Thursday, April 21, 2011

My Boston Performance (or the lack there of)

Everything was perfectly aligned for me to run a great race on Monday as I wished the ladies luck and headed towards my starting corral. My training had gone great ever since I had laid out the plan last December. I was feeling wonderful and confident and the weather was exactly what I had hoped for, around the upper 40's with a tailwind. Surely this would be one of my best races ever.

I entered my corral with about 5 minutes before the start and spotted Jeannie Craig, a runner from Virginia I had met at Promise Land several years ago. We chatted for a few minutes and then the wave of runners began moving forward. Although I was behind 9,000 runners in my wave, we reached the starting line in just a few minutes and were able to run immediately. I planned to run very conservatively the first mile and not worry about the pace. Even with the crowd I had only minor problems running evenly because they do a good job of seeding the runners at Boston. The first mile begins with a steep downhill and then a small hill up to the one mile mark. I hit that in 8:44 which was fine and then decided to kick it up a notch the next mile and try to get close to my goal.

My fantasy goal was a pr which would be an 8:11 overall pace or anything under 3:35:15 which I ran in 2006 at Myrtle Beach. I knew that was probably out of reach so anything under my 2nd best of 3:44 would have made me very happy. Mile two was getting close to goal in 8:17 and I had 24 more miles to go to to gradually chip away at the pace. Mile 3 was 8:18 and I was a bit disappointed in that because I had tried to pick it up a little more and it felt like I was running much faster. Finally I hit mile 4 in 8:12. I was thinking that it was too hard to run that fast but I know sometimes in a marathon it takes 7 or 8 miles to get settled in comfortably.

Well, mile 5 took 8:36 and I now knew that I was not going to run fast today. Already I was struggling with a pace that should have felt like an easy workout so I made the decision then to relax and be happy to settle for something between 3:40 and 3:45. I don't know what was going on but I felt as if I were running a minute per mile faster in a 10k race. I could only hope that things would take a turn for the better. Of course I wasn't totally oblivious to what was going on around me. I was running the Boston Marathon after all and I was remembering sights along the course and how it was with Karla 5 years ago.

I was approaching the 10k split which would be the first time my friends tracking me could see my time and it was very disappointing to already be 1:30 slower than I'd hoped but even worse was how I felt and I was still slowing down. The next few miles were a struggle. There was no resurgence of energy and as I passed 10 miles it was obvious that I would not even be close to a 3:45 today. In frustration I slowed down and the only question now was how much would I blow up and suffer the last 16 miles. I just decided to spend the remainder of the race trying to take in as much of the experience as possible.

I made my way into Wellesley and was listening for the roar as I approached the gauntlet of college girls. If I had been on record pace I don't know if I would have taken the time but since I was just slogging along now I would make sure I picked out a pretty one and get me a kiss. They were out in full force and about halfway down the line I spotted a beautiful blonde young lady and she planted a nice one on me. I was happy with that but just as I neared the end of the line I spotted a stunningly beautiful brunette so I had to get another kiss for good measure. Actually the way I was feeling I think I would have rather stayed there a lot longer getting kisses than running but it was time to move on.

Just past the ladies I went through the half in 1:54 but every mile was getting slower and the next one took me 10:10 and I was feeling terrible. Nothing was helping. No gels or gatorade could save my race today and by mile 15 I was already taking some walk breaks. Just as I approached the 16 mile mark I spotted my buddy Fred "Doom" Dummar up ahead escorting Ivan Castro. I knew then if I was catching up as slow as I was going that Ivan wasn't having a good day either. We were entering into the Newton Hills now and it took me 3 more miles to finally catch up to them. I ran along talking to Doom for a few minutes. I had done some calculating and figured that if Lisa was having a good day that she would probably pass me near the 20 mile mark. I told Doom that she should be by soon and then I moved on ahead.

