Perhaps the most significant aspect of my Boston experience was the hospitality and helpfulness of Ryan Davenport. I met Ryan last year through the online "dating" site, Strava as well as through Jonny's stalking prowess. By chance, we began running a few times together and one thing lead to another, his influence swung me over to the
The Day Before & Pre-Race:I guess it's easiest to summarize by saying that there is realistically no way that I would ever run Boston if I had to deal with the logistics of the race like the majority of the masses. I could NOT ride a bus from Boston back up to Hopkinton to the Athlete's Village, to wait around in lines, urinating everywhere, only to hike a mile to the starting corrals and then wait in the corral for who knows how long. It just isn't in the cards for me. Instead, thanks to Team Davenport, I was able to drive up to Hopkinton early Sunday afternoon and hang out. Ryan's brother and his wife (Dan and Marie Davenport) brought me into Boston at 4:00 pm to pick up my bib while they dropped off her water bottles for the Elite tables. We went back to a huge family meal and relaxed for a very laid back, fun evening.
After an awesome night's sleep (until 0430 when I awoke and began fretting about the race instead of sleeping more), we had a pleasant "help yourself to whatever you need" breakfast buffet and discussed race logistics. All of these pleasantries however, masked my internal feelings about the weather. All of us had been studying the weather and realized that it was going to be chilly, windy, and wet. With the headwind and rain, I was talked into accepting the fact that I was going to have to add approximately 5:00 to my finishing time. It was, in essence, stupid to run my original goal pace (6:15) to hit my goal time (2:45). Trying to do so in these conditions was a recipe for disaster. Despite resigning myself to this adjusted goal, I was secretly pissed off! WTF?!? Train like I did just to run a 2:50 plus? No way! I refused to accept that. My new goal was to run a tiny bit slower but still do my best to get in under 2:49. This would still be a PR for me by over two minutes. If you blow up, at least you go down swinging! Nothing left to do but wait and see. As I stated, with Ryan's gracious assistance--food, lodgings, race day info, gels, nipple guards, super comfortable bed (air mattress...NOT HIS)--I was feeling good and ready to go.
Around 0830, several people left Ryan's house (one mile from the start line) to escort Marie to her earlier start for Elite females. The rest of us left soon there after to walk up towards the start where we stayed at a friend's house even closer to the starting chaos. My nervousness increased a bit here -- Wait, is that groin tightness I'm feeling? Am I really ready to do this? The new residence had more food, more bathroom availability, and was only 4-5 houses down from the start! Unreal! After pacing around, sitting and stretching, watching the start of the elite women on TV, hitting the head one more time, most of the group strolled down to the town greens and, after showing our bibs, simply walked into our starting corral (wave 1, corral 2). It was that friggin' easy!! I stood around for only about 8-10 minutes, shed old clothing layers, double checked fuel in surrounding shorts pockets, listened to the introduction of the elite men's field, and then BOOM--we were off.
In addition to my adjusted goal time, I also ran in a technical hat (WTAC). I usually never do this but I figured with the impending rain, it might help keep some precipitation out of my face. With the newly formed goals, my new pace was going to be about 6:22-6:25. It seemed logical that despite the huge opening bomb downhill, I still was probably going to run about a 6:40 first mile or so. I just had to settle in and go easy the first 6-8 miles (mostly downhill overall), try not to chew up my legs too hard that early, make it to the half way point and see how I felt. My internal dialogue was essentially: Run smart. Consistency is the key up until 20. Make it over Heartbreak and if you're still ok, go for it & rip shit up!. I didn't convey that to anyone out loud, but from research (online, books, conversations, etc.), it seemed like an achievable plan. Ultimately, while I along with everyone else was bitching about the weather it actually benefited me in two ways: 1.) it took some of the pressure off regarding every split-second mile mark goal, and 2.) at least it wasn't hot. I don't deal well with heat.
The Race:It's probably easiest to chunk this into 5K intervals. Those are the splits that BAA feeds to the masses, so I suppose that is what I'll go with here (mile splits on my watch are at the end of the post).
I managed to take it out easy for the first mile. Despite the aforementioned big downhill, I went out a little slower, and watched Ryan and the other guys take off (didn't see them again for quite awhile). Following the sage advice of Boston runners past, I used this first mile as a feeler. Loosen up the legs, warm up, and get my bearings. I was getting passed by a bunch of people here but figured that was fine. I kept checking out the passers in my periphery, judging and predicting those that I definitely wanted to reel in later on. Everyone around me seemed to be resigned to focusing and running their own race. There wasn't too much banter, other than from the small crowd lining the course, which was exactly how I wanted it! I was feeling loose at the 3.1 mile mark, everything was going fine. Everything felt super easy to this point.
