Tuesday, April 19, 2011

2011 Boston Marathon Race Report

The race has come and gone, and I remain very happy with how it all went. I had hoped to break 3:10, but it wasn't in the cards yesterday. I'm totally okay with that, especially since I still got a new PR with a time of 3:12:41 and did it at Boston no less. So awesome to PR there. The event is just absolutely epic. So thrilled to have been a part of it and super stoked it all went very well. Below is a detailed account of the weekend. Sorry it's so long.

Sunday - Marathon Eve
After a drive of a couple of hours, Kate, my father and I arrived in Boston and parked the car next to the expo Sunday morning, a little after 9am. After picking up my bib number and goodie bag (by the way, the long sleeved tech shirts rock and are really sporty looking), I fought through the crowds in a quest to buy the Boston Marathon jacket I had been very critical of earlier. I guess I'm a bit hypocritical in buying one given that rant, but it's my first Boston, so I guess I have to have the jacket. If the printed logo begins to fall off, I'll just get it embroidered. Anyhow, low and behold Adidas didn't stock enough large sizes at the expo and despite getting there shortly after the expo opened that day, they were out. Great.

With that buzzkill along with the crowds, I just wanted to get out of there, so we headed out and walked down the street towards the finish line. A mile race was going on, and we were treated to some incredibly fast performances and that was fun to watch. Ran into a friend of mine Ryan down there also, and we chatted for a bit. After that we came across an Adidas tent at Copley Square selling Boston Marathon merchandise. Turns out the last large-sized jackets here just had been sold off the racks, but I asked a very nice and helpful employee if any were left in storage somewhere and he came back a few minutes later carrying a few and handed me one, saying these were the last ones. Whew.

Afterwards, we headed back to our hotel suite in Waltham. Given we had a full kitchen in our suite, we opted to have dinner there and Kate did all of the cooking, making us an amazing homemade pasta dinner. This was great because I knew exactly what I was getting. Her parents also joined us for dinner and were staying in the same hotel but just for the night, and it was great to also have them there.

That night, I slept really well and was thankful to get a full eight hours and wake up the next day feeling well rested and ready to go.

Monday - Boston Marathon Day

Kate and I after being dropped off. Note her shirt and
the moustache graphic. 
Kate, her parents and my father drove me over to South Street in Hopkinton via I-90, and we were fortunate to be right behind the police escort bringing the elite runners in and benefited from the police blocking the on-ramps as we drove by.

We easily reached the parking lot on South Street and I gathered my bag and bid them farewell, saying I'd see them on the flip side. After they were gone, I hit the porta-potties in the parking lot (no lines). I then boarded one of the yellow school buses that would take us to Athlete's Village.

Once there, I was in awe at the tens of thousands of runners that had converged into one spot to take part in the race. Wow! The positive energy of so many athletes in one spot is hard to describe. I soon found Jeff and Joe from our Trail Monster Running group and we hung out together until it was time. Some last minute porta pottie breaks (by the way, I've never seen so many porta potties in my life) separated us from each other and our corral numbers were called.

I dropped my bag off at the bus which would bring it to the finish, and then began the long walk to the start line. Kind of fun, and I had great time chatting with other excited runners along the way. I found my corral (my bib number was 6298 so I was in corral seven in the first wave) and there was plenty of room.

While here, I chatted with more runners about race strategy and what we hoped to accomplish. Then, the announcer began giving us three minute warnings, two minute warnings, etc. and the conversation began to be replaced with nervous silence and anticipation.

Hopkinton and Ashland - We're Off
The starting gun went off and it only took about four minutes for us to cross the actual start line. Not bad. My plan was to run the first five miles or so relatively conservatively, around :10/mile slower than what I hoped. I would have liked to have averaged around 7:10/mile throughout to break 3:10, so that meant running 7:20/mile pace for the first five.

The main reason for doing so was to conserve some leg energy, specifically the quads, for the end. It's significantly downhill those first four miles in particular, and so many runners contribute to wrecking themselves by getting too caught up in the race and going out too fast here.

I stuck to that plan of being careful the first several miles... for the most part. The first five miles I went 7:35, 7:14, 7:18, 7:15 and 7:15. I got down to cruising speed and hit 7:09 for that sixth mile, and was now on to a long relatively flat stretch that contained only very small, rolling hills for the next several miles.

