Not sure how to write this one up. I'm still in Boston...flying home tonight. So I'm in a restaurant and on my cell phone. I just wanted to give an initial reaction and will fill in the details when I get home. So, obviously I'm really disappointed with my time. At the same time, I'm ecstatic to have been able to run Boston, and my time is not relevant. So, really mixed emotions. I went from Plan A to Plan E really fast. Amazing how quickly things can go south in a marathon. I didn't even HAVE a Plan E to start. So, the A plan was to break 3:20. And really, I was in shape for it. I thought. Plan B was to PR it. Plan C was to BQ it. Already at Mile 4, I knew I had to go to Plan D, which was to just enjoy the experience. Plan E I came up with around Mile 21. That was to just get across the finish line. Well, at least I managed that. So, I came in just under 3:54, a good half hour slower than when I qualified in Chicago. But I did come in. I ran BOSTON! Nothing will change that. When I get home, I'll flesh out the sordid details for posterity.
Okay, I'm finally home. After a 90 minute weather delay, leading to a missed connection and the loss of my luggage. Finally got reunited with my luggage (came in on a different flight), but had to overnight it in Toronto. Long day of travel. But I'm home.
So, the sordid details (I won't be upset if they are never read):
I arrived in Boston on the Sunday. It was 34 degrees when I left Sudbury. It was 86 degrees when I landed in Boston. It would cool down to 75 degrees by Monday. Ouch. I had to store my luggage at the water taxi place, ride the T to the expo to pick up my number (was awesome walking by the finish line and seeing all the activity around there), then back to the waterfront for my luggage, then a long ride on the T (with a transfer) to the Airbnb I had booked. Then back downtown on the T for the pasta dinner, which I didn't get to eat. A LONG day (up at 4am) and I was unimpressed.
They assigned pasta dinner eating times. Mine was 5:30. I got there just before that to discover a LONG line that wound around City Hall. Seriously - it took me almost 10 minutes to walk to the back of the line. And there we stood, in the hot sun, and the line did not move. For an hour. I'm not sure when it might have moved eventually, but after an hour, I was done. At 6:30 I took the T back to the Airbnb. A couple on the train who had been to the dinner (first in line) told me what the hold up was - the Mayor had to come, with a marching band, and make a speach. Seriously, Boston Marathon people? For that whole time, they would not let anyone in, for security reasons, I presume. I will NOT vote for that mayor (even if I could)!
Anyway, what I SHOULD have done was find a restaurant. But I didn't know Boston and I didn't want to wander around. So, what I did do was accept the invitation of my airbnb hosts to eat with them. When I first checked in, they were having an Easter party (lots of people) and told me I was welcome to join them. They said it was all Ethiopian food (where they were from). It smelled good, but don't do anything different from your training routine, right? But now I was stuck, so I went back there and joined them. I mean, hey, the Ethiopians do pretty darn good in marathons, so they must eat the right kinds of food, right?
Well, I tried to keep it basic and to avoid the spicy stuff and anything I thought might be risky. It WAS good. And I declined the beer they offered. By 9:30 I went to bed. The party continued (quite loud) until Midnight. Oh, and my little room had no air and no window. It was HOT. Ah well. Who needs sleep the night before a marathon anyway?
So, up at 4:30, and off I went. I followed the same basic pattern of eating I had rehearsed several times. Took the T to the baggage check, got on the bus, and was off to Athlete's Village. A tip of the hat, by the way, to all the volunteers. With the exclusion of the stupid Mayor, I dare say that everybody in Boston is golden. The bus ride is about an hour, and then I had about 90 minutes in the Village until it was time to move to the start line, almost a mile away. The atmosphere was fun and exciting. Everything was going without a hitch, except for that heat. It never really cooled down much overnight, and the sky was clear and so it heated up pretty quickly.
