Warning - This is going to be long. Really long. I’m writing this paragraph after I finished. I wanted to write a race report for my runner friends and for those who aren’t runners. So I posted it here as well: fuzzyruns I wanted to describe both the race and a little about the weekend. It turned into a bit more than a basic race report. I just started typing last night and this is what spilled out:
This was my third Boston. There is truly no other race like this one. It is an unbelievable experience for runners as the whole city and surrounding towns embrace this race. It’s hard to describe but everywhere you go complete strangers ask if you are in town to run the marathon. And then without fail, they wish you good luck. Likewise, when you have finished and wearing your medal you can’t count the number of people offering congratulations. And then there is the actual race where you run 26.2 miles through hundreds of thousands of spectators, some who have been standing in their spots for hours, screaming and cheering and encouraging you on. And a lot of them come year after year. A year ago I ran Boston for my second time and the record heat was the story of the day. It was also what brought me back this year. I really wanted to make a sub-3 hour attempt last year and felt I could have given it a run. To that end I ran a 1:29 first half before I shut it down and took it easy the second half. I still managed to make an unscheduled trip to the med tent after to get checked out though. So I made the decision to register again last September when it opened. I was still able to use my qualifying time from the Twin Cities marathon in October 2011 to sign up on the first day and it was done. Boston 2013 here we go. Training: I decided to follow a modified version of the Hanson Brothers plan that was similar to what I used for TCM in 2011. I did modify it a bit to fit what works for me and the realities of work, kids, life, etc. and the fact I prefer to use a 16 week program now for goal marathons rather than the 18 weeks they have. This meant that my plan started on Monday, December 24. Yes, the first two days were Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and I didn’t run either day. Hey, this plan is EASY! It’s also a reminder that you need to be adaptable in your training if you are just a recreational runner and not be freaked out because you might miss a day or two once in awhile. I was a little curious about how my preparations would go this time as I had a not so good fall for running. I had a battle with a nasty little bug back in September and had then an episode with piriformis syndrome. I’ll save the non-runners a quick Google search: Piriformis syndrome occurs when the sciatic nerve is compressed or otherwise irritated by the piriformis muscle causing pain, tingling and numbness in the buttocks and along the path of the sciatic nerve descending down the lower thigh and into the leg I’m generally not a big fan of tingling and numbness in the buttocks. Just sayin’. Anyway things got better in late November and into December and I was ready to go. There were a few obstacles along the way such as a two week trip in Asia for work. Nothing like trying to fit in training runs that way although I had a tremendous long run along the Han River in Seoul on a Saturday morning. Of course there are always little aches and pains and I had a slight abdominal strain that bothered me the last few weeks leading up to Boston. Man it sucks getting old. But all in all while not ideal, I had a fairly decent training cycle for me. Race weekend: Susan and I flew into Boston on Friday night and I got up early Saturday for my last run before the marathon. I usually do 3-4 miles very slowly a day or two before my race. It all depends on what we have planned. I knew there was going to be a little walking on Sunday so I opted to do it before we went to the expo to pick up my race packet and bib.
The expo is an interesting experience with everything you need as a runner. Always packed with people and at a race like Boston it allows you to meet some of the elite runners and other well known people in the running community who may be spending an hour or two signing autographs or speaking etc. We walked around for a while looking at all that was there and generally soaking in the energy. I bought my youngest daughter a t-shirt and I also purchased the official Boston celebration jacket. I’ve joked that the entry fee isn’t really what is stated on the registration because you have to add in the cost of the jacket. It seems most people get them. I think they will be worn more proudly than ever after this year. After dinner with friends we got back to the hotel early as Susan was running the BAA 5K on Sunday morning. This is a nice event that thousands of runners partake in, many of whom are friends or family of those running the marathon. They also get a number of elites to run every year and that is fun to watch just how fast they are. Following that are six one-mile races – middle school and high school boys and girls, professional men and professional women. The men’s professional winner was Olympian Nick Willis of New Zealand. He ran a 4:03.3 and high fived 2 or 3 spectators in the last 30 yards. Damn. Susan had a great run and after watching the other races, showering up and grabbing lunch we headed to Fenway to catch the Red Sox game that afternoon with friends. I somehow had the self-discipline to refrain from a Fenway Frank and a beer. Following the game we topped off the carbs for the weekend with a nice pasta dinner.
