Sunday, April 29, 2018

Boston Marathon Race Report

Two weeks have gone since a very memorable Boston Marathon, so time to sum up the race!!! Overall, I have mixed feelings about the race. On one side, being part of this iconic event – it is the oldest yearly Marathon in the world, running since 1897, with so much history, prestige and ambiance – and making it to the finish line in the conditions we had, made me very proud. On the other hand, I had trained so hard and focused for six months for this race, and the end result was far from what I should have been able to perform, which made me somewhat disappointed. But I have decided that I will look at it from the positive side and set results aside, and more than anything be proud that I made it to Boston, and finished the race. That is enough of an achievemnt in itself!

The end results - a cool medal!

The journey to the race off course started a while back with all training. I have written a few blog posts on the training status that you can read separately, but overall I did what I could when it came to the preparation. Full focus on running, increasing my running volume with almost 50% compared to last year with record volumes for three months up to the race. I did my last long run a little more than two weeks before the race, and maybe this was a little to far off. I was actually so happy to have that done that I might have relaxed a little to much on the training after that.

Me and Sandra travelled to Boston on Friday (race was on Monday). Going through London, it was so fun to see on the plane to Boston that almost half the passengers were dressed in running shoes, had their running watches and looked overall very fit! Already here the Boston Marathon atmosphere could be felt. I chatted a little with my fellow passenger, who off course was also going to run the marathon. The main talking point at this time was the weather. The weather forecast had been very stable for the last week, indicating very poor weather – rain, cold and windy – as a front was going to pass through the same day of the marathon. We all hoped for the famous East Coast spring weather, that always changes the forecast in the last minute. As it turned out, we had no luck this year!

Just like almost everyone on the plane, I wore sneakers!

In Boston we stayed with Sandra’s sister with family, one of the main reasons I decided to run Boston actually. They picked us up at the airport, and then we went straight to the expo to pick up my bib and check out the area. Number pick up went very smooth as everything was well organized, and I bought some more Boston stuff as well as extra running shoes to use for the rest of the season. The expo was full with gear and apparels, everything that you could need or not… But we didn’t stay for too long, we took a short walk to the subway and then headed home. With the trip and the jet lag it was an early night for me, and we also had the 5k race planned for Saturday, with an early start at 8am.

Bib pick up at the expo. Getting excited!

Despite the 5k run being more for fun, I slept quiet bad, being nervous anyway. I did had a plan to do a fast run, and wanted to make it below 19 minutes. It was me, Sandra and Marcela running, and weather and conditions was very nice with sun shine and some 15C in the air. As it turned out for me, I didn’t do very good. Held my pace for 3k, but then I couldn’t keep it as I was already exhausted. Made it in 19:36, not even close to target pace. But Sandra and Marcela enjoyed the race, and afterwards we walked back to Boylston and took some mandatory pictures around the finish line of the marathon.

A small unicorn medal for the 5k race!

In the afternoon we went to check out the race course. We took the car up to Hopkinton and then drove back along the race course. It was good to see the hills, and I was surprised at how steep it was in the beginning. The Netwon Hills were not that bad, but as they come at the 30k mark, they would be tough. I was mostly worried about the downhill after Newton, they would probably hurt a lot in the quads – and on that note I was right! 

On the starting line! 

Nice weather in Hopktinton the day before 

 The most famous street sign in Boston?

The final half kilometer down Boylton street.

On Sunday weather started turning to the worse, andit  was an endless checking of the weather forecast. It had not changed a bit, so the big question was how bad was it going to be? I changed a little my race gear plan and decided that I would run in long tights rather than short ones as it seemed it was going to be quiet cold. The forecast showed +3C at the start, about 10 m/s head wind and 20-50mm rain. Worst possible conditions…

Waking up at around 6am on race Monday for breakfast I was surprised that I had not heard any wind during the night. But this was just because the apartment was on the leeward side of the house… Looking out into the darkness, I could see the rain and wind whipping around in the street lights. Oh well, nothing I could do about it… Pablo drove me in to Boston to near the gear tents, and luckily as I stepped out the weather seemed to not be too bad. Just a little drizzle, and it didn’t feel that cold. I dropped my finisher gear bag and then went towards the buses that was going to take us to the starting line. I had put on some cheap sweaters and hoody that I would leave at the starting line, as well as having old shoes and socks on. I had my running shoes and an extra pair of dry socks in a bag to put on just before the start, and this was a wise move.

Waiting for the bus!

Plenty of buses in Boston Common.

The trip out to Hopkinton took about an hour, so we arrived around 8:45am. The rain was quiet heavy on the way out and as we arrived to Hopkinton we could see that there was snow on the ground from the night's precipitation. It was noticeably colder here compared to Boston, and I shivered as I made my way to the Athlete's Village where we would wait until 9:45 when it was time to go to the starting line. The Athlete’s Village was just a large mud flat by now, with three large tents in which I managed to find a spot to stay put. As we sat there, we could see and hear the rain come and go and feel the wind ripping the tent and everything outside. It was totally crazy – people were getting muddy and wet, there was no possibility to warm up, and running a marathon seemed pure crazy. As my starting time approached I changed shoes and socks, put some left over plastic bags over them so they would stay dry in the mud plain, and finished off my pre-race fueling routine. I decided now also to run in my rain poncho to stay dry as I tend to get very cold when wet. We were lucky when our wave got called (wave 2) in that the rain had a lull, so the 10 minute walk to the starting line didn’t feel that bad. I had time for a last bathroom break, and as we arrived to the starting corral – I was in the first corral – we only had about 10 minutes to the start. Suddenly, it was time to run back to Boston!