Worth noting that just after the first mile, I heard somebody yell "J-ROCK!" for the first time. I had used white medical tape to spell that out across the front of my singlet. I figured it would be cool to have the crowds shout my name as I ran by and it was nice to hear my plan working.

Framingham - Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer
"Your world frightens and confuses me..."
I was now in my rhythm and felt a bit more relaxed and was in my groove with the pace. More yells of "Go J-Rock!" or something similar. Cruise control, and it felt comfortable. More elbow room now, but I was still amazed at how crowded it was. Looking ahead, there was a sea of runners in colorful outfits of every spectrum of the rainbow as far as the eye could see.

The crowds of runners is something I'm simply not used to at all. The biggest races I've done have had about a 1000 people in them. When I qualified for Boston at the Mt. Desert Island Marathon last October, aside from passing or being passed, I was alone the whole way. Sure, I was capable of the task at hand with this bigger race, but it was still an unfamiliar environment. This got me thinking about the old Saturday Night Live skit, the Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer, and how alike our predicaments were. That being said, being around so many runners doing the same pace wasn't really a hinderance and there were never any real issues with it. It did make running tangents pretty difficult at times, but not impossible.

At around mile seven, I heard a couple of people yell "Go Jamie!". Since they used my actual first name and not the nickname across my singlet, they obviously knew me. It was Noel, who works in my school district, and her daughter Maddy, who I was a camp counselor of sorts for last summer. Thanks ladies!

Not long after that, I heard another voice call my name. This time it was from a runner, and I turned to see Jeff! That was great. He was several corrals ahead of me, but he wanted to just run a 3:30 since he was riding off Nordic skiing for fitness from this past winter and hadn't got much running in (he ended up with a 3:15) so I knew there was a chance I might see him. Glad that was the case. We ran together for about a klick, and then he let me go ahead.

Natick - T-Rock
The great crowd support continues, and I am still cruising along comfortably and feeling great. I high fived a few little kids who I could see were thrilled whenever a runner took the time to do so.

I was really enjoying the crowds energy here and heard somebody yell "Go T-Rock!". Odd, it says J-Rock on my singlet. At first, I guessed that the idiot couldn't read. But then I heard it again, "Yeah T-Rock, looking strong man!" Wait a minute... I looked down on my singlet and the curvy part of the "J" was beginning to peel up. Crap. I managed to fix it some, but not entirely. As a result, throughout the rest of the race, half the people would yell "T-Rock". This annoyed me at first, but then I thought "ah, so what. It's the thought that counts". Just concentrate on the running there, Skippy.

At around mile 10, I recognized the church where Jeff had used the bathroom during the beginning of our training run on the course two weeks ago. This was nice, as there was no more virgin territory. I'd be able to recognize landmarks from here on out and recall the mental notes of the critical parts of the course.

Wellesley - Tunnel of Screams
Loud. So loud. Ear piercing, in fact. The girls from that college really know how to scream their lungs out. It was unreal. It was never in my plans to steal a smooch, but I did swoop close and gave a few of the girls high fives, nearly going deaf in the process.

What I thought was really cool was after the scream tunnel... you could hear them clearly for quite some time afterwards. Kind of surreal hearing their screams gradually fade off as the distance grew, and the sounds of our footsteps once again becoming the norm.

The course continued through the town of Wellesley for quite some time afterwards. It is here that the half marathon mark came up. I nailed it in 1:34:33. Yep, on track to where I wanted to be, but the Newton hills were coming up and I knew there'd be some slow down there, but I had hoped it wouldn't be by much. I had also hoped to make up for any slow downs on the subsequent backside downhills if the quads held up, but would have to see. I was starting to feel a little tired here, but not more than one would expect at this point in the race.

Newton - The Hills
At around mile 15.5 there's a huge downhill that is really steep. Here we go. Now the course gets really interesting. You see, after this big drop, the Newton Hills begin. The kind that go up. I began to feel my quads getting a touch sore on this downhill, so I decided to be careful and my pace slowed down to around 7:20/mile. I didn't want to burn out.

