Saturday, April 25, 2009

Boston 2009 - A New PR of 2 hours 59 Minutes and 73 Seconds

Arrived on Saturday afternoon and took the T from the airport to the back bay. Walked a few blocks to my hotel, the Marriott Copley, scene of the recent Craigslist murder, but otherwise a very pleasant location in the Back Bay, about two blocks from the finish line. As soon as I checked in, I called Jim K. and Jeff Z., the guy who were rooming with me in Boston. Jeff was at the Expo killing time until I arrived. The room was in my name so he had to wait from me to check in.

Jim K., me, and Jeff Z.

About an hour later, roommate #3, Jeff Z. arrived. We were going to meet up with some of the other SERC folks for dinner, which was planned for Vinny T's, but Mark G., Steve H., Wayne V., and Tim M. bailed on us and went to dinner with a friend/patron of Mark's from California. So Jim, Jeff, and I met up with Marc A. and his sister Larissa at the restaurant. It turned out to be a great evening. We ate a good meal, and talked about religion, children, politics, running, etc.
On Sunday morning, Jim, Jeff, and I met up with Elizabeth, Amie, and Barb. who were staying at the same hotel, and did a soft four mile run along the Charles. Later that morning, I went to the Expo to pick up my packet, and browse. All of the Boston 2009 merchandise was too expensive, so I didn't buy any of it. Besides, I really like this year's nuclear yellow runners shirt, so I didn't feel the need to buy anything else.

Later I shopped with Wayne V., Mark G., and Steve H. to buy food for the big pre-race dinner at the condo of Tim's brother Kevin. This is a beautiful place, right on Commonwealth, and all of the SERC members are so grateful that Kevin hosts our group every year. He and Tim go out of their way to make everyone welcome. Wayne was in charge of the cooking, and the dinner was a a big success. There were probably 40 people by my estimation, mostly SERC runners and family, but also friends including Jim Garcia and Mike Wardian, a world-class runners and friends of Mark. The party was a huge success, as always. I got to talk with lots of people who I rarely see, and heard lots of stories about Boston Marathons past. I would like to have stayed later, but I left around 9:00 PM. I wanted to get to bed early. There was something I needed to do the next morning.

me, Jeff U., Elizabeth, Barb, and Amie

I woke at 5:00 AM on race morning. It was a typically cold April morning in Boston, in the high thirty degrees range, but at least it was not rain. I met up with Amie, Elizabeth, Barb, and Jeff U. and we walked to Boston Commons to catch the buses to Hopkinton.

There were already thousands of runners there when we arrived, but we managed to get on a bus after only 15 minutes of waiting. After about an hour long ride, we arrived in Hopkinton, and walked to a spot where the SERC runners have traditionally gathered before the race. (Sorry, it's a secret spot, so I cannot tell you where.) We sat for a while, shed some of our warm-ups, put them in our drop bags, then walked to the buses that were waiting to take the drop bags back to Boston.
We walked to a spot past the start and watched the elite women's start, which was 1/2 hour ahead of our. They were by us in a flash, and then we walked back and found our corrals. Steve H. and I were in corral #4. It was great to have a friend in the corral to talk with while we waited for the start. There were roughly 1000 runners in each corral, stretching, hopping, sitting, kneeling, and generally mulling around. Most runners know to bring old sweatshirts, pants, jackets, etc., which they removed and tossed out of the corral as the start approached. When the horn sounded, it was about another 30 seconds of waiting before we were able to start moving toward the starting line. I finally crossed the start at 1 minute and 46 seconds into the race.

In the first mile, the road was so congested with runners, that I was lucky to manage only 7:11 pace. I made up for it in the next three miles, with times of 6:40, 6:35, and 6:28. I ran most of the first three or so with Steve, but I wanted to keep my own pace, so Steve and I separated. Between miles 4 and 5, something went wrong with my Garmin. It went into 'Pause' mode (I probably hit the pause button when I brushed up against another runner). The 1 mile lap counter was also reset about halfway through that mile. When I discovered the problem about a mile and a half later, I turned off the pause, but my mile calibration was off, and basically it became an expensive wrist weight for the rest of the race.

