Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Been there..done that..still hurts

Before proceeding with my thoughts on the race itself, I want to thank everyone for the incredible amount of support and encouragement. I am overwhelmed by it all. Thanks to you Sue, for understanding and accepting that I simply have to do these things, and for giving me your unquestioning support. To all of my friends and family, all the folks at Kichler, thanks for your words of encouragement, thanks for asking how I am doing, thanks for caring. And to the members of the Southeast Runners Club, huge thanks for all you have done for me. You know how I feel, because I have told you. This weekend in Boston was fantastic.

The Race
I've not experienced anything comparable to Boston. Here is a noteworthy observation...THE ROUTE IS MUCH MORE DIFFICULT THAN IT LOOKS ON PAPER. (Yes, I was shouting that.) The early downhills work your quads over, but at that point in the race, you are not conscious of it. That'll come later. I had planned to run the first half faster, taking advantage of the downhills, and putting some time in the bank in case my knee and/or Achilles went bad through the hills. After the first few miles, I was two minutes off my planned pace, due entirely to the tightly packed field of runners. Eventually, I had a little elbow room and I made up that lost time fast, too fast it turns out. By the half, I was four minutes ahead of my planned time for the half, at a pace that would have had me 8 minutes ahead of my projected finish. Warning alarms and flashing light should have been going off in my head, but instead, I though, "Hmmm...I am feeling pretty goo, maybe I'll back off, but only a bit." And I did, but not nearly enough, and not nearly soon enough. I felt strong through the Newton Hills and Heartbreak. At the top of Heartbreak, I knew the worst of the uphills were behind me, and I thought I could open it up and finish strong on the remaining downhill and flat roads. (As my buddy Wayne said, 'After Heartbreak, Boston is very runnable.') My legs apparently didn't care what Wayne said.

At 21 miles, my quads felt like someone had been playing 'Whack-a-Thigh', beating them with a mallet for the last two and half hours. Based on the burning pain in my right Achilles, I was sure it was actually on fire, but I didn't have the energy take a look. I did grab a cup of water and throw it over my shoulder, trying to dowse the flames. My left left knee was throbbing, but not every second. Thankfully, with every footfall, a stabbing pain momentarily replaced the throbbing, so that was nice.

My strategy was to concentrated on trying to maintain my form, keep my head up and my back straight, and not fall into the 'marathon shuffle of shame'. Over the last three miles, I did a precarious balancing act, running as hard as I could, knowing I was on the edge of a crash and burn. I had to find the fastest pace I could keep that would not send me over the edge. I felt the twinges indicative of the onset of cramps, but managed to avoid them. (A lesson learned from my Columbus Marathon, where the cramps got me in the last four miles.) There were many runners down, some sitting or laying by the side of the road, with medical crews helping them. There were even more walking with hands on hips, heads hanging. I narrowed my focus, looks forward, and tried not to think about them. As I approached Mass Ave., I saw a runner collapsed into a fetal position at the curb, and the medics trying to cross the street with a stretcher. Imaging how seeing that scene could play with your head when you are desperately trying to keep your legs under you after twenty-five miles. Then, as I approached Commonwealth and Hereford, I spotted Sue in the throng just before the turn, and I knew then that I had the race in my grasp. I gave her a kiss, continued running, turned onto Boyleston, saw the finish about 400 yards away, and would not let my legs stop until I reached it.

The Crowds
We've all heard the stories of the great crowd support along this course, but I could not have conceived of this. The entire 26.2 miles had supporters cheering and clapping. Every mile of it. And as we approached the cities and town, the crowds grew bigger and louder. Ashland, Farmingham, Natick, Wellesley (with the Scream Tunnel of thousands of Wellesley College girls), Newton, and into Boston, where the streets were lined deep with cheering, shouting, clapping, supporters. I was wearing my SERC team singlet, with the word 'Cleveland' prominently across the chest, so I heard frequent shouts like, 'Come on Cleveland!', 'Kick it now, Cleveland!', Cleveland, looking great!' When I finally turned onto Boyleston, the sound was unreal. I felt twinges in my legs telling me cramps were trying to tie my muscles into knots, but I swore I would not stop. I had to run strong through that last 400 yards. I had to hold my head up, keep my form, and cross that finish line.


E-Speed said...

You did a great job out there Frank! Words can't explain what that course does to your quads. And apparently it does not get better over time. Third time for me hurt just as bad as the first two :)

Great job remembering what is really important in your quick stop to show support for your lovely wife.

I hope she had a good time this weekend. I know we sure enjoyed having her there!

What a blast. Can't wait to be there next year again!

DaisyDuc said...

Fantastic job out there Frank! Way to really hang tough!!!

It is a beautiful thing the way you and your wife were able to support and thank each other out there!

Wyatt said...

Frank, awesome race report. Never, ever have my quad hurt worse than they did after my first Boston in 2006. Words cannot describe how I felt from mile 22 on. If it wasn't bad enough that I could barely walk afterward, I was also running a fever and had the chills, too. That race is an amazing experience, but at the same time the course is meaner than hell. Congrats on running an awesome time. --Wyatt