Wednesday, April 18, 2012

2012 Boston Marathon

Well, the weekend had finally arrived.  After weeks of anticipation, it was upon us and the speculation over the last few days of a warm weather marathon was becoming a reality.  I'd always said I preferred the heat to the cold and I guess now I was getting what I wished for, sorta anyway, but not really.

Let's go back a three weeks to my 1/2 marathon tune-up race, the Dallas Rock 'n' Roll 1/2 on March 25th, another warm day. I was somewhat nervous heading into it because I truly didn't feel that I was in the shape that I was two years prior when I ran it, but maybe close.  On a day that was humid and the temps at the start hovering around 62 or 63, I was happy to walk away with a 1:19:09.  With the heat factor and what I felt was as tactical error going out too fast, I felt like I was really in 1:18:00 shape.  Very satisfied with the way the day turned out.  Going into Boston I decided to target a sub 2:45 goal.

Back to the present, Sunday night runners received an email from the Boston Athletic Association with strong advisory warnings of the heat including the following language....

"Advisory From Boston Marathon MEDICAL DIRECTORS to Entrants in the 2012 Boston Marathon

Sunday, April 15, 2012 as of 4:30 p.m.
The weather situation continues to be a significant concern for Boston Marathoners. We have determined that the race will occur in a "red zone" which is considered an increased risk but acceptable for high-level elite runners.  However, it is not considered safe for unfit and novice runners.

We strongly recommend that unless you have met qualifying times for this race that you accept the deferment option from the B.A.A.
Anyone who has not run a qualifying time should also very strongly consider the deferment option.

Again, if you have any medical problems or if you under-trained, then please do not run this marathon.

Those who are running the race should run much slower, adding several minutes to your per mile pace."

There was much more, but this was the gist of it, be careful.  Saturday evening among runners all of the talk was the weather and how it would affect one's race strategy.  Some had decided to turn it into a training run by backing off, others were considering the deferral option being offered by the BAA.  But there were several including myself that were set on "racing" it. I had no issues with any ones strategy, that was their choice.  Personally, I hadn't trained for 12 weeks and got myself into position for a great race to take the day off.  I knew it wouldn't be the sub 2:45, but I still had a goal of top 30 in my age group, 40-44 and I felt that my chances against the field had improved with the heat being a factor. Living in west Texas, we don't have hills to train on, but we get heat.  What it would take to get a top 30 was anyones' guess, but racing it hard was the only way it was going to happen.  Making that decision, I also knew blowing up was a good possibility and I was ready to accept that should it happen.
As luck would have it, I forgot to bring my 2:44:55 GMaclin pace sheet with me from home, but I had a 2:49:55 sheet and decided to go with that to start it and then adjust if necessary.  I hadn't studied the mile splits, but sitting in Athletes' Village Monday morning I wrote the 10K, 1/2 and 21 mile split on my forearm.  Heartbreak Hill, one of my two favorite spots on the course, crests at mile 21 and the goal would be to drop the hammer there as it had been the previous two years.

Hanging out with friends in AV. Check out Jeff's Speedo

Unlike in prior years, sitting in AV was comfortable, but that wasn't a good sign for the weather to follow.  About 9:15 I made my way out of the Village and headed down to the park on Main Street.  There I could find a little solitude, stretch a little and gather my final thoughts before the start.  Eventually I made my way into Corral 2 and tried to decide if the last few ounces of water I had would be better used by drinking them or dumping them on my head.  I had already soaked myself a couple times as temps had reached the mid 70's at this point. 

Sitting in Athletes' Village pre-race
And as always, the moment I had been waiting for was here and we were off and running.  I like the far right side of this course and Monday was no different.  Cross the start matts and before long I would be hearing Eye of the Tiger, the theme song from Rocky.  It didn't take long to settle into a groove and while I felt like I was trying to hold back a bit, the first few miles came pretty easy.

6:18 (5K 20:25)
6:22(5K 19:57)


BQ attempt in '09.  After that day I swore I would never drink too much during a race. I was miserable. So Monday, while making sure I drank, I knew I had hyrated well during the week and my goal on the course was to drink to thirst, not over do it.  I skipped about every other station pretty regularly as far as drinking and alternated between Gatorade and water each time, but I usually grabbed a water cup from the last person and poured it over my head.  Keeping cool was more important in my mind than drinking it down.  In addition, I started early with orange quarters from the crowd, sucking on them and discarding the peel.

It was somewhere in the 7th mile that I saw and passed Mini-Mouse this time around. Last year it was in the 10th mile that I finally passed him for good, but unfortunately ran with him for a few miles.  The problem being that I had to endure the screams for Mini-Mouse for a few miles.  This year, it didn't last long and I never saw him again after passing him. 
DSC_0302.jpg  (131.8 Kb)
Photo courtesy of
6:28(5K - 20:10)
6:26(5K 20:16)

I hit the 1/2 way point at 1:25:10, just 10 seconds behind my pace and felt okay from a fitness standpoint, but I was now battling two issues.  The first had been with me for 2-3 miles now, the need to go to the bathroom.  And not where I could just let it go on the run, or even dart behind a tree.  I was in some need of a porta john.  I thought I'd continue to run for a while to see if the urge would subside.  The second was a sore shoulder.  Going through Wellesley I slapped a few hands along the fence as the energy was incredible, however I caught a male high five along the way that sent a shock through me to my back and already bad left shoulder, what the hell?  I was irritated with myself for having veered over to the right side of the road and immediately went to the center stripe away from the crowd.

