I did a modified Pfitzinger Advanced Marathoning, 18 week/85 miles a week plan. However, my goal race for the spring was RnR DC. After that race, I took three days off and then started training again. Unfortunately, about a week later, I ended up with severe pain in my left upper hamstring. But, I trained through it. The sharpness of the pain finally went away after about two weeks. Leading into the race, the area was still tight and a little sore when I ran – especially if I took long strides.
I ran the Cherry Blossom 9.39 Miler the Sunday before the race. I told myself I would run it at my original goal marathon pace (7:40 instead of 8:00). I did that for most of the race but then my competitive instincts kicked in and I ran the last two miles a little hard. I finished in about 7:27 pace. I was a little angry with myself afterward because I didn’t run hard enough to actually get a good time at the race but ran so fast that it might ruin my chances for a good time at Boston.
For the rest of the week, I ran everything at recovery effort. I barely ran faster than 8:45 pace.
My marathon PR is 3:22:56 (7:45 pace). I started the training cycle aiming for 3:20 (7:38 pace) at RnR DC but finished in 3:29:40 (8:01 pace) instead. Based on the slower result, I thought sub-3:25 might be more realistic for Boston. RnR DC is a tougher course than Boston and it rained the entire time. I figured that was worth about 5 minutes.
However, I’ve never run Boston well. Okay, 2012 was hot. But last year, the conditions were okay and I still ran a disappointing 3:27:24 (7:55 pace). I thought I made several pacing errors in that race:
- I ran too hard in the early sections – including a 7:10 split!
- I faded hard in Newton. By Heartbreak Hill, I was barely running.
- After all that abuse, my quads were done and I couldn’t take advantage of the downhill into Boston.
Heading into the race this year, I planned my goal splits for 3:23:00 thinking maybe I would get a slight PR. That was my “A” goal. My “B” goal was a course PR. My “C” goal was to run the race well. I would not make the same mistakes I made last year. I would take the early miles easy, run strong through Newton, and cruise into Boston. Yeah.
I broke the course into a few segments – the downhill at the start, the flattening out in the middle, the hills of Newton, and the downhill into Boston.
Temperature/Wind Chill (Logan): 42 at 9:50am, 44 at 10:50am, 44 at 11:50am, 43 at 12:50pm, 41/41 at 1:50pm. Winds were 17-22 mph out of the E with 29 mph gusts. It started raining about a half hour into the race. At first it was very light but at times it was heavy. It was enough that there were puddles on the ground in some places.
I woke up at 5am, did some math, and went back to bed for a half hour. I noticed my only in-room coffee packet is… DECAF! I got dressed and went down to the lobby for coffee. I came back to the room and immediately started eating. Another mistake I made at RnR DC was not eating enough. I downed a bagel and a banana in short order.
I forgot to pack post-race clothes! I only packed throw-aways for the Athlete’s Village. So, I spent a lot of time thinking about whether I wanted to save the throw-aways for post race. I packed my Boston jacket and a Dri-fit shirt I brought along for bag check, but I don’t have an extra pair of sweat pants for after the race.
Despite the clothing dilemma, I managed to complete my morning routine really quickly. The buses for Wave 2 wouldn’t load until 7am, so I had a little time to kill.
I got to the Boston Common and had a good 10 minutes before the buses would start loading Wave 1 runners. I checked my bag. I decided to save the poncho for post-race but kept the sweatpants for the Athlete’s Village.
I boarded the bus. I usually like striking up conversations with strangers but I was in my own head that day. I think I needed to mentally prepare myself for how hard the conditions were going to be. As the bus is driving to Hopkinton, it started to rain and the skies were gloomy. I started to question the wisdom of running today. I ate a Luna Bar. I felt thankful I opted to wear the sweatpants before the race but upset with myself that I checked the poncho.
The Village itself was a strange scene. Runners were huddled together under the tents in order to stay dry and warm. I found a spot and sat on my tiny piece of garbage bag. I ate a Honey Stinger Chocolate Waffle. The rain passed. I got up to use the port-a-potty and lost my spot in the tent. I found another spot where there was a fleece blanket laying on the ground. I asked around whether it belonged to anyone and everyone said, “No”. (Claimed!) At first, I just covered my legs in case the rightful owner came back. But, after a few minutes, I was fully ensconced and for the first time in an hour, I was warm. Ahhhh…
I left the AV as soon as they called Wave 2, Corral 5 at about 9:45am. Runners walked a good half mile to the starting area. I used the last port-a-potties and ditched my sweat pants.
I got to the corral in time for a change and moved to the far left of the road figuring there would be more room. As I was standing by the barricade, I heard this gush of liquid coming from the guy next to me. I looked and he doesn’t have a water bottle so… I assumed it’s urine. I looked over at the volunteer and she says something like, “It looks like you got here at the wrong moment”. I said, “Yeah” and gave the guy a dirty look but he didn’t make eye contact. I ditched my jacket with about 2 minutes to go. I was so cold. I looked around me and most people were wearing more clothing than I was. A guy told me he felt cold just looking at me. A few moments later, the corral started moving and we were off!
