The 118th Boston Marathon: A Race Recap and Retirement


My third marathon, and fourth race of a marathon or longer, is now, officially in the books.  The official time, 4:26:16, a 10:10 pace.  This wasn’t the time I’d hoped for, it wasn’t even in the same zip code as what I hoped for, but that doesn’t mean I’m not proud of the result.  Here’s how the day went.  Actually, first, let me lay out my marathon day gear:

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For shorts, I went with the new Brooks Essential 3.5″ Split Short.

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And, my Skechers GORun Ride 3s.

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And, now, we return to the recap.  The day started with a 4:00 AM alarm so we could make it down to the Westin in Copley Square to reconnoiter with the Run For Research team in our private ballroom.  I wish I had gotten myself there earlier to get some more coffee down, but I didn’t realize how the streets would be blocked off and had to go way out of my way just to get to the hotel.  But I was very grateful Rebecca woke up early with me and drove us in so I could get in a quick nap along the way.  After a team picture, we loaded up our buses and made the trip to Hopkinton.  It’s always a little mind boggling thinking about how long it takes just to drive there and thinking “I have to run back!”  We arrived at Athlete’s Village sometime 7 and then hunkered down for a long morning of…waiting.  With a bank of port-a-potties right outside of our bus, I decided the best bet would be to hunker down with my RFR teammates and try to relax some.  While this mostly worked out well, especially because I didn’t bring anything to sit on in Athlete’s Village, I do think it set the stage for me to be dehydrated during the race, as I only had one water bottle with me.  I knew I could have gotten more if I went into the staging area itself, but I wasn’t sure I’d be let out of it once I passed through security, so I held off until about 9:30, when I couldn’t take it any more and had to get water so I could eat some Honey Stinger Chews.

Now, somewhere along the way, I got either completely mixed up in what time my wave was supposed to start, or just had the time of day wrong, because I totally missed my wave’s start, Wave 3 that is.  I thought that I was joining the Wave 3 crowd to head to the start when, as I looked around me at the other runners, I realized that everyone else’s bib was yellow, while mine was blue.  This seemed like a fairly good indication that I had done something wrong.  Now, this wasn’t exactly the WORST problem to have in the race, especially because it meant I got to see some friends in Wave 4 before I started.  That said, it did throw me off, as I wasn’t starting with my RFR team and it gave me some anxiety that I could have done without.

Starting in Wave 4 meant that I would have many thousands of people in front of me from the start.  Clearly I wasn’t expecting to set any land speed records in this race, but I did have hopes to be around 8:30 pace (Spoiler Alert: I did not achieve this), which would be hard to reach, certainly in the early stages of the race.  I have to be honest and say that weaving my way through the field so I could try to find my stride took its toll on me both physically and mentally.  I became annoyed nearly from the beginning of the race by…well, pretty much everything: groups from the same charity running 4 across in the middle of the road, walkers at mile 1 in the middle of the road, large numbers of runners wearing headphones that couldn’t hear me coming up on them and saying “excuse me” or letting them know I was passing on one side of them.  Some things I think I had a right to be annoyed at, some things I was just annoyed at because I was already in a lousy state of mind and wasn’t doing much to combat it.

I did my best to persevere and try to stay near my goal pace and, for the first 10 miles, did reasonably well at that, ranging from 8:18-8:59 pace during that time.  There’s not a lot to write home about for those first 10, with few opportunities for large crowds of spectators and not a whole lot to look at.  Personally, the Wellesley Scream Tunnel is about when the race starts to pick up for me in terms of spectator support.  Maybe I’d built it up too much in my head, but this years Scream Tunnel just didn’t seem to have the…POP it has in years’ past.  I did think it was fantastic that they made custom signs this year for runners, inviting people to submit what they wanted a sign to read.  My friend Kat (who ran 3:25!!) made this one for me, but sadly I didn’t see it on the course.

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Passing through the town center of Wellesley and the arch marking the halfway point, I knew that any hope of maintaining a semblance of the pace I was on was out the window.  The wheels may not have come off entirely, but they sure felt wobbly.  Knowing I had the hills coming up didn’t help me mentally.

I think it was around Mile 15 that I took the first of what would be many walking breaks.  Part of the breaks had to do with pure fatigue, part of it was the calf cramps that kept on attacking me, causing me to flail my leg out like I’d been shot.  It was really all I could do to push myself to keep moving in a forward direction through the Newton Hills, losing time all along but never going backwards or stopping.  Here you can see some pretty sweet Pain Face and what happened with calf cramping.

Cram 3 Cramp 2 Cramp

Finally, I made it to the mile 20-ish mark where my mom, sister, and cousins were waiting for me and cheering exuberantly.  They got some great pictures too, where I somehow appear to be happy despite then telling them something along the lines of “I hate the marathon!”

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From there, I knew I only had 3-ish miles to go to get to Rebecca.  I wish I had something interesting to say about those miles other than the fact that they hurt.  They hurt a lot.  Finally, I made it to Rebecca, but I couldn’t even get much out in the way of words, having been socked in a the gut by a wave of emotions  She did get a neat picture where she’s pointing me out to our friends and I’m looking around trying to see the group cheering for me.

Becca Picture

I’ll confess, up until this point I wanted to quit the race a number of times.  I wanted to quit at the halfway point, at a med tent on Heartbreak Hill, at mile 20 when I saw my family, and again at mile 23 when I saw my wife, not to mention a number of times in between.  Despite these impulses, one thought sustained me and kept me moving, namely that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of other runners who were going through, or had gone through, much worse adversity than I was currently experiencing, not to mention the thousands of people who would have loved to have gotten a bib and had the privilege of my suffering, and here I was, thinking of quitting because I was in pain and unhappy with my pace.  How could I ever use the phrase “Boston Strong” again if I proved myself to be Boston Weak?  Plus, there was no way Rebecca was going to let me quit once I saw her with 5K to go.

Because I have no idea where this occurred on the course, I’m going to include this picture of me apparently being chased by a Walker from The Walking Dead here.

Walker

Ironically, though in years’ past the BC kids lining the course basically until the end have normally been my nemesis.  Too loud.  Too obnoxious.  Too many.  This year though, they were awesome.  They were loud and raucous, but encouraging in a way that made me want to respond to them by pushing myself.  Even when I couldn’t run, I at least tried to give them a thumb’s up to acknowledge their cheers and let them know they were making a difference.

At last, I hit Hereford St. and then, Boylston St.  I have to say, it is a LONG way on Boylston St.  The fact that you don’t even hit Mile 26 until you’ve gone a bit on it is disheartening in and of itself.  More disheartening though was that I couldn’t run the whole way, like I desperately wanted to.  Apparently at some point I did manage to break into a semblance of a run for a short period of time though, not that I have any idea where this picture was taken.  Suffice it to say that, at some point during this race, I looked like a runner.

Flying

Despite 26.15 miles of discomfort, when the finish line came into view, I was able to muster some energy to make sure I got a finisher’s picture I could be psyched about.

Hands UpI’ll have a future post with some reflections on this year’s marathon, some good, some bad, but I don’t want to sully this post with negative musings.  I will use it to announce my retirement from the marathon distance though.  It’s just not a distance that seems to agree with me like others do.  Of course, I’ve said that before, so who knows.  Still, if that’s my last finisher’s picture of a marathon, I can say with all honesty that I will be at peace with it.  I’ll still have these memories to treasure.

3 Marathons

Go like never before, my friends.

 

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One Response to “The 118th Boston Marathon: A Race Recap and Retirement”

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