The Boston Marathon… one of the most prestigious running events in the world. I heard about all the historical features and traditions of the race: the hills of Newton, Heart Break Hill, kissing the Wellesley girls, the scream tunnel, the CITGO sign, Fenway Park, the unbelievable crowd support, and the finishing stretch on Boylston Street. I couldn’t believe I was actually going to Bean Town!
Boston training was especially challenging due to my busy work schedule this time of year. I knew I had to make some sacrifices in order maintain my triathlon fitness and train for a marathon while working six days a week. I got rid of my television and decreased my Linsey stalking. I woke up at 3 a.m. some mornings to get my 20+ mile runs in before work. I trained through rain, wind, and complete darkness. I got to the start line of the Boston Marathon knowing that I did everything I possibly could to run a strong, fast race.
Boston has been a goal of mine for the past few years. Under the new qualifying standards, which are especially tough for males 18 to 39 years old, I was able to just squeeze in with my time at the 2011 P.F. Chang’s Marathon. Boston training started early in 2012 with my key training races being P.F. Chang’s half marathon, Ragnar Relay Ultra, and the Desert Classic Duathlon. Training went very well. I stayed injury-free, hit most training goals, consistently ran five to six times a week, and trained on hilly routes. I got leaner, stronger, and faster. Barring any unusual circumstances, I was set to go under three hours at Boston. I was so ready for this thing.
Fifteen days out from the race, I began consistently checking the weather forecast. One thing I learned – Boston weather can be very unpredictable. One day it’s sunny and warm, the next it’s cold and snowing, and the next day there’s 30mph winds. I knew I had to prepare for anything.
A couple days out, temperatures were expected to reach the low 90s! WTF?? Was this a joke? I received several emails from the Boston Athletic Association, with statements like:
We are now making the recommendation that if you are not highly fit or if you have any underlying medical conditions (for example-cardiac disease, pulmonary disease or any of a number of medical problems), you should NOT run this race.
Inexperienced marathoners should not run.
B.A.A was doing everything they possibly could to cover their ass! I got another email from them offering a deferral option to the 2013 race. I wouldn’t have deferred if the temperatures were 120 degrees. If I’m in Boston, I’m racing. I went to the race expo on Sunday and there was a representative immediately telling me to “run at a slower pace and maintain proper hydration,” and “this will not be a day to set a personal best.” Screw that. I wasn’t listening to any of that crap. I spent about 30 minutes at the expo and left. Everyone was whining about the heat.
One of my teammate’s sister was kind of enough to let me stay at her house, located just off the Fenway station along the MBTA subway line. It was only a five-minute walk to Fenway Park! I’m a huge baseball (Seattle Mariners) fan. I immediately got a ticket to a Red Sox game. Though, I highly despise Red Sox nation. I couldn’t risk getting jumped a day prior to my marathon, so I decided to wear this:
Race morning: I woke up at 5 a.m., ate, and walked over to the subway station to get to the Boston Commons, where most runners met to get shuttled to Hopkinton. I met my friend Dean, and I watched all the runners get in line to board the school buses. I don’t think I’ve ever been around so many athletic, physically-fit people. Everyone looked fast. No course clutter existed.
The bus ride to Hopkinton seemed incredibly long… 26.2 miles away. I took a nap. The first buses left at 6 a.m. I boarded one that departed around 6:15 a.m. Dean and I arrived at Hopkinton High School around 7 a.m. The race didn’t start until 10 a.m.! Three hours of chillaxin’. I found a shaded area, stretched, ate a bagel, stood in porta-potty lines, and chatted with other runners. Temperatures were already in the high 70s early morning. I could already feel the sun beating down on my skin. Most runners crowded around all the shaded areas.
There were three main start waves, each with approximately 9,000 runners. Wave and corral placements were based on qualification times. Elite and wave one runners began at 10 a.m. At 9:15 a.m. we were called to leave the high school, drop off our bags, and head to the start line, which was about a half mile away. Walking to the start, my adrenaline was sky high. It was already getting hot. I knew I was in for a tough day when I was breaking a sweat before the race even started. I could just feel the nervous tension among all the other runners. It was amazing to line up in my corral knowing that all of the runners ran similar qualification times. I was surrounded by greatness. There were quite a few girls in my wave, too. They all looked like they could chick me.
