Saturday, April 25, 2015

2015 #BostonMarathon

They may have just shouted "Go!" I have no idea what happened. Was there a gun? A whistle? A count down? I have no clue, it was a blur. We started running and I am not exaggerating when I say that Adam, Charlie and I were passed by 1,000 runners in the first 3 minutes. There was a race marker on the side of the road that said "1" and Charlie and I both expressed relief when we got to it and found that it said "1 Kilometer," rather than "1 Mile." That would have been a horrible way to start the race. The three of us moved effortlessly downhill, constantly getting passed by runners who we'd inevitably see again in the later stages of the race.

So, what was the plan, you ask? From the beginning, I've been training to run a PR. After Chicago in 2012, I knew I had more in the tank, so I trained to run fast in Boston. I said that I'd be happy with any increment of a personal best, but would really prefer to run under 2:26 so that I could say that I've run 2:25 instead of 2:26. It was only 32 seconds that I needed to shave off of my time from Chicago. Adam and Charlie are more talented than I am, so I figured I should try to hold onto them as long as possible. Beforehand, through email, we'd discussed pace. Their goals, as I understood them through the cloaks and mirrors, were to try to run comfortably through 20 miles around 5:28-5:34 range and then see what we could do. I knew that anything much under 5:30 per mile would push me too close to the line, so I figured I'd run 5:33-5:35 with them if I could, and if not, just let them run away from me and hope for the best. I'd done a lot of training alone this winter, so I wasn't too worried about having to run alone. I also expected to find someone else on the course moving at the same pace as me and maybe work together with them if need be. So that was the plan from the beginning. But 20 MPH winds and rain aren't the ideal racing conditions for a plan like that, but we still came to race.

The Saga Continues

The three of us got to the mile right at 6:00. It was a few seconds slower than I would've liked, but still fine. I was always happy to say that in Chicago I never had a mile in the 6:00 range after the first, so I thought I'd just have the same today. The three of us were together, although not necessarily in a group. In my mind, it seemed like we were each operating independently, but occupying the same space. After the first mile, there was a conscious effort to go a little bit faster, but I knew I wasn't going to worry about anything until the first 5k was over. We hit 5:48 through the second mile, and passed two elites runners who were already walking on the side of the road. One of them was Dylan Wykes, who posted the tweet below the night before the race. I took a screenshot of the tweet (it had been retweeted by someone I follow) and sent it to KC, because the photo made me miss her and Henry.

Well he was already walking, and after the next guy, Charlie said "That's two," as in "two guys we don't have to pass at the end," or something to that effect. We hit a water stop and I started to drink. I would end up drinking at every single stop on the course. My legs did not feel great. I was still pretty cold and my left hamstring felt tender right up under my butt, but we were already going and I didn't think I needed to drop out yet like these guys did. Despite the cold, I threw my hat off, mostly because I knew that it was just going to make me sweat more and lose fluids faster if I kept it on much longer. Mile three came in at 5:42, and I remember thinking it was time to go. We went through the 5K in 18:05 and almost automatically started to move up as a group. Our next two miles were 5:36 and 5:37. We'd be moving along and catch up to a big group, then stay there with them for a little bit until we found out that they were running too slowly. Mile 6 was an example of that, as we'd pick up the pace breaking a group apart, running a 5:31. That was too hot, so I'd back off a little and join the next group. I think around 10K, (35:29 - 17:24 last 5K), I saw Charlie point to the left side of the road at Chip, and I turned and saw him and pointed too. He was cheering and had a "Run Bert Run!" sign. It was nice to have some support out there!

After the 10k, I got out a GU so that I could finish eating it before the water stops at mile 7, and disaster struck. While trying to close the pouch, my glove got stuck on the velcro and a GU fell on the ground. I turned around and watched it as we motored away, never to be seen again. I did not panic, as I knew there was going to be something on the course from CLIF, and probably random children passing out candy in the later stages of the race. I hit the 7th mile in another 5:37, moving along with a fairly big group, but was unsatisfied with the pace. The next few miles were more of the same... catch a group, break a group open, go after the next group. We were passing hundreds of people, and it was still early. Mile 8 and 9 were 5:37 and 5:33, as we got to the 15K mark (52:52 - 17:23 last 5K) and it started to rain a little bit. My legs were already turning pink from the cold winds. Miles 10 (5:38) and 11 (5:33) were uphill miles, but nothing really changed. I started to get frustrated with the groups, wondering how it was possible that EVERYONE in this race was trying to run a 5:37 mile pace. Mile 12 came and went in another 5:38.

