Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Sideways: The tale of my first Boston Marathon

"The best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry" - Robert Burns

The original title of this post was the "120th running of the Boston Marathon". After a hard fought day that did not go to plan I decided to re-name it.  

On Monday, I ran my first Boston Marathon.  My goal was to run a sub 2:55 (which should have been doable based on my training and previous racing), but the heat and the course got the better of me.  

The 120th Boston Marathon
Location: Hopkinton to Boston, MA
Date: 4/18/2016
Distance: 26.2 miles
Goal: 2:54:59 (6:39 / mile)
Secondary Goal: 2:59:59 (6:51)
Tertiary Goal: ~3:06 (Enough to re-qualify for next year)
Final Goal: Completion
Actual: 3:18:30 (7:35 / mile) Place: 4597 / 26639 OA, 2357 / 4807 AG (18-39)

Neil Excited for the Race
Bill Rodgers (Winner of the 1975, '78, '79, and '80 Boston Marathons) has said that "The Marathon can humble you."  Going into this race, I didn't believe him.  I had run 3 road marathons (+1 trail and 10 ultras) and thought that I had figured the distance out.  I thought that my goals were conservative and if I needed to adapt on the fly I could. I was wrong. 

I have always enjoyed running in cold weather.  Whether it was when I was a teenager running on the track team in high school to my freezing climb of Mount Mitchell last winter.  I have always been able to adapt to the weather also, but adaptation takes time.  Unfortunately racing in April leaves little to no time to adapt to warmer weather.  

The day started off bright and early at 5am.  After a quick bowl of oatmeal, Amy dropped us off at Wellington station where we grabbed the team bus.  

We arrived at the athlete village around 7am and took a quick walk before we sat back down to kill some time.  Around 9 we made our way to the start and finally entered our corrals (I was in wave 1 corral 5).  After the national anthem, we were off (It was 66 with not a cloud in the sky). 

The advice I had received was to take the first few miles at slower than goal pace.  Get to the side of the road and don't worry about getting around people.  I clocked the first mile 6:41 and then unintentionally sped up to 6:34 and 6:35 on the second and third.  I hit the 5k in 20:36 (6:38 / mile) and was right where I wanted to be (though not where I should have been).  

Over the next 5k, I just plugged away.  I was starting to sweat, but I still felt energetic and my heart rate was in check.  I was now in Framingham and on one of the flatter sections of the course.  

As my watch beeped signaling completion of mile 8, I knew that I was going to have to slow down if I was going to survive.  All of a sudden I went from flying to long day pace.  While my body was telling me to back off, my mind was refusing to listen (Later my friend Todd said "I have never felt that bad at mile 8 in a half marathon, let alone a marathon").  

From mile 8-12 I began to slow down to the 7 minute range.  I figured if I could pull off a low 3 hour marathon, then it would still be a pretty good day.  Around mile 12, I found a second wind and for all of mile 13 I thought that was going to be alright.  I crossed the half in 1:28:53.  All I needed to do was hold 7:15s for the back half.  Something I have done many times. 

By mile 15 it became apparent that this was not likely.  My race had officially gone sideways.  I could not believe how much my legs hurt.  I had run 28 miles on this course a month ago and I was far from being able to hold that pace.  

Mile 16 is my favorite part of the course.  You drop over 100' as you descend down a hill known as Grossman's hill (Grossman's was a hardware store from the 1990's and after its closing their store signs were left around for years as a landmark).  Unfortunately, after the descent you are immediately confronted with the first of the Newton Hills, the climb over interstate 95.  

As I began this climb (and crossed over the mark representing 10 miles to go), I knew the real battle was about to begin.  First I walked through the aid station, then I walked a little more, and then in a frustrated attempt, I ran another 10th of mile.  Finally I reached the top of the hill and somehow found the ability to run again. 

As I passed by Newton-Wellesley Hospital, I smiled thinking back to the day Nat was born last July.  In a mile in half I would see Amy and the kids.  I made the decision right then that I would stop for a hug.  I was starting to surpass my pain threshold and wasn't sure how long I could keep this up. 

After turning onto Commonwealth and feeding off the crowd as much as I could, I took a short walking break.  As I got to the 30k mark and the site of the SRR Water stop, I slapped 5 with everyone I could find, but no sign of Amy and the kids.

Apparently they were just down the street and I was later told as I passed by Neil yelled "Chugga Chugga Choo Choo."

As I approached heart break, Nichole appeared out of nowhere and asked how I was doing.  Slightly hysterical I replied "I'm completely fried" and she responded "me too".

As I began my ascent, I made a pact with myself that this hill was not going to get the better of me and used everything that I had to push my way to the top.  Shortly after reaching the top, Nichole caught back up and I wished her luck as she disappeared into the distance.  

The way I envisioned the race going down was that I would be at an average 6:38 per mile at this point and feel like I was ready to throw down to the finish.  Instead my quads were spent, my hamstrings were cramping, and I had a side stitch from hell.  

The crowds were intense.  I don't think I went an entire minute from here on out without hearing "Go Somerville"

After really struggling through mile 23 and 24, Kyle, another SRR member caught back up with me.  We tried running together but just couldn't find a cadence that worked.  As we got to the Mass Pike, I wished him luck.  

Shortly there after I saw the overpass that was painted "Boston Strong" and quickly realized how much bigger this race was then my struggles.  Next I crossed mile 25 and then a line on the street that said 1 mile to go.  It was time to stop wallowing in self-pity and finish this thing.  

As I caught back up with Kyle I told him it was time to go and took off.  As I made the famous turn on to Hereford and then onto Boylston there was nothing that could stop me.  As I dropped back to goal pace and sprinted down Boylston, I must have passed 100 runners.  And then just as quickly as it had started, it was over.  I finished in 3:18, a far cry from my goal, but I had completed the Boston Marathon, the most famous marathon that there is.  

That night we all met up at the Burren and swapped war stories.  Many of us had a hard day; From taking breaks to drink a beer on the course to catching a T ride to the hotel we were all over the map.  A few of us had stand out races: Aharon knocking out a 2:44 (3 min PR), Megan with a 5 min PR, Robert winning his age group, and the men's master's team taking 2nd place.  

Now that I have had a little time to process the race I can look back on it a little more fondly.  While that was definitely not my best performance, I am proud to be able to say that I have run the Boston Marathon.  I am already trying to figure out how to re-qualify for 2017.  

Hey it took Bill Rodgers a few tries before he found success here, so there is still hope.  


Special thanks to all the SRR members that came out and cheered, helped with bus, and the hotel at the finish. 

Co-workers screenshot from the live feed.


Splittime of daytimediffmin/milemiles/h
Finish Net01:20:47PM03:18:3010:5107:587.54

1 comment:

RichB said...

Excellent race report Scot. I really enjoyed the imagery. Definitely brought back memories of triathlon training with you on different parts of the course. Especially the early morning rides along the course before the race began. I'm really proud you can cross off "run Boston" off of your race bucket list.