Early Miles, Part I – Miles 1 to 4 (Hopkinton and Ashland)
My goal was to keep the pace easy in this first few miles. I hadn’t selected my Boston workout, which had my goal paces, on my Garmin. With the wind and rain, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep my goal pace and didn’t want the watch beeping at me for 26 miles. My watch was on 1-mile auto-lap which I realized meant the race would seem long and I need to run faster to be “on pace”. I remembered my goal was to try to keep the pace in the 7:35-7:45 range in this section and I managed to do that for the most part.
There were so many people at the start that I couldn’t run any faster if I wanted to. I tried not to weave too much but there were a lot of people going very slow. I felt a little frustrated but I remained calm. I high-fived some little kids and marveled at the crowds.
I felt surprisingly good, too. No aches or pains anywhere. All that recovery running must have been a good thing.
I skipped the first few water stops. Normally, I carry a water bottle with me during the first few miles of a marathon but after being frustrated with having so much gear on me at RnR DC, I hardly carried anything this time. I took Gatorade at Mile 3, though.
As I entered Ashland, the crowds became thicker and louder. Last year, I got carried away in this section and this was where I ran my 7:10 split From a distance, I saw a “Boston Strong” banner on a building. It was hard not to become emotional. But this year, I kept the pace in check.
Splits (by 1 mile auto-lap): 8:07, 7:40, 7:36, 7:25.
Early Miles, Part II – Miles 4 to 11 (Ashland, Framingham and Natick)
At about Mile 4, the course started to flatten out. I thought I’d done a good job keeping things easy.
I think it started to rain at about this point. It started as sprinkles first and then built to a solid rain as the race went on. The wind was a constant and a lot of runners were trying to run in packs so that other runners would block the wind for them.
I decided to take my Gu earlier than normal and started one at Mile 6. I’m not sure I’ve ever managed to take more than 2 Gus during a marathon. So, this was another minor “goal” of mine – 3 Gus in a marathon. Would today be the day I break the 2 Gu barrier? I took a Gu from my short pocket. I wanted to take the Peanut Butter Gu first because it doesn’t have caffeine. But, I got the Salted Caramel and decide maybe it would be good to take the caffeine early and late. (In reality, I didn’t want to expend the energy to find the Peanut Butter and made an excuse for why that was okay). I felt a little sluggish for the next few minutes. I assumed it was my body trying to digest the Gu and absorb the water.
At about Mile 9, I passed a lake. I remember last year, this was about when I started to feel tired. I did an assessment and I feel good.
In fact, it felt like the miles were flying by. The mile markers were surprising me rather than me looking out for each one. But, I was still holding myself back. I told myself, “I want Newton”.
Splits: 7:42, 7:33, 7:40, 7:41, 7:38, 7:47, 7:47.
Middle Miles, Part I – Miles 11 to 16 (Wellesley)
Around Mile 11, I grabbed another Gatorade. The cup was really full and I ended up coughing up Gatorade for the next few minutes. I started to hear the screams of the Wellesley girls. It gave me chills it’s so loud. But, I moved to the far left side of the course since I wasn’t going to kiss any girls today. I was happy to watch the fun from a distance.
I reached back for the Peanut Butter Gu. It was a little thick but I’m manage to get it down. I skipped the next water stop but got some water by Mile 14. Once again, I slowed down while my stomach digested the Gu. I focused on engaging my abs. I’ve found sometimes that helps with cramping and it seemed to help this time. Plus, I ran a horrible mile last year in Wellesley so I tried to keep things slower this time.
At the half, I saw 1:40:?? or even 1:41:??. I realized 3:20 isn’t going to happen. For a little while, I thought about how much I might slow – What’s 2% at this point? – and what my finish time might be but math isn’t my thing so I gave up on that pretty quickly.
It was in this section of the race that I really started to feel the effect of the wind. The crowd thinned out which is normally good but when I was running alone, I felt the wind gusts at full force.
Coming out of Wellesley, I was a little tired and wanted Newton a little less than I did a few miles ago. I lengthened my stride a little bit in an effort to loosen up my left hamstring and get it ready to run the hills. But, the effort was still pretty easy.
I saw the sign for Newton and smiled. I trained for this. I’m ready for this. Let’s get to work!
Splits: 7:36, 7:44, 7:51, 7:55, 7:31.
Middle Miles, Part II – Miles 16 to 21 (Newton)
I planned on doing 8:20 splits during this section. I thought that was reasonable based on training runs and how I ran the hills at RnR DC.
