Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boston! - Part 2

Racing purists who think that one has to be serious and focused any time he pins on a number may not like this post. I considered running an 8:00 pace and treating Boston as a victory lap for qualifying. I'm glad that I didn't get that lax about it, but I'm glad I didn't put a lot of pressure on myself to perform either.
After the finish with my girls. Joy, joy!
I really soaked in the moment. I relished every minute of the experience of running the oldest foot race in America. I'm glad I pushed enough to suffer, because suffering is part of racing. But I'm also glad that I did some things that I know hindered my finishing time. Running Boston is an experience that not everyone is blessed enough to have. I wanted to enjoy the sights, sounds, and people while respecting the race. I hope I gave the race enough respect. I sure enjoyed the experience enough!

Again, I have to say that Boston does this EXACTLY right. It's a total celebration. And the town pulls it off without a hitch. The city, the people, the transportation, the expo, the swag, the start, the support, the course, the race, the finish, the post-race organization. Everything is perfect.

The First 15k
As I mentioned earlier, there is no way to describe the electricity that surrounds this event. Because of this, a mistake that many runners make is to go out WAY too fast. It's very difficult not to just fly past the start and run 5k pace for a couple of miles.

This is where the crowds of runners came in. The start is on a two lane street, so there is no way to sufficiently spread out 27,000+ runners. So, as a strategy, I purposely stepped into the coral behind my assigned starting corral thinking that surrounding myself with runners with slower qualifying times would rein me in. It worked. I ran a 7:21 opening mile and I could not believe how easy that felt. It felt like a 9:30 mile. Really. During the last quarter it thinned out and I picked up the pace a bit.

The crowd support at the start was nearly deafening! I could not believe what I was seeing, and it stayed that intense for most of the race.

Just past the 2 mile mark, I heard a spectator shout, "You're almost there!" I got a little kick out of that. In what sense were we almost there? We weren't even almost to the 5k mark! I was like, "Don't tell me that the 'almost there' cheers have already started!" I don't think I heard another one until mile 17, so that's ok. Even so, someone who says "almost there" at mile 17, 20, or even 25, has obviously never run a marathon. You're never "almost there."

The next several miles were fairly typical miles at Boston. I cannot count how many high fives I gave. Most every kid that I saw with his/her hand out, I gave a high five to. They seemed so excited to be getting the fives from the runners! It made my day to be part of their day. I saw several teenagers and young adults sticking their hands out and then pulling them back when a runner would attempt a high five.  Ha ha very funny. So I pretty much kept it to the kids except at Wellesley and BC.

I hit 5k a little behind at 23:01. The 10k and 15k splits were about where I expected at 45:20 and 1:07:50. And I felt great. I was absorbing the energy around me.

On To The Wellesley College
Just after the 15k split, I joked with another runner, saying, "Is it bad that I just set a 15k PR?" Of course I didn't come close to a 15k PR, but the miles felt so easy! Have I mentioned the energy at this race? :)

As we entered Natick, I kept hearing people shout, "Go Molly!" I couldn't believe the support for Molly! I thought maybe Molly was from Natick or something. I'm so gullible. I found Molly, and she had her name in big letters on the front of her shirt! I'm dumb! I told Molly that I was going to run next to her for a while and pretend that my name was Molly. She was laughing and truly enjoying the Boston experience. It was her first Boston and she was having a great time.  I ended up leaving Molly after a couple of miles, but that was pretty fun.

Before mile 12, I could hear this loud screaming up ahead. I mean, the town of Natick was great, but this was LOUD! Could it be the infamous "scream tunnel" at Wellesley already? Why yes, it can! From nearly a mile away, I could hear the girls of Wellesley College screaming! It's all they say it is and more! No, I didn't stop for a kiss, but I did soak in what was going on! I just kept my hand out for the entire time I was passing the girls at Wellesley getting the fives! I could not believe the volume of the screams! And there were several variations of the "Kiss Me" signs. Quite entertaining! I think I ran a sub 6:30 mile here!

