Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Boston: blow by blow - part 2

Now that I've had a little time to reflect on the race it's time for the details from start to finish as much as can be remembered, though it still seems to have been a big (mostly) wonderful blur. I made notes of some of the highlights and will embellish them as memory serves ;-)

The alarm was set for 6am so I could be up early to get breakfast and all systems going but awoke early at 5:55 (good omen). Checked the old timex to find it had died over the night (bad omen) so it's a good thing the new Garmin was on hand to fill in! Then did my weigh-in (162lbs) followed by the usual pre-workout breakfast of cereal with fruit, 1/2 bagel, orange juice, vitamins and coffee.

The plan was to meet some of the other New Brunswick runners at the bus departure area at 8am for a photo op and my host's decided they wanted to drive me downtown so they could see all the commotion for themselves. On early arrival I found only 2 people waiting so went for a quick bathroom stop, returning to find nobody waiting and it was still before 8am. Hung around waiting for another 10 minutes before heading to the buses on my own. The bus ride was uneventful, taking about 55 minutes and meeting a runner from Wyoming doing his 1st Boston. It's amazing how fit everyone looked but there were few females up in the 1st wave blue grouping on this bus at least.

Once at the village, another bathroom break to start and then found a spot inside the big tent so I could lie down on my sleeping pad. Ate only 1/4 bagel, 1/2 powerbar and some gatorade during the 2 hr wait. Around 10:30 I tried for another last port-a-potty stop but the lines were so long it was ridiculous; about 30-50 people each! Opted for plan B which works well for guys at least; those wide mouthed gatorade bottles do have multiple uses! Back at the tent, just before heading for the baggage buses and my corral I had an amazing encounter with Bill McGuire from Rothesay,NB who turns out goes to the gym with my brother and is related to my brother-in-law! It's a small world sometime (good omen)! Then geared up with vaseline, powder on feet, sunscreen and gels pinned on the 'shorts'.

The trip to the corrals was different this year with fences of crowd control barriers on both sides of the road and being closely watched for unscheduled off-limit bathroom stops. The temps were a bit on the cool side so I kept a light cotton long sleeved shirt as my throw away before the start and also had a 2nd emergency bottle on hand. Made to the corral with only 20 minutes to go and just tried to relax, with a few stretches and one last discrete bottle break (sorry girls). I was feeling calm and confident, not especially nervous and ready to go. Finally, the Star Spangled Banner, the fly over with 2 jets and the cannon shot which sounded remarkably close, followed by at least 2 minutes before we even started to move.

Crossed the start about 4 minutes after the gun and the 1st mile was very crowded as usual with the 1st split of 7:50 (target was 7:30's). After this my splits for the next several miles were all around 7:20 with heartrate 150 which was also on target. I was feeling good, trying to stay calm and relaxed, while keeping HR down and not darting around wasting energy passing people. Passed people as the road opened up in front but was still passed by many runners, most notably Elvis in full white suit and then a blind runner, I think a Kenyan, being escorted by 2 runners. They were running up the middle of the road calling 'make way, blind runner on yellow line' and smoothly cruised by...

Went through 5 miles in 37:10, right on target and then literally bumped into my brother-in-law Dave who had started a corral or 2 in front of me. We are of very similiar ability depending on the day, though Dave can get away with much less training for those same or better results. He claims that his secret is being able to run with faster runners on a regular basis, something that I've only just begun to do this past winter. About this point I also noted that my feet were feeling sore, like my socks were bunched up and blisters were starting to develop. However, we keep cruising along nicely with mostly 7:20's and 12 miles in 1:29, 1 minute under pace for 7:30's.

The 1st big event of the run besides the continual crowds lining the course, little kids looking for high 5's, handing out water, oranges, sponges, paper towels, etc was of course the Wellesley girls. They were in fine form as always with a roar that could be heard from 1/4 mile or more away. This year for the 1st time I decided that after 7 passes with only high 5's it was time for a kiss and there were many signs offering such. Quick stop, big smile, cheek offered, kiss planted and away with a bound! Dave just laughed!! If only we could bottle that energy for the later miles...

The next few miles were a little tougher but with the good downhill sections, splits were still near target until the 1st big hill going up on mile 16-17. I warned Dave that I'd be going by HR and effort and he held back likewise, trying to conserve energy for later. The crowds continued to be their awesome Boston best and included one person in a full gorilla suit who was going crazy high fiving all the runners, myself included. What a nut!

The turn at the fire station and then the hills of Newton were a challenge as the sun was coming in and out of the clouds warming our backs while the wind seemed to swirl in our faces. Dave and I continued to toil along together, watching for each other and pulling each other along as we grinded our way along. The splits through here were up and down as expected but I wasn't feeling as strong as planned. The hope was that I'd be able to hit the top of the last major hill, Heartbreak in good shape and then be able to burn it all on the way into the finish but this was not to be. Instead, we both worked very hard to the top and I arrived at the top almost totally spent while Dave was still in good form. I did have time to cross over and high five 2 nuns in full habit near the top of Heartbreak. They spotted me and were saying 'go Canada' and had big smiles when I came over ;-) Still able to have fun, though hurting...