So, the start at 10:25. Seems to me it took about 4 or 5 minutes for me to get to the start line when the gun went off, and it was kind of a slow shuffle until then. Since we were seeded according to our qualifying times, everyone around me was basically running the same pace, so I just settled in to the big crowd and went with it. I'm not going to bother listing my mile splits since they won't be accurate anyway (which I'll get to). The official splits were at 5K intervals, and they are posted online of course. But I was aiming for 7:37 mile splits. I hit that once - in the final half mile. Go figure.
So, the race course. I knew it was downhill, and I knew it was undulating, but I was caught a bit off guard by the uphills. Yes, primarily downhill at the start. But with some good uphills peppered judiciously in. Aid stations every mile, beginning at mile 2. I thought that was a bit much, but it turns out I could have used more. I was SO THIRSTY. Constantly. I drank what I could at every aid station, but was thirsty again after a quarter or a half mile. Seriously - I've never experienced that in a race before. I knew I was well hydrated, but you'd never know it by my thirst.
Already, by mile 4 as I mentioned above, I knew things were not going well. My legs had no 'umph' in them. It was like I had no glycogen stores - like I had not carbo loaded at all and was already depleted. By the end of mile 4, I could see my splits were consistently around 7:45. That would actually have been decent at that point of the race, if I had felt good. But I didn't. I knew I couldn't run faster that day if I wanted to finish, and I could already feel the life leaving my legs. So, I settled for Plan D (just enjoy the day) and kept on.
Well, my splits went to around 8:00 for the next 3 miles, and then slowed to the 8:30 range for the next 13 miles. That would bring me to the bottom of Heartbreak Hill. But those splits don't actually tell the whole story, as my GPS watch is set to autopause when I stop moving, and I stopped moving 6 times in that race: I had to make emergency porta potty stops at around miles 8, 11, 14, 17, 20 and 24. Yes, a new record for me. 6 stops.
I was terribly bloated and gassy and cramping. I had planned on eating 2 chews every mile. I couldn't eat a thing. I tried gatoraide, and that just made things worse. Instant reaction. So, I ended up running the majority of Boston on water alone. And even water was causing me to cramp. Seriously, I don't know how the Ethiopians do it with their diet! But I'm not even sure I can blame that. I think the heat was hitting me worse, and it was affecting my insides.
Since my GPS stops when I do, I was able to figure out what those stops cost me: 8 minutes. Yup, take away the portapotty breaks, and my time was 3:45:51. Still not great, but better.
So, I mentioned Plan E above. That was formulated somewhere around mile 21, when it dawned on me that I might not finish the race, based on how I was feeling. At that point, I wanted to throw up so bad, but I was afraid to, in case it might prevent me from moving again. I mean, I can't say I was having fun anymore, so I threw all my focus into staying upright and putting one foot in front of the other. I was also determined to not walk - not even through the aid stations. Not even up the Newton Hills. But Miles 21 to 24 were all over 9:00 pace, and mile 25 was a shockingly slow 10:37. Ouch. I have to confess, I DID walk through an aid station there. And it took everything in me to start running again.
When I look at those later splits, I'm amazed, because after Heartbreak, it's basically all downhill. But the downhill hurt at that point, and my legs felt like pegs. I had read about that feeling in the latter part of marathons, but this was my 1st time experiencing it. I've decided I don't like the feeling, just for the record.
I did pick it up when I made that right turn on Hereford, despite the little incline up, and poured it on when I made the left on Bolyston. A little pre-mature, perhaps, as I hadn't realized how far away the finish line still was. And I was sobbing too, by the way. Not in pain. It was really emotional for me. The wonderful volunteers at the finish line (who were kept quite busy with distressed runners) kept asking me if I was okay, and I had to tell them again and again that I was just emotional.
In truth, I felt fine. No blisters. No tender spots. No muscle pain. Left ankle a little sore, perhaps. Even at my airbnb where I had to climb a steep flight of steps, there was no problem. I trained to run a 7:37, and ended up running a minute/mile slower, so my body did not take a beating at all.
