Wednesday, April 29, 2015

My 2015 Boston Marathon Race Report

In 2014 I had a great experience in Boston—I ran a course PR and managed a 10 second negative split. Going into 2015, I had every reason to expect an even better race.  In spite of a terrible winter in New York, I had a really good training cycle, running my fastest half in over two years and tying my 10k PR despite a nasty cold.  I also had two teammates who were looking to run around the same time as me so I figured I would have some on-course support and motivation. 
All smiles before the race.

Going into the race a lot of folks were worried about the forecast of wind and rain, but I tried not to let it worry me much. I went to sleep the night before feeling optimistic and excited. The morning of the race, the temperature was near perfect and though it drizzled some in the Athletes' Village, it was dry when race officials began calling Wave 1 runners to the corrals. I stuck back with my teammates Steve and Tim who were aiming for something in the 2:57 to 2:59:59 range, just like me. Thanks to my time in Chicago, I was in Corral 3 this year, but it made more sense to stick with them so I hung back in Corral 5. 

I had a strategy that I had been preaching to them--and to anyone that would listen--throughout training, start below goal pace, gradually pick up the pace to goal pace by the half, take the hills easy, and give it everything for the final 10k--we were certainly successful with the first part of that strategy. 

After the gun went off, it took us roughly two and a half minutes to cross the start because of the crowds. We held back on the first mile, trying to save our quads from a big downhill thrashing. We crossed the first mile in about 7:22, a little slower than I had planned on, but I would have rather had it slow than fast. I reassured everyone--don't worry, there's plenty of time to make it up, don't speed up yet--and we kept things easy for mile 2, taking it in 7:04. Despite the easy pace, my legs felt sluggish. I kept reminding myself that sometimes it takes a few miles to really wake up, two miles in is too soon to worry. 

We slowly started picking things up and by the time we crossed the 5k in 22:09, a 7:08 average, we were running around a 6:58 pace. I felt like we were settling into a groove, though I still hadn't found my full race juju until somewhere in Ashland we heard "Shake It Off," possibly the greatest song of our generation my current favorite guilty pleasure song. I sung shouted "you could have been getting down to this sick beat" and suddenly felt like a million bucks. It attracted the attention of another runner, a woman from York, Pennsylvania, who said she liked our energy and would try to stick with us for a bit. T. Swift clearly helped because we ran the second 5k in 21:31, a 6:56 pace, closer to the to the low 6:50s we'd planned on. 

Passing the 10k mark and the Framingham Train Depot also meant that we were in familiar territory since the three of us had run this part of the course only three week's earlier. The next several miles are some of the more boring on the course but it's early enough in the race that I never really mind. Somewhere around mile 8 it finally started raining but it didn't slow us down--when we crossed the 15k we were averaging a 6:55 pace.  

Although I tried to remain positive, I wasn't feeling like my normal buoyant. Even as we ran through Natick Center I was having serious doubts. I told the others that it wasn't going to be my day but the new friend we'd made told me to just focus on the individual mile. "You may feel better on the next one," she said. We ran passed the co-eds of Wellesley College who were in high spirits despite the weather and it gave me a little pick-me-up, though, no--we didn't stop to kiss any of them. 

We passed the 20k in 1:26:40, meaning we had done the last 5k in 21:32, a 6:56 pace. We were obviously being very consistent but we were far from our goal pace. Still, I warned the others against speeding up too much. We weren't going to make up all of the lost time in the next mile. We continued on to the half, hitting it in 1:31:22, more than two minutes off of our pre-race goal of 1:29. At this point I told Tim and Steve to go ahead. I knew I wasn't going to be making up much time on the second half and I didn't want to hold them back. Tim listened but Steve decided to stick with me a bit longer. 

The Wellesley stretch of the course is always longer than I remember, but at least it's largely flat or downhill. We saw one our teammates and his wife and got a huge cheer from them, which was fun and I got a kick out of passing the same dumpster I had peed behind during our run three weeks earlier (Shh! Don't tell the Wellesley P.D.!). Steve and I hit the 20k in 1:48:13, maintaining a pretty consistent pace with a 6:57 average for that 5k. 