Sure enough just a short way past the 20 mile pint, Lisa went by looking strong. It would have been nice to try and run with her for awhile but there was no way today. Heartbreak Hill comes in this mile and when I got to it I was determined that I was not going to take a walk break here. It was slow but I made it to the top and then hit the downhill to mile 21 at Boston College. They were by far the biggest crowd and loudest spot on the course. I soaked up as much energy from them as I could and slogged on my way. For many miles now I was wishing I had known I would not be running fast. It was so tempting before the start to not even try and just run with The Princess again and now I was really wishing we were together.

The next couple of miles were just awful as I continued to move even slower and by mile 23 I was ready to just give up running at all and walk it in from there.I have actually felt better at the end of some 50 and even 100 mile races than I felt at this point. The only thing keeping my mind off the discomfort was remembering the sights and emotions of my last time here 5 years ago. i finally spotted the Citgo sign way ahead but you can see it nearly 1.5 miles before you get to it, but at least I knew how far it would be when I got there. I was now having to walk more often to fend off cramps in my calves.

Finally I made it to Fenway Park and the 1 mile to go point in the race and knew that it would all be over soon. Kind of sad to work so hard for two years to qualify, hope to run a fast time only to be wishing now it was all over. As I approached the turn onto Hereford St, the crowds were loud and encouraging but no amount of cheering was going to make me feel any better. In fact, sad to say it was annoying me at the time and I just wanted to be left alone in my misery. I know they meant well and I appreciate that but my motivation comes from within. I walked that block and then began my run to the finish on Boylston Street. And then finally it was over. And I beat Batman by a couple of steps I guess that is something.

I slowly made my way to get my space blanket. As soon as I stopped the wind began to feel cold. Next I got some water, claimed my finishers medal , and my food bag. then I had to find my drop bag and then a long walk to the family meeting area to wait for Karla. If I'd had a good day I had planned to go back up the course until i found her and run the last couple of miles with her but now I could barely walk and just wanted to sit for awhile. Tried to change into some warm clothes and the legs were cramping horribly. A nice lady helped me stretch my right calf and then as long as I sat still I was ok. As I sat waiting , I was hoping that Lisa had continued on to a pr and praying that Karla would make it through with no problems. Finally after about 45 minutes, Karla walked up looking ok but she didn't see me sitting on the curb until I called her name. When I saw her smile and knew she did ok, I felt 100% better.

I still don't have a clue what could have caused everything to fail me on this day. For some reason it just wasn't meant for me to run well. I know the training was on track, I had tapered and I was hydrated before the start and even ran with a 24oz water bottle the first hour so I wouldn't have any problems with crowding at the water stops. I even checked my bioryhthms when i got home and they were positive too. The only thing I can think that caused it was not buying those negative ion shoe inserts at the expo !


Unknown said...

This happens to us all. It totally sucks. I know that feeling of looking down at my legs and saying. "c'mon giddy up! What are you guys doing?!" But at least you realized and accepted it early and tried to make the best of it. Still such an amazing experience!! Holla, another Boston in the books!!

(Mary) Shannon Johnstone said...

Sometimes we just have bad days. It just sucks when they happen on what we hope are good days. Something similar happened to me in a marathon a few years ago. To this day, I still don't know what was wrong. It was awful. AWFUL, and I can totally relate to what you wrote about. But you should be proud of your determination, and the fact that you stuck it out and finished! That is really something inspiring!

Frank Lilley said...

So sorry! We all have days like that, for sure. But you sure don't want to have a bad day at Boston! Still . . . the qualifying is the real magic! And you were there at the 'big dance!'

By the way . . . what was your race number? That MAY have been the problem! :-)

runjoey said...

thanks for the support Laura, Shannon and Frank. My number was 17486. Let me know if that was the problem

Frank Lilley said...

Wish I could blame it on the number . . . but that wan't it!!

Caryn said...

I just started following your blog recently, and it's nice to know that even awesome runners like you have "off" days. I'm sorry you did have one, but it sounds like you still had a good finish, and the fact that you qualified puts you in a class that alot of us can only dream of! I'm doing my first full marathon this fall, and it was great to read about someone else's experience, and how you got yourself through it! Good job!