7:23 15th mile (5K split 21:07)

I was losing too much energy focusing on my GI issue and second guessing myself with each bathroom passed as well as a right shoestring that was now coming loose.  I saw a guy ahead of me run out of a porta john so I knew it was unoccupied.  I hit it and was in and out in about 1 minute.  It was so hot inside that when I leaned over to re-tie my shoe, I felt like that was as close as I came to passing out all day. It was crazy hot in there. After fumbling with the shoestring for a bit, I had it retied and burst out of there like Superman from a telephone booth, except I don't think he ever uh, you know, leaves anything behind.

6:20 Scheduled as 2nd fastest mile on my pace chart
6:49 The Newton Hills start here
6:43 (5K 21:02)
6:59 Heartbreak Hill

I hit the top of Heartbreak at 2:18:24, a full 2 minutes of goal pace and for the first time I realized a sub 2:50 wasn't going to happen.  My concern now was to attack the last 5.2 miles and finish strong.  I'd done it before and this should be no different.  While I told myself that, in the back of my head I still had a fear that the wheels would come off somewhere in the next 5 miles.  From the bottom of HHH, for some reason I made the decision to try to count the number of runners that I passed.  In my mind it gave me some sort of energy.  Pass one, go after the next, pass him, go after the next.  By the time I hit the top I had counted 25 and passed by none.  At the place where I felt like I should drop the hammer something happened.  I didn't have the hammer.  It was weird, but I felt like I just didn't have it to drop.

6:16 (5K 20:49)
6:31  (5K 20:12)

I don't recall being passed by anyone during that stretch of 5 miles, but that doesn't mean it didn't happen, I just don't remember.  And I gave up counting passed runners as it became two, three and four at a time. It was hundreds I'm certain by the time I finished. My focus now was just getting to Boylston.  I was hurting, bad.

Turning onto Hereford

Coming up Hereford I felt a rush as I knew I was approaching the area where Gina would be.  I scanned the crowd at the top of the hill for her where I knew she would be, but never saw her before making the turn onto Boylston. As it turned out, she couldn't get to where we discussed and ended up on Hereford screaming her head off at me.  My bust.  If it's any consolation, some of my friends were around mile 25.5 in bikini tops screaming as well and I never saw them.  This may give you some idea as to either how focused or how "out of it" I was. 

Turning on to Boylston, there it was off in the distance, the finishline.  So close, yet so damn far away.  Just get there before the wheels fall off. Somewhere in the last one-third of that stretch I see a guy come up along side me out of the corner of my eye on my left and pass me.  Holy shit, no way.  I must have relaxed or something, but it wasn't going to happen, not today.  It was a footrace and in the process we passed a couple other guys as well as him.  I don't know why I can't just give it up, but I can't and I wasn't about to potentially give up a spot in the standings if I could help it.  I beat him to the matt and that was it, done at 2:52:38.  Just a little under 3 minutes over my adjusted goal but I was satisfied, very satisfied. I honestly had no idea back in Hopkinton what the day would bring, but there was only one way to find out.  Not a PR, but definitely one of my most better races other than the mile 15 blunder.  273rd overall and 29th AG, by the skin of my teeth I made one goal.  Based on the winning times and those of the rest of the field, I have a pretty good feeling that I was in sub 2:45 shape, it just wasn't going to happen in those conditions.

Last .39 miles, 2:06, 5:24 pace 
Racing to the finish line

A couple of points worth noting from the race: First, I did minimal uphill training and was a bit concerned before the race, but I ran all of my tempo runs on a decline setting on a treadmill.   In the end, I don't think it hurt me one bit as I ran the hills fairly strong.  In addition, I also did all of my VO2 workouts on a treadmill this cycle. No speedwork done on the road.  I visited with another runner that had success on Monday, Tom  and he too also did the majority of his speedwork on the treadmill.  So, as for all the purists out there that have made comments regarding the road vs. the treadmill, well I couldn't care less.  I will continue to do mine on the TM in an environment where I can control more of the elements.  Whatever happens on race day, well that's a different story.

As I sit here finishing this up, I'm already looking forward to 2013.  Big hopes of adding mileage next cycle, maybe more stretching and flexibility work and dropping a few more pounds.  From the looks of my pictures, maybe more than a few.

Thanks for dropping in and taking the time to read this, your support along the way and especially Monday if you followed the race.  I appreciate it very much.  Also, a special shoutout to Gina, my wife for being there Monday and for all that she puts up with because of my training.  And lastly to my boys and the inspiration they give me through their work ethic in their sports.  I would never expect anything less out of myself than I expect out of them and I think they feel the same.



Girl In Motion said...

Great report, Steve, fabulous pictures of course, as well. :) I've no doubt you would have smashed your goal had the weather not been so insanely sweltering. Here's to the next one, Speedy! Congrats!!

Run2theHills said...

Hey Steve,
I admire your decision to go BOTT on that hot day...I wasn't as brave as you were. You ran a fantastic race in crapstatic conditions and should be proud of yourself. I am glad I got to meet you and your wonderful wife in Boston, and I hope to see you again.