Thursday, April 16, 2009

from the archives: 2007 boston marathon race report - part three, the marathon

after i fell asleep at the switch and got closed out of the 2008 boston marathon, there'll be no annual trip to boston for me this weekend :( instead, i'll be cheering on my friends from the sidelines!!

in a somewhat nostalgic mood, i'm decided to post my 2007 boston marathon trilogy :D

here is the third and final instalment of my 2007 boston marathon race report!

part one: the 2007 brooklyn half marathon.
part two: the 2007 baa freedom run and marathon expo.

Boston 2007 Race Report: Part Three
The Boston Marathon
Monday, April 16, 2007

Despite going to sleep early, I woke up twice during the night and listened to the wind howl outside. The second time was even worse, having added the sound effect of the rain splattering against the hotel windows as a counterpoint. It had rained on and off all day Sunday, but nothing approaching the intensity of this early morning storm. By these early indications, it was going to be a long trip from Hopkinton back to Boston.

As I got myself ready for the race, my wife went downstairs to get the car. When I met her in the lobby, she introduced me to Richard, a fellow hotel guest and runner she had just met. She heard him at the front desk, asking to call him a cab. So she offered him a ride with us to the Alewife Station. Walking out the front door, we were hit with a gust of wind and rain. It was hard to believe how wet I got in the half dozen step it took to get in the car. Although I hadn't bothered to put on my rain poncho yet, luckily I did cover my running shoes with plastic bags.

She dropped us off at the T and we rode to the Park Street Station together. As it turned out we were both in the same starting corral. At the Boston Common I had planned to meet up with my friend Emmy, who was also in the same corral. But she was nowhere to been seen. Not only was my bus ride long - at least a half hour longer than the expected 45 minutes it should have taken - but we actually stopped about 4 miles short of the I-495 turnoff. One of the buses in our caravan had broken down and it they had to redistribute the runners from that bus among the remaining buses. We took in four of those displaced runners.

When we finally pulled into the athletes' village, it started to rain as we exited the bus. Unfortunately for me, I needed to stand in line for the porta john. I took that opportunity to break out the poncho. As I entered the porta john, I noticed it had two sliding latches on the door. How odd, I thought, "Why on earth would they put two locks on this thing?" In my haste I only slid the top one closed. Less than a minute later, as a wind gust blew open the door, I learned why there were two latches. Ugh.

After that experience, I made a beeline for the only seriously dry place in sight, the high school. Once there, I learned it was full and they would not allow any more runners to squeeze in there. So I was left out in the proverbial ball field. Luckily, the rain shower had passed. My only hassle now was mud. I was content to stand on the pavement surrounding the school, but my need for some coffee got the better of me and I began a slow trudge to the tent that had it - strategically located in the middle of the ball field. My plastic bag covered feet were well protected on the way out there. But the bags were no real match for the mud and on the way back, they had gotten so gnarly looking that I had to ditch them.

Safely situated on dry land with a nice warm cup of coffee, I was finally able to contact Emmy. She told me that she had overslept and was on a bus headed to Hopkinton. Okay. I was also on the lookout for my friend Todd, whom I had hoped to meet up with on Sunday, but those plans never worked out. As it turned out, I didn't find either Emmy or Todd [but todd and i would run the first half of the 2008 boston marathon together!] before it was time to drop off my bag and head over to the corrals. I was confident that I would eventually meet up with Emmy, as well as my traveling companion Richard, since we were all in corral number seven.

During most of my stay at athletes' village the rain held back: there was an occasional sprinkle, but no real downpours. At 9:00 I walked over to the baggage bus and turned in my bag. My only real dilemma at that point was whether to keep on the tights I was wearing, or switch over to shorts. I wore an Underarmor mock turtleneck and a long sleeve tech shirt, plus my windbreaker. I also wore a headband a wool cap. As luck would have it, the rain started up again and made keeping my tights on the easier decision. On the long walk to the starting corrals, the rain never let up. One last pit stop at the porta johns behind Colella's Market, and I settled in for a half hour wait in the corral.

The rain tapered off to a light sprinkle as I milled about corral seven, keeping a look out for Emmy or Richard. Amazingly, I did not see either one the entire time. As the corral filled up, the wind seemed to pick up accordingly. In the mass of runners, it wasn't very cold, but it was certainly uncomfortable. When the cannon went off, it took at least four minutes to reach and cross the starting line. By that time, the rain had stopped, so I tossed off my rain poncho just into the first mile. Still, I was not a happy camper. Wet feet were my prime physical concern - just the sound of squishing, for 26 miles, would be hell. But I was also disappointed at having spent all that time in Hopkinton without catching so much as a glimpse of a familiar face.

