Friday, April 20, 2012

116th Boston Marathon Race Report - 2:36:35, 56th Overall

It’s been over a year since I last wrote a post.... I know that’s totally unacceptable. For those who followed my blog (hopefully you still do) and are still waiting on the race report, I have good news. The race report is here, except that it’s not the one you’re probably expecting.  This is my race report from the scorching 116th Boston Marathon (sorry, things got in the way of writing my Rotterdam report)

Where have I been?
Here’s a brief update since my last post. I left beautiful Netherlands in June ’11 and now stationed at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, where I’m attending the US Army Command and General Staff College and pursuing my master’s degree. The last 10 months has been nothing but reading, thinking, writing papers, and of course running. Since Rotterdam Marathon last April I’ve ran only 7 races, not including Boston. Four races were 10K or shorter distance (PR’d in the 5K – 15:58), one 10-Mile (won), and two half-marathons (won a hilly half prior to Boston). Part of the reason I only ran 7 races is because of injury.   I had medial tibial stress syndrome (shin splints) on my right leg causing me to pull out of the Army 10-Miler and Marine Corps Marathon.  To be honest, the injury was a blessing, because it forced me to give my legs the well-deserved rest and recovery from all the miles and marathons raced over the past few years.  

Aside from school and running, I got married.  Just a month ago I married the beautiful runner and ice skater I met at the 2009 Berlin Marathon. You can read the article my hometown newspaper wrote of how Lisa and I met and our connection with running (click here).

Weather Advisory
The last time I ran Boston was in 2004.  I remember everything about my race that year.  It was hot (85 deg), I didn't eat enough, cramped, hit the wall, literally walked, and barely broke 3 hrs.  It was time for redemption.  I began checking the raceday forecast about 5 days out. Initially, raceday was forecasted to be in the low-50s to mid-70s.  It seemed that each time I checked the Weather Channel on my iPad the temps kept increasing.  On Friday, BAA sent out a weather update email notifying runners that the forecast for April 16th called for higher than normal temperatures.  The following day BAA sent out a warm weather advisory email telling runners that .....running will put even the most fit athletes at risk for heat injury. By Sunday, raceday temperature was forecasted to be in the mid to high-80s, possibly even reaching low-90s.  BAA sent out their last weather update email. Only the fittest runners should consider participating. You should adopt the attitude that THIS IS NOT A RACE. It is an experience. They also stated that runners (charity runners I assume) who did not meet the qualifying standards for their age and gender should consider deferring until next year. I thought saying "THIS IS NOT A RACE" was quite funny. I'm sure the elites and competitive runners were laughing at the statement.  My argument to the last statement is that anyone who has not met the qualifying standards should not be running the race in the first place.

Race Plan
My initial race plan had the conditions been favorable was to run in the range of 5:48-5:54 pace, which would give me a finishing time between 2:32 and a sub-2:35.  Knowing how hot it was going to be and having already experienced running in those temps in '04, I decided to throw away a time goal and just run smart, but still race, and finish in one piece.  I figured that if I hydrate throughout the race, wear a hat and sunglasses to stay cool, and run at a sustainable effort, then I'd have a good race in tough conditions. 

My bib number was #210 putting me in Wave 1/Corral 1 with the elite men.  I lined up somewhere in the middle of the corral so I wouldn't be fooled into taking off faster than I wanted to.  It took me about 10 seconds to get to the actual start line when the gun went off.  As I made my way out of Hopkington I made sure I monitored my breathing and body to determine the right effort and pace.  At the 1 Mile marker I split my watch and it read 3:40.  That can't be right! It only took a second to realize that it was the 1Km mark and not the mile mark.  A couple minutes later I reached the actual 1 Mile mark in 5:59.  The effort felt right, so I decided to continue at about a 6 minute pace.  I hit the 5K timing mat in 18:35 (5:59 pace) and felt very comfortable.  