Results @ 5K mark: 19:50 (6:22 pace)
Took my first gel at 4.5 miles. I assumed (feared) that if I fueled every four miles, I'd be left in no-man's-land at mile 22-23. Instead, if I staggered the "feedings" every 4.5 miles or so, that would give me a tiny bit more time. Still was just passing the time, focusing on consistent pace without over analyzing (watch glances). At this point we passed through a few larger crowds past the Ashland Clock Towers (around mile 4) and there were a few points where the crowd was a little more jovial than the rest (i.e. just before the Framingham Train Depot near mile 6). At the 10K mark, all was still well. It began spitting rain lightly around this point and I figured this would signal the downpour. However, it thankfully would start and stop and, in the words of Carl Spackler: "I don't think the heavy stuff is gonna come down for quite awhile". Still feeling good and really consistent.
Results @10K mark: 39:33 (6:21 pace)
During this stretch I really started to notice the headwind more and more. It is along this route that you gradually turn due east (prior too and along Lake Cochituate) and the wind began to be noticeably troublesome. It started to rain a little bit more consistently, albeit not heavy (Carl) during this point and I finally started to feel wet. I felt as though I finally had to work a bit to maintain pace at several points. The field was finally starting to settle out and runners around me became a little more "familiar", although I was still passing a few more people at this point. I also was somewhat familiar (having run the two workouts with Ryan through here) and noticed that I was mildly anticipating the Natick Town Common area. I knew there would be more of a bustle and I was looking forward to it, despite the very gradual rise in topography. Gobbled another gel right around mile 9 and kept rolling.
Results @15K mark: 59:28 (6:22 pace)
We finally reached Natick Center and the crowds were more boisterous. At one point there was a small bunch of drunken guys, waving flags and screaming/chanting: "USA! USA! USA!". I'm not really patriotic in that sense but their animation moved me. I glanced down after we passed them and had to remind myself to back off--5:55 pace not acceptable at this point! Still, I smiled, pumped my fist to acknowledge them, and settled back into work. After leaving Natick there is a decent downhill which I made a conscious effort not to bomb down, as we approached Wellesley College and the screaming ladies. I could hear them from a decent distance away. As much as I didn't want to acknowledge them and let "those crazy college girls" interfere with my race tactics, I couldn't resist getting a little pumped up by their enthusiasm. With the screams, the kisses (other runners, not me--it'd interfere with my pacing), I couldn't help but pick up the pace. Another glance at the watch had me dial it back down again, as I realized I was high 5:00s again for pace. I actually smiled and giggled a few times at a couple of their signs. A few notable favorites: "I wish you'd hammer my finish line!" along with "I'm wetter than you are right now!" and "Please kiss me! I use tongue!". Rest assured, my daughters will not be attending Wellesley. Still feeling good at this point though. In fact, thanks to the drunk college females, feeling a little too good!
Results @20K mark: 1:19:23 (6:23 pace)
After Wellesley, it was just a short jaunt to the halfway point. This was a checkpoint I was eagerly awaiting as I was curious (as are all marathoners) to see how the legs felt. As long as I still feeling okay, I could start to race a little bit versus just hang back and run. That statement is a little misleading--I didn't intend to pick up the pace at all but I could start to worry a little less and welcome discomfort. Basically, if you start feeling less than stellar before 13.1 miles, you're fucked. If you're still rolling and feeling good, all is going according to Hoyle. At the half mark I was still bright-eyed and bushy tailed. Keep it going, Muddy!
Results @ Half: 1:23:43 (6:23 pace)
Now I was entering the zone and ready to get after it. I knew from the two previous training runs that I was fast approaching the post-mile 15 big downhill bomb into Newton Lower Falls area. This was a tactical point that I had worried about. I knew that I could open it up here but that it would also be at a point in the race in where I could do some damage to myself if I wasn't careful. Perhaps more important, just after Newton Lower Falls was the sneaky "first hill" that people forget about. Still, it was all good in the hood, despite some minor fatigue.
Results @ 25K mark: 1:39:10 (6:23 pace)
I knew from research and conversations with others that there are NOT three hills to surmount on the course. There are actually four. This sneaky one is sometimes referred to as "Heartburn Hill" as it is the precursor to the real fun. Luckily, as the hill commenced right after the 16 mile mark, I felt good and was able to climb it with little to no difficulty and pass a bunch of people. Man, I friggin' love climbing hills and watching people fall by the wayside. This incline is not big or long (only about 20m or so) but it is a good warm-up for what is to come. We then took the infamous "wicked shahp" right hand turn onto Commonwealth Avenue by the Newton Fire Station. This was a welcome change of pace/direction/venue. I then continued motoring on towards the first of the "big three" hills. I tried to focus on running posture, economy, and pace (not too big of a drop off here), and was so happy to pass a slew of people here. Are people really slowing down this much already? Just worry about yourself, Muddy. After this hill is a long gradual downhill that just really starts to mix up your legs before the 30K/~mile 19 mark. It still felt good to turn them over at this point.
Results @30K mark: 1:59:09 (6:23 pace)
Just after the mile 19 mark is the next incline. I think, (not sure), it was right around this point that I caught up to Ryan and several of the others. We grunted props to one another and focused back upon the work at hand. This hill seems to be the shortest but it still takes the wind out of your sails a little. Despite this fact, as I started the hill past the Johnny Kelley statue, I dug down and kept moving. I was a bit surprised here as I was feeling definite discomfort but relative to those around me, I was still moving along fine. As I crested this incline, I knew that it was relatively flat for about a half a mile before the infamous last hill. I appreciated the chance to recover a bit and gather myself. I was definitely feeling fatigued here but it was still uplifting to see the others around me beginning to fall apart and slow down. I still hadn't dropped off too much on pace/time so that was a definite positive.
