Tuesday, April 25, 2017

A Family Form Checks

Continuing the chronicling of Heather's first Boston Marathon, we pull back the curtain and show you some of the sights you'll see on the front half of the course (not counting the Wellesley College Scream Tunnel, which gets its own blog post.  Stay tuned)
All winter long, Heather had the good fortune of being joined by Big Brother Andrew, whose  wisdom and antics kept her training runs entertaining, to say the least.
Even if those same antics drove her bonkers.
Let's put it this way, he keeps a run lively.
Get the point?
Last summer, when Jackie's sister Annie was laid up in a hospital bed before her passing, Heather told her she was going to run the Boston Marathon in 2017, in her name.
Annie's response: "You go, girlfriend!"
Naturally, and so appropriately, Annie ran with her every step of the way.
A special moment, having Annie's husband John, and son Johnny waiting for us at mile 3 to give us a cheer and a boost.
That moment when you see your name on a roadside sign being held by a complete stranger.
(Mad props to Julie Hay for queuing up the cheer squad.)
Heather and her Pace Car.
Future Boston Marathoners, take note: at Mile 7.7 in Framingham is Hanson Electric.  For as long as I've been running the marathon (going back to 1992) the business blocks off its sidewalk from spectators, and encourages runners to perform a "FORM CHECK" in the store windows.  A way of making sure you've got your racing stride in place.  It allows you to adapt and make the necessary adjustments.
In some cases, like Andrew in LaLaLand, no changes are needed.
Santa Claus around Mile 8 is another staple along the course.  Many moons ago, when the E Streeters ran the Marathon en masse, I asked my fellow runners if they saw Santa by the roadside.  They all thought the distance and heat had gotten to me and I was hallucinating.
Here, for visual proof, is Old Saint Nicholas himself.  Photo by Mrs. Claus.
Round about mile 10, passing now through Natick, I encounter my friend Police Chief James Hicks every year.  Thanks to him and all the law enforcement folks who keep us - and the spectators - safe every step along the way.
Those antics we talked about earlier?
Yeah, sometimes you just need to take over one of the roadside trampolines for a bounce or two just to fire up the crowd.
Never tone it down, Andrew.
Up next?  The Scream Tunnel.  Screams, smooches, and guest stars abound.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It Takes a Village to Start

Continuing to walk our Wicked Good readers through the soup-to-nuts experience of running in a Boston Marathon, it's Marathon Morning, time to hit the pavement!
First off, a smooch from Dad, a look of disgust from Big Bro, and we're off!
Big cheers for the best support system anyone can find along the 26.2 miles - Jackie!  She's a pro at navigating in and out of the course.  And this year, she added start shuttle service right to the waiting buses in Hopkinton to her expansive race resume.  Made it as easy as pie for us to get to the start.
So for those not familiar with the set-up, before you can even get to the starting line in Hopkinton Center, you've got to bide your time in the Athletes' Village behind Hopkinton High School.  There, more than 30,000 runners gather, waiting for their time to enter the starting corrals.
I can count on one hand the number of selfies I've ever taken.  Not a big fan.  However, when you're walking your daughter to her first Athletes' Village, there's always time to make an exception.
And there she is, about to enter the gallery 
Once you get inside, you've got time to stretch out.  Bring a blanket, bring pillows, or grab an abandoned piece of cardboard box to stretch out on. (We saw one man who brought an inflatable raft)
Around the yard, runners go through their pre-race rituals, which include eating bananas, granola bars, doing yoga, napping, and of course, one of the most critical pre-race requirements, the next photo.  Hands down, the largest collection of Porta-Potties you will ever encounter ANYWHERE in your entire life.  This pic shows less than a quarter of the total number.  Hint: if you can hold it, wait until the earlier corrals get called to head to the start.  The crowds winnow down and there's no waiting whatsoever.
Can I just continue to gush and say how damned cute and excited Heather is? 
Here for the start, she'll be there for the finish too.
When our wave numbers were finally called, summoning us to start heading to the Starting Line, we began the long trek with the rest of the crowd.
And suddenly, a shriek pierced the Hopkinton air!
There was Heather's bud, Courtney Spence, in town taking official photographs for the Marathon!
The two of them practically knocked one another out giving a heartfelt bear hug
Yeah, they love each other a lot.
Two of the finest young women you'll find anywhere.
Picture perfect.
Yeah, if you pay attention, you'll see quite a few interesting sights along the way.
Like Forrest Gump.
Dead on re-creator, this is Robert Pope, 38, of Liverpool, England.
 Pope has run over 5,000 miles in the last 7 months in order to retrace the route portrayed in the Tom Hanks 1994 movie. The insane marathon runner started in Mobile, Alabama in September, and ran all the way to the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, California. Then, true to the original ping-pong hero, he turned around and started running back.
On this particular day, he was logging 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston, complete with old school Nikes.
And get this - HE RAN A 2:58:46 MARATHON!
Guess he just felt like running!  Fast!
She's fired up. 
50 years ago, Kathrine Switzer (in the background, center) was attacked as she tried to run the Boston Marathon, simply because she's a woman.  This year, #261 returned to run it again.
And Heather got to thank her as she headed to her first starting line.
One of the proudest moments of my life, not gonna lie.
(A moment about to be surpassed in about 26.2 miles) 
Here she goes, her first Starting Line!  And she's got Annie at her back giving her that extra little nudge for the rest of the way.
Go get 'em, Heather! 

