Sometimes I like to write a race report ASAP, while everything is fresh in my mind. Sometimes I prefer to let things percolate a bit because I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. (And because I want to wait for photos to break up an endless block of text, but MarathonFoto is a hopeless cause so that isn’t going to happen right now.)
This was supposed to be my marathon retirement party. But since I don’t really think marathons are “fun,” I can’t run one just to enjoy the experience; and because I chose a conservative goal to BQ in NYC in 2016, it wouldn’t be so ridiculous to get a PR now. I mean, my knees and my ankles are falling apart but it’s not as if I have any idea what it’s like to run without everything hurting, so it shouldn’t make much of a difference. I printed out two pace bands.
Course-specific, very conservative start. Ideally, I would have used the 3:25 pace band for the first half, then switched to the 3:20 when I hit the Newton hills. It sounds a little backwards. But if 3:20 turned out to be too ambitious and I ended up having to stick with the 3:25, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world.
And then it turned out that the forecast was right; it was miserably cold, rainy, and windy, and I threw out the thought of 3:20. I don’t do well in cold. Especially not with a headwind. At least I prepared adequately for the long wait — I had many throwaway layers, the crowning glory of which was my bright pink quilted jacket.
People were jealous. I was warm. (There was a black zip-up hoodie underneath that, because I remembered having to fish one out of the donation bin prior to the NYC Half.)
side note: Boston Marathon earrings
It was tough to make a decision on what to wear, because I knew I’d be cold and wet and miserable no matter what. In the end, I think what I chose was perfect for me — I mean, it was still cold and wet and miserable, but I think I minimized that as much as I possibly could have. (PPTC singlet over a long-sleeve base layer, compression tights, billed cap, headband [over the cap so the wind didn’t blow it off my head], cheap cotton gloves inside latex gloves, clear poncho. My cotton gloves actually did get wet, but because the latex blocked the wind, my hands didn’t freeze.)
I was on an early bus to Athlete’s Village since Jana and I took an Uber from her sister’s place to the bus pickup spot together, and she was in Wave 1. There was a bit of unnecessary excitement when our driver had to pull over onto the shoulder for a few minutes after what we thought was a blown tire. Never figured out what it was, but we did eventually make it to Hopkinton. We squashed our way into one of the tents, which looked like some sort of post-apocalyptic scene… people camped out all over the place on tarps and plastic bags. On spongy, muddy ground that you could feel squelching beneath you (and there were so many people that I was practically sitting with my knees tucked under my chin, which said knees did not appreciate). As time went on, the grass turned into more and more of a mud pit, and going to the porta potties on the perimeter of the field involved wading through what may as well have been quicksand. I was very glad that I was wearing throwaway shoes and socks.
Cumulus 13 — the first shoes in which I ever got fitted. Sadness. I have no photo of my racing shoes, because I didn’t put them on until I left the field and went to the corrals, and my phone was back in bag check at the finish line. In leaving said field, I stupidly attempted to climb up the little hill to the sidewalk. What happens when you try to climb up a slippery muddy embankment is that you will fall and slide halfway to the bottom and then need to crawl your way back up. Good think I was covered in plastic; all I had to do was stand in the pouring rain for thirty seconds and all the mud washed off.
After changing into dry socks and my 4%s (both of which were soaked within seconds), I headed to the start corrals. I was in Wave 3, corral 1, so I had to run there to make it before the gun. At least it meant there wasn’t much time left to freak out before we started running. I was still wearing the clear poncho, along with a clear garbage bag and the zip-up hoodie underneath.
My mental playlist kept singing for the first time in forever, you’re doing Boston. I may have felt a bit weepy because I couldn’t believe I had actually made it there.
I was determined not to be one of those people who goes out way too fast and trashes their quads for the hills in the second half — hence the “very conservative start” pace band. I stuck to it pretty well, and the first half of the race went by pretty uneventfully. If you call a monsoon uneventful, anyway. It poured the entire time. You would not think such heavy rainfall could continue unabated for so long, but it did, even turning into ice pellets at one point. Once in a while there was a nasty gust of wind — and of course it was blowing from the east.
I got rid of the hoodie after about a mile, and the garbage bag not too long after that. I hung on to the poncho in a valiant attempt to at least keep my core relatively dry and warm so that I didn’t fall victim to cold diuresis. I had knotted it at the back so that it wasn’t quite so billowy and parachute-like, but I was willing to sacrifice some time to wind resistance in order to keep from becoming hypothermic.
I was also supposed to do a run/walk thing like in Jerusalem, because my knees were still bothering me, even though I got a cortisone shot in one of them a couple of weeks prior after sucking it up and dealing with the pain for the past two months so that I could get one right before Boston. But I didn’t plan to start implementing that strategy until a couple of miles in so that the herd could spread out a bit. And then it was just too damn cold to stop to walk, never mind that it was so noisy, I sometimes couldn’t even hear/feel the alert; I just slowed to a recovery jog pace whenever I was able to hear it, which was probably less than half the time.
Around mile 6, I saw Jimmy and Nicole, and then Missy. I had no idea they’d be there so early in the course, so that was a nice surprise! In general, the crowd support in Boston is amazing. I definitely could hear the Scream Tunnel from well over half a mile away, even in the nasty weather. I can’t even imagine what it would be like on a nice day.
This is somewhere between mile 14 and 15. Everything was still clicking nicely along at that point. Until mile 17, when the hills started. That’s when I was supposed to switch to the more aggressive pace band. Except in light of the conditions, and the fact that my knees ****ing hurt and hills make that worse, I decided to be more conservative until after Heartbreak Hill. Everyone says the last five miles are downhill, so I was counting on making up some of that time then. My watch, of course, was measuring ahead of the course, but I calculated that I could still afford to do this and come away with a PR. Not sub-3:25, but a PR nonetheless.
