Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My Final Boston Marathon

It's a hassle. It's costly. It's painful and difficult. It's also spectacular, exciting and exhilarating; an experience like no other on the planet. Now that I've done ten Boston Marathons, I don't feel the need to put myself through this cost vs benefit analysis any further. It's truly wonderful to enjoy the Boston experience with friends- old ones like Dave G., and newer ones who were also first-timers, like Dan, Debbie F., and Debbie S. I must say that I got a lot of satisfaction from helping some of those folks get there and get around. Would I be pretentious if I called myself the coach/tour guide of the group?

Debbie Scheel and I more or less traveled to Beantown together. She was nervous about leaving her family and traveling so far to run this little race. I did my best to help reassure her. We met up with Debbie Fernandez and some other runners. Just getting settled in was tiring. I arranged a Saturday night dinner for about 13 of us, and that turned out very nice. I had the chance to talk quite a bit with J.B. and Matt Young. Dave Gajewski came in later that night.

Dave and I ran along the Charles River Sunday morning, meeting Debbie and Debbie along the way. After running across a bridge, we somehow made an unplanned appearance on Boylston Street and checked out the finish line. Then we found Dan, Heather and Bailey DeRosha as Heather was about to run the 5k race. After watching the start of the huge 5K race, we indulged Dave. Poor guy has a terrible addiction to Dunkin Donuts.

It would have made too much sense to walk right back to the expo after Dunk's, but alas. We didn't have our ID's and pickup cards. So we had to take the T to the hotel and come back once again. A failure to plan is a plan to fail.

The expo was as crazy as ever, except more so. Expecting to go to the official pasta dinner, I ate every sample I could whilst wandering around the expo. Most of those samples are pretty darn weird, so I probably should have been more careful. But then I've never been accused of being the sharpest pencil in the box, especially when free food is concerned. Of course everyone else was a bit wiser concerning taking in all the strange foodstuffs, but then wound up hungry afterwards. So we went through the rain over to Quincy Market to check out Cheers, meet up with the DeRosha's and get a bite. But then, to my slight disappointment, no one wanted to go to the pasta dinner. Oh well, I've survived bigger disappointments. But I should add that a failure to plan is... I forgot the rest.

Boston Harbor was pretty cool, both literally and figuratively. Even though we knew we were spending too much time on our feet, we did walk over there to check it out. Then it was crash time. We put our feet up in a hotel lobby for a couple hours before heading back to Debbie and Debbie's place.

Debbie Scheel had managed to Con Dan into driving in with an entire supermarket's worth of food. So of course Dave and Dan H. were all too happy to help relieve Debbie of some of this burden.

Debbie Fernandez was hurting mightily. She had just re-inflamed a previous lower-leg injury, and had us all worried about her chances at the Marathon. Would she even make it to the start, never mind the finish?

Debbie F. also had some other news. A friend of hers had offered us the use of his brownstone apartment that was only a couple blocks from the finish. She'd only just heard about this and it was too late for anyone to cancel hotel rooms. This apartment, however, was the answer to a conundrum we'd been trying to solve: how and where to pick up our belongings and clean up after the race whilst getting to the airport on time.

At about 5:45am, after Dave got his morning oatmeal, he, Dan and I nabbed a taxi to take us first to Debbie and Debbie's place to drop off our stuff. They would then take it, along with their own stuff to the brownstone when the gentleman picked them up. They had a later start and therefore later buses, so that's why they traveled separately. Then the taxi took us to the bus loading area near Boston Commons.

Twenty-Six miles is a long way to run. It's also a long way to drive in a school bus. As usual, it took us over an hour to get to Hopkinton, but seemed like much longer. At least no fellow runners were drinking pickle juice this time.

Then it was the wait at the Athlete's Village in Hopkinton. Come to think of it, I think it would be best to just summarize all the waiting on Monday Marathon Morning:

wait for Dave to finish oatmeal
wait for taxi
wait for taxi to arrive at Boston Common
wait for bus to the start
wait for the bus to arrive at Hopkinton
wait in the porta-john line at Athlete's Village
wait for a pre-race massage
wait in another porta-john line at Athlete's Village
wait to be called to walk to the start from Athlete's Village
wait in another porta-john line at the start area
wait in the corral for the starting gun
wait to begin moving after the gun goes off (it took about 4 minutes to arrive at the start)

Oh yes. The race. As always, it was a 26-mile long moving party. The weather was absolutely perfect: holding in the fifties with light breezes that were generally at our backs. It never became a headwind later in the race as in other years. It was partly cloudy at the start, but then became more and more cloudy as the day wore on. So other than all the aforementioned hassles, there would be no excuses.

