Sunday, May 08, 2016

2016 Boston Marathon Race Report

This race report is long overdue, but it's better late than never.  

Marathon Training
My Boston Marathon training went really well and I felt like I was in slightly better shape than I was going into CIM where I ran 2:31:54.  Although training went well, I was a little stressed in January/February.  I made the temporary move from Maryland to Tampa for work, and leaving the family behind was tough.  One might think that Tampa is a great place to train for a marathon in the late winter and early spring, but not quite.  While the temperatures (60-70 deg) were ideal, it was the high humidity that made training sometimes very tough.  Additionally, Tampa is pancake flat and probably not the best place to train if you're preparing for a marathon with lots of rolling hills like Boston.  Believe it or not, I had to drive 1.5 hours to Clermont, FL to put in a long run on rolling hills.  With the exception of one long run on rolling hills, all of my training runs from Jan 30 - Apr 14 were done on flat surface.  Pathetic!

Tampa is flat! I had many weeks with 0 ft elevation gain.
Race Strategy
My race strategy going into Boston was to run 5:45ish pace and feel comfortable up to Newton Hills.  I'd expect my pace to slow around 5:50-5:55ish on the hills and then hopefully run strong over the last five miles.  The plan was to come through the half between 1:15-1:16, which would put me in a good position to finish hopefully somewhere between 2:30 and sub-2:33.  

Boston Marathon
There are many things that make the Boston Marathon a unique race.  It's the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's best-known road racing events.  Runners must meet the Boston qualifying standards (aka BQ), and even with a BQ you're not guaranteed an entry. For 2016, runners had to run 2 minutes and 28 seconds faster than their age and gender standard. Also, the rolling hills course is brutal and will thrash the legs before you get to the actual hills. Let's not forget the Boston Strong crowd.  Boston's crowd support along the 26.2 mile course is unlike any other marathon.  There are thousands of Boston spectators lining the course to cheer on and encourage the runners, regardless of the weather conditions.  Speaking of weather, I think this is what makes the Boston Marathon a unique and unpredictable race. The weather on Patriot's Day can be cold, hot, rainy, or very windy.  In my last five Boston Marathons, race day conditions varied: 2012 was scorching with temps in the high 80s, 2013 and 2014 were almost perfect marathon weather, and 2015 was cold and wet with strong headwinds.  This year the conditions looked perfect for marathon running about 7 days out from the race.  However, as it got closer to race day, it seemed as though it was going to be another warm Marathon Monday.  

The temperature at the start of the race was in the low to mid 60s, but it felt a little warmer with the sun beating down and no cloud cover.  Since I've been training in warm and humid conditions over the last couple months, I decided to stick with my race strategy.  The gun went off and I tried to focus on running smooth and comfortable as much as possible.  The first few miles were slightly faster than 5:45 pace, but with the early downhill miles I expected that I'd be closer to 5:40s.  From mile 5 till the halfway mark I settled in running splits between 5:45 - 5:50.  I took in fluids at every aid station and an energy gel every 5-6 miles.  

I came through the half in 1:15:35, which was right where I wanted to be and on pace for a sub 2:32.  At this point in the race, not only was it very warm, but there was also a decent headwind.  The headwind wasn't as strong as last year, but it was noticeable and enough to slow a runner's pace a few seconds per mile.  After running 5:48 and 5:50 for miles 14 and 15, I opened up on the last half mile of mile 16, which had a 130 ft elevation loss, and ran a 5:32 mile split.  I did not expect to run the mile split that fast.  I'm not sure if it was the fast 16th mile split or the warm weather and grueling downhills, or a combination of all of it, that took something out of the legs because they started to feel heavy.  

In the Newton hills, my pace began to slow and I could only manage to run 6:02, 6:09 and 6:06 for miles 17-19.  I calculated that I'd finish with a sub 2:35 if I maintained my current pace.  My hamstrings then started to cramp a little around Heartbreak Hill and now my race went from feeling tough to survival mode.  Instead of running 6:05-6:10 pace I was now running 6:30 pace.  I tried to stay composed and took in as much fluids as I could at the aid station to prevent the hamstrings from cramping even more.