Race day: Surprisingly I had a good night sleep. I got everything together the night before and managed to only wake up once, about an hour before my alarm. Since this race starts at 10:00 there is plenty of time for eating as you have to ride a bus out to the start and we were scheduled to leave at 6:00. The typical transportation is by school bus out to Hopkinton High School where the athlete village is located. Around 25,000 runners descend upon the town and it is quite a sight. This year I was lucky enough that my friend Sadie was able to get two seats on a coach bus through a local run club. We were able to stay on the bus once there and had a nice comfortable seat to hang out in, eat breakfast and it had a bathroom in case the port-o-potty lines got too long.
I won’t get into details here but I was really looking forward to Sadie’s race. I might have helped/advised/coached her some during her training. She was ready for a big race and I was tremendously excited for her. I decided to wear the same singlet as last year which was given to me by Adam L., the owner of my local running store where I have spent one of my daughter’s college funds. You think I’m kidding. I also wore the same shorts and socks as I wore during my 2011 Twin Cities marathon. I wanted some of that mojo to rub off. In a good way, not the kind of rubbing that causes chafing. I did switch up my shoes for this race. I wanted something a little lighter and something with less heel- toe drop and Adam recommended one of the two that I had my eye on – Nike LunaRacer +3 – and they were perfect. I decided to wear a pair of throwaway arm sleeves and cotton gloves as I really hate having cold hands. It was almost perfect weather for running. Low 40’s at the start and maybe low 50’s when I finished. I topped everything off with a fashionable headband picked out by my oldest daughter as for the first time in years I have let my hair grow out. After two bananas, a large bagel, a couple of granola bars and a bottle of Gatorade it was getting to be time to head to the start corrals. I gave Sadie a hug, wished her well and started walking. From the high school to the start is about ¾ mile. Thousands of runners making their way, alone in their thoughts and getting excited to start. They have a large parking lot near the start full of bathrooms and I make one last stop. Or so I thought and there will be more on that later. I moved on to my starting corral which was corral #2 in wave 1. There are three waves that start at 10:00, 10:20, and 10:40, each with 9 corrals that hold about a thousand runners. There are more runners in Hopkinton on marathon morning than there are residents. It’s pretty damn cool. The elite women start their race at 9:30 and the elite men start at the front of wave 1. I get to my corral about 9:45-50 as I don’t like to be just standing around waiting for too long. I spend a little time looking for someone I “met” online. As I wrote that sentence I realize, boy that sounds like it could be strange. Anyway, let’s call him Gooruns (and this isn’t sounding better, is it?) and he is a fantastic runner. He was (and in my opinion still is) an elite a few years back and at age 58 still can throw down sub 2:50 marathons. In fact he had a qualifying time that was in the top ten of his age group here. I want to be him when I grow up. I finally spot Goo and shake his hand. We chat a little and exchange well wishes and good lucks. The time to get it on is quickly approaching. The national anthem is sung, the elite men are introduced and the gun goes off right at 10:00am to start the running of the 117th Boston Marathon. Here were my race goals: “A” goal: sub-3:00 I decided a few months ago to not put any pressure on myself to PR but I really thought it would be nice to have a sub-3 at the Boston marathon. That works out to just over 21 minute 5K’s so that was my plan. “B” goal: I didn’t really have one. I thought if sub-3 didn’t feel like it was going to happen I was just going to enjoy the run. My Race: First 5K split: 21:01 (these are official splits from the race) Mile splits 1-3: 6:48, 6:43, 6:41 - these times are from my Garmin The excitement and energy can make it very difficult to be patient and mind your pace at the start. The start line is at the top of a hill and the first half mile is a big downhill. It is easy to get caught up with other runners who may be faster or who are heading out too fast. I was really focused on hitting my 21 minute split for this 5K and checked my Garmin more in the first mile than I did the rest of the race. Miles 2 and 3 are also mostly downhill. In fact, the first half of this race is mostly downhill so it’s easy to find yourself running faster than you should. And that is what impacts runners in the second half of the race through the Newton hills. Downhill running takes a toll on your quads and if you don’t run a smart race the first half they will let you know. I’m pretty happy when I see the 5K clock and know that I am right where I wanted to be according to my plan.