Oh well, time to focus on the task at hand. My primary goal was to finish between 3:30 and 3:40. I actually wanted to run a sub-3:30 to qualify for 2008 - the qualifying time for my soon to be new age group, but I didn't foresee that result, given the weather conditions. But even a 3:30 would be a small disappointment compared to last year's 3:16. This year's different training priorities and attendant race results make me ever so nostalgic for last year - ha ha. So my initial plan would be to string together as many 8:00 miles as possible, before I had to abandon that pace.

The first three miles went like clockwork, in 24:07. At that point I made a pit stop at a roadside porta john. That wasn't too much fun because another runner - in an unusual act of speed work - literally cut me off and dashed into the porta john ahead of me! My planned one minute pit stopped stretched into two as I waited for him - ugh. But that was the only unpleasant moment of the day, and it was more than made up for by the random acts of kindness from volunteers and spectators along the course. Still, I was annoyed with that 9:50 mile four.

The next four miles I bounced back with a string of sub 8's - 7:51, 7:51, 7:52, and7:49 - for an eight mile split of 1:05:22. This was an 8:10 pace, including the time spent a the pit stop. Just before the 15k marker the wind started gusting across Fiske Pond. It was so powerful that for the quarter mile or so it took to pass the water, I literally held on to my bib because it was flapping so hard. Then, once past the pond, it stopped. Little did I realize then that it was a free preview of the conditions we???d encounter along Beacon Street! My pace for the next few miles slowed down a bit: 8:05, 8:00, 8:07, 8:01, and 8:04, for a half marathon split of 1:46:33 and 8:07 pace.

Running past the cheering Wellesley College girls during mile 13 was easily the high point of the first half. Even though my pace slowed down a bit more in the next few miles, all the cheering and celebration at Wellesley recharged my batteries for the drive to the Newton hills. In fact, it was just past the half mile marker that I began thinking about having a Gu. Up until that point I had stuck to water at the pre-10 mile aid stations, and started mixing in some Gatorade at mile 10 onward. After spotting numerous empty sport bean and gel block wrappers littering the street, I had lost my appetite for Gu. In one of those mysterious moments, just past the 14.5 mile point, I was the beneficiary of a random act of kindness when a wonderfully cheerful grade school girl offered me a ziplock baggie filled with Jelly Bellies!! I couldn't believe it. I actually carried that baggie with me for the next five miles, eating one Jelly Belly at a time with a smile.

Between miles 14 and 19 my mile splits ranged between 8:19 and 8:34. The Newton hills had slowed me down a bit, but I was still feeling pretty good at this point. I finished mile 20 in 8:34, for an overall time of 2:44:43. I was pretty content with the 8:14 pace thus far. But wasn't sure I could keep it up too much longer. Miles 21 -23, in 8:49, 8:27 and 8:59 would be my last 8 minute miles with 5k left to go. Also, at Mile 24 the first blast of wind started kicking up on Beacon Street. This, for me, seriously undercut my determination. Once again I found myself holding on to my bib in the face of these powerful gusts. Mile 24 took me 9:02. And I was about to hit the wall in mile 25. I had decided to walk thru the aid stations at that point and wasn't too happy about it.

Yet, in another random act of kindness, a young woman was standing mid-way through mile 25 holding a Tupperware bowl filled with what could only be described a giant-sized M&Ms. I had never seen M&Ms like that before, but somehow a handful of those chocolate goodies was all I needed to jumpstart my mental determination to finish. So while mile 25 was a desultory 10:51 - and now made any hope of a sub 3:40 unrealistic, I rallied back in mile 26 with a 9:13 and crossed the finish line (for the second time in 24 hours - haha) in 3:41:51, for an overall pace of 8:28. My fourth Boston Marathon was in the books.

What a relief that was! Except for the seriously gusty winds along some portions of the course, once we had left Hopkinton, there was no rain, there was no Nor'easter! Looking back, the only thing I would have done differently is switched into shorts and ditched the tights before the start. Other than that, I ran the best race I could under the circumstances. Physically, I felt no worse for the wear. But I was disappointed that I didn't see any of my friends before, during or after the race!

next up: the sybil ludington 50k

check out my 2008 boston marathon race report.

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