Boston Marathon 2014: #ElliotStrong

I had a lot on the line.  Days leading up to the event, the smack talk on Facebook began. The bet was placed: I’d have to evacuate from Arizona and grow a beard if I didn’t break three hours. I had to perform… or I could lose everything.

Training:

Preparing for the Boston Marathon was tough because it was during peak tax season. Peak running mileage was only 40 miles a week. I had to make each workout count and every session had a purpose. With such limited training volume, the mindset my coach gave me was “quality over quantity.” Some workouts were painful and I hated every minute of them, but I always kept my mind on the prize… to crush triathlete dreams in Boston.

A typical training week consisted of 100 miles of biking, 10,000 yards of swimming, and 35-40 miles of running… all while working 10+ hour days, six days a week.  I honestly don’t know how I stayed motivated train to train at times.

A typical week of running sessions consisted of:

Monday – Easy, recovery jog (9+ minute miles)

Tuesday – 8-mile flat run along Tempe Town Lake at marathon pace

Wednesday – Track practice (speed work)

Thursday – Transition running off the bike

Friday – Easy jogging

Sunday- Long run (hilly)

My longest run was 21 miles. All long runs contained intervals at marathon pace.  Most were done on hilly routes, including McDowell Mountain Road and South Mountain. One of my favorite workouts:

2-mile warm-up

10 x 2:00 at 10k pace (5:30 min/mi) w/ 1:00 jog recovery

5 x 12:00 at marathon pace (<6:30 min/mi) w/ 3:00 jog recovery

Cool down

I sat down with coach Nick on Wednesday before the race to discuss my strategy.  Though my run volume was way down, I felt like I was well prepared and knew exactly what I needed to do in order to hit my goal. Nick always sets the bar really high for me.  I told him I want to go under three, and he just smirked as said, “low 2:50.”  I believe confidence is everything in endurance racing.  I needed to believe and trust in myself I could run a low 2:50 marathon time.  Nick gives me confidence I will perform on race day.  He prepares me to be the best.

In 2012, I went to my first Boston Marathon primarily for experience, finishing in 3:05.  This year, it was all about redemption.  A marathon is a long endurance event, and you have to race it smartly.  Yet, there is a certain point in the race where you shut off your mind, tell your legs to “shut up,” and go for it.  I was ready to kick the pissah out of this race.

Race weekend:

Friday: I flew into Boston Logan airport and immediately ran into trouble.  The airline lost my run bag! Crap!!!  Luckily my friend, Mindy, let me borrow her clothes for a couple days.  The downside – I had to walk around Boston in girl clothes.  The Bostonians were looking at me funny.

Girl clothes

I went to Trader Joes to buy all my meals for the weekend.  Although we paid a fortune to stay at our hotel, they didn’t have any microwaves or refrigerators.  I began thinking of alternative cooling methods.  I dumped out the trash and stored all my perishable food in a trash can of ice!  It worked to perfection.

Trader Joes

I hid all my food in a drawer, cut my fruit with the ice tongs, and prepared all my food on the TV stand. I was set.

Food2

Saturday:

Expo check in:

Expo

Being a special marathon year, they allowed thousands of additional runners for 2014.  This resulted in a madhouse at the expo.  I couldn’t walk around the expo without becoming a little claustrophobic.  I bought a Boston tee and quickly got out of there.

Then, off to the Boston Red Sox game! It was wicked cold.  I was the only dumb ass wearing a short-sleeve shirt.

Fenway

The tradition at Fenway is unlike any other ballpark.

Sunday:

I hung out in the hotel lobby and drew out my race strategy.  I was going to do everything in my power to run Boston smartly and effectively.

As Russell Wilson puts it: “Separation is in the preparation.”

Race strategy

The majority of the day was spent napping, visualizing the race, and seeing all the awesome messages from my fans via text, email, and Facebook.  The support I receive from family and friends is remarkable.  These big-time races mean so much to me, and it makes me so happy getting your messages of support and well wishes.