Second 5K split: 21:10 Mile splits 4-6 6:40, 6:41, 6:39 Finding my pace after the first 5K and feeling good. Well, except for a little nagging feeling from the bladder region. Are you kidding me? At mile 5 the pressure is building a little more. I’m running well…this sucks…I had everything timed right at the start and have only had a little water at one water stop so far. I actually had this conversation in my head: Running Dave: “Screw it, if I have to pee I’m peeing while running." Sane Dave: “Dude. You’re a 48 year old adult. Pissing yourself in public isn’t generally acceptable.” Running Dave: “Too bad. I really don’t have much time to waste if I want to hit my goal.” Sane Dave: “I’m glad we are only at mile 5 not mile 22 and I’m still in control. You are NOT peeing your pants. We are stopping at a port-o-potty.” Running Dave: “Fine, give me until the 10K timing mat.” So just past the 10K mat, probably closer to mile 7, I make a pit stop. By my watch it costs me around 20 seconds. Not sure but I think I possibly set a PR. And this time the “P” is apt. I guess the nice thing about that is I’m at mile 7 and not thinking about it anymore and feeling strong. Third 5K split: 20:46 Mile splits 7-9 6:36, 6:36, 6:38 This is a relatively flat portion of the course. It’s also a time where I’ve always found myself picking up the pace a little in marathons. I’m feeling good, running smoothly, and right on plan. Plus I had those 20 seconds I lost on my mind. I have to remind myself I’ve got some cushion and it would not really be a good thing to try and make it back all at once, if at all. This is the point where I start grabbing Gatorade at the water stops. I made the decision to go with just this and not GU or Shot Bloks as I’ve trained that way and frankly I have developed a dislike with eating/chewing while racing. I also find a few runners that are at my pace and fall in with them. This is one of the benefits of a large marathon like this – there is always someone around at your pace that you can use. The 15K clock shows me I have indeed picked it up but my effort feels unchanged so I decide to stay at this pace.
Fourth 5K split: 20:40 Miles 10-12: 6:38, 6:40, 6:33 Miles 10 and 11 have some uphill but nothing big. It is a nice change and it is also through this stretch that I am starting to get mentally prepared for the hills of Newton. But first, you can tell by the last mile split through this stretch, there is a downhill portion into mile 12 and at the mile 12 clock you can start to hear the screams and shrieks if you are paying attention…… Fifth 5K split: 20:49 Half (13.1) split: 1:28:10 Miles 13-15 6:36, 6:40, 6:43 …….and you know if you’ve run this before you are coming up on Wellesley College. The “Scream Tunnel” on the right side of the road is one of the more memorable experiences of the Boston marathon as hundreds of female students are making more noise than seems possible. I didn’t think they could top last year in the 80+ degree weather but they were every bit as loud and boisterous. It is also a tradition to stop and get or give a kiss and what seems to be a majority of them are holding up signs along the lines of “Kiss me I’m from …..” “Kiss me I love fast runners” “Kiss me I won’t tell your wife”. If you’re not careful you can easily get caught up in reading the signs, waving to the gals, and the added energy causing you to pick up the pace and crash into another runner. Alas though, no stopping for me this year. Damn pee break at mile 5. So they had to settle for a couple high five’s from me as I ran by. Right in the middle of all this commotion is the 20K clock. I note that I had another strong 5K and realize I’m going to be right where I want to be at the halfway point. This was a very good mile for the mental part of the race. Shortly after you run past Wellesley you arrive in the downtown area and the 13.1 clock. Big crowds in this area and that will be the norm for the rest of the race. Again, the spectator support along the length of this course is nothing short of amazing. It’s at this point I notice it is starting to get warm when the sun pops out from behind the clouds. I take my gloves off and toss them to the side. I decide to leave the arm sleeves on for a while longer. Running past the half clock and I’m right on plan. Pushing through the somewhat flat miles 14 and 15 I really begin to think I have a shot at doing what I want to do today. But now is when the Boston Marathon really begins. Sixth 5K split: 21:19 Miles 16-19 6:36, 6:46, 6:49, 6:46 There are four hills from mile 16 to mile 21 with the most famous being the last, Heartbreak Hill. In and of themselves they aren’t that imposing. But coming where they do in this race, seemingly one right after another and each with a downhill immediately following the climb to remind you how much abuse your quads have taken makes this section the place where a lot of recreational runners