Saturday, April 24, 2010

114th Boston Marathon

It was a running nirvana. From the moment, I first boarded the shuttle parking to the airport, until I was dropped off 3 days later, I was surrounded by runners and running. I commented to my wife as we made our way through the airport to our departing flight, "If this is going to be my only chance to run Boston, then I think this is going to be a memorable experience." While I looked at runners proudly displaying their jackets from previous Boston Marathons, I had not earned the privilege yet and instead rocked and represented:

Boarding the flight and making our way to our seats, instead of hearing the mundane chat over business transactions and travel mishaps that is normally heard, I heard things like; "Yeah, I just got a cortisone shot yesterday, hope my knee will hold up." "I think I might have a stress fracture in my foot, but it should hold up through Boston." Gosh, I thought, I am going into this race injury free..guess I am lucky.

Landing in Boston, early Saturday afternoon, we took the T (honestly, if you ever go to Boston, don't even think of renting a car or a cab to get around the city) to our hotel which was conveniently located a mere 5 min walk from the expo center. If the plane ride was any indication of the running madness I was about to enter, the hotel and walk over to the expo was a sensory overload. Everywhere you looked, there were runners and Boston Marathon jackets. Now, the one thing I could not do, was to wear the 114th edition of the jacket since I hadn't run the race yet, but I saw plenty of people who were. Qualifying for me, didn't mean I got to wear the jacket until the race was done.

The expo was large, loud, and full of running gear! On Saturday, I pretty much wandered around and got to talk to and hang out with Mad Dog (Chris R of the Run Run Live Podcast). I also got to speak with Jonathan who is the owner of Go Motion Gear, picked up a 3 watt sternum pack that I am super excited to try and picked up some kick ass rainbow colored Injini socks. A stop at the Brooks running booth and a chat with Steve, who is in charge of the Brooks ID program got me some sweet new arm warmers which would come in handy on Monday.

Sunday morning found me tired and stiff from the flight and walking around all day. An easy run, I thought to shake out the legs was in order, and I made my way down to Boylston street where the finish line was located and was full of activity all day long as runners were not only taking their pictures by but also runners were preparing for the BAA 5k. I hung out long enough to shoot this short video: Many thanks

As I made my way around the Boston Commons, I ran into my neighbor who had dropped off her husband who was running the 5k and needed to shake out her legs for the marathon as well. We rambled for a few miles until, as we were running past a guy, I heard "Hey, are you Dirt Dawg?". I stopped and met Dane, a listener of the podcast and we chatted for a few minutes before my neighbor and I ran back and watched part of the 5k. The lead men and women were smoking ass fast, and the rain that had started to fall convinced me that heading back to the hotel was a good idea.

Even though it would have been a smart idea to rest before heading to Fenway Park, I wanted to soak up more of the energy and atmosphere of the expo, so I headed back and was rewarded by being the first person to stop back by the Zensah booth with a tweet and scored some FREE compression calf sleeves. Yes! The weather had been questionable all morning raining on and off, but that didn't deter us from heading to:

good ole Fenway Park. Funny, as a kid, I lived in Rhode Island for 10 years and never made it there. In the course of less than a year, I get to go twice. The trip to the baseball cathedral was made even better, when my buddy who commented to his dad that he was going back to Fenway since his first trip as a child, his dad replied, " I never took you to Fenway." The weather couldn't decided if it wanted to rain or have the sun out and quickly depleted my energy. A nap and good meal was in order to prepare for the race tomorrow.

Race Day:

People have compared the Boston Marathon to the NYC Marathon in that it a day of lines of waiting. Up at 5 am for a race that starts at 10 am, I am in some respects inclined to agree. From the hotel, it was about a 3/4 mile walk to board the bus. No way, no how, were you going to get lost on this day as all you had to do was follow everybody else with a yellow bag and Paul Revere.

The temps hovered in the low 40's waiting for a bus, but once aboard, it warmed up to near sauna levels (note: not good for someone who had ingested a large amount of caffeine). While the ride seemed to be much farther than 26.2 miles, once we were allowed to get off we were greeted to this:

Since, I had gotten on one of the earlier yellow modes of transport, I had about 2 hours to wait until the start of Wave 1, but snapping the obligatory picture of this:

grabbing some food in one of the tents and standing in line for one of the 490 porta potties (how do i know this? they mentioned it several times that they had more porta potties then ever before. still didn't seem like enough ) helped to pass the time. Anyhow, I also got a chance to hang out with Jake, from the Run Like Health podcast and chatted until it was time for me to walk to starting line.

After dropping your bag, it was approximately another 3/4 mile walk to the starting line. Although there were another set of port a potties for you to use, many including myself played a cat an mouse game with the po po and tried to find a bush, back of building, etc to empty our systems before the race. I entered into my assigned wave 5000-5999, and made my way to the very back. Ditching the long sleeve shirt, I was ready to rock in my Brooks ID uniform.