Boston Strong Day.

I woke up at 5 a.m. and ate my first breakfast: oatmeal with bananas and strawberries, and a protein shake.  My friend, Dean, met me at my hotel and we walked to the Boston Commons.  Then, the 45-minute school bus ride to Hopkinton… this ride always seems to take forever.

I wore a Washington State hoodie as my throw-away clothing because it belonged in the Hopkinton dumpster … Go Dawgs.

Dean

We arrived in Hopkinton at 7:30 a.m., two and a half hours before the gun went off.  Race morning was sunny and a brisk 50 degrees.  I was freezing.  My feet and hands were going numb.  I found an open grass section in the sun, munched on a bagel, bundled up, and took a nap.

At 9 a.m., the announcement was made for the first wave of runners to begin walking to the start line.  The adrenaline I feel walking to the Boston Marathon start is unlike any other race.  You are surrounded with runners who all ran a similar Boston qualifying time.  Being in corral two, I was right in front of the elite field.  Our entire corral cheered them on as they toed the line.  I was running around greatness.

Hopkinton to Framingham (miles 1 to 6)

I began about a minute after gun time.  Being around experienced marathon runners was beneficial.  Surprisingly, no one shot out of the gate and ran like idiots.  Everyone seemed to take the first section of the course pretty conservative.  The majority of the first six miles of the race is downhill.  I focused on my downhill running I practiced in training – leaning forward, letting gravity do work, and keeping good form and cadence.  I settled into a comfortable 6:30-6:35 pace, taking in double-caffeinated PowerBar gels every 30 minutes.

Framingham to Natick (miles 6 to 10)

The course flattens out and I was still consistently hitting 6:30 miles at a relatively easy pace.  I tried to stay as loose and relaxed as possible, shaking out the shoulders every five minutes.  There are few sections along the course where there aren’t spectators cheering.  The crowd support at Boston was unbelievable.  Being on Patriot’s Day every year, the whole city seems to come out to support the marathoners.  I ran on the side of the course giving out high-fives to hundreds of spectators. I was feeling like a million bucks.

Natick to Wellesley Square (miles 10 to 13.1)

Still clipping away at 6:30 miles, I moved to the center of road to avoid the screaming, flirty Wellesley girls.  I gave them my love in 2012.  This year, I had my game face on.  Sorry hunnies, no kisses this year.  I started to get my beast mode on.  It’s all bout that action, boss.

Run17

Wellesley Square to Lower Newton Falls (miles 13.1 to 16 miles)

I decided to run with music this year for when I entered my dark moments.  I hit a rough patch early, at mile 15.  I had one mile to go before I reached the first section of hills. I splashed cold water over my face and blasted some Deadmau5 to bring me back from the dead. I quickly got back into the groove.

Run1

Lower Newton Falls to Cleveland Circle (miles 16 to 22)

I diligently planned this section of the course.  It contains the infamous hills of the Boston Marathon.  Rather than burning all my matches up these hills, I took a conservative approach.  I ran up them with a high cadence, ignored pace, and closely monitored my heart rate.  In 2012, I made the mistake of hammering up these hills, which resulted in blowing up in the final 10k.  I still worked hard up these hills, but I definitely felt like I was holding back.  When I summited Heart Break hill at mile 21, it was time to get to work.

Cleveland Circle to Kenmore Square (miles 22 to 25)

When it’s game time, it’s pain time.

I ran with anger.

Time to burn my matches.

Immediately after Heart Break, I got after it. Time to destroy dreams. I was flying past people like they were standing still.  It’s complete carnage out on the Boston course in the last four miles.  Runners are on the side of the road cramping up, falling over, and grimacing with pain. Passing runners gave me even more confidence and will to give it everything I had.  I was wearing the mask of pain.

Run2

As my friend, Stephen, reminded me before the race, “save your matches.”  I was igniting an entire book on this section of the course.

Run4

Run9

I was the little man with the big engine.  A little woman, with an even bigger engine soon began pacing with me.

