personnel, some in period costume and some in modern uniforms, who give lectures and performances on and below decks.

The Cassin Young is a WWII destroyer berthed behind the Constitution. It too was open, with retired Navy sailors giving tours. It’s less well known, but equally deserving our respect, serving in the war and surviving two kamikaze attacks. By visiting both we got a sense of what things have changed in warships (armor, weaponry, food) and which have not (living space). But perspective came from some visiting submariners, who walked through the tiny crew’s quarters, marveling, “So much space here!”

Freedom Trail and Freedom Tours

If you’re walking in downtown Boston, you may see a line of red bricks running down the middle of the sidewalk in many places. These red bricks mark the Freedom Trail, which runs from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Memorial and to the Navy Yard, through parks and historic neighborhoods along the way.

You can walk part of the trail with a tour guide in period costume, who will take you to several historic buildings and one of the first graveyards in Boston, whose remains include Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, among others. You’ll also hear tales about early Boston, from the patriotic to the gruesome. For instance: what question did native Bostonians ask suspected spies during the War of 1812? And what did they build on top of the old hanging ground on Boston Common? (*)

Boston Harbor Tour

This is a 90-minute narrated boat tour of a good part of Boston Harbor. We passed by modern art museums on the waterfront, went by several islands each with its own story, and saw the really unusually shaped buildings that process the waste that keep the harbor clean. The top deck of the boat is open, which would have been great except it was chilly that day, so we went down into the lower deck and looked out the windows. Touristy? You bet. Worth it? Absolutely. I’d do it again.

Confession: I forgot what this building is. But it was fascinating at the time!

Food

While Boston is full of great restaurants, anyone visiting should not fail to visit one in particular: Legal Sea Foods. The clam chowder is so highly regarded it’s now served at every Presidential inauguration. The first time I went there was during the Big Dig, when roads were torn up everywhere and the wharf was nearly impossible to get to. But I did, and sat outside at sunset sipping a cappuccino and watching the fishing boats come in. Today I-93 runs under the city rather than above it, the harbor is clean, and the restaurant is as good as I remembered. Save up for lunch or dinner there, even if you’re don’t particularly like seafood. You’ll like it there.

And don’t forget the dessert!

And Then There Was Chocolate

We flew home from Manchester, New Hampshire, avoiding the crush at Logan Airport and happening across one of the best chocolatiers in the country. I’m going to save that story for another time. It’s worth its own post.

—————

Coming soon: what was it like to run Boston for the first time? All will be revealed. Stay tuned!

(*) I just might give you the answers in an upcoming post.

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My “Double Nickel” Promotion

I GOT A PROMOTION TODAY.

Not for anything I did, or didn’t do. No, this was entirely due to three lucky accidents: that I was born, that my parents didn’t kill me when I was a teenager, and that I have lived this long.

You see, I turned 55 today.

And it’s been a good day! I got in 14 miles with my favorite run club, birthday wishes from family and friends, and free ice cream at Coffee House Creamery to go with my Sweetwaters OMG Chocolate Cake. And kisses and a funny/sappy card from my wife. Can’t ask for much more.

Coffee tastes really good after a cold morning run!

Coffee tastes really good after a cold morning run!

But for a competitive runner, turning 55 means one more thing – advancement to a new age group.

What does that mean? Not much, really. While some “senior discounts” kick in at this age, they don’t include race entry fees or running gear prices. There are a couple of minor benefits, such as ten extra minutes on a Boston Marathon qualifying time, and, based on my observation of race results, an improved chance to win age group awards. (Not that I need more pint glasses or spray-painted shoes.)

Final race in the 50-54 age group. Went out with a bang!

Final race in the 50-54 age group. Went out with a bang!

The group I’m leaving (50-54) is a strong one. There were times over the past five years I’ve beaten every runner aged 40-49 and still not been the top Masters finisher. Heck, a 52-year-old won the Bigfoot Snowshoe 5K a few years ago. And there are some age 55+ runners much faster than I am; they inspire me to try to keep improving.

