First off, I have to say I have an amazing and supportive husband, family, and friends. Mom and dad made their trip out to Boston to see me run, despite the fact that long haul flights take a toll on their 70+ year old bodies. Sister took the time out from studying for her boards to bring me around Boston to pick up my stuff from the expo and drop me off at the bus loading area the morning of the race. Brother-in-law ran with my bag of changing clothes to the family meeting area after the race, and then helped me into flip flops after easing off my bloodied socks and shoes (more on that later). Best friends took 2 days off work and drove up from NYC just to stand in the cold and rain to cheer me on. Cousin staked out a spot along the route before I had even begun running, and waited in the cold and rain for 3+ hours just to see me for a few seconds as I ran by. Sister-in-law provided endless enthusiastic support and encouragement half way around the world. Finally, the husband who always supported, encouraged, and believed in me – cooked pasta every saturday nights before my long runs, planned my diet so I’d lose a few pounds before the race, ran with me on sundays to keep me company.
I could have gone on this journey alone, but it would have been more difficult and less enjoyable without all of them. So, thanks everyone.
Now without further ado – the Boston Marathon race report.
Race day performance is dependent on several factors. Some are within your control – training, nutrition, racing strategy, and then there are others that are out of your hands – mainly the weather. Performance in general is best in cool (52-53 degrees) dry conditions with a tailwind, and worst in hot humid weather with a headwind, so obviously everyone hopes for the former.
My obsession with race day weather started about 3 weeks prior to the big day. Temperature high was predicted to be anywhere between the high 50s to low 60s with clouds – that was until about 1 week prior to the race when forecast started to change. The temp started to drop, rain threatened to become a reality, and headwinds started to strengthen. I wasn’t so concerned with the cold temp because I did qualify at CIM in 28 degree weather. Rain adds a little discomfort to the whole process. But it was the headwinds that I was worried about – 22mph with gusts up to 39mph.
There simply wasn’t much I could do about the weather other than making sure I was dressed warmly at the start. Unlike most races where they have bag drop off at the starting line and they bus everything back to the finish line for you to pick up, Boston’s bag drop is at the finish line. Which means whatever you wear to the finish line to keep you warm is discarded, but luckily collected and donated afterwards. With that in mind I picked the warmest jacket/coat and sweatpants that no one wanted. Dad ended up being the source of my clothing selection for that morning, which explained the “fobbiness” of my appearance – puffy red jacket with flood-water brown sweatpants sporting 2 white stripes down the sides of each pant leg. My running visor completed the tennis-player-from-China look – per the brother-in-law. But hey, I was warm.
By the time I got to the athlete’s village I had just about enough time to take care of nature’s call before heading out to the start. On our way to the start line I started shedding my “protective layers” – somewhat prematurely – and briefly questioned my race day outfit decision. I had on shorts and sleeveless tank, while most others had on long sleeves, lightweight running jackets, or arm warmers. Several had garbage bags to top off their warm layers. However, I quickly dismissed my doubts as I do best under cold, sometimes frigid, conditions. Then it started to rain…
Boston is notorious for its early quad crushing downhills and the set of 4 Newton uphills placed later in the race. The biggest mistake one can make is to barrel down the hills in hopes to bank time ahead of the uphills. All that achieves is kill the quads before the set of hills in Newton. And because Boston is not a flat course, one wouldn’t be running even pace per mile. Some miles would be faster than others.
Prior to the race, I had researched online and came across a pace band specific to the Boston Marathon course. Paces are faster on downhills portions (except for the first 2 miles) and slower on the uphill ones. It had me going out at a 8:27 minute mile for the first mile even though that was the steepest downhill portion. However, because we were all packed in from the start there was no way for anyone to break out. I ended up running a 8:41 minute mile – that included the time it took me to re-tie my shoelaces, which I’ve never had issues with at any other race because I would I always double knot, but failed to do this time. I wasn’t able to hit my paces until after mile 2 when the crowd started to thin a bit. The pace band helped me immensely because it clued me in on when the hills (down and up) were coming, and let me know when to charge and when to hold back.
I was feeling great until miles 6-7, when I started to feel a little burning sensation behind both achilles. Because of the rain, the back of my shoe was rubbing against my heels. There really wasn’t anything I could do at that point other than run on. The burning was worse on the downhills, and better on the uphills, which would explained why I was actually looking forward to the uphills. However, after a while I stopped feeling it and forgot about it.
I kept track of my time, and was a minute behind pace by the halfway point. I still had the Newton hills coming up, but I wasn’t too worried about them. I just tucked my head down and kept repeating to myself “even effort, even effort” as I was climbing uphill – just like during training. By the time I was done with Heartbreak hill, I was 2 minutes behind. But I knew that if I were to maintain pace after cresting Heartbreak hill, I’d still be able to hit my ‘B goal’.
I had my name scrawled on a sticker taped across my chest so that spectators could call out my name and give me some additional “oomph”. At most other races, you’d hear your name call out a handful of times, but not at Boston. It was almost nonstop wherever the spectators were lined up. At one point, another runner turned to me “Are you Lxxx?”. I was starting to regret my decision of putting my name on my chest – not only was it annoying for the other runners, I was getting sick of hearing my own name. However, it did come in handy later on in the race, as it propelled me to run faster. It was especially crazy at mile 22 where Boston College is. All the college kids were screaming out my name like I was one of the Beatles. I did end up losing the sticker, thanks to the rain and wind, shortly after mile 24 and had to adjust to the relative quietness around me. Kinda missed that sticker.
Saw mom, dad, sister, BIL, and husband at mile 22.4 in front of the CVS. I had originally planned to stop and take a picture with them, but I didn’t trust my legs. If I stopped, there was no guarantee that I’d be able to start back again. Same thing happened at mile 24 where the cousin and friends were camped out. But seeing them gave me an extra boost.
Unlike past races, I studied the Boston route before the race, and knew that the Citco sign meant I had another mile to go. The “right on Hereford and left on Boylston” meant you were down the home stretch. As I made my left on Boylston, I changed up my running gait, pumped my arms and crossed the finish line in 3:36:50. Missed my A goal of 3:35:00, but PR’d!
Once I stopped running, it started to get really cold. I was too busy trying to stay warm in the mylar cape, ducking from the wind, and waiting to get changed into warmer clothes that the family was bringing to the family meeting area, that I had forgotten all about that burning sensation behind my achilles I had first noticed at miles 6-7. It wasn’t until the BIL and husband removed my shoes did I realized how raw my heels were. Both shoes and socks were stained/soaked in blood. Note to self – apply Body Glide to the achilles. One day, I will come out of a race unscathed.
The energy from the spectators, volunteers, and runners at the race was amazing. Boston is like no other, and BAA with their volunteers put together the best run race I’ve experienced so far. Kudos to them, and I’ll be back in 2016!