Dec 22, 2007 10:07 PM
Once again, Boston creates an unforgettable experience. Let me start by saying a heartfelt thank you to both of my families – the real one through blood and marriage, and the virtual one through this B&B forum. The support has been incredible, and I could not have finished the race without either of you.
Let’s take this chronologically. The PBJ family (PBJ, the long-suffering Mrs. PBJ, and the three PBJ offspring) boarded the minivan on Sunday for a scenic 2.5 hour ride to Boston. The first indication that this would be a unique Boston experience happened at the Mass Pike toll plaza. I smugly picked the shortest line, with only five cars queued. Big mistake. The movement was slow but tolerable, until the vehicle two cars ahead stopped to pay the toll. There appeared to be a serious conversation between toll taker and money giver, based on the various hand gestures and head maneuvers. Looks like someone needs directions. The banter took almost a minute.
Finally, the conversation ended, and the Subaru in front of us pulled up to pay. Guess what? Another animated back and forth, with a variety of gesticulations. I timed this one, and it took 4 minutes! (Not an exaggeration). When the PBJ minivan finally pulled up to pay, the toll taker was very apologetic, trying to explain that the marathon road closures were forcing alternate routes, and it was hard to hear, etcetera, etcetera. I just smiled and nodded (I wasn’t in a rush). As I accelerated forward, I saw the huge line behind me (a dozen plus vehicles). Yikes. The most amazing part of this mis-queue? Not a single horn was honked – and this was Boston!
We checked into the Copley Place Marriott at 3:00 pm, walked over to the Hynes Convention Center for the runners’ expo. There was a Nor’easter pounding the city, but we stayed comfy and dry as the hotel and convention center were linked by a skywalk and a mall (the PBJsters were fascinated by the skywalk – you don’t see such things in our small town stomping grounds).
First stop was packet pick-up. It felt like a dream to be picking up a number in the three thousand series. I consider myself quite tortoise-like, you know, slow and steady. It’s inconceivable that I’m in the top 4,000 marathoners in Boston. If I can do this, anyone can. I was quickly brought back to reality when the t-shirt packer said “there’s no larges left, but the mediums run big.” Uh huh. Would you like to work in marketing for a watercooler company in the northeast? Then PBJ Jr. went into a coughing fit, and the long-suffering Mrs. PBJ kindly offered to take him back to the hotel. The female PBJsters and I pressed on.
Econo and Spareribs would be proud of the quantity of free stuff that the PBJ family grabbed at the expo. Between the expo and the runners’ village on race day, I never want to see another power bar (at least until next year). The best freebie was the poster at the Adidas booth, which subtly lists the names of all the runners. The girls liked the nutrition bars that looked and tasted like kit kats, and the fat-free chocolate milk. Included in the runner’s goodie bag was a sample of a cleaner for high tech fabrics. Roughly translated, this means that runners get very stinky. One of the booths had doctors looking at runners’ feet. You could not pay me enough money to do that!
Speaking of paying enough money, I shelled out $40 for a bright orange Boston marathon racing singlet, and $30 for a pair of crocs for PBJster #1. We looked at the Timex watches for PBJster #2 (she’s going to be the next generation runner), but decided we could get a better deal back home.
Back to the Marriott at 4:30, where we reassessed dinner plans. The weather was still rather raw, so we stayed dry inside and walked to the California Pizza Kitchen. Long-suffering and I agreed that 45 minutes would be our maximum limit. When we told the greeter that we were a party of five, he said, and I quote, “it will be a 45 minute wait.” So we waited. At about the 45 minute mark, the new greeter called our name – “PBJ – party of three and party of two.” What? I quickly corrected her, “We’re a party of 5.” “Oh, then you’re gonna have to wait about 45 minutes – there are six other large parties still ahead of you. Five is a tough number.” “I’ll give you a tough number,” I muttered under my breath. So we waited some more.
