Pain Is NOT Just Weakness — Part I: Before the Run

04.17.2012 | 4:09 am

It’s early Tuesday morning. My legs have awakened me to let me know that they have elected to secede from my body. My flight back is not for a couple hours. So this seems like a fantastic time for me to write the story of running the Boston Marathon yesterday.

I kinda doubt many people are reading it this early, but I still think I’ll post it liveblog-style, as proof against a flaky computer and a weak internet connection, more than anything else.

Auspicious Beginning

The Hammer and I got to the airport two hours early; we are both very cautious travelers, and she knows that — for some reason — I am more productive in airports than anywhere else.

We were supposed to each get a free bag checked in with Delta, but weren’t able to when I tried to check in online, so we went to the counter, where the counter entity was happy to waive the $25 fee for us.

She was not so happy, however, when she saw The Hammer’s drivers license, however — The Hammer’s expired drivers license. See, The Hammer had a birthday earlier this week, and unbeknownst to us — because we don’t spend a ton of time inspecting our drivers licenses — her license had expired that day.

The counter entity called her manager. “I’m going to let this one go,” the uber-counter-entity said of the license that had expired ten hours ago. “But good luck with the TSA.”

We gulped and left, making plans as we walked up to the security line of how we could — if necessary — haul back home, grab The Hammer’s passport, and get back here in time for the flight.

The TSA didn’t give the license a second glance.

Also, oddly, when packing, The Hammer had accidentally included two avocados from her grocery shopping the previous day in her carry-on bag. These were OK as far as the TSA is concerned, too. Which opens up all kinds of new possibilities for in-flight snacks.

From the airport, I called my oldest son and asked him to overnight The Hammer’s passport to the hotel we’re going through, so I wouldn’t have to worry about abandoning my wife in Boston on the return trip.

Because I’m very gallant.


The race wasn’t ’til Monday AM, but we had given ourselves a couple extra days in Boston because neither of us had ever been here before (I’ve been through Boston and have stayed in towns near Boston, but have never stayed in Boston itself).

This was a wonderful idea.

We slepped in ’til about eleven — something I didn’t realize we were even capable of — then went and got our numbers and drop bags. The Hammer got a number with a white background, meaning she had qualified for the race by being fast.

I got a number with a blue background, meaning I had qualified for the race by raising money for a charity (LiveStrong).

We then walked around the expo, and I noticed something amazing: the fitness and trimness level of everyone there. By far, most of the people in the race qualified with a fast running time, so there weren’t a lot of folks who looked even trivially pudgy. All wire and muscle.

“I’ve never seen so women who are your kind of hot in one place,” I whispered to The Hammer. “Her kind of hot,” by the way, is my favorite kind of hot: very trim, casual clothes, ponytails, not a lot of makeup, and athletic as hell.

Also, people were taking pictures of everything. For example, when I saw a group of strangers posing with a mannequin at some random clothing display, I had to get a photo of it:


Back at the hotel, I opened my swag bag. Along with the usual junk mail, here’s what it included:


The (very nice) long-sleeved running shirt, a small poster, a bottle of water, and sample packs of uncooked rice, natural peanut butter and fruit chews.

I combined them all together in the hotel coffee pot the next morning and made a delicious breakfast porridge.

Not really.

Fenway Park

As part of Team LiveStrong, we then got to go see a baseball game at Fenway Park — my first-ever professional baseball game.


Now, I genuinely don’t follow baseball (or football or basketball or anything but cycling). This isn’t cycling snobbery; up until I followed cycling, I didn’t follow any sports at all.

Still, though, being in a stand with thousands of fans is pretty awesome. And helpfully, at the end of the game, we were given some important and clarifying information:


Sunday: We Get All Historical

The next morning — the day before the race — we slept in again. I believe I could get used to this “sleeping in” thing.

Then we spent the day with a guidebook and following the “Freedom Trail” — a red line that leads you on a walking tour of some of the most famous historical sites in the city.

The weather was perfect, the day was free, and in general The Hammer and I learned a bunch of important things about U.S. history we should have already known, but didn’t.



Sunday Night: Team Fatty

My favorite part of any race is the traditional cargo-load dinner the night before the race. Not that I eat any different any other night, but the night before a race, I’m able to do it without the slight pang of guilt I normally feel when I eat twice my weight in starch.

Jeff D and Philly Jen had organized a Team Fatty get together at a fantastic Italian restaurant.


I got the Gnocchi Spezzatino; The Hammer had tortellini. I liked my meal well enough that I completely killed it (as opposed to Philly Jen, who ordered the same thing but was unable to finish even half her meal).

