Splits: 1:28:33 and 1:37:16
Average pace: 7:05 min/mile
What a difference a year makes! Last year, heavy rains, cold temps and gusty head winds up to 35-40 knots. This year – mid-40s at the start, mid-50s at the finish, light winds and sunny. It was a beautiful day in Boston and the always huge crowds swelled further.
It was almost too warm Monday and it was absolutely too sunny – I got burned (literally). After believing the weather report that it would be overcast, I skipped the sunscreen stage. It was cloudy, cool and foggy all morning - almost. As we waited in the corrals, five minutes before the 10 a.m. start, the skies cleared completely and a hot sun beat down almost immediately. It made for a beautiful day but also for a lot of red-faced, red-armed runners.
Boston is a seductive course – it is net downhill and the first 13 miles undulate gently, but predominantly downward. Your adrenalin is high, the crowds are unreal and the emotions can be overwhelming. I always have to be careful not to start too fast – in part, because you don’t realize the subtle pounding your quads are taking in the first 13 miles, much of it downhill. I apparently didn’t realize it this year – even though I controlled my pace fairly well. The quads were apparently only in the mood for a half marathon…
This is always a great race. Extremely well organized – and it gets better every year. The buses transporting us from the Commons to Hopkinton were on time (6 a.m.), the tents and grounds at the Hopkinton high school were comfortable and dry -- plenty of coffee, bagels, powerbars, bananas, gatorade and water. Short lines at the many, many portapotties. Free gloves. The BAA does not cut corners.
One area of change this year: the police presence in Hopkinton. Runners have always been warned not to “water” the townies’ lawns and bushes – and this edict has always been honored in the breach. This year, there was far more temporary fencing and far more police. I saw one “watering” violator actually being chased, and then caught, by the cops. Not sure if he got to run downtown or got run downtown….but none of it was a pretty sight.
I always go up to Boston two days early (Saturday) to rest and catch a dinner on Saturday night with friends. This year we had an additional bonus – the women’s Olympic Trials on Sunday in a loop course around the Back Bay. The weather was perfect and I was lucky to be watching 50 yards from the finish. It was incredible watching Deena Kastor bring it home. She made 2:29 look easy.
My goal on Monday was to finish near three hours – hopefully about 3:03 – but the hills got me. I was close, but a little slower than I’d wanted. I attempted the same race pacing strategy as the Shamrock Marathon last month even though that was a flat course and Boston is anything but.
But, the quads simply didn’t cooperate after mile 18. I hit my first three checkpoints on target: 6 miles under 41 minutes, 12 miles under 1:22 and 18 miles under 2:03. But the quads actually started to whisper around mile 12, then humming at about 15 – by mile 18 they were complaining – and by the time I hit the steep downhill after Heartbreak Hill at about mile 22, the pain was pretty substantial. At mile 24, I was five minutes off goal pace, hitting it at about 2:49.
The last six miles were pretty rugged, but the crowds were unbelievable. I slowed because the quads (only the quads) really hurt, but there was no way I was going to walk in front of all those screaming people. I tried to pick it up for the last two miles, but I think it was mainly my arms moving faster! The legs were pretty jerky – it looked like glycogen deficiency, but it wasn’t. I was nowhere near the wall. After averaging 6:45 for the first half marathon, I struggled home averaging 7:30 for the second. Aerobically I wasn’t challenged – but why did those quads decide to desert me in my time of greatest need? Other than quad pain, I felt stronger and recovered faster than any previous Boston. Go figure.
My nutrition (4 accel gels @ 6, 12, 18 and 22) and hydration (3-4 oz of Gatorade every mile) were spot on (no bonk in sight but I did lose race focus due to the pain). I followed my taper plan carefully the week before – it’s always worked when I follow it. Ten hours of sleep Saturday night and a good seven hours the night before the race. I felt great aerobically all day. The uphill went fine – I simply didn’t train my quads to handle the downhill. I knew better too – I’m fond of saying the uphill at Boston is overrated and the downhill is underrated – I guess I was focusing too much this spring on the sub-3 goal on the flat Shamrock course in March. (Jelly – I’ll make more of your hilly trail runs next year, count on it).
Despite the frustrations, it was a great day. All of us are treated like Olympians in Beantown. This was my best Boston time so far, but I’m really celebrating a Potomac (actually New Zealand) friend’s accomplishment: he ran a 2:59:32 to score his first marathon under three hours. (He also swims 2.4 miles under 58 minutes – and then there’s the bike leg -- his strength in IM! Good thing he’s in a different age group.)
Note to self: next year, more trail runs with Jelly before Boston.