Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Boston Marathon 2013 Report


That's the best way to describe the events of last week.  It was not a very productive week and I struggled mentally with the whole thing.  I was glued to TV coverage...did they get those bastards?  what is the physical state of those injured in the bombings?  how are the families coping with the senseless loss of loved ones?

Here's a little excerpt of an email I had written to a friend who had also run on Monday. The words just flowed all week.

"Part of me wants to say "screw you" to those cowards that did this and in memory of those who were part of the attack, celebrate my 2013 Boston Marathon experience.  After all, it was an incredible 26.2 mile race which had so many families, friends and supporters lining the streets.  It's not the runners that make the Boston Marathon so special, it's the PEOPLE of Boston.  The same people who were attacked for doing what they do so well each day on Patriot's Day."

So I'm finally getting to write down my race report.  Any time I write "my" in the same breath as "2013 Boston Marathon" I struggle some more, because it wasn't about me on that day, it's about all of those who lost the innocence of such a heralded celebration.  Those injured, those killed and those who were unable to finish,  this race report is by no means meant as any form of disrespect to them.  It's my attempt to honor them, celebrate the day that was robbed from them and not let those bastards "win".

We woke up to a crisp, beautiful day and by 0630 our group boarded our bus and headed out to Hopkinton.  A fine looking group if I do say so myself!
We hung out at the house, I made my pre-race oatmeal and enjoyed the relaxing atmosphere as I stretched and got my drop bag organized, my gels in place, etc.  The nutrition plan was to start with three gels and grab one at mile 17, taking one every four miles starting at mile 12 (16, 20 & 24).  My gel of choice is the PowerGel which is what happens to be handed out on course.  They contain 200mg of sodium, so I was able to just take in water and not load my stomach with the on course Gatorade.

My race plan was fairly simple.  I had trained to run a goal pace of 6:30, but on top of having a goal pace I wanted to focus on my heart race early in the race.  I've been happy with my "return" to training with a heart rate monitor since I began testing the Polar watch in early March.  I wanted to keep my HR right around an average of 150bpm for the first 15 miles until we hit the hills.  As it turned out, that HR was real close to 6:30 pace for my body.  During races I always turn off the "auto lap" function and rely on "lapping" each mile marker on the course.  Most courses are "long" compared to GPS, and in a large race like Boston with crowds of runners, it's impossible for the non-elites to have a clear course and run the tangents.

It was a beautiful morning, partly sunny with light wind and temps in the high 40's.  I made my way to my corral, shed my throwaway shirt and crossed the mat about 1:40 after the gun went off.  I started off wearing a singlet, armwarmers and cloth gloves.  By the 2nd or 3rd mile I was shedding them as temps hit 50 degrees or so.  All the hype was over, it was time to race and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Boston Marathon.

My first mile, while very net downhill, was my second slowest mile at 6:47 due to the crowds.  I didn't let it bother me, I actually embraced it knowing that slow early miles can pay off at the end of the race.  From that point forward I was consistently nailing miles within seconds over or above the 6:30 mark.  My legs felt good and my HR was in the mid 140's.  Perfect.
+/- mile 8, smiling, enjoying the day!
One of my favorite parts of the race is coming through Wellesly.  Starting off with the incredible noise of the ladies of Wellesly College then entering the pristine, quaint town just bursting with spectators.  You can't help but leave Wellesly with a huge smile.

Half Marathon Split Time: 1:26:18

I came through half feeling pretty good and pretty fresh.  Not "I'm going to lay down a smoking 2nd half" fresh, but I've felt much worse at the same point in the race.  Next stop was the climb over 128/95 at Mile 16, that's the first "test" of the race and I feel that you will know exactly how the rest of your race is going to play out as you crest the hill and return to downhill running near mile 17, very similar to cresting Heartbreak Hill at mile 21 with five more miles of mostly downhill running.

Our "crew" always cheers for us just before the right hand turn at the Newton Firehouse.  Somehow, I missed them this year, just catching them as I was already past and heard them yell my name.  At this point in the race I wasn't too worried about my HR, I know it had creeped up.  The temperatures had climbed into the sunny mid 50's and it was starting to feel a little warm. 
Making the turn at the Newton Firehouse
 I felt strong up the hills, passing many runners and maintaining paces in the upper 6:30's to a couple of 6:40's in the Newton Hills.  My slowest mile came up Heartbreak Hill at 6:49, yet Heartbreak seemed "easier" this year for some reason.  My HR was now consistently in the low 160's which was manageable for another 35 minutes.  Coming off Heartbreak I logged on of my fasted miles at 6:29, must have been all of those screaming Boston College kids!  My legs were getting heaving, but still clicking along.
Coming off of Heartbreak Hill.  This can be one of the most dreaded downhills on the course!
Now the real race begins.  The "slog" into Coplay Square.  First you pass a cemetery, then Brookline and onward toward the infamous Citgo sign.  I always play number games in my mind at this point, to try to pass the time.  I try to imagine my "easy" four mile loop at home, I try to garner energy from those runners who are falling off the pace and use their energy to propel me forward, all the while my mind is at war with my legs! 
The landmarks kept clicking by, past Fenway and next up was the dreaded climb over Route 90 and then the "dip" under Mass Ave and my two favorite turns, onto Hereford and onto Boyleston.  It wasn't until the "one mile to go" sign that I was actually able to get a handle on where my overall time was coming together.  "Higher order" math just doesn't work too well after 25 miles of running!  I knew I could hit the 2:53 mark, 2:52 was just out of reach.  I was still consistently passing people, so I put my head down and kept putting one foot in front of the other.
Onto Hereford St.
That glorious turn onto Boyleston.  The finish line clearly in sight, the crowds just piled in and the noise echoing off the buildings, I soaked it all in and opened up my legs.
  I averaged 6:37 for miles 22-26, my HR had climbed into the low 170bpm range but none of that mattered as I crossed the line.  (On an interesting note, my Polar showed 26.6 miles at 6:29 pace, exactly what I had trained for!!)

Final time: 2:53:15 (2nd half 1:26:57)
My Polar Personal Trainer data, nearly identical half marathon splits, but noticeably higher HR in the 2nd half
 I was happy to cross that line and I love thanking all of the wonderful finish line volunteers as I make my way through the finish chute, finally having that medal draped around your neck.  No one can take that away from you.

I grabbed my bag and reflected on my race as I made my way over to get a massage.  It was my 3rd fastest time at Boston, my 4th fastest time of my 26 marathons.  I feel like I got the most out of my body and my training for this year.  I followed my nutrition plan to a tee, had no cramping or GI issues and I ran very consistently.  I was strong up the hills.  I probably was most lacking in speed / leg turnover / efficiency which was likely due to my lack of high end speed work during this training cycle.  My average HR was 157bpm which is about what I what I would have guessed before the race.

Of course we all know what happened a short time later.  A friend of mine had just crossed the line about 15 minutes prior to the explosions and we had just entered the T line at Arlington on our way home when we were stopped at Hynes and evacuated.  Our local running community was struggling all week to come to grips with what had happened and Thursday night we planned a last minute group run to raise money for OneFundBoston.  We had a great turn out and with the help of our local running store, Emmaus Run Inn and the Lehigh Valley Road Runners (who matched donations 100%) we were able to raise $600 in one night.  More than supporting a great cause it was a great emotional relief to talk about what happened and cope together.

Thanks for reading and God Bless!

Bring on Boston 2014.......

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