Tuesday, April 20, 2010

2010 Boston Marathon

What more can I say other than this year was a much more pleasant experience than my last April marathon in 2009.  Not having hundreds of folks pass me in the 2nd half of the race made for a completely different experience this time around. I made my way back into the marathon distance once again, slightly underprepared (if that is a real term), but  at the very least slightly more confident that I would do better than I did last year.  I had struggled with severe congestion all week (allergies) and I also had probably my worst week of runs in a very long time.  As I (ahem) 'tapered' last week and only ran 5-6 miles a day, real easy, I felt terrible.  My IT band felt tight (right side), my right calf was killing me, my right foot hurt, my back was tight, my neck felt tight, and I felt like I had a cold (yet knew it was allergies).  All those things really made me nervous and completely unsure of the race on Monday.   The only positive things I could think about was all the hard snowshoe racing I did over the winter, my New Bedford and DH Jones races, and last week's 5k on the track, which all went pretty well (especially NB). I was hoping that all those factors would trump the last week's worth of bad runs and sickly feelings.  As I now write this, I know that was certainly the case, and my confidence now for my next big test in 2 months time (Mt. Wash) will definitely be higher. (photo above courtesy of Scott Mason - taken around 10k I think).

The alarm went off up in southern NH at 4am and I was out the door at 4:30. I drove down to Malden, MA and got
the Orange Line T into Boston (I forgot how much I hate the subway, the city, and all that comes with it...but I digress)... I changed over to the Red line and got off at Charles MGH to meet up with my sister who finagled me a seat on her bus, which was leaving at 6am sharp from the corner of Parkman and Blossom.  As I left MGH station, I asked the guy selling newspapers, where the corner of Parkman and Blossom was.  He looked at me and confidently said 'what are you looking for?' and I cleverly said 'the corner of Parkman and Blossom'.  I'm not sure if he like that or not, so to get back at me, he sent me in the completely wrong direction.  I walked like 6 or 7 blocks in the wrong direction and then realized I was going the wrong way.  I asked a dude at the Starbucks if he could direct me and he Google-mapped me into the right direction. I booked it back the 6 blocks or so to the train station and then up past the Holiday Inn to the bus.  I just made it and boarded with my sister Kristin, who was running her first marathon and was pretty nervous.  She was running for charity and thanks to a last minute cancellation, I got a seat on the bus.  It was a nice coach bus that we took out to Hopkinton and they charity runners had a nice heated tent, which I was allowed to sit in and wait out the 3 hours before the race. They also had their own private 10 or so bathrooms, which was HUGE. I got to use the bathroom at will, without waiting in any lines.  It was absolutely insane.  I was within sight of the athlete's village, yet we had our own chairs in a nice heated tent, with food, tons of water and Gatorade, and a DJ spinning pre-race tunes!  It was a definite plus for me and I really appreciate the group for letting me keep warm with them before the race...

At around 9:00 I made my way over to the buses and dropped my bag off, talked with a few folks including Scott Rowe (Rochester Runners) who was gunning for a sub 2:25, and then jogged down to the starting line where I would hang around at for about 30 minutes before the start of the race.  As I stood in the first corral, I chatted with some guys including Nate Huppe (Rochester Runners) who was looking for 2:30s-2:40s and Jeremy Drowne (whom I ran against at Snowshoe Nationals and the snowshoe relay). At this point, we stood for the National Anthem and then watched as the elite athletes came out of the church and made their way down to the start.  We got to see Meb and Ryan Hall and the others warmup right in front of us, which was pretty cool.  Soon after that, we were ready to go...