I charged up the first hill. I came off the first mile in 8:00 pace. I made up 20 seconds! In the next mile, which features a long meandering hill, I similarly banked 20 seconds. Last year, this was where a spectator wrote, “Meb Won. No Really!” on a sign. I didn’t see any signs today and wondered how the elites were doing. And, how I’m doing! I didn’t have a pace band so I didn’t know if I was ahead or behind pace.
I go up another incline and I get confused. Is this still the second hill or the third?
I get a bit of a downhill and then up another hill. I saw a store called something like Heartbreak Hardware. I did it! I finished the hills. I’m so relieved.
It was at about Mile 20, so I reached back for my last Gu! I was about to take a third Gu! I struggle to get the tab off the top. I bit and tore at it but couldn’t get it off. I decided to just try to push it out of the small opening. The “Three Gu Barrier” was broken.
But wait… What was that in the distance? Another hill? I miscounted the hills somehow and Heartbreak was ahead of me! (Groan and LOL!) I trudged up Heartbreak. I gave up a little of the time I accrued but was still thrilled.
I couldn’t have been happier with how I ran this section. So much so that tears welled up in my eyes and I was a little emotional cresting the hill.
Splits: 7:56, 7:53, 7:40, 8:01, 8:33. Last year’s splits: 8:09, 8:14, 8:02, 8:24, 8:58.
Later Miles 21-26.2
I was sluggish coming off Heartbreak Hill. I guessed it was the Gu again but I wasn’t completely sure. I took a cup of water at the next fluid station but then don’t take any more fluids for the rest of the race.
Normally, Boston College is one of my favorite parts of the course but on this day, I was so focused on my discomfort that I didn’t enjoy it as much. Still, I managed to pick up the pace a little. (Or, so I thought).
The weather was just foul by this point – cold, windy, and steady rain. It was that way all the way into Boston. In my mind, it was all downhill after Heartbreak but there were actually a couple of small inclines. They were unexpected but I did pretty well on them.
By around Mile 22 or 23, I noticed my left leg felt like it was cramping up. It wasn’t as bad as it was last year when I felt like it was spasming. This time, it felt like it was cold and tight. I wasn’t checking my pace at this point. I was just running as hard as I could.
Around this time, I passed the clock I remember so clearly from 2012. Today: it’s says 44 degrees. Cold.
I was hammering away – passing more runners than are passing me – and felt pretty good. The Gu seemed to be helping me at just the right moment.
I saw the Citgo sign and I started to get excited that I was close to the finish. But, I couldn’t remember – What does the sign mean again? Is it a mile from here? Or, a mile after I get to it?
A college roommate who lives in Boston now said she was going to be cheering for me on the other side of the Massachusetts Turnpike just like last year. Despite the thick crowds, I saw her! I went over to high-five her. I felt bad for not lingering but I didn’t want to burn time. Then, other spectators, sensing they found someone who was game, put their hands out! So, I ended up I high-fiving them, too… It’s a race, people! I have to go! It was funny. And, representative of the engagement and excitement of the crowds.
I think it was after this exchange that I run over the “One Mile to Go” striping on the street. I started running very strong. (Or, so I thought). I’m passing runners right and left. As I was about to take the right onto Hereford, I looked at my watch and thought I was a minute off from my PR. (In reality, my math was off and I had just hit my PR time). I charged up Hereford, hungry for a PR. I turned left on Boylston and the crowds are amazing! My earphones were in but the music is off so I could hear the cheering. Tears welled up in my eyes but I can’t quite cry.
I was running so hard for the last 0.2 that I was actually gasping and grunting trying to get every ounce of energy I had left out. I crossed the finish line and raise my arms in victory. I suddenly felt overwhelmed not only by the race itself but how I ran it. And then I cried.
Splits: 7:56, 8:07, 8:10, 7:47, 8:01, 2:52.
I finished in 3:25:58 (7:52 pace). Missed an overall PR by 3:02 but it was a course PR by 1:26. I also time qualified for the 2016 New York City Marathon by 2 seconds.
I actually did a little jog after the finish in an effort to stay warm but am quickly slowed by the mob of runners. I got my medal, poncho, and some food. At Boston Common, I changed in a tent and then hung out a while just to get warm. A dry shirt and jacket were nice but I really wish I had sweatpants. I walked back to my hotel and was congratulated by strangers asking me how my race went. This is my favorite part of the Boston marathon.
I’m really happy with this result. It didn’t start out as a goal race but it became one since RnR DC didn’t turn out as I’d planned. Plus, I spent most of the last month nursing a sore high hamstring.
Going forward, I think:
- I’m going to mentally take a break from the marathon this summer and focus on shorter distances. I miss racing shorter distances and my body needs to heal a little. I’ve basically been marathon training since last summer.
- When I come back to the marathon in late summer, I think I’ll either go back to high(er) mileage or get a coach. Not sure which (maybe both).