make or break their race. Or find religion. I guarantee these hills have heard every curse word in most languages. It is physically, and perhaps mentally, the toughest 5 mile section of any marathon I’ve run to try and hold my pace. It all begins with a big downhill into the mile 16 marker and then immediately up the first hill. I shed my arm sleeves here and I intentionally slow a little, concentrating on my effort, very conscious of not wanting my heart rate to spike. As I climb I pass some runners. This will continue and is a bit of a mental game. I know I’ve run smartly today but has my training been good enough? When I reach the top I say out loud “that’s one”. I felt good going up that hill and now I have a mile to the next one. Coming up on mile 18 and it’s time to climb again. Only this one is different. Half way up and I feel like I’m struggling. My heart rate is elevating and I slow slightly. Hang on. I feel myself breathing harder and again I slow a touch. Shit. For a fleeting moment I sense my goal time slipping away. This is where experience does help. I’ve done ten marathons before today and I know I need to relax somehow. Just get your butt to the top and reassess. And so I do. I take a deep breath at the top and start down a gentle slope letting my heart rate settle a bit. I see the 30K clock and reassure myself that I’m still right on plan. But I am also wondering if the last two hills are going to be more like the first one or the second one. Seventh 5K split: 21:36 Miles 20-22 6:51, 7:04, 6:46 At first glance of my splits here you might think while I’m not hitting the wall it is now in sight. But I did plan for a fade through here. I hope I can hold it to just a small fade based on that last hill. The third hill is just past mile 19 and it’s the shortest. But I also remember at the top you have a little climb just after the plateau which is nice. Not. Up we go and….hey…this feels much better. I slowed it down a bit and it is definitely helping. For some reason I noticed the crowd more through here and try to feed off their energy. Before I knew it I was at the top and that was a serious mental boost. One more to go….3/4 of mile ahead is Heartbreak. I pass the mile 20 clock and do the math in my head. I have 10K to go and understand I have a little cushion now. But the old saying that the halfway point of a marathon is mile 20 is in the back of my mind. I’m not sure how the crowds can get bigger but they seem to as I start up Heartbreak hill. Again, I purposely slow my pace remembering the second hill. Left, right, left right, keep moving, paying attention to the heart rate, my breathing, crowds screaming, starting to pass more runners, up, up, up, feeling o.k…… The road flattens. The Newton hills are behind me! Running through Boston College now and the kids are insane. But honestly it doesn’t get easier. A big downhill at mile 21 just past the top of Heartbreak and it hurts. My quads are really burning and while I should be using this downhill to pick up the pace it is all I can do right now to hold steady. I see the 35K clock and again do the mental math. I actually start calculating what I can let my pace slip to and still come in under three hours. Eighth 5K split: 21:33 Miles 23-25 6:52, 6:55, 6:56 My friend Kelly has a story of going to the “dark place” during the third leg of her run for our Ragnar Relay ultra team last summer. I think I have found mine. That last mile was hard, mile 23 is tougher. With every stride my legs are reminding me what they have been through. I search out runners ahead of me that are either running slower or walking and concentrate on picking them off one by one to keep me going. The turn on to Beacon St. is a slight diversion and then I see the mile 23 clock. A bit over 5K to go and again I get a little mental jump start. 5K to go has always been a spot that energizes me a bit for a few reasons: It’s “just” 5K more. I’ve done this before. I have always finished strong the last mile. Which means I really just need to hold it together for the next two. The crowds continue to be crazy. You will not let them down. And there is another group of people I do not want to let down. I use them to help through these stretches. And for some of you, this is where you come in to my race. For large marathons it is very easy to track runners online as they go and I know there are a lot of people who are virtually watching me today. Friends and family eagerly waiting for those splits as I cross timing mats, waiting to hear about my race, sending me good wishes. There are many things that cross your mind during 3 hours of running but thinking about people who are cheering you on not only here but at computer screens around the country? How the hell can I give in to my quads now? I emerge from my dark place. While the math tells me I can afford some slippage in pace I’m just not going to let it happen now. Not at this point.
