Tuesday, April 27, 2010

2010 Boston Marathon Race Report

As I begin typing this report I’m sitting in the Midland International Airport waiting for my flight to California. Where I will be when I finish I have no idea. Ironically, it symbolizes my running life. When I ran my first marathon just over 4 years ago, Boston was nothing more than a big race for really fast people. Today, it is the most awesome sporting event that I will ever be a part of and it has given me a second chance at athletic accomplishments that I never fulfilled as a youth.

This weekend was incredible to say the least. I had been so looking forward to meeting the whole 3:20 group and it was fantastic. Two special shout-outs to Stevi and Tina for their work this weekend. Chris & Ron, you guys have great wives. To the rest of you, thanks again for the getting to Boston. Joe, sorry we didn’t get to meet, but congrats on your race.

The group of 3:20 Sunday at Ron's.......

On to the race and I’ll try to keep it short (coming back to edit because I blew that). In the weeks leading up to the race I sort of fished around for someone to team up with that was shooting for a sub 2:50, but found no takers. I knew by the time I got to Boston that if it was going to happen I was going to be on my own. No big deal, but running about 14 miles with one particular runner in Tucson was huge as we fed off of each other’s energy at certain points. I was hoping to gain the same advantage for Boston.

Nick and Ron spent Sunday night at the house we rented so that we could drive right to Boston Commons and catch the buses. Kevin Fox joined us at the house that morning for the short ride in. Once at Athlete’s Village, we laid claim to our space, dropped a couple of tarps and started getting our game faces on. Hitting the portta-pottties, getting clothing/bib situated with shoes, body-glide, hydrating, writing splits on arms, whatever it is we do to get ready. The time in Athlete’s Village flew by way too fast. What I anticipated as a long wait was over almost as soon as it started. When Fox stood up and said his “good-byes” to head to the corrals it hit me that it was gametime. I tried to quickly gather my stuff and head to the gear check buses. It was still a little cold for me so I kept on a nice running pullover that was not meant to be a “throw away”, oops. Comfort at that point was what I needed so I went with the decision of keeping it on and to toss it as I reached the corrals. Dropped of the bag and headed towards up the street. Actually jogged that way, as I knew I needed to make one last important pit stop to take care of business. Talk about stress. The line moved so slowly and the clock was ticking. By the time I got into one of the portta-potties, the jets were flying by and time was running out. I darted out of the portta-potty like Superman out of a phone booth and started weaving my way at a pretty decent run pace up the hill ‘til I finally made my way to corral 2.

Hanging with the crew from "3:20".....Nick, Paul, Ron & me.

Athlete's Village final preparation writing splits on my arm........

Once in the corral, relief set in as the National Anthem was just getting started. I stripped off my arm warmers and gloves and handed them to some kid hanging on the rail next to me. He was about 7 or 8 and I’m sure that’s just what he wanted, arm warmers from some wannabe. All of a sudden we were off. Per my finishline photo it appears I crossed the starting mat 1:02 behind the elites.

5k split – 20:06

My goal was to not go out too fast. Did anyone hear that this weekend or was I possibly on to something? Based on my Maclin spreadsheet, I hit both mile 1 & 2 10 seconds too fast. Not what I planned, but I got my self to settle in after that and I was fairly close to pace. I had run the right side of the road in the early miles in ’09 and liked that option again for passing if needed. I went with the same strategy this year, passing people on the very far edge of the road.

10k split – 20:05

Mile 4 was a bit fast at 6:14 and I could already see that the distance between my Garmin miles and the markers was widening. I knew this would be an issue, just not sure how much at this point. It was somewhere in the 2nd 5k that I noticed Minnie Mouse pass me. What? Minnie Mouse and she was a he?

