By now you all reading at home have probably figured out my goal wasn't 3:06:40. I've been doing some thinking about why my quads struggled once again in Boston and here is what I came up with so far. No fears I still plan on writing a race report!
I really think I just wasn't prepared for downhills. I don't think it is coincidence BB and SB who are training with the same coach and doing the same program ran so well and I didn't achieve my goal. They had one key difference in their training versus mine (other than that I am training at faster paces and doing more weekly miles), and that is that their long runs were on Saturdays in Chagrin and mine were on Sundays in Solon. I think they chose their long run training grounds better. That or my quads just aren't made for downhill running. I felt very similar two Bostons ago when I ran 3:22, quads shot before the half and shooting pain the entire back half of the course.
I am confident that on any of my long training runs the past 8 weeks I could have run a 2:59 if I had to. If I had been on a flat or even slightly uphill course the back half at Boston I would have run under 3:03, possibly even made sub 3. I think I underestimated the downhills, was too focused in training on pace and being strong on the uphills and neglected to do more pounding. I should have pulled a Dick Beardsley and punched my quads hundreds of times each day!
FD said my form was suffering at the end, but the photos don't look nearly as bad as I would have expected based on his description of how I looked. So I am sure if I had kept my shoulders back/better posture I might have eeked out 10 seconds per mile faster the last few miles, and maybe got a PR, but nothing would have gotten me sub 3 Monday given how my quads felt (other than a different course!).
I paced the first half even up through 17-18 perfectly to achieve the goal, if anything I may have been a bit too slow early on. But I felt strong through the hills, I knew the goal was likely out the window as early as the half, the downhills just didn't feel as smooth as they should for an on day. By 17 I was pretty confident 3 was out the window. I stopped looking at the watch and just ran as hard as I could hoping for a miracle, repeating that my body could do anything if I just kept my brain out of it, and that pain was temporary. I didn't really think I was doing as poorly as I was the last 10k, I didn't realize how much I had slowed down until FD passed me. It was pretty heartbreaking knowing with a mile to go that all I needed was a 6:40 mile to PR and having my body refuse to go any faster than 7:30, but I couldn't have done anything. This is the first marathon where I literally don't know that I could have run another quarter mile if I had to. That is the closest my body has ever come to locking up completely at the finish line (and with about a half mile to go).
Other than that, probably should have gone with a bit more cushion in the shoes, Brooks Launch would have been better. My feet were trashed and the pics look like I may have been heel striking, the lunar racers don't really have a lot of cushion to protect your quads when your form/foot strike suffers.
And perhaps the motto is when in Boston set the goals a little less aggressively, it's might be better to exceed expectations on a more realistic goal than fight tooth and nail to come up with the C goal when you were confident you were in shape for something amazing.
All that said even during the race I was very proud of my effort. Any normal human being in the amount of pain I was in would have quit before 20 miles. I could have walked it in and saved it for another day, but I would never have let myself live that down. JV said something that made me feel good that night, there's bonking, and then there's minimizing. I was able to minimize what could have become a disastrous result by pushing as hard as I could and still running 10 minutes faster than last year, less than a minute off my PR (that happened on a day when I felt amazing and the weather was perfect). If I can make that kind of effort on a day where it hurts that bad, I can't wait for the next day like Columbus where everything lines up.
One other theory floating around is that perhaps the taper was a bit too much for me. Given that I was feeling stellar going into the taper perhaps I didn't need to back off mileage and the long runs so drastically. Had I been feeling beat up or mentally exhausted this taper might have worked, but I probably could have done more and perhaps saved some lost strength that could have helped with the downhills.
Course conditions were next to perfect in Boston, on and off quarter headwinds, but never for more than a few steps did it effect pace. Anything over 40 is too warm in my books, but for most that weather was ideal. So no excuses there!