9:55 a.m. – The National Anthem, helicopters flying overhead, nervous pre-race tension… I was shaking! Five minutes till go-time!
10:03 a.m. – I officially crossed the start line. I am actually running the Boston Marathon!
First 5k: Ashland – My strategy was to start out very conservative. Before the race, I repeatedly told myself to start slow. I knew this was especially important with the warmer temperatures. I watched many people weave in and out of other runners. This first section of the course is especially easy to start too fast. It contains the steepest descents along the entire route. My strategy paid huge dividends for me later in the race. Through three miles, I felt good. I took it incredibly easy. My heart rate was low. Marathons are a beast and I know patience is key. I did not want to “crash and burn” at Boston.
10k – I started picking up the pace. My heart rate began too elevate and it started to get warmer. The course provided little shade. According to the newspaper the following day, shaded areas were in the low 80s, but it was 10 degrees warmer in the sun. Water stations were set up every mile. They were staggered on each side of the road. The stations on the right side of the road fell immediately prior to a similar station on the left side. I used the right side to pour water over myself, and the left side to hydrate. Everyone around me seemed to use this strategy. It was a huge clusterf*ck to get water throughout the early miles. I was able to keep relatively cool soaking my run jersey with cold water at every mile.
Mile 6-10 – Entering Framingham, the course flattens out throughout this section and I settled into a comfortable 6:50 pace. I continued using both water stations at every mile. I felt strong, happy, and still on pace for sub 3 hours.
Mile 10-12 – I see the huge banner in the distance: “Wellesley is All In.” OMG! OMG! The girls of Wellesley! I licked my lips and wiped the salt off my face. I was prepared to kiss as many girls as possible. You could hear them a half mile away. They were, by far, the loudest people along the entire course. They were screaming at the top of their lungs. This was definitely a highlight of the race.
Half split: 1:31:11
Through the halfway point, my legs still felt great. I ran a conservative half. I knew that it was the back half of the race that was going to make or break my sub 3-hour goal. I picked up my pace. It began to get even hotter. I’m from Arizona, and all the people I met race week said, “you must be used to the heat.” Well, not really. When I know it’s going to be 90 degrees outside, I’ll run early in the morning… before the sun even comes up. The heat and lack of shade along the course began to take a toll on my body. I could just feel it. My mind started playing tricks on me. I didn’t feel like taking in anymore gels or water. My heart rate was slowly creeping up. I knew it was essential to remain fueling and keeping cool… especially with the hills of Newton fast approaching.
Mile 16- First hill – I saw the huge banner that read, “Newton is All In.” Here we go. The hills of Newton. This is where the race begins. I hit the 16-mile aid station and started feeling better. I started passing tons of people. People were starting to fade hard. Bib numbers were issued based on qualification times. For example, I had the 4712th fastest qualification time, so I was bib number 4712. I began seeing numbers in the 1XXXs and triple digits. I knew I was making good progress.
Mile 17.5 – The second hill; I actually found the hills relatively easy and somewhat of a relief to my body. It’s the downhill sections of the course that took the biggest toll on my legs. I really focused on my diet the last several months leading up the race. I went into Boston 13 pounds lighter than I weighed in for Ironman Coeur d’Alene last June. This definitely helped on the hills. It was actually nice to hit some longer inclines throughout Newton to work different muscles and reduce the pounding on my quads.
30k split: 2:10:12
Mile 19 – The third hill. This was about a quarter mile long and somewhat steep. There were huge groups of people throughout all these sections. It reminded me of the Tour de France in one of the mountain stages. The crowd really motivated me to dig deep and persevere through the pain.
Mile 20.5 – The infamous Heartbreak hill. I was psyching myself up to run up this popular section of the course from mile 16. It was an unbelievable sight. The crowds here were absolutely amazing. People cheering at the top of their lungs, kids handing out ice (which I think may have saved my race), water sprinklers shooting everywhere, and music blasting… it’s a sight I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
Mile 21 – Boston College. Just one note here – Boston College chicks are underrated. They may give the girls of Wellesley a run for their money. They were just as loud… and also had several “kiss me” signs.
