Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Boston Marathon 2012 Race Report

Just as in 2004, the Northeast was hit with one fluke HOT day in mid April and just as in 2004 that day was Patriots Day, Marathon Monday in Boston.  I vividly remember that day, my first Boston, my 3rd marathon and more importantly my first encountered with high temperatures for running a marathon.  2012 wasn't much different in many aspects, I had trained hard and had a great base leading up and I was hunting a personal record.  What was different was the sixteen or so marathons I'd run since then, and of course the eight years in age I'd gained.  With age and experience comes wisdom (and that doesn't come quickly for me).  This year as the forecast became more precise and evident by the day I knew I had to suck it up and adjust my time.  How much, that's always the question.

As you saw in my previous post, the warm weather was welcomed for us as "tourists" the days before the race.  As we loaded the bus from our hotel at 6:30 AM, there was no need for long sleeves, the sun was out and the temps were rising.  Boston is unique in that the start is at 10 AM (historically up until a few years back it had started at noon) which is later than most marathons, much later.  Some marathons I'd be DONE by 10am!

The nervous energy was swirling on our bus ride up to Hopkinton.  We finally arove at our "host house" at about 7:30 and paused for a group shot.
We hung around, got lubed up and fueled up and discussed our race plan.  Mine was pretty simple, add 20 minutes to my goal time.  I moved back from the 2nd corral to the 6th corral to start with a friend of mine who was running his first Boston.  Proved to be smart move #1 for the day.  It was already getting warm and everyone was hiding out in the shade.  We waited until the last minute and tried to get into our corral, it was so full we were stuck just outside the opening for the corral.  I had never started so far back, man it was weird!  We were sweating already, but stuck with the plan, run 7:00 miles until half way, then evaluate.

Another key part of my plan was hydration and fueling.  On a day like today fluids, electrolytes and calories were very important.  As was keeping your core body temperature down.  The key part of my plan this year was to fuel with Powerbar Power Gels (chocolate is my flavor of choice).  The reason I chose to use these gels over the First Endurance Liquid Shot I had used in the past....sodium.  These powergels contain 200mg of sodium EACH.  Over the course of the race (they were handing them out on course as well, mile 17 or so, figured I could grab one if I needed it) that 800-1000mg of sodium.  

In these conditions, although I planned to hit every water stop, you wanted to make sure you don't overhydrate and cause more issues.  A sip of water, sip of Gatorade and dump the rest of the water over my head to cool me down, that was the plan.

Onto the took us over 4:30 to cross the start, I have never experienced that before!  Craig had qualified while pacing the 3:10 group at Wineglass, so we were in a corral with +/- 3:10 marathoners, fine on a day like today.  It was CROWDED as we descended out of Hopkinton, but we rolled with it.  I tried to take on the role of narrator for Craig to enjoy his first Boston so I was pointing things out here and there...biker bar, check your form, etc.  It took our minds off of things.

We rolled through the first mile at 7:15...perfect.  As we approached the first water stop we got our first sign of the chaos that the weather would bring.  EVERYONE was grabbing water, it was crazy!

We kept rolling along, noticing people sweating profusely by mile 3.  Wow!  Mile 2 was 7:01, we were feeling well within ourselves, still bunched in the crowd.  Miles 3-8 were 6:58, 6:50, 7:02, 6:52, 6:53 and 7:01.  By this point things were really heating up, people were walking ALREDY.  The crowd had thinned out and we just kept rolling by people.     

Craig and I were running very consistent as we headed toward the scream tunnel.  I started to notice that spectators were handing out frozen push pops, so in an effort to keep my core temperature down I grabbed them.  That would prove to be a smart move, even though they say not to take anything from strangers or try anything new on race day.  By this point the sun had been out and baking us for quite some time and the green colored water and Gatorade cups were providing us warm fluids, not good!

We rolled through miles 9-12 at 6:55, 6:58, 6:57 and 6:55, then came the scream tunnel at Wellesley college.  I told Craig to stay to the right and take it all in.  Smile, high five, whatever...just take it in as you will never experience anything like it anywhere else on this planet!  As we exited the tunnel I couldn't help to laugh out loud.  I've been through there eight times and it never ceases to amaze me.

Now the real race was getting ready to start.  Craig was starting to feel the effects of the heat.  We both took our first gels at mile 12 and I planned to take them every 4 miles.  Mile 13 was a slow 7:15 due to our decision to take in the sights at Wellesley, plus what I call the first real "stinger" of an incline just as you enter the town.

I tried to encourage Craig, but I told him that I didn't want to dictate the pace and I started to default to his pace.  My hope was to stick with him until we saw our families at Newton.  I knew he was hurting, but I knew the tables could turn at any moment.  We rolled through 14 and 15 at 6:58 & 7:08.  At that point Craig said he wanted to back it down and let me go ahead.  I didn't want to slow down too early in fear of my legs getting thrown off switching paces so I obliged.  I told where our family would be just before the turn at the Newtown Firehouse and off I went.  I wanted to mentally prepare myself for the first REAL hill on the course at mile 16 and grab a gel.  

I kept chugging along past the masses of walkers, joggers and runners who were just dying in the 85 degree temps and wilting in the bright sunshine.  My next goals were to grab another gel (I carried 4 with me, but wanted a spare) as I passed through the Powergel Station, then see my family before the shit hit the fan on the Newton Hills.  Miles 16-18 were 6:58, 6:56 and 7:02.

I grabbed a gel, swung through and said hi to my family and made that fateful turn at Newton.  The Hills awaited.  Time to get this party started.  I wasn't feeling bad, yet!

Just after the turn at the Newton Firehouse.  Note the yellow "spraystation" behind me.
 It was "go time" and I was "going" out the back.  The effort up that first hill in the heat started to get to me.  My core temp was rising and quickly.  I just focused forward, tried to zap some energy from every runner I passed and keep those legs moving!  I grabbed another gel at mile 20 and worked my way over Heartbreak Hill.  This was funny, the Boston College crew of drunkards was standing on Heartbreak yelling "run or drink, run or drink" in an effort to get walkers to run they had cups of beer to offer up.  One guy next to me stopped for a drink and they went crazy!

Miles 19-21 were 6:56, 7:07, 7:19(over Heartbreak).

As I crested Heartbreak it was the first time that I've gotten to that point and really welcomed the downhill, typically my quads were so trashed from the downhill that downhills hurt.  Since I wasn't pushing my legs (just fighting high core temp) the downhills didn't feel that bad.  Up until this point I still had not thought once or done any calculations on where I would / could finish from a time standpoint.  
Running along Brookline still pushing forward.

As we headed past the graveyard and toward Beacon street my feet started to catch fire....and not in a fast, good way.  I didn't have any blistors (thanks to my Swiftwick socks!), but the hot asphalt was transferring through my feet.  I had been dumping water on my head / back, but nothing reached my feet to cool them.  I could feel every line painted on the roadway.  I was looking for shade, but as had been the case for the last 22 miles, there was NONE.

The asphalt was HOT at this point.  I just wanted to be DONE!
Miles 22 and 23 were 7:03 and 7:12.  I continuted to pass people, but I was feeling thirsty within minutes of getting water at the stops and I was now locked in a full on mental battle with myself.  "OK, that glorious Citgo sign is in sight, one mile to go until you get to one mile to go" I thought to myself.  By now we were in town and there were glimpses of shade along the taller buildings.  In fact I saw a clock on one of the buildings, 86 degrees IN THE SHADE.  DAMN!   Mile 24 - 7:14.  Grabbed my last gel.

As I could see the Citgo sign getting larger it was time to finally do some math.  Higher level math like addition is a tough thing at this point.  At one point I was thinking sub 3 was possible, but with two miles to go that was out of the picture. 

That "hill" over the Mass Turnpike was brutal, but I was sure glad to have the Citgo sign on my rear view.