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Before the Run, Expo Time!

A busy week kept me away from the keyboard, so there's a wee bit of dust on the next couple of blog entries, but there was NO WAY I was going to let Heather's first Boston Marathon experience pass without documenting it on the pages of Ye Wicked Good blog.
An historic event cannot be overlooked.
So without further ado, a peek inside Heather's First Boston Marathon, from front to back, with a whole lotta steps in between.
First up was picking up her number at the expo at the Hynes Convention Center - a pilgrimage for the Cook family that always yields a fair amount of running swag.
This year's take would reach epic proportions.
Learning from the dangers of past years, when runners' numbers were pirated by folks who saw them posted on various social media outlets and then made copies that they wore to gain illegal entrance to the greatest marathon in the world, Heather was clever enough to obscure her full number.  Not for lack of accomplishment, mind you, just playing it smart.
By the way, that feeling a father gets watching his daughter claim her first Boston Marathon bib?
Heather is ready to #BeBoston #AndMore
Proud Papa joins her, with a partial preview -  hopefully - of what the race day finish line finish was going to resemble
Good luck runners!
I'm sure they mean running in the 26.2 race, not entering the expo, wallets in hand
Always time for a trio to pose before the official Boston Athletic Association banner.  Andrew and I are more than happy to point out the star of the weekend
The date, the distance, the daughter
You gotta find time to sign the official graffiti board at the BAA film center
And of course, I had to lay claim to a bit of the white space as well.
But I know my job.  I was there representing ALL of E Streeters Nation
Heather not only gets greater every mile, she gets greater every day
They're both ready to do some course conquering.
A superstitious soul, Heather chose not to venture too far down Boylston Street to see the hallowed Finish Line.  She said she wanted to take it in for the first time on Marathon Monday, at the end of her journey.
Stay tuned to see how THAT turned out!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Hay is in the Barn

"The hay is in the barn."

I've heard it now for several years with relation to the big races, usually the Boston Marathon.

The first time I heard it, it was Victoria Hatem saying it, at the tail end of one of the Boston training cycles of the past decade.  I just looked at her weirdly.

Andrew heard it from his high school cross country coach, the legendary Senor, Phil Maia.

But what the hell does it mean?

A quick Google search will yield results that tell you it's a sports expression that means preparations are over, the athletes are ready for the event.  It first became popular among college football coaches, dating as far back as 1950 to the Nebraska Cornhuskers.  Shocking, I know.

It got co-opted by runners, especially marathoners, in the late 1990s.

So, that history lesson aside, why dedicate this blog post to this piece of sports folklore?

Because for Heather Cook, the long and winding road to her first Boston Marathon officially wrapped up with a 10 mile exploratory jaunt around the trails of Easton and Stoughton on Sunday, with dad and big brother in tow.

So yeah, for Heather, the hay is in the barn.

Leaving Heather's Stonehill College dorm, they're both in varying stages of readiness.
A quick shortcut through the meadow and adjacent trails to get to downtown Easton
Running past the Farmer's Daughter, where the line's always out the door, but the food is fine!
Passing through the center of Easton, we run past the Rockery Memorial Cairn.  This is a war memorial designed by American landscaper Frederick Law Olmsted (who I've written about in several past blogs.)  His work is everywhere!
It was created in 1882 as a memorial for North Easton's citizens lost in the Civil War, and consists of boulders heaped into a long asymmetric mound across a rustic archway.
Down past Ames Long Pond, home of some mighty fine bass fishing, Andrew is making funny faces to try to distract the cameraman
Cutting through Ames Pond, we had the road all to ourselves
One of the most scenic stretches of the run
Dad and daughter, step-for-step
Andrew quite enjoys hurdling the obstacles along the trail runs
As readers of this blog know, I'm a HUGE fan of trail running.  Better on the knees and hips, and connects you with your running in a way that no pavement can.  Heather is coming around, and with the exception of the occasional errant thorn, seems to enjoy it as well.
The Old Man of the Mountain blazes his own trail
Moments after this shot was taking, this beaming Heather disappeared as she stepped into a small puddle along the course, wetting a foot.  Birds for miles around scattered with the blood-curdling scream that pierced the wooded silence.
Heather takes the brook crossing as delicately as befits a woman of her stature. 
Her brother?  He just tromped right on through. 
The bridge to the home stretch, back on campus at Stonehill. 
At run's end, a thank you and high five betwixt brother and sister.  They logged many a mile together this winter.  And they're still talking to one another. 
Always time for a Snapchat at run's end. 

And that's a wrap, 2017 training season! On to Hopkinton!