35k spilt: 2:32:49
So, when did I drop off pace? Looking back at my Garmin info, it’s really hard to say. I’ll admit, the heat got to me the second half, but I think it also affected 99 percent of the other runners as well. I definitely slowed throughout the hills of Newton. Unlike the flat courses in Arizona, it was hard to settle into a consistent pace with the rolling hills throughout the course.
I fell into some pretty bleak phases, but I’ve raced enough to know that these feelings soon pass. My idol, Linsey Corbin, sent me an email the week of the race. She said she was going to do a dance in her cowboy hat in my honor. Also, there’s one line in the email that I remembered during the race:
“Have a great run and stay positive no matter what – its bound to get ugly at some point, let your mind persevere!”
– Linsey Corbin
I also recalled the text message my coach sent me the day prior to the race:
Show Boston that DuraAthletes aren’t sissies.
– Grand Master Nick
And, of course there was my teammate’s Star Wars statement:
Be mindful of the living Force and let it flow through you…and stay calm and centered.
– Jedi Dunn
The race did get ugly, but I got over it. I’m not a sissy. And, I definitely used the force to guide me.
I passed a ton of people on the hills. People were literally passing out right in front of me! Going up Heartbreak, I saw people suddenly stop, cramp up, fall over, puke… people were in misery. I recall the pain and anguish on people’s faces. Everyone ran with their head down. Oddly, this gave me energy. Knowing that they were suffering, it felt good to drop them like hot potatoes. I felt crappy, but I had some steam in the engine room to finish strong.
I paced with another runner for the last 10k. Unlike most other people, he was still having blast. At 20+ miles, he was still laughing, talking, pumping up the crowd, and high-fiving people along the route. Boston was the first time I wasn’t “counting down” my miles at the end of a marathon. Big thanks to this guy, as well as the unbelievable crowd support for distracting me! There were rarely empty portions of the course. People living along the course threw huge parties, signs were everywhere, and people were constantly screaming all around me… it’s one big party. It is what makes Boston so special.
Mile 23 – 25– the CITGO sign. I could see this sign at Fenway Park about two miles out. Once I passed this sign, I knew I was in the home stretch… one mile left!
40k split: 2:55:31
Boylston Street– The spectators slowly started to get larger and louder the closer I got to the finish. Crowds were lining up 10 deep… incredible. When I made the left turn on Boylston I could see the finish about a quarter mile away.
I knew my parents were around [somewhere] and knowing that they were there to watch me made this experience even better. I soaked it all in. I’ve said it before, but the crowds and volunteers in Boston are freakin’ incredible. About 100 yards away, I began to tear up. I did it. I had just conquered one of the most challenging Boston Marathons to date. People told me that this wasn’t the day for setting personal bests.
Well, guess who P-Ah’d at Boston? This guy!
Finishing time: 3:05:23
Am I bummed I didn’t go sub three hours? Of course I am. I didn’t throw out any of my expectations prior to the race. I knew the weather could be unpredictable, and I wasn’t going to let the weather change my expectations. I am, however, stoked that I finished in the top 1,000 at the Boston Marathon, which was top 3.4%. I held my own among the best runners in the world. I had a great race and left no regrets out on the course. For that, I’m pretty damn happy with myself.
Boston 2012 by the numbahs:
- 751st overall/ 21,606 = 3.4%
- Division (Ages 18-39) = 505/8930 = 5.6%
The heat’s effects:
- Official race day high : 88 degrees (record breaking temperature)
- 2,800 runners sought heat-related treatment from medics; 215 were hospitalized.
- Approximately 4,000 runners deferred to the 2013 race. Weenies!
- The male winner was 10 minutes slower than last year; the female winner was 20 minutes slower! Both winners from 2011 had to drop out due largely in part to the heat
- The top 1,504 finishers in 2011 all went sub three hours. I was 756th place in 2012
- A time of 3:05:23 in 2011 would have been 2,207th overall. I was 756th overall in 2012. That’s a difference of 1,451 spots!
- A guy who ran a 3:05:23 in 2011 was chicked 157 times. I was chicked 46 times.
More Boston pics:
More pictures can be seen in my Facebook album.