I know some people get bummed out about reaching a “milestone year” such as 30, 40, 50, or whatever. Not here. My “year of being 50” was a celebration of events such as a 600-mile bike trip and first 50K ultra, and “my year of 55” will be celebrated in the same spirit.

First 50K at 50. How to top that at 55? We shall see!

First 50K at 50. How to top that at 55? We shall see!

Like how? In addition to my first Boston Marathon, I’ve got some off-the-wall things on the calendar:

  • An ultra in the snow (likely) in January;
  • A 100-mile race that takes place entirely in New York City;
  • A 50K in the Nevada desert in August (at the Burning Man festival)
  • A special bike event in Portland this summer (details later)

As well as more Aikido, bike rides, and strength workouts at Body Specs. Skip just sent me an email promising a “special birthday workout”. I can hardly wait for Monday. Yeah.

And there will be more of the “Zero Waste” sustainable events work I’ve done this year with RF Events. We achieved some amazing results this year! In fact, I’m about to launch a new website dedicated to that topic. I’ll let you know when it goes live.

And, of course, this blog will continue. I hope to keep it going as long as I have stories to tell, And I also hope you’ll continue to read enjoy them! Hearing from readers is always heartwarming. You rock!

In-Between Marathon Musings: Eating, Singing Bears, and Talking Trash

While picking up my Martian Marathon race packet at the expo, I got to talking with a woman whose husband is going to attempt his first ultramarathon. That’s macho enough in my book, but not for him; he’s going right to a 50-miler, and a tough one at that (the September North Face Challenge, as I recall).

“Do you have any advice for him?” she asked.

“I can do no better than repeat the advice of (ultramarathon legend) Caballo Blanco,” I told her. “Run slower. Eat more.”

My next three races will all be on trails, and all are marathon length or longer. Time to put on a little weight!

I'll have one of everything, please!

I’ll have one of everything, please!

It will have to come from (mostly) healthy, whole foods, of course. My body needs all the nutrients it can get to recover from Martian and build strength for Trail Marathon and beyond. Such foods contain fiber and fill me up faster, so eating more actually takes some effort. (Yes, I’m aware you’d like to have that problem.)

I also have this sense of perverse guilt when eating a lot and not immediately burning it off with hard training and lots of miles. I know it’s silly, but it does put a damper on my appetite. (Yes, I know.)

Songs are better in this version, however!

Songs are better in this version, however!

In other news. . .

I took my wife to see The Jungle Book on Saturday. So “The Bear Necessities” has been running in my head the past three days. Was even humming it while nose-deep in banana peels and water bottles at the Gazelle Girl.

And speaking of…

I volunteered once again for the “Green Team” at the Gazelle Girl half marathon & 5K on Sunday. Over 3,800 runners participated in the events, plus plenty of family and other spectators.

Gazelle Girl 2016 - If Trump Can Run sign

That kind of crowd generates a lot of waste, and I spent much time sorting through it, but if one must sort trash, there couldn’t have been a more beautiful day for it. Part of the time I manned one of the ZeroHero waste collection tents, which we’ll also be using at the Trail Marathon races this weekend. More on that in an upcoming post.

Good waste! Yay!

Good waste! Yay!

The good news: the great majority of the generated waste was either compostable or recyclable. Last year their total landfill waste didn’t even fill one small cardboard box. This year, due to unexpected non-recyclable packaging from their food supplier, there was quite a bit more. I’m sure they’ll fix that for next time.

Bad waste! Boo!!!

Bad waste! Boo!!!

Also, for some reason far more non-recyclable coffee cups showed up this year. I’m calling you out, Starbucks, Biggby, and McCafe. Get with the program and go compostable! Bearclaw Coffee has, and they will be our coffee supplier at Trail Marathon. You can bet they’ll get a lot of good pub from us!

If you're coming to TMW, look for the orange van!

If you’re coming to TMW, look for the orange van!

