Wednesday, April 30, 2014

2014 Boston Marathon Race Report

Wow, where to start? I wasn't even going to run Boston this year. Last year was my third in a row and I figured I would take a break not just from Boston, but from doing so many races in general. But then those couple of pathetic losers had to do what they did, and myself along with tens of thousands of others of Boston Marathoners wanted to run as a show of resilience and fortitude, in essence giving the giant middle finger to anyone who dares %$#@ with our running community.

So, after last year... hours after the blasts, I believe... I turned to Kate and said "I really want to run it next year". Her response was an immediate "You definitely should". I already had a solid qualifier in the bank that I could use. All I had to do was sign-up, train and show-up. I'm very glad I did.

Kate and I before the bus took me from South Street to Athlete's Village.

Kate and her parents dropped me off at South Street in Hopkinton earlier than ever. After bidding them adieu, I quickly made my way over to the porta-pottie. Stomach was not super happy, I just hoped it settled down before the race. Thankfully, it did.

The bus ride over was the usual scene. I sat next to a very down to earth fellow named Ernesto and we casually chatted over the occasional voice of a runner speaking a bit too loudly about their accomplishments. We arrived and were swallowed into Athlete's Village.

I had planned on skipping AV and heading down to the start line. Long story short, I was trapped inside and they weren't letting runners down there until it was around 45 minutes until their wave's start. However, the hours went by quickly thanks to linking up with a Yooper woman, a Canadian and a fellow from Denver in a prime, sunny spot against a netted batter's cage, and we had great conversations and also watched each other's stuff when bathroom trips were needed.

Soon, it was time to head down to the start. By now my stomach had finally settled down.... you know what, let's call a spade a spade... my colon had settled down, and for that I was grateful. Was worried about hydration as a result, but I drank as much as I could without risking stopping to pee on someone's front lawn early in the race.

Lined up in the corral. Excited, happy and nervous energy. Military helicopter flyover after the National Anthem. Starting gun. Just under five minutes to reach the official start line and I was off.

Miles 1-5
If there's a plus side to being sick last month and not really feeling on again until a week before the race, it's that there was no real pressure. Goals were hard to set, but I had a few, but they were more like very general guidelines, meant to be bent and broken, much like traffic laws are for Massachusetts drivers.

I would have loved to have PR'd (3:07:58) or at least broken my best Boston time (3:11:35). Those were reach goals. Without knowing what to expect from the time off from being sick, I figured I would finish in a window of 3:05-3:20.

So, anyway, we were off... the first four miles of downhill are real quad busters, but the crowds in that first mile serve as a speed governor. A few minutes into the race, a woman kicked the bottom of my shoe and fell. I wanted to stop and help, but in that split second of fast, instinctive thinking, I also knew I'd greatly risk taking out runners if I did. However, she bounced right back up and said she was okay. I was worried she might unleash a verbal assault even though it was purely incidental, but thankfully not the case.

Splits during this stretch were 7:08, 6:52, 7:01, 6:58 and 7:06. It felt like more work than it should have, but I had hoped I would come around. I've had that happen before, as well as the opposite. It was a gamble, but one I was willing to take.

Also, I was sweating. Something I haven't heard a lot of chatter about was the warmth. I'm surprised by that. Sure, it wasn't the 90F/32C degrees it was two years ago, but it did get up to the upper 60sF/~20C with zero cloud cover. I think that obviously affected a lot of people's times, and the amount of cramping carnage on the backside of Heartbreak Hill to the finish was very apparent.

Miles 6-9
Continued to hold the pace, but I was still feeling out of sync at first. Throughout the next few miles, that would thankfully wane and I would get my rhythm, but alas, during that transition my hamstrings would also begin to tighten. That's a new one for me. My quads are usually the first muscle group to go, so while I was concerned I was also slightly fascinated. Splits were 6:57, 7:02*, 7:02* and 6:54 (forgot to hit lap button for seventh mile split, so that's an average between the two miles).

At around mile seven, I noticed a group of around 7-8 runners ahead of me all wearing "Eagle AC" singlets. Grellan had told me a few days ago that several members of his team were running Boston and to keep an eye out for them. Low and behold, here they were. Cool.

I caught up to them and introduced myself and asked if they knew Grellan. It was great entertainment to hear their excitement in their native accents. They were extremely friendly fellows and I really enjoyed running and chatting with them for a few minutes. I moved on ahead, but I'd see them later.

Miles 10-16
The scream tunnel at Wellesley... stuck to the left side of the road to save my eardrums. Why so many cute, young college girls would be willing to kiss smelly, ugly, middle-aged runners is beyond me. Fun tradition though.