The first hill is before you make the corner on to Commonwealth Avenue, and didn't seem so bad on the two previous recon missions. It required more effort than I had hoped though, and the pace stayed in the 7:20s for another two miles. With nine miles to go, I had to be careful. Despite the pace drop, the effort still felt consistant, so a bit of an even trade based on the terrain.

I turned the corner on to Commonwealth Avenue and began the climb up the second hill. The crowds here were HUGE and very loud, which was great. Several more shouts of "Go T-Rock" or "Go J-Rock", depending on artistic interpretation.

Photo courtesy of jimrhoades.com
Not too much later I heard someone shout my actual name, and I turned to see my uncle, John. He ran alongside me for a bit as we exchanged some chit chat and he snapped a few pictures. I cleared that second hill and enjoyed a bit of a downhill.

Climbed the third hill, which isn't so bad, and then approached the fourth and final climb: Heartbreak Hill. The crowd here was incredible. Loud and encouraging, really getting the runners pumped up for the final big climb on the course. Pace was slower, but I noticed I was still going at an above average speed compared to those around me, passing more runners than were passing me. Kept that in mind and stayed positive.

Ah, the summit. I was there and the downhill began and I remember smiling here. Sweet. I got up the hills and was still feeling relatively good. I was still passing more runners than were passing me. Lot to be proud of here, so I enjoyed the high. The pace picked up some on the downhill despite the sore quads. They were still handling it okay for the most part.

Now came Boston College on the right. This was easily my favorite crowd section on the course. They were loud, drunk and rowdy but at the same time positive and encouraging. That was the perfect mix. Their youthful energy was contagious. And, knowing the tough uphills sections were over and I was now going downhill with only five miles to go was great.

And if that wasn't enough, shortly after the Boston College crowd, another crowd appeared: the Sanford Cross Country team I help coach! I was zoning out when I was snapped out of it with calls of "Yeah, Mr. A!!!" and looked over and saw them all screaming their heads off. That was a huge lift. I yelled back that they rocked and pumped my fist enthusiastically into the air. Really great to see them!

The Final Four Miles 
The pace averaged in the 7:30s for the final stretch. My quads now felt like merciless trolls had beaten them with war clubs, but they were still functioning. I knew I could tough it out and be okay. However, another concern came about, as I could feel my left calf panging, threatening to cramp. This scared me a bit, but fortunately it never did cramp up.

At mile 24, I glanced at my watch and did some rough calculations. It would take going just under 7:00/mile for the final two to break 3:10. I surged up to that pace some but then thought "no way"... not unless you really want to explode, so I backed off.  I knew I'd still PR and was fine with that, but I had to keep pushing.

The crowds grew exponentially thicker and louder with each passing mile. I could see the Citgo sign looming in the distance, knowing that it roughly marked mile 25. I remember seeing that ever present colorful sea of runners which really underscored how much farther there was until I made that right turn on Hereford.

My quads continued to hurt, but could still move. The calf still barked a little, taunting me that it could cramp up at any moment. Mind over matter here, and I tried to will it all away and did my best to keep the pace up as I watched that Citgo sign grow closer and closer. A small uphill from an overpass and there was Fenway Park off to the right. I wondered how the Red Sox were doing (thankfully Dice-K came through and they won big).

At last, up ahead, I could see the current of runners making the sharp right on to Hereford. Soon I was there and did the same, and there was Boylston Street just ahead. Sweet! The crowds now even thicker and even more intense, yelling and screaming their heads off. It was nuts! I loved it.

Finally, the left turn on Boylston and the finish line in view in the distance. I did my best to give something extra here but I didn't have it. I still pushed the best I could. For the past mile or two, I was dodging more and more runners who had bonked or cramped up and this final stretch was no exception. I remember one guy in particular who was really suffering, seemingly from leg cramps, I patted him on the back quickly as I ran by, shouting encouragement to him in an effort to get him going. I would find out later that it was here that my dad, Kate and her parents were stationed and were cheering me on, but I missed them. Very, very loud here.

The finish line now grew closer and as it did my smile grew wider. I crossed in 3:12:41, a new PR by 1m 53s, and at the most prestigious race on earth. Hell yeah, I'll take it!!! I was and still am so pumped!