At around the Boston College campus on Commonwealth Ave, I caught up to a runner that looked familiar.  It was the BAA runner (Brad Mish), who I came across around the same part of the course in last year's Boston Marathon.  It was like deja-vu all over again.  What's bizarre about it, and I didn't know it until I saw the photos, is that we were both assigned the same bib numbers for the 2015 and 2016 race.  
The BAA runner looked familiar!
After I caught up to Mr. 982, we ran together for a little bit before he slowly faded back.  At this point in the race, my legs couldn't go any faster, and I was just trying to hold things together and get to the finish line in one piece.  Luckily, my legs held up and I was able to run no slower than 6:30 pace over the last 10K.  I crossed the finish in 2:37:23, which was good enough for 90th Overall.  

All in all, I was satisfied with my race performance and that I ran tough when the going got tough.  I was most happy with finishing in the Top 100 again (56th Overall in 2012).  I think finishing in the top 100 in any of the six World Marathon Majors ((Tokyo, London, Boston, Berlin, Chicago, New York) is a significant accomplishment for an average runner.  Although I know I was fit and ready to beat last year's time, I think the warm conditions and lack of hill training were factors for the slower finishing time.  Unfortunately, there's nothing I could have done about the weather on Marathon Monday and the lack of hills in Tampa.   Life goes on....

What's next?
I normally take a full recovery following the Boston Marathon and then slowly build my base back up during the summer.  However, this time around I'm only taking a few weeks to recover from Boston before I'm back training hard again.  There's a "possibility" that I may represent my island of Guam in the 2016 Olympic Games marathon in August. I likely won't know if I'm selected or not until early July.  While July is late notice, the only thing I can do is train my butt off, get into the best possible shape and hope I'm selected.  Wish me luck!!!

Completing the Rio nomination packet

Saturday, April 23, 2016

120th Boston Marathon - 2:37:23, 90th Overall

I ran my sixth Boston Marathon (5th consecutive) this past Monday finishing in 2:37:23, 90th Place Overall.  While my time was much slower than I had hoped, I was still very happy to have placed in the Top 100 for the second time (I was 56th Overall in 2012).  

The finishing times were slower across the board, even for the elites, because of the warm and windy conditions.  I'll get more into the details in my race report, which I hope to post soon.  

Sunday, January 31, 2016

January 18 - 24 Training

Mon: AM - 8.5 miles with 8x30s uphill strides (7:04). Freezing cold (5 deg real-feel) and very windy. Luckily, I had the wind to my back on the uphill strides.  PM - 4.5 miles easy (7:19)

Tue: AM - Army Physical Fitness Test: 104 push-ups, 95 sit-ups, and 11:10 2-mile run.  It was the first time in almost three years that I didn't hit triple digits for the sit-ups.  I'm not surprised though, because I've neglected doing them since my last APFT about six months ago. Ha!  As for the 2-mile run, I was looking to run 10:30ish, which would be a pretty good effort/workout after trashed quads and hip flexors from the sit-ups.  Unfortunately, weather conditions (-1 degree real-feel with 12mph headwind) were not favorable for a fast time.  It also didn't help that the freezing cold air was getting to the lungs when I breathe in. 3.5 miles cooldown (7:17); PM - 7 miles easy (7:02)

APFT over the course of my Army career.
Wed: AM - 14 miles with 9 miles of 1/2 mile at 5:55 pace, 1/2 mile at 5:35 pace.  The original plan was to run 10 miles of alternating 1/2 miles, but since I did a physical fitness test yesterday with a couple miles at 5:30ish pace, I decided that nine was enough.  I averaged 5:54 pace for the "slow" 1/2 miles and 5:32 for the faster halves.  What makes this workout tough is that you can't slack on the slow sections because 5:55 pace is still moving.  PM - 4.7 miles (7:13)

Thu: AM - 8.1 miles easy (7:03); PM - 5 miles easy (7:15)

Fri: 8.2 miles with 6x20s pick-ups.  Freezing cold. Blizzard is forecasted to come through the east coast tonight and throughout the day tomorrow.  

