Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Boston Marathon Race Recap 4.18.11

On this day, I ran in the steps of a runner that covered the marathon distance faster than any other person in history. This is how I wanted to start this post. Thinking about what a great day it was for running the Boston Marathon. Few people in the world can say they ran the same race where a "World Best" was run. Making memories, that's the best part of life.

I will try to run down everything that happened. I am bound to leave something out even thou; this is one of my longest recaps ever.

Mike was in charge of our logistics and had us staying in a hotel west of Boston the night before the race. Due to some mix up, the hotel gave us 4 rooms instead of 2 so everyone had a room.

Race morning, Ben was able to drop us off in downtown Hopkinton. We walked Megan down to the elite drop off location and then headed over to the Athletes' Village. The Athletes' Village is basically a huge field with a couple open large tents.

Volunteers were handing out snacks, water, and Gatorade. Power Bar who was supplying Gels for the race was handing out Power Bars to everyone. We arrived just a few minutes after 7 AM and the field already looked like it was filling up.

Mike had the foresight to buy a $30.00 Wal-mart tent the night before so Nathan and I pitched in to set it up. With the gusty wind cutting across the fields, the tent was a life saver. We hung out in the tent until about 9 am. Mike had thoughts of breaking down the tent but decided just to give it up to anyone else that might want to use it. So as we walked away, Mike said something about "here's a free tent if anyone wants to use it". I didn't see anyone wanting to use it, but I am sure by the time that we were out of sight someone probably did jump into it. With the wind blowing, the tent definitely made difference. On a side note, as we were walking out, I looked around the Village, but I didn't see any other tents similar to ours, but I suspect next year, you will most likely see a few tents. After all, someone has to be the trend setting.

If you are wondering, most people just brought tarps to lie on and set in tight groups to try and stay warm. A few people were trying to sleep but most everyone was talking and enjoying the atmosphere in village. They had music and an announcer that kept everyone abreast of the time and what you needed to be doing. He helped direct runners on where to go if they need something such as bath rooms, food, and/or water.

The even had a giant jumbotron where you text in supportive messages.

As we were leaving the Athletes' Village, we circled around to locate our baggage check bus. Each bus handled a certain range of runners based on your bib number. All we had to do was hand our bag in through the window again based on your bib number.

With this out of the way, it was time to head for the start with one last minute bath room break. The porta-johns were organized around the outside of the parking lot and along the inside so it was a little confusing as to which way the lines were running. Luckily, I found what I thought was a short line and made it through fairly quickly. A least I made it faster than Mike, but not as fast as Nathan. At the time I didn't think much about it but maybe it was just a forshadowing of things to come.

Next it was time to head toward the corrals. People were all ready filling them up. Mike, Nathan, and I were in the first corral right behind the elite runners. This was great spot because we got to see all of the elite runners come out from the church and head to the starting line. Ryan Hall was bouncing along "high –fiving" people as he headed for the starting line.

I pulled off the last of my stay warm gear and tossed it to a volunteer that was collecting donated clothes. Mike, Nathan, and I wished each other luck and got ready for the start. I took one last deep breathe. I always do this as the last step for the challenge that I am about to face.

Once the gun went off, it took us only a few seconds maybe 5 seconds to reach the actual starting line. People were streaming by me on both sides. I went slowly from walking to jogging to running. The start wasn't nearly as bad I expected. I guess because we started closer to the front. The first mile was a little crowded. I couldn't exactly run the tangents as I would like. By mile 2, things were starting to thin out enough that I can pick and choose my running lanes.

After the start, I lost track of Mike and Nathan. I looked around but couldn't see either of them.

I did spot Tim Meigs and Ulf Andre running a few meters ahead. Ulf, I had met at OBX. Tim, I hadn't officially met until we joined up for a few miles.

My race plan going into Boston was to run the 1st half in about 1:18 and change, but as the mile clicked off I realized that I was running a little quicker. Unfortunately or fortunately, depending on your point of view I went with the cards as they were dealt to me.

The miles were going by and I wasn't breathing hard and didn't really feel like I was pushing too hard. I was watching the city signs pass by. First, it was Ashland, then Framingham, and then Natick. I knew Wellesley was next and "Wellesley Girls". This was one of the portions of the course that I was most looking forward to experiencing. There is a slight hill leading up to Wellesley and I could hear them screaming well before I even reached them. Runners started surging by me on both side. I guess the screaming brought out a little adrenalin rush but hey, I still had just over 13 miles to run. It was definitely everything that I expected and more.