Also, I finished the last third of The Hammer’s tortellini. If you ever get a chance to witness me using my most obvious superpower — near infinite consumption capabilities — you really should. And also, bring a camera, because I think it’d be a YouTube sensation.

Interesting fact: of the nine people there, five work in the health care industry.

Oh, and apropos of nothing, here’s a picture of Jeff, The Hammer, me, and Philly Jen, posing together for another photo.


As you can see, Jen is making a shark with her hands, or urging me to live long and prosper or something. And I look a little bit concerned by whichever it is.

Monday: The Marathon

I’m used to having to get up at ridiculously early times of the morning to do big races. But my start time (i.e., the very last corral in the very last wave of the race) wasn’t slated to start ’til close to 11am.

There are both good news and bad news aspects to this.

The good news is we were able to sleep in ’til around 6:00am.

The bad news is that we’d be starting a marathon at 11am on what was predicted to be the warmest Boston Marathon in history.

Earlier, for example, I had gotten a helpful and encouraging email from the race organizers:


It’s like they were talking to me. But I wasn’t listening.

Before the Run

The Boston Marathon organization is about as perfect as it could be. We stood in a very short line to get on our bus, had a very short line to go use the restroom, and then just hung out on the line, waiting for our turn to run.


The Hammer had chosen to run with me, starting with my wave, rather than going on with her own group. Her claimed rationale was that she wasn’t interested in doing this race fast, she wanted to share the experience of a famous historical race with me.

But I think the real reason is she knew that I might turn around and leave if she weren’t there.

Then we got ushered into our corral, which was really more of just a funnel. Keep walking, slowly, ’til you get to the starting line, and then start running.

“I just hope I can deal with all my running issues,” I told The Hammer, for the mistifillionth time. Because, in fact, I’ve had an incredibly bad time with running lately. My back hurts. My right knee hurts. My left hip hurts. My right achilles tendon hurts. I’ve stopped many runs within just a few miles lately, and it’s been a couple months since I’ve made it more than 15 miles.

“Let’s just make a goal of finishing in under five hours, OK?” The Hammer asked.

“I can’t commit to that,” I said.

But in my head, I had already committed to it.

PS: Part II of this (two-part) story will go up on Thursday.

PPS: The reason Part II won’t go up tomorrow is because tomorrow I’ll be announcing registration for the 100 Miles of Nowhere. My guess is it will sell out in one day, so I recommend you do not delay.


  1. Comment by Liz | 04.17.2012 | 4:25 am

    Great to see you are alive, well and sense of humor intact, even if sore. Congrats on enduring — looking forward to the rest of the story.

  2. Comment by Bikemike | 04.17.2012 | 4:55 am

    Sounds like your legs have started a body part civil war. Like South Carolina, your legs were the first. Be prepared for other parts to follow. You may just be a hand and your head by the time you get home. Being in a pressurized cabin may prolong the time before the mutiny…but I doubt it. Good luck.

  3. Comment by Slo Joe Recumbo | 04.17.2012 | 4:57 am

    I feel like I was left at the starting line. :o) Where be the write up of “ze race”? Ok..I’ll tune in next time, eh.

  4. Comment by TimRides | 04.17.2012 | 6:41 am

    I cheated and read ahead by checking the results yesterday, so I at least know if you finished. I won’t spoil the ending for everyone else, I’ll just say “Congratulations on getting as far as you did!”

  5. Comment by Miles Archer | 04.17.2012 | 6:43 am

    How hot could it be for someone who’s run the Death Valley Marathon?

  6. Comment by Doug (Way upstate NY) | 04.17.2012 | 7:03 am

    What do you mean who would read it this early in the day?

  7. Comment by ClydeinKS | 04.17.2012 | 7:18 am

    Love the “Riding Sweep” T at the cemetary, it’s a personal favorite in my closet and always get compliments when it ventures out!

  8. Comment by Andrew | 04.17.2012 | 7:44 am

    Well done to you both..

    Now using this time stamp from this message I shall try to predict when 100 MoN will open up.

    Have fun.



  9. Comment by BZ | 04.17.2012 | 7:45 am

    “cargo loading”…. Yeah, even if that is a typo, it’s an awesome phrase that I will reuse.

  10. Comment by Philly Jen | 04.17.2012 | 8:22 am

    Huge props to Jeff Dieffenbach for organizing Team Fatty Boston! He did all the work, so I just got to hang around for the ride (in a minivan with a giant tailfin and dorsal fin), which was awesomesauce.

    The “traditional cargo-loading dinner”: Make it so!

  11. Comment by Bee | 04.17.2012 | 8:27 am

    Now that we live on the West coast, I find I never sleep in so much as I do when I go back to the East Coast. I usually find myself waking up at 10 or 11. It’s really only 7 or 8 back home for me. Going East is always harder than going west, for some reason.

