Sunday, April 26, 2009

4/20/09 - Boston Marathon - 2:54:34, PR

Bib # 3250
Time 2:54:34
Overall - 748
Pace - 6:40

I've been putting off making a post, as that will pretty much close out this blog, as well as this "chapter" of my running life. But, that's all the more reason to get to it, huh?

Boston... I have to say that as it got closer, the magnitude of the actual race seemed to hit me, but at the same time, it calmed me. I'm not sure if I'll be able to actually describe it, but I was ready for the upcoming challenge of the race. I looked forward to seeing what Boston could throw at me. It was by far the hardest run I'd ever done.

1 - 7:14
2 - 6:32
3 - 6:34
4 - 6:15
5 - 6:25
6 - 6:18
7 - 6:10
8 - 6:32
9 - 6:22
10 - 6:22
11 - 6:24
12 - 6:19
13 - 6:19
14 - 6:20
15 - 6:30
16 - 6:19
17 - 6:40 (first of the Newton Hills)
18 - 6:45
19 - 6:51
20 - 7:02
21 - 7:25 (Heartbreak Hill)
22 - 6:48
23 - 6:59
24 - 6:58
25 - 7:27
26 - 7:16
26.2 - 1:27

First of all, it was amazing how many people were in front of me to begin with. I ended up 3 minutes back from the start line. I know even more now about the importance of a really good qualifying time. In the early part of the race, I focused on not getting anxious behind all the other runners. Running in a group/crowd is not at all something I feel good doing.

The first 5k rolled by pretty quickly. All of the early miles were pretty uneventful, with the coolest part being the participation of the crowd all along the early miles... so many kids out there lining the streets, with their hands out to high-five runners. The 2nd 5k rolled by just as uneventful, but I kept my mind on the use of my gels. My first one would be mile 7.

I made a committment to myself to get water at every stop. I know I'm not good at getting water while running, so I grabbed 2 cups at each stop, and really felt like I was getting enough. I had also commited to walking the stops to get my gels. So, as we neared mile 7, I pulled the gel from a pocket, hit my watch for the mile, downed the gel, and then made sure I was clear at the stop to grab 2 cups, walk, and down them both. For good measure, I even grabbed a 3rd cup and then I was off. As you can see, that slowed my mile 8 do about 10-15 seconds slower than my other miles.

Now, the race was spreading out a little, and now I had Wellesley to look forward to. As reported in magazines and countless little videos, you could hear it before you could see it. Passed mile 12 and not long after that, the sound began to come into my ears. It was mildly exciting to know what was coming. I stayed middle of the road, and was able to remain steady on my pace through that section. It was obvious those girls really enjoyed coming out to cheer on the runners year after year. Very cool stuff.

Next up was half-way, where I was just about on pace with what I thought I could do today. I was on pace to get just under 2:50, but I knew that the 2nd half of the race was the harder half, the money half, the gut half. And that was all yet to come.

From here, it was just holding pace until we got to the start of mile 17. Mile 16 closed with a big downhill, and once you hit the bottom of that, you turn right back uphill to start the Newton Hills. The first one starts just as your crossing an overpass, and doesn't really seem too bad. It's the first steep, steady uphill we face. Everything else was gradual or rolling, so to speak, so this was when your fitness, training and readiness all came to begin being tested. We made the first one with little fanfare. Just holding relatively steady @ 6:40 for that mile. The crazy part of the Newton Hills is that you don't get much downhill after you crest them. It's relatively flat to the start of the next hill.

Hill #2 seemed long... and that was a tough one. Still, there's a long way to go, so no matter what you're feeling, you can't freak out too much. Hill # 3 was the smallest, and wasn't too bad, but then came Heartbreak, and you get a good idea of why it's called that. You've been gradually bled in the first 3 hills. Heartbreak is almost like Hill #2, though not as long. Still, it's the toughest cause it's the 4th one, and really did a number on me. My slowest mile so far in the race was recorded here. But I wasn't really concerned about time at this point. I knew that half way through the hills, I had gone into survival mode. I'd taken my 3rd gel at 18 and my 4th at 21.

Finally, I crested Heartbreak and it was downhill to the finish... easy right? Wrong. Never had I felt like I felt in the final 4 miles. I tried to pick up the pace on the way down, as reflected by my 6:48 mile, but that was all I had left in the tank, and still what seemed an eternity to the finish. It was really trying the next miles, trying to hold it together. From one minute to the next, I went from feeling good, to feeling like crap, back and forth, all during the final miles.

Mentally, I knew that once we passed Boston College, there was a right turn, then a left onto Commonwealth, and that was it till we got to Hereford and Boylston. Still, Commonwealth seemed like a long ride down the road. I have to throw in here that before from before the Newton Hills began to here, I noticed that I was in the same pack... the same group of runners. We all passed eachother, back and forth over and over again over those final 10 miles. That told me each of us was going through the same thing. As bad as I felt like I was fading, it was strange that the same pack of probably 10-12 of us was passing people in front of us still who were falling apart worse than we were. However, we were staying together. That lifted me as much as anything in the actual race.

Finally came the final mile. Nothing was sweeter than seeing that big Citgo sign, Fenway park, the 40km sign and finally mile 25. Nothing would stop us from finishing now. I almost actually got a tear in my eye when I hit my watch at mile 25, saw my split (way slow), but even more so, knew that I was getting under 3 hours now by alot. It was only my 3rd marathon, but still, until this race, there was that doubt in my mind that I'd ever run a race without doing something really stupid and costing myself that one deal. Good feeling to know I was crossing that "threshold", so to speak.

