(photo on left side are Michael and Diane Hyat )
After running a 3:16 in the CIM marathon back in December, I decided that I'd take the opportunity to try the Boston Marathon. I'd always wanted to try this race but after slogging through several marathons during the last stages of Ironman Triathlons, I didn't think I could make the qualifying time.
As I was born in Massachusetts and had lived in Concord and Boston for a short time growing up, I had some recollection of the race, and at various events I'd been to over the years I'd see these slick Boston Marathon jackets, which always reminded me of the race.
Well, what an event this truly is. When I went to get a hotel room I was shocked (but not surprised) to learn that it was fully booked at most of the desirable hotels. I wanted to stay close, and after talking with some friends I learned another couple (Michael and Diane Hyat - above) were also going. Diane does triathlons and is a very fast runner, and Michael is a principle in a financial services firm, and as a result had some room connections in Boston and hooked me up with a room at the Fairmont Copley Plaza, which as it turns out is like ground zero for the race. As we learned later, the race directors were staying there and the hotel is located 1 block from Boylston street right near the finish line.
Well, the expo/number pick-up area is near the Prudential plaza so we went and picked up our numbers and purchased some of the super-expensive Adidas "official" clothing. I've never seen such a long line for such over-priced clothing. Talk about supply/demand. When you limit the demand to the "licensed" gear and havd 26K+ people who ran marathons just go get here, well, that's a recipe for sales success. There was every type of running related store at the expo. If you ever go there, don't worry if you forgot anything (as I forgot gloves). There are most likely 5 stores where you can get what you want at the expo alone. And if you you cannot find it there - as I was not able to with the speed laces for my Zoot racing flats, you can find a local store to purchase it in Boston prior to the race.
I was a bit miffed that the guys at Zoot could not help me out. I had some of their racing flats and the day prior to the race I I was pulling the speed laces up and they broke. I went over to their booth at the expo only to learn that they could not help out. They did send me to to a running store in Boston where I purchased some replacement speed laces and had to modify them to fit the zoot shoes. Well, all's well that ends well, and I ended up with what I needed and we went out for a pre-race sushi meal at a great restaurant near roxbury. I know that does not sound like a great place for a restaurant, but that's were it was.
We met at the fairmont "gold floor" breakfast area at 6 am. Boston is a real civilized race that begins at 10 am and not 7 am like other races, so you would assume you could get up a bit later. Well, not really. the buses leave from the Boston Commons beginning at 5:45am for a 10 am start to take you to the school in Hopkinton. It's quite a site to see 20K or so people lining up for school buses in their workout garb. It's a BRISK morning for us San Diego people. Diane had on black tights, a pink jacket and pink newton shoes. A guy working the event, who seemed like he just got back from Project Runway, yelled at her "your outfit is FIERCE!"
Well, after a long line, long ride, lots of coffee/juice/water it was time for a potty break, but man was that slow. I'll let Diane tell you of the stress that created. It seemed like forever at that school. Some folks bring blankes, pillows, even air beds to sleep on for a couple hours you need to wait there (note to self: bring more than a jacket next year). Finally we dropped our bag of warm clothes off in the the bus (for me the 7000 bus) and walked over to the start. I made a last second decision to wear my zoot compression socks for performance AND warmth. I also had on my Carlsbad Marathon long sleve nylon shirt to keep warm during the race. I'd done that in Sacramento (when it was 38 degrees at the start). Mistake. I took it off at mile 4 and donated it to the greater boston area...somewhere on the side of the road. It's about a 1 mile walk, or so it seems, to the start of the race. There are plenty of porta-potties on the way over to the start too. I imagine sometime in the past 113 years the nice people of Hopkinton were a bit annoyed with the fertilizer/grass killer left by the participants.
I went to my corral and waited. A couple of F-15s flew over, and after the fast guys were let go they let the wave 1 group go. It did not start as fast as I imagined it would, and well, I knew 5 min prior to the start that I'd need to stop again for a "comfort break". Darn. I was wishing I could do that prior to crossing the start line so I did not have it on my time, but nope. So I lost 35 seconds (I counted) during the first mile....
The first half of this marathon goes by quickly. downhill, everybody is well positioned for their speed, and everybody is pretty serious. This is not a race where you get 10 min milers clogging up the course like islands in a stream that need to be avoided. I think I ran with the folks near me at the start, more or less, most of the race. As we ran towards the half-marathon mark, I still felt good and started to hear a roar; a high-pitched loud roar. OMG - the "scream tunnel" (BTW -the audio in that youtube clip does not do this justice...it's EAR PIERCING and sounds like what a Beatles concert in 1964 must have sounded like) at Wellsley is super fun and loud and right at a point where you are really settled into the race. I was totally unaware of this and spoke to the guys around me for the first time "what is this? some sort of middle-aged male fantasy?" which got a lot of laughs.
then reality sunk in. The next 10 miles of the race were not fun at all. I began falling apart and slowing from around 7 min/mile to closer to 8 min/mile. and it just happened real slowly. it was not like running out of gas, which happens all at once, but more like somebody slowly cutting off the air supply until you need to conserve everything. By the time I was at "heartbreak hill" (now come on folks, this short incline is not that bad) I was just staring at the ground and pounding away as I had been for an hour...only looking up to see the mile markers.
Well, finally reaching the city was a bit heart lifting, but like most others, I was so beat up and tired that it was not the fun I imagined it would be. That giant Citgo sign was nice, and I tried to just "enjoy it" but that was not really possible any longer. I had given up on a 3:10 a long time ago, and given up on a PR of under 3:15 a few miles earlier. Now I just wanted to get in under 3:20...which I did.
I really want to do this again next year!!
Here are my race splits (when the time is identical, it means I missed a mile marker and just divided the two miles in half):
1: 7:47 (really 7:12 with a comfort break)
13: 7:18 (half marathon time - 1:35)
18: 9:11 (comfort break #2, literary, and this took a full 1:30)
21: 8:18 ("heartbreak hill")
Marathon Time: 3:19:34
For the first time ever, my Polar watch time was EXACTLY the same as the clock time.
This was sort of the tale of two half-marathons. Like so many others, I ran the first half much faster than the second half. I'm not convinced you would be all that much faster if you ran the two halves evenly as I did in Sacramento.