Sat: 20 miles long run; first 12 miles easy then 2:00 at 5:30 pace at the start of each mile for the last 8 miles (6:31 overall avg). There was no way I was running 20 miles in a blizzard, so I had no choice but to get on the treadmill.  Averaged 6:41 pace for the first 12 miles easy.  For the last 8 miles, I ran the first 2:00 of each mile at 5:30 pace and then 6:40-6:44 pace as recovery. Really good long run, but I'm sure I'll be a bit sore tomorrow as the treadmill works some different muscles; .5 miles cool down
Snowed in!
Sun: 8 miles easy (7:31)

Weekly Total: 93.1 miles on 11 runs/7 days
It was a crazy week with temperatures consistently in the teens and a blizzard on Saturday that kept me off the roads.  Luckily, I have a treadmill in the basement and was able to log some dreaded miles.  

Monday, January 18, 2016

January 11 - 17 Training

Mon: AM - 10 miles with light fartlek of 8x45s fast, 2:15 easy. Averaged 4:48 for the fast portion and 7:27 for the easy sections.  This is a similar workout that I've done in the past (8x.15 fast, .35 mile easy), except that it's about 30 seconds less in recovery.  Leg turnover felt good and fast. PM - 5 miles easy (7:18)

Tue: AM - 7 miles easy (7:23); PM - 4.1 miles easy (7:26)

Wed: AM - 12.8 miles including 4 miles tempo, 1 mile jog, 4x90s downhill.  Plan was to run the 4 miles tempo starting at 5:30 and then work down to 5:20.  I never felt liked I warmed up with the temps at 17 degrees (9deg real-feel with 12mph winds).  I came through 1600m in 5:31 feeling like it was harder than it should have felt.  I tried to pick up the pace on the 2nd mile, but it just wasn't happening with the freezing temp.  After running the 2nd mile in 5:33, I thought about calling it quits.  Decided to just finish the tempo running at least the same pace. Ran 5:33 and 5:28 for the last couple miles (3200m to be exact). Afterwards, I jogged a mile to the hills where I did 4x90s hills at mile effort.  Covered .32 miles of downhill at 4:43 pace and took some pounding on the legs.  PM - 5.2 miles easy (7:02)

Thu: 12 miles easy (6:56)

Fri: AM - 5 miles easy (7:23); PM - 6 miles with 6x20s fast pick-ups (6:55)

Sat: 20 miles long run with middle 12 miles moderate progression.  First 4 miles easy, then 12 miles moderate progression from 6:30 to 6:00, and then the last 4 miles cooldown.  Averaged 6:14 pace for the moderate progression and 6:27 overall average for the 20 miles.   Pace felt smooth and comfortable, but the legs started to feel a bit tired in the end from all the rollers.  

Sun: AM - 6 miles easy (7:12); PM - DNR; family time trumped putting in a second run. 

Weekly Total: 93.2 miles on 11 runs/7 days
I can tell that there is cumulative fatigue starting to creep in, especially with the mileage increase of about 10 miles/week each of the last 4 weeks.  This (cumulative fatigue) is actually a good sign and necessary during marathon training. 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

New Year = another Boston Marathon training

It's a new year, which means I'll be spending the first quarter of the year preparing for the Boston Marathon again.  This year's Boston Marathon will be my 6th total Boston and 5th consecutive since 2012.  Just as I did last year, I'll be posting my weekly marathon training and journey to Boston here on my blog.   

Here's the last two weeks of training.

January 4 - 10 Training

Mon: AM - 9.2 miles including 6x60s uphills, 2x60s downhills. Ran the uphills starting at slightly faster than 5K effort and working down to mile effort. PM - 5 miles easy (7:24)

Tue: 10.1 miles easy/medium (6:38); first five miles easy and then the last five at 6:00-6:15 pace.  Felt nice and comfortable.  

