Boston Race Report (Long)

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      Sorry about the length. I wrote this for my family and friends who aren’t runners and I didn’t feel like editing.

      The day before the race, after a week of no running, I went for an easy two mile run with some short marathon pace bursts. Before the run, my calf felt great. I was hopeful that the week off allowed it to heal. It started tightening up almost immediately, and by the end of the run, it was hurting as bad as two weeks before. I hobbled around the rest of the day with the kids at the Harvard Museum of Natural History and the MIT Museum, the calf throbbing with a dull ache. I was extremely frustrated and bummed out. I had myself convinced I wouldn’t be able to finish the Marathon, and I even carried a subway token so I wouldn’t have to wait for the sweep bus.

      On the one hour bus ride out to Hopkinton, I sat next to Steve, from Boston. He was running his 16th consecutive Boston Marathon. He didn’t start running marathons until his early forties, but his best was a 2:48 for a Masters top-ten. Unfortunately they didn’t expand the awards from top-five to top-ten until later. In front of me, sat a women who had finished top-five masters with a 2:58, and a man she met in Ireland who has run over two hundred marathons for charity. He ran the London marathon the day before Boston. He had to run a 3:30 in London in order to catch his flight to Boston. It was cool hearing their stories, but now on top of worrying about my calf, I feel a little out of place with all the fast people.

      Before I injured my calf, my training had been going very well. Based on the training and a 25K, I thought I was in shape for a sub 3:10 effort. I set my goal for 3:10 and even told a couple of people that was my goal. I was extremely confident three weeks before the race. But now, I think there is a very good chance I won’t even finish. I’ve decided I am just going to play it conservative and try and enjoy the experience of running Boston. My race number puts me in the fifth (of 20) corral. I get in the back of the corral about seven minutes before the start. (I love corral races, because I hate to get lined up in the crowd too long before the start.) With about five minutes left, there is a tribute to John Kelly, who died last year after running Boston sixty some times and winning twice in the 30’s and 40’s. The state trooper who sang the national anthem at the World Series last year sang the national anthem, and a couple of F-16’s flew low overhead.

      The starters horn sounded and excitement was building, but I was still convinced there was a good chance my calf wouldn’t make it through the whole race.

      The first five miles:

      All the advice I got about Boston said not to go too fast at the beginning. Because of the crowd though, I don’t know how it would be possible to go too fast. Maybe in the first few corrals there is enough room to overdo it, but I was well off goal pace and couldn’t have gone much faster without a lot of weaving. I wasn’t worried about it because I wanted to be conservative, but I was surprised.

      A cool story here: in Chicago there was a guy running about my pace for the last 10 miles or so. I saw him off and on and a lot of the time I used him to pace myself. In fact he looked really strong the last couple of miles and I just dropped in behind him and let him pull me along. Soon after the start I see the same guy. I pulled up next to him and asked if he ran Chicago last fall and he said “yeah”. I told him I recognized him and thanked him for pacing me last year. Turns out he is from Boston and traveled to Chicago to qualify last year.

      The spectators were incredible. There was lots of yelling and screaming, signs and kids giving high fives. I’m really starting to enjoy the experience. My calf started tightening up as I expected but by the uphill on the fifth mile it was actually felling a little better. I hit the hill pretty hard and started to wonder if I wouldn’t be able to make it. My legs were feeling a little dead though during the first five miles and I wondered if I hadn’t lost some sharpness from all the training I missed.

      Mile 1- 7:50

      Mile 2- 7:21

      Mile 3- 7:16 Still downhill, so not really at goal pace yet

      Mile 4/5- 14:25 Missed the mile marker, but finally at goal pace

      Miles six through 10:

      After cresting the hill at mile 5, the next five are generally downhill. I’m feeling more confident and start picking up the pace. Somewhere around mile six or seven, I realize my calf doesn’t hurt at all, not even any real tightness. I’ve got other aches and pains moving around, and I’m still a little worried my calf will eventually give out, but I decide to go for it. Apparently by mile eight, I am only capable of thinking about one thing at a time. I see the Mile 8 marker ahead of me, but as I approach it the road splits and I have to make a decision about which side to take and I completely forget to hit my watch.