I hit the halfway mark at 1:35:11. I believed that I still had a chance to qualify (per 2013 standards, 3:10), but I knew it would require a special set of circumstances in the second half to get that done. Those circumstances didn't come together for me.

To The Newton Hills
Between the halfway mark and the beginning of the Newton Hills is the only portion of the race that I spaced out a bit.  I didn't really notice much about what was going on around me. I wish I had been more aware of this portion of the course. I wasn't soaking it in for this 3 or 4 miles.

A couple of things I do remember from here is that there was a guy named Eric.  So I hung with him for about a half mile, similar to how I did with Molly during earlier. This time, I didn't have to pretend. But he was fading, so I left him. Then, there was a section of people who were cheering and ringing cowbells. The cowbells faded as I was about 200 yards from them, so I shouted, "I gotta have more cowbell!" ala Christopher Walken. Then the cowbells got nearly deafening! That was awesome!!!

After the halfway mark, the course rolls up and down, but mostly up to near the 15 mile mark. At 15 or 15.5, there begins a nearly 200 feet drop over about a mile with 150 of it in the last half of that mile. I'm guessing this is the steepest downhill on the course, but I'm not sure. It sure seemed that way, and my quads screamed at me as I ran quite briskly down this hill, a 6:50-ish mile. That wasn't very smart, but I don't know how I could have avoided it.

I don't know if this next hill is considered part of the Newton Hills or not, but it is in my opinion the second worst of the uphills on the course. It's the climb up from the Newton Lower Falls to I-95. The course makes you climb back up that 150 feet that you just descended in about three quarters of a mile. Ouch. I tried to keep a steady pace here and was passing folks like mad. Unbelievable carnage! This hill ate people alive.

Then comes the famed Newton Hills. The first one is noticeable.  Again, unbelievable carnage. I was passing people all over the place by trying to keep a steady pace.  Was this Heartbreak? Couldn't be, because I've only climbed one hill before this one. But it was tough. It's followed by a sharp descent that invites you to run fast. It's not a good idea to do so.

The second of the Newton Hills is really nothing, nothing at all. Fifty feet in a little over a quarter of a mile. I mean, you'll notice that you're climbing, but it's short and you can see the crest from the start, so it didn't discourage me at all. Again, I was passing and passing. Again, I asked, "Is this Heartbreak Hill? I sure hope so for my sake, but I hope not for the reputation of the hill."

Then came Heartbreak Hill. I knew it because of all the chalk on the street advertising it as such! And the crowd here! AMAZING! How could this hill slow you down with all these people cheering you on like this? WOW! The cheers were crazy! This is a perfect place to watch the race!

I knew that I shouldn't be running 7:10s up those hills, so I backed off to 7:25s for those miles. Backing off was wise, but I didn't back off enough. I will say, though, that I could not believe how good I felt at the top of Heartbreak Hill.

All right, 2:33 at mile 21. Let me see... that gives me 40, no, 37, no 27, no, 35, no 37 minutes to run the last 5.2 miles and still qualify (2013 standards). That's slower than 7 minutes per mile if you don't count the .2. But the .2 counts. But isn't it downhill from here? Do-able. Or is it? I have no idea. Do I need to run sub-7 or not? If so, I may as well give up. If not, then I have a chance. Ugh! I can't do this math! How about this... I'll just go as fast as I can from here to the finish.  Yeah, that's what I'll do. As fast as my legs will go. But wait... that's a cramp. Ok, not that fast. How fast can I go without cramping? Ok, I'll do that. It turns out that speed wasn't very fast.

Let me tell you a secret. It's not all downhill from Heartbreak. Sure it's net downhill and mostly downhill, but there are some NASTY hills left. Heartbreak is the second or third worst hill on the course. The worst, for me, was the climb to the overpass where Beacon St. crosses over I-90. OUCH. It's not much of a hill, but it ate me alive.

