Sunday, April 17, 2011

Chasing the dream - 1 day till Boston - "Ready or not"

"Twas the night before Boston and all through the house..." 

...well, all through the hotel room; and yes, I'm stirring!  I woke up this morning - the final morning before the big day - with only one thing remaining on the list of activities to complete before my dream becomes a reality: the official Boston Marathon pasta dinner.  After a quick visit to the marathon expo to exchange a jacket I had bought on Saturday, I found myself with an entire afternoon to kill before the pasta dinner at 6:30.  Ugh...  All I could do was think about the marathon tomorrow, and I knew that if I thought long enough, then that "thinking" would turn into "worrying".

I consulted my Boston tourist map to see what I could do to distract myself for the afternoon.  Not one to settle for small adventures, I decided to forgo the inner city sights for something a little further Cape Cod.  A big day on the horizon deserved a big distraction, and I knew the long drive was the perfect way to get my mind off of tomorrow while also (more importantly) keeping me off my feet.  Cape Cod it was!

Cape Cod refers to a long stretch of land that jetties out into the sea from the coastal region just South of the Boston area.  It's not a single town or beach - it's an entire area.  Hmmmmmm...  Not knowing where exactly tourists go in Cape Cod, I figured I'd go as far as I could, and I headed for Providence at the far end of the jetty of land. 

The drive was longer than I anticipated.  After an hour of driving I realized I was not going to make it all the way to Providence, and decided a change of plans would be necessary.  I took another look at the map and made a guess at where I should get off the highway.  With the exit for "Orleans" approaching, I decided that sounded "nautical" enough, and made my exit hoping I would find myself in quintessential Cape Cod.

Cape Cod reminded me a lot of Prince Edward Island - only a little more modern.  The area was dotted with painted wood-sided homes and quaint "country kitchen" style.  Then it hit me: I must have some fish and chips while in Cape Cod!  I drove to downtown Orleans.  It reminded me a lot of the lakeside "beach towns" in Ontario, with subtle differences.  After driving up and down the main drag, I decided "Sir Crickets Fish & Chips" was my best option for an authentic Cape Cod food experience.  Mmmmmm....good choice.  I ordered the local Flounder and chips and tucked in.  The Flounder was tender and the chips were crisp.  I gobbled furiously and headed out for one final Cape Cod experience: a visit to the beach.

If you had placed me on that beach in Orleans and not told me where I was, I would have sworn I was in Summerside PEI.  The short wooden boardwalk lead me over rustic dunes painted with patches of grass.  The wind whipped furiously in from the sea bringing small barrel waves over the water as it blew.  I was surprised at how many people were there on the chilly Sunday afternoon - there were about 25 cars in the parking lot.  I inhaled and filled my lungs with moist sea air as I watched the waves crash and roll along the shore.  It was perfect - a completely relaxing distraction from the excitement of the marathon events. 

With a pasta dinner at 6:30, I couldn't linger long.  I was soon back in my car and barreling back to Boston.  Massachusetts drivers are speedy!  I was happily cruising along with the fast moving traffic and back in Boston with time to spare.  I got changed and made my way to the subway to join the thousands of runners for "the last supper".  I exited the subway, headed towards the government buildings and joined the queue for dinner.  It wasn't long before I was talking to another fellow runner.  Arnold was there with his friend and granddaughter.  A New York resident, Arnold has run the New York Marathon 31 times, and Boston six times.  It's not often I meet other runners of African descent.  There are about as many black marathon runners as there are black snowboarders, and we always notice each other at running events the same way we notice each other on the snowy ski slopes - with big smiles. 

Arnold invited me to join his party for dinner and I heartily accepted.  We got our food and made our way to find a table.  The dinner was a busy place, so we joined a table where two other women were sitting.  They were Texas residents and Boston Marathon alumni themselves.  The dinner couldn't have worked out better for me as I listened to Arnold and the Texan women talk about the Boston experience.  I learned about the challenges of the "Athlete's Village" and that I was facing a few hours of sitting in the cold before the marathon began.  They told me about their strategies for dealing with these cold hours before the race, and I made plans to pack extra warm gear with me to survive the chilly outdoor wait before the marathon began at 10:20am.

With a belly full of pasta and a new strategy for surviving race day, I headed back to the hotel.  Everything was falling into place.  As I laid out my clothes for the morning, I thought about how very person I met was helping me navigate the Boston Marathon experience.  Sometimes I'm amazed at how things unravel.  I'm so grateful for the people who have come into my life, if only for a fleeting moment, to help me find my way.  If you dare to dream and risk to adventure, life often clears a path for you in ways you never imagined.

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