Boston 2011

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Death Be Damned!

Jan 19th, 2011 - It's not that often that Rachel sanctions one of my long runs, but when she does, I'm all over it like Teddy in heat.

(good boy)

Even when that long run could mean the difference between life and death.

Tonight was the first of many Wednesday night long runs, between now and April, from my office in Burlington to the BU area in Boston. I'm hoping to put in 15+ miles each time out. This run should help me spread out and reduce my weekend mileage, which was starting to get redonkulous.

If you know this area, especially Lowell St in Burlington, then you know what I mean when I say it's life and death. This stretch is dangerous on a good day, and stupidly dangerous on a bad night like tonight.

No shoulder. No sidewalks. Speeding mall traffic. Blind turns. Snowbanks as tall as Cody. If I was Death, then I would just hang out here to save on gas.

(Run Dawg Run is available) 

Unfortunately, in order for me to get there from here I have to run on Lowell St for about 4 miles. Four very scary miles.

I left work a little after sunset at 6PM, and was walking up Lowell St by 6:15PM. I had to walk about 1/4th of a mile in order to pretend that I wasn't a crazy nut job running down the middle of the road due to the construction and snowbanks taking up the breakdown lane.

I was ducking in and out of the snow covered sidewalks for the next three miles, barely breaking 8 minutes per mile. My shoes were soaked and my breathing a little out of control. It felt like a really tough trail run with the uneven terrain and puddle splashes. I wore my sturdy Newton trail sneakers, which held up nicely and I didn't slip or fall once during the run.

Anyways, I kept thinking to myself that this could be a very long run in more ways than one.

I did, however, still had three hours before Rachel got out of class at 9:30 from BU, so I was in good shape by the time I got to the Park Ave Extension at 6:55PM. My pace was down to a more respectable 7:45.

EJ was going to meet me around 7PM at the intersection of Mass and Park Ave to help me push my buggy up the Park Ave hill to get to the top of Arlington Heights. My original route plan had me doing this hill loop twice, but not tonight. The run here was already a good enough workout.

I waited at the intersection for all of one minute before tackling Park Ave by myself. I later found out that EJ came through and couldn't find me. I guess I shouldn't have worn all black tonight.

(damn straight)

It's been more than 6 months since I last ran up this half mile beast of a hill, and I can confirm that it hasn't gotten any smaller in those 6 months. The great thing about Park Ave is that there's a bike lane for most of the climb, which gave me ample room to drag my carcass up it. I guess if a city or town wants state funding for road work they are required to put in a bike lane. Give those great city planners in Arlington some state funding!

It was a great climb and I was actually tempted to try the loop again since I was making good time, but I decided that getting to BU in one piece was a little more important on a first run.

The best part of this climb is the view at the top. You can actually see the Boston skyline. Always breath taking and always a chance to take a breath before you begin your descent back down to Mass Ave.

(you get the picture)

At the top of Arlington Heights, near the former water tower thingy, I checked my laces and strapped myself in for the downside of a very steep Eastern Ave. How steep?

(this steep)

The drop itself runs for about 2 miles before turning onto JASON st, which is a VERY GOOD LOOKING and VERY CHARMING climb in and of itself before dumping you back onto Mass Ave near Arlington Center.

The footing was now getting worse with sleet falling from the sky. It didn't help that Arlington likes to use historic i.e. very slippery, looking bricks for their sidewalks. I was surprise I didn't take a single spill on this stretch.

I was able to open it up a bit for the next 4 miles, running between oncoming traffic and the parked cars lining the wide avenue. I was now in the People's Republic of Cambridge.

Porter Square was as busy as usual with the college youngins' doing their shopping and heading out to dinner. Hmmmm....dinner.

The crowds only got younger and more crowded as I went through Haaarvard Square where all of the wicked smart kids hang out. It was nice to finally see other runners out and about as I got closer to the city. I liked them apples. Hmmmm....apples.

I took a left once I got to Memorial Drive, staying on the Cambridge side of the river for the next 2 miles. The bike path along the Charles was clear of snow so I was able to get my overall pace down to about 7:35 without much effort.

It wasn't until I got closer to the BU Death Bridge crossing that I experienced any major obstacles.

At one point I noticed an oncoming jogger running on the snow banks next to the bike path. I was like, wow, that's some good cross-training. Little did I know that he was doing that to actually avoid Charles River Junior. It was too late when I discovered the glacial lake for myself.

It was actually soothing since it dulled the blister on my left foot, which I had acquired the evening before while running 5 miles on the treadmill. The blister was actually my only discomfort throughout the run, but now that my foot was a frozen block of soiled ice, I felt great!

And there it was, off in the distance like a beacon guiding me in:

I got to BU at mile 12 and figured that I might as well just head down to the Boston Marathon finish line on Boylston and then head back to BU. That should give me a good 15 miles, and besides, it was only a little after 8PM at that point so I had plenty of time to kill.

So, for the third time in three weeks, I came close to crossing the finish line, but not quite. I'll save that for April 18th.

(so close, yet 3 months away)

By mile 14, as I headed back to BU and Rachel's car where my warm soft dry cotton clothes awaited me, I felt the cold front that was going to settle in for the next few days. The temps must have dropped about 10 degrees in the span of 5 minutes. Nature, you scary!

I first felt the cold in my fingers, and then it just travelled right into my bones and throughout my body. I sprinted the last block and a half and right up to Rachel's car in the K Lot garage.

There it was in the back seat of her car. My bag of clothes and plenty of refreshments....

...and the doors were locked.


(oh deer)


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