 Mud, wind, rain, cold... The starting area wasn't that motivating, but tension was palpable!

With the weather conditions at hand, and my overall lack of feeling strong, I had ditched my original goal of running sub 3:10 and set my sights at just making it to the finish in an acceptable time (3:30), so I felt no pressure at all as we started off. The first 10k are mainly downhill, steep in the beginning and then leveling off. I tried to run at an easy pace, which ended up at around 4:25 min/km the first two-three kilometers. I was surprised it went that fast and thought that the day might not be so bad at all. But after three kilometers reality started setting in. The first down pours now hit us, which drenched us completely (although I stayed fairly dry and warm with my poncho), my feet now got totally soaked by the rain and water on the run, and as we got a few, short uphill sections I felt that I had no power in my legs and body. The heart arrhythmia had also started up, so I knew it would be a looooong day. At around the 5k mark people from behind started to pass me continuously, but I just hunkered down and told myself to not stop and just make it to the finishing line.

The section 10-20k is fairly flat, and as we ran through the different towns along the course, it all kind of melted into a blur. A downpour every 5k to drench the shoes again, trying to take my gels every 7k, a sip of water every 3-4km at the water stations. I thought about the timing mats and that I probably had people following me online, so I had these as intermediate goals – just don’t stop. Up to 20k I actually held a decent pace, I ran around 4:50 pace which was acceptable for me. At 20k you pass the Wellesley college and the famous scream tunnel, and this cheered me up quiet a bit and gave some energy.

Next main feature on the course was the steep downhill at 26k, just before the Netwon Hills started. I had already started feeling really tired in my legs, but this downhill section was brutal. Instead of being able to use the downhill to stretch out and get some pace, my quads were totally burned out and hurt like at the end of an marathon. I had to slow down as it hurt so bad, and started now to focus on the upcoming Newton Hills. The four hills are spread out during the next 7k, and pace really started dropping now, going up to around 5:15-5:25 pace. This is like crawling for me, but my focus was just to not stop. In between the hills there are some downhills, and these sections were just painfull. The rain kept on coming, legs were hurting, and it was slow… I just wanted to make it to the finish line…

I finally made it to the top of the last hill, Heartbreak Hill, and was greeted by the heaviest down pour of the whole race together with an agonizing downhill section passing the Boston College. Only 8k left at this stage, so full focus on just to keep on running and not stopping. But oh so painfull. By now I had spend about 20k thinking “What am I doing? Never again! Stop pretending you’re an athelete! Just give up!”…kind of what I think at some stage during most races, but today was worse than before.

Somehow I made it to the 40k mark, the famous Citgo sign, and passed under the Massachusetts Pike, and now it was time for the famous “right on Hereford, left on Boylston”. I realized I had made it, and the sensation of joy and relief totally overcame me. I took off the rain poncho, and a smile overtook my face as I waved to the crowd and joyfully ran the last kilometer to the finish line. I HAD MADE IT!!! I crossed the finish line with a time of 3:26hrs, and at that time I was happy it was above the qualifying time needed to run the Boston Marathon again so I didn’t have to consider if I should do it again next year…

At the finish line!

Picked up my medal, and by now the cold and fatigue quickly set in. I almost cried as I met up with Sandra & Marcela and then made it to the line to get my dry clothes. I could barely walk and started to shiver. All of us talked about how bad the conditions were… Thankfully I had packed plenty of warm clothes, and as I changed and got rid of my soaked running gear at least I could get some warmth back. But it hurt really bad to try and walk – but then it always for me is like that after a marathon! I managed to wobble up to Cheers where I met up with Sandra & Marcela. We didn’t stay there for long, I had a coffee and half a beer, and then we went home…

At Cheer's!

The soreness and pain in my legs stayed for almost five days, much longer than usual. We walked around Boston the next day before taking a late flight back home, and then back to work the day after. The soreness had left by Saturday, but then I got a mild cold which kept me still until Tuesday. I have started training again, but focus now in the beginning will be on the bike, and I am so grateful to start the shift of the volume work to biking…

So overall, I was disappointed at the physical performance. I got tired much earlier than anticipated (I should be able to get to 30k+ before getting pain in my legs) and I am trying to understand why. It is probably a combination of too much running, the effect of the heart arrhythmia, the bad weather conditions and heavy feet with wet shoes plus that the early down hill kilometers were much tougher on the legs than what I had imagined… The weather was truly brutal, the coldest in 30+ years and the winning times were also the slowest in 30+ years with most of the elite African runners dropping out due to hypothermia. So I am extremely happy to have finished the race. The 3:26hrs time is no shame, and I got my finishers medal. 

At the same time, I am realizing the limiting effect that my heart arrhythmia has on me, as it is getting worse and worse. So I have made the decision that unless I have a lucky surgery later this year (hopefully during summer), this year will be the last one where I do races focused on time and results. We’ll see if that means that I stop all together, or manage to find motivation to just “do it for fun”. I have a few more races scheduled for this season – Göteborg half marathon, IM 70.3 in Jönköping and South Africa and then the half marathon in Stockholm in September being the main ones, so we’ll see how those play out…

But more than anything - I am a Boston Marathon finisher!!!

Not really the ideal pace curve...

Beautiful view of Boston the day after with perfect race conditions. Who knows, maybe I'll be back some day for another try?

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