Monday, April 15, 2019

Boston 123rd Marathon 2019: what did you expect?

I ask the question in the title because, on my end, I was really unsure what to expect out of this edition. As I wrote in my last post, last night, I competed in the 100K Road Nationals on Saturday in Madison, Wisconsin, only to DNF and drop after 80K (~50 miles or ~2 marathons). On late afternoon yesterday, Sunday, I went for 4 sluggish miles and had issue maintaining a 7:30 min/mile pace because of short breath and still some soreness in my legs. And then, on the expectation topic, there was the weather forecast...
Ah, the weather at Boston, so unpredictable! 2 years ago it was warm and that worked beautifully for me, finishing 2nd if my competitive M50-54 age group with 2:44. I didn't want to come last year but the organizers invited me, an offer I could not refuse. And, my guts feeling were right, the weather was miserable. This year, that is back in September 2018 to add some context, I decided to register as I would have changed age group. Still dreaming about a good place as I was going to be the youngest again. Many things happened since then and I haven't been able to put enough speed work in since my gluteus issue of last November. As for the weather, a few days ago we received an email to brace ourselves for cold and rainy conditions again, something looking like a repeat from 2018. As of last night and even this morning, there was high chance of rain all morning (before and during the race), just that the temperatures were going to be much higher, 60 to 65F. Another big change from the 32-40F of Saturday's race in Wisconsin...

When my friend drove me to Hopkinton at 8:15, it was a deluge on the highway. And then, miraculously, the rain stopped.

Everything was wet in the village, from the pouring rain of the night, but, in the crowd of 10,000 runners I found a spot with friends from the Bay Area, a great way to spend the 45 minutes before the doors to the corrals opened. Here are Whit Rambach, whom I ran Western States with back in 2007, and Rob Boyce, an Ironman from Australia, both living in Monterey, CA.
Chris Eide was also with us, I'll see him again at Quicksilver 100K in a few weeks. Rob was bib #6131 and I was 6149 this year, quite close! We shared the same corral (#7) and saw each other in the first 2 miles. As for Whit, he had a higher bib so he pretended he wasn't offended that we left him alone... ;-)

I was supposed to meet with Vespa mate, Anthony Kunkel, bib 828, as he had lost his Vespa pouches in his car and I had a couple of extra ones from my aborted 100K of Saturday. I waited for 10 minutes at our meeting point but didn't see him and felt bad for his A race. I'm happy to report he still survived, on his own fat (we both follow Peter Defty's OFM protocol and science), and finished 55th in Open division in 2:27, quite impressive!
Seven thousand runners ahead!
 And one more thousand behind to complete wave 1...
 Oh, and my muddy Brooks Launch special Boston 2017 edition, after a stroll through the village:

It took me almost 4 minutes to cross the start line, walking, it had been a long time since I had done that. I have to admit I'm not a big fan of such crowds, I'm spoiled and now so used to the intimacy of the ultra races and ultra community...

As most of you know, it's easy to start fast at Boston because the first miles are mostly downhill. Two years ago, for my perfect race, I started below 6 min/mile. This time was much different: first there was a lot of traffic but, more importantly, I wasn't in shape at all to go as fast anyway. I was actually please to run at 7 min/mile, clocking 7:12 and 7:11 for the first two miles. However, it was actually warm and I got too hot with my long sleeves and Buff, having hard time to maintain 7:30 on the slight up-hills. And, although I had started at the back of the 7th corral, I was passing a few runners, but I was getting passed more. My main goal was really to finish so I didn't panic and tried to run between 7:15-7:30 min/mile where I could, thinking that conservative pace would do it. I felt a little uneasy to recognize the sections I was running so well 2 years ago but, again, it was foolish anyway to run 2 marathons 2 days earlier.

The miles passed the same way, still runner passing me, and me thinking I'd better keep the pace before the blue wave catches me (they started 23 minutes behind us, or 19 minutes given the time it took me to pass the start line). I had quite negative thoughts in my mind, doubting I would even be able to maintain that slower pace all the way. Breathing and stride were ok, I could feel the gluteus but it wasn't the issue, I wasn't into it.

Then I got to mile 12... Wellesley and it's prestigious women-only College, and scream tunnel. All the way, I had hard time returning smiles from spectators but I decided to make a stop right in the tunnel and get a video so you get some sense of the uplifting feeling, right before the half marathon point. It can actually be quite a trap: it's so uplifting to have all these girls yelling encouragements that it gives you some new wing and you risk on picking up the pace way too early in the race. It has happened to me in the past, I know better as it's my 7th participation! ;-)

I spent about 45 seconds there, and that gave me my slowest mile at 8:14. But it was so much worth it: from that point, the dark clouds in my mind cleared up and everything became so much easier. For one, after passing the half marathon in 1:36:25, maintaining a sub 7:30 pace wasn't a problem anymore. I even clocked 7:45 for the infamous Heartbreak Hill, now passing many runners back, recognize many tops I had seen earlier in the morning. And now acknowledging spectators' encouragements.

I stopped at mile 16 to refill my GU20/GU Brew bottle and lost a few seconds but I save more by carrying two bottles. I took my 2nd GU before Heartbreak Hill, then a 3rd one around mile 22 to avoid the mistake I had made in that section last year. Running Boston on only 3 GUs shows the power of the powerful combination of OFM and Vespa, your body fat bringing the rest of the energy. Not to mention the recovery benefits allowing you to race and train more.

From mile 21 to 24 I clocked sub-6-minute miles and was passing many more runners, hundreds if not thousands: 7:01 for mile 22, then 6:54, 6:52, 7:00 and 7:05, then it was time for the last sprint on Boylston street. Finish time (chip time): 3:12:30, a negative split by a few seconds, my first time at Boston. Ok, much easier to do when you start slow, but still... ;-) My best hope was between 3:10 and 3:15, right in the middle! And so much the push and second wind in the second half. After my first 3:11 marathon on Saturday, two good tests before pacing the 3:10 group at Big Sur Marathon in 2 weeks! (With the Napa trail half in between, in 5 days...)
Not a disappointment at all but to illustrate the competitiveness among the old guys, I took 63 in my age group, the top 3 times being respectively 2:46, 2:48 and 2:52; I may have to come back, these times are still reasonable at our old age... ;-)
And to illustrate the depth, Rob finished less than 4 minutes behind me (3:16:22) and ended up 306th in our M55-59 group, yikes, what a bell curve (statistic jargon)!

Here is a 1-minute 3D flyover of my run (click on this link, or the image below).

The conditions ended up gorgeous, at least for the sub-4-hour runners. I don't know if the course got the heavy rain we got near Waltham around 3 pm, I wouldn't have wanted to still be out there. Although, again, rain with warmer temperatures is less of an issue than it was last year.

After soaking my legs in an epsom salt bath, I actually feel much better in stairs tonight than I felt last night. Looks like it was worth recovering with a (short) marathon after all! Still, I feel I deserve a week off. Running that is, I'm getting back to work now...

Was great to see so many people today, both on the course and along the course. What a 123rd edition, Boston lived up to it's reputation again! Number 7 for me, I'll likely be back, maybe not next year as odd years worked better for me (I ran 2001, 3, 5 (top 10 Masters), 7, 17 (top 2 M50), 18 and 19). Nothing compared to the fate which Mark Godale accomplished with his brother today: 26 consecutive Boston finishes! Or what about that other one he posted on his timeline: Dan Larson who completed today his 49th Boston, including 45 consecutive ones. That's another level of life commitment, and running sustainability, wow!

Hope you had a good experience today, either running, spectating, or following our progress on line. And see you on the road, trail or online again soon!

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