Saturday, April 26, 2014

Boston Marathon -- 3:07:00

This was my 5th Boston Marathon and the whole experience was life-affirming, beautiful, glorious, loving, and powerful. And the race was challenging, as usual. Being a year after the bombings, there was a strong sense of taking back the marathon and loving Boston and the runners. "Boston Strong" was a common tagline.

Leading into the race, I was coming off a long-term injury to my iliotibial band or "I.T." band. This is the injury that plagued me for about 8 months last year. I wasn't able to run until the first week of this year. Between then and now, I gradually raised my weekly mileage and I got in the most important speed workouts and long runs, but I was also strangely unmotivated to keep track of my mileage or create a training plan. I didn't formally get on a plan until about three weeks before the race.

Looking at my Garmin watch data over this year, I got in 13 mostly solid weeks of 30 miles or more. My peak week was just 58 miles. (In the past I've hit multiple weeks of 70 miles.) I had a few 40 mile weeks and the rest were in the 30s. Between work pressure (March was awful) and fear of injury, I just didn't get in the runs I usually do. I knew this, and I could see this in some of my key workouts, so I came into the race with reduced expectations. I told friends that I would aim for 3:10 to 3:15.

I was excited to be here! The city was obviously very supportive of the race. On one of my last training runs, I came across this amazing scene of inspirational banners that were written on by thousands of people from across the country and laid out in a big area of Boston Commons.

I filled out a square for the Coastside Running Club.

A church group recruited volunteers to hand-knit 7,000 scarves, of many different styles, but all with the blue and yellow colors of the Boston Marathon. Amazing! I was very grateful to get mine. Each scarf has a postcard or tag with the name of the person who created it. So, thank you very much Rosa from Nashua, NH! I love my scarf!

Amanda and I, showing off our scarfs

The Expo was huge and was very well organized. I went shortly after it opened on the Friday before Monday's race and the lines got very long for the first couple of hours but then got down to nothing. So, there was just a big surge at the opening of the Expo. I met up with my friend Amanda, a fellow running club member.

 I met up with my interesting and unusual friend, Ron McCracken, whom I first met at the 2007 Boston Marathon because we happened to sit next to each other on the bus ride to the start line. He was at the marathon last year for the bombings and the whole experience was traumatizing for him, so this year's marathon was especially important to him, as a way of having closure.

I got in some nice easy training runs while in Boston. The weather was cold but beautiful.

Race Day
Monday, April 21, finally arrives! I woke up shortly before my alarm at 5:30am and I felt good! I had gotten a decent night's sleep. I ate a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter, grabbed two more bagels for the bus, and headed out of my hotel at 6am sharp. It's almost a mile walk to where the drop bags are collected and the buses pick us runners up. The organization was very impressive, with long rows of buses lined up in two lanes. (Previously, there was only one lane.) So, I didn't have to stand in line at all and was on the bus by 6:30am.

I ate the rest of my breakfast on the leisurely ride towards Hopkinton. I chatted with the guy next to me who was from the UK (an hour outside of London) and this was his first Boston.

The race organizers greatly expanded the field, by about 50% above normal, to around 36,000 entrants. So, the athletes village in Hopkinton was even more packed than in previous years. Yet, I felt like I had time to use the porta-potties (twice) and I didn't feel unduly crowded. I met up with Dan Rhodes, another runner from my running club, and we hung out for a bit.

The security was far higher than normal. There may have been snipers on the school roof and the whole perimeter was being carefully patrolled and observed. I felt very safe! And because we weren't allowed to have drop bags with us, we were all wearing throw-away clothes. We were an eclectic bunch. One guy was even wearing an old suit. Some were wearing older Boston Marathon jackets which I felt bad about because they were going to lose them unless they carried them.

Finally, we were ushered to our corals, as a part of Wave 1 (of 4 waves). I reminded myself to take it easy and run by heart rate and to have a grand adventure! Soon, we were off! Woo hoo!

I was happy to keep my heart rate at about 140 beats per minute for most of the first few miles. I felt comfortable and was enjoying the experience. The miles slipped by. The crowd support was fantastic. The volunteers were fantastic. I was surrounded by thousands of runners in front and behind who were running very similar paces. There's no other race in the world where you can have around five thousand runners who can run around a 3 hour marathon.

Wellesley college at around mile 13 was fantastic as ever. It was a scream tunnel! I loved all the signs that the young women carried. My favorite was, "Kiss Me, I'm Performance Enhancing!" I smiled a big goofy smile, I'm sure, but I stuck to business.

By around the half-way point, 1:33:12, I was feeling like I had had a good workout but there was plenty of gas left in the tank. I was hoping to have a negative split and to push harder in the 2nd half and get to a low 3 hour marathon. But I also knew I had some hills coming up at mile 16 and that I wasn't in the same shape as a year ago.

I was feeling some minor side cramps. My right little toe felt like it was being squished a bit and was likely getting a blister. I thought that maybe I was drinking or eating too much because my stomach felt a bit full and "sloshy". I ate an energy gel every 40 minutes.

Somewhere around mile 14 to 16, I felt my right iliotibial band, on the outside of my knee. It was hurting a bit and I imagined that if it suddenly became crippling, that I would end up walking for 13 miles. I was looking forward to the uphills at mile 16, which I knew would be easier on my leg.

I heard "Ron Little!" being shouted out. I turned my head, facing back to my right, and it was my old high school friend! "Allen Kachalia!" I shouted. Cool! I had tried contacting him prior to my trip to Boston, but I couldn't find any old emails. So, Allen, if you're reading this, get a hold of me!

I came across a very enthusiastic little person (or a dwarf, as her friends seem to call her). I've never seen a dwarf in a marathon before. When I passed her, she was moving fast and was high-fiving the spectators. Very cool!
I came across Dick and Rick Hoyt, as I have in past years. I've read that this will be their last Boston Marathon together. I congratulated them as I passed them. The father is 74 years old. Wow.
source, story
I attacked the Newton hills and my legs felt good. But my heart rate was rising and I sometimes felt weak, too. I didn't have that last gear or two that I've had on my best races. Being injured for so long and having an abbreviated training schedule was showing itself.

In the last miles, I was becoming more desperate. Here's me at around mile 23.5. I just wanted to hold it together.

Finally, finally, we made the right turn on to Hereford and then a quick left on to Boylston. The finish line was in sight! I tried to give a good hard finish and I see that my heart rate did max out (183 beats per minute). So, I think I gave it everything I could! I was very pleased to have had a solid race.

My stats:
Net Time: 3:07:00 (7:08 per mile)
Overall: 3543/31931
In Gender: 3281/17575 (Male)
In Division: 552/2628 (M40-44 Age Group)

For a really great race report with photos along the course, check out Scott Dunlap's blog. He ran a 2:55 while carrying a camera and participating in the festivities! Amazing!

It was very sweet arriving at the airport and seeing Jennifer and Claire with these signs.

It was good to be home, although I'll miss my friends.

Thank You
I want to thank the residents of Boston and the surrounding communities for being so incredibly supportive and loving. I want to thank the estimated 10,000 volunteers for all their hard work and cheerful enthusiasm that made this event possible. And I want to thank the Boston Athletic Association for putting on such a superbly organized event. Given that I have a bit of similar organizational experience, but on a much smaller scale, I was in awe at how big this operation was and how much work it took to put this event on so smoothly with so many runners. Thank you!!!

I want to thank my running club, the Coastside Running Club, for their companionship and camaraderie, especially during the weekly speed workouts, which I would have had a hard time doing on my own!

Finally, I need to thank my wonderfully supportive wife for encouraging me to get back into running shape and for taking care of Claire while I was gone. Thank you, Jennifer!

Random Data
Two days after the race, I weighed 163.0 lbs and I looked dehydrated. My true race weight was probably right around 165 lbs.

The organizers, the Boston Athletic Association, sent out a great list of facts about the race:
  • 32,456 runners started the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.
  • 31,931 completed the race from Hopkinton to Boston, which is a finisher rate of more than 98%.
  • 54 push-rim wheelchair athletes started the day with 53 of them officially finishing.
  • 48 mobility impaired athletes started with 44 completing the event. 
  • 51 visually impaired athletes started with 48 finishing.
  • There were 80 countries, and all 50 states (plus six U.S. territories) represented in the race.
  • Meb Keflezighi (USA) became the first American man to win the event since Greg Meyer (1983), and the first American to win the open division since Lisa Larsen-Weidenbach (1985). His time was 2:08:37.
  • Rita Jeptoo's (KEN) time of 2:18:57 improved the course record set by Margaret Okayo in 2002. 
  • With victories from Ernst Van Dyk (RSA) and Tatyana McFadden (USA) in the push-rim wheelchair division, they both captured the men's and women's 2014 Boston-London Wheelchair Challenge competition respectively.
  • Joan Samuelson (two-time Boston Marathon champion) became the fastest 56-year-old woman in history with her time of 2:52:11. 1968 champion Amby Burfoot (4:42:48) and 1990 champion Gelindo Bordin (4:10:37) also ran.