15K – 19:56

I don’t remember anything significant about this section of the course other than the fact that Minnie continued to stay ahead of me. This being the flattest part of the course I noted to myself that I should be at a pretty even pace and wanted to stay as close as possible to my splits so as to save everything for the last 5 miles. My goal all along has been to drop the hammer at Boston College. Keep in mind that I’m not getting the 5k splits, but the miles instead. The body is feeling decent and no signs of the hip acting up yet. My concern is proper hydration and gel usage. I was trying to get an even mix of Gatorade and water while skipping about every 3rd water station. Took my first gel somewhere between mile 6-7.

20k – 20:06

Another solid 5k. Not far from Wellesly and feeling decent still, but maybe a bit concerned that I still had a long way to go and I wasn’t too confident that I could carry this pace all the way in, especially not in Newton. Somewhere in the 10-11 mile area I believe I finally passed Minnie Mouse for the last time. I had told my daughter Marisa in each of my last two marathons that I beat Superman. I didn’t want to have to tell her I got beat my Minnie, whew! Ran past the girls of Wellesly and scooted over to the left side of the centerline on the road. I think I high-fived enough my first year to last a while and didn’t want to expend any energy doing it again this year.

Half split – 1:24:35

My Maclin half split was 1:25:00; Garmin was 1:24:36. Just the perfect amount of time ahead of pace. Not really much I remember from this area other than I was running along side two guys for quite some time with one of them being named Chad. His name was being screamed out constantly. I told myself that the name was going on the singlet next year. Turns out the two guys were Chad Silker and Blake Whitney.

25k split – 20:06

Yet another even split 5k, but then it fell apart. It was around mile 16 that I looked at my Garmin and thought to myself “10 more miles, no way, I can just quit here for a while”. Welcome to Newton young old man. These hills have eyes and they can spot the weak.

30K split – 20:54
35K split – 20:47

From miles 17-21 I lost 1:16 to my average final pace. I knew it, I didn’t do much uphill work and I paid for it. I tried to latch on with a guy midway through the hills, but he couldn’t run downhill, his quads were dead, and I didn’t want to push it uphill as my calves were a bit tight. I told him we would stick together and then bring it home from Boston College, but he said no, he didn’t have it left to go hard. Heartbreak was longer this year I think? I don’t remember seeing anyone pass me, but my time for mile 21 was 6:54, about 13 seconds slower than desired pace. That was pretty much the theme of each of those 5 miles.

Heartbreak Hill......

40k split – 19:36

There it was, BC, the destination I had been holding back for for 21 miles. Drop it now and go get that 2:49 I thought to myself. Miles 22-26 splits were as follows: 6:17, 6:13, 6:18, 6:14, 6:20. I think more than anything about the race, I am most proud of this effort I gave to finish hard. 31:12 for that 5 mile stretch and I was passing runners left and right like they were standing still. The calculations in my head were almost impossible at this point as I could barely add 2 + 2. I saw Stevi at her post an it was like a shot to the arm. I felt revived and a second wind. Mile 23 was the fastest for the whole race at 6:13. Unfortunately by the time I hit the mile 24 marker I started to feel like I was barely hanging on. Really getting light headed at that point. I decided to forego any hydration in the final few miles with the hopes of saving every second that I could. This was a familiar feeling as I had pushed myself in Dallas and Tucson to the same point where I didn’t know if I would hit the finishline or the pavement first, but that was the plan. Besides, if I crashed here, there were plenty of people around to help.

In addition to Heartbreak be longer, somehow the good people of the BAA managed to lengthen Commonwealth? I was desperately looking for the turn onto Hereford Street, but I hadn’t even hit the underpass yet. To show you how the mind works, I momentarily thought that maybe it wasn’t part of the course this year? But there it was and then the turn onto Hereford. The family was to be camped out right on the corner of Boylston and Hereford directly across the street and sure enough as I came up the hill I could see my little bro waving his arm. Then I saw the rest of them. Some fist pumping and a surge of speed took me around the corner onto Boylston and headed down the homestretch.

Turning the corner onto Boylston.....