Down the other side and it's quite noticeably downhill and here over the last 5.5 miles which are mostly down that I'd hoped to put on a charge if the legs were in good shape. All those miles, all those downhill repeats at race pace, that killer hilly 1/2 marathon 2 weeks before but the legs were now toast and the quads were completely knotted up for the rest of the way. Damn, what does a guy have to do to prepare for this crazy course?! I was starting to have trouble keeping up with Dave now as my splits now dropped into the high 7's. Managed to hang on for one last hurray as we were due to meet my sister around mile 22. Sure enough there she was! Dave dashed over for his gatorade before taking off like a shot. I was close behind to give my sis a big hug and a kiss, and then dashed off as well, telling Dave "I kissed your wife for you, since you forgot!". I got a strange look for that!

The rest of the race was a blur that I'd like to forget with Dave slowly pulling away after I told him to move on. The quads were so tight and painful that I was running very stiffly like on stilts and slowed to 8:15's. At this point the plan to count pass runners was out the window and I began counting breaths and steps from mile marker to mile marker. The crowds also started to get even louder and for the first time began to annoy me. "Please just leave me alone in my misery", as I went to the very middle of the road, trying to hide in my all Canada wardrobe. No such luck, but then I hear a "Go St. Andrews!!", What? Looked up from my daze to see a familiar face from Saint John of Alex Coffin. He's a top local runner and race organizer and that was a nice pickup late in the race.

Again the crowds are just insane the last few miles and they can help you and they can bug you too when you are hurting. I was just working what was left for all that I could and managed the last mile in 7:41 and even made the local news since I came in beside a man carrying his young child that the cameras were zoomed in on. I hobbled in for 3:23:32 which was the 12th New Brunswicker and 1st 50+ year old from that province. Hey, I'll take it, even if it has to be the 1st in my age group for herring research biologists ;-)

Man, it was soooo gooood to stop!! Immediately started with the water and food intake and slow walk for gear and change of clothes. Started to feel better after having some salty chips and a banana but it was difficult getting up and down from sitting on the sidewalk. Took my time before getting on the subway this year and made sure there was a seat so to be had. Last year, I got caught in an overcrowded subway car and ended up flat on my back after fainting. Then before being picked up by my amazing hosts there was time to satisfy a strange craving for a coffee and double chocolate doughnut. It was almost as good as that nice Irish been I had later (posted picture earlier). Note - weigh in after the race was 158 or -4lb. Mainly because I couldn't stomach the new formula gatorade they had and water was sloshing in my stomach at the end.

Final thoughts:
  • Boston is one tough race that doesn't get any easier with practice or knowledge
  • You can train hard and still get burned, I feel I did everything possible (almost)
  • One things I couldn't control was the overly stressfull work schedule over the past few weeks
  • Also missed few final key tempo pace runs over the final weeks and might have done some of my longer runs at a harder pace (for at least part of the runs)
  • More hills or specific quad strengthening may be in order next time around
But the result is still good for time, my disappointment was mainly not having a stonger final few miles and being forced to hobble/limp my way in on beat up legs. There's always next year or another easier coursed and after only 2 days it's already in the back of my mind. Boston is still the best though !!


Andrew said...

Awesome report. Two kisses in one race? Very good.

Finally, someone posts about those annoying crowds! ha ha! You're right, when your hurting, you'd rather be alone then on display. That's how I felt last year for sure.

Can't wait until we get back training together. Long run scheduled for Saturday - you coming?

Thomas said...

Excellent race report, but you're way too hard on yourself. It's a tough course, and if you're not hurting after Heartbreak Hill then there's something wrong with you.

Vince Hemingson said...

Great Post!

You really have to keep your ego in check when the crowd starts egging you on as you climb the Hills in Boston.

I saw a multitude of runners get seduced by all the cheering and basically thrown themselves on their swords in an effort to please the spectators...

Job well done. Give yourself the credit you're due!

Cheers, Vince

Unknown said...

well run! i am certain that i ran right near you for a good deal of the race. i kept hearing shouts of 'go canada!' and remember seeing a bloke in your maple leaf shorts. checking our splits, it had to have been you!

Olga said...

Wonderful detailed emotional description on a wonderfully run Boston! Mike, you did awesome, don't you think twice! And about the crowd - that's how I felt in NYC marathon...though at Boston I was OK as was merely there for fun.

Chad said...

Great job and great report. "Almost" makes me want to go back.

Unknown said...

Great report Mike. I can relate to the thoughts of the next one. You finish one and start thinking about the next. Recover well.

Dawn - Pink Chick Tris said...

I've never gotten a kiss at a race. A couple of hugs, but never a kiss. Great stuff, Boston Mike!

Mr.Cornelia said...

Great race Dad! And great post too. It feels almost as though I had run it myself (haha).

Did you happen to get a recording of that local news segment you were in? I'm looking forward to seeing the race DVD anyway.

Proud of you! You did well :)

E-Speed said...

Sounds like you had a similar day to me!

I think that the key in Boston is to go out easy. I think even a few minutes slower on the first half are key in the hills.

I know I trained and was prepared for those downhills this year. But I still got shredded. Next year I am going to find a slightly slower friend and stick with them till Newton starts.

Great job!

Hope your recovering well!

Anonymous said...