After a short walk uphill, the race course starts and drops like a pinewood derby car back in my Cub Scout days. Everything that I had read and been told was that the course was downhill for several miles and it would be prudent to to hold something back before the hills. I tried, I really did. Slapping high fives, trying to slow the paws down, I went past the 5k mark at 22:36. Yikes!! In all honesty the legs felt really good, and I even threw in some walking breaks but still passed the 10k mark in 45:25. With the rising sun and temperature starting to tick upward, I made sure that I hydrated and took a gel at the hour mark. When I passed the 1/2 marathon mark in 1:37:28, for a brief moment, I thought, well if I run an even or negative split the second half, I could BQ at Boston.

Yeah, not going to happen. The gently slope of the downhills over the first half of the race, left my legs buttered up to get pounded by the hills in the second half. If this had been an ultra, I would have certainly walked the hills, but this is Boston right? No way, no how and perhaps foolishly, I ran up the hills. Yup, that's how you make sure your quads start to hurt and your pace falls off. You know what? How the hell cared? My legs have been to that point before and I certainly made sure that I walked a bit at every mile but this was Boston. A long time dream as a precocious youth realized and I was going to soak it all in.

I was still on pace for a sub 3:30 marathon and what I figured I could honestly run kept moving forward. Just past the 22 mile mark or so, I ran by Dane, whom I had run into yesterday on the streets in Boston and we chatted for about a mile before he was moving much stronger than me and trotted off to a sub 3:20 and BQ for him.

Soon enough, I could see the Citgo sign and the pull towards home. The quads were heavy, and my pace may have slowed, but man o man were the crowds simply amazing. As I made the turn onto Boylston, I was flooded with emotion, knowing I was going to finish, and far faster than I had thought. Crossing the line in 3 hr 23 min and 07 seconds, I was rewarded with the unicorn:

I may have walked around, ate, and drank to much prior to the race, but who cares? I was there for the experience, and believe me, I got my fun and finished that run, but don't think that as I reflect on the race, that I am not already planning my assault on it the next time, whenever that may be.

Friday, April 16, 2010

So this Boston thing

As I prepare to depart tomorrow for the 114th Boston Marathon, I sit mixed with emotion. During a mandated visit to my mom during Easter Break as a youth, she knew of my interest in running and decided to take me to the starting line of the Boston Marathon. My memories of riding the bus with runners and hanging in and around the starting line of Hopkinton are seared in my memory but little did I realize at the time that you actually had to qualify to run the marathon. Qualify? The precociousness of my youth led me to believe that one day I could and would do this.

Fast forward 10 or so years when I finally decided to try my first marathon and thought, "Hey, I am going to run so fast that I will qualify for Boston on my first try." I did not respect the marathon on my first try, and she taught a cruel hard lesson. A lesson that led me to lick my chops and think maybe Boston would never be attainable.

Ten or so marathons were to follow and I was mired in mediocrity. I ran them to run them but did not do any specific workouts. Tempo? Hills? Progression Runs? Nope...give me LSD...all day. After a 3 hr 32 min effort in Detroit of 2007, I began to think that maybe, just maybe if I actually became serious and was willing to commit to doing the necessary work I might just be able to live up to that statement all those years ago in Hopkinton as a youth. In the spring of 2008, I ran a 3 hr 24 min marathon in Toledo in what could best be described as crap weather and fueled my efforts to maybe give it a whirl in Columbus in the fall. Tempo? Hills? Progression? Yes...

At Columbus, I did nothing smart. I went out to fast ( 1 hr 31 min) and than ran/walked the second half watching my watch like a school kid on the last day before summer vacation wondering if my time would run out before I had crossed the finish line. I crossed in 3 hr 9 min and 51 sec. I had my Boston BQ. Scheduling precluded me from running Boston in 2009, and really I was ok with it. I was glad I qualified, but I turned my sights to my first 100 miler. The fact that I am able to go this year is a testament to support from my family and friends who have allowed me to run and make the necessary arrangements to watch our children as Heather and I go.

During the course of the past year, I have had lots of time to do a lot of introspection and reflection on this sport that I love so much. As the talk about Boston started to whip up via social media that I frequent, I began to make sense of what running Boston means to me. So what if I qualified for Boston? Yes, I am happy with the fact that I ran a time they deemed as a qualifying time for my age group, but that is all it is...a qualifying time to run a race that demands a qualifying time. This is not to take nothing away from the history and tradition of the race, and yes, I will enjoy the experience. Does that make me a "real runner" over someone who didn't or who was able to gain entry via a charity or as an invitation? Absolutely or slow, WE as runners are out there on a daily basis putting our best foot forward. That is all we can ask for as we move down the road.