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Boston: The Expo

Wow. I had quite a weekend in Beantown!

But before I get to the race report, I want to recap some of the other fun things we experienced in this marathon-crazed city.

Mom arrived in D.C. on Friday evening, and after packing my bags and chowing down on Whole Foods, we passed out in anticipation of an 8am flight. Our plane out of Reagan had a bunch of other runners on it — wearing Boston gear from years past, carrying running shoes, etc. — and it was cool to feel the excitement before we even left the gate. And when we landed, Logan was swarming with runners, and we were greeted by this:

Helloooooooo, Boston!

We took a cab to our hotel in Cambridge — yes, I was behind on the whole travel planning thing and didn’t book a room until December — and immediately turned around to head out to the expo. Our Marriott was right by MIT and overlooked the river, so we decided to talk across the bridge and take in some of the skyline on the way. HOLY WIND!

And the infamous Citgo sign, at Mile 25:

We followed the crowds to the convention center where the expo was being held and found total and utter chaos inside. It’s clearly an EVENT — with lots of attendees besides registered runners. In the end, this made the experience a little less enjoyable because it was so hard to move around and you felt if you stopped you were just blocking the people behind you. But first: NUMBER PICKUP!

The packet pickup area was well-organized (a theme for the weekend — nice work, Dave McGillivray) and I only waited in line for a few minutes before it was my turn. This is likely because each station only had a few hundred numbers and the expo is three days long. Far superior to National in D.C.!

I stepped up, turned in my number pickup card and showed my ID. The awesome volunteer — with a very thick Boston accent — handed me an envelope with my bib, pins, event tickets, bag check label and logistical info. I’m official — this is real!

Bib #14291 — check it! It’s definitely going on my wall.

Picked up my T-shirt and gear bag and headed into the masses to explore all the cool gear. Race expos are definitely on the list of things that remind me why I like marathons. They’re full of people who are excited about running, as well as all the knowledge and tools to get you there. And the gear. Ohhhhh the gear. And at a race as big as Boston, all the major athletic companies are there with their latest and greatest clothes, shoes and equipment. It’s not a deal, that’s for sure, but somehow shopping at an expo often is more exciting than at your local running store because every time you wear those shorts you’ll remember that race.

Anyway, we hit Adidas first — they’re the official gear sponsor — but just did a walk-through because I already had my 2011 jacket and wanted to see what everyone else had to offer. This turned out to be a huge mistake because Adidas sold out of almost everything by 1pm on Saturday with a whole 1.5 days of expo time left. By the time we made it back around, the drawstring gear bag and hat I wanted were gone, and I’m pretty sure I got the very last pair of XS capri tights thanks to the determination of the sales guy helping me. First Boston tip: order your jacket ahead of time if you won’t make it to the expo on Friday.

[BEGIN RANT: I was disappointed with how many non-runners I saw buying this gear and wearing it throughout the weekend. I mean, if you want a hat or T-shirt, I guess I’ll give you that, but you didn’t earn the right to wear the jacket. And you’re taking it from someone else who did. END RANT.]

So we wandered through the rest of the expo, which takes up two huge rooms in the convention center and spans booths from major gear providers like Nike and Brooks to food/nutrition companies like Stoneyfield and Clif to other races and non-profits to marathon-specific jewelry and PT products. I finally bought The Stick, which I’ve had on my list for awhile as a travel solution to my enormous foam roller. And man, am I glad I did, because this handy tool was the only way I managed to stay on my feet post-race. More on that later.

We also met Ryan Hall, the top American in the men’s race. He’s TINY, as could be expected from an elite marathoner.

I also went a little crazy at the Nike booth — I’m a huge Nike snob and generally look like a walking (running?) Nike ad when I’m on the road — and stopped to watch a video preview of the course, complete with narration from elite runners and marathon staff. I’d read so many analyses and preview stories, but it was helpful to see, mile by mile, what it looks like. I’d planned to attend a “Run Your Best Boston” session with RW staff, but after watching I felt ready.

At that point I was kinda over the expo and the crowds and really just wanted to eat and rest. We visited the finish line, where prep for Monday was already underway, got lunch at one of the many restaurants on Boylston and then hailed a cab back to the hotel for a nap.

And then…CARBSSSSSSSSSSS. I’m not a huge carbo-loading fanatic, as I generally prefer to just eat what I crave and stick with generally healthy meals, but seeing as how an entire neighborhood of Boston is devoted to pasta — it’s an athlete’s paradise — it only made sense to partake. So we headed over to Cantina Italiana, which I’d been told has the best Italian fare in the city. I was not disappointed.

A bottomless bread basket, a green salad and a plate of gnocchi with tomato plum sauce? BOMB. I didn’t even manage to take a picture before stuffing my face. This restaurant definitely felt homey but upscale, which can be a tough combination.

We followed that with a trip to Mike’s Pastry, which was packed despite the rainy weather and late hour. They have 2947302 kinds of cannoli, as well as fruit tarts, cookies, cupcakes, you name it. You wait in the crowd, push your way to the counter and pay in cash. We couldn’t decide, so we didn’t. We came away with an espresso and florentine cannoli, a peanut butter cupcake and an apple square — a recipe for a sugar coma if there ever was one. Somehow we managed to wait until we got back to the hotel to crack open the box and also had enough self-control to take only a few bites of each. But every last one was delicious.

Full and happy, we called it a day. Counting down the hours until the gun goes off…



4 thoughts on “Boston: The Expo

  1. I definitely have a love/hate thing with expos. And, re: the jackets, what is wrong with people? There are just some decisions I will never understand.

    Did I mention that I’m SO EXCITED for you about your race?!?

    Posted by amy | April 19, 2011, 1:41 PM
  2. Eeeeeeeek – you stayed right near my alma mater! And yes, the wind along Memorial Drive is killer. Fun times walking to class in the dead of winter. Or to morning swim practice. Can’t wait to hear about the rest of the weekend. I hope you got to some awesome places in Cambridge, too.

    Posted by Victoria (District Chocoholic) | April 19, 2011, 2:48 PM
  3. Thats so cool that you got to meet Ryan Hall! Um, also that you totally kicked ass and beat your goal by like 5 hours!! Or 8 minutes. Whatever, it was AWESOME!

    Posted by Beth | April 19, 2011, 3:21 PM
  4. well, i’m sad i only saw you for 2 seconds this weekend, but it looks like you were doing fabulous things so I GUESS that’s ok. 🙂

    Posted by katie | April 19, 2011, 7:46 PM

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