I didn’t see Linda, but she got this photo right around mile 18. The true suck hadn’t yet begun, I don’t think, because I passed the PPTC cheer station not too long after that (no photographic evidence of this), and I remember that I still had the presence of mind to be excited to see them.
I made it to the top of Heartbreak Hill a bit slower than I would have liked, but it wasn’t too bad; I definitely still had a PR within reach. And it’s so exciting, because it’s supposedly all downhill from here!
Imagine being in that position and making the turn after cresting Heartbreak, only to be hit in the face with sustained 30 MPH headwinds that accompany you the rest of the way. The last few miles are largely open on the runners’ left side, so the northeasterly wind was blowing right at us.
And the “downhill finish” is not exactly downhill. Maybe it’s a net elevation loss, but it’s comprised of gentle rolling hills. The NYC finish is similar, but I am familiar with the hills in Central Park (even if I hate them), so I know how to gauge the effort level required. I was not expecting that here, and when combined with the freezing cold rain, the headwind, and my impossible knees and ankles, I just couldn’t fight it anymore. The PR was getting smaller and smaller and then it pretty much slipped away; I could have had it until mile 25 or so. I’ve heard that the Citgo sign is deceiving because you see it and get all excited, but there’s still more than a mile to go. My quads weren’t really trashed from the early downhills, but my climbing these little rollers in the last couple of miles was making my hamstrings start to seize up. (I know this happens to people a lot. It has never, ever happened to me.)
There were mile markers, and there were markers every 5K. I don’t know what the hell my mental math was doing, but somewhere around 35K my stupid brain had calculated that I could still squeeze out a PR if I kept my pace under 8:30. (I couldn’t go by “keep your average pace at 7:xx,” because my watch was measuring too long for me to rely on that.) At 40K, I realized I had somehow miscalculated, and that I would have to run like hell to even have the slightest shot of making it. I knew I would be infuriated if I missed by just one or two seconds, and since I was barely able to stagger in a straight line at that point, running like hell wasn’t likely to be happening anyway. No PR for me.
Neither my brain nor my body were fully functioning, so I couldn’t really appreciate the historic “right on Hereford, left on Boylston.” I do remember wishing that Hereford was a long stretch and Boylston was a short one rather than the other way around, because it’s such a tease to have the finish line at the end of a long straight road… down which I ran/hobbled while watching a sub-3:30 vanish before my eyes.
The finish line part of my adidas highlight film is a little frightening… I’m not sure I can call that running. Just about the only positive thing I can say about it is that I’m not veering all over the place.
Found myself on the NBC stream — I’m standing on the “N.” I stopped running a few steps after the second timing mat, and if I thought I was staggering before… I had been hurting while I was running, but once I stopped, it was like an instant barrage of excruciating agony. My knees completely stopped working. And the groin muscle that I aggravated a few days earlier (opening a bathroom door… don’t ask) was kind enough to keep quiet during the race, but it chimed in on this cacophony. It’s always a good sign when a medic after the finish line offers you a wheelchair.
Which I turned down, because it’s not like they could have done anything for me anyway, and I was so damn cold that all I wanted was to get into some dry clothes. It was a long, painful hobble to get my water, medal, heat sheet (poncho, whatever), food bag, and then finally reach the baggage tent.
Whereupon I stood and shivered with my teeth chattering because the volunteer couldn’t find my bag. (“Are you sure it’s 16503? All I can find is 16513.” That… doesn’t really help me very much, and I’m going to die of hypothermia in about five seconds.) When it finally showed up, I just could not wait in the endless line for the changing tent, so I changed in the baggage tent. That heat sheet made a nice barricade. And the inside of the clear plastic poncho that I had worn for the entire race gave me a somewhat dry surface to stand on while I went through the exquisitely painful process of getting out of my wet clothes and into dry ones.
I considered taking an Uber back to Jana’s sister’s place, but I would have had to walk a couple of blocks since the race meant that a lot of streets were closed to traffic. I couldn’t bear the thought of that, so I just took the T since there was a station right there. It took me nearly ten minutes to creep the half block back to the apartment after that. Feeling sore and achy after a marathon is normal; I don’t mind that my quads are a little sore now. But outright pain is not normal, and should not be par for the course. Unless, I guess, you are me.
My Garmin, which measured way long, says I ran 26.52 miles in 3:30:37, 7:57/mi.
I can’t even.
Officially, 3:30:33, 8:02/mi. 8114 / 25746 OA, 1930 / 11604 F, and 1606 / 5783 F18-39. I did come in ahead of my bib number, which was just a weirdly random thing I wanted to do, but that’s about the only thing I managed to accomplish successfully.
This is even more frustrating to me because I really don’t think 3:25 (or even 3:20!) is a reach goal for me. And yet…
…I missed a PR by less than a minute. It’s still a BQ, but it’s only a -4:27 buffer, and after last year, I’m not so sure that’s going to cut it.
Because even though I really wanted this to be my last marathon, I don’t want to go out on such a sour note; I want my last one to be a race of which I can be proud, and this one just brought home the fact that I suck. The conditions may have been shitty, but lots of people did manage to PR, and I couldn’t pull that off even with those supposed magical shoes (which I think are a waste of money because they felt fine, and all, but so would a $100 shoe). So, yes, I am disgusted and disappointed with myself even though I realize that this isn’t really a bad finish time. It is much like all of the races I run lately: not terrible, but not great. And frankly, I’m getting really, really sick of my own mediocrity.