Boston Marathon 2011

Boston Marathon
Boston, Massachusetts
Monday, April 18, 2011

Finish: 3:08:37
Pace: 712
2706 Overall of 23879
433 AG M40-45 of 2303
Marathon #62

Splts (split pace, accumulative pace)
5K – 22:17 (7:10, 7:10)
10K – 43:58 (6:58, 7:04)
15K – 1:05:28 (6:55, 7:01)
20K – 1:27:26 (7:04, 7:02)
Half – 1:32:13 (7:02, 7:02)
25K – 1:49:18 (7:02, 7:02)
30K – 2:11:53 (7:16, 7:04)
35K – 2:35:11 (7:29, 7:08)
40K – 2:58:09 (7:23, 7:10)
Finish – 3:08:37 (7:39, 7:11)

Race Report

When you run a lot of marathons, like more than two in a season, you cannot race them all. You can’t. Your body just can’t handle the stress. And the mental focus will burn you out. I learned this a few years ago during a stretch where I did a Marathon-A-Month streak for two years. I got to the point where I would race months only when it came to me, when the feeling was right. Sometimes I wouldn’t find out until I hit the starting line, such as when I busted a 2:56 at the Sugarloaf Marathon.

Being in the middle of a 8 month streak, I knew that the Boston Marathon this year would be one of those off months. I spent the spring season training with a focus on racing National Marathon, which was three weeks before Boston; Boston was merely an after-thought. Make no mistake, I was going to run Boston, and I might have even raced it, but I was only thinking about the race that took place three weeks before it.

So there were no bad feelings when I got injured at National and had to go easy this year in Boston. Although I had been hoping to race Boston as well as National to form a perfect world, I knew enough to only expect to race one of those marathons. Even if I hadn’t gotten injured, I likely would not have been able to run hard at Boston anyway. Three weeks is not enough time to recover to race hard.

Plus, Boston wasn’t supposed to happen. Not after my calf siezed at mile 8 of the National Marathon. I couldn’t run. At all. I pretended I could so that I could keep my running streak alive, but I was injured, the calf pinching and throwing pain into the hamstring and other areas. Miraculously, and perhaps with some intervention from the marathon gods, my calf healed enough for me to make the call that I would be able to lug my sorry carcas over the prestigious marathon course afterall. But I didn’t know what to expect. I was hopeful I could run 3:30 to as fast as 3:10 or maybe, if things loosened up, perhaps 3:05 best case. But realistically, I figured I’d come in around 3:20, a qualifying time for an old man like me.

With my mind framed to run easy, this year Boston would be all about fun. I would go easy for the first 10 miles of the predominantly downhill start. I would high-five little kids and whoop it up for the road-side keg parties. Stride easy through Wellesley for some smooches and hugs. Cruise up and down the Newton hills. And then come screaming into Kenmore Square, now with the calf and hammy loosened for hammering home, lifting the crowd’s spirits with my arms waving; right on Hereford and left on Boylston for a fun party.

But things didn’t exactly work out that way.

I failed to realize that my injured calf and hammy would require far more attention than just running easy and toying with the crowd. The calf and hammy would demand my almost full attention. I say “almost full attention” because I was indeed able to play with the crowd, but for each pass to the side of the road for high-fives and smiles with the bright-eyed children, I had to get back in the middle of the road to ease the calf back to normalcy.

Race morning, Heather drove me, like she kindly does each year, to Hopkinton State Park, where I catch a shuttle bus to the start, saving me hours of waiting around in the athlete village if I had taken the offical busses from downtown Boston. Upon arriving in Hopkinton, I walked three-quarters of a mile up the road to the athlete’s village at the high school, and instead of crowding in with the masses, this year, like in previous years, I only had time to change into race gear, drop my bag at the baggage busses, and get back down to the start.

En route to the starting corrals, I bumped into Jay and Gina. I was coming out of a portopotty while they were stuck on line. They looked ready to run hard. It was good to see. We chatted briefly before I moved on to see a few other friends in their respective corrals.

With 15 minutes to go before race start, I made my way past Corral 3, the place where I belonged, and moved back to Corral 6. I knew I would not being running race pace, so I figured dropping down a few corrals was the right thing to do both for myself so that I wouldn’t get sucked into running hard and injuring my calf or hammy, and for others so that I wouldn’t clog up the road running a slow pace.

Not long after, the race was started. Off we went.