Just as we were about to use the take-out (80 minutes in to the conundrum) our name was called again. This better be worth it. As we were seated, our friendly waitress informed us, “We’re out of bread, and if you want pasta, you’re gonna have to wait a long time, because there are only two people working the pasta station, and they’re swamped. Oh, and we’re out of shrimp and Sam Adams.” She didn’t say it, but I’m sure she thought, “You runners are a bunch of carbo-loading freaks.” So of course, in spite of her warnings, we all ordered pasta or pizza. To speed the process, we didn’t order dessert, and we were able to eat our dinner in a hair under three hours.
The next morning, while Mrs. PBJ and the little PBJsters were ordering room service and swimming in the hotel pool, I walked down to the Boston Common to get the bus to Hopkinton. Winds whipped through Boylston Street at around 50 mph, and I witnessed several metal barricades getting knocked over by the gusts. What am I getting myself into?
My sneakers were trashed by the time I was on the school bus. Fortunately, they weren’t the pair I was going to run in. The bus ride took about an hour, and many stories were shared among all the runners. The runners’ village in Hopkinton was an amazing quagmire, with 20,000 people waiting for 2 - 3 hours. The bagels were the size of bean bag chairs. I was one of the lucky ones, able to wait inside the school gym, where it was warm and dry. Hey Hopkinton – you guys are so accommodating – thanks a million. Sorry we trashed your playing fields and peed on your lawns.
The toughest decision of the day was my choice of running apparel. I went with a Cleveland marathon wicking t-shirt, a Hartford marathon wicking long-sleeved shirt, two pairs of running tights, winter hat, gloves, and a bright green, yellow and purple jester’s outfit (yes, I was going to be a running fool, or, more precisely, the April Fool). I assured myself that Tallrunner would not recognize me.
Before: in the gym
We started mooing into the corrals at around 9 am, and the rains came just as the National anthem was being sung. No fly-over this year. There’s the gun, and as we just get going, the guy behind me trips me up. Fortunately for me, but not for the guy in front of me, I stayed on my feet. I later found out that the PBJ family was praying for me right at that moment. But what, exactly, were they praying for?
Within the first mile, I hooked up with a boomer. Not just any boomer, it was MCSolar, looking tanned, trim and relaxed. His form was perfect, and we ran a few miles together, having a nice conversation. At one of the water stops, I drifted away from him, without an explanation. What I didn’t tell him was that I was really overheating, and felt like a bonk was coming on. I had already ditched the hat and gloves, and I knew I had to do something drastic.
Just beyond mile 8, I stopped at a porto-potty, hoping to pull a superman-like transformation. I took off the jester’s outfit as my propel fitness water crashed to the porto-potty floor (so much for carrying the water any further). Then I slipped the long-sleeved shirt over my head, and then pulled the right leg of the outer layer of running tights over my sneaker. Unfortunately, the tights had an elasticized cuff, and they got stuck around the sneaker. So there I was, madly hopping up and down, tugging and cursing in a stinky porto-potty for what seemed like an eternity. The second leg was even less cooperative than the first, but there was no turning back at that point.
The inner pair of running tights already had a hole in the knee (from a training fall about a year ago) so I tore the tights around the right leg, and dropped the material down to my ankle (it wouldn’t fit over my sneaker either). I tried to do the same with the left leg, but the material wouldn’t tear, so I ended up biting a hole in the fabric, then ripping it off. I put the jester costume back on, grabbed the good tights and shirt (I might be crazy, but I’m still frugal), and exited the potty, to the amazement and annoyance of those waiting. Sorry about that. The whole extrication process took about five minutes, but as it turns out, it was worth it.
Well, the three hour dream was gone, but I sure felt better. One added benefit was that Tallrunner must have passed me during my extended Deena Kastor moment, so he never got his hands on me. CRANBARE!
For the rest of the race, I focused on the crowd. Boston has the best spectators in the world, and wearing a jester’s outfit really gets noticed. I think I was the second most popular runner in a costume (apparently there was a cow that was number one). I really fed off the crowd – it was unbelievable. I smiled non-stop for the last 18 miles. Then when I saw the Pro’s banner at mile 20, I felt such a surge of energy. What a privilege. Pro and crew, I can’t thank you enough! I charged up heartbreak hill, and passed dozens of other runners.