Photo Credit: Rich Blake
I was hurting and ready to slow down, but I wanted to try and stick with Steve until at least Mile 17 and the Newton Fire Station since I knew we would have some teammates cheering there. We passed the gel station and I took one of the gels I had with me, deciding against grabbing a Clif Shot since I still had two GUs. It was a struggle to keep up with Steve, but I hung with him and we made the turn onto Comm. Ave--the start of the hills. Sure enough, our teammates were there and they went wild! That was awesome, but I was ready to back off. I watched as Steve pulled ahead up the hill and focused on running my own race. I was sure my legs were going to crap out at some point, I was just hoping I could postpone that until as close to the end as possible.

I hit the 30k, roughly one-third of the way through hills, at 2:09:57, or a 7:00 pace for that 5k. I tried going the math to estimate possible finishing times but my brain wasn't really cooperating. I hoped I could at least beat my first Boston time of 3:08. I slowed over the later hills, taking Miles 20 and 21 in 7:11 and 7:21 respectively, but at least I was still upright. As I began the descent down the backside of Heartbreak Hill I started to feel a little more positive. A PR wasn't in the cards, but maybe I could at least get a BQ. One of my teammates was cheering by Boston College and that helped too. Somehow I brought my pace back under 7 and ran a 6:51 mile for Mile 22.

Once the course turned onto Beacon Street in Brookline I changed my mental strategy. Instead of thinking, four miles to go, I thought, just get to the 23 mile marker. I was taking the advice of our friend from York, who I had lost somewhere around the Newton Lower Falls. I felt pretty defeated when I hit Mile 23 in 7:09, but I knew I was in the home stretch. Don't walk, don't walk, I kept telling myself. Mile 24 is almost all downhill and that definitely helped as I brought my pace back down to 6:54. 

Photo Credit: Running in the City
At this point I could see the Citgo Sign, which I knew signaled Mile 25. The rain was really coming down and I was drenched, but the crowds were thick, helping me to ignore the weather. I passed the 40k in 2:53:54 and knew I only had about 2k to go, crossing Mile 25 right after in 7:02. Now I began concentrating on making it to Hereford, where my wife would be waiting. Down Comm. Ave. the crowds were electric, even in the pouring rain, and I barely noticed the Mass. Ave. underpass thanks to the cheers of some friends who were stationed right before it. 

I turned onto Hereford and looked for my wife, who I knew would be on the right side near Newbury Street. I saw her and she saw me and I blew her a big kiss. Less than a half mile to go, I was so ready for the finish. I made the turn onto Boylston and remembered just how disheartening that final stretch can be. The finish line looks so far away, with the 26 mile mark clearly visible roughly halfway down the street. I hit Mile 26 in 7:01 but didn't have any kick left for the final 385 yards. I crossed the finish, threw up my hands, and suddenly felt much better--I had just finished my 6th Boston Marathon! My final time was 3:03:26, it was almost a full five minutes slower than my 2014 time, but given the funk I'd been in for much of the race I was pretty happy with the result. 

A Post-Race Post-Script

Making my way through the finish chute I bumped into Steve and Tim who had waited for me. They both run negative splits and PR'd, which was awesome to hear. It was too cold to linger so we got our heatsheets and medals and made our way back to our AirBnb. It may not have been an easy day for me, but it was great to share it with some many different people. Hopefully I learned something from the experience that I can bring to next year's race. 

Monday, April 27, 2015

One Weekend, Two Very Different Runs

The transition from marathon to recovery isn't always smooth. I'm someone who hates downtime, much to my wife's chagrin. A lazy Sunday? What's that? I tend to fill my "rest" days with lots of activity, probably as a way to keep my mind off the fact that I'm not running. That said, I learned about the importance of rest and recovery a long time ago and I'm very careful not to rush back to training after a marathon.

After Boston I took four days off of any real physical activity but by Saturday morning, I was itching to go for a run. Expecting to feel a little beat up, I picked relatively flat five mile route by our apartment and headed out at a super easy pace. Well, I felt like crap. Half a mile in I began asking myself, do I have to run? Can't I find another hobby? By mile 4, I decided to stop. It wasn't painful per se, it just sucked. My legs felt like lead, my breathing seemed labored, and I wanted to punch every smiling runner who passed me.

