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