Saturday, April 26, 2014

118th Boston Marathon: Race Report.

It took a long time to get to Boston. This is true both of the training and the actual trip. I have been preparing for this race for 2 and a half years and on Friday the 18th we left home and began the journey to Boston. Because there are no direct flights from Indianapolis to Boston we drove to my parents who live about 45 minutes from the Detroit airport and stayed the night. At 3:00 AM we we "outta bed, clothes on and out the door" and headed the airport to catch a 6:30 AM flight.

We arrived in Boston around 8:00 AM and got a cab to our hotel. Checked into the hotel but of course that early there were no rooms available. My wife and I changed into running clothes in the bathroom, stowed our luggage and headed out for an easy run. We ran up and around Boston Commons where I would need to load up on the bus on race morning to head to the start line. First hour in Boston and I already had an easy 4 in the books.

The remaining time between our Saturday arrival and the Monday morning race was spent at the expo, sight seeing, Easter Mass, and of course eating. We did a lot of walking and by Sunday afternoon my wife was insisting that I take a cab to give my legs a break. I slept pretty good for the night before a marathon and got up around 5:00 AM Monday to get ready for the race.

If you didn't know, the BAA buses runners from the Boston Commons to the start in Hopkinton. We stayed at the W Boston because it was close to the pickup spot. So I got up, dressed and set out for the short walk to the pickup spot. After about 20 minutes waiting and a 40 minute ride we arrived at Athletes Village where we would wait for a couple of hours before the start of the race. I spent the time laying on a blowup raft just trying to relax and conserve energy.



I have been dealing with a strained groin muscle on my right leg. I knew that my original goals were out the window. I just hadn't been able to train at the level I needed to. Over the last 8 weeks I have been flailing just trying to hold onto as much fitness as possible. My main goal for this race was to start and finish. Based on a half marathon I ran a couple of weeks ago I thought a sub 3 hour race might be in the cards and set up my goal splits based on that.

The course is hard. But I thought I was immune. It was hot and sunny, but I thought I was tougher than the heat. Even with the tough course, the heat, my injury and a lack of quality running over the last 2 months I thought that I could will myself to that sub 3 hour finish time.The course starts with a big downhill and I have read 1,000,000 warnings against letting the downhill fool you into running fast and subsequently trashing your quads. But it didn't help. I went out way to fast, feeling good just like all of the warnings said I would. I barely noticed the injury as it is on the way to being healed and I was loaded up on Advil.

Their are not crowds lining 100% of the course. In fact the first couple of miles their is only a smattering of spectators.However, where there are crowds and they are big and they are loud. Kids stand at the ready for high-fives and how can you resist being their hero. The problem with crowds and kids high-fiving you is that it makes you run faster. Not good when you are already out too fast and don't have the fitness to sustain the pace or any where close to it for the marathon distance. You can see from my splits below that we hit a patch of spectators between miles 2 and 4. I didn't control myself and would pay dearly for it.

By mile 8 I knew I was in for a long day and the mental games began. Even then I had no idea how bad the suffering would be. About this time we hit another crowd and kids waiting for high fives. I started to fade to the left to oblige and some Australian woman yelled at me that I was "running her off the road." and that she was trying to "get into a rhythm." I am not a particularly nice person when I run. I tend to get very aggressive and this situation was no different. I said things to her that I now regret and wish I could take back. I understand her frustration to some degree but I think it is a good lesson to learn that we are all sharing the road in this or any race and none of us owns the direct line between us and the finish. Anyway, in my anger I tried to pick up the pace but saw how futile that was.

From mile 8 on my pace just began to drop. The negativity was daunting and no doubt played into how bad I felt. I knew this. I knew letting my mind wonder to the place of "You've got a long way to go", "No way you can finish this today", "You are so out of shape", "Told ya not to go out to fast but you wouldn't listen would you, superman" was not going to do any good but I just couldn't force the positive thinking that I knew I needed. To make matters worse, I am very unaccustomed to being passed in a race. But in this one I was being passed by droves of runners.

Not much else to say here except that I would get a shot of energy from the crowds but it never lasted and my pace just kept steadily dropping. I was making deals with myself. "Hold the best pace you can until half way", and at the half way point, "If you need to walk you can but not until mile 15", After mile 15 "You are not walking until you get through the hills, you at least want to  be able to say that you ran the hills".

Finally saw some family, I would later learn that I missed my wife at the bottom of heartbreak hill and I really could have used seeing her there. But my daughter Kasey was at the top and when I saw her she reassured me that the hills were over and told me "pick up the pace" and "racing hurts." I was suffering bad here. My legs were shot and my cardiovascular system was under duress. None-the-less, these women in my family have a way of giving me a huge boost in a race. I did pick up the pace but it didn't last for long.
Lies, all lies.

I knew I was getting close here and told myself that I needed to finish this thing out. Just finish. My mantra for this race was "Head down, get to work" and I just started repeating that to myself over and over. I shut everything out and embraced the pain. "Head down, get to work. Head down, get to work. Head down, get to work" No crowds, no landmarks no mile markers just "Head down, get to work."

By mile 23 no mantra, no crowds, nothing would allow me to escape. My legs were shutting down. I saw a guy walking and patted him on the back, "Let's go." He thanked me and picked it up and left me in his dust. Saw another guy hobbling. Patted him on the back, "Come on we are almost there." Again, he thanked me picked it up and pulled away. I would come across both guys and repeat the scene a couple of more times.

Mile 24, I walked. For about 2 or 3 minutes I just couldn't run anymore. I have never walked in a marathon, ever. I'm not happy about it but it is what it is. Thankfully, when I saw my parents in this mile I had already started running again and no one had to know that I had walked.

I saw the famous Citgo sign but in the "head down, get to work" mentality of shutting everything out I missed Fenway. At this point I just kept thinking about a shirt I had seen. Right on Hereford. Left on Boylston. And this became my mantra trying to shut out the pain and reassure my mind that this was almost over. That the finish line was in fact merely minutes away.

Right on Hereford and there she is. Hannah screaming and cheering for me in a hoard of spectators. I made a beeline to the left side of the road for a high five. I can't believe it. Just what I needed to carry me through. Left on Boylston. The finish line is in sight. I am going to finish this thing and I'm going to finish it strong. I pick up the pace. Fist pump, sign of the cross, hit the finish mat, pause the watch and finally, relief. All I could say to anyone I saw was, "it's done, it's done."

This was my 5th marathon. Because of my injury I have never toed the line so under-trained and it was obvious. Never has a marathon treated me so badly. Abused me so heartlessly. I have never seen "finishing" as a victory. But I'll take it here. I know how bad it hurt and what it took for me to get through. Because of this, as odd as it may sound, I am more proud of this marathon than any other.

Stats
Finish time: 3:14:11
5080/32456 Overall
4538/17828 Men
889/2660 Age Group

Splits 6:54,6:37,6:38,6:32,6:42,6:32,13:33(miles 7 and 8),6:51,6:54,7:06,7:04,7:11,7:16,14:44(miles 15 and 16),7:47,7:43,7:43,7:58,8:20,7:37,8:02,8:01,9:15,8:48,1:45

Training
18 weeks (with a 10 day break due to injury)
972 miles
105 runs
128 hours and 22 minutes
20+ mile runs -- 6
longest run -- 22 miles

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