I'm in a hotel with limited time, so will try to keep this short and do it justice at the same time. Today was a great day to run, and a wonderful race, and I cherished every moment of it. And my legs hurt more than after any other race (even St. George or Des News), so I know I ran it right. :-)
Got up at 5:30AM. I slept decent, but was wired and ready to get up at 5:15. Had oatmeal, a banana, and coffee for breakfast, then a larabar and another banana later on.
Dropped off my one water bottle (with Gu) at the water drop, then got on the elite bus to the church in Hopkington. Sat next to Nan and passed the time well by chatting.
The church was a cool staging area, and it was sweet just being there with everyone else. Met a few new people, learned a few new course tips, and generally passed the time. The best part was that we had ample toilets to use, so no lines. Used that priviledge about 5-6 times.
The day looked perfect. Cool weather, but not cold. Clear conditions, and a strong tailwind. I knew this tailwind would make today crazy. It was a perfect storm (if you will) of temperature, no precipitation, and favorable wind. This is rare, in Boston, or anywhere. St George is 2007 was the last "perfect storm" I ran, and we all know how that turned out (we all ran sick times).
But I didn't want to be deceived by the wind, and run faster than what I'm trainined to do for 26.2. True, 5:15 pace becomes 5:05 pace with that kind of tailwind...but the body cannot withstand the pounding for the full race. For a half marathon yes, but not for the marathon distance. This race had potential to be fast, and also potential to create many casualities. We saw both today.
The women started, and then soon enough it was our turn. The men funneled out of the church and too the start line. Did a few strides, and soaked in the scene (not having seen the start yet). I was excited and enjoying myself.
The race started, and I tried to control myself and tuck back. Got behind the two Hanson runners, because I figured they'd be coached up and running smart. Still, we went through 1K in 3:05, and 1 mile in 5:07. This is definitely a strong downhill. Tried to scale things back, but went back too far to 5:20 for mile 2. And then Mile 3 was 5:12. Still too fast (I wanted 5:15), but better. Passed through 5K in 16:14.
The lead pack was, of course, gone from the get-go, but I wasn't really thinking about them. The two Hanson guys and one other guy dropped our pack after a mile or so, but then we had a nice pack of 6-8 through Mile 10. We all had similar bib numbers (30s and 40s), so I figured it was the right pack. And it felt like I was holding back, so I figured it was the right pace.
Hit Mile 4 in 5:10, and that was the end of the biggest downhill portion of the course. Mile 5 was 5:19, so a bit of a drop-off, and then I adjusted too hard for a Mile 6 in 5:07. 10K split was 32:25, so 16:11 for the 5K. Pace felt pedestrian...but doesn't it need to at this point in any marathon? Oh, and the tailwind was surely helping. Couldn't always feel it, but I could see it. (flags, etc). Once in a while, the wind would swirl and become a headwind, but never for long.
Although the tailwind was helping the pace be easier, it did have one unexpect (but logical) consquence: I was getting hot. Despite being in the 50s, I was already overheating, as there was no breeze in the face to cool off with. Around Mile 5 or 6, I started dousing myself with water at every aid station. I was completely drenched by the end. But I needed to do this, not sure what would have happened if I didn't (I'm used to 40-degree days in Cache Valley!).
Miles 7-16 were good for me, as my pace finally stopped yo-yoing, the hills settled down and were more flat. Mile 7 was 5:11. I took my first Gu at this point. Mile 8 was 5:08, and Mile 9 was 5:15. 15K was right around 48:35, so another 16:10 5K split. This was definitely faster than my plan (5:15/mile), but I knew it to be the result of the tailwind more than being excited. And I felt like I was still holding back, so kept going with it.
I mentioned this earlier in the entry, but our pack broke up at Mile 10 or so, and I was solo for the last 16 miles, other than passing the back end of the women's group, and passing elite men who were put through the meat grinder and dying off. But despite not having people to run with, the crowds still energized me, and of course so did the tailwind.
Mile 10 was another 5:15. 10 miles in 52:08. Mile 11 was 5:13, and Mile 12 was 5:10. The splits were definitely getting a lot more consistent. It was still feeling easy with the half point coming up (breathing was super-easy), although I could feel some fatigue in my quads. But all other systems were perfect (calves, hammies, etc). Still trying to drink and douse at every aid station. 20K was 1:04:49, so 16:14 for the last 5K (staying consistent!)
During Mile 13 (I think) we came past Wellesey and the mob of screaming women. Definitely a remarkable part of the race (hence me remarking on it), as it was very loud and a big boost. I had heard much about this spot, and was not disappointed. Mile 13 was 5:12, and then 1:08:18 for the half. Yikes, fast! But I maybe today was the day to run 2:16? I was feelin' it...
I knew I had easy-going until Mile 16, when the first of the Newton Hills would loom. Hit 5:08 for Mile 14, and then 5:20 for Mile 15. 25K in 1:21:03 (probably a PR), so another 16:14 5K split.
