Boston marathon pre-race report

imageWe’re here in Boston, enjoying the kind of weather that fills marathoners with abject terror: bright sun, 82 degrees and windy.

Fortunately, the temperature is expected to drop (albeit not enough) tomorrow, more clouds will move in, and the winds should die down . . . we hope. I fear, though, that Paul Ryan’s youthful marathon record will be safe from challenge by this 55-year-old woman this year.

Yesterday’s trip from New York Penn to Boston’s South Station was uneventful. “Don’t do anything before the race that you didn’t do in training,” the experts tell you. Since I ate like crap during training, I took that to mean I should start the trip with a doughnut from the new Underwest Donut kiosk in front of Penn Station. I had not yet tried this nouveau-doughnut cult favorite, so, you know, research. My findings: while the first bite of their halva doughnut did in fact taste a bit like halva, the initial sesame jolt quickly dissolved into generic sticky sweetness. Kind of like an energy gel, now that I think of it. (Add “halva” to “pumpkin” and “persimmon” on my list of suggested gel flavors.)

Cut to the grim and confusing interior of the station, where Eric and I milled around with several hundred other miller-arounders beneath the big train status screens. By happenstance, our spot in front of gate 11E was precisely where the harried Amtrak employee instructed passengers on Amtrak Northeast Regional 160 to line up. It was the closest I’ve ever been to the front of the boarding line, and I celebrated by passive-aggressively bumping roller suitcases with a woman in a black leather jacket and leggings who was trying to sidle into the line without anyone noticing she was cutting.

I’m pleased to report that after four or five bumps, she fell back and disappeared from sight. Good riddance.

In that same spirit of standing up to transit wrongdoers, three cheers for the Amtrak conductors who were kicking ass and taking names and generally brooking no nonsense: “This is a holiday weekend and this train is completely sold out. Every seat will have someone in it. There will be no empty seats. If you think you can keep a space next to you by placing your coat or bag on the seat, think again and remove it. If you are lying across two seats, please wake up and sit up. I repeat . . .”

They proceeded to enforce their announcement by personally directing individual offenders to move their shit. In short: these guys were the avenging angels of courtesy, and I love them.

Long Island City, Astoria, then over the Hell Gate Bridge into the Bronx, on to New Rochelle, Rye, Port Chester . . . I love seeing the back sides of the neighborhoods that hug the tracks, and have never understood why people dismiss old industrial towns as unscenic.

I whiled away the time birdwatching (my list for the trip reached 23 species, including a common loon and at least 27 ospreys, but excluding the small ruffle of white that may have been either a snowy egret or a plastic bag) and leafing through my newspaper backlog.

Finally, Boston. After a bit of befuddled wandering and some further puzzling over transit maps and fares and passes, we boarded a Silver Line bus (it’s so cute how it pretends to be a train!) toward our waterfront hotel. And who should board with us but the black-clad woman who’d tried to cut in line back at Penn Station. She and I assiduously avoided eye contact. (She got off before our stop, and I breathed a little easier.)

On to the Expo, where the line to enter snaked all the way up and down a long block of Boylston, and where we ran into my PPTC teammates Andrei, Rosalba, Ben and Joelle (hugs all around). After picking up my bib and unflattering canary yellow race shirt, we speed walked through the exhibits, stopping just twice. Once was when I foolishly accepted a sample of some magic goop that was supposed to dissolve pain; in fact, the palmful I slapped on my chronically sore shoulder just oozed onto the collar of my jacket, turning it soggy and malodorous without reducing my soreness one bit.

Note to self: accepting free samples of unknown products at marathon expos is, generally speaking, a Bad Idea.

imageThe second time was to take a picture of Eric mugging  (well, as much as Eric mugs) in front of a banner sign for his namesake running shoe and apparel company. Go, Brooks!

After a fun group dinner with teammates, we headed back to the hotel through chilly (if only we could have those temps tomorrow!) and confusing Boston streets. As we took various wrong turns and checked and rechecked google maps, we could overhear conversational snippets from other tired, anxious and lost runners having a night out on the town (“why are we going this way?” “you go ahead and go that way, I’m going this way” “fine, you do that”).

So glad we’re not like that.

Today: a 20-minute shakeout run in the morning, brunch with Eric, a Red Sox game (him) and aimless lounging/blogging (me), leading up to an early dinner with a teammate and, I hope, a sound night’s sleep.

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