About the same time I see the 40K clock I notice the CITGO sign in the distance. If you have ever watched the Red Sox at Fenway on TV you’ll know this sign as it looms over the Green Monster. It is an iconic image of the marathon for at that point is the “1 Mile to Go” sign on the course. You are also running through the Boston University section of the race adding more to the energy of this section. It’s like an adrenaline shot for me. FINISH Mile 26 6:53 Last ½ mile 6:16 pace I look to my right to catch a glimpse of Fenway Park and then we turn back on to Commonwealth Avenue. There it is… “1 Mile to Go” I look at my watch. And let the realization settle in that I just might do this, that not allowing the pace to slip has provided me with time to soak in the last mile. But I can’t help but pick it up at this point. It is a wall of sound now as the crowds are 10-15 deep along the street. Today this marathon is similar to a couple others for me in respect to the fact that inside this last mile, when I know I'll be finished soon, everything becomes very clear and it feels like I'm actually flying down the road. I don't notice my legs, I'm passing runners, I smile at the crowd.
Now we go under Massachusetts Avenue where there is a little tiny down and up that gets your attention but I’m coming up to the spot where my wife, someone who puts up with my running nonsense way more than she should, is watching the race with Ryan, my friend Sadie’s husband, at the corner of Commonwealth and Hereford. Unless I completely collapse this is it. Last year I stopped to give her a hug. No time this year. And this year she even had made a really nice sign for me. Not quite as creative as some of the Wellesley gals but still. She did get a big hug from me after the race when I met up with her. The right turn on Hereford, thumbs up to my wife and Ryan, fist pump, and now up a short two block incline to Boylston Street. It’s enough to slightly elevate the heart rate one last time but it doesn’t matter now.
A left turn on to Boylston and the finish line is in sight. I now feel like I’m floating.
A few waves and thumbs up to the crowd and suddenly I’m at the mile 26 marker and I read the mile 26 clock. I did it. With about .10 to go I can read the finish line clock. 2:58:something and ticking.
I effing did it! My arms go up instinctively as I cross the finish line. The clock reads 2:59:03. My official chip time is 2:58:21.
And the rush of what I just accomplished envelopes me. I’m typically not a very emotional person but as I look at my watch again and a volunteer yells "congratulations" my way it hits me. I just ran a sub-3 at Boston! Somewhere in my head this conversation plays out: Runner Dave: “This is AWESOME! I don’t want this feeling to ever end!” Sane Dave: says nothing as Sane Dave was last seen somewhere along mile 22. Dave’s Quads: “F$!K you Runner Dave.” I make my way through the post race area where I got my medal, water, food and collected my drop bag. I put on some sweatpants and my jacket and head out to find Susan. On the way there no less than EVERY stranger on the sidewalk said “congratulations” upon seeing my medal. Again, Boston rules. I met Ryan as he was leaving to meet Sadie. I had just missed her by a few minutes. But that was good news as I knew that meant she had kicked butt in her race as well. Wound up with a 3:20:36 which was a three minute marathon PR and an eight minute course PR. She’s a rock star. I got to Susan and plopped down next to her waiting for two other friends to finish. Not long after they ran by looking great on their way to a 3:40. Starting in corral 2 they finished pretty much right at 2:00pm. Shortly after that Susan and I started walking down Commonwealth towards our hotel. Gingerly in my case. We were just outside our hotel when the attacks occurred. Inside they had a reception room for the runners that were staying there. There was a TV in the room and that is where we saw what had happened. In an instant my race was forgotten and the urgency of getting in touch with our friends and family took priority over everything else. The rest of the day was just a surreal mix of emotions. I had gone to Boston this year with a goal of running a sub-3 marathon. Yes, it is quite inconsequential in hind sight. I had gone to Boston with that goal and the thought that if it happened it would be a few years before I went back. Not now. I’m going back next year. And if I don’t run I will be there to be a spectator and show my support. Ah…who the hell am I trying to kid. I’m running it. April 21, 2014 - The 118th Boston Marathon.
