Saturday, 24 April 2010

Boston 2010

Well, following a successful negotiation of the volcanic ash I was hoping I would have similar luck with the race day weather and other variables, including potential last minute or course induced injuries. The local news channel was reporting that the volcano had resulted in at least six hundred European runners being stranded. In transpired that our Aer Lingus flight was within a window of about six to eight hours that allowed us to complete our journey; had we been on a North American carrier or had planned to travel later than Friday, the following report would not be.
On Saturday morning we headed to the Expo in the Hynes centre. I was eager to get there early before things got boisterous. The expo was pretty good but I was not all that keen to remain there for hours and there was nothing I really wanted or needed, apart from the Adidas Boston marathon rain jacket. Once I shelled out $90 for that I was pretty much done.
The jetlag made getting up at 04:30 on race day fairly easy and I was out the door at 05:40 to get the 06:00 bus to the Tremont street side of the Boston Common, where school buses would be there to take us to Hopkington. This is where the race really begins to demonstrate its extremely impressive logistical efficiency and organisation. It was like watching a military operation get underway.
On the bus I got chatting to a chap from near Toronto who, of all things, revealed himself as a very knowledgeable football supporter and was actually a Charlton supporter. Surprisingly, and despite our journey commencing twenty-six miles from the start, it took almost ninety minutes to get to Hopkinton.
Despite commencing my journey more than four hours before the race start time passes quite well and the three quarters of a mile walk to the start line is a nice warm up. The weather was great; about eight degrees Celsius with a north-north west breeze coming over our left shoulders. As I approached my corral I just missed the ladies elite start at 09:32. As 10:00 approached I nervously anticipated the race and the two F-15 Eagles passing overhead before the start was nice.
As expected the start was a pretty steep ascent. I completed the first mile on schedule at 06:55 was was concerned not to do the first sixteen miles too fast, which many people have warned me against and I have read plenty of accounts of how people get suckered into going out too fast and then paying for it.
The next few miles all went pretty much to plan with the mile splits in the low 06:40s. However, I was surprised at the undulating nature of the course, we were almost constantly either running uphill or downhill and I was concerned just how much this was mashing up my quads and hamstrings, but I still felt very fresh and comfortable but was increasing wondering about the affect of all this when I hit the Newton hills.
At mile eight, as we approached Natick, I was looking out for a friend of my wife, Liz, and her family. Well, they were certainly vocal and she was accompanied by her mother, aunt, sister and infant niece. It felt like the whole town was roaring me on! Many thanks to the Robbins family for their encouragement! I think some of the other runners wondered who this pseudo-celebrity was!
Approaching mile ten, the first surreal incident of the day. I heard a mobile phone ring to my left and saw this guy answer a phone and proceed to have a conversation, which seemed to primarily involve trying to figure out who was talking to each other. Following the initial confusion he concluded by announcing he was approaching the ten mile mark and would require his fuel pick-up. A bizarre approach to re-fuelling.
Shortly after this we approached the famous Wellesley College 'Tunnel'. This was pretty unique but not crazy as I was anticipating and I did not get carried away with my pace. I completed the first half in 01:28:54.
Soon, after this the day's second surreal event took place when a tambourine flew across the course, about six feet ahead of me. I thought it was too soon to hallucinate and did a double to take to my right to see that someone had indeed caught it on the other side.
At this point I knew my legs, especially my quads, had taken a hammering and were beginning to feel like mush. The next few miles to the Newton hills, at mile sixteen, went according to plan but deep down as we descended down the steep hill to the first of the Newton hills I knew my legs were toast.
By mile twenty and approaching Heartbreak hill I had abandoned a sub three time and concentrated on maintaining effort rather than time. It was new experience; my heart and lungs felt comparatively comfortable and felt could definitely maintained or even increased the effort of the previous sixteen miles, but my legs felt like they had completed more than a marathon, even with ten miles remaining.
As we approached the second of the four hills I spotted the missus and the in-laws who seemed to be enjoying the whole occasion and some familiar and encouraging faces was much appreciated.
After heartbreak hill, at mile twenty-one and we began another downhill section, I think I let out an audible moan of exasperation. At this stage I was unable to get my leg turnover going, even trying to shorten my stride. Strangely, physically, this was probably the most comfortable I have ever felt in a marathon and my HR dropping into the 150s demonstrated this but I just could not get my legs to turnover. My mile twenty-two I had resolved to give up trying to push it and just enjoy the crowds and the overall experience. I spotted the missus and the in-laws again at the twenty-five mile mark, shortly after the famous CITGO sign cam into view. Here, I began to actually purposely slow down as I was no longer concerned with the time and wanted to savour the experience, especially turning right onto Hereford street from Beacon street and then left onto Boylston street, with the finish line in sight. It's really here, with the thronged crowds, the noise and the tall buildings that you realise you are participating in a premier sporting event and it felt great. I passed the line in 03:06:30.
On almost immediate reflection I was not disappointed with this time. It is a murderous course and was even more difficult than I had anticipated. It has also bestowed a renewed for respect for Thomas's performance last year, especially considering his stomach problems. I reckon I was in sub three shape but I think that, using Dublin as a comparator, you would need to add six to ten minutes to what you could do in Dublin to get an accurate projected Boston performance. Or perhaps, I am just trying to provide myself with an ego boost.
If I do Boston again I will need to reflect how I would approach the race differently. What's great about the course is you need to think very carefully how you will approach and handle it. It's just one of the great things about the race and the city is pretty hard to beat too!


Grellan said...

Great race Westley. I don't know what you oould have done differently to spare your legs. 3:06 is a fantastic time for Boston. Glad you savoured the experience. Rest well.

Westley said...

Thanks Grellan. Additional hill and weight training might have helped but not sure it would have been enough to break 3. I reckon I would need to be in 2.52-55 Dublin shape to get under 3 in Boston.


good racing on a tough course, maybe rotterdam or berlin would give you a sub 3.
keep training you've got years to improve :]

Thomas said...

I'd forgotten all about my stomach troubles there last year until you just mentioned them. To be honest, that was a minor problem compared to the quads being ripped to shreds by the downhills, as you and just about everyone else who ran that course can testify.

That's a very solid time for Boston. Well done, and well done for making it there. I was thinking how lucky I was do have done it last year rather than missing out this year due to the ash cloud.

Westley said...

Yep, my quads were utterly obliterated by mile seventeen. The days following it were the worst DOMS I have ever experienced. Staying on the top floor of a town house was not a pleasant combination with DOMS!