Friday, May 1, 2015

Boston - Sub 3 Achieved

Arguably the greatest thing about Boston is that you can spend hours and hours discussing race “strategy” with running pals, friends, or random people on the street.  One of the worst things about running Boston is that you can spend hours and hours discussing race “strategy”.

Regardless, going into Boston, I felt very confident.  Last year, I muscled out a one minute PR 3:02 on minimal, dedicated training.  This year, I had signed up for, and mostly stuck to, the full Fleet Feet Boston365 training program.  I also supplemented this with sport-specific and general lifting plan that was created by Amber Leonard Thome.  From the speedworkouts and Barrington long runs, I knew that the coveted 3 hour barrier was within grasp.

You probably haven’t yet heard enough about Boston race strategy, so I’ll go over mine…for the 100th time.  Intentionally positive split – that is the plan.  Last year, I followed this by chance, and I knew it would work for me again.  Take the fast miles while they’re easy and give a little back when it gets harder.  The theory is very similar to those “take-a-penny” dishes at the grocery store that I never use since I always pay with credit card.  In the first half/16 miles of the race, you take a couple pennies every mile.  Then once you get into Newton, you give a couple back (but not more than what you’ve already taken…suckas!!!).  I even conditionally formatted a paceband by elevation delta for where I should be taking and giving time.

Race weekend, Lyndsey and I get out to Boston with rockstar friends, the Crockers.  On Friday, we eat some lobster, drink some delicious Harpoon beer and swing by the Adidas party.  This whole while, I’m feeling kind of crappy with a sore throat (the week leading up was a little crazy with closing on a condo, work, packing, etc. – not sure if it was stress-induced or what).
Selfie Stick - #BaumsAndCrockersInBoston

Saturday:  wake-up, still kind of feeling like junk.  Watch Lyndsey, Lacey, and TJ (PR) crush the 5k.  TJ and I run a shakeout 3-4 miles + strides followed by Fancy’s from Mike and Patty’s – the bomb!  Feel slightly better, but sore throat still there.  Watch the mile, do the expo, fried rice at Pho Basil (tradition), Red Sox game, Competitor party, bed.

Sunday:  wake-up, still feeling like junk…WTF!!!  Hit up the Cheers bar, Dave and I get fitted for suits (just normal prerace stuff), nap, late dinner, go to bed.
DMV, myself, and TJ
Monday – wake-up, don’t feel like junk…THANK GOD!!!  The weather was somewhat of a concern with wind, rain, and a little cool.  But whatever, it wasn’t 100F so that’s already a win.  Plus race photos look way more hardcore wearing singlets with arm warmers.  The Boston365 crew loads up and we roll in style to Hopkinton.  Sascha, Eduardo and I scope out Athletes Village and I pocket some nutrition as my best effort to recoup some of the entry fee.  Back on the bus it starts to rain a little, but then stops before we get off the bus.  I also managed to get Mark and Drew to hold their legs vertical in the air so I didn’t look like a fool being the only one.  Just about an hour to the gun, we start the walk to the start with our extra-oxygenated legs.

Despite us running very similar speeds, the competition at Boston splits you into corrals by very small margins of time, so I was all alone in my coral waiting to go.

Finally, it’s go-time and I tear off down the steep slope on the lefthand side.  I needed 6:51 miles for 3:00 and intended to run 5-10 sec quicker for the first half, which would bring me through in 1:28-1:29. First mile, I keep watching my lap pace (I probably looked at my watch in excess of 100 times during the race – not incessantly, but controlled monitoring I swear).  It’s in the 6:30 range…maybe a little faster, but my legs feel GOOD!  After the training build-up and taper, they are ready to go.  I split the first mile at 6:44…perfect.

Then I let them run a little on the lovely downhill – 6:35, 6:36, 6:37.  “No sense in hitting the brakes,” I told myself.  Here’s where people might say, “oh, you went too fast!”, I say “garbage – running downhill 16 seconds “faster” than race pace is practically the same as running race pace on the flat”.  Boom, logic!  When I crossed the 5k mark, I did wonder what people tracking must be thinking – TJ later confirmed that Lyndsey was super nervous about that quick split.

The first four miles are similar to a dark roast cup of coffee in the morning.  You savor the richness, holding it with both hands, just kind of numb to the surroundings, but secretly knowing it won’t last all day.  Then, it's off to work!  6:44, 6:43, 6:50, 6:48, 6:44.  Should also note that I cracked open my first gel (sample size) at mile 3, then another at mile 8 – stomach was feeling fine and I was grabbing a little water at every single aid station.  Somewhere in here it starts raining.  At first it was real light and even refreshing.  6:50, 6:47.  Now it’s coming down pretty significantly and I let go my anger at the guy who spilled a full cup of Gatorade on my right shoe miles earlier (he obviously didn’t appreciate the pristine condition of my vintage shoes - n00b).
I spot a blue Fleet Feet singlet ahead and keep squinting to try to figure out who it is.  I recall Dan mentioning that a Matt had joined the team and I assume it must be him.  I creep alongside him (he has earphones in) and I yell “Matt!” – confirmed, it’s him.  He pulls out an earbud and we chat for the next couple of miles.  6:44, 6:49 – coming through the half ~1:28, right on the bottom of the planned range.  Somewhere in here Matt drops back a little bit and I’m thankful to have had some company for those miles.