I probably would have taken Sunday off from running, given my terrible Saturday, but I was signed up to run NYRR's Run as One with my wife. We signed up for this race together the last three years in a row so it's kind of a tradition. Even though my wife is in the middle of training for her first Ironman and hasn't run a road race since the fall, she was planning to shoot for a PR. I didn't want to miss the chance to help pace her (and--let's be honest-- I also didn't want to miss out on another race towards my 9+1 for 2015).

Photo credit: The Fit Wanderer
We got up at 7:15 a.m. on Sunday. We were cutting it kind of close for the 8:30 a.m. start, but we both really wanted some extra sleep. This gave us just enough time to eat a quick breakfast and walk the dogs before jogging over to Central Park. The jog to the start felt pretty good, but we were taking it stupid easy so I wasn't sure how I would feel once we actually got started. After some pre-race form drills and a couple strides, my legs still felt considerably better than the day before which made me optimistic.

To make a long story short, the race went very well. We saw a bunch of teammates out on the course, which is always fun. My legs didn't bother me one bit, even though the day before four miles had been a serious strugglefest. Best of all, my wife PR'd by 13 seconds! There may have been a little vomit at the finish, but otherwise it was a great run.

For the next couple weeks, I will be taking things pretty easy and not sticking to any kind of running schedule. Hopefully, the runs that I do will feel much more like Sunday than Saturday.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday Haikus: Post-Marathon Edition

So much has changed since my post on Wednesday: I can now walk down stairs with a close-to-normal gate and I can sit and stand without needing to hold onto an armrest.  One thing that hasn't changed? I'm still working on that pesky race report. While you wait on pins and needles to hear about my race in excruciating fascinating detail, enjoy this fresh batch of post-marathon haikus. 

Photo credit: InsideMedford
  Crossing the Finish

  This is terrible
  I hate marathons; finished--
  Can't wait for next one

  Post-Race Glow

  Medal on my neck,
  Boston jacket on my back,
  Feeling like a star

  Post-Race Low

  Hobbling down stairs,
  Ouch! Bending down is a chore,
  Recovery sucks

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Post-Boston Post: Me and the Media

It's now been almost 48hrs since the 119th Boston Marathon, though my legs still feel like it was yesterday. You've probably never seen a more pathetic sight than me hobbling down the subway stairs this morning to catch the Lexington Ave Express unless you saw me limping from the finish on Monday. Anyway, I'm still working on my race report so in the interim I thought I would share a couple shout-outs I got in the media.

While waiting with some teammates in the Athlete's Village I was approached by a reporter from the AP--never one to shy from extra attention, I happily agreed to speak with her. I've excerpted my brief moment in the spotlight:

8:50 a.m.:

Rain has started falling at the Boston Marathon starting line, and forecasters warn that it will be a soggy race for the 30,000 runners and 1 million spectators.

David Parkinson of New York City is running his sixth consecutive Boston. The 29-year-old was sheltering under a tent, sitting on trash bags and swaddled in blankets to keep warm.

Since this was an AP piece, it made its way into papers across the country which is pretty awesome! You can view the whole piece as it appeared in the New York Times here.

Shortly after speaking with the reporter from the AP, I saw Mark Remy of Runners World standing nearby. I shouted, "Hey, Mark Remy!" That got his attention and he interview me too. Unfortunately the best part of our exchange, a discussion of bathroom visits, didn't make his column, but some of the other stuff did. To check out that piece, visit Remy's World here


Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday Haikus: Three Days to Boston Edition

At this time tomorrow I'll be in a car with my wife, our two dogs, and a couple of teammates heading up to Boston for the marathon. Between now and then, though, I have a lot to do: I still have a full day of work (I'll be very productive and efficient, I'm sure); I still have to pack (though I had every intention of doing so last night); and I still have to watch Spirit of the Marathon for the zillionth time (a pre-marathon ritual of mine). Thankfully, one thing you don't see on the last is writing haikus because they're already good to go.