Mile 16 we had the big downhill into Newton, and I hit 5:10 on that...and then the climbing began!
When I looked at the Boston elevation profile, I thought "those hills don't look so big". And there're not. They are really not that bad, even Heartbreak. It's the timing that is bad. After 16 miles of downhill, the uphills hit at a bad time, and each uphill has a downhill on the other side, which really hurts the quads at this point!
But the first Newton hill was a pushover. Hit 5:17 for Mile 17. Then 5:26 on the following mile (I think the second hill was this mile?). Split 1:37:33 for 30K, so 16:30 for the 5K. I had took my lone elite bottle at this station, which was just a water bottle with a Gu taped to it. Tore off the Gu top from the duct-taped bottle like a hand grenade and tossed the full bottle (it was serving as just a paper-weight for the Gu). So I took my second and last Gu here.
Hit some downhill on Mile 19 and split a 5:17. I still have bounce in my step, but my quads were feeling curiously hammered. What's the deal? After all, I've done St George, Des News, TOU, Ogden, UVM Half, Alta Peruvian Downhill Dash, etc...shouldn't my quads be able to handle a mere 450ft of measley drop? But they were definitely getting into a bad way after Mile 18, and steadily worsened over the rest of the race.
Did the 3rd Newton Hill during Mile 20, and split a 5:21. Not bad, but my quads are unhappy with me. Wondering if I'm going to fall apart the last 10K. But just one mile at a time, and the next mile was the 4th and last Newton hill: Hearbreak Hill.
Not sound cocky, but Heartbreak was lame. Managed a 5:25 on Mile 21, and then plummeted a 5:07 on Mile 22. 35K in 1:53:58 (16:25). A lot of things were going through my mind here: 1) Boston is awesome; 2) I really think I'm going to Qualify; 3) My quads are really really killing me; 4) Let's see if I can get these crowds to cheer louder.
During the last 5 miles, I was egging on the crowds big-time. Hey, I'm in Boston, the race of races, let's milk it! Shouting at them and gesturing at them about every half mile mile, I would turn a dull roar into an ear-splitting crescendo. It was pretty awesome. Maybe I'm a tool for egging on the crowd, but I loved it, and it gave me such an energy boost each time. Really key for my last 8K or so, when my quads were about gone, and all I had left was the crowd energy and andrenaline.
Hey, 4 miles left, if I don't fall apart, and just do something respectable (like 5:45/mile), I'll make it! But it was a battle, because my quads wanted none of it. But the crowds encouraged me, and each passing mile encouraged me to do another just like it! Mile 23 was 5:14! Keep it going! Egg on the crowd...and...5:11 for Mile 24. Big downhill on this mile that killed, but I forced it to keep moving. Can't hold back anything at this point.
Now I know it's in the bag, provided that I don't have an epic failure in the last 2.2 miles. Mile 25 was 5:18, which again, was a huge boost of encouragement. Even though I felt completely shredded, I wasn't slowing down. And the crowd urged me to keep hammering, and I urged them to keep cheering.
I had been passing people most of the second half, and passed a few more during the last mile. Someone in the previous mile told me that I was in 21st, and I knew I was in the top 20 a few passes later, although I wasn't keeping track (I was too busy yelling at the crowd to pay much attention). But picking off the elite men really helped too.
There are 5 turns in the whole course, and most of them are in the last mile. I made the last turn and was soon staring down the finish line from a distance. Mile 26 in 5:23. The last 0.2 were the most exhilerating and also the most painful I've run, but as the story of the day, the crowds brought me in and I enjoyed the moment. Crossed the finish line in 2:17:35, a new PR, and more importantly, over a minute under the Trials standard. So I will be returning to my second Trials in January 2012, and that's a pretty sweet taste.
Went to the recovery tent, and texts started coming in (oh, what a day and age we live in). Clyde informed me that I was 17th, and 3rd American. I am very proud of both of those stats. I knew Top 20 was achievable on a great day, but 3rd American is pretty cool. I missed money by two spots, but who cares at this point. It wasn't really on my radar to begin with.
Yes, this Boston was definitely wind-aided. The wind was a huge boost. But it came at a price for many, including me to a degree. Basically it allowed me to run close to half marathon pace...at the expense of my quads. Call it overstriding or overracing or something like that, but I think it caused a lot of DNFs and blowups. It also caused some amazing, truly aided times. But any race you have to take what you're giving, and this race we happened to have a "perfect storm" of speed-inducing weather. For some people, it was too much, like having too much nitrous, and they blew up, but for others it led to huge PRs. It's aided for sure, but I'll take it. Do I have a choice?
But regardless of wind, it was a great race. I felt like I ran smart, ran within myself, ran within the weather, ran the hills strong, competed to my utmost, and enjoyed the experience, aura, and crowds of Boston at the same time. In other words, I had the experience I was looking for. I'm grateful to God for having the physical ability to run, and I give Him the glory. Thanks everyone for your support and good wishes over the last several days and months.