Finally, what a great day it was in Boston today for the 120th Boston Marathon. Saw a thrilling men’s wheelchair division finish. And it was great to see Roberta (Bobbi) Gibb honored as Grand Marshall for breaking the gender wall in 1966. She “bandited” Boston that year after being denied registration due to her gender, beat two-thirds of the otherwise male field, and was the first woman finisher again in 1967 and 1968. I don’t cry at weddings, or much of anything for that matter, but I came pretty close here. Looking forward to joining the fun there in 2017!

Breaking News from Mars: Boston Bound!

WELL, THE MARTIANS WENT HOME. It was too cold for them. So Earth is safe for another year.

In other good news – I completed the marathon and qualified for Boston!

dancing Snoopy

Yes, I’m really pleased! But at the end of this post, you’ll see another example of the sense of perspective that seems to accompany the ups and downs of my running life.

Officially, my required qualifying time for Boston 2017 is 3 hours 40 minutes. But faster runners get first crack at registration, so the more I beat that time by, the better my chance to get an actual spot in the race. I wanted to beat my required time by at least 10 minutes, to leave no doubt.

Just one problem: a finish of 3:30:00 would be over 20 minutes faster than my previous best, the 2012 Ann Arbor Marathon. But I’d goofed around and taken pictures at that one. With the hard training I’ve done this winter, I felt confident I could do it. I even set my planned pace to 7:45 per mile instead of the needed 8:00, to give myself some extra cushion.

Like at the Richmond half last year, I divided the race into stages to break up the monotony of the run and give me some mid-race recovery. Each stage I would run three miles at an 8:00 pace, followed by three miles at 7:30. The final 2.2 miles would be at whatever I had left.

I arrived at 6:30 a.m. for the 7:15 start. I warmed up with an easy mile, and after a quick pit stop (no lines – yes!) I was ready to go.

Just before the start. This is the best I would feel until Tuesday.

Just before the start. This is the best I would feel until Tuesday.

Conditions were, shall we say, interesting. I’d been hoping to wear shorts, but with a wind chill under 20 degrees, it was not to be. At one point the sun came out and it seemed to be warming up, but soon after the wind picked up, the clouds came back, and the snow started to fly. I ran through at least three good-sized snow squalls during the race, at times strong enough to barely see ahead. On the other hand, there was no danger of overheating.

The first two stages (miles 1-12) went right according to plan, and I hit the halfway point at just over 1:42:00. At this point a few things conspired to slow me down a bit. First, I was, naturally, starting to get tired and sore. Then I ran uphill into the wind for a couple of miles. At last we turned around and I had the wind at my back. What a difference! I also got a boost when we joined up with the half marathoners for the last six miles. Running with other people does make a difference, especially if you can pass some of them. Just one of those mental things.

When it came time to start the final surge to the 7:30 pace, I couldn’t do it. It took all I had to maintain 8:00. Over the bridges, up the last hill, and then we hit the half-mile downhill to the finish. The last few hundred yards seemed to take forever, and I didn’t have my usual finishing surge, but I got across the finish line, breathing and upright, in 3:26:50.

“That’s Boston, baby,” I said to the race director as we slapped hands in the medal area.

“You’ll remember this race in more ways than one,” he said.

Boy, was he right, although not the way either of us thought. Once again, my lack of attention to myself post-race came back to bite me. I’ll spare you the gory details, but let’s just say I spent quite a bit of time huddled under a blanket by the gas heater in the registration tent, pale and trembling. Finally it dawned on me that I might want to change into the dry clothes I had in my bag two feet away. And I should have tried to eat something right afterward, regardless of how my stomach felt. Next time, next time.

And just in case there was any danger of my getting an unhealthy level of pride in finishing in the cold and snow, I met a guy at the pre-race expo. He’s one of those who felt the need to run a marathon in all 50 states, which he finally completed in Hawaii last year.

“What was the hardest marathon you ran?” I asked him.

He thought for a minute. “That would be Colorado,” he replied. “It started at 7,000 feet, everything over 8,000 feet was in snow, and I had pneumonia. The fever broke the day of the race, and I decided as long as I was there, what the hell.”

I’m not sure which is more crazy – that story, or that he had to think about it first. That’s runners for you, folks.