As soon as the energy hit me it was gone and my body almost came to a screeching halt. About 50-100 yards past the gang I thought my body was going to fail me. The faint and lightheaded feeling was back and I thought I might have just blown the whole race right there. I seriously had visions of people crawling down Boylston and now that possibility was upon me. I shook it off and gave one last surge with everything I had until about 200 meters away I looked at the Garmin and could see I was 12 seconds away from 2:50:00. I lost my 2:49 was the thought. Wasn’t going to happen this year. At that point I was almost relieved as much as disappointed in knowing that the pressure was off.

I hit the finishline at 2:50:22 per the Garmin and I didn’t know whether to cry with joy or disappointment. Some members of the medical team were trying to give me some assistance, but I just wanted a few moments to myself along a rail to clear my head. Turns out there was no crying, but relief instead. The hip had held up without issue, I was just short of my goal and I saw my family on the course. Best of all, they saw me. The last part meant a lot to me as this was the first time the kids had seen me in a marathon and the first time I had seen any of my family while running a big race. Another afterthought was that I will get my Corral 1 seeding that I was looking for n Tucson. Very happy about that. 2:50:20 official time and 546th overall, 46th in the 40-44 age group out of 2,146 that started.

Meeting up with family after the finish......

In analyzing my data in the following days, it turns out that my miscalculation was in using the auto lap function. The extra .17 miles cost me just over a minute of time. I’m not saying I could have run any faster, but I just might have tried to pick up a few extra seconds in the first half of the race where it was relatively flat. When I run Chicago I will allow for some extra distance as well as turn off the auto lap function.

Overall summary of the race, well it was great. Nothing went wrong, the weather was all that I could have hoped for and the body held up just fine. I wish I could have completed the training cycle without the injury issue, but that’s part of the game so no excuses there. Hanging out with the crew in Athlete’s Village was just awesome and has me looking forward to our next big race together.

I’d like to say thank you to my family for who I could not do this without. My wife Gina is so accepting of this whole craziness I put our family through to pursue my dreams. Thank you so much G! To my children for enduring the stories of running, training, crazy diet and more running. I want to thank my brother Billy for being there to witness my passion for the sport. It meant more than I can I can say for him to be there. I hope you're back next year. I think he undersatnds now why I do all the things I do for this one day. I'd also like to thank my physical therapist John Schlaffer who worked on me for 4 weeks told me he would have me ready for race day. I wasn't convinced as late as my Saturday morning run along the Charles River, but on Monday when it counted, my hip was never an issue. To the group from “3:20” that made it to Boston, thanks for making the experience complete. I get so much motivation from you each and every day and you’re a great group. Looking forward to seeing you guys in Chicago! And lastly, to all of those that supported my cause of Midland Children’s Rehab Center, thank you so much! I had a thank you card waiting for me when I got home from the center signed by the staff and children and it almost brought tears to my eyes, seriously. Thanks for all the interest and support.

Take care,



Stevi N. Honaker said...

Steve- Truly an inpiration to so many runners. Hard work pays off, plain and simple. I't was a pleasure to know that I gave you just a little bump to keep you moving in those final miles. I wouldn't have know you were struggling at all.

Oh and having your family on the final stretch had to make all the difference. I'm going to remember what you have written and try to know that even when you think it may be impossible to keep on moving you can always find a way (or at least try).


Girl In Motion said...

Very proud to know you, fast guy. What a race! Hard to imagine being disappointed with anything considering where you were only a year ago. And I was going to ask you if you planned on drinking anything during the race, I know how you like to go without. :-)

Was a total pleasure meeting you finally and I hope we can cross paths sooner rather than later at another big race somewhere. Meanwhile, I'll keep on enjoying your funniness on RW. Now rest your weary self for the next round of fun!

Puerto Rican Kenyan said...

Congrats on such an amazing race! A 7+ minute PR and a 27 minute improvement (??) from last year's time in Boston is just unreal. Actually, it is TOTALLY REAL. You have made such incredible improvements, and I can't wait to see how the rest of the year unfolds for you.

I'm looking forward to hanging out with you some more in October and starting together in Chicago (though I know you're going to be leaving me in the dust within the first mile, as you dash off at 6 minute pace).