Boston has loads of clocks along the course. There are clocks at the mile marks and some at the kilometers marks. There are also some at significant marks like 5k, 10k, 15k, 20k, 25k etc. Thus, it is really important to recognize what the time on the clock means relative to the distance. I remember reading the 30k time and it didn't really mean anything to me until I then saw the 20 mile mark a short time later.

Boston also had more than ample number of water stops. Typically, every water stop has two sets of tables one on the right and one on the left. Gatorade was the first drink available and water was 2nd. What was funny is that depending on the course tangent one table or the other seemed to be the more heavily used. I mean, I wasn't going to run across to the other side of the road for water if it was available right along the path that I was running. But I don't want to suggest they do it differently, because I understand why it is organized this way. There were 27,000 runners behind me and they would essentially fill the entire road.

After passing through Wellesley, I realized I had only felt the wind a few times. I wasn't getting a head wind, but more of a cross wind when we passed through the cities. What I did notice that I was getting hot and starting to really sweat. Perspiration was running down into my eyes and it was starting burn. I did my best wipe it out, but once it starts, it is almost impossible to stop.

At this point, I was still clicking off decent miles but the legs were not feeling like they could take a big push. Once I entered the first of the Newton hills, I just tried to settle in and churn up each hill. The first went by okay. Tim Meigs had passed me and his passing comment was "this is where the race starts". Thinking back now, I think it was where my race ended. LOL. I churned through the 2nd and 3rd hills but it was taking its toll on my legs. The 4th didn't break me, but it was my slowest mile during the Newton hill section.

At 17 miles, Power Gels were given being given out. This was the first time that I had run a race where Power Gels were used. I probably should have taken one, but I decided to take my last chocolate Power Gel that I had been carrying from the start.

I crossed the 21st mile and saw the blow-up wall saying that I had crested "Heart Break Hill".

I knew from here the reminder of the course was on a downhill gradient. And while I had lost some time, I thought I could still break 2:40 if I just run a decent last 5 miles.

So once I topped over Heart Break Hill, I started to push the pace again. This is where my left hamstring balked for the first time. I could feel it knotting up. I slowed down and tried to lean forward so my quads could do more of the work.

The knotting let up but I found if I ran anything faster than 6:30 to 6:40 the knotting returned. What choice did I have? I focused on running 6:30 miles. By 24 miles I could see the Citgo sign easily but I knew my sub 2:40 was now out the window. I had lost too much time.

At mile 25, Nathan came by me not saying a word, but I recognized him and shouted out encouragement. I have no idea if he heard me. He didn't react if he did, but he looked to be having a great day and I wanted to add my support to his efforts.

The people all along the course were fantastic, but from about 24 miles onward the crowds were simply amazing. I found myself perhaps the only time ever in a race starting to soak up the ambience of finish. Mile 26 was my slowest of the entire race 7:17 but I wasn't feeling any pain during those moments. I listened to the roar from the cheers and screams as I headed down Boylston Street for the first time.

Crossing the finish line, I felt like I finally done something significant in my running life. I had completed the Boston Marathon in 2:42:39. I had finished 272 out some 27 thousand runners and finished 10th in my age group.

I slowed to a walk and just enjoyed that moment. I was totally spent. I left every ounce of energy along the miles between Hopkinton and Boston.

Guys all around me were giving either hand slaps and telling each other "good jobs". I walked over to congratulate Nathan on this run and starting looking around for Mike. Mike appeared about a minute or so later. Both Mike and Nathan would set new PRs. Both of them deserved it, because they had worked really hard and I was happy for them.

We walked slowly through the finish line area collecting water, food, more Power Bars, our Boston Finisher Medals, space blankets and finally our checked bags.

To some extent the entire experience still seems surreal. But now, I can say that I have run Boston and I have my own experience to share.

The top picture is of me about 30k into race. Basically, it is on the 3rd of the 4 Newton Hills. Jim Rhoades and his friends took these type of pictures along the marathon course. Jim then makes them available to everyone with just one request. He asked that we give him credit for doing it as I have done here. Jim, if you are reading my post. I appreciate the picture.


Thoughts from the Cool Down Runner veteran of the Boston Marathon


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