During: the transformed jester
Then at mile 25, I saw my next door neighbor. He was in a fog, and I practically had to scream his name into his ear before he looked over at me. Luckily, this snapped him out of his daze, and he actually finished strong, another 3:10 net finisher. As I headed for the finish line, I was running pretty strong. Then I heard “PBJ,” looked over, and saw long-suffering and crew behind a fence. I waved and smiled, my journey was complete. (According to the BAA, I finished 1,947th – not bad for a 45 year old non-athlete).
After: the finish line
I gathered some finisher goodies, proudly accepted my medal, and was about to head back to the hotel (our predetermined meeting place) for a much needed shower, when I saw him. It was Tallrunner. I hesitated. I could turn and walk (couldn’t run) away, or I could face my nemesis. So I went up to him and timidly asked “Tallrunner?” He briskly replied “I’m Frank.” I extended my quivering hand, gulped, and meekly said “It’s me, PBJ.” He surrounded my jello-like fingers with his massive, meaty paw and said “doughy, like a woman.” (Any Barney Miller fans out there?) We exchanged pleasantries, and he nonchalantly mentioned he was disappointed with his 3:02 in his second marathon ever (at Boston, no less). He looked fresh and strong, as if he had just completed an easy, twenty minute workout. Watch out world, Tallrunner is a marathon man!
He quickly excused himself, under the pretense that he had to meet up with his family (I think it was my aroma that bothered him). So I jumped a barricade and headed back to the Marriott. I had survived the encounter. As I was about to enter the room, there were signs on the door that said “Go #3146,” and “Yeah, daddy.” I inserted the card key, opened the door, and there to my utter amazement was a message in cookies that said “Go daddy, we love you, #3146.” That made me feel so special.
After a few photos, savoring the moment (and some of the cookies), I headed for the shower. But before I could get into the bathroom, the hotel emergency alarm went off. “This is not a drill.” So we headed down the stairs (all twenty-two flights). I guess it kept me loose. We waited about two hours before the elevator traffic started to thin out. It wasn’t really bad, as we sat in the lounge area, enjoying drinks and nibbling on munchies. Of course, my odors probably offended a patron or two.
Finally showered, we walked about six blocks to Via Matta (Robin’s recommended restaurant – I think our definitions of “family friendly” are somewhat different – the PBJ family rarely cleans up nicely enough to eat at such a fancy establishment), where we met up with Frank, his gorgeous wife Sandy, and his two endearing daughters. It was another three hour meal, but this evening the time just flew by with such great company. In all seriousness, Frank and family are wonderful people. It was an unforgettable meal (except for PBJ Jr., who fell asleep in Long-suffering’s lap after a few bites of pasta).
The next morning, while Long-suffering packed, I took the PBJsters to the pool. Then we headed out to Charlie’s Sandwich Shoppe for breakfast (now this restaurant is more in sync with PBJ family style). It was there that we met up with Divechief, Oklahoma Tim, and his lovely wife and daughter. More memories were made, and once again the food lived up to its reputation. And yet again, PBJ Jr. fell asleep in Long-suffering’s lap during the meal.
We checked out, and headed to the recently reopened Boston Children’s Museum. There was a huge line waiting to get in, but luckily for us, Long-suffering had a reciprocal membership from the Peabody Museum in New Haven. Membership allowed us to bypass the line, and the PBJsters enjoyed the madhouse disguised as a museum. (Did I mention that it’s spring vacation week in the Boston area, so every kid that lives within 20 miles was there). Parking cost us 30 bucks, but I could live with it, since the museum was basically free.
After three hours at the museum, PBJ Jr. was spent and cranky, so we headed for home. Another Boston marathon; another unforgettable experience. Thanks for enduring this marathon of a race report.
[http://This message has been edited by PBJ (edited Apr-18-2007).|http://This message has been edited by PBJ (edited Apr-18-2007).]