Friday, April 21, 2017

2017 Boston Marathon Recap - No Excuses

The 2017 Boston Marathon weekend was full of fun, excitement, and so much pain but ended up in great joy and this will recap my exciting weekend adventure.  Before I get into that I am beyond blessed for all the support I received from so many people before and after this race.  Running for most of my life was always this solitude thing I did trying to continually hit splits and end up disappointed if I didn’t run to my potential.  To finish my race and have so many people reach out to me I can’t express in words how it made me feel.  I am so lucky to have such an amazing support crew for my running career and I will continue to give back to all of you in any way I can to thank you.

Kelly and I decided many months ago it would be a great idea to bring my daughter Chloe on this adventure to the Boston Marathon so she can meet family along the way!  Welp bringing a 3 month with you on an 8 hour car ride to Boston and all the stuff you need to bring for her is quite overwhelming (Duh!).  Our car was literally packed with stuff, we made many sketchy stops along the way for diaper and outfit changes but we made it!  I arrived in Boston around 2pm on Sunday and it was a million degrees out and I was already stressing a bit.  Still hadn’t gotten my packet, wanted to get in a shake-out run, and still hadn’t checked into hotel.  Ugh, not how I wanted to feel 20 hours out from my race.  Finally got my packet and went for a shakeout run around 4pm(Why?), it was about 85 degrees out and I felt absolutely terrible the entire time.  Awesome, grabbed dinner at an authentic Boston Restaurant, Cheesecake Factory and then got to bed earlyish.

My 2017 Boston at least had me less stressed in the morning since I had done it before, and I had a bunch of teammates all running too which helped so much race morning.  Thom, Chris and I grabbed a Falls Road bus together and off we went.  We got to the village and had a meetup spot which was so helpful for my usual pre-race anxiety.  Having 10 of us hanging around together just talking and joking around kept my mind off the race and kept me focused to the fun of why I do this(Running is fun).  We also got a pretty awesome team photo that I know I’ll love for many years to come.  Finally off we went, Conrad and I linked up and headed to Wave 1 Corral 1.  Which has it perks because the bathroom line was so short, and then we saw some people warming up in a circle and said “Hey let’s do that”.  Jogged around for a bit and then followed Graham’s advice and got in the back of Corral 1 with Conrad and let everyone else cram to the front to get as close to the line as they could.  I finally started feeling relaxed about 5 minutes out and thought maybe this could be my day and then the gun went off.

I’ll start by saying, Yes it was a warm day but you will find no excuses for my performance from the heat in here.  I could have PR’ed today and will not use 74 degrees and no shade as an excuse for blowing up in Newton, there are plenty of reasons I can point to.  As we started off Conrad, Jason and I grouped up and started passing people by the dozens.  I very much forgot how downhill the first couple of miles are, and the pace just felt easy, we settled into 5:45 for the first mile alright cool.  A couple more 5:45’s and Conrad and I were through the 5k in 17:52(same as Chicago in 2015!), I felt much better though.  Our 4th mile ended up dropping to 5:31 and I bid Conrad adieu and started dropping back a bit.  It was warmer out and I was taking in so much fluid, so I tried to focus on that.  Four cups about each aid station, 1 Gatorade, 1 water to drink and 2 to pour on me.  Around 5 miles Wayne Blas my old co-worker pulls up alongside me.  I was like what are you doing back here and he informed me that he was perfectly on pace and what was I doing?  To be quite honest I had no clue, I didn’t have a Marathon Pace anymore I was just running.  So I hopped on with him and we ran 5-10 together coming through 10 in 57:47 or so.  Until I let him go and went back to running my race.

I took my first GU and had about 4 chewable salt tablets by mile 10(so clutch I had these, definitely helped me with cramping), at this point I was just finding packs of runners and leeching on to them which is something I rarely do.  Hopped onto a pack around mile 10 and just stuck to the back of them from 10-12 until we hit the Co-ed’s at Wellesley.  I decided it was time to ditch my hat, I hate wearing a hat, and so I tossed it up to the young co-eds and let them fight for the honor of catching it.  (Editor’s note: No one caught it and they were most likely completely grossed out by it).  So much energy here and I rolled through the half in 1:16 (which if you asked me before the race that would have been perfect, but why did it feel terrible.  Oh because I ran a bunch of 5:45’s for the first 5 miles then a bunch of 6’s for the next 8 and still haven’t settled into a pace.  I was quite woke, but alas onward I went knowing the last of my downhill miles were in front of me.