I tried not to go too crazy on those early downhills; all my mile splits were over 7 minutes, some some were in the low sevens. It doesn't take long for the old body to start hurting in Boston. This time it began to occur between 5 and 10 miles. My brand new Lunarfly shoes were indeed cushioning the blows, but I was still starting to hurt. And the mile splits began to show that, although only by a few seconds.

Wellesley College was as great as ever. "Kiss me, I'm Underage", "Kiss me, I'm a Senior", "Kiss me, I'm from Texas", were just a couple of the signs. I always get a lift from those girls. Just after a brief pit-stop, I passed half-way mark in 1:38 or so. I was still on 7:30 pace, but had been hurting more and more, and still slowing ever so slightly.

But something funny happened after that porta-john stop, and after I took a gel. I started to feel better and I started to run faster again. Not all that much faster - I was mostly just not slowing any further. That, however, is a good thing going into the Newton Hills. Mile 20 to 21, which includes Heartbreak Hill, was the slowest of the bunch at just under 8 minutes. And I was feeling pretty darn good again.

Like the early miles, those from 21 to 26 are mostly downhill. Time to put the hammer down and go for it. The funny thing is, I did. Once again, I didn't speed up a whole lot - the miles were now mostly just a bit better than 7:30 - but it *felt* like I was flying.

I caught up with Dan at about mile 23 or 24. We ran together a bit, but then he told me to go ahead and I did. The finish on Boylston Street was as spectacular and exciting as ever. I sprinted as best I could. My time was 3:17:05. Just after I crossed the line, they announced that Gelindo Bordin had also just finished, so I can say I beat an Olympic Champion. He had won the 1988 Olympic Marathon, and the 1990 Boston Marathon, which was also my first.

Yeah, it was pretty darn exhilarating. Worth all the hassles. But now there was another one: getting stuff, meeting with friends, finding and getting to the brownstone, getting cleaned up, getting to the airport. I managed it all somehow, and flew home with Debbie.

What a great weekend. It was wonderful to be with my friends and it was wonderful to run that great race once again. But now I've had enough of it. I not only don't need the hassle of this huge race anymore, I really don't need the hassle of any mega-race anymore.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring Classic Half Marathon and Other Stories

Bob was ahead of me, and Ladd and Chuck were behind. Would I be able to catch Bob? Would Chuck and Ladd catch me? Such were the Big Questions being asked at Saturday's Spring Classic Half Marathon.

Based on my conviction that tapering is overrated, I ran hard last weekend - doing gobs of hills at Hinckley both Saturday and Sunday. These runs were followed up by 15 Monday, 10, including a tempo run Tuesday morning along with speedwork Tuesday night. Now I did take it easier for the next couple days, and I even took Friday off. I was actually feeling mighty decent as I lined up Saturday morning.

It was cold early on, but as the sun began to heat things up I felt warmer and warmer. I even threw down my arm sleeves, hat and gloves as I went by Dan that first time around. I really like this race because the double out and back allows everyone to see everyone else, as well as to go by the start/finish in the middle of the race. And that's how I knew that Bob wasn't too far ahead and that Ladd and Chuck were not too far behind. I was trying hard to run easy and relaxed, but somehow things were still fairly difficult.

I never caught Bob. Chuck and Ladd never caught me. I stayed at about the same pace for the entire race, despite an attempt at a strong finish. My time was 1:30:50 or thereabouts. This was almost exactly the same time as I had last fall on this course. That time I was second in my age group; this time I was first.

My friends from the Medina County Roadrunners were out in force. It was great to see so many of them do so well. It's what running and racing are all about.

Next up is Boston. After this Saturday race I ran 20 on Sunday at hilly Hinckley. Taking Monday off and then doing speedwork Tuesday. Other than that, it'll be an easy week.

Hinckley is Back

Okay, okay. Hinckley never really left. But a lot of us did; we hadn't been meeting there for our Sunday morning runs for quite some tim...