Saturday, April 23, 2011

Boston Marathon April 18, 2011

It was a very satisfying and challenging event for me.  For months I looked forward to this race and did my own style of research/analysis preparation to the max.  My training miles and effort were higher than last year when I ran my qualifying time.  The event organization was very good, the spectator support was amazing.  The course was tough.  Here’s a summary of my race experience.

In short: I finished with a time of 3:45:34, just over my goal of 3:45.  I started a little faster than planned and was working too hard too soon but managed to keep plugging away to the finish.
Overall place 12124 of 23879 finishers, gender 8554 of 13806, age group 435 of 1132.
Mile split paces from my watch: 8.23, 8.12, 8.13, 8.20, 8.31, 8.29, 8.23, 8.31, 8.21, 8.21, 8.29, 8.20, 8.29, 8.39, 8.34, 8.43, 9.00, 9.12, 8.47, 9.10, 9.34, 8.26, 8.25, 8.35, 8.18, 8.32, 2.36 (0.39 mi watch)
5k splits paces from BAA results: 8:12, 8:29, 8:25, 8:28, 8:48, 8:59, 9:05, 8:30, 8:22 (last 2.something k)

The long story…
My goal was to average 8:30 per mile pace until the hills starting around mile 16.  I planned to give back a little time in the hills and finish with an overall average pace of 8:35.  But I hoped to be strong enough to run the last miles enough faster to go under 3:45.

The first 3 or 4 miles I couldn’t go slowly enough to keep my planned pace.  Runners are cautioned about running too fast during the first several downhill miles at Boston since that will cause problems later.  I knew what to do, but couldn’t seem to do it.  Hundreds of runners passed me through those miles.  I averaged 8:12 pace for the first 5k. 

I was feeling too warm by mile 4 or 5.  By mile 8 it seemed like I was feeling the effects of starting too fast.  Or maybe it just wasn’t going to be my day.  My legs felt they had worked too hard already.  So mentally I started doubting myself and remembering how I faded badly at MCM.  Already I was thinking about what I would tell Rose and Keith later on the course and what excuses I would have after the race.  But there was also a voice saying ‘this is THE Boston Marathon, you can’t just slack off without giving it a real try’.  I was still able to run at goal pace, so I would not do any excuse making yet.

I began thinking through the things I could do to cope with what felt wrong and I started making adjustments.  Stick to the planned pace.  Drink more Gatorade and water, dump water on my head and upper body for cooling.  Walk through aid stations to make sure I drank more than I spilled.  Take my energy gel on schedule.  Look forward to what I know is coming up - Wellesley College scream tunnel at mile 13/14 and family at mile 22.

And I thought about those who sent encouragement, well wishes, inspiration.  Would I be willing to say I wasn’t strong enough or brave enough?  And I switched back and forth between preparing excuses and telling myself ‘don’t give up yet’.  Then, beginning in the hill section I decided to make use of the spectator support.  Since I had my name on my shirt, running near the side of the road gave people a chance to cheer for me by name, and they did.  Probably I heard my name at least a thousand times.  That really helped.  And high-fiving little kids and big ones.

To my surprise, the hills were not so bad.  It seemed the change in running stride was good for me.  (Looking at my miles splits, I can see why the hills didn’t hurt much.  I really slowed down; for one mile I was a minute off average goal pace.)  After Heartbreak hill, I scanned the crowd for Rose and Keith.  Even though they were where we planned and I looked right at them, I never recognized them with my eyes or ears.  But, looking for them for an extra mile or so kept me distracted from thinking about whether I could continue.

Beginning in the hills and increasingly toward the finish, I was passing other runners.  Some stopped to stretch.  More and more were walking.  As I watched the miles slowly click off, I began to think I could finish on goal.  While my legs hurt a lot, they were working ok.  Then I realized that my gps watch was measuring the distance a little shorter than the course markings.  I couldn’t do the math mentally to figure out how much time I had to gain to make up for that.  I had finished the hills thinking I was only 5 seconds behind plan and guessed making up 30 seconds would be enough.  My last half mile was fastest, around 7 minute pace, but not enough to break 3:45.  My watch said I ran 26.39 miles rather than the 26.2 for the marathon.  (At 7 minute pace, a tenth of a mile takes 42 seconds.)  

As the course approaches the finish in downtown Boston, the crowd builds as well as enthusiasm and cheering volume.  I was amazed at the cheering for me specifically by name.  More than 12,000 people had already finished and yet people still looked for my name and cheered as if they were waiting just for me to come by.  It felt like I was a star.

It was so good to run through the Boston Marathon finish line and I was glad that I had not given up when things got tough.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The hay is in the barn for Boston

My final track session today was not much of a workout.  Just some 1200 repeats at goal marathon pace.  Well I guess they were a little faster.  My goal pace is 8:30 to 8:35 and my average was 8:28 today.
I don't know what finish time I can expect.  Looking at my training over the last couple of months, I think I should be able to PR at Boston.  That will require going under 3:42, an average pace of 8:28 per mile.  For now my plan is to run at a pace to make another BQ time which would be 3:45.  If I can speed up some after the dreaded Newton hills, maybe it will bring a PR.
And since some friends will run the Bob Potts Marathon on May 15th, I hope to run that one too and go for a time of 3:40 or faster.  Of course that race will depend on how I recover from Boston.
I have been reading all I can about running the Boston Marathon and the details of getting to the start, surviving the wait, etc.  I am excited.  And I think appropriately afraid of the work ahead.
Oh marathon racing! What sweet and frightening anticipation.