Around 14 my usual left hamstring tendonitis started acting up and I started cramping up.  No big deal I have these salt tablets for the cramping, oops dropped those on the ground, and I have this Advil I brought with me on the run for my hamstring.  Oh wait that was in the pocket in my hat I threw to the girls.  FML.  I had one burst of energy as we rolled downhill around 15 but for the most part miles 14-20 I was in the darkest of places.  The first Newton hill decimated me and I reacted with nothing as runners gearing up for this part of the race just destroyed me.  My splits kept creeping higher and higher, my hamstring was torn up.  It was Chicago all over again.  As I reached 20 I had mentally thrown in the towel, I came across at 2:00:02, 2 seconds slower than Chicago and I still had to crest Heartbreak Hill.  I was done, 2:45 would be a miracle at this point I thought.  My 21st mile was 6:48 and as I hit Brookline I thought of what I would tell people and what excuses I would use.  Hamstring was hurt, it was hot, and training went poorly.  Then all of a sudden the narrative changed.

We have all been there staring at a friend’s Marathon splits seeing them consistently stay even paced or even get faster dreading the moment that they hit the wall and their splits go up 20-30 seconds for the next 5k.  We know that usually at that point there is no coming back from that.  Rarely does someone have a bad 1-2 5k’s in a row and turn it around and with the mental state I was in on Monday I doubted I would buck the trend.  But in Brookline it all changed, I saw this pretty hilarious sign and got a pretty loud cheer as I passed through a group of Boston College kids and then in that moment I took my hands and tried to get the crowd to make some noise.  “Are you not entertained?”, I wish I shouted.  And instantly they all reacted to me and I felt a surge of energy.  I started dropping my pace from 6:40 down to 6:20, and then to sub 6:00.  Every time I felt down or about to let up I either did the Hulk Hogan hand to the ear or raised the roof and got tons of energy back.  I was doing what you were always told, use the crowd’s energy to get you to the finish line and it was working. Miles 16-21 were all 6:20 and above while miles 22-26 were all 6:20 and under with a sub 6 in there.  I had changed the Chicago narrative, instead of giving up and quitting and throwing in the towel I turned it around.  My second ever sub 2:40 marathon was within grasp, maybe even a sub 2:39.  I was passing people left and right from mile 21 on, no one passed me (first time ever) and I must have caught 50-70 people.  As I turned onto Boylston I was tired but I was so proud of myself.  I kept raising the roof and getting people to cheer.  I had entered the darkest of places, had given up but then I didn’t quit.  I think a lot of that toughness came from JFK and HAT.  Two days when I have suffered like never before but never quit once.  I crossed the line in 2:39:18 and watched as several runners who I have never beaten before come in after me.  I missed my pre-race goal Sub 2:37:53 and Top 150 but when I found out I was 171st place overall I knew that I had run tough on a day when lots of people suffered.  2:39 normally barely cracks top 500.

Splits (pace per mile) for the day
5k – 5:46
10k – 5:45
15k – 5:53
20k – 6:02
25k – 6:05
30k – 6:21
35k – 6:32
40k – 6:10

It’s a very different post-race recap I am writing today if I continued to let my pace climb upwards after 35k.

As I said earlier, I don’t blame the heat or my hamstring or any of that for not running a PR in Boston.  I wrote that I felt a little unprepared and I meant it and the reason I said it was because I did no Marathon Specific pace work. 

That Strava link is the perfect example of someone who never was able to get comfortable into a pace.  The entire day I just ran what I thought was comfortable at the time having no idea how long I could hold it, I didn’t care I was just running.  Specificity is preached as key for Marathons and looking back I know I could have used some on this day.  That said I am proud of myself and more than that I am proud of my Falls Road Teammates.  We had good and bad days all over the place but every single person was a champion and crossed the Boston Marathon finish line.  Some people suffered a lot, but so many teammates were out there looking out for each other.  Offering words of encouragement, and trying to get others to run with them or just making sure they were ok.  That is why in the end Falls Road Racing Team is more than a team but a family.  And while we were all running in Boston hundreds of our friends/family were home giving us time out of their lives to support us by watching our dots go across a map or writing encouraging messages to us on social media or via text.  I no longer ever feel like I am doing this running thing alone, and on top of that I had my sister, wife, mom and my baby girl all greet me at the finish line.  Despite not being able to really stand, there was no better feeling then holding my daughter after finishing the Boston Marathon.  She will remember none of this but I will never forget. 

Below as always are some fun pictures of my journey, I hope you enjoyed.