      After the sub 7:00 splits on miles eight and nine, I started getting concerned Iwas going to fast. I tried to slow down, but every time I hit a little hill, or someone passes me I ratchet up the effort a bit. The pace also felt really good. Somewhere I grab a cup of ice-cold water from a kid and dump it on my head. It feels really good and I start doing that more often. I also start hitting the aid stations on both sides of the road (they are staggered). I usually take one cup of water to drink, then veer to the other side of the road and take one cup of water to dump on my head and arms and one cup of Gatorade. I think it was somewhere around nine or ten that I saw Frank Sinatra standing in the bed of a pickup truck and singing over a PA system.

      Mile 6 – 7:04

      Mile 7 – 7:02

      Mile 8/9 – 13:53 (6:56.5)

      Mile 10 – 7:03

      Miles 11-15:

      With the exception of Wellsley College, these miles just flew by. I finally got myself slowed down in mile 14 and mile 15 had a good hill on a highway overpass. Man, the girls at Wellsley College were loud; I really could hear them a half mile before I got there. If they had been on both sides of the road, it would have been deafening. Many of the girls had signs that said, “Kiss Me”, but I didn’t see anyone stop.

      Mile 11 – 7:05

      Mile 12 – 7:02

      Mile 13 – 7:02

      Mile 14 – 7:12

      Mile 15 – 7:19

      Miles 16-21:

      I made an effort to get some recovery in on the mile 16 downhill, because I hammered the little hills on mile 15 hard and I knew the Newton hills were looming. It felt good on the first couple of hills to change the muscle stress and I was passing a bunch of people, some of them starting to walk. The third hill was tougher and my legs were burning by the top. I really tried to hold back on the downhill before Heartbreak, but I was still feeling strong. Heartbreak Hill was tougher than I expected. The little leveling out halfway up the hill really ticked me off, because I thought I was nearing the top. I buckled down and stayed strong to the top of the hill, but I wouldn’t have made it much farther. My legs were really burning and I thought I might have to manage some nausea but it never got worse than a little rumbling. I came off Heartbreak Hill feeling good and I knew I had it whipped. The only question now was could I hang on and finish strong to get my 3:10.

      Mile 16 – 7:00

      Mile 17 – 7:25

      Mile 18 – 7:29

      Mile 19 – 7:22

      Mile 20 – 7:40

      Mile 21 – 7:41

      Miles 22-26.2:

      It took me a bit longer to recover from Heartbreak Hill than the other hills, but I got back to goal pace. Soon, though, I realized that I was having to work much harder to maintain pace. My family was supposed to meet me somewhere around Boston College at mile 21.5, so I veered to the side and started watching for them. I started chanting to myself “Where are you, where are you……” because I really wanted to see them. In Chicago, it was a real boost to see Randee at about mile 20 and helped me surge to the final push. After a while, I started wondering if they had trouble getting there and I couldn’t stay focused on the crowd. Right about the time I start looking at the ground and was probably starting to feel deflated, I heard “ROB”. Randee had been yelling at me, but I didn’t see or hear her until I passed by. I stopped and nearly took out the guy behind me and went back and hugged Randee and the boys all at once. The boys were beaming and Randee yelled “you look great” as I took off.

      My spirits were soaring, miles 23 and 24 went by right at goal pace and I was thinking I had a shot at 3:10. I was really having to work now though and my quads were starting to hurt with every step. At the end of Chicago, I felt general fatigue and hurt and just couldn’t move my legs as fast as I wanted, but I didn’t feel the pain in my quads I was feeling now. The last two miles my quads were screaming at me and at the mile 24 marker I told myself “Just 15 minutes of suffering, you can do it for 15 minutes”. I was working hard and I thought I was still on pace on mile 25 but I had slipped by 15 seconds. I was incapable of doing any math, so I waited until the one mile to go mark to realize I couldn’t get 3:10. I lost a bit of pace at that point but I said screw that and tried to finish strong. When I turned onto Boylston and saw the finish, I tried to pick it up but I didn’t have another gear available. Three hours earlier I was still thinking I probably wouldn’t finish and now I’m crossing the line in 3:10:40!!!!!

      Mile 22 – 7:22

      Mile 23 – 7:14

      Mile 24 – 7:16

      Mile 25 – 7:29

      Mile 26 – 7:33

      Mile 26.2 – 1:35

      The Final Stats:

      1st Half: 1:33:49

      2nd Half: 1:36:51

      Chip Time: 3:10:40

      Official Time: 3:14:47

      Avg Pace: 7:17

      Overall Place: 1634 (18,319)

      Gender Place: 1526 (11,342)

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