Finally came Mass Ave, the run underneath a small bridge that, for all intents and purposes, eerily resembled one of the Allen Parkway hills, and here it was just 3/4 mile from the finish. We got back up that little incline, and there it was....the turn from Commonwealth to Hereford. It was right there.... half a mile from the finish. This turn was where all the largest crowd began. The noise was rising and really lifted us to the finish. Down Hereford for 2 blocks, then the left hand turn onto Boylston. What a mixture of feelings that anyone who's finished a marathon knows. The joy of being near the finish. The pain and exhaustion of having run 26 miles. The overwhelming desire to sprint to the finish, coupled with having fought off the overwhelming feeling to stop and walk for so many miles. Amazing. I looked at the crowds of people 8-10 deep along both sides of the street, all the way to the finish. Absolutely amazing.

I mustered the energy to raise my hands in the air, excited to finish, feeling overwhelmed that I'd just run the famed Boston Marathon, and jubilation of having run under 3-hours and PR'd on one of the toughest marathon courses in the world, if not the toughest. Who says Boston is not a PR course? :P I'm officially a Boston Marathon runner, a sub-3-hour marathon runner, and I've actually run a marathon and fought through the pain I've felt before, but this time ran it through to the finish... no walking. Honestly, I've never run anything so tough, nor have I ever felt so much pain during a race. This was one of the most awesome experiences ever. I'll do more marathons in the future, but this will always stand out for me the rest of my life.

Boston Marathon extras:

Here's some things that just didn't fit in with the telling of the actual running of the race.
  • I saw Geoff just a little before we were to head from Athlete's Village to the start line. We talked strategy and talked about the possibility of running together if we could get together. He was starting one corral in front of me, but we still discussed it, just in case. Turned out it was a good thing we didn't, as it's a toss up whether it would have helped me or cost me later. Geoff ran an outstanding race @ 2:48, a full 6 minutes ahead of me. His pace early for me might really have made it difficult to have hung on to the finish. My hat's off to Geoff for an outstanding race.
  • On our way to the start line, Geoff and I jogged a couple of blocks down one street and back. On the way down the street, going the opposite direction, we saw none other than Bill Rogers. I shouted to him "Hey Bill!" He waved, turned, and said "Hey! Good luck!" Awesome.
  • About 9 miles into the race, I ran past Team Hoyt, an inspiration to anyone who's ever even heard of them. I shouted a quick word of encouragement to Dick and Rick, heard countless others shout "Go Team Hoyt!" or "Go Dick!" I can't even describe just how meaningful it was to see these two on this famed course, one of the races they began qualifying for, and one of the most amazing parts of their amazing story.
  • After the race, as we finally got our way to the train station, we headed down an escalator, and while we awaited our subway, we walked by a lady down there, singing trying to get others to toss in some change for her. The song she was singing blew my mind... as close to literally as you can get to actually blowing your mind. If anyone has seen the movie Saint Ralph, there's a song played during the marathon race called Alleluia. The version in the movie is nothing short of incredible. Stirs my soul every time I hear it. Well, as we came down the escalator and walked past this woman, she was singing that song. My heart raced a little, and I turned to my brother and asked if he heard her, and he did. I mean, really... what are the chances?? If you haven't heard it, I'm not sure how you can hear it without getting the movie and watching it. It fits in perfectly, and is played at the right time to accentuate this part of the movie.
  • It was awesome travelling to run a marathon. Great stuff.
  • Around mile 14, I saw the most unexpected thing... a familiar face cheering us on. Olya was out there, awaiting Wayne, and as I ran down the right hand side of the road, shortly after taking a gel, I heard a "Go Sam", and was shocked, turned and saw her cheering. That caught me off guard, almost as much as hearing the song at the subway.
  • I wish I had counted the number of Dunkin Donuts on the route, but I have no doubt there were at least 8-10. They are like McDonald's there... every couple of blocks it seems. In the small town of Randolph where my hotel was, there were 2 within half a mile of eachother. Finally, on Tuesday morning, before heading to the airport, I got to enjoy one at breakfast.
  • It was an awesome feeling to have dinner with a group of Houston runners who'd run Boston at Grill 23 that evening. Olya, Wayne, Lance, and 4 or 5 others who's names escape me at the moment greeted me with applause when I arrived in the section they had reserved for us to eat. I had been the fastest among that group, and they almost embarrassed me with how awesome they all congratulated me on my run.
  • I made one phone call from the streets of Boston... all I could say was "That was the hardest thing I've ever done" and "I just ran the Boston Marathon."
  • I was 3rd among Houston-area runners, and 14th among Texas runners to finish.

And there's just about all I can think to fit into this inexcusably long post. Thanks for anyone who actually made it through to the end of it. Later all!


Still HLRG said...

I'm honored I was that call you made, but you already know that.

GREAT recap and it's about damn time. :P

Anonymous said...

Congrats....awesome inspires me to hopefully run the famed course at some point in my life....thanks!!

Anonymous said...

wonderful read. thank you for sharing with us all experienced, saw and felt. you have a way of recapturing a moment like no one i know. way to go Tiger!