Mile 25 - 7:23.  Oh no!  I must say that by this point in the race, no matter how tired and out of it you are you CAN'T miss the incredible noise the crowd it making, it's just awesome!  At this point I knew the end was near.  I passed the "1 mile to go" sign, looked at my watch and took a minute to two to do some math...sub 3:05 was possible if I got my ass in gear.  Sub 3:05 would be >5 minutes faster than my BQ and guarantee me a spot for 2013.  That became my one and only motivation.  Under Mass Ave we went and I could see the turn onto Hereford St.
Grin and Bear It, the final push in the now sub 3:05 quest!
Going up Hereford, looking for that grate at the corner of Boyleston, the shortest distance to the finish line.
I hit the grate and made the turn into scream tunnel #2, 3/8 of a mile along Boyleston.
The finish line was now in sight.  BUT, the shortest way to the finish was out of the question, there was SHADE along the far right side of the street and as you can see above I made a beeline for the shade!
Sighting the finish line...
C'mon, can't even smile fore the camera?
As I entered the final chute past the library, I checked my watch.  I had done it, sub 3:05!  I ran the last 1.2 miles at 6:28 pace!!
Relief is just steps away.
A great shot showcasing the joy and pain of a hot day on Patriots Day in Boston.  I had to check the results, and year he was happy and I looked bad, but I beat him by 4 minutes...HA, who's got the last laugh now!!! :-)
So I crossed the line and got myself back together mentally.  Typically after a good race I'd head over for a massage, but since I was >15 minutes slower than what I would consider a good race I declined.  I grabbed my bag, got changed into dry clothes and got some food and fluid.

Final stats:

1245 Garges, Christopher J 37 M Bethlehem PA USA    
5k 10k 15k 20k Half 25k 30k 35k 40k
0:21:58 0:43:30 1:05:04 1:26:49 1:31:43 1:48:52 2:10:29 2:32:37 2:55:11
Finish: Pace Proj. Time Offl. Time Overall Gender Division
0:07:03 3:04:41 3:04:41 724 682 527

So I was the 724th finisher overall out of 23,000 finishers.  Not bad.  For reference, my 2:47 in 2010 netted me 409th overall.  The interesting thing to note is that starting in the back of the 6th corral would have me at say 5,500 person across the start line.  That would mean that I passed nearly 4,800 people over the course of 26.2 miles.  That's more than 175 people per mile!

And Craig, he had a rough day.  3:35 and about 3760 overall.  That would mean that from miles 16-26.2 (+/-10 miles) I passed 3000 people!

So, the 2012 Boston Marathon followed what was probably one of my best training cycles to date, running 60+ miles per week average for 14 weeks or so leading up to the race.  And I didn't walk away with a PR, not even close.  But I can take solace in the fact that I learned something from 2004, I played it smart and it netted me a very consistent run in some pretty brutal conditions.  I earned this medal, and I'm proud of it.

Thank you for reading and thanks to everyone who's trained with, supported and congratulated me....especially my wife who puts up with all of my crap and still supports me!


  1. Congrats! Spectacular job handling race day conditions - and great race report too!

  2. Amazing report. I love the details! Proud of you.

  3. Sweet race. You are the only person I know who ran so well, assuming of course that your target time was around 3 hours or north of it. Most folks I know ran 25 minutes to 1:30 slower than the time they ran to get into the race. No kidding. Seriously amazing job. Starting easy really paid off for you. Next time, that's what I'll do! The "bank" miles until it gets unbearable didn't really work as well as I would have liked.

  4. Great report. It must have been such a tough decision to go out there and run easy, knowing how good of shape you were in, but you definitely made the right call. No sense beating yourself up and still missing the PR.

    The description of BC made me wish that I had made it over there to shoot a few photos. My original plan had been to do so, but I ended up staying in Wellesley longer than planned and ran out of time. Next year.

  5. Awesome race, Chris! The racing gods threw everything at you and you perservered through incredibly tough conditions!

  6. seriously awesome amigo! sounds like you managed your race very well!! Impressive.

  7. Nice job!!! It was amazing to me how many people were there! racing AND cheering! Congrats on the BQ! Hope to see you up there next year!