This is when I just went for it. I stopped worrying about what anyone else was doing, stopped worrying about the groups, and stopped worrying about Adam and Charlie. Something clicked in my brain and I just said, "I'm here to do work," and I went to the front. I was completely focused on running the pace I wanted to run. We went through a busy intersection and I heard Chip yelling my name as I passed by him and saw him out of the corner of my eye, but it was too late to acknowledge it so I just kept on driving. When I got to Wellsley, I knew that I had to let go of some of that focus or else I was going to run under 5-minutes for the mile past the screaming girls, and so I backed off a bit. Some of the group started to come back to me and I didn't feel quite alone, but then as we headed uphill towards the 20K mark (1:10:20 - 17:28 last 5K), they all fell off again. One guy (#195) stayed with me, and I asked him what he was trying to run. He said "times are out the window today," to which I said "Ok, but what do you want to run per mile now?" He said 5:30-5:35 and I agreed and just kept motoring away. Mile 13 was a 5:33, and I got to the half in 74:06.


At that point, I accepted the fact that a PR was probably out of the question. I wanted to get to the half between 72:30 and 73:15. I didn't think that I could run a sub 72 second half, especially with the hills that were coming. I didn't feel great from the start, and my legs were not warming up. Before I started breaking out of the groups, there was no shelter from the winds, even in the middle of the pack. I only saw one guy on the course the entire day that was noticeably taller than I am, so it's not like I could tuck in behind someone. But I wasn't giving up. Just because I couldn't PR, didn't mean that I couldn't run a good race. I did some math in my head and decided that I'd just run an even race and try to get under 2:28. I could just replicate everything that I'd already done, use the slower miles from the first 5K as my miles up the hills, and coast down to the finish. No problem.

The water stop started at the same place as the mile split, so between getting out my second (and last) GU and taking water, I neglected to look at or take a split. I couldn't get that GU down for some reason, and ended up spitting the entire thing out. That was a bad sign. I'd dropped one gel and spit out another... Charlie caught up to me after 14, saying that he came to help, to which I replied that it was about time. I told him I missed my split and asked him what he was running, and he told me it was 6:00. I figured that might have been accurate, as he'd caught me, so when he started to lead, I made sure to go with him to make up for a bad 14th mile. (He later told me that he was messing with me and apologize for ruining my race by lying to me.) We got to 15 with a total time of 11:12, so 5:37 pace, and I thought nothing of it. Just past 15 there was a really big downhill as we got to 25K (1:27:37 - 17:17 last 5K). With that downhill, mile 16 was the fastest mile of the day (spoiler alert) at 5:26. I'd been advised by a friend that the hill at this point was really bad, mostly because of it coming immediately after the big drop just before it, so I backed off and tried to run very controlled on my way up it. I lost Charlie in the process and got to 17 in a slow 5:43. Going up the hill, they had the CLIF shot station and I knew I needed to get one. There were four different flavors and I got each one to make sure that I got something similar to chocolate. The 4th one was Mocha, so I threw the other three on the side of the road. But disaster continued to strike as I struggled to get the thing open, got one small taste of it and then for some reason just dropped it. Great. My life is ruined.

After that dramatic event, the pace for mile 18 wasn't any better with another hill, and I covered it in 5:49, passing the 30K mark in 1:45:20 (17:43 last 5K). This was my slowest 5K since the first, and it was largely uphill. But I still felt ok. My legs were sore and my hips and knees were starting to get tighter, but I wasn't losing control yet. I knew it was coming though, and decided to just keep pushing. There was no "saving myself for the last 10K" like some people do in Boston. I was just going to get to the top of those hills and hope for the best on the way down. I started drinking full cups of Gatorade at the water stops, knowing that I hadn't gotten the fueling that I was expecting to have during the race and my legs were going to need all the electrolytes they could get. The next mile markers were all at a higher elevation than the one before it, and as a result, the splits got slower. I was ok, still working hard and running under control, but came through 19, 20, and 21 in 5:39, 5:51, and 6:04.


