Tuesday, April 28, 2009

More on Boston

Detailed Recap

The mood was light as Chris, Robert, Jason, Erik, and I stood in the corral shortly before the start of the race. We all took turns peeing in bottles, on the ground, on ourselves, etc in the moments before the race. You have to do what you have to do. We watched as the elite men moved in front of us and saw Ryan Hall come out full of energy. He gave me a nod as he came by and looked ready to have some fun.

The gun went off and we were on our way. Jason was pacing Robert and I through the first 10 miles (at least that was the plan). Robert and I would be hitting 6:20 or so on the first few miles and then drop it down to 6:05-6:15 pace. We managed to do this pretty well. Chris and Erik were with us for the first few miles and then took a more conservative approach.

There was a strong headwind going against us the entire way, but it wasn't unbearable. It surely slowed us down, but we've all run into worse. I was reminded of New York as Robert repeatedly urged me to slow down a little as we were slightly faster than we should have been. He's superb at that. We'd made it through the sharp downhills without pushing too hard or putting too much strain on our muscles. This is key to be able to race up the Newton Hills.

Around mile 8 or 9 we came upon a photo opportunity and we moved side to side (Robert is cut out of this photo, but you can see Jason and I). It was right at this moment that things went wrong for me. My heart began to race very quickly. Not from the effort, but from something else. I'm not sure what it was. Adrenaline, an irregular beat, or most likely, caffeine. Almost immediately I couldn't keep up with Jason and Robert. I was short of breath and slowing quickly.

You might think this was a penalty for going out too fast (doesn't Robert look fast int eh photo on the left?), but the truth is that I was going at an easy pace. If I was going to pay a price, it would have been later in the run. Not to sound cocky, but running 6:10 pace for 9 miles at sea level is very easy for me. I knew something strange was going on.

I continued on trying to hold my pace but miles were beginning to tick by at 6:50 and 7:10. I wasn't even halfway done yet. I averaged 6:32 miles at the NYC marathon, so I knew something was wrong. It was at this time that I lost it mentally. Runners were streaming by me on both sides. Chris and Erik came by with concerned looks as they could tell I was struggling. Chris offered me assistance but I told him to keep going (They both went on to 2:44 and 2:48 finishing times, btw). If I'd been calmer I think I may have been able to hop on with Chris and follow his very steady and strong pace.

Finally at mile 15 as I was falling farther off pace I decided to quit. I walked to the side and felt completely awful. I looked back for Ashley or other friends who I might join. I began walking slowly forward for a few minutes that seemed like an eternity. I was so distraught with my thoughts. I couldn't imagine having to tell people how badly the race went. I didn't want to face co-workers and try to explain what happened. Imagining the next few days in Boston with friends seemed awful. I couldn't be a downer, but I knew I wouldn't feel good about. When I could see the next mile marker I looked at my watch and decided I had been walking for 4 minutes.

I don't really remember why, but I began running again. I quickly felt good and began to pass a lot of the people who had driven by me. Physically I was back to normal, but mentally I was wasted. I couldn't believe things had fallen apart and I didn't know why. With my goals ow out of reach it was difficult to push myself through the hard parts. Still, with the break from walking and being slower than my usual pace I was blowing past people in the Newton Hills and especially Heartbreak Hill.

I crossed the finish line in 2 hours and 53 minutes. I felt awful, and anxious to put the day behind me. I don't like to pout about it, but it was frustrating to feel so fit, yet run so much slower than I had hoped. On the bright side, I had run 2 minutes faster than the '08 Boston in harder conditions and while taking a large walking break. This proved to me that I was indeed fit, but I just hadn't executed well. I suppose I have to accept that this happens once in a while as I've had a good string of PR breaking marathons and you can't expect that every time. It is hard to accept though, when you know you've put in way more work towards training than ever before.

Looking back on it a week later, I'm most disappointed with the way I handled the setbacks mentally. I think if I could have paused earlier and walked briskly to recover and set my sights on 2:50 instead of 2:44:59 it would have been possible. When I saw that goal slipping away I let it make me too distraught to refocus on a goal that was still attainable. But, I'll live with myself, and the good news is that a lot of people close to me had great days.

Robert cruised away with a great finish in 2:44. I think he could have done even better had I stayed on pace to help break the wind with him. But, it was a great day for him to be proud of. Ashley broke her PR with a 3:18. (Ashley and Robert are to my left in the yellow shirt photo taken by Zach Bouzan-Kaloustian) She did this on a much tougher course and in harder conditions than she ran in Chicago. Her hard work paid off and it was great to spend time with her after her accomplishment.


My trip home was not easy. After a flight delay my car broke down on the 405 during LA's rush hour. After a night in LA (crashing at JG's near USC, THANKS!) my car was fixed and I made it home after missing two days of work.

I felt the desire to jump back into a marathon right away. I still wanted a good time to show off as a reward for my training. But, I met with Andrew and after discussing things I realized this wouldn't be best for my training for the long term. We're focusing on 12 weeks of high speed work and low mileage to train for a 5k. After that phase I'll work on extending that speed to the marathon distance and I'll push towards a December marathon. CIM, Vegas, Fresno perhaps... I haven't picked on yet.

Great marathoners almost always start at shorter distances improving their speed and then slowly extending the length they can carry that. Not having run in high school or college I came at it the exact opposite way. I jumped immediately into the marathon focusing on endurance but giving speed very little attention. I'm hoping for big gains in the next two months.

One thing I know for sure, is that the runs here will be absolutely beautiful. Many of the mountainous dirt paths have finally thawed and are now clear to run. There is so much joy in following these trails that I can't really describe.

Thanks again for all of the support leading up to Boston and all of the encouragement and congratulations. Here's to continued training and enjoyment of running for all of my readers. I'll be writing soon about Electirc Boogaloo and our upcoming race at the MC200. And... a very special calendar. Stay tuned!


Marino said...

dan you still posted a great time. i know it's hard when you don't meet your goals (see me in NYC when you flew by me at mile 24) but regroup, refocus and move on.

FYI - Reamers is getting you the calendars shortly.

Silly Cymberlin said...

Thanks Marino.

Are you set for Indy this weekend?!