6:47, 6:50  I had swapped the order of my gel schedule and took my caffeine gel a little earlier.  In a marathon, I try to go as long as I can on regular gels and then use the caffeine as a little boost, but no concerns with taking it a little early.  Through mile 15-16, I am dead focused on spotting the #1 fan crew.  I had told them, I’d be on the right, but I was still passing quite a few people, so I kept running center-left.  Mile 16 goes by 6:45.  I’m now scanning the right side very hard, so much so that I need to keep reminding myself to keep my foot on the gas and not slow my pace down.  Finally I hear the giant cowbells ringing and spot TJ’s green jacket.  Their yells boost me up and I blaze off again for some hills.
Lyndsey all bundled up - difficult to spot, easy to hear
6:53, 6:59, 6:47  I don’t get too caught up in the hype of the hills.  I totally get how this part could destroy you, but any mile at this point in any marathon could also do the same.  There’s some theory that people enjoy being able to connect dots and tell a simplistic story.  The Newton hills fit that perfectly in my opinion.  “Oh man, I was having such a great race, but then it was the hills that did me in.  Never mind the fact that I hadn’t been fueling like I should have, or was running far beyond my means earlier…it was definitely the hills.”  The other mental trick that I use is to compare these hills to the hills at the Birkie – those hills at the Birkie will make any runner cry.

6:57 for mile 20 and I look at my fancy paceband for the first time all day.  I do some oxygen-constrained math and figure out I could run X/mile and still finish sub 3.  Coming up heartbreak, I take slightly shorter strides and am passing more people than are passing me…win. I’m a little extra cautious not to redline and split mile 21 at 7:01.  The "7" stings a little as if I would have been paying better attention, I would have totally hit the lap button 2 seconds earlier!

Still feeling ok and have some downhill ahead.  Have to force the nutrition down, but it's staying down. I'm thinking about all the mile pennies that I've acquired and I’m taking more until the tray is empty!  “Take more, give less!” scrolls through my head - not something you’d tell your kid to do, but totally appropriate for racing.  6:38, 6:51, 6:44

Approaching mile 25, I’m on the lookout for the fan crew again.  I hear Corinne first with a "Go Eric" and then a little later the all-familiar, distinct voices of Lyndsey and Lacey. On both, I'm not quick enough to lock in a visual, so I lift a hand in acknowledgement.  6:51

Across the Citgo sign and one to go, I look at my watch for some more mental math. 2:51:15 – dang it, why couldn’t it end in :45 so I can coast in at a 7:00 mile.  No, instead I now need to run another 6:45 to break the :00 and avoid a painful single digit second time (the worst kind of time in running regardless of what the minute is).
Kenmore Square - 1 to go!
My quads have now been feeling like they have needles jammed in them for some time – it’s the same exact feeling you get during the marathon in an Ironman.  I marvel at how efficiently the Boston course can achieve the same kind of leg sensation in 2 hours that takes 8 hours in an Ironman. I make the final turn and my eyes are glued to my Garmin 920 - with about 100 to go, I realize it's going to be very close to 2:58:00 so I gun it at sub 6:00 pace and dodge around all those guys holding their arms up soaking in the glory. Official time of 2:57:55 - less than a minute shy of a free suit wager that I had going with DMV - no worries though, the showdown will happen in Chicago.

A race recap, wouldn’t be complete without some cadence analysis.  I would have liked to include vertical oscillation and ground contact time, but I foregoed the sensor and accompanying data for weight savings. As you can clearly see from the cadence graph, I ran a fairly optimal race.  The slight variation in dots can be attributed to the rain and wind, which likely cost a few seconds.  The graph also shows that I have a little left to take after a summer of training and 2:55 at Chicago should be my next target.
Cadence Analysis
Finally, a word of thanks to Lyndsey - my biggest supporter, Dave - biggest competitor, Lacey and TJ - awesome travel buddies, the Cheetahbacks - LNL, Dan - his no-nonsense running advice and inspirational blog 2-something, Fleet Feet Boston365 Coaching, and all the friends and family who were live-tracking! And a tribute to Tom Ebertowski who passed away the morning of the race after 16 months courageously battling brain cancer - this race was for him and his loved ones.

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