Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Quitting Is Habit-Forming, So Never Quit

Matt's first Boston Marathon - with our brand new matchy-matchy jackets!

Moments after I crossed the start line of the Boston Marathon, my leg wasn't feeling right. In that first mile, I hoped that the pain I was feeling was going to dissipate. In the second mile, I knew the pain was real and wasn't going away. As I watched my friends hold onto our pace while I faded, I felt scared, doubt, and anger. The 11th hour injury I suffered to my lower left leg on a training run 10 days out was going to keep me from running the pace I wanted. It might have kept me from even finishing. In those early few miles, I was genuinely scared that I was going to have to drop out of the race.

The Ames Brothers ready for Boston Marathon

Let's go back a few. With three weeks to go, I broke in a new pair of running shoes on a hilly tempo run up and down Greenbelt Park with Mike and Alex. After the run, while playing with my son at a playground, I felt pain in my left foot and near the ankle. I went to the podiatrist who said the pain in my foot was just a bruise and it was okay to keep running. I thought I dodged a bullet and continued to train. With 10 days to go before Boston, I went for a tempo run in Philadelphia along the Schuykill River. Everything seemed fine. On Friday night after work, while walking my son home, I started to feel pain in my lower left leg. It seemed to come out of nowhere. On Saturday, I ignored the pain and went on a two hour run, my last long run before the race. My leg really hurt, but I was in denial since I was able "deal" with the pain. I took off the next day. Then the next day. Then, I decided just to take the whole week off to let it heal. I was icing it and taking naproxen and applying BioFreeze. While away on my work conference, I was icing it every chance I had, storing my ice packs in the hotel's freezer (the staff were great!). By Friday, the pain had gone down a lot. I was convinced that it would be fine on race day. I didn’t sleep well the last few nights before Boston. Thursday night, I slept in a hotel bed since I was on work travel. Friday I was anxious because we were driving to Boston early in the morning (6AM wake up in hopes to hit the road by 7 to arrive by 3PM). And Saturday night, my dog was up scared and confused since we were at my folks' house and not her usual routine.

Bib pick up with Derek

I went into Boston with my brother on Sunday to pick up our packets. It was his first Boston Marathon, and I was so proud to be there with him as we picked up our bibs and bought the jackets.

Bib pick up with Matt

I let a woman selling something apply some tape to my foot. It had no effect, so I took it off before the race. After our traditional pasta dinner, I went to bed on Sunday. I didn't sleep that well either and ended up on the couch so as not to disturb others.

Bib pick up with Derek and Matt

In the morning, we picked up my brother and my dad dropped us off at the start line in Hopkinton. It was pouring and the wind blowing hard - it knocked a tent over that blew into the both of us. I worried the tent may hurt us, but we were fortunate. We waited in Athlete's Village for two hours while the rain and wind battered the big tent. I interviewed him for his charity's fundraising page. I had made plans to meet others, but they moved the "It All Starts Here" sign, so the directions I gave them were wrong. We did all finally meet in the corrals. The race began, we took off, and minutes later, I knew I was in trouble.

A wet and windy morning in the Athlete's Village. Since we were among the first to arrive, we got a spot against a pole.

I actually considered dropping out in the first 5K (25% serious / 75%) against. I have a friend in my running club who has the same brain cancer that Ted Kennedy, Beau Biden, and John McCain had. I thought of her and the idea of quitting disappeared. Soon, I found a group of other 3 hour marathoners between the waves who were the "running wounded." Mike from Utah and Ryan from North Carolina became my running team that day. Running with them helped get my mind into the positive, and I started to focus on what I could do, not what I couldn’t do. Running with others in your boat is a huge emotional boost as I don’t know if I would have gotten out of my hurt thinking alone. We joked about our injuries, shared stories about what should have been, compared QT times and races, shared stories of our kids, and just kept the other going. We were from different backgrounds and parts of the country in different fields, yet there we were with one thing in common: we could run fast marathons, just not today. We started to make light of our situation, and it was around then I was determined to finish. We were a running punchline: a Jew, a Catholic, and a Mormon were running Boston all injured...