As the gun went off, there was a bit more pushing and shoving and jockeying for position than I remember last year.  I cut back and forth across the road and in between people to try to get into a good position and pace.  Soon I found myself surrounded by a lot of the usual suspects including Andy McCarron (CMS) who was up a little ways on me.  I could still see Scott Rowe, but he got out quick and before I knew it, he was pretty far up and looking strong. There was a little bit of a headwind that was noticeable, but nothing too bad. We made our way down through the first mile and I clicked through in 5:30 (which is really 5 seconds longer because of the staggered start).  I started to think I was going to repeat last year's disaster, as I knew 5:30s was not really a realistic pace for me.  Everyone had been telling me all year about how the first half of the race can be really dangerous with the slight downhills, and it's really easy to go out too fast and burn out.  Well, I was sucked back into that scenario and tried to back off during the next couple of miles, but it was more of the same.  I started to move up and in with a pack of guys that included Andy as well as Brendan Callahan (BAA), David Bedoya (GBTC), and a bunch of others.  We ran together for a while before Brendan and David pulled away, but I came through the 5k split in a rather quick 16:51 and started to get a bit nervous, but I felt very relaxed and knew it was a bit too early to start freaking out.

By 6,7,8 Ks, Andy and I were cranking along and not really involved with any packs for very long.  We hit 10k in 34:06, which I thought was amusing because it certainly didn't feel like a 34 minute 10k and I remember back a few years ago to when a 34 minute 10k was about all I had for 10k!!   I also knew that by 10k last year, I was already starting to hurt.  This year, I was fine through 10k and by 8-9 miles, Andy and I were still moving along and clicking through the miles.  Somewhere around there we came up on Joseph Koech (a VERY good Kenyan masters runner from R.UN).  He had passed us early in the race and was obviously hurting (I don't think he finished).  I tried to get him to come with us and he did try to hang for a bit, but faded after a mile or so of hanging on.  We came through 10 miles in 55:36 and I still felt pretty good, but again was amused by fact that even last year, 55 minutes was about all I had for 10 miles all out.  Not too long after 10, I turned around and noticed a huge pack of guys that had caught Andy and I and were soon going to pass.  I told him we had company and we just sat back and waited.  That pack included Nate Krah (adidas) who would actually negative split the race and kill it later on with a 2:25:04!  I tried to hang w/ those guys for a bit, but soon fell off the pack and back into solitude again. Somewhere between 15 and 20k, Andy started to have his stomach issues again (same as NB) and dropped back.  After that, I really had a pretty long stretch where I was either alone for a good part of the race, or just ahead or behind one other guy.  It was a strange feeling, being in such a big race and not having a huge mass of people around you, that you'd expect to have.

I came through the half marathon in 1:13:01 and was absolutely shocked at how much I was holding together.  Before New Bedford this year, I hadn't even run that fast in a regular half-marathon.  I was really trying to hold off any cramping, which has typically come to bite me around 14-16 miles and then again in later miles of my past marathons.  Since the start of the race, I took Gatorade and water at each and every waterstop.  I probably only missed a couple during the entire race.  I have never drank this much during a race, but knew it was either take in as much as I could, or die a slow miserable death later on.  I was even taking bottles from spectators occasionally, which is a great aspect of Boston...you are almost never out of arms reach of water.  I had also taken a GU at maybe 10k and then another one at 10 miles, and still had a one left.  My plan was to take one on the hills between 17 and 20, and then one later on (if I could get another one from someone).  As I came down through Newton, I decided to take one of my NUUN tablets I had with me. I had stuck it in my shorts pocket and broke it out and snapped it in half.  I popped it in my mouth and grabbed a water.  I figured I'd try to get some more salts in my system to help my muscles absorb as much water as possible.  It seemed to be working.  By the next water stop, I took the other half and kept rollin.  Coming down through the lower falls, I saw Danny Vassallo (24th at the 2008 Boston Marathon to the tune of 2:25:10 - 7th American). He moved out on the course and gave me that last GU I needed.  Much thanks bro!  From half way to the turn onto the Newton hills I was running along side the same dude in a red singlet (I 'think' I beat him  in the end, but not sure).  I ran next to him for a few miles before turning at the fire station and by this time, there was only a couple guys within sight (both ahead and beyond).

