Monday, April 23, 2012

The "I Survived the 2012 Boston 26.2" Report

All joking aside, you may notice that the first thing not appearing in the title of this report is the word "race." There's a reason for that: it would be more accurate to have called this a survival report for most runners.

I'd like to first address the amount of criticism coming from the reaches of the triathlon world, including a tweet from the voice of Ironman, Mike Reilly:
Well, Mike, people also acclimate to the temperatures in Kona by spending a week, two weeks, or in the case of some of the professionals, months on the island to get used to the temperature range experienced in Boston this year.

Instead, the weather pattern for Boston up until the Friday before the race all suggested temperatures in the low 60s for race day. We'd seen the occasional forecast that was suggesting the 70 degree range, which is still mighty warm for Boston on April 16th. But then the cold front stalled, the heat wave from the south was coming, and we went from 50 degrees on Friday to 65 on Saturday to 75 on Sunday to the peak of 92 degrees in Newton on Monday. Good luck acclimating in the space of that time period.

The B.A.A., to their credit, offered a deferment policy to 2013. I seriously contemplated accepting the invitation to try again next year. But I just could not justify to myself not going this year. It was too late by the time deferment was offered, at least for me. I couldn't back out; the mind was already made up. We were running.

Here's my recap of the entire weekend:

I had made my travel arrangements to arrive in the city on Saturday night, leaving me Sunday to pick up my packet, travel the expo, and get ready to rock for Monday. In retrospect, I won't do this again. I've used this travel plans for my half-Rev efforts to great success, but this just wasn't enough time for a race the size of Boston. To wit, I missed meeting up with my Rev3 teammates, and just felt rushed all day Sunday.

Led off getting some coffee into the system, and then headed to the BAA 5K. My buddy Seth was running, and wanted to see him shatter his PR. He succeeded, busting through the 17:00 barrier with plenty of time to spare. It was then time to head over to the expo, tour through, say hi to everybody I knew (basically, just about every single footwear vendor that was there...and then some...), converse with friends I ran into, and just keep on trucking. I had thought about leaving the expo by 1, and well, whaddya know, it wasn't until nearly 3 before I headed back to where I was staying to get ready.

Loaded up on the obligatory pasta and garlic bread made at home, and then hit the bed pretty early. I felt well-rested, and prepared for the day to come.

Let's get the number out of the way: 4:52:07.

That being said, let's break down the day: had my normal pre-race breakfast of coffee, bagel with cream cheese, and a banana. Nothing too crazy. I have little appetite right out of the gate in the mornings before a race, and I knew I'd be snacking a little bit before my start time of 10:40 (allegedly. More on that in a minute.)

Headed down to grab the bus to Hopkinton. Future note for reference: aim for the early side of what the B.A.A. recommends for getting out there. Traffic is a nightmare heading out there, and it's a long, long ride out there. I got on board a bus at 7:20, and I didn't get to Hopkinton till almost 9:15.

The Athlete's Village is absolutely massive. Huge tents to keep you out of the sun. Food and drink tables galore. Just an absolute buzz throughout, hundreds of people just ready to say, "hey!" Ran into a few locals from Maine who were in the first wave of runners.

Time just flies here. All of a sudden it's time to head out and get ready to run.

This is the one part that was a bit of a cluster. As you filter down to the start line, it bottlenecked. It just didn't filter very well. Couple that as the gun went off, and it just was a lot of people wondering why they couldn't get to where they were supposed to have lined up.

Took about 10 minutes to cross the start line. And if you thought I was running before that line...uh, I think not. 26.2 miles was going to be plenty, thank you very much.

Running Time
Well, this very quickly became a lesson in managing expectations.

Had the weather pattern held much, much cooler, I was targeting just under 3:30. Once the weather went to "Satan's oven warm," we figured to add sixty seconds per mile, so went out trying to hold right around 8:50 mile splits. This is pretty base mileage pace for me right now; super easy to hold onto and execute. Usually heart-rate is in the upper 140s at this pace, nice and easy to go and run.