I made my way back to my room to shower. Tried to nap, but couldn't (too noisy and too hot), so went back downtown for dinner (steak, wine and cheesecake!) and wandered around the finish line until it actually started to feel colder. It was nice to wear the Marathon jacket and medal together for the 1st time. By Tuesday, it was downright chilly. Would have been a great day for a marathon. The same with Wednesday, when I started my trip home. And home, by the way, is currently still sitting at 34 degrees. Brrr.
So, the post mortem analysis ...
Reasons why I sucked at running the Boston Marathon on April 17, 2017 (in what I believe to be the order of greatest significance):
1) The flu. Getting sick, with Norwalk or whatever it was, 9 days before the race did me in. Yes, my training was done and I was in peak condition. But the illness depleted me just when I needed to replendish my glycogen stores. I lost 5 pounds and barely managed to put it back on. No matter what I ate that week, it just didn't seem to "stick". I know I put on an honest face all week, but that was psychological self-assurance (positive thinking) more than truth. I never really got my legs back, and on Marathon Monday, I couldn't perform. I knew it almost immediately. Biggest reason for my poor performance. Oh, and mother nature can be a "*itch", at times. 10 years without being sick - not even a cold - and I get this a week before the Boston Marathon!
2) The Heat. Especially combined with #1, this hit me hard. All my training runs were done in frigid weather. The Boston Marathon this year was far from frigid. Nothing I could do about this one, but it looms large in my performance.
3) Travel. Arriving in Boston the afternoon before, and rushing around to do everything that needed to be done. I was tired from the Holy Thursday/Good Friday/Easter Saturday celebrations, and I was tired from the early start, the travel, and the chaos of Boston the day before the Marathon. I knew this would all be the case, but I had no real choice. I was already in my Bishop's bad books for missing Easter Sunday. I couldn't control getting sick, I couldn't control the heat, and I sure couldn't control the date for Easter being on Patriot's Day Weekend. I made the best of it, but it was not ideal. Previously, I always arrived at my marathon destinations several days or more before the race, and for good reason.
4) My Accommodations. Poor choice, I know, but I made the decision to cut expenses wherever I could. Boston is not cheap! And my 1st booking, which I made well in advance, was cancelled by the owner on short notice, so I was grateful to find this one, even though it was far from ideal. It wasn't a make or break issue in terms of my performance, but combined with already being sick, tired and hot, it certainly contributed.
5) Carbo Loading. I'll put this in the lowest spot, only because I know that ideal Carbo Loading takes place the whole week before, rather than the night before, a Marathon. I really don't know what my night before Ethiopian food might have done to me. I suspect it had some influence on my gut, but not a whole lot. It certainly was not responsible for my 'dead legs' at the start line. Still, it was a 'wild card' situation that should not have happened and which I could have controlled a bit more.
Well, that's it. Some significant factors beyond my control, and a few that I could have managed better. However, I did the best I could in the situation I faced, and I'm happy for the experience.
What happens next, I'm not sure. I'm running the Run for the Toad Ultra in October. I have nothing planned beyond that. For now, I'm going to rest for a couple of weeks, and then ease back into my daily running routine.
I follow the Hanson's Training Method, and am part of that facebook page. Luke Humphrey is the 'science guy' behind the method, the main writer of the book, and the face/voice of the Hanson's Group. He ran Boston last Monday in 2:23:12 - 27th overall - but was aiming for a 2:20. He did a one hour post-Boston analysis for all of us on the facebook page which I watched last night, and it helped me to put things in perspective.
So, the analysis I did myself above was basically bang on. The heat hurt virtually everyone. My primary mistake was not making the mental adjustment to run slower PRE-RACE. I stubbornly held on to the idea of a 3:20 effort for the first 4 miles until I was forced to slow down. By then, it was too late. Had I run a 3:30 effort from the beginning, I would have been in much better shape. Hard to say, of course. Anyway, listening to his analysis helped. I just need to put this one behind me and focus on my next goal.