Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Boston: the blow by blow

This could be a long post.

OK, it's been a few days and I've had time to come down out of the clouds. I didn't set any smoking hot PR despite the almost perfect weather, but I did make the best out of a near blow up and salvaged a decent race and had a great time doing it. I'll try to put a few details around my race and some initial analysis of my results though there's sometimes no explanation for why we sometimes have good and sometimes not-so-good race days.Here's our arrival at the Athlete's village after a 1 hour+ bus ride! We didn't get lost but the traffic was heavy and there were some bottlenecks getting into Hopkinton. I might try getting on the buses a bit earlier next year to avoid the rush. We arrived here at 9am and they were already starting to call the 1st wave runners (lower numbers) to the corrals.

The long lines of yellow school buses at the Boston Common (remember to 'go' before you get on).
There are huge rows of port-o-potties at the village but the lines were 30-50 people long (you don't see the waiting customers to the right in this picture here). I did a quick walk around the village and then headed for my corral hoping to find shorter lines nearer the start. After ditching my extra warm gear and stripping down to the basic Canada outfit with one throw-away long sleeve pullover on top I was lucky to find short lines just before the corrals. At least I didn't have to go for Plan C which is the pee in the spare bottle trick. I was in my corral by 9:30 and got quite near the front and then started doing my regimen of stretches (despite not being able to warm up properly).

About this point the skies started to clear and I realized that I'd forgotten my sunscreen (damn) but it sure looked like we were going to have a perfect weather day. Little or no wind at the start 45-50F, couldn't ask for better. Soon enough the ropes are dropped and we squeeze together like cattle heading for the exit chute. Crowds cheering, cameras clicking, like a big party and we're off!
This is in the 1st mile looking down the road at the sea of people. With my #6812 I was close to dead center of the 1st wave which went to #13999. There were lots of different costumes around me and I focused on putting in a steady hard pace while keeping my breathing under control. The 1st mile went by in a surprising 7:18, followed by 7:08, 7:21, 7:16 and finally a 7:30 (target pace) in the 5th mile. These overly fast miles felt really out of my control, despite trying to hold back and take it easy. It didn't seem like my breathing was hard but it didn't seem easy either as I continued rolling along (to my doom ;-).
Seeing this guy made me think of Thomas but I know it is the wrong flag. The next five miles were in the 7:20-739 range and I was feeling better about these numbers but already the effort was starting to seem harder than I'd like so early in the race. When you're running a good marathon I like to feel like the 1st 13 miles is just a warmup with the real work beginning after that. By now I knew today was not going to be the day and the going was going to get tough sooner than later.

At least my hamstring (right leg mainly) behaved during today's race. It's been a big worry over the past few weeks and has bothered me during all my long runs since before Christmas. But maybe the icing, massage and physio did the trick and it stayed at bay for the entire run. My worry was that it was going to seize up and I'd not be able to even finish the race but my luck held. In fact my hams were as good as they've been all year and it was the rest of my leg (muscles) that didn't measure up .

The next five were more of a struggle with 7:40's and then 7:50's as the crowds were in full cheer mode especially near mile 13. With my pace now slowing and the effort increasing with each mile it now became a mental game for me. Mile 16 in 7:46 which would be the last sub 8 as the hills began with mile 17 in 8:24.

At this point I hooked up with Mike from Fredericton and we talked our way through the Newton Hills (including my stop for photo's with friends on Heartbreak. Splits now dropped more into 8's including a 9:05 and 9:22 on miles 19 and 21 (the hills). After that it was more or less downhill to the finish and I managed 8:20-8:35 to the finish by feeding off the energy from the crowds. My legs were hurting but not as badly as some years.
The CITGO sign and 1 mile to go is a welcome relief after all the hard miles and effort required to keep one on moving down the road. It's funny how you forget the hurt (already thinking of the next one) but what I remember in the last mile is the cheering roar and following a medical 4-wheeler with a runner on a stretcher. It was going just a bit faster than me and I couldn't catch it. I was also scanning the crowds faces looking for Andrew (but stuck on the left side while he turned out to be on the right) and missed him.
I snapped this one of the crowds and by accident got a sign cheering for Bruce (who drove me down and was the #2 New Brunswick runner).
I finished right behind the Hoyts who have been doing this marathon for years and years.
The scene at the end was one of shining rustling space blankets. The temperature was now in the 60's but we felt cool when in the shade or in the wind.
Some interesting analysis of my 5k split times in recent marathons compared with Lance's (yellow), the top woman Tune (pink) and top man Cheriyot (blue). Red line is the heat wave in 2004, black line is this year. Notice how my 5k splits get slower and slower as the race goes on while the elites tended to get faster as they go along. The top women's increase in pace is just mind boggling to me. I still have alot to learn about how to run this course.
Finally a plot of my average heartrate and the elevation profile of the course. I didn't really monitor heartrate during the race except when going up some of the hills and was surprised at maintaining such a high level for me for most of the race (over 150). The dips down here and there are slowdowns at water stops and I'm afraid the spike took place at the Wellesley scream tunnel (wonder why?). There is some decrease in heartrate near the end of the race but not much and I'm happy with the overall effort.

It's getting late now and it's time to do my stretches and get to bed. Maybe I'll have more thoughts on this race later on but I'm already thinking of looking ahead for what's next. Eager to get that 1st run in a day or so too! Have a great week!


Garry said...

Fabulous race report! You had a great race going, but as you say sometimes you just can't figure out why some days are better than others. Still you can't be unhappy with that result and you have really figured it out because it is all about the FUN!!!! Good Job!

Andrew said...

As much as I hate to say it, those photos really bring out the story.

Thomas said...

??? I wouldn't be seen dead in a Union Jack.

I agree with Andrew, I love the photos. I guess I'll see you there next year.

Michael said...

I love the photos, it's as if I was there... thanks! Congratulations again on your race, and like Thomas, I hope to see you there next year. I wonder how many blog friends we can convince to race?

DawnB said...

thank you for sharing Mike, great race report. I was right there. So looking forward to it some day

Dubs said...

Great race report & photos! Thanks for sharring!!

I have to ask, when I have watched marathons, I see so many people with cameras... isn't it a pain to carry one for 26.2 miles??

Awesome job of hanging on with that fast start! Amazing how just a few quick miles at the begining can drain you, but you held on so well. FANTASTIC!!! Congrats!!!

Unknown said...

Great report. I am glad you got photos because I didn't. I did see that union jack guy as well! Man, it pays to be unique at that race.
And the scream tunnel was awesome!


Grellan said...

Great report and photos Mike. Splits look very similar to last year except fot the start and end. Seems like you need to start out even more slowly to flatten the graph at the other end. Weel done.

Love2Run said...

Hey folks,
Glad you all enjoyed the photos. I'm getting pretty good at taking them on the fly and only lost about 1-2 minutes with my short stops. I have a pouch in my water belt that holds the camera so it's not a bother when trying to focus on running.

UMaine Cooperative Extension said...

Hey Mike
A belated congrats on another Boston Marathon! Sorry I couldn't have been there.
Great pictures. Looking forward to getting in some lomg runs together this summer in preparation for PEI.

E-Speed said...

Congrats on a Boston Finish! Sorry I didn't see you out there, I must have gone by you in the last mile. I was pretty focused on the pavement by then unfortunately.

Dubs said...

Thanks for the update... I couldn't figure out how you carry those things! You are good at taking pictures on the fly. I tried to run along a 1 mile fun run and get shots of my friend's kid and every one was blury!