Without further ado, I present you with my final round of pre-Boston haikus.

Me at last year's expo
Dangers of the Expo
So many samples
Clif, Gu, Nuun--tried lots of each
Now my tummy aches

All Packed

Pepto, Tylenol,
Imodium, benadryl
Pre-race bag of tricks

Monday, April 20th

Three months of training,
Runs on ice, in sleet, in snow
All come down to this

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Countdown to Boston: 26.2 Random Facts About the Boston Marthon: Part 2

For those of you who are counting, it's 4 days until the 119th Boston Marathon. My brain is currently all over the place as I try to wrap it around the fact that in roughly 96 hours, I will be toeing the line in Hopkinton. Since I'm a little scatterbrained right now, rather than providing you with a perfectly coherent post--though let's be honest, I almost never do that--I thought I would just share some random trivia about the oldest marathon in the U.S.

I present you part two of my 26.2 Random Facts About the Boston Marathon. If you missed Part 1, check it out here.
14. Technically, the Boston Marathon is only on its fourth race director. Will Cloney became the first official race director in 1946. Prior to that, the marathon was organized by a committee. Cloney served as race director until 1982, simultaneously serving as director of the B.A.A.'s annual indoor track meet. Tim Kilduff took on the role briefly, from 1983 to 1984, followed by Guy Morse from 1985 to 2000. Current director Dave McGillivray took over in 2001. 

15. In the 1950s it cost race organizers less than $2,500 a year to put on the marathon. Today its annual budget is in the millions of dollars. Talk about inflation!

16. Each year the Red Sox hold a day game on Patriots' Day starting at 11:05 a.m. Up until 1953 when the National League Boston Braves left for Atlanta, the two teams alternated the Patriots' Day game every other year.

17. John Hancock became the race's title sponsor in 1986, necessitating a move of the finish line which had been in front of the Prudential Center, home of one of John Hancock's main competitors.

18. Only one B.A.A. member has ever won the Boston Marathon. John J. Kelley (John "The Younger") won the race in 1957, the first, last, and only member of the Boston Athletic Association to do so.

19. In 1897, the B.A.A. awarded finisher medals to everyone who completed the race--all ten of them.

20. The B.A.A. began awarding medals to all finishers again in 1983. Prior to that, only the top runners received medals, although the number of medals awarded ranged from 25 to more than 100.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Countdown to Boston: 26.2 Random Facts About the Boston Marthon: Part 1

For those of you who are counting, it's 5 days until the 119th Boston Marathon. My brain is currently all over the place as I try to wrap it around the fact that in roughly 120 hours, I will be toeing the line in Hopkinton. Since I'm a little scatterbrained right now, rather than providing you with a perfectly coherent post--though let's be honest, I almost never do that--I thought I would just share some random trivia about the oldest marathon in the U.S.

Today, I present the first half of 26.2 Random Facts About the Boston Marathon. Check back tomorrow for the second half.

1. Up until the 1960s, all runners wishing to run the Boston Marathon were required to undergo a physical by a B.A.A. physician.

2. Like the Boston Marathon, the Charles River also starts in Hopkinton and ends in Boston. The major difference? The winding Charles takes 80 miles to make the same journey that takes runners only 26.2 miles to complete.

Photo credit: Claudette Millette
4. For the first 27 years, the distance of the Boston marathon fluctuated between 24 and 25 miles, usually somewhere around 24.5.

5. The Boston Marathon start line was in Ashland until 1924, when the course was lengthened to the 26 mile, 385 yard distance first used in the 1908 Olympics and later adopted by the International Amateur Athletic Federation in 1921. 

6. There were three different starting lines in Ashland--Metcalf's Mill from 1897 to 1899, the middle of a railroad bridge from 1900 to 1906, and Steven's Corner from 1907 to 1923.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Countdown to Boston: One Week to Go

It seems hard to believe, but after months of training, the 119th Boston Marathon is exactly one week away. By this time next week, I'll be sitting in the Athletes Village waiting for them to call us to the corrals.

