Daniel Mikula (Pennsylvania) is fast, a father of 5, and the newest addition to the Triple Threat Triathlon national team. Here is his report from the most famous marathon in the world.
At the risk of losing readers I will do my best to summarize the year leading up to my first (yes I plan to make it to Hopkinton again) Boston Marathon. While I will never admit there is any truth to this, I have been told that I am not as young as I once was. Clearly, my body started to listen to all of this drivel and I took advantage of the two for one special they were running at Hershey Orthopedic…sort of like Wal Mart but the special was on surgeries. They cleaned up a torn labrum in my left hip and did some work on the meniscus on the same leg. Needless to say, there was a long road ahead of me before I could toe the line in Hopkinton.
Fast forward through months of PT and a slow return to training and I found myself just a few short months from Patriots Day finally putting together some solid longer runs, never feeling quite 100% but certainly optimistic that I was on the right track. Then It snowed! One of my favorite things to do is run in the snow, a survival skill I developed growing up in Michigan and that I tap into from time to time living in Central PA. Once again, what I like isn’t necessarily what my body likes and I wound up with a deep calf strain, sidelined by my Physical Therapist for three weeks. Not what I needed to hear as I kept turning pages on my calendar. Back to training and I was doing great…until two weeks before the race when I tweaked the same knee that I had fixed a year earlier. I promptly sought my surgeon’s advice and was promptly told not to run Boston…yeah….right! I spent the last two weeks prepping for Boston running in a pool and on the elliptical, doing anything I could to maintain fitness without aggravating the knee. I know what you are thinking…where is the race report? Well, now that you know that I was feeling undertrained, let me tell you about the good stuff…Race weekend!
I was feeling better and we made the 7 hour drive to Boston the Friday before the race. My family and I (all 7 of us) checked in to the Hyatt Cambridge (great place to stay…they really take care of their guests) and we made plans to head to the expo Saturday morning so that I could get my bib number and we could spend the rest of the day doing the Boston thing with the kids. The Hotel shuttle was able to get us about a half mile from the convention center and we made our way there. You can probably imagine my surprise when we found a line that would take us well over an hour just to get into the building, so we could stand in the line that snaked around the building…for another hour. Not sure what happened there, but the word on the streets was that this had never been the case. I was finally able to get my bib and gear check bags, but the natives were restless…and for good reason…so we headed back to the hotel. The day was pretty well shot, but we salvaged what we could by hitting the hotel pool on the top floor overlooking Boston. We ordered in and had some delicious pasta while hanging out in the hotel, not having enough energy to venture out into the city after line standing all day.
Sunday was Easter and we were able to celebrate Mass at St. Paul’s in Harvard Square before catching a beautiful Easter brunch back at the hotel. Huge spread, but I was good and ate sparingly, not wanting to risk GI issues the next day. Have you ever had a huge spread of fresh seafood calling your name but knowing you are not going to go there? NOT FUN! The remainder of the day was spent lounging about, trying to stay off my feet as much as I could. Unfortunately, that left my Beautiful wife to handle logistics for 5 kids. Have I told you how much I love you Margaret?! The crew went for a walk along the St Charles River and hit the pool again. Can you tell I feel guilty that I wasn’t confident enough to take them sight seeing? It will be different next time! I spent the evening obsessing about what I needed in my gear check bags and had everything laid out the night before.
5:13…time to roll. Needless to say, it was a restless night. I am pretty sure I ran the race 5 times over throughout the night, but I woke up feeling pretty good all told. The weather was beautiful and there was no need to wear the parka I picked up at the local goodwill store. Our Hotel provided a tour bus to the Boston Commons where we would board school busses to take us out to Hopkinton. Shared a seat with a great guy from Quebec and I am grateful for that as the ride out just seemed to go on forever. I remember at various times thinking to myself that we were driving pretty far and that I was amazed that people would choose to run that far…and then I realized I was one of them. I had to chuckle as we got off the expressway because the State Police was stopping all traffic except for us. At first I felt like we were honored guests heading to the dais but then recalled a scene from one of my favorite films…”Dead Man Walking.” Now I know how the bank robbers from the old west felt as they were being led down the dusty streets to the gallows!
We finally arrived at the High School where the staging areas were set up. The B.A.A did an amazing job organizing things and everything was great. As expected, the port-o-john lines were ridiculous, but I heeded some advice I had read and waited until we were being staged towards the actual start line. There is a whole other bank of toilets on the way and the lines were much more manageable. Took care of what needed to be taken care of and it was time to get into my corral. After walking a couple of blocks, I found myself nestled in with my partners in crime and we anxiously awaited our turn. I am pretty sure I heard some mooing and the nervous stomping of hooves before the gates were opened until it started as a shuffle and then we moved in unison as one organism into a slow jog, and then it happened…I was running the Boston Marathon.
I am not one to be glued to my watch, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t overcooking it for the first few miles as runners apparently have a tendency to do that with the perfect storm of excitement and the slight downhill run. I was slightly up on my pace so I dialed it back a tad and found myself running the race I wanted to run. I felt great and found myself amongst a pack that was holding a similar pace so I settled in and just enjoyed the moment. Mile 10 came and that is when the combination of recent injuries and slight undertraining coupled with the hot sun started to make themselves known. Nothing too bad yet, just an inclination that this was not going to be a PR day. I wasn’t prepared to give up the ship yet so I did my thing and stayed on pace. At this point, I felt like I still needed to give myself a chance at my goal time. I maintained my race plan for another 5 miles or so and then realized that I needed to be smart about what I was doing. Runners were literally dropping from the field and I saw some pretty ugly stuff out there as the heat was getting the best of folks. I made the decision (well my body had a big part in this too) to adjust the race plan and I shifted into survival mode. I walked a fair number of the fluid stations, making sure I was hydrated so that I could make it across that line in Boston. I am a known to be a pretty heavy sweater and I knew I was working to take in as much as I was putting out. The weather had moved into the upper 70’s. I am not sure if it made 80’s, but it felt like we were running on the surface of the sun out there.
The rest of the miles were a battle of attrition but I kept the train moving forward and found myself on the streets of Boston with only one quad pounding downhill leading into the final stretch left to run. I summoned all of the courage I had and allowed the amazing energy of the Boston faithful to help me bring it home. I had decided that I would run the middle of the famous blue lines which indicate the last mile of the race and I had some room around me, so I followed that line. I have had some amazing experiences in my life…My wedding (love you babe)…the birth of each of our 5 children (love all of you guys)…my first Ironman finish…but Boston is now in the mix. I have to admit that I was feeling pretty emotional when I crossed that line. I didn’t shed a tear, likely because I had no fluids that my body was willing to sacrifice, but I did take a moment to just soak it all in…and it was good!!!!
The rest was making my way back to the hotel to meet up with the crew, being greeted there by the staff of the Hyatt, and my family cheering as I entered the lobby of the hotel. Pretty good stuff if you ask me. After making our way up to our room, I laid on the bed as my kids unshoed me and placed a big bag of ice on my feet. Man did that feel good! A half hour later, I was up in the pool playing with the kids trying to keep the legs moving so that they didn’t lock up on me. My wife and I went down to the bar for a nice celebratory cocktail and we spent the rest of the night at the post party at Fenway. Not much there for the kids, so that didn’t last too long. We hit the rack early and we were waving goodbye to Boston after having breakfast in Harvard Square. That’s it….until next time!
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