Tuesday, April 19, 2011

115th Boston Marathon - 4/18/2011

   I love racing.  Whether it's racing hard for a PR attempt or participating in lots of events for social and/or training purposes, I love it.  This past fall, I did a lot of races - some of them hard, some of them for fun.  Early this semester (or, calendar year), I came back to school after what I considered a hard fall season of running.  On a run one day in January, I decided that I wanted to focus on training for a marathon PR this semester, and not run so many races.  I told myself on that run that I could get myself in 2:50 shape by the time Boston rolled around.  I figured if I was in shape to do 2:50 on a flat road course, I could do a 2:52 or 2:53 at Boston (being the relatively difficult course that it is.  I know Boston is by no means the hardest of road marathon courses; however, in my previous two attempts at it I was slowed significantly by the hills in Newton.  2010 was considerably better than 2009, though, so hopefully I would continue that trend and run the course even smarter in 2011 (in addition to being in better shape). 
   By the time I arrived in Boston 3 months after that January run, I felt confident about running a PR.  I put in 11 weeks at over 60mpw, a couple good tune-up races, and plenty of long runs.  Not particularly high mileage, but consistent and quality training, I thought.  My mindset going into the race was this: There was no reason I shouldn't be able to PR (which would mean beating 2:55:14); 2:52-2:53 seemed like a pretty reasonable goal; if I had a perfect race, I could possibly run 2:50 or get just under that into a 2:49:high.  My plan was to go through the half in 1:25:00 and maintain that 6:30 pace through mile 16 (1:44:00).  Then, I expected I'd slow a bit on the hills over the next 4-5 miles, and hopefully be able to pick it back up for the last 5.
   I forgot my Garmin in the hotel race morning.  That was fine, though.  I'd focus more on how I felt than on my exact pace.  Race morning was chilly and quite windy, but the wind was supposed to be a good tailwind.  I was glad to be back at Boston for the third straight year with all my teammates.  Always a good time.  When we got to Hopkinton, I put in my headphones and listened to Eminem until it was time to go.  I was definitely feeling ready.
   The gun went off and I immediately settled in to my race.  I felt like this could be my day.  I was focusing on my own race and how I felt.  About 8 miles in, I felt fantastic, slightly below 6:30 pace.  I started thinking that maybe I was underestimating myself a little bit.  2:52 seemed very do-able, not just pretty reasonable.  And that 2:50 "perfect race" I had been thinking about started seeming a little more attainable.  I was going for broke.
   I went through 10 miles at 64:10.  Then the half-marathon mark came at 1:24:22, still feeling very good.  Mile 16 came at 1:42:37 on my watch.   So I was running just a little bit ahead of my plan - this put me at about a 6:25 average through Mile 16.  Next came the hills, but I still felt good about maintaining my pace.  PRing became almost a certainty at this point, provided nothing disastrous happened.  As expected, my miles slowed a little bit over the course of the hills - 6:45, 6:42, 6:26, 6:48, 7:10.  That 7:10 was the mile including "Heartbreak Hill."  Ok, so now I'm tired.  But still feel "good".  Just had to hang on now.  I came off the hills with a few miles at sub-6:30.  This was happening.  I felt a rush for the last several miles.
   For at least the last 4 miles, I'd say I was running right at my threshold.  If I pushed any harder, I felt like my legs would give out.  At one point, I stepped in a very small pot-hole.  If it were any bigger, I'm sure my leg would not have been able to keep my balance.  I'm not sure how long I would have stayed on the ground.  With 4, 3, 2 miles left, 2:50 started to seem attainable if I could really push hard.  Of course, the usual roaring Boston crowds were a great asset.
   Mile 23....Mile 24...Citgo sign.  Right on Hereford.  Left on Boylston.  I put in a solid kick on that final stretch down Boylston St.  With about a tenth of a mile to go, I passed Joan Benoit Samuelson and made some faces at the TV camera following her.  I crossed the line in 2:51:02 officially.  Totally stoked about a 4:12 PR and what I considered a very smartly run Boston.  I'm extremely proud of my team for coming in 12th of 65 in the team competition.  TOP 10 NEXT YEAR!!?
   Obviously I'm excited about the PR, the smart, relatively consistent race, and the team result.  I stayed very true to my plan/goal, coming pretty close to my "best case scenario" race.  Here are my 5k times:

0k-5k  19:44
5k-10k  20:14
10k-15k  19:53
15k-20k  20:10
20k-25k  19:46
25k-30k  20:31
30k-35k  20:59
35k-40k  20:27
40k-finish  9:18

So now that Boston is over, my focus becomes the Burning River 100 on July 30th.  I felt "great" after Boston...sore, but not bad.  Today (Tuesday, the day after), I ran a nice and easy 6.5 miles (at 8:30 avg.).  It felt good to shake out, and I feel comfortable about amping up the mileage now.  I'll have a few races of marathon or longer distance coming up in the next month here to use for training...maybe a 50 mile PR? ...We'll see.
This Queen of Hearts blew across the street right in front of me on Saturday before the race.  I decided that I liked it and wanted to run with it.  Maybe I'll keep it.

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