Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Double the Fun: My Boston Marathon Adventure

You know you had a great day when your biggest ongoing issue is your shorts continuing to ride down on you!

Sometimes we need to do something different to keep things on track. I decided to do the “Boston Double” (BD) for a couple of reasons. I wanted to experience the Boston course in another way and wanted a long run to test my endurance as part of my Vermont 100 training. But mostly, I wanted to deliberately slow myself down (aka not worry about pace) so I could truly take in the magic of the Boston Marathon experience. This race report is a big thank you to every person who supported me pre-run and during the race (and bought me numerous post-race beers!).
An amazing team! Guide L to R: Michelle, Samantha, & Kevin

The Support

Achilles Boston crew at the finish (aka start) line! 

I am incredibly thankful to have a very supportive wife and daughter and a team of guides who did not bat an eye when I asked for their support. My training, especially weekend long runs, often wakes my family up and results in numerous hours away from the house. I am also grateful to have such wonderful friends and sighted guides who I both trained with and ran with on Monday. Although a bit more logistically challenging than I anticipated (transportation back to Boston for my first guide, getting through the start line security, and fuel for the run back without being able to use a hydration pack) everything worked out. My guides were on fire the entire day. Samantha crushed the trip from Boston to Hopkinton. This included early miles in the dark, dodging large race vehicles setting up the course, and even avoiding college students on roller blades drinking (I assume alcohol was in the red solo cups). Kevin and Michelle had a list of tasks for when we arrived at the Team With a Vision building in Hopkinton. They sat me down, fed me, gave me my extra gear to swap out, arranged a quick interview with WGBH radio, and got me to the start line right on time. They were a beacon of efficiency!

Out-Bound Trip
Samantha and I heading to Hopkinton

Big thanks to Samantha’s husband Jeff for waking up SOOOO early and literally dropping us off at the finish line (our start line) on Boylston St. We got our first surprise of the day when two members of the Achilles International Boston chapter were there to cheer us on. And Laura even had a pre-recorded good luck message from my Nathan teammate and all around great guy Zach Miller. That is a better pick me up than coffee. John Kemp and Greg Soutieu, who I know through Facebook, were also there.

We were joined for the first 13 or so miles by John, who I only met that morning but quickly learned is the salt-of-the-earth nice. And what an incredible runner. Our friend Skott Daltonic greeted us as we turned off Comm Ave onto Rt 135 which was super cool and Jill’s co-worker Jim also came out to say hello and snap some photos. For anyone considering running this, please note that from the start to the Fire House we pretty much ran in the street against live traffic. Due to the increased traffic on Rt 135, we ran on the sidewalks through Newton Falls and most of Wellesley. Samantha was outstanding on the sidewalks and I felt completely at ease.

The Boston Double crew. I assume Greg is taking this picture.

Around Wellesley we were joined by Greg, his friend Jesse, Annie from CT, and Brian B. from Altra. These miles clicked by albeit at a quicker pace than I should have been running. Samantha and I stopped to hit the super clean porta-potty’s and the group continued.

As we entered Framingham I got excited to see Jill and my daughter Lucy. They mentioned taking the train out to cheer and seeing them would be great. Sure enough, as we neared the MBTA Commuter Rail station I could hear my daughter screaming my name. I instantly got the chills. We stopped briefly to say hello, snap a few pics, then Samantha and I plugged along.

We were also joined by fellow ultra-runner Paul and his friend who were out on their morning run. So nice of them to join us for a few miles.

It was at about this time that we started to feel the race course waking up. Volunteers were getting aid station tables set up, police officers were on the sidewalks, and spectators were setting up their chairs. It was so neat to be able to experience the marathon from this perspective. We talk all the time about how amazing the volunteers and spectators are but I never knew just how early they were out there. Thank you.

The streets toward where Framingham turned into Ashland were closed so we were back in the streets We started to pass the first of many Armed Service members who were walking the race. We stopped to say hello, asked what branch they were in (Army), and thanked them for their service. They were in full uniform so I was thankful to be wearing shorts and my Topo Athletic singlet.

At about the mile 2 mark we began to pass the runners with Mobility Impairments. Man, they are an amazing group of athletes. I was stoked to see fellow Achilles International Boston athlete John Young making his way to Boston. John-I loved being able to give you a high-five.

Then we saw, or rather heard, the athletes in push-rim wheelchairs fly by us. Wow, I have seen push rim and hand cyclists on flat road courses but to see them tearing down the first mile decline is one of the day’s highlights. It also got me thinking-how do they go over the timing mats? Are all the mats strategically placed on flat sections? I had 26 or so more miles to ponder this question.

My goal was to arrive in Hopkinton at 9:32 just as the elite women were starting. We were there at 9:29 so we stepped off the course on the right and watched the elite women take off. So cool! All the race personnel were very supportive of us running in the “wrong” direction. If we stayed to the side of the road when the athletes were coming they were fine.

We got through security with no issues and a few words of encouragement.

The Official Race
The biggest unknown going into this was how my body would hold up during the 70 minute “transition.” My doctor confirmed my PF and likely bone spurs in my heel the week before so I was very concerned how my foot would respond to the down time.

And after a few start line photos we were off. My friend Thor, who had done the Boston Double in 2013, warned me about how tight my body would feel for the first five miles or so (thanks Thor for ALL of your support and advice). Luckily, my body and legs felt great which put a big ‘ol smile on my face. We were having a grand time which was only boosted by sharing some time with fellow runners Erich and Maribel and seeing my friend Hilary at the start.  

Kevin, Michelle and I heading to Boston! 

I was tethered to Michelle and Kevin, who had an official bib but kindly offered to help guide, was on my right. Michelle called things out while Kevin helped to create space and grab us water. I could not stop grinning and dancing (in my head) to the music because I was feeling good. The first five miles clicked by at about a 9:30 pace and I was taking a salt stick and bar/gu every 45-60 minutes.

My stomach started to get a little upset around six miles so I was concerned about taking in calories. I just needed to get to mile seven where Topo staff would have a nice fresh PB&J sandwich waiting for me. We rolled into Framingham at a solid pace and Kevin quickly spotted the Topo crew. We took the first of many pics, stuffed the sandwich in my pocket, filled my Nathan Trail Mix fuel belt with more water and Skratch mix (I used Tail Wind on the first leg), and took off.

The People
I walked a few minutes with Alain Baird, owner of Race Menu which is super supportive of runners who are B/VI. Alain broke his leg/ankle a month or two ago during a race so he was covering (his 13th Boston?) on crutches. I will never complain again about nipple/thigh chafe after imaging what his armpits went through.  

Next up was Michelle’s friends/family around mile 10. See what I did there? I was trying to turn this long day into a trail/ultra type race. Move forward and get to the next aid station/crew spot. This made the miles incredibly manageable. I was thrilled to see Michelle get so excited to see her family, including her niece.

The crowds were jumping and the music was pumping so I rode the excitement for all it was worth. I planned for some walking breaks mostly to take in food. But I told Michelle and Kevin not to let me walk where the crowds were deep and not on the downhills.

Somewhere around this point we ran with Grant, a MABVI charity bib fundraiser, for a few minutes. He was killing it-congrats man and thanks so much for supporting the Massachusetts Association for the Blind & Visually Impaired (where I work). 

Although I was trying to take as few gus/gels as possible, my stomach was not in the mood for anything of substance so I was nervous about eating real food. I took a gu around mile 12. I figured that and the Wellesley women would get me through a few tough miles. The Scream Tunnel was jamming and so much fun slapping hands. I considered handing out a kiss but was nervous that I would misfire and result in an even more of an awkward situation.

After climbing over the 95/128 bridge and riding the long downhill (this hill sucked on the way out) I heard someone calling my name. Oh my, I totally forgot my Aunt Cathy and cousin Caitlin would be on the course. We exchanged big hugs then I almost lost all the food in my stomach. I tried eating a banana but after two bites I stuffed the rest in my pocket. If you’re curious, I now had a half-eaten banana and PB&J sandwich, two bars, a few gus, and chomps in my short’s pockets and more fuel in my Nathan trail Mix belt. I have no idea why my shorts were continuing to ride down on me! Jill and Lucy do not call me “pocket boy” for no reason. I re-filled with cold water and as I was walking away I had to lean over thinking I was going to puke.

We walked for a minute or two so I could breathe and then started running at a slower pace. A few burps freed up some belly space and I picked it up a bit.

Yeah, Cory caught up to us! 

Suddenly, my good friend, frequent training guide, and MABVI charity bib runner, Cory G was next to us! I was so hopeful leading up to the race that Cory, who started in the wave behind me, would catch up to us. We updated each other while picking up the pace. Right around here I made a quick turnaround to give my friend Angela K a hug. We then stopped to say hi to Cory’s friend Nicole who bravely ran out in front of us in flip flops to snap some “action” shots. Well done, lady.

I could feel the sun on my back so we stopped at a med tent to apply more sunscreen and lube. Out of nowhere a TWAV runner who is B/VI and from Japan came into the tent by himself. We quickly learned that his only guide cramped up a few hundred yards back. This athlete travelled across the world to run Boston and it was going to be heartbroken if he didn’t get to finish. I asked Kevin if he was interested in guiding and before I could finish Kevin was grabbing the guy’s tether and trying to get on the same page (the gentleman spoke very little English and although incredibly worldly Kevin does not know any Japanese). I was also touched that Cory was also open to guiding him. This is what makes runners so awesome.

Note to the Boston Athletic Association: this is why it is so important to allow two guides with a runner at all times. Please consider changing the rules to allow this.

We quickly came upon Michelle’s aunt and mother and they made me the perfect grilled cheese sandwich (I LOVED how soggy it was!). Grilled cheeses have become my favorite long distance food so I was craving this for a few miles. With renewed energy and a settled stomach, we took off with purpose. For me, that meant giving out as many hugs and high fives as possible.

Right around here we met Heidi, another MABVI charity bib runner. I was a bit silly by this point and may or may not have sarcastically yelled at Heidi to speed up :) Thanks Heidi for supporting MABVI and congrats on finishing Boston.

First up was Cory’s and my friend Jen who was volunteering at the Boston Tri tent. It seemed like Cory was also excited by the wall-to-wall crowds because he dropped us just as we turned onto Comm Ave. He trained so hard for his first marathon so I was thrilled to see him get his groove back on. We found Jen, hugged, and climbed the hills.

We came up on my friend Randy who was having some balance issues. He is a beast and was more than determined to keep moving forward, even if he fell. Congrats man on finishing. I was excited to see my alpine skiing community cross into my running community when we saw Bob Golub, one of my ski guides at Mt Sunapee and the New England Healing & Skiing Association.

I stopped at the NP water stop to say hello to fellow trail runner Matt. Matt did me a solid by letting me know the second half of my grilled cheese was falling out of my pocket. So, clutch. Thanks, dude.
Next up were the Achilles folks at the 30k mark. Laura (yup the same one who was cheering for me at 5AM!!!) hooked me up with a nice turkey and cheese s’wich. It was also nice to see friends Jeff and Liane cheering with the Achilles folks. My pockets were at capacity so I “had” to walk and eat the turkey s’wich.

It was about this time when I told Michelle not to let me drink any beer before the finish line. Less than five minutes later someone was cheering our name so we made a quick u-turn to say hello. My Topo Athletic teammate Hannah made the trip down from VT and guess what, she had beer. I managed two quick sips before Michelle grabbed it out of my hand. Ooops 😊 Thanks Hannah, that was tasty.

We came up to friend and fellow skier/runner Joyce C who is one of the nicest people I have ever met. Joyce dropped us on the hills as I was yelling at her to slow down :) 

On we went with full pockets, stomach, and my heart filling with happiness with every person we saw. This is EXACTLY what I wanted. We saw my friends Allie and Ari on one of the hills. They were at the wedding we went to Saturday night. Even though I stopped drinking at 9:30pm, they were leaders in getting going an after-party that pushed back my bedtime. I teased them about almost ruining my run and took off after some big hugs. Love the Beantown Rugby Club community!!!

Next thing I knew my buddy Miguel was next to me and we chatted about local politics, his upcoming wedding (congrats to you and Seth) and running for a mile or two. Heartbreak Hill was up next and I conveniently had to take in some fuel to get through the last leg. So, we walked Heartbreak, giving out high fives, chatting with a few runners, all while chomping on my sandwiches.

I don’t know how it happened, but my stomach finally settled, my body had a ton of energy in it, and my legs were feeling great. About 46 miles in.

