This is one of a handful of race/run reports that I wrote before I started this blog.
I qualified for Boston 2013 at Santa Rosa marathon in August 2012. This left me with ~7.5 months to recover, re-base, and ramp up mileage leading into this month. I decided to go with a 4 month buildup (16 weeks) which left me with 3.5 months to recovery and establish a solid base again.
Recovery from Santa Rosa included essentially nothing. I ran once a week for 2 weeks and then 2-3 times a week for another 2 weeks. No watch, no pacing. Always nice to have some unstructured running time!
After recovery, I wanted to ramp up to 50 mile weeks until December, so I pretty much ran 20, 30, 40, 50 and then held 50 until Christmas time. I tracked my distance, but didn't really track pacing except for weekly tempo runs with a group I run with. Again, lack of structure was pretty nice that far out from a race. I hurt my back a little bit playing golf before xmas, and then skiing a bunch on it in the ensuing snow storms (powder!! Worth it!), but I was back on the horse in full swing by new years.
The 16 week buildup (now 15), loosely followed the Pfitzinger 18/70 plan (18 weeks, 70 miles peak). I was already at 50 mpw, so jumping into the plan 3 weeks after it was designed to start was not a problem. I say 'loosely followed' because I re-structured to plan to conform to weekly tempo runs with a run group and Saturday long runs. Everything else fell out of that.
As usual, I had a couple of key goals for my training:
- Miles. I wanted to hit 70 mpw and feel good about it (I think most 50 mpw runners could run a shitty 70 mile week and feel pretty wrecked by the end). This meant diligent ramp up with multiple weeks in the mid 60s and high 60s through February and early March.
- Hills. Boston is known for crushing runners in miles 16-20 through the Newton Hills and Heartbreak Hill. I wanted to feel pretty strong at the end of these hills because I knew a strong finish would be necessary to make up for the pace drop on the ascent. To add hill strength, I would run hill sprints (10-20 seconds x10) to finish medium length workouts, I ran my long runs on as hilly terrain as I could find, and I added some pure hill workouts with lots of 2-4 minutes hill climb efforts.
Additionally, I added some upper body (13-15 rep x3 sets) lifting once a week to get a little more endurance and pop out of my arms.
A typical week would look like this:
- M: Tempo, 8.5-12 miles with 3.5-7 miles at pace.
- T: Recovery 5-6
- W: Moderate 8-12
- Th: Recovery 5-6
- Fr: Moderate 8-12
- Sat: Long 17-24
- Sun: Moderate 5-10
Taper plan was pretty simple: 40, 30, 20 miles per week. I am pretty relaxed about taper, so it ended up being like 38, 28, 15. Most of the runs consisted of 1 mile warm up, marathon pace running, 1 mile warm down. Taper started 21 days out, and I had big tempo workouts 19 and 11 days out before I stopped anything faster than marathon pace. 4 days out I did nothing but easy runs to stay loose, and I also previewed Heartbreak Hill and the preceeding Newton hill to get an idea of how hard they are (surprisingly mild, but opportunely placed for a decent amount of pain in-race).
I got dropped off by my Aunt's family at the State Park in Hopkinton at about 7:45 am on race day to take the shuttle to the starting area. Much preferable to taking the bus, so I've heard. I was able to wake up at around 6am as opposed to 4am to get to downtown and catch a bus.
I sat around for a while, did about a mile warmup jog with some pacing in the middle, and started to make my way to the starting line at around 9:15. By the time I had dropped my bag off and prepared it was about 9:45, so I only had to spend about 15 minutes in the corral, which was nice.
When the gun for the pro-men went off, it took me about 2 minutes to cross the starting line (I was in wave 1, corral 4).
The first 3 miles of the race were pretty uneventful. I was worried that I was caught in the crowd and going too slowly (started at over 7 minute pace), but after a bit the crowd started to pick up and the first split was an acceptable 6:52. Coming down the hills and seeing the road packed shoulder to shoulder with runners as far as the eye could follow was pretty amazing. Such a big race!
I ended up finding a dude that I raced with at LA Marathon last year and said what's up. We cruised together for a while, but he started to fade about 12 miles in (I guess he was injured for a month or so), so I didn't see him again.
The rest of the first half was actually pretty uneventful as well. I was worrying a little about my legs because they felt so heavy, but I resolved to run by feel and not break myself to early. I wanted to hit a 1:28 first half but ended up at 1:30:05. This was a bad sign for hitting my goal time of sub 3:00:00, but I wasn't gonna go all-or-nothing at Boston, so I was OK with it. Running through Wellesley was pretty insane, I could barely hear because of all the yelling from the girls, but it was the first of many sections that were amazing from all the crowd support.
Miles 13-15 were a little rough and I'm not sure why. Perhaps my nutrition was a little lacking through there, but I'm not sure.
Mile 16 is where the Newton Hills start. I had some family at the Washington Street overpass who handed me some liquid calories (Gu Rocktane Endurance Drink) which I drank over the next 4 miles. The hills themselves were not too bad. I slowed my pace for fear of blowing up (hill chops were as-yet untested), but I ended up running 7:18, 7:21, 7:05, 7:19, 7:29 through the hills and up Heartbreak Hill.
At the top of Heartbreak Hill, I checked the clock and I realized that I would have to run ~6:20/mile pace to break 3 hours, which was not happening. This was a little disappointing, but also relieving, because I knew I could still hold out for sub 3:05 (re-qualifying time). The other thing that felt great was that my legs felt decently strong and I was able to hold 6:49 averages from there until the mile 25 marker.
EDIT: Clarity. Thanks Seydar!
At mile 25, I could feel the wheels starting to come off, but I knew that 1.2 miles to go was nothing I hadn't hammered through before, so I hammered it out averaging about 7:15/mile for the remainder, crossing at 3:03:47.
I tried something new this time around: 2 shot bloks 30 mins before the start, 1xGu 15 minutes before the start, and then 1 shot blok per mile until mile 10, followed by liquid calories at mile 16-20. I drank water at every water stop and it certainly helped me avoid stomach cramps from the shot bloks. I also took a SaltStick Tab at mile 5, 10 and 15.
EDIT: I ran with one of these and I highly recommend it. Sat comfortably under my singlet and held the salt tabs and 4 sleeves of shot bloks comfortably and tightly, so there was no bouncing as with pockets, or chafing like with fanny packs.
My overall impression of the race was incredible. The crowd support was insane. Better than any race I've ever done, because they are pretty much non-stop for 26 miles. The race was impeccably run, and the value was high (great expo, a pre-race dinner, and a post-race party (cancelled), all included in the race fee). The chance to run on such a storied course was also an amazing experience, and I felt lucky every step of the way.
The comraderie at the finish line was completely unexpected. At a race where there are more than a handful of serious runners finishing at 3:00-ish, it's awesome to talk it out with everyone who had been feeding off of each other in the final miles.
I ended up being nowhere near the bombings, as I had finished and was on the subway when it all happened, so I was pretty much unaffected. I think we can all agree that what happened was terrible, so I'll limit my comments to running related topics. My post race was completely thrown off by the events that occurred. Normally I process my race over and over again to figure out what to work on for next race, but I'm just now beginning to think about what to work on over the summer. I hope the other runners who did not get the stellar race experience that I got will get another chance to run the Boston Marathon and receive an official time/finishing experience.