Miles 1 through 5, over a net downhill, the course leaves Hopkinton and goes into Ashland. This stretch is so fast that I made sure to keep my effort light. I knew that my calf would be good for the first few miles before it would start talking to me. So I kept things easy and cruised along with the crowd. There was some idle chatter in the first few miles. After that is was mostly quiet. Each time I started chatting up with those around me, I found myself picking up pace. My calf would pinch, reminding me to slow the hell down. From there on out I realized that I wouldn’t be doing much talking. The calf required too much focus — focus on varying my pace so that the calf felt smooth enough, as if further tweaking or even injury were not possible. I was happy to be running 7:00 pace. But it didn’t matter. I focused effort on running as fast as the calf felt good.

Miles 5 through 10 were spent slapping a few hands on the side of the road. But like chatting with others, I found this too wasn’t so good for the calf and hammy. The hammy would tighten while the calf pinch each time I spent too much time not looking straight at the road ahead with my attention on pace and effort relative to a happy calf.

By the time I got to Wellesley, my effort was steady but my body felt overly sore in the joints. This perplexed me and was somewhat troublesome. I didn’t know if it was because I hadn’t been able to run much at all in the last three weeks, or if because I hadn’t recovered yet from National Marathon, or if because I was somehow compensating for my injury even though I felt like I was putting forth an even stride. Or it was something else. There was something in the back of my mind on what it might be, but I ignored it for now. For there was Wellesley to enjoy.

Due to the calf, this year was far more muted than last for me as I came through the scream tunnel of Wellesley. Usually I’m pumping my fist and kissing girls with the most cleaver signs. This year, I went over for a mere kiss and got back in the middle of the road, where I could run safe of pitch and pothole.

One thing that surprises me about Boston is that more I do it, the more mile 4 through 13 seem to take forever and the more miles 16 on home fly by. This year was no different. After seeing dear friend Alan at mile 15.5 in Newton Lower Falls — and almost kissing him on the lips, a story for another time — the Route 128 overpass came, then the rest of the course, all too quickly.

Which isn’t to say that I ran fast. A fear I had about why my body felt so damn sore came rearing to the forefront of my consciousness. I was getting more and more dehydrated. This surprised me because, damn it, I know better than that to let myself get dehydrated. I saw it coming and I did nothing about it. Sort of.

I was so focused on running easy enough so that the calf felt good that, mile upon mile, I fell into the zone of complete and intense focus on how the calf was holding up, and running as fast as it would allow while still feeling good.

I drank at every aid station. But I never did my usual “catch up” where I down an extra cup or two of water. This came back to bite me just as I started up the third of the Newton Hills. Where I normally pass folks in large numbers going up each of the infamous four hills, I was now just another hurting face in the crowd. I was dehydrated and my performance was going the way a body lacking water goes — slow.

During this time my calf started pinching. I couldn’t complain too much. I mean, I got through 20 miles before it acted up. Better than I expected but still not very welcome. I could feel the damage nerves shooting signals throughout the left leg — into my foot, calf, knee, and leg.

Finally over the third hill, then Heartbreak and slowly over that, I got back to my focus, back to most of the pace I had before, and took it on in. Only this time my calf was making noise, and my hammy was answering back. My pace varied because of this — fast, slow, fast, slow. Compounding the ugliness was the fact that I was now further dehydrated to the point where I was extremely thirsty, something that never happens to me because, well, I usually know better, far better. I drank at every aid station and continued on.

Through Kenmore Square, by the Mile To Go sign, I waved to my buddy Jeff from Runner’s World, under the Mass. Ave bridge, right on Hereford, to left on Boylston.

My favorite stretch of pavement in any race, the straight shot down Boylston Street to the Finish Line of the Boston Marathon. The road is wide, the crowds deep, the energy high, it is here where runners find their step. Those who were walking or death marching are now running hard and fast.

Living the dream, I hammered down this stretch as if in slow motion. I felt the pain in my legs, and for the first time in the last 3 hours, I wanted to feel even more pain, for that is the feeling I will remember time and again to help motivate toward other dreams. It is this pain, with people cheering, that make it worth it, being a part of the world’s greatest running event. Nothing comes for free. This moment was earned. Pain is the price paid. The two together, pain and the moment, meet face to face. We are home. At the finish line. Pain goes away. It can be forgotten. But I chose not to let it get that far. As with the thrill of victory, this too will sit in my head for another year, another lifetime. Boston 2011. Now complete. And I thank the marathon gods for allowing my calf and hammy enough freedom such as to not have sabotaged my race.


2 Responses to Boston Marathon 2011

  1. jintorcio says:

    Great write-up Dawg. Way to fight off the calf.

    • ironboy says:

      Thanks, dawg! Felt good to be able to notch a BQ time while injured. So next year I’ll have a 3:02 as my time (even though I got 3:08 at Boston this year) as my time. Don’t think I’ll be racing another marathon before reg opens in Sept. Thanks again!

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