Afterwards, the incredibly impressive organization of the Boston Athletic Association continued to show, with a very well organized procession line that made it easy for all of us runners in our delirious states to go through and get food, drinks, mylar blankets, and our drop bags before heading to the alphabetized family meeting areas. The volunteers were outstanding, all of them very friendly and helpful and they all seemed very genuinely thrilled to be there helping out. Ran into Jeff again here and we traded recaps of our races, both of us very stoked and basking in the glow of an incredible experience.

Fear the 'stache
As I approached the family meeting area, I went to the "A" section for my last name, and couldn't see my dad, Kate or her parents among the thick crowds of people at first. Then, I spotted the red-checkered Elmer Fudd styled hat belonging to my dad raised up in the air on a stick. That was brilliant, and I then made my way over and exchanged hugs with everyone.

We then found a not-as-crowded area and I sat down on a chair for a while before changing shirts and putting on warm-up pants. After chilling for a bit, we made our way back to the cars. Kate's parents were heading back to Maine that evening, but Kate, my dad and I headed back to our suite where we were staying another night.

Post race dinner!
Took a shower and John, JoAnne, Austin and Maria (aunt, uncle, cousins) came by and we had few drinks before heading out to a really awesome authentic Mexican restaurant and feasted like kings and queens. Great end to an already awesome day!

And now that is over, the moustache I grew out just for this marathon must be shaved. There's just too much magic inside, and it must be put away to a safe haven only to be retrieved when it's three full moons away from when it is needed next.
(Well, not really. Kate will kill me if I keep it any longer)

Official stats:

Bib number and finisher's medal

Unofficial splits (per the Garmin):
1 - 7:35
2 - 7:14
3 - 7:18
4 - 7:15
5 - 7:15
6 - 7:08
7 - 7:12
8 - 7:08
9 - 7:07
10 - 7:08
11 - 7:08
12 - 7:08
13 - 7:08
14 - 7:11
15 - 7:12
16 - 7:02
17 - 7:24
18 - 7:25
19 - 7:27
20 - 7:37
21 - 7:58
22 - 7:15
23 - 7:40
24 - 7:32
25 - 7:51
26.2 - 7:31/mile pace.

Other unofficial stats:
Ran 26.37 miles @ 7:19/mile pace (per the Garmin).
Paved roads.
Moderately hilly.
Mid 40s to around 60 degrees, sunny, tailwind.
Saucony Kinvara, shorts, singlet.


Javi D said...

Great report Jamie! Hell of a race and congrats on the PR. I'm gonna start a campaign, "Keep The Stache!"

Trevor said...

Great report! J-Rock, T-Rock, Keyrock (Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer's name) ... whatever - you rocked!

mindy said...

Awesome report! Now shave off that 'stache and hit the trails with us again, we've missed you!!!

Anonymous said...

Stellar race. You rocked the course, pun intended.

vja said...

So impressive, Jamie! You really earned this one.

PS. I really want to call you "Skippy" now : )

middle.professor said...

That was a fun report to read Jamie. You described it well. And great PR on a tough course on a day that taunted us with "I dare you".

And we do need the stache back for pineland

Sparkplug said...

Awesome job, Jamie, and great report! So excited for you!!

pathfinder said...

great job Jamie!! Someday....when they let slow people run this...I will

Paige said...

That is so frickin' cool, Jamie! So happy for you!! Must be a lucky 'stache or something ;)

Thomas said...

Great report, Jamie, it brought back a few memories, especially of the rowdy loud drunken crowd at Boston College, just like when I ran it. Boston is a race everyone should do at least once.

Love2Run said...

Awesome well run race and great report Jamie! Boston remains my favorite race ever x10!

Greg said...

Great summary, you really caught the essence of Boston and ran a smart and patient race. Thanks for sharing the details.

Westley said...

Great report Jamie. Engenders some fond memories for me, especially the Boston College section, which was my favourite part of the race. I still remember the surreal experience of seeing a tamborine thrown across the road and wondering, am I hallucinating? Doesn't that happen to 24 hr racers not in a marathon?

Damon said...

Not one mile over 8:00. Very nicely done.

hikinghedgehog said...

Great job Jamie! So glad you heard us. Congrats on the new PR and I hope in retrospect you can have a good laugh about the "T-Rock" situation. Cracked me up!