I just scrolled through all of the pics, and OMG, you have the best racing pictures I've ever seen in my life!!!
Now I'm going to read your report. I'm so excited!
PRs: Boston Marathon, 3:27, April 15th 2013
Cornwall Half-Marathon, 1:35, April 27th 2013
4 years racing, 15 marathons, 15 BQs
I love sponge cake.
Fuzzy, this is a classic. A classic race for you and a classic RR for us to enjoy. What a race!! Also, those are some of the coolest pictures of all time.
Santa Anita Derby Day 5k - 5 Apr
Mountains to Beach Marathon - 25 May
Ball of Fury
What a great, great race report! Congratulations!!
PRs: 5K 22:59, 10K 46:54,HM: 1:51:15
Great report and performance! Sorry you feel now it was inconsequential due to the events that followed but you did a great job! Congrats.
Damaris, Marathon Maniac, Ultra Runner
"The most powerful weapon on earth is the human soul on fire."
What a grand RR! Awesome gripping read. I laughed, I went awww! I had shivers... I re-lived the day through your writing, Dave. Thank you so much! You are an incredible runner and I'm so glad that you got to meet another fabulous runner, our own Goo. When I think that I ran (albeit far far behind) in the company of runners such as yourself, Goo, Brad and Jay, I feel so honored... You ran an exceptional race, and damn I envy the fact that you can pee in 20 seconds. You even beat me at that! Not fair!!! And congrats to your wife on her 5k and to your friend on her great marathon PR!
YAYpril - B-Plus
Fantastic RR, Fuzzy. I love all the pictures. Congratulations on sub-3 at FREAKING BOSTON!
Ok, I have to go back and read all of that more carefully, but damn...a sub-3 at Boston is like a holy grail or something.
I'm happy, hope you're happy too...
OMG, Fuzzy!! You KILLED it!! Thanks for sharing your race perspective and all the wonderful pics!! And, I love, love, love the conversations between Runner Dave and Sane Dave - I can so identify with them!! Congrats on an unbelieveable race!! Looking forward to next year's RR too!!
But The Smile That I Sent Out Returned With You.
Well, to clarify that a bit. I do not feel my race is inconsequential from a strict race only perspective. But that day will never be about the race only. And in that respect I would give it back in a heartbeat if it would change anything.
Well, to clarify that a bit. I do not feel my race is inconsequential from a strict race only perspective. But that day will never be about the race only. And in that respect I would give it back in a heartbeat if it would change anything.
Very nicely said. I feel the same way.
Outstanding Fuzzy! That report was well worth the wait!
Full confession, I skipped over the introductory part & went straight to the race portion. (I will go back to the rest later.) That was some gripping, can't-put-it-down reading! What an amazing experience. This is the kind of report that makes those of us with no apparent hope of ever getting a BQ time, to think about how to get there.
And a special congrats on your "Pee-R".
One of the best, if not the best Race Report I have read in my 3 years as a runner. Congrats Dave on a fantastic race.
Wow! Sitting here pretty much speechless now after reading through your memories of Boston. Just Wow!
Train smart ... race smarter.
Awesome report, Fuzzy! I had fun stalking your times...your 5K splits were impressive. Congratulations on a fine race!