Monday, April 20, 2009

Boston marathon report

Might as well get this outta my head...

Alarm went off at 5:10, but I was already awake with other marathoners out in the hall. I actually slept quite well considering. I figure I was asleep by 9:30ish and only woke up 2 or 3 times for a few minutes. Maybe it was the Tylenol PM I took.

I just made it on the hotel shuttle. Another 30+ souls weren't so lucky and had to wait for the next shuttle. Got right on the "T," stood in the line for the school buses, and boarded the next one to Hopkinton. Got there about 7:30 and hit the first porta-pottie I saw. I met up with a 1st corral speedy friend of mine. I wasn't feeling great, but I figured it was just nerves. It wasn't nearly as overcast as it was supposed to be and felt considerably warmer, so I was hoping they goofed the wind forecast, but the flag was flying pretty good and facing directly away from the sun, so I knew the east winds were going to materialize.

About 9:00 we decide to hit the porta-john and the line is at least 30 minutes. Pretty soon they call his bib #s to head to the starting line, then mine. Crap. Hopefully I'll be able to use a porta-john at the starting line. I head down to the start and get in another line. It's about 9:40. I get 4 from the front and they say there's 3'30'' to the start. I have to bail even though, by this time I have to go. Crap. I run down and can't squeeze in my corral, so I have to get in the 8th corral. Seconds after I get in they start walking us forward.

(elevation changes from

1.00, 7:34, 160bpm, -130ft, Hopkinton

I start the first mile and am trapped by where I ended up in the corral. I weave in and out, but try not to expend too much energy, ending up with a 7:34 mile on the precipitous drop.

2.02 7:28 168, -40ft, Ashland
Still trying to pass those thousand people, the next mile is 7:28. I'm surprised to see my HR so high at this slow a pace and on a downhill. I also feel warm and am sweating a lot more than I'd expect. I start to figure this isn't going to be such a good day. Still I had a similar beginning to my marathon last fall and managed to finish well.

3.03 7:25 169, -55, Ashland
Similar to the last two. Not running that fast, going downhill, and it's not particularly easy. I'm pretty sure at this point that I'm going to have to hit a port-a-john.

4.03 7:12 172, -85, Ashland
I pick up the effort and it's downhill. 7:12. Not bad, maybe I can keep this going and get on track like I did at NCR.

5.04 7:36 171, +25, Framington
Or maybe I won't. (a little uphill)

6.05 7:21 172, -25, Framington
This ended on a steep downhill and I can already feel my quads on 6 miles in. I'm thinking if I can miraculously even split that maybe I can run 3:15.

7.06 7:23 171, -25, Framington
Getting really uncomfortable and checking for porta-johns as I go.

8.07 7:53 170, +25, Natick
Include porta-john stop. With the

9.07 7:20 171, -30, Natick
10.08 7:25 171, +20, Natick
11.08 7:26 171, +10, Natick
12.08 7:17 169, -15, Wellesley
Kinda surprised by the low HR, fast split. This was a pretty smooth downhill.

14.10 14:54 172, -20 and -15 = -35, Wellesley
This was a lot of fun. Included the "scream zone" as you went through the campus. Has to be heard to be believed. Included a very brief stop to kiss a Wellesley girl (on the cheek if you're reading, honey). My HR hit 179 at one point. I was starting to wonder whether I'd finish and this was a huge boost.

15.10 7:33 171, +30, Wellesley
16.12 7:18 170, -100, Newton Lower falls
HUGE downhill.

17.13 7:48 172, +55, Newton (as in "Newton hills")
18.15 7:50 172, +30, West Newton
19.17 7:37 170, -15, Newton
20.18 7:54 172, +20, Newton (note these are net, there must be an up and down in here)
21.20 8:11 174, +80, Newton/Chestnut Hill -- aka Heartbreak hill

The famed Newton hills. I just ground it out. I didn't let my HR go nuts, but gave a little extra to get over heartbreak. The wind really picked up from here on in.

22.21 7:30 175, Boston/Brighton, -80
Glad to be over the hump. This wasn't too hard.

23.23 7:41 176, -55, Brookline
24.23 7:31 177, -35, Brookline
I've been passing people since the hills (even though I'm slowing) and finally found a guy to run with/behind here. It was really odd. This felt like jogging. I couldn't go any faster, mind you, but I ran with short, choppy, jogging strides.

25.23 7:49 178, -45, Boston/Back Bay
I'm really running on fumes here. I'm losing power from the pounding and I think I'm running low on gas as well.

26.25 8:05 180 (90%)
26.47 1:46 179 (90%)
Just trying to finish as best I can. Man, you can see that finish line from forever on Boylston.

Total: 3:19:01 172 bpm average

Once we crossed the finish line, it was COLD! The wind was blowing the space blankets over our heads and it was about 45 degrees. It's funny because in the last mile, it felt so warm I thought they must have missed the forecast. I grabbed my goodies and started eating. I instantly felt much better. This isn't an ad (note: my coach is sponsored by powerbar), but that Powerbar recovery bar was like the best thing I've ever eaten.

The volunteers were amazing and the crowds were amazing and all the people congratulating me as I got on the subway were amazing, too. If you want to be a rockstar for a day this is the race for you.

List of excuses/rationale in rough order of importance:
  • I didn't train specifically for this. My goal was a sub-1:30 half, which I did, and then shifted to a sub-67 10-miler, which I also did. Since Cherry Blossom was two weeks ago and I tapered for it, my last real long run was 4 weeks ago. I also didn't do the volume that I probably would have if Boston were my target. Last fall I did a significant number of 70+ mile weeks and loads of long runs. That was the first time I felt prepared to race the full distance.
  • It was an off day. I was a little congested starting Saturday and today (Tuesday) I have a full-on can't-breathe-through-my-nose, foggy-headed cold. I was sweating a lot early in the race and my heart rate was high. I just didn't ever feel right. I definitely have a cold today. I must have had the virus yesterday. Maybe the race killed my immunity or maybe I'd have got the cold anyway. I think people underestimate how much whether you're having an on or off day can affect you and I often wonder if the way to optimize your marathon PR isn't just to run a bunch of them and hope for that magical day.
  • I wasn't motivated to really give it my all. I averaged 172 bpm versus 174 in my PR race. In that race I was 172 or higher from mile 4 on and the last 8 were 176, 177, 177, 177, 178, 180, and 183, which you can compare to the above. That was probably worth a couple of minutes at least.
  • There was a headwind. I don't want to overstate it. It was 10+ for the first half and was manageable with the other runners and the terrain. It was definitely a factor in the second half though and at the end it was 18 mph per wunderground. If you look at the graph of wind direction, it was basically east, so not quite a completely direct headwind but close. Macho guys will discount this and say "hey, Fred ran a PR," but come on, a headwind can't be helping you. It was worth at least a minute, if not more.
  • The porta-a-john snafu cost me 30 seconds and considerable discomfort, plus something for wasting energy (and nice downhills) in those first couple of miles trying to get up with my corral mates.
Anyway, I'm in a rebuilding stage now. I'm going to work on being a better 10K runner. I think improving my efficiency will help me be a better runner in the long run. It's a different kind of base training, if you will.

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