Like last year, the hills weren't really an issue.  Maybe it's my mountain/snowshoe racing that is paying off, but I really don't notice road race hills anymore (at least maybe other than Pack and Bridge of Flowers!)... The hills in Newton (Heartbreak) are long but not steep.  There are also breaks between climbs, so it's not quite as bad as most people think.  As I made the climb, I heard lots of folks cheering for me but couldn't really make out faces.  I did notice Eric Beauchesne and Scotty Clark along the way and got great motivation from those guys... I also had noticed Dan Princic much earlier in the race, cheering for me too (he was in a good spot where there weren't too many people).  As I climbed Heartbreak hill(s) I got caught by a big pack of guys that included two Whirlaway dudes (Tom and Justin Deeg) who both blazed 2:28 mid, Ian Nurse (BAA), and Matt Manning (WCRC).  I would run behind those guys for a bit before losing them in the later miles.  Around this time, as I made my way up the climb, I passed Tommy Manning (NMC - CO), who had passed me very early on in the race (first 3 miles maybe). I tried to light a fire under his arse by reminding him that he was 7th at Mount Washington last year (1:05:37).  I had just edged him at Cranmore last year, but he smoked me at Mt. Wash and I let him know that he could certainly handle Heartbreak hill.  He told me that he was unfortunately done and that he was going to 'take a beer at B.C.'.  I thought that was pretty funny, but to his credit he did hang on to the tune of 2:35.

By the top, right around mile 20, I saw the elder Quintal brother who was screaming at me and got me really pumped up.  I actually noticed the vein in his neck before I noticed anything else...he was going crazy and it really helped me get up over that hump.  He offered me water, but I had just taken some and was OK for the time being.  I came up through 20 in 1:53:03, which was a crazy PR for me for 20 miles.  It was right around here that I figured I may be able to hang on and run a PR for the full marathon (barring a disaster).  The hills were behind me and I hadn't slowed all that much.  Mile 21 was my slowest mile so far and the first over 6 minutes.  Had someone told me I would have run the first 20 miles all under 6, I would have said they were crazy, but I had done it.  I took another GU around this point and was able to drop it back down to a 5:43 on the back side of the hills.  Coming down I saw Mike and Scott Masse at B.C. yelling for me and hit the flat section which made my next mile go back up just over 6 to 6:01.  At this point I consciously put in a surge to try to make back some time and was able to drop it back down to a 5:47.  During this time, and since right before heartbreak hill, I had been occasionally passing some of the elite women who were at the back of that field (and those who were definitely having problems).  That was a first for me (obviously that DIDN'T happen last year).   Through miles 23-25 I was really starting to get tired and was being occasionally passed by a guy or two, but would then run down someone else.  I passed a few elite runners with low bibs including one Kenyan around 23 or so, who was obviously hurting and just trying to finish (I'm not sure if he did).  I actually gave him a water bottle I was drinking from and he took it to pour over his head. I 'think' his bib number was either in the teens or low 20s, but I don't remember.

My mile 25 seemed to take forever. It was the first time of the entire race that I felt hopelessness.  It would be my 3rd and final mile over 6 minutes (6:09) and it slowest mile.  Right before mile 24, a guy had yelled to me that I was in 69th place, and there was a Brooks runner right behind me that he said was #70.  This was the first time all day that I had any idea whatsoever, of what place I was.  I had that in the front of my mind the rest of the race.  Not too soon after mile 25, a couple guys passed me and I did the math.  I was riding 71 and kept it for the rest of the time, although I was slow through mile 25.  I was somehow able to drop back under 6 for mile 26 (even with the underpass to Mass Ave and the extra little hill there).  During mile 25, I kept looking at my watch and for some reason, did the math completely wrong in my head.  I looked and thought that there was no way in hell I was going to be able to run under 2:30 and figured I'd be 2:32ish for sure. As I made the turn onto Hereford St. I looked at my watch again and thought again, 2:31 high - 2:32, looked over my shoulder at the next guy, saw I had a decent cushion, and just settled for the spot I was in.  I had no idea how close I was going to cut it.  I just rolled down the last bit (which takes FOREVER by the way)... If you've run the marathon, watched from the finish line, or have seen it on TV, you know how long that last finishing stretch is.  I just got in the middle of the road and rolled on down.  When I got within view (and I have terrible vision by the way) of the clock and was able to squint to see it, I noticed it was still on 2:29s and I almost croaked.  I looked at my watch and saw 2:29:52 and looked up helplessly and hopelessly to see that I still had 10 paces left and couldn't do anything but smile in both victory and defeat as I crossed the line as the clock read 2:30:05 (but with the 5 second delay, I knew I would have most likely 2:30:00).  I thought there maybe was a glimmer of hope that I could salvage a 2:29:59, but it wasn't to be.  I checked the results from my phone shortly after the race and saw the dreaded 2:30:00.  I was also very pleased to know that I was the 71st male (76th overall).