Run7

Mile 25 was my fastest split of the day, a 6:19 minute mile.

I continued pacing with the girl until she picked it up to a sub six pace.  I put my head down and dug deep to try to hold on.  She was flying, and slowly put a sizeable gap on me.  She dropped me like a hot potato.

Run5

Kenmore Square to finish (miles 25 to 26.2 miles)

The final miles went by fast.  I still had plenty in the tank, which resulted in a much more pleasurable marathon experience.  Unlike many people who were completely gassed and holding on for dear life at the end, I was wishing the race was longer.

I reached the historic CITGO sign, the “one mile to go” marker.

Citgo

I cool picture sent to me by a random spectator along the course.

Boston

Still cruising at a sub 6:30 pace, I hit Boylston Street and immediately got goose bumps from the horrific event that transpired in 2013.  I looked over at the exact location where the bombings took place.  Then I got a completely different attitude about my day.  This was more than just a race… more than hitting a certain goal time.  Spending the weekend in Boston before the race, I got to see, first-hand, the individuals affected by the bombings. These survivors didn’t let the 2013 events affect their desire and dreams of finishing the 2014 Boston Marathon. They were incredibly inspirational to me.  I ran the final stretch hard for them and I got a little emotional.

Run10

Boylston Street was packed with thousands of spectators.  I was running on air.  I felt their energy and cheers.  I pumped my fists in the air as I crossed the line in 2:52:51, a new Boston PR by over 13 minutes!!!

Run11

Run13

Suddenly I got really cold.  My lips turned blue and I was shivering uncontrollably.  A worried volunteer put me in a wheelchair and carted me to medical to warm up.  An hour in medical and five cups of hot chicken broth later, I was ready to fly home.

I quickly walked to my hotel, picked up my bags, stuffed my face with a Mike’s cannoli, and took the subway to the airport.

Tired but happy…

Post race

My hotel had these plaques delivered to all the Boston finishers.  Pretty cool.

Award

My Garmin file of Boston

Thanks to my sponsors for your continued support: ONE Multisport, Endurance Rehab, Foosia, Complete Skin Care and Body Restoration, Destination Kona, Fuel to the Finish, Scottsdale Health Magazine, and Power in Motion Crossfit.

Also, thanks to the hundreds of Facebook messages and texts after the race.  My phone was blowing up.  The support I receive from the triathlon community, family, and friends is why I love this sport. Thank you all.

There wasn’t a single place I went in the city where I didn’t see “Boston Strong” shirts, hats, and signs.  It brought the entire city together.  The 2014 Boston Marathon was very memorable experience and the most special race I’ve ever participated in. It made me Elliot Strong. No beard for me.

Advertisements

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Categories: Race Report, Races

Subscribe

Subscribe to my RSS feed and social profiles to receive updates.

4 Comments on “Boston Marathon 2014: #ElliotStrong”

  1. Twarkins82
    April 27, 2014 at 9:15 pm #

    Nice. Very nice. I love the recap. Way to save your matches. Are you retiring from marathons now?

    >

    • April 28, 2014 at 4:12 pm #

      Ha. I’ll never retire from marathons, I love running too much! Ironman Canada in 3 months!

  2. April 28, 2014 at 7:58 am #

    Dude, you’re an animal. I can only hold a 6:30 pace for about five miles before collapsing, so to carry it all the way to the finish line of the Boston Marathon requires true grit and determination … and of course, months (even years) of waking up early and logging those miles. Unreal.

    Your confidence and exuberance carry through the post — there’s no doubt that you absolutely crushed Boston. Though you may be a triathlete at heart, there’s no doubt that you’re also a runner through and through. Blitzing the field like that and finishing with an extra kick is no small feat, especially on a course that can ruin the best of them.

    Congratulations on a marvelous performance. Now go warm up!

    • April 28, 2014 at 4:09 pm #

      Thanks you for the comment Dan! Happy running 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: