Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The best bad marathon ever: Boston 2010

So, no suspense here: I finished in 3:50:07, with 1:46:16/2:03:41 halves. Ouch. So, on the surface, that looks like a classic Boston Marathon go-out-too-fast, crash-and-burn scenario, but here's the full story.

I ran a lot in preparation for this race. A LOT. I'm talking 80 miles per week. I added more speedwork this time as well. I was hoping that with the higher mileage, the projected times from my shorter races and my actual marathon time would match up a little better. With a PR of 43:54 in a 10K in March, I thought a 3:30 goal or even a little faster was perfectly realistic, if not conservative.

At the same time, I have been (as you know if you've been reading) GEEKING OUT about this race. I wanted my first Boston to be memorable in a good way. Most of all, I wanted to round the corner at Hereford and Boylston and finish strong with a smile on my face. So I went into this weekend prepared to try for a PR but ready to dial it back if my body said no.

I won't go into every single detail of the weekend, but suffice it to say that I had a wonderful time hanging out with my family and meeting up with friends throughout the time in Boston. The expo was massive and overwhelming, and I wandered for hours, trying to decide what, if anything, to buy. I finally bought a Brooks tank (which I ended up wearing in the race--I know that's a no-no, but I had a zero chafing, so THERE!). Picked up my bib number, race shirt, and poster. No real hiccups, except for my camera batteries (both sets?!) running out of juice.

The whole weekend was so full of people that it was almost a blur. I tend to get claustrophobic (I know that's not the right word, but that's what it feels like) in large crowds of people, but beyond a few moments of annoyance as we navigated the crowds at the expo, the T, and just out and about, it was fine. On Saturday, my brother got a Zipcar with his account and we drove the course. I don't know if it gave me an edge or anything, but it was fun to see Hopkinton on a more "normal" day, and get a look at the route. Parts of it, especially through Newton and Wellesley, are very scenic. I even got to see the Johnny Kelley statue.

On race morning, I packed up my stuff, pulled on my race outfit and throwaway sweats, and headed out to meet Audra, Flo, Barb, and Jackie (and a few others) to make our way over to the buses. At first we thought we could hitch a ride on a hotel shuttle, but that didn't pan out, so we went down to the T. The ticket machines weren't working, so we all basically had to jump the line to get on. I had forgotten my T pass, but I did pay for unlimited rides for 7 days, of which I only used 5, so I don't feel a bit guilty. We did TRY to pay! We made it to the buses and found a sea of people lined up to board them. After meeting up with a few of the 3:20 crew, we finally made it on board a bus. As we were getting close to boarding, I realized I hadn't stopped at one of the portajohns at the Common, as I had planned, but I didn't want to go off and become separated.

I sat with Audra on the bus and we passed the time talking about various things. It was fun! Having a good bus buddy is a huge plus. As the bus caravan made its way to Hopkinton, my bladder started talking to me. We were getting closer, but it was getting louder. Now, I debated on including this part, because it's pretty gross and I don't want to offend anyone: I had brought along, JUST IN CASE, an empty, good-sized plastic peanut butter jar. I had read many stories of men bringing Gatorade bottles for these instances, but I don't have the proper set of equipment to make that feasible. Some of the RWOL forumites began talking about bringing wide-mouthed peanut butter jars with screw tops. So I brought one. I figured it couldn't hurt, but that I probably wouldn't be able to bring myself to actually use it. So as we sat idling in a huge line of buses, the village not even in sight, I started to think very hard about that peanut butter jar. Finally I mentioned it to Audra and she offered to switch seats with me so I could be on the inside. Since the bus wasn't moving, and I was wearing very loose cotton pants, it wasn't hard at all. No mess whatsoever. I don't think I would have made it to the village, where the lines for the portajohns were long. (Later, I emptied the jar where it belongs and then threw it away!)

Oookay, now that THAT's out of the way (I have never felt so relieved), we wandered around the village a bit, met a few forumites (hi Ron!) and then settled down by some of the BQ gals. Made the usual last-minutes adjustments, applied Vaseline and sunscreen, and suddenly it was time to move to the corrals. Karah and I had decided to run together since we were in the same corral and had the same goal. As we headed toward the start, we were amazed at the sheer amount of people. We worried we wouldn't make it, since Corral 14 is the first one in Wave 2, so we had to go aaaaall the way up to the actual factual start line. But we did with a few minutes to spare. And there we were, about to start the Boston Marathon.