Hydration and staying cool.
Hydration was extremely vital with the sweltering heat and temps in the low-80s.  I know it sounds like a no brainer, but I think most runners still don't drink enough in the heat.  At each fluid station I took in gatorade and water. About 10K, which I crossed in 37:05, I took in my first energy gel.  The heat was hammering down on us at that point.  I tried to run in the shade whenever possible. The problem was that there was not much shade on the course.  To stay cool I took water at the fluid stations and from the amazing spectators lining the course and poured it over my head.  I would take off my hat, pour water on my head and in the hat, and then put my hat back on. Wearing a hat was probably the smartest decision I made.  On Sunday I stopped by the Greater Boston Running Store and bought a running hat, because I knew it would help my body and core temp cool down.  Besides water I also took sponges and ice cubes offered by the spectators and put it under my hat.  I truly believe that the hat helped me defeat the heat.  Additionally, I took a water bottle that was on the elite water tables and literally showered myself.  The race volunteers manning the elite fluid stations were encouraging us to take the water bottles.  It seemed that they wanted us to take them so they can pack up the tables. 

Halfway there.
Approaching Wellesley College I could hear the screaming tunnel from about a mile away. I kept telling myself to stay relax knowing how easy it is to pick up the pace when running by the Wellesley girls. In '04 I ran a fast 13th mile and ended up paying for it later in the race.  I wasn't about to make the same mistake.  I certainly didn't as my Mile 13 split was 5:58.  I came across the half-marathon mark at 1:18:29.  I just had to maintain the pace and I'd finish in a respectable time in tough conditions.  At the 16th mile all I could think about was in  '04 when I had to stop and massage a cramp in my calf.  Getting through the hills at 16, 18 and then 21 was no problem. It actually gave me a lot of confidence because I was catching many runners and passing them quickly on the hills.  It must have been a very long 2nd half for some of the runners.  

Consistency & Negative Splits!
Bringing it home.
At about mile 20-21 I encountered a scare.  Just before Heartbreak Hill I felt a small twinge in my left hamstring.  I could feel that a muscle cramp in the left hamstring was about to happen.  I kept calm telling myself to just get to the next fluid station so I could take in more fluids.  Luckily, it wasn't too long after that I came across the fluid station.  I drank two cups of gatorade, one cup of water, and took in an energy gel.  I also took another cup of water and poured it over my head to cool off.  Surprisingly, the cramp never developed, and instead I started to feel a boost of energy. I got to Beacon Street and was in complete awe with the crowd support. Still feeling great and knowing that I only had a few miles to go I decided to get the crowd to cheer me on.  I'd raise both hands to get the crowd to respond with a louder cheer.  They did and I would give them a big thumbs up.  There's no doubt that crowd support in a marathon can immensely help you, especially late in the race.  The tremendous crowd support along Beacon and Boylston street motivated me to run my fastest mile splits of the race. I averaged 5:53 pace for last 7.2K or ~4.5 miles (35K - Finish).  Amazingly, my 26th mile split was a 5:42.  As you can see from my splits, I was very consistent throughout the race, even in the hills, and finished strong. After looking through the results, I realized that I was the only runner in the Top 60 that ran a negative split race (1:18:29, 1:18:06)!  Also, I was the 2nd fastest Boston Marathon finisher within the states of Missouri and Kansas.  My running friend Aaron Hohn from KC finished in an amazing 25th Place with a 2:31:09, and was the 1st finisher from Missouri/Kansas. My wife also ran a very good race finishing in 3:29:27, an excellent time in the sweltering heat.  

Team Blas beats the heat in Boston!


Jamie said...

Wow man, you smoked it!!! Huge congrats on a very smartly run race in tough conditions. Well deserved, congrats!!!

Thomas said...

That is an incredible run, but even more congratulations on getting married! You two will have some very fast children. ;-)

Wayne said...

Thanks Jamie and Thomas.

Mark Bell said...

nice race and report Wayne, we should meet up sometime

Wayne said...

Thanks Mark. Hope we will meet up the next time I run Boston or when I'm in town (Lexington) visiting my in-laws.