I noticed something else while running with them. Being in the void that is between the waves, each fan could concentrate on us and devote energy to calling our name, number, or club in support. “Go DC with the Sawx hat!” In fact, after the half, my leg was not painful, just a discomfort. I knew my split (1:43:46) and knew I could do that again. Once I was confident of finishing, I felt a surge carry me forward. Then wave 2 caught us before the Newton hills. But not too many runners, just a few speedy people that probably had slow qualifying times but were actually fast enough to be in wave 1; they left us behind. That's when my competitiveness kicked in. Then Mike took off to go say hi to his wife with a promise to find me. I had promised to at least stick with him over Heartbreak since that’s where his race fell apart last year. While he was gone, I caught up to one of my club mates. I had seen her in the small tent in the village prior to the race and knew she was battling a leg injury that cropped up recently. We ran the first hill together over 128 and stayed together until the hospital when she told me to go. She HAD to finish as getting to the finish line guaranteed her streaker status (10 Boston finishes in a row). I later learned that she did indeed finish, probably much slower than she would have wanted. That was true for me as well.

As we parted, Mike found me again. Thanks to Shawn kicking my ass up the hills of Brookland and the Capitol, I was in great shape and made very good time. I was even smiling and pointing at fans. One fan had a sign that said "Straight Outta Boston." I replied, "You mean Straight Into Boston!" I was able to let myself have fun, I pumped my fists, and I even asked the score of the Sox game. “Are you a Red Sox fan?” I asked people in the crowd wearing a hat or shirt. “Yes!!!” was their answer. “What’s the score?” Not one person knew to their shame. I spent the rest of our time together trying to convince Mike we are diehards. He chalked it up to they are such good race fans they didn’t check their phones.

My best 5K of the race was after the last hill. That’s when I had my fastest mile of 7:06. I had energy and figured I wasn’t going to do any more damage. And it was warm now so I had a lot of roadkill serve as rabbits. As bad as I felt, I was better off than the dude by mile 16 with a bib in the 1000s carted away in a stretcher or the guy at 23 sitting dazed unable to talk to medics. My thighs did tighten the last mile or so. I think that was due to how I had to compensate my gait. I took the final two turns raising my arms, blowing kisses to the fans, pointing to the B on my visor, and just being happy to finish. Then I realized if I ran a solid final sprint, I could claim 3:23 and I did by a few seconds. I saw Meb at the finish. He gave me a fist bump. He had a medal and I looked at him like "okay, put it around my neck." He said it was for someone else. After a few more steps, my dad spotted me and we took a picture. I connected with Shawn and regretted I had no more in me to make the mile trek and back to his house. I found Alex for a picture and congrats and rejoined my dad at a bar my the finish line. When my appetite came back, I joined Dad and Jen at the Charles Mark hotel Parish Cafe by the finish line. We could see the blue boards holding up the finish line. We drank beers and ate pizza along with my sister-in-law until my brother finished. I videoed him finishing the race - it was awesome to watch him finish his first Boston!

Moments after finishing with my dad

While not my best (or worst) time in Boston, I am grateful to have finished. I am beyond proud of my brother! Every picture of him running, he has a big grin on his face. Now, it is time to recover, rest, and heal. I am going to take it easy so I can make a go in Green Bay on May 19, or at least finish to collect another state.

Checking in with the wives while waiting for Matt to finish

My splits:

5k 0:24:10

10k 0:49:26

15k 1:14:16

20k 1:38:27

Half 1:43:46

25k 2:02:54

30k 2:26:55

35k 2:50:37

40k 3:13:42

Finish 3:23:54

Finish Pace 07:47

Overall 7486

Gender 6095

Division 1102

My Adidas video of the race

I gave my wife my medal for being so supportive and giving me best advice: you better be able to walk on vacation! We had a nice getaway in the Berkshires the three days after the race. It was our first time away from our son who had a blast with my sister and her family. On the drive, we stopped at a rest stop in Blandford, MA. We saw half a dozen Japanese tourists wearing their Boston Marathon jackets. At the Red Lion Inn where we stayed, I saw an older runner in his Boston jacket. He has now run 15 consecutive! And since I wore my jacket around the towns, many people congratulated me on finishing. That's my takeaway from this race - I finished, which is an accomplishment not to be minimized.

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