Wed: 8 miles with 8x20s pick-ups (7:15)

Thu: AM - 10.3 miles including 6x1K w/ 400 rec jog.  Goal was to start out at 3:15 feeling smooth and then work down to 3:10.  Ran 3:14, 3:14, 3:12 and 3:11 for the first four reps and then picked it up some on the last two running 3:08 and 3:05.  Finished the workout feeling like I could do one more rep.  PM - 5.3 miles easy (7:18)

Fri: AM - 4.3 miles easy (7:43); PM - 6 miles easy (7:12)

Sat: 18.1 miles long run (6:39); normal long run feeling nice and smooth.  I really enjoy the long run where I get out there and just cruise at a comfortable pace.  

Sun: 8.6 miles easy (6:59)

Weekly Total: 85 miles on 10 runs/7 days
A good week with a little more volume and intensity.  Happy with how my legs and body recovered following the hills and 1K interval session.  


December 28 - January 3 Training

Mon: 7.2 miles easy with 8x20s pick-ups (6:59)

Tue: 10.1 miles easy (6:51)

Wed: 11.3 miles including 8x400 with 400 rec jog. Plan was to run 75s for the 400s with a full lap for recovery.  Splits were 72, 74, 72, 72, 72, 73, 72, and 72.  Felt good and smooth.  Nice to get the legs to turnover.  

Thu: 10 miles easy (6:59)

Fri: AM - 6 miles easy (6:58); PM - 4 miles easy (7:30)

Sat: 16 miles long run working from easy pace down to low 6:00 (6:34 avg pace). Ran a rolling route for a change.  Felt really comfortable and like I was cruising the entire time.  It actually didn't feel like the pace was changing much over the course of the run, which is a good sign.  First three miles pretty easy, next three in the 6:40s, next four in 6:30s, next three in 6:20s, and the last three at 6:18, 6:09, and 5:57; .8 miles cooldown (7:32)

Sun: 8 miles easy (7:21)

Weekly Total: 76.5 miles on 8 runs/7 days
A really good week of base.  It's been four weeks since California International Marathon and I feel like I've recovered well from the marathon.  I also feel motivated and rejuvenated to start training again, especially after following many of the US athletes' training as they gear up for the upcoming Olympic Marathon Trials.  

Monday, January 04, 2016

2015 Running Stats

  • Total Miles: 4,024.8 miles.  This is the most miles I've ran in any year.  An average of:
    • 11 miles/day
    • 77.4 miles/week
    • 7:07 min/mi pace
  • Number of 100+ mile weeks: 15; interestingly, I had a total of 10 weeks at over 100 miles during my Boston Marathon training cycle and only 5 for CIM. However, I did race more during my CIM train-up. 
  • Biggest Month: January (436.4 miles)
  • Longest streak: 164 days (6/26 - 12/6); 2010.9 miles
  • Number of days I DNR'd (did not run): 19
  • Number of races: 8 (2 marathons, 2 half marathons, 20K, 10M, 10K, 5K)
  • PRs: 3
    • Marathon: 2:31:54 (California International Marathon); new Guam National Record
    • Half Marathon: 1:11:49 (Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia); missed the Guam record by 3 seconds
    • 10 Mile: 54:35 (Army Ten-Miler)

Friday, December 11, 2015

California International Marathon - 2:31:54 (PR)

“What comes around goes around.”  A couple weeks out from the marathon my daughter caught a cold.  It wasn't that bad and within a few days the cold was gone, but not until she passed it to her mom.  You know where this is going.  On Monday of race week I picked up the cold from my wife.  At first, I didn’t think much of it and thought that it wouldn't get any worse, but by Wednesday I had a nasal congestion and a minor sore throat.  I tried everything in my power to fight off or shorten the cold during the rest of the week.  I drank plenty of fluids, continued to take my vitamins (C), took an extra dose or two of DayQuil, and went through a box of tissues.  By Saturday I was feeling better or at least that’s what I kept telling myself.  Just as I was getting over my cold, my daughter caught it again. 

