So let me back up a bit and start with the beginning. Running the Boston Marathon means heading toward lots of friends and family, so we decided to make a longer trip of it all and make our way up north on Wednesday, stopping in Philly to cut up the drive north by a bit. This was our first trip as a family of four, so we knew the driving part would take time and didn't want to force the kiddos in the car for too long at one time. Our hotel was right in Independence Square in the old city, which proved nice for some short sightseeing with the limited time we had.
|Family of four selfie!|
|Checking out the finish line!|
The rest of the day, as well as Sunday were largely spent hanging out locally in Natick, eating carbs, and giving the kids a break from the constant car trips. I made one trip to the local Marshall's to pick up some throwaways given the downward spiral of the forecasts, which I thought was a good choice of attire (kids xl Bruins hoodie in below photo).
I woke up race morning before my alarm (as per usual) and felt great. We had arranged for a friend to drop me off in Hopkinton, which was only a short 15 minute drive from Natick vs trying to head in to Boston for the buses. While I missed out on some of the pre-race experience, I also got to sleep much later.
|Just trying to relax, stay warm and dry|
As I discussed in my last training update, I had found a crew to run Boston with that was all shooting for around the same time goal (sub 3 hours). We agreed on a meeting spot, so I found a spot that allowed me to sit undercover, against a pole, and also view our meeting spot. Somewhere along the way, it began raining. While the announcers said it was a passing shower, everyone in the vicinity of the planned meeting spot was gone because it offered no cover from the rain. It was at this point that I started to think I might be running the race solo. I had been chatting with a few of the people sitting near me under the tent, so that helped pass the time as I continued to scan the athletes entering the village to look for my friends. Only a short while later, I got up to use the portapotty and found my friend Erin (who I qualified with at Shamrock) along the way. We waited together for a while and started to wonder if we'd find the three others that were part of our group. He and I both had Wave 1 assignments, but we were planning to move back to Wave 2 to start together, since one of our group was in Wave 2. We agreed that if we couldn't find them, that it would make more sense to start in Wave 1 since the weather would get worse as time passed. It was only 5 minutes later that Nicole found us and we met up with the rest of the crew - all set to start together in the front of Wave 2.
We took advantage of first call for our Wave and made our way toward the start line, knowing there was another block of portapotties awaiting our arrival. The next chunk of time was spent continually in lines to get "everything" out. Once we all felt clear, we made our way to the actual start. By the time we got into our corral, there wasn't more than 15-20 minutes until the start. With about 5 minutes to go, I removed my throwaways.
Quick tip - hold on to your throwaways as long as possible. There were collection bins starting with the exit from Athlete's Village all the way into the corrals, which would mean an extra 30-40 minutes hanging on to those extra layers. On a day like we had, you'd burn an awful lot of glycogen shivering. Best to hold on to them as long as you can.
Before I go into the actual race, I want to cover my race plan. Going into the race, I knew my fitness was at an all time high after the simulator long run our crew ran and a handful of other workouts. The goal of the crew was sub 3 and I felt I had it in me on the right day, but I was (rightly or wrongly) hesitant. However, I had an opportunity to see if I had it with a group I knew vs trying to run my race solo within my comfort zone. In the days leading up to the race, I repeated my mantra to myself over and over - never settle. So my plan was to go out with the group, hold on for as much as I could, and see how the day goes. Their plan was to start the first 2 miles close to 7 to ease into the race and then run close to 6:45/mi, factoring in the extra weaving of the course, to net a sub 3 time.
Before we knew it, it was the final countdown - we all gave each other fist bumps and started the 119th Boston Marathon as a pack of five! The first mile was a bit of a cluster, more so than any other marathon I've run. Starting toward the front of Wave 2, you'd think people wouldn't be taking it out super slow, but there they were. We didn't panic, so we each sort of found our own paths through while remaining in contact with each other. By the time we hit Mile 1 our split was 7:30, which was pretty far off our plan of 7:00, especially considering Mile 1 had 100+ ft of elevation drop. By the time we hit Mile 2, we started to find some openings as we rolled along the course, still keeping everything in check coming in at 6:59 and essentially just writing off the first mile. I think what surprised me the most about the first 10k or so was how rolling they were. Sure, there was a net downhill, but each mile had some sort of uphill if not a few of them. While I studied the elevation map and saw some bumps in there, I really don't recall many race reports mentioning them, so I feel it important to note it. You can't just cruise that first 10k effortlessly downhill like many advice articles claim - there's some work in there.
By the time we got to Mile 3 (6:43), we were on pace and running as a pack, still weaving around people, but with more space to move. I believe it was around this point that it started to rain and the winds became more notable. And while the most direct route on the weaving course was typically the middle of the road, I tried my best to stay away from the dreaded yellow line, which when wet, proved to be slick. The challenge with the wind was that it never seemed to be coming from a specific direction. I tried drafting off others around me from every angle and never seemed to find the right spot, which meant I was working a bit more. Additionally, as the next few miles ticked by in a blur, I started to feel the effort become a bit more than comfortable at this point in the race. I wasn't sure if it was to earn back some time from the slower than planned Mile 1 or because the weather conditions weren't as bad as they will soon be, but the next several miles felt a bit over my head - 6:40, 6:46, 6:42, 6:40. As we clocked the 7th mile, I made the decision to pull back a bit. I still wanted to be aggressive, but I listened to what my body was telling me for the past several miles. The combination of the quick miles while running into a headwind was starting to push me over the edge. In hindsight, I wish I would have listened a bit earlier, but its difficult to define the line between racing a marathon to your potential and crossing over the line to blow up. Unfortunately, you only find out much later when its too late, which of those two options it was.
|Cracking a smile for the cheering squad|
|Not how I was hoping this would turn out, but you see me at some point|
|Chatting away the miles|
|Pretty sure this was somewhere early in Newton|
|Nasty downhill before the start of the hills|
The other unfortunate timing was the rain. Right in the thick of the hills is when the rain really started to come down. One of my most clear memories on the day was grinding up Heartbreak Hill, with the winds whipping the rain into my face like giant pellets. There was a point where I wondered if it was sleet, because it was stinging my face as it hit me. Nevertheless, I pushed on the ups and settled for a slower decent on the downs. During this entire section, I never once glanced at my watch, even as it beeped for each mile, because I knew they'd be slower but I didn't want to get discouraged in the midst of the toughest mental and physical point of the course. My splits through the Newton hills were (7:34, 7:29, 7:26, 7:43, 8:09). As you can see - Heartbreak, the wind, and the rain got me.
|Grinding up Heartbreak in the pouring rain|
|Wishing I could run just a bit faster on these downhills!|
|Attempting to outrun the T|
|The dream is almost over|
A few more minutes passed and I found myself entering the last moments of the race by turning right on Hereford (and up the hill nobody talks about), left on Boylston. Now typically, that final turn leaves you in a slow motion state where you feel like the finish line will never come any closer. Not the case for me - this part of the course went by in an instant.
|Keeping a smile the rest of the way!|
|Official Time: 3:11:09|
|A much deserved celebration beer!|
|A hard earned, but well worth it medal|