By watching the times at the mile markers, I knew my mile times, and I knew I was doing well. I was in a nice comfortable groove, and the miles were clicking by. At around 12 miles, I passed the "Welcome to Wellesley" sign, and within a minute I could hear the distinct, high-pitched din of the girls of Wellesley College. I stayed to the far left side of the street, to be as far away from the throng of screaming students as I could, yet the sound still was piercing.

I hit the half mark at 1:28:49, right where I wanted to be at that point. I felt strong through the hills of Newton, I remember that I was at a 7:09 pace between miles 18 and 19. I topped Heartbreak, and picked up the pace again. I think I slowed slightly in miles 23 and 24 as I felt the onset of cramps in my calf. Right after the 40k marker, I had to stop and stretch-out a cramp in my right calf. I was able to start running again, but within another 1/4 miles, I had to stop again and stretch out another cramp in the same calf. I estimate I lost about 30 seconds for each of these. I had been right on a pace to allow me to run a 7:00 minute pace and come in under 3 hours, but with the cramps, I had lost far too much time. I calculated that I would have to run under a 6:00 minute mile in a sprint to the finish to get back under 3 hours. I decided to give it a try, and I picked up the pace...a lot. I was feeling strong and passing runners as I approached Massachusetts Ave, then I felt one more cramp grab me. I stopped, stretched it out, and resumes my charge for the finish, knowing I could not come in under 3 hours, but running with everything I had to get a close as possible. I turned at Hereford then again at Boyleston in full out sprint. I ran the entire stretch to the finish at that pace. The crowd along both sides of the street we louder than I remember from last year, maybe getting there in three hours makes a difference. When I crossed the finish, the clock said 3:02, which I calculated to be 3:00:14. When I checked the official time later, I found that it was 3:00:13, or as I prefer, 2:59:73. ;-)

I grabbed a water, a powerbar, and a bagel from one of the volunteers, while another gave me a Mylar blanket. I walked a little further down Boylston, turned in my chip and got my medal. Then it was a little further to the bag pick-up buses. I found my bus and they retrieved my bag. I found Steve G. waiting at a bus for his bag, and being not to happy about how long it was taking. I kept walking and ate another power bar, eventually made my way back to the hotel, which was about three blocks away. I took a shower, changed into warmer clothes, and headed back to the finish to see if I could catch any other SERC runners.


Here is the confusing output from my Garmin. You can see where it got out of whack between miles 4 and 5. Although the mile numbers after that do not match with the mile markers on the course, and more than a mile is missing, the miles that are shown are actual measured miles (except for #5 and #6) , and the times are legit for each.

1) - 1m - 7:11(7:11/m)
2) - 1m - 6:40(6:40/m)
3) - 1m - 6:35(6:35/m)
4) - 1m - 6:28(6:28/m)
5) - 0.51m - 3:25(6:43/m)
6) - 0.98m - 6:42(6:51/m)
7) - 1m - 6:40(6:40/m)
8) - 1m - 6:47(6:47/m)
9) - 1m - 6:55(6:55/m)
10) - 1m - 6:34(6:34/m)
11) - 1m - 6:36(6:36/m)
12) - 1m - 6:44(6:44/m)
13) - 1m - 6:52(6:52/m)
14) - 1m - 6:39(6:39/m)
15) - 1m - 6:59(6:59/m)
16) - 1m - 6:57(6:57/m)
17) - 1m - 6:53(6:53/m)
18) - 1m - 7:00(7:00/m)
19) - 1m - 7:14(7:14/m)
20) - 1m - 6:46(6:46/m)
21) - 1m - 6:50(6:50/m)
22) - 1m - 6:58(6:58/m)
23) - 1m - 6:43(6:43/m)
24) - 1m - 6:48(6:48/m)
25) - 1m - 5:55 (5:55/m)

Here are my official splits and stats from the Boston Athletic Association

Place Overall: 1358 of 22849
Place Men: 1290 of 13547
Place Men 50-54: 44 of 1838


A really remarkable thing of our club members, Barb Broad, won her age group. I don't know if any SERC member has ever won anything at Boston before, but this is certainly a major achievement. Barb has to be one of the fastest women, if not the fastest woman, in the country in her group. I was so happy when I heard the news, because she has worked so hard and is so deserving. Huge Congratulations Barb!!! You rocked Boston, SERC-style.

