Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Boston Marathon -- Personal Worst

This was my 16th road marathon and my training had gone very well except for the two weeks prior to the race. My peak mileage was right around 90 miles for the week, I was getting in good long runs, and basically I thought I could do very well here. My goal was to break 3 hours. Instead, I ran my worst marathon by far and spent at least two hours in the medical tent after the race.

 But leading up to the race, I had a great time, seeing friends...

And watching the invitational mile...

And seeing accomplished runners talk about historic moments in this marathon. I heard Amby Burfoot, Dick Beardsley, Dave McGillivray (race director), Kathrine Switzer and others give advice and stern warnings about the heat, which was predicted to be in the low 80s the entire day. "If you don't think you're going too slow, you're going too fast." "Tomorrow is not a day to set a P.R." The race officials allowed the runners to have an automatic entry for next year if they didn't run the race (although the runners would still have to pay).

The friends I was with were smarter, and decided to have fun with the day, and to save their fitness for another race.

But not me! I had trained hard and wanted to run my fastest! Even though I had already signed up for Avenue of the Giants Marathon just 3 weeks after Boston. I could have taken it easy today.

So, I started off on the early downhills taking it easy at just under 7 minutes a mile. I kept on coming in at just under 7 minutes for the next few miles. I had this crazy thought, "What if I could run every mile in under 7 minutes?" I've never done that before, even though I've run many marathons at a sub-7 minute mile average pace. Well, soon enough I hit some hills and I took more than 7 minutes. But basically I was feeling pretty good in the first half. It was hot, though, and my heart rate kept on getting too high.

Of course, I should have slowed down and kept my heart rate low in the first half, like under 160 beats-per-minute or maybe the low 160s on the uphills. But I repeatedly hit the high 160s. I thought maybe I could hold on to this, since I had done so well at my last 50K at Lake Chabot.

I hit the halfway point at 1:33:09 and I knew I was in trouble and that having a negative split for the second half was very unlikely. I just didn't appreciate how bad things could get! I started getting cramps and feeling overheated. And each time I slowed down, I didn't appreciate how much worse it could get. Until it got worse. I started having to walk, to either keep my heart rate down or to work through cramps (calves, hamstring, side).

The race support and the crowd support were amazing the whole time. There was tons of water. Other runners were encouraging. The crowds were encouraging. I saw a fast runner dressed as Minney Mouse, and I've seen him in previous Boston Marathons, too. I saw a guy with painted toenails running completely barefoot. Another guy was wearing Vibram 5-Finger shoes.

For the last couple miles, I was a mess and could barely run. I walked three times within sight of the finish line because various leg muscles kept freezing up. I crossed the finish line in an unfathomable 3 hours 33 minutes. I have a hard time getting my mind around that. I'm in such better shape than when I ran my first marathon in December 2005, and I did that in 3 hours 19 minutes. Although I don't train in heat, I have raced in the heat many times. But perhaps I've never started a marathon with the temperature in the low 80s?

Anyway, I crossed the finish line and immediately started feeling light-headed and nauseous. I felt like if I didn't lie down right away, I was going to pass out. The finish line area is not a place where runners can just hang out. There are too many of us and we need to keep moving. A volunteer asked me if I needed help and I said "No, I just need to sit for a minute. I'm dizzy." A minute later she came back and asked how I was and I told her I need to lie down. She offered a wheelchair and since I wasn't going to be able to get out of there on my own at that moment, I accepted.

As I was being wheeled into the medical tent, my vision started fading and turning to white. It was a weird sensation to be totally conscious and aware of my surroundings yet seeing myself fall apart, teetering on the edge.

So, it took me about two hours of alternating between lying down and sitting before I could get out of there. I was pale and nauseous and drank a lot of water and sports drink during this time. I knew Jennifer would be worried, because of how badly I had run and the fact that I couldn't contact her for so long. (Yes, she was very worried and was one step away from calling all the hospitals in Boston.) I finally got out of there and made a mad dash for the airplane. So much for the planned leisurely afternoon of eating and socializing!

The day after the race, I was down 5.5 pounds from the previous Friday, so it's safe to assume I had become quite dehydrated during the race.

I'm still not quite sure why things went so badly. I've had some flu-like symptoms for a few weeks before this marathon and a few weeks after.

Anyway, the Boston Marathon is an amazing event and I want to do it again some year. The local paper wrote up a nice article about a few of us local runners who were there.

Update on 5/12/2012:
This article says that almost 2,000 runners (of the 22,500 who started) had some medical attention, and that the highest temperature along the course was 89F.

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