Oh yeah, Brookline.  Here's a picture of someone who's focused on racing and competing at 23.7 miles. That's Ryan Hall for those of you who don't know. Thanks to my wife for this awesome shot!
Ryan Hall 23.7 miles into his 2:04:58 at the 115th Boston Marathon
This is what someone who is just soaking up the experience looks like at 23.7 miles. Yeah, that's me. I have no idea what suffering lies ahead.
Joyful to see my girls!
This was right in front of our hotel. I had no idea when I booked the hotel how great a spot for watching that it was. I had no idea what suffering was ahead for me. I was feeling pretty good here, obviously. The hugs and kisses from Leigh and the girls really picked me up. I motored toward 24 and 25. And by the way, I beat everyone in the picture (I cropped, there were several more than shown here) whose bib I could read. :)

The Last Mile
Ugh. I have never suffered as much as I suffered in this last mile. The crowds are deafening. After the incline to I-90, I was zapped. Then the right on Hereford and left on Boylston to the finish! I wanted so much to summon some energy for the finish. The crowds were cheering so loudly! "You've got this!" "Go Fleet Feet!" "Yay!!!" Screaming, cheering, cowbells, whistles, deafening noise! I had nothing. The hill up Hereford killed me. I've never been in that much pain in all of my life. I had a horrible side stitch. My left calf was tied in a knot. My right quad would not move. My lower abs cramped.  Seriously, all of this happened at once on Hereford. I knew that I only had the left on Boylston to the finish. But when I made the left, the finish looked like it was miles away. I could not get there at all!

I seriously thought right now about quitting... Quitting running altogether. I walked. I could not run. The screaming the cheers. I was crying. Seriously, I cried like a little girl. I cried right there in front of thousands and thousands of people. I was overwhelmed with emotion and physical pain, and I couldn't make myself not cry. I hope nobody has a picture of this. I wanted so badly to get to the finish, but I had no idea how I was going to get there. I walked some more. Then, I put one foot in front of the other and started some sort of humped over limp-jog to the finish. It hurt, but I could run now. I thought I may be one of those who pass out this close to the finish line. I've never experienced this much physical suffering in my life. I dropped a 9 minute last mile. Ouch.

After crossing the finish, I just looked for somewhere to sit. But the red cross guys would not let me sit. "Are you OK?" "Yes, I'm fine, I just need to sit for a while." "You can't sit, you have to keep moving. It's better for your body to keep moving." "No, I don't want to move, I just want to sit here." "You have to move." Ugh. I got up and walked out of his sight and sat down again.  This time, I lay flat on my back. "You OK?" "Yes, I'm just tired." "I can't have people laying on the sidewalk." "Ok, can I sit here?" "I'll let you sit here for 2 minutes, but then you have to move." So, I got up and got out of his sight and sat down again. What is it with these people? I don't need medical attention. I'm just tired because I just ran 26.2 miles. Can you not understand that? I just want to sit down. Please let me. One thing, to be sure, for every one of the Red Cross people who made me move, I thanked them for doing what they were doing. I was trying to be polite, but I was also trying to convince them that allowing me to sit down was the right thing to do!

Post Race
When I finished, I heard an announcer say that the winner had run a world record 2:03:01! And then I heard that Ryan Hall had broken 2:05! I waxed emotional again because I was blessed enough to be part of something as special as this race on this day.

I was overjoyed to meet Leigh and the girls. It was much easier to find them than I expected. Boston does a perfect job of organizing this race!

We took the train back to our hotel in Brookline. When I walked in wearing my finisher's medal, the whole crowd in the lobby and the employees and everyone cheered! It was awesome! So many people congratulated me on the ride back and walking on the street. This continued until we left Tuesday night. Nearly everyone congratulated me and many cheered as I walked by. I felt like a celebrity!

Work as hard as necessary and qualify and run this race. I mean it. Do it. Start now.


Anonymous said...

Great report. I don't know how you remember all the details. Glad you had a great race and a great time with the family. Priceless memories!!


rundanrun said...

Great race and great recap... I think you might run faster if you did not take so many notes... LOL
How do you remember all the details.