At some point as we lined up, I realized I had to pee again. Possibly this is my punishment for peeing in a peanut butter jar while aboard a school bus. I hoped it would go away. We started and whoooo-eee they were not lying about that downhill! It was kind of scary. But we successfully held ourselves back. I concentrated on gliding down the hills and taking short, light steps. That first descent was no joke, but until the Newton hills, I didn't really notice the hills very much.

Mile 1: 8:16
Mile 2: 8:00
Mile 3: 7:59

I was proud of our first 5K. I had done exactly what I was supposed to do: not go out too fast! However, I still had to pee. I started watching for portajohns along the course with no lines. Found one in mile 4 and ducked in, having told Karah to go on ahead. I lost perhaps 20-30 seconds there, and then decided to try and make up the time 5-10 seconds at a time, hopefully breaking even in 3 or 4 more miles.

Mile 4: 8:35
Mile 5: 7:44 (I hit this too early; it's actually about 7:54)
Mile 6: 8:08 (more like 7:58)
Mile 7: 7:48 (caught sight of Karah I believe in here somewhere, picked it up just a little to catch up)

After I caught up with Karah, we both said that we felt okay but not necessarily great. I thought maybe I would pick it up, but decided to wait a little while. Karah said she was going to hang even at just around 8:00s.

Mile 8/9: 16:17
Mile 10: 8:07
Mile 11: 8:15 (Still feeling very good, but really thinking I should pick it up just a bit)
Mile 12: 7:59 (The fact that this mile wasn't faster was my first concrete clue that today wasn't my day)
Mile 13: 8:07
Mile 14: 8:09

Just over the halfway mark was a turning point. I think I was running a smart race. My half was 1:46, one minute slower than my first half in Philly. But I just wasn't feeling all that good. Both hips were starting to bother me, and I had a knot near my left shoulder blade that was also becoming bothersome. Should I HTFU and keep pushing, and possibly eke out a re-BQ, or even a PR? That's what I did at Philly, and I didn't regret it. But somehow, here in Boston, I just couldn't make myself care about my time. I had promised myself I would soak it in and enjoy myself, especially on this, my first time. I was having such a great time listening to all the crowds cheering. I had my name on my shirt, and I heard it so many times--I smiled and waved or said thanks to everyone who yelled my name. So I just sort of took a step back and let the mile splits fall where they would.

Mile 15: 8:31
Mile 16: 8:13
Mile 17: 8:27
Mile 18: 8:52

Karah and I yo-yoed back forth a little, but somewhere in here she left me for good. She ended running a very strong 3:37. Yay Karah!! I knew I should take more GU, but my stomach said Noooooo!

Mile 19: 8:33
Mile 20: 9:18

My family was camped out around here somewhere. It was a huge boost to see them. Then it was time to buckle down and finish the hills. They didn't seem that bad, really, but they were causing my back some issues. The knot near my shoulder blade had turned into shooting pain all the way down the left side of my back. I tried to concentrate on running erect and not hunching down over the hill, but it was just wasn't helping. Another promise that I had made to myself was that I wouldn't walk at any point during the Newton hills, but that one was harder to keep. I made it to the top, but I was in some real pain now from my back and to a lesser extent from my hips.

Mile 21: 10:00
Mile 22: 9:49

This was probably the lowest point. My back was on fire.

Mile 23: 13:03
Mile 24: 10:46
Mile 25: 9:58

Finally, on one of the minor uphills, I allowed myself to walk for a little while. I took my last two GUs one after the other, drank some water, and collected myself a bit. I could see the Citgo sign, and the crowds were incredible, absolutely electric with all the energy they gave off. I knew it was close. I took a couple of walk breaks after that as well. I think I totaled four walk breaks.

Mile 26: 9:22

One last walk break. I was trying to give myself a back massage, rubbing and hitting it, before starting back up again. This actually elicited a huge roar from the crowd, which was totally awesome! Then I realized I was in sight of Hereford.

Mile 26.2: 1:40

I didn't really sprint it in, but I picked it up as I headed uphill on Hereford and rounded the last turn onto Boylston. I was able to run that part just as I imagined: no dead sprint to grab a PR, no hunched-over death slog, just a nice, solid run to the finish. Somehow the back pain and the hip pain melted away. I was grinning from ear to ear.

I'm recovering well...I seem to be less sore overall than usual after a marathon, although I notice my hamstrings are much sorer than normal. No chafing and no blisters.

I will be back next year! At some point I'll look over my training and give some more thought to the race, how my body reacted, and what I can do to continue to improve, but for now I'm just happy that I finished my first Boston Marathon and had such an incredible, memorable experience. Thanks for reading! :)
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