But as I started to walk down the street, past all the volunteers and water and Gatorade tables, I was very aware that I felt pretty damn good. I wasn't in a wheelchair (unlike last year)...I wasn't spacing out (unlike last year)...I still knew who I was and where I was (unlike last year).... and even though I hadn't run in the 2:20s, I still ran a 7:45 PR!  I would have never imagined running that fast and was absolutely thrilled....but at the same time, never wanted more than to trim just one more single second off, in my entire life....  As I got my medal, my heatwrap, and was being escorted along away from the finish area, Andy Schachat came over and congratulated me and brought me over to the WMUR guys who interviewed me for the Channel 9 news here in NH.  I ended up as the 2nd place NH finisher to Scott Rowe who ran an incredible PR of 2:24:34.  After that, I walked over to get my gear and met up with Andy McCarron who had had stomach issues again but still salvaged a 2:38 and was actually in good spirits.  We both walked over to get a post race massage, which was HUGE.  I got worked on for a good 45 minutes or so and was still hurting pretty bad, but compared to my other post-marathon experiences, I was A-OK.  I chatted a bit with Junyong Pak (GBTC) who had also run a PR of just under 2:33, and Jeff Silveira (SRR) who ran 2:50:38.  Good times.

I limped out of there, up the 3 painful flights of stairs, and down to the subway for my ride out of the city.  I was going to wait for my sister, but opted to head out because I figured the chances of me actually finding her was pretty slim.  She finished her first marathon and came in in a respectable 4:18:55 while running for her charity.  I'm very proud of her!!

Splits - Boston Marathon (26.2M) - 2:30:00 (5:44 pace) - 76th place (71st Male) - 2nd NH:

MileMile SplitOverall Time
last .21:162:30:05**

**less 5 seconds to get to the start = 2:30:00 Official Time

Looking at my splits, I see mostly positive results and a couple of things I know I need improvement on, but the overall picture is a good one.  

5k Split: 16:51
10k Split: 34:06
Half Marathon: 13:01
20 Mile: 1:53:03 (PR)

Good news is there is always next year!


  1. Nice report Jim.

    The photos i took were at 5.5 and 19.8. You looked quite a bit better at 19.8 this year than last!!

  2. Jim - simply kick ass. Well done man. The improvement on 10k, half, and 20 that you mention over past years is mind boggling - but well deserved. Stoked for you for this year and what you are gonna do at the hill.

  3. Hi Jim,
    I don't know him but Matt Manning's picture was posted on Lagos Lone Oak FB page. He went up to Rye to get his free sundae! Saw his time and wondered if you knew him. Saw you mentioned him here. (small world)
    BTW, my friend John sends his congrats. He's running the Green Bay Marathon next month.
    Again, super race!

  4. Thanks Bev, I've never talked w/ him, but he occasionally runs races up here (I thought he was living in Louisiana for some reason)...When he comes up this way, he runs for Winner's Circle out of Salisbury, MA. He ran the Rye Harbor 10k a couple years ago and just nipped me there... so he's probably got friends in the area...

  5. Congrats, Jim, great race. You'll find that 1 second and more very soon.

  6. Great race.. and a great account of the details. I wish I could remember my race with as much clarity. Congrats on the PR, it was a fantastic day for it.

  7. Great write up Jim! Even better race, way to really kick some ass!!

  8. Major props to you DoubleJ. A 7:45 PR is super. You're having an awesome season. I hope it keeps rolling for you. Recover well!

  9. Hey Jim,
    Matt Manning does live Louisiana now but is a Hampton NH native.