Hamstrings were now so tight I could play Dueling Banjos on them and my pace began to slow. Splits were 7:04, 7:14, 7:16, 7:13, 7:31, 7:43 and 7:33. That was a bit demoralizing. I was in a good amount of pain here and still had a ways to go. But I've been through worse. This is where having some experience in ultramarathons, especially 100 milers, pays big dividends. You put your head down and bulldog through with an intense concentration on moving forward the best you can.

Saw Chandra who was volunteering at the water stop at Mile 14, another nice boost.

Miles 17-21
The Newton Hills. The first one is actually before that right hand turn on to Commonwealth, though that's often overlooked. That one kinda hurt. Took a Chocolate Espresso Gu after the climb was over and felt a boost, making the turn and psyching myself up for the final three.

Up another and another and then Heartbreak Hill. Saw some co-workers and other friends along the way. The carnage was apparent. Before, when I had slowed down I was like a log in the current as the majority of runners passed. Now, I was even, and noticed many walking from exhaustion, cramps or other ailments. The warm weather no doubt contributed a lot to that and I was glad I had been regularly drinking water and Gatorade at the stops, as well as taking Gu.

While it felt great to crest Heartbreak, the hammies were tight and truth be told I was pretty miserable. The only selfish and somewhat evil consolation was that others were very broken; limping with cramps, walking slower than an old person at the mall, or outright stopping and gazing into the distance. I normally enjoy the Boston College crowd very much, but unfortunately it took all of my focus to keep my pace up and block out the hammies.

Splits were 8:06, 7:51, 7:44, 8:08 and 8:41. Ouch.

Miles 22-25
More carnage. Crowds were very loud and encouraging. I was in that deep trance where all focus and energy were intensely concentrated on moving forward. Kate Upton could have been running next to me in a bikini and I probably wouldn't have noticed.

Looking at my pace I set the goal of breaking 3:20. It would be nice to have my minutes in the teens. That kept me going and didn't allow much room for slack, as it would be close. Splits were 8:24, 8:22, 8:24 and 8:41. Ugh.

Mile 26 and to the Finish
Boylston Street bliss.
The Citgo sign came and went. Soon was the dip in the road followed by the right turn on to Hereford. This is a natural reenergizer. Along this street I caught back up the Eagle AC guys and said hello again (they had passed me back on the hills).

The left turn on to Boyslton. Man, I was just so happy now. It was almost over! I had fought some pretty intense pain from the tight hamstrings in warm weather, which I don't run well in. Despite that, I knew I'd be breaking 3:20. I would gladly take it. Not my best time, but one of my better battles.

Made my way over to right side of the road and knew to look for Kate, my in-laws and our friend Peter near the hotel with the flags. Found them, yelled hello, and then reached the finish line and crossed, glad to be done. Average pace for that last 1.2 miles was 7:57/mile. Official time: 3:19:39.

Post Race
After finding Kate at the family meeting area, I went to the parking garage to clean-up and change. Found a most-excellent healthy burrito joint that also had homemade milkshakes. Yes, please. That really hit the spot. If you've never had a milkshake after a long race, I highly recommend it. I think a new tradition is born.

Security was ridiculously tight on Boyslton and we couldn't get back in, but we managed to get over near the right turn on Hereford to watch Christine come in. She was near the second blast last year, a scary time for her and the BAA graciously granted her a bib number. Very happy she had a good race.

Sub-par performance for me, but it could have been worse. It was disappointing to have January and February's training go so perfectly only to have it unravel in March with the flu and subsequent slow recovery. But these things happen. It wasn't the first time and it won't be the last. It's all part of racing, pure and simple.

Very proud of how I battled the warmer weather and tight hamstrings. That made it tough but I bulldogged through it.

And of course... how cool is it that Meb won? Honored to have ran in his wake as he was the first American to win Boston in 31 years. I had the pleasure of meeting him last summer, and he's the real deal, both as a competitor and a person. Super nice guy.

Ran 26.2 miles @ 7:37/mile pace.
Paved roads.
Moderately hilly.
Around 50 degrees to lower 60s, sunny.
Saucony Virrata, shorts, singlet.


middleagedrunner said...

It was SO hot. 70 when I ran thru Natick. It killed me big time.
Nice job on a good race, you are still fast even when you don't PR.
See you there next year?

Scout said...

:D :D :D I love your analysis. It sums it all up. Nice job, Jamie.

Chandra said...

Excellent report ! You're a crow? --