My race strategy going into CIM was to run 5:43-5:45 for the first half and then hopefully pick it up and negative split the second half, just as I did in last year’s race.  If I execute this plan perfectly then there is a very good chance I’ll achieve both of my goals: (1) run a new PR, and (2) break 2:30 for the marathon.  Since I felt that my cold was almost gone, I decided to stick with my race strategy.

Just before the race started it began to rain.  Fortunately, it was light rain and the temperature only in the low-50s with little wind.  Any colder and windier and I would have felt like I was running in the 2015 Boston Marathon.  Personally, I thought the conditions were “almost perfect” for marathon running.  My only wish was that it didn't rain.  With the roads wet, I felt like I wasn't getting good traction or push off with my Saucony Type A6. 

I felt really good and comfortable early in the race clicking off mile splits mostly in the range of 5:43-5:46.  The first mile, which was mostly downhill, was 5:41 and on the fast end of MP.  Somewhere in the first mile my friend (who I haven’t met in person until now) and former Guam resident Johnson Lee pulled alongside me.  Johnson, who lived on Guam until he moved stateside to attend college, ran cross country and track for the University of Portland and holds the Guam 10,000m record.   We chatted a little and he asked me what time I was planning to run.   I told him that I was hoping to break 2:30.  I think after I told him that he backed off on the pace as he was aiming for 2:33.  Although the first mile felt very easy, I also backed off a little on the pace and settled in at my planned pace for the first half. 

The 2:30 range can be a lonely pace in a lot of marathons.  I was glad that within a couple miles into the race I had the company of Scott Trummer and Justus Meyer.  Scott shared that he was planning to go through the first half around 1:15:30 and then negative split the second half and hopefully dip under 2:30.  I told him that I had the same plan except that I wanted to be closer to 1:15:10 at the half, so I wouldn’t leave too much time to make up on the back half. 

We cruised along averaging right around 5:45 pace for the first 8 miles.  Scott and I came through 10K in 35:55 with Justus a couple seconds behind us.  Around mile 9, Scott put in a surge and immediately gapped Justus and I by about 20 meters.  I chose not to go with Scott, because I wanted to stick with my plan of running my own race.  Additionally, I was already running my planned 5:43-5:45 pace, and putting in a surge with 17 miles still left in the race most likely would have come back to bite me in the rear. 

Around 10 miles I started to get worried because my left hamstring was feeling tight.  It was almost as if a knot was developing in my left hammy.  I’m not sure if the rolling hills early in the race started to take its toll or if I wasn’t taking in enough fluids.  I know it wasn’t the latter because I was drinking at almost every aid station and even took in an energy gel right before the race and at 5.5 miles.  I tried hard not to think of it and continued on with my pace. 

One thing worth sharing is that shortly after the 10 mile mark, I caught up to one of the blind athletes.  Blind or visually impaired athletes started 5 minutes ahead of the main field and were running CIM as part of the US Association of Blind Athletes (USABA) Marathon National Championships.  When I caught up to the blind athlete (Matthew Oliver) I was surprised and caught off guard when he turned to me and asked where we were at in the race.  My thought at the time was where was his guide and how did he get this far without one?  I told him that we had just passed the 10 mile mark and then wished him luck and continued with my race.  It wasn’t until I read this article on USABA that I learned Oliver’s first guide could not keep up with the 6:21 pace he was running.  Wow, impressive!  According to the article, Oliver continued to run without his first guide and just followed random people; I guess I was one of them.  Oliver finished in a blazing 2:50:41 winning the USABA National Marathon Championships. 

Oliver running with his second guide
Photo from USABA website
Despite a tight left hamstring, I split the next four miles (10-13) in 5:41, 5:44, 5:41 and 5:42.  Justus and I both came through the half-marathon mark in 1:15:12, exactly where I wanted to be with my plan to negative split.   Scott, on the other hand, was about 10 seconds in front of us, but seemed to be slowly coming back to us.  Right when we hit the Mile 16 marker Justus turned to me and said “the fun part begins”.  I knew exactly what he meant. 