Well, got through the first 5K right at pace, and I thought to myself, "Well, we feel OK. But why does it feel like I can't get my breathing pattern right? I just don't feel quite right." That's when I looked at my Garmin, and just said, "Uh oh."

Heart-rate: 185.

This was going to be a loooooooong day.

I tried to settle back in for the next 5K, just to see if the HR would come down any, see if the groove would help. No dice. Just would not come down, no matter what. This included walking to grab some water to dump over the head and into the mouth. Just couldn't get things down.

Knowing that this wasn't a priority race for me, I figured it was time to back off the throttle and shoot for around a 4-hour race. The run legs were there, and it felt good to roll through the next few miles. Never pushing too hard, just going with the flow and enjoying myself out there.

Cruised through the half right around 2:01, which was just north of the pace I was looking to keep. It was starting to get really, really warm. Measured temperatures in the 90s, with it being an estimated 10 to 15 degrees warmer on the pavement. Shade ends on the course right around mile 14. Kept at the expected pace until the Route 128 overpass.

On the overpass, there was an ambulance on the left with a woman on a stretcher. Another guy on the right, wobbling as he went down. Another person on the right, aid station volunteers with smelling salts trying to wake him up. And a second ambulance roaring down, siren ablaze.

I took inventory right there: what matters here? You're not going to run the time you wanted regardless. This isn't your priority race for the year. You can bury yourself trying to run the time you think you should run here, or you can just enjoy the experience today. Don't ruin your year in April. You're racing through September.

I took the "throw the time out the window" piece. It was just smarter of me. It was oppressively hot, from the moment you turned at the Newton fire station on downward. I ran when I felt like it. I walked when I felt too hot and light-headed. I poured every water cup and ice cube into my jersey and over my head I could. I took in nutrition as I felt I could handle. It worked, up until mile 24, when my calf just seized on up. (Probably because I hadn't taken quite enough on the electrolyte front due to feeling sick, but whatever).

Naturally, the medical tent stay was the best thing for me, as I got running again for the last couple of miles right about the same pace I started out as. It let me bring the body temperature down so I could mash the throttle a bit again.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, like the feeling of crossing the finish line of an endurance event. Words can't do it justice. There is no feeling like it in the world.

Having reflected on it for a week now, I'm both incredibly proud and disappointed in my marathon. I fought through some of the most adverse conditions EVER. (No joke: the average run time was 30 minutes slower compared to 2010.) Even with a medical tent visit when people would've just ended it, I trudged onward to Copley. But at the same time, that time isn't me. That's not what I'm capable of.

So the bug's been caught. I'll be back, next time with a qualifying time. It won't be this year, as I've got my focus on the series of Rev3 races on the calendar. But Sugarloaf Marathon 2013 is where I'll put my bid in for a Boston qualifier.

You may have had the best of me on that day, Mother Nature. But I'll get mine.


Unknown said...

well played, no reason to put your overall health at risk-it was a hot one!!
plus, you still get the same medal everyone else did :)

Ryan said...

It'd have been much different had it been the focus of the year, like Timberman was last year or Maine is this year. I'd push myself beyond my limits there because it's the purpose behind all of the training. But this one was one to play more carefully.

Next time...

Unknown said...

Way to be smart Ryan! You know your goals for the season and you definitely made the right choices! I am sorry we were never able to meet up! I'll see you at the Rev3 races for certain :D Congratulations on the finish and way to continue after the med tent!!!

Alisa said...

Way to be smart and use your head. You qualified for Boston, which means you're fast! Way to use your head to slow down for this one.

Jeff Vanis said...

Hey Ryan, you made good choices. Congrats on the race!

Chloe said...

Just qualifying for Boston is a HUGE feat. Congrats on the smart race - and glad you 'survived the 2012 Boston 26.2) :)