So what about Heartbreak Hill? Despite having printed off 4 copies of the course map and placing them strategically throughout my living spaces (Fridge, dresser, desk, car), I had no idea where Heartbreak Hill was. Motoring through what I thought was Boston College, I was under the impression it was at the end of mile 22. My ignorance may have been a blessing, or maybe it was my focus, but when we (me and #195) reached the top of Heartbreak before the end of mile 21, I was shocked. I said to him, "Was that it? Was that Heartbreak Hill?" He said that it was, and I hope that he didn't think that I was being cocky, but honestly I felt relieved that it had come and gone without me even thinking about it. I maintained a strong effort, albeit slowly, and felt good as I moved past it. It was literally almost all downhill from here, and I'd gotten through the hardest part.

But at mile 21, my right hamstring completely went out. I jump/hobbled for a few strides to keep myself from falling over, and watched as #195 (who hadn't done ANY work over the last 10 miles, by the way) left me in the dust. And just like that, I was finished racing.

People like to say that the marathon really starts after 20 miles. On this day, I made it 21 before I really had to start trying. The last 5 miles, for me, were about not falling flat on my face. It wasn't really the death march that I experienced on some of my harder long runs, nor did I hit the wall. I felt completely fine, except that my legs just didn't work anymore. I have had enough experience running races, and marathons in particular, to know what I had to do: slow down. On that first mile after the pull (#22), I ran downhill in 6:03. So slightly faster than my last mile, but downhill.

Charlie went past me right at 35K (2:03:48 - 18:28 last 5K) and offered words of encouragement, but I couldn't run with him. A few more guys passed me too. But I still had a good attitude about it, and I thought, OK, let's just try to run 6 minute pace and see if we can get under 2:30 still. I latched onto some guys as they started to pass me and tried to run with them, but then my left leg went out too-- this time my quad. Mile 23 was a slower 6:19. Not the right direction. I looked at the clock and thought about this last 5+K, just trying to keep it under 20 minutes. I was taking deep breaths, trying to get as much oxygen into my lungs and legs as I could, and stay relaxed. Mile 24 was a little better, a 6:09. "Ok," I thought, "the worst is over, you can do this." PULL. For the third time on the course, I almost had to come to a complete stop to prevent myself from falling over.

The last two miles took an eternity. Knowing where the finish was, just trying to get there one mile at a time, having so many people cheering for me to go faster and telling me I was almost there, when I physically couldn't do anything about it. I was just going through the motions, putting one foot in front of the other, to make sure I didn't collapse. I hit the 40K mark in 2:23:09 (19:21 last 5K) and thought, "This is when I should have gotten to 26." Could I run two kilometers in under 7 minutes to break 2:30? I was tired enough then to not figure out mathematically that the odds were small, but I kept pushing, knowing where I was going and how badly I wanted to be there. Mile 25 was a slower 6:22, and my heart just kept breaking. My legs would not listen to my brain, to my heart, telling them to push. I could not get enough air into my body to lift them off the ground any faster. I ran past Corey Miller, in town to cheer for his dad, holding a Team Blitz sign. I could not go. I ran past Mark Lorenzoni and the Charlottesville cheering section, hearing their voices loud and clear, but I could not go. I turned right onto Hereford Street and left onto Boylston Street, and I could not go.

The stretch on Boylston Street was underwhelming. They say that it's the loudest part of the course, and the place where people are the most emotional as they head for the finish line, but it wasn't for me. I just didn't have it in me. I could see Charlie in the distance as I rounded the corner, and heard them say his name as he crossed the line. He was so far ahead. I could see the back of #195, just barely ahead of me as he must have struggled home in the last few miles as well. I got to mile 26 and didn't look at my watch as I split a 6:31 -- the slowest mile of the day. I knew I had to kick it in, and I thought that the giant structure in the road was the finish line, so I was driving to it as much as I could, but my legs had no response. I stopped the clock, just behind a wheelchair athlete and a group of military officers who had walked the course, in 2:32:02. The time was well short of my goal of running under 2:26:31. The performance didn't even warrant them saying my name as I crossed the line.

1 comment:

  1. Your readers draw inspiration from you and your efforts. You should feel proud of yourself. Your Fredericksburg fans are proud of you!


Thanks for commenting on my post. I will review your comment as soon as possible.

Race Photos