Boston Marathon 2010 Race Report

30k in the background

The anthem and fly over done we quietly anticipated the start, and we were off. About 90 seconds later I crossed the line ready to run. I really felt the whole morning like the milers in Once a Runner, it was just hard to believe the day was finally here, and they were really going to let me run!

I had decided pre race that I was too OCD to use a pace band for each mile so I had a 5k pace band and was using my garmin to see total time and had average pace on there. The first mile was a hair slower than I desired but I wasn't worried. Better to go out slow and make up time later. All of my training runs I have been running the late miles fastest and I was confident as long as my body held up I would have the energy to push through at the end if I needed to shave some seconds.

The sun was out and I got warm quickly and tossed my gloves. I was in my short compression shorts and a singlet and that worked out well. I never chafed and never got too hot. When I did get warm I would quickly cool down a bit at the water stops when I drank. Every now and then the wind would hit us and it was pretty strong, I kept my fingers crossed that it would never turn into a headwind.

My pace started to ease into 6:45-6:50 and the average pace kept coming down. Each 5k split I was about 30 seconds behind the target and knowing I had 60 seconds to play with I was comfortable with that. I didn't want to force anything early in the day. As we hit flat sections I would target runners who looked good to reel in and pace with. My stride felt comfortable and energy way good. I was enjoying the crowds and anticipating getting to the half and the Wellsley girls.

Mile 10 I heard someone cheer what I thought was "Go Cleveland." I wondered to myself how is FD doing? He is recovering from a blood clot and had told me he was hoping to go 3:30. Having started in the 2nd coral and knowing I was on sub 3 pace I wondered why I hadn't seen him yet, only to look up and see him a quarter mile ahead of me. I slowly closed the gap on him and as I passed joked "Hey FD feel like pacing me today?" But he was in the zone and working hard, he hadn't heard me! I then waved emphatically and got a reaction :) He smiled and greeted me that I was right on pace. We wished each other luck as I pulled ahead.

I decided to use the same nutrition plan I did at Columbus and Boston last year. Gels at 12,16,20, and 23. Electrolyte pills at 6, 10, 14, 18, and 22. Water every 2 miles starting at 6.

It's always nice when you start taking the nutrition because you feel like you have reached a race milestone and you start looking forward to each next stop.

I noticed early on the downhill side of the rollers didn't feel very smooth but never got worried about it, as it wasn't painful. As I neared the half I knew I didn't have much lee way to make sub 3. I came through at 1:29:45 and knew that this wasn't going to play out quite like Columbus. To even split I had some work to do.

Still on pace I just kept rolling along knowing that the real indicator would come from 15-16 and after the first of the Newton Hills rolling through mile 17. From 15-16 is a long relatively steep downhill before you head up the next set of hill with some flats mixed in. I knew 15-16 was supposed to be the fastest mile of the day. I rolled along enjoying the crowds and noted that while it was not the fastest mile of the day I was still hitting 6:50. My quads were starting their protest and deep down I knew this might start to get ugly. The 6:50 downhill mile didn't feel as comfortable as a downhill mile should feel at that pace. As Mark said, they definitely weren't going to hand the sub 3 to me.

I knew the hills would slow down a bit even with strong quads so I made the executive decision at mile 17 to stop looking at the watch and just run as hard as I could. All I could do was run my ass off and hope for the best. I was still passing runners as I came up Heartbreak Hill and I felt like with the effort I probably wasn't falling too far off. Knowing I would have to pick up the pace once I crested the top. I was anticipating my gel at 20 and hoping a little caffeine might numb the pain. At some point I had unknowingly lost my salt pills and decided to drink gatorade at the miles when I had planned to take them. Like in 2008 I was having to resort to running from water stop to water stop and waiting to see if my quads would withstand the pounding.

I could feel that like in 2008 my toes were blistering and popping, but the quad pain was so severe I can't say the feet affected my run at all.