As we started climbing the final hill (Heartbreak), I prepared myself for a "big one" but once again was happy to find that it appeared that everyone else was crawling and I was still motoring. To be sure, I was hurting but nowhere near what I thought I should have been feeling. As we crested Heartbreak (makes it sound like a giant mountain--it's not that bad, seriously), and I saw a giant inflatable that read something like "Heartbreak Is Over", I smiled. I knew that I was about to start descending down into Boston. Although the wind was really picking up here (the highpoint before crawling back down to sea level?), I still was super happy. Bill Rodgers' infamous advice came to mind here: "If you can make it to the top of Heartbreak and still feel good, you know you're going to have a great day at Boston.". Shit yeah, Boston Billy! Let's do this!
Results @35K mark: 2:19:09 (6:23 pace)
This next stretch was a little tougher for me. It is always is such a paradox. Although I was still feeling relatively good (but starting to hurt a little), I always get deceived by thinking that the race is almost over. But it's not--there's still a big chunk of mileage/10K left. After looking at the clock at the 20 mile mark, I struggled (brain fatigue) to do some running math and realized that if I could just run a not disgustingly sloth-like 10K, I'd be good to go. Time to buckle down! I was still super happy to find people dropping like flies and I still hadn't hit the wall yet. I was hurting for sure but my legs were still turning over and I wasn't nauseous or near death. Mile 22-still good. 23-still alright. We continued down onto Beacon Street and I was still wondering; "Where is that Wall?". At mile 24, the course flattens out and you start the chase home into the city. Coolidge Corner was another check point where I expected to feel like death but, yet again, the wheels were still on the bus. To belabor the point, I was obviously hurting, but not like I had expected! No bonking yet! Maybe I had fueled properly. Perhaps I had trained well. Simply lucky? Most likely it was a combination of all three.
I was annoyed as we approached the 25 mile mark. WTF was this "Citgo Hill"?!? There is a small bump there that feels like more than a blip on the radar. Nobody told me about that MFer!
Results @40K mark: 2:38:34 (6:22 pace
Finally, the home stretch was upon us/me. I left Brookline and entered Boston proper. Here we go, man--1.2 miles left. I was starting to really feel it here but nothing like what I had ever felt before at this point in any previous marathon. The crowds were still there cheering but it was raining pretty steadily now and I figured they were smaller than normal. I kept pushing and really bore down here. It felt like I was trying to run 5:15 pace but a few glances showed me I was still on par. No slow downs for me on this day! As we turned the final left hand turn onto the finishing stretch, I finally started to feel like some of that bonk/nausea/I can't do this feeling. There was only about 400m left to go so I tried to concentrate on keeping upright, maintaining my pace, and not dying in the process. I crossed the finish line with no actual idea what my real time was. The clocks showed 2:47:XX but I knew it was a little less than that. No fan fare or celebration--just get me the eff outta here and back to the hotel (thanks again, Ryan!) at the Marriot so I can shower and change into warm clothes. It is surprising that the worst part of the race, in all seriousness, was the lonely solo slog back to the hotel in my BAA Space Blanket. I was a swaying, shivering, teeth chattering mess. But I didn't die...so that's good.
Finishing Result: 2:56:47 (6:22 pace) -- 637OA
|Soaked to the bone, turning the corner to the home stretch on Boylston....|
Mile 1: 6:38
Mile 2: 6:12
Mile 3: 6:16
Mile 4: 6:20
Mile 5: 6:25
Mile 6: 6:15
Mile 7: 6:22
Mile 8: 6:26
Mile 9: 6:25
Mile 10: 6:22
Mile 11: 6:26
Mile 12: 6:21
Mile 13: 6:23
Mile 14: 6:20
Mile 15: 6:27
Mile 16: -- (missed split)
Mile 17: 12:43
Mile 18: 6:18
Mile 19: 6:29
Mile 20: 6:34
Mile 21: 6:16
Mile 22: 6:23
Mile 23: 6:04
Mile 24: 6:17
Mile 25: 6:06
Mile 26: -- (missed)
Final 0.2 Mile: 1:21 (5:50 pace!)
Looks like I ran consistently and my final 5K was the fastest! Wow! How the eff did I do that?!?
Thanks to Ryan and his family's hospitality, I cleaned up with a bunch of the guys I had left in Hopkinton and we went downstairs to Champions for beers and food. The day really couldn't have been any better - a PR, a clockwork type race where my pace never faltered, surrounded by good people that supported me before, during and after the race. I really couldn't have asked for a much better day.
Thanks to the Davenports and associates. Thanks to my family for putting up with me over the previous 3 months. And thanks to Jack Daniels for providing me with a simple and effective training plan that paid off in spades.
Now, do I do this bitch again next year? Maybe on a good day (not hot, generous tail wind), I could go sub 2:45?