Barb with her award

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Boston: Prediction, Training, Tracking

Anyone who has run Boston knows as the race approaches, your fellow runners will inevitably ask...
  • "What time are you aiming for?"
  • "What do you think you're going to do in Boston?"
  • "What's your prediction for Boston?"
With a week to go, I cannot dodge the question any longer, so here is my prediction for Boston...cloudy, low in the mid-forties and high in the mid-fifties, with a 20% chance of precipitation.
Seriously, I don't know how I am going to do in Boston, so I am not going to make a prediction. My most recent real test was the half-marathon in Youngstown last month, which I ran in 1 hour 31 minutes. To me, that indicates a marathon time of about 3:06. That of which of itself would be a huge improvement over last year, and would not be likely unless the wind and weather conditions are good. I have been hearing lots of noise about trying for sub-3 hours, but the idea that I can knock 17 minutes of my time last year seems improbable. A sub-3 hour marathon would require that I average under a 6:52/mile pace. For perspective, last year my average pace was 7:30/mile, and my fastest single mile in the whole race was 6:51. To go sub-3 hours, I would have to run all 26 miles at that pace this year. See my point?

It was a good, 58 mile, taper week. After a Monday recovery run, I was forced indoors for the speed session on Tuesday, due to the snow and cold. The treadmill only goes up to 6:00/min pace, so I did three 1 mile repeats at that pace. I followed that on Wednesday with 6.5 miles at a 6:50 pace, then a moderately paced 6 and 7 miles on Thursday and Friday respectively. Saturday, the usual crew ran a muddy, wet 11 miles. I had to hose-off before going in the house when I got home.
On a cold Sunday morning, I decided to make up for Tuesday's less than full-out speed session by running the first six miles aggressively. Fortunately, I hooked-up with Kam, and we ran to the water stop together. Those first six miles went like this: 7:34 (took us a little bit to warm-up), 6:46, 6:38, 6:26, 6:26, 6:35. After that, I backed off the pace, and finished the 13.76 miles at 7:23 average pace.

Tracking My Progress on Race Day
On the morning of the race, Monday, April 20th, click on this link, Boston Marathon, before the start of the race at 10:00 AM. Follow the instructions. You will be asked to enter my name or bib number, #4438. My time and pace will automatically be updated as I cross the sensors, which are at 5 kilometer intervals, and at the finish line.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

A Sighting of the Rare Tapirus Bostonus

Today, for the first time in a year, the reclusive Tippie Tapir has emerged from his home deep in the Cuyahoga Valley. Yes, it's that time again, time for my Boston taper. No more 80 or 90 mile weeks...this week was a reasonable 75 miles. Tippie arrives around the end of the first week of April every year to remind me to back off the mileage a little and let me legs recover from the tough winter training miles of the past four months.

It was another good week with the usual recovery runs on Monday and Thursday, plus an additional recovery day on Friday, just because. Tuesday, for the first time this year, we had a big group at the track. I was glad to have someone to push me a bit. I ran with Steve G. and Mike Boyer. I did 3 miles of warm-up and 6 x 100 yard stride outs, before we started our 1 mile repeats. My first mile was 5:39. I cannot remember when, if ever, I have run a mile under 5:40. I followed that with a 5:38 and another 5:38. Really. I check with Mike to confirm the times. It hurt and it felt great. Saturday, I ran a very wet and muddy 11 miles with the Lock 29 group. I must say I really love sloshing around in the muck. There is something in that mud that is very therapeutic. It is a miraculous stress-reducer...makes me glad to be alive. Sunday, I did 18 miles, with a slow few miles at the start, followed by a fast 15 miles, and a cool-down mile. Overall, the average pace was 7:30.


The Boston Marathon will be run on Monday, April 20. I wil be running in the first wave, which starts at 10:00 AM. You can track my progress by logging on to the Boston Athletic Association website, and keying-in my bib number: 4438. My status will be updated every 5k.