At this point the race got very mental for me. My sub conscience was obviously trying to go into survival mode and shut things down. My quads have never hurt so badly. Boston has trashed me before, but I think the new faster pace just brought the pain to a new level, plus my body probably allowed the pain to get worse knowing we have survived lesser pain before. I kept reminding myself that pain was temporary and that I would be able to recover from the damage once the race was over. I kept willing my feet forward and kept hammering my quads with each step. I reminded myself that my body was capable of more than my brain could ever fathom and that I just needed to keep pushing as hard as I could. I made peace with the fact that while I might not run sub 3 I could run as hard as possible and still be happy with the day. It never ever crossed my mind that my pace might be faltering enough to pull me down a minute per mile.

The crowds were great and I tried to use their energy to push me on. Anytime someone cheered for my number I tried to smile or wave. Earlier in the race I had given peace signs when any good music was played. Heard a lot of Humpty Dance which always made me giggle. You just can't beat the atmosphere at Boston. I can't imagine being in the pain I was in and running for miles without seeing any other runners or hearing the crowds, it would have been miserable.

A little before mile 24 I wondered how my friend FD was fairing and a few seconds later found out as he passed me. He encouraged me to come with him and I flailed to pick it up only to feel my quads seize in protest, I gasped out that I couldn't go with him, everything was locking up. I started to get a bit teary and had to reel my emotions in and keep pushing. Only 2 miles to go, anyone can run 2 miles. At this point I stupidly looked down at my watch wondering how FD was doing, only to see a 7:50 mile and that my average pace was now closing in on my Columbus pace. F! Put my head down and pushed holding back tears.

Crossing the 40k mat I thought of my friends and family watching at home and couldn't believe I was falling off so badly. I thought about all of my club friends who were also invested in seeing me go sub 3. I'm a closer, I run hard to the end, I was getting passed by runner after runner and I couldn't respond, my quads were giving me the finger. I thought to myself if pregnancy is harder than this I am never having children, because despite running painful marathons before I have never been in this much pain in my life.

Closing in on mile 25 my teammate JP came up behind me and slapped me on the ass, urging me to take it in with her. Once again I tried to will my legs to speed up and was given the finger. At the 1 mile to go sign I looked down to see that in order to PR I would have to run 6:40. I remembered my dad at Richmond cheering that I could still PR and took a deep breath and dug deep...and ran 7:30 pace. I got to the last dip of the race and prayed that my legs would not lock up, I was so scared that I would be stopped to a walk. I continued to pound my way to the finish and made the second to the last turn still holding out that I might get some adrenaline on Boylston.

Ahh Boylston. The longest straightaway of my life. I pumped my arms and held back tears as I ran as fast as I could to the finish, knowing that I wasn't even running my easy pace. I reached the finish line and for the first time in my life wondered if I could have run another quarter mile if I had to, and I honestly don't think I could have. My quads have never been so shredded. JP had waited for me to finish and we hobbled our way to the buses. I've been pretty miserable at marathon finish lines before but this was definitely the worst. I seriously believe a marathon must mess with the happy chemicals in my brain and shut them all off.

Columbus is really the only marathon I have finished and been happy with the result at the finish line. And in retrospect I am always happy or at least proud of the effort on the day. But on this day I was in pain, and I was pretty much devastated, despite telling myself during the race that as long as you ran as hard as you could there was nothing to be upset about. The rational part of my brain said you just ran a 10 minute course PR and were less than a minute off your Columbus time on a day when your body just gave you the finger, but the irrational part of me was in disbelief. It honestly never occurred to me that I wouldn't PR. I honestly believed that I was fit enough to run 2:59 even on a bad day. So I think I was just a bit in shock.

I was all in, and I gave it everything, and I came up short, and that's okay. But at the time I hobbled my way to the hotel as tears ran down my face. Shivering and locking up I reached the hotel room and tried to ready myself to celebrate with my friends all of their accomplishments on the day.

