Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Boston Marathon -- 3:03:33

I successfully completed the Boston Marathon last Monday in 3 hours 3 minutes and 33 seconds. (7:00 minutes per mile average pace.) I had a rough time the last 5 miles being just on the verge of cramps. I had to slow down a bit but I didn't completely fall apart. This was my 3rd and fastest Boston Marathon. I'm happy!

I had a great weekend, meeting friends and being surrounded by thousands of dedicated and accomplished runners.

The predicted weather for race day was cool, high of 47, with some wind from the east. The temperature sounded great, but I sure didn't need any headwind. I was cold at the starting line but quickly warmed up. Next time, I'll try to remember to bring some warm and disposable clothing to the start line.
My goal time was right around 3 hours, with a hope of setting a personal record and coming in with a low 2:59 or 2:58.
I was concerned early on during the race that my left knee would be a problem. I could feel that my left patellar tendon was getting swollen. I also knew that there was a good chance it would just "loosen up" and be fine. It was fine and I didn't feel it at all after mile 9 or so.
After the half-way point, the headwinds were much stronger but still nothing like the Boston of 2007 when we were running into the northeastern storm and had gusts of 40mph wind in our faces. Mentally, after the half-way point, I was going to try to give an "extra push". I was monitoring my heart rate closely and tried to keep it around 160-163 beats per minute. (My maximum heart rate I've ever seen is 183, so this is 87% to 89% of my maximum heart rate.) After the half-way point, I let it rise to 165-168 (90% to 92%) with low 170s on the uphills. In hindsight, I think I should've stayed steady until about mile 20.
I had written my running-club nickname, RON-O-MATIC, on the front and back of my shirt. It was a bit of fun and levity. I think I made the 'M' too narrow and a bunch of onlookers seemed to struggle to read it and yelled out "good job, Ron-o". It was fun.

Other runners in the race wore relatively elaborate costumes. These guys were all running at about a 3 hour marathon pace. One guy was dressed head-to-toe as Captain America, complete with a cardboard shield painted silver. Funny! Another guy was wearing a big clown's wig, like a rainbow-colored afro.

The hills in the 2nd half of the race seemed to knock me down more. It was as if every mile almost there was something that slowed me down. Combined with the increasing headwinds and my increased effort to speed-up, I think I set myself up for problems with cramps again. After the mile 21 marker passed by, I got a strong twinge of a cramp in my left calf. Whoa! Then I felt something similar in my right calf. I felt flashbacks of the previous year of other races where I knew I was very near having a big breakdown where large muscle groups just stopped working. I slowed down and carefully tried to stay on that cliff edge of going as fast as I could without falling off and having to do a painful walk / shuffle. My lap times for each mile dropped further -- 7:25 for mile 21, 7:13 for mile 22, then a couple of 7:23s to finish the race. Ugh. It was very difficult. I stopped interacting with the crowds or looking around much. I was very focused on just moving forward as fast as I could without getting cramps. These last 5 miles were difficult until I got within sight of the finish line on Boylston St. and I knew I was going to be OK. Whew!

Race Encounters
Around halfway through the race, a guy was catching up to me and said "hi, Ron, I know you from the running club." It was David Lara who I had such a close race against in the Pillar Point Half Marathon the previous September. Funny! He lives nearby in El Granada and he recognized me from my club shirt I was wearing. We chatted for a while. He passed me then, but I passed him later, finishing just about 2 minutes in front of him. He had a terrific race considering his training. He said he only did one "long" run of 10 miles and otherwise ran about 8 miles a day. Wow. Apparently that was enough to keep in shape from his previous marathon last December. Good job, Dave!
Around mile 24 someone yelled out and ran through the crowds a bit, "Ron Little! Ron Little! Hi!". I didn't recognize him and I was "in the zone", just trying to stay focused. But then I thought who could it be that would know my first and last name and look vaguely like this guy -- Allen Kachalia from Bonita High School. Yep! He contacted me through Facebook. Very cool. I hadn't seen him since my 10 year reunion.
I passed by Dick and Rick Hoyt again this year. This is a father and son team. Rick is the son and has cerebral palsy and can't voluntarily move his arms or legs. His dad pushes him in a racing wheelchair. His dad has done around 1,000 racing events with his son! Dick is 68 years old and pushed his son the whole way, mostly running, in 5 hours 30 minutes. Just incredible.
I passed by another wheelchair user, Jason Pisano, who also has cerebral palsy and has control mostly over just one leg. He rides backwards in his wheelchair, kicking against the ground to shove himself forward, and has two able-bodied guides walking with him. When I passed him, he was going uphill so so slowly, one little kick at a time. I remember him from the previous year, too.  I think it takes him 8 or 9 hours to finish. My friend Amanda took this picture of him as he neared the finish line:

26,331 runners had qualified and entered the race.
23,162 actually showed up and crossed the starting line on Monday morning.
22,849 (98.6% of the starters) finished.
There were 5,035 runners who started the race who were in my age group of 18-39 males. That's a big age group! When I'm 40, I'll have an advantage, being the youngest in my age group rather than the oldest. :-)
I placed 1,723rd overall and 1,176th in my age group. That's in the top 7.4% overall and the top 23% in my age group.
Busy Social Calendar
It was fun meeting friends this weekend. I stayed with a guy I met two years ago at Boston, Ron McCracken. He got me into the Runner's World party on Sunday night where there were many famous accomplished runners from previous decades, like Joan Benoit Samuelson. I met two previous coworkers and their families, and I met two friends from my running club who were also running the Boston Marathon.
What Went Right
  • My training went well. I made all of my long runs over the last 3-4 months and most of my other scheduled runs. I topped out at just over 70 miles for a week.
  • My new lightweight shoes worked fine. I was a little nervous since I hadn't run more than about 9 miles at a time in them.
  • Wearing a heart rate monitor for the first time in a road marathon seemed useful. I liked knowing how hard my body was really working.
  • I wore a hat for a road marathon for the first time. I liked it. I was imagining that I was more aerodynamically efficient! Placebo effect?
  • Eating a Gu every 35-40 minutes seemed to work fine.
  • I started feeling a blister on my left 2nd toe around mile 11 or 12. I realized it was from a bandaid that I had on my big toe. In the end, it was a relatively minor blister. That was the only one.
  • My Garmin Forerunner 305 is a GPS watch that I use. It worked well and was useful. One cautionary note is that it reported 26.46 miles total distance. This could be because of my crossing the road back and forth, perhaps? There were a lot of runners and I couldn't always run on the shortest path through the curves of the roads. The downside of this is that the reported pace was faster than my official pace. For example, if my watch said 6:48 minutes per mile, it was "really" (as far as the race officials are concerned) 6:51 or 6:52 per mile.
  • I'm glad I got to Boston Commons to meet the buses at 6:20am. By the time I boarded the bus at 6:35 or so, the crowds had doubled. I really wanted to get to Hopkinton earlier rather than later, so that I could have some coffee, use the porta-potties and sit down and relax, rather than stand in line for 45 minutes.
What Went Wrong
  • I could have done more speedwork during training perhaps. I was taking it easy on my patellar tendon.
  • I weighed 166.4 lbs before flying to Boston. I wanted to lose some weight but I seem to be incapable! My body is very stubborn, apparently!
  • During the race, I think I should have kept about a constant heart rate for a little longer, saving a speed-up for mile 21 perhaps. Those extra 25 seconds a mile towards the end were costly and I think could've been avoided by going a bit slower earlier on.
More Photos
I owe a huge thanks and I'm very grateful towards my wife for making it possible for me to train and participate this year. Maybe next year I can get Jennifer and Claire to come along!

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Death Valley Vacation

March 26 to March 29
Jennifer and I had a nice little vacation without Claire, flying to Las Vegas and staying for one night and then driving to Death Valley for two more nights. We got in a couple of nice dinners, a great show (Blue Man Group) and lots of hiking and running. I had a strong 20 mile run along Badwater Road and Artist Drive -- very pretty in a desolate way.