Justus and I ran together for the next few miles at around 5:45 pace until about 19 miles, when he slowly pulled away as my pace slowed.  Shortly after, I caught Scott just before the 20 mile mark and encouraged him to go with me. He tucked in behind me for about a minute before slowly fading back.  I split miles 19/20 in 5:48 and 5:54 respectively.  Any thought of breaking 2:30 was thrown out the window.  I now had to focus on holding things together if I wanted to run a PR.  In a marathon, time adds up very quickly when you’re running 10-15 seconds/mile or slower than your goal pace. 

My left hamstring at this point of the race was getting tighter and tighter, and I was afraid that I would cramp up at any moment.  I even considered stopping to massage it, but then I knew I would lose too much time.  Once you stop in a marathon, it's almost impossible to start back up at the pace you were running.  My pace continued to slow over the next couple miles.  I ran 6:00 and 6:02 for miles 21 and 22, which were my slowest miles of the race.  Knowing that a PR was in jeopardy, I regrouped and psyched myself into finishing the race strong.  I ran 5:51, 5:58 and 5:51 for miles 23-25.  I probably would have ran a 5:51 split for mile 24 if I didn’t scuffle with the Gu.  I know it seems too late in the race to take a Gu, but I went ahead and took it because I was following the same nutrition plan as last year’s race. 

With about a half mile left in the race, I could hear someone closing on me. I was surprised to see it was the Ethiopian girl who I had passed just before the halfway mark.  The Ethiopian girl and eventual winner (2:31:50) pulled ahead and I just tried to stick with her.  I was glad she caught up to me as she helped me to push my pace over the last 1.2 miles.  For mile 26, I ended up running a 5:48, which was my fastest mile since mile 19.  Once I made the turn for the finish I saw the clock approaching 2:32.  I gave everything I had left in the final stretch of the race and finished in 2:31:54, a new marathon PR by 35 seconds!!! marathon PR!
Overall, I'm very happy with my race and PR even though I didn't achieve my 2nd goal of running a sub-2:30.  A 2:31:54 is still a solid time and I can now call myself a 2:31 marathoner, which sounds way much cooler than a 2:32 marathoner.  I still think I have a sub-2:30 in me.  I just might have to find a pancake flat and rhythmic type course to run it, maybe something like Berlin, Chicago, Houston or even Indy Monumental. 

In other results, Justus ran strong to finish in 2:31:03, Scott struggled badly after 20 miles finishing in 2:42:48, and Johnson had some issues with his calves and finished in 2:46:44.

Some thoughts:
I wonder how much my cold had an effect on my performance and how much faster I could have ran if I didn't come up with it the week of the race.  Had I been 95-100% healthy at the start of the race, I think I would have ran 2:30:xx or maybe even dip under 2:30.  The bad thing about a marathon is that you only have one day to showcase your fitness and unfortunately, there are some things you don't have control of that can affect your race. 

The other thing that had an affect my race was the tight left hamstring I encountered starting at 10 miles.  I trained a lot on rolling hills and beat my legs up enough during training, so I don't think the tight hamstring was caused by the hills early in the race.  My thought is that my cold might have stimulated the hamstring tightness.  Regardless, I'm very lucky my hamstring never cramped or seized up, and that I was still able to run well over the last 16 miles.


GPS miles splits: 5:41, 5:48, 5:46, 5:44, 5:44, 5:47, 5:43, 5:44, 5:47, 5:41, 5:44, 5:41, 5:42, 5:46, 5:47, 5:41, 5:47, 5:45, 5:48, 5:54, 6:00, 6:02, 5:51, 5:58, 5:51, 5:48, 1:23 (.2 miles).

Pre-race: Herbalife24 F1 Sport shake, bagel with peanut butter, 2 bananas, 16oz Herbalife24 Prolong/Prepare, coffee.  I also took in one energy gel right before the start of the race.

Race: I took in an energy gel at miles 5.5, 10.3, 15.5, 17.8 and 20.4, and one Gu offered on the course at mile 23.5.