A week later I sit here reflecting on the hardest run of my life and I am happy to say I am proud of the effort. I might not be happy with the result, but I am happy with the way I ran and I am happy with how far I have come as a runner and person. My first Boston I had to walk the water stops to finish the race. In high school I dropped out of a 5k with shin splints. Now I am someone who goes in, sets a goal, runs to do it, and when the pain gets unbearable, I keep pounding away as fast as I can to the finish line. Failure only occurs when you try, I am proud to have tried, I ran the race with the goal of sub 3, and I gave myself the chance by sticking to the pace through about mile 16, in the end my body couldn't hang, but I know failing now will make it that much sweeter when the goal is finally achieved.

That night I headed out with my friends and while the celebration was bittersweet for me, I am so blessed, and so glad to have been able to share the experience with such wonderful people.


Mnowac said...

Nice job out there. Even if it wasnt the end result that you wanted, you still rocked it!

The Salty One said...

This was so wonderful to read! I am sad and disappointed that you didn't meet your goal but as we've discussed a ton it's just a matter of time. Going for big dreams leaves us vulnerable to "failure" and so many people don't even go there because of it. There are SO MANY stinkin' variables for a good marathon. Unfortunately, for most of us we have to run a lot of them to get one where all the stars line up. The stars are gearing up to get in line. It's just a matter of time! I am so proud of you! This has been an incredible couple of years of running for you and I can't wait to see what you do in the next two! Go E-speed!!!

Haley said...

I still think it is amazing! You did a great job!

Viper said...

Great report. Sorry your race time wasn't as you'd hoped, but it was still an incredible effort. Congrats on the course PR. Cheers!

Julia said...

What a great race report, I felt for you as you described every up and down. It has been great watching your training develop and we all know you gave it your all.

Once again, thanks for making NEO so proud!

DaisyDuc said...

My heart was heavy as I read this as I know how hard you worked and how badly you wanted it, but rest assured your day will come! You have come sooo far these last couple years and I am sure the journey will continue!

Guess we will just have to celebrate your sub 3 together in Columbus!

Brian said...

You're right where you need to be for a spectacular fall marathon! Put this one behind you, train hard over the summer and the stars will align very soon!

p.s. 3:06 at Boston is amazing!

Kim said...

Excellent race report, thank you.
I know your result was not what you wanted, but please, recognize how Freaking AWESOME you are, as a human being, to even contemplating going sub three at Boston.
Shoot, girl, you are amazing.

Mary said...

I've followed your blog since you paced the 3:40 group at Akron last year. I was supposed to be in the group but a stress fracture kept me from running. Your blog is always inspiring and this RR brought tears to my eyes. You did awesome and that sub-3 will happen for you soon.

Lloyd said...

You're right there, E. Shake it off - you are ready to eclipse your goal. And then some.

I think you might be onto something about the hilly long runs. Not only adding them, but practicing technique and pace on the downhills. It doesn't come naturally and the Boston carnage is obvious.

When I read about your training and racing, the less obvious and less tangible aspects of training come to mind - fuel utilization and fuel loading. We only get one shot at marathon every so often. Have you ever thought about journalistic your carb-load? Also, reading about your fast 20 miler led me to think about fuel utilization (carb vs. fat use). It is said that slower training promotes a higher percentage use of fat utilization and sparing of glycogen. Food for thought - it is difficult to know because we race marathon so infrequently.

Congrats on the Boston PR. I thought your inital pace through the half was very good. How you slowed led me to believe your issue is fuel.

I hope to join you all next year in Beantown.

GP said...

It's hard knowing you were disappointed, but I know, too, that you'll turn this marathon into fuel. And you'll be limboing under 3 with the greatest of ease plenty in your career. And we'll be cheering wildly for you all the way.

Racn4acure said...

To all us slow runners, what you have done there is amazing. You have had an experience that very few runners will ever had. It was tough but you hung in there and finished it. Congratulations. What a great memory for you when you are 95 (and still running).

Scott said...

Appreciate the report. It's good to know even the really good runners have bad races. Boston 2010 will be my motivation to train hard all winter.