  12. Comment by Ashley | 04.17.2012 | 8:40 am

    Thanks for visiting Boston! It was great to finally meet you guys. Also, the reason Jen (and Ryan and I) didn’t finish our dinner is because we left room for tiramisu. Also Jen at least had leftovers for the broken-down bus trip…

    Thanks again to Jeff for organizing! Next time I’ll ride the course with y’all.

    Oh and my writeup of my Sunday is here:

  13. Comment by Christina | 04.17.2012 | 8:48 am

    I think, and I’m about the share too much, I would have pooped three times just waiting for a race like that to start. No way would I be hanging on the grass all calm looking.

    And The Runner is amazingly supportive!

  14. Comment by djs60 | 04.17.2012 | 8:53 am

    Congrats on enduring on a very difficult day to run (although not the hottest ever – ‘76 was a bit worse). I got a photo of you just past 40km (and yelled at you, but you were in zombie mode, understandably) – will send it along later.

  15. Comment by roan | 04.17.2012 | 8:58 am

    If there is one thing I notice with today’s posting…Fatty in the photos when you are not making a weird (comic)face you actually look better, more relaxed than you have in years. WAY TO GO, Hammer ! you get the credit.

  16. Comment by AKChick55 | 04.17.2012 | 10:01 am

    Squee! Love these posts! :) And can I just say that The Hammer is SMOKING HOT! WOW! I’m so excited that you two finished and that you are none the worse for the wear. Can we get a race report from The Hammer’s point of view? If she has time and inclination? I so love it when she posts. :)

    I’m SO excited about MON! I’m very nervous that I won’t make it in, but I am very stubborn and persistent. I get up at 3:50 am to go the gym (which should end this week hopefully or at least for a majority of the week as I’m breaking out the cross bike for commuting soon, I digress), so since I get up so early, I’m hoping to get registered then and not have to worry about it.

  17. Comment by Wife#1 | 04.17.2012 | 10:33 am

    FUN! Great post. Cannot wait for Thursday.

    Side note for Twin Six guys… new t-shirt request please in honor of The Hammer (though the original inspiration was a horse event, it totally works for cycling).

    Yeah, I ride like a Girl…
    Try to Keep Up!

  18. Comment by davidh-marin, ca | 04.17.2012 | 11:24 am

    Great Report! I hope you can convince Twin Six to adopt Wife#1’s idea above. I would definitely buy several shirts!

    Highly recommend Ashley’s link above, and then to Jeff’s link: marathon events here. Enjoy reading about an event from several points of view….and pictures too!

    Lastly; …first professional baseball game ever???? Are you some kind of communist? No Apple Pie for you!

  19. Comment by Bykjunkie | 04.17.2012 | 11:46 am

    Awesome job with Boston!!
    Is it wrong to be in Afghanistan and be more stressed out about missing the registration for the 100 miles to nowhere, then anything else right now?

  20. Comment by AKChick55 | 04.17.2012 | 12:49 pm

    Wife#1 you are brilliant! I second that request!! TwinSix Powers That Be please, please, please create a t-shirt like that! If TwinSix doesn’t, I might just have to look into getting shirts made and maybe we can split the costs…hmmmm, fundraising idea maybe?

    Yeah, I ride like a Girl…
    Try to Keep Up!

    And Bykjunkie – H*LL NO! That is perfectly appropriate! It’s nice that you have something to look forward to! One of our local TV anchors was just in Afghanistan for a couple weeks covering one of our local military units that was over there. God Bless and thank you for your service to our country!!!!

  21. Comment by AKChick55 | 04.17.2012 | 12:57 pm

    Wife#1, do I have your email? I’d love to discuss your t-shirt idea. The more I think about it, the more I like it! You can email me at akchick55 at h-o-t-m-a-i-l dot com. Trying to fool the bots! Let’s conspire!! :)

  22. Comment by Sherie | 04.17.2012 | 3:02 pm

    You mean I’m not supposed to eat twice my weight in starch every day? Shoot. I’ve been eating wrong my whole life:) And way to get past your “running issues”. Mine are so bad that I cheer if I keep jogging for 3/4 of a mile! Great job.

  23. Comment by elizabeth | 04.18.2012 | 10:31 pm

    of course i’ve already looked up your results. the race was brutal. and it appears you made the same mistake my hubby and i did 3 years ago- walking the freedom trail the day before the marathon makes for very tired feet come monday. this year we opted to be a little more lazy on sunday. too bad it didn’t help at all.

  24. Comment by Angie | 04.19.2012 | 8:11 pm

    I don’t follow any sports except cycling either. And before that, I didn’t follow any sports either, also, additionally, too…


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