We tore down the rolling hills toward Boston College, I tried to play hype man by getting the Eagles to make more noise, shared a few minutes with a first-time Boston runner who was hurting but grinding it out.

Going into a long run like this I never know just how it is going to play out. Which is part of why I love doing longer runs. There is so much that can happen to your body, nutrition, nagging existing injuries, etc. So up until then I just wanted to focus on the moment. But now I knew I had it. A few more mostly downhills and I would see Jill and Lucy as well as the TWAV cheering section.

Michelle guided me over the Cleveland Circle train tracks (reminded me of trying to jump over roots toward the end of long trails runs) and we were on Beacon. I had mentally prepared for this longer than always expected section but I was feeling good. I couldn’t stop smiling, whooping out loud, and telling Michelle we were almost there. This was Michelle’s first marathon distance run and she was not only crushing the guiding piece but she was running strong.

I saw Erich again and it was so cool to share some time with him. Erich is a tech guru and in addition to having a human guide he was being supported by Aira Google Glass Technology. Mind-blowing stuff.

The heat (it got close to 80) was taking its toll on runners so Beacon Street was tough to maneuver on but Michelle kept us moving forward.

Then I heard what every parent running a race wishes for-“Daddy, Daddy!” There was Lucy and Jill, back in Brookline after schlepping out to Framingham earlier in the day. I am so lucky and try my best not to take their amazing support for granted. I joked that I wanted a beer but Jill was more concerned about me finishing and I could feel Michelle's piercing look at me :). We crossed the street to give out hugs to the TWAV crew. Yup, absolutely no concern about my pace/time and it felt wonderful.

Mile 25 has been my mental mile for Boston but I could care less so we slowly ran up and then down the bridge. My buddy Mike, who guided me the second half in 2015 (Michelle guided the first) was there with his family so we said a quick hello. Then we stopped to say hello to Michelle’s husband and a bunch of her friends.

We took off and ran with Thomas Panek, who works at Guiding Eyes for the Blind, for a few minutes under the Mass Ave. underpass. Then the infamous right on Hereford, left on Boylston and we were there. The crowds here are insane. Nothing I have experienced before. 

Unless you know exactly where someone is, you will never hear them call your name. But suddenly I heard people chanting “Kyle, Kyle, Kyle.” What?! Am I at my 13-yo Babe Ruth All-Star game or something? Who are these people? We turned around slightly (anyone else retrace their steps on Boylston Street .2 miles from the finish?!) and there was my friend Stephanie. She is an outstanding MABVI volunteer and Delta Gamma alumnae, which provides a ton of support to MABVI/TWAV. She is so smart that she got people standing next to her to start chanting so I would hear them. What a perfect way to end a magical day. Thank you, Stephanie!

We crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon and Michelle and I hugged. As always, I insist that my guides, especially those who guide the entire way, get a medal.

What a day! 52.4 miles and except for a one low-point brought on by stomach issues, I had an absolute blast. I am not fast but years ago I said I could not imagine not racing a marathon especially one as prestigious as Boston. Now I cannot imagine doing it any other way. Whether you run the Boston Double or not, I truly recommend taking one Boston Marathon and put your pace/time goals aside. Take it in for everything that we say is so beautiful about Boston, especially the volunteer and crowd support.

That said, two months ago I set a small goal to run both legs, minus the downtime in between, in under 10 hours. I ran the first leg in about 4:23 and the official marathon in 5:05.

Thanks to Topo Athletic for keeping my feet comfy and blister free in my Ultrafly. I stayed hydrated with my Nathan HPL pack on the way out and Nathan belt on the way back in.

Thanks again to Jill and Lucy for supporting my running. I know I train a lot and talk about running even more so thanks for your patience😊

My guides and Boston Double teammates. Kevin, Michelle, Samantha-you all rock. Thanks for your support and helping make this happen.

Thanks to everyone who handed me food and gave me a hug.

Congrats to every runner who toed the start line and who crossed the finish line.

I run for many reasons one of which is because of the community and how happy it makes me. Marathon Monday brought me so much joy which I will never forget.

Keep pushing yourself and see you on the streets or in the woods.



  1. Great recap, so much fun sharing a few miles with you sir! Until next time.