For me, one week to go means a lot of things. For one, it means cutting out caffeine. Last week I began weaning myself off of it slowly, first by replacing my second cup of coffee with half-decaf, then making that second cup all decaf. Starting today, it's all decaf until the race. I like to ween myself off of caffeine so that on race morning when I take caffeinated gels, I really feel the boost. It's also probably not a bad idea to break my coffee-dependence every once in a while anyway.

Another thing the one week mark signals is that it's time to start obsessing about the weather. Yes, a lot can change over the next seven days, but that won't stop me from clicking refresh on and several times an hour and worrying about every minor temperature increase or shift in wind direction.

With one week to go there's also no more time for any junk food or mindless snacking. From no until the race I aim to be very mindful about what I ingest. I only have about 20 miles scheduled between now and the marathon so I try to watch what I eat even more so than usual. I'll spend the whole week praying no one brings cupcakes into the office.

It's also time to start thinking about my packing list--I'll be posting something about that later in the week. Do I have everything I need? Are there any last minutes errands I need to run to restock on any pre-race essentials?

Finally, it's time to relax. This may not seem to go with everything else I've said above, but I'm going to try and take it easy this week. That may mean extra Netflix or some light reading. One thing it should definitely mean is catching up on sleep. The last thing I want is to head into next weekend sleep deprived since I know the closer I get to the race, the harder it is to get any shut-eye.

So with all that in mind, I'm going to try and enjoy this final week of taper. Only 169 hours to go!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Friday Haikus: Taper Crazies Edition

Another week is coming to an end which means I'm another week closer to Marathon Monday. I'm at the point in my taper where I can't decide how I feel. Part of me is so ready to get this whole marathon thing over so I can go back to leading a "normal" life, one where I get to go out occasionally and can sleep past 6:30 a.m. at least a couple days a week. 

The other part of me is freaking the fudge out. Wait, I have to run 26.2 miles, AGAIN!?! And I have to run it fast? That part of me wants the race to hold off indefinitely. Ultimately, I know I'll be pumped come next weekend and while the nerves won't go away, they'll turn into a more positive energy. For now though, I'll continue to have this weird internal imbalance. 

Anyway, while my taper crazies continue to eat away at my soul wreak havoc on my digestive tract mess with my head, I leave you with a few Friday haikus. 

Break Them in Before the Race
Photo credit: Reddit

New shoes, feet on clouds
Glorious, until, what's that?
A nasty blister 

Deep Thoughts Mid-Run

Didn't go before
So much regret,  gotta stop
Never trust a fart 

Is It Race Day?

Been hitting refresh
On the BAA website
Countdown clock's too slow

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Countdown to Boston: Course Strategy

The 119th Boston Marathon is now just 11 days away! Those of you who are currently tapering for it are probably going a bit mad right about now. You've no doubt combed every inch of the BAA website and parsed every word of my first-timers guide to Boston. Maybe you've really gotten into the weeds and have read my "Wicked Good Guide to Boston Speak" or you decided to pick up a copy of Just Call Me Jock for some light reading. Those are all well and good, but one thing you can really do to help is think about your race strategy. To assist you in that, I present my course strategy for the Boston Marathon. 


Start slow and keep things easy and relaxed for the first 10k. Gradually pick things up but plan to hit the half at pretty close to your average goal pace--you can negative split this race. You may lose some time on the Newton Hills but if you've run smart and saved some energy, you can make up lots of time in the final 10k. Boston is a PR course.

The route hasn't changed much since this map was put together.


The Start: Hopkinton to Framingham (Miles 0-6)

If you know anything about the Boston Marathon, you probably know that it starts with a steep downhill. In fact, the course drops over 100 feet in the first half mile or so. You will be surrounded by runners who are just as excited as you and there will be a big temptation to take the start too fast--DON'T. Most likely the crowd will keep you in check--Boston has a very narrow start and you'll be pretty packed in--but you still need to focus on your own pace. Run the first couple of miles slower than your goal pace, not by much, maybe 7 to 12 seconds slower, but enough to keep you from trashing your quads early on.

After the first couple miles, start easing into goal pace. This should not feel difficult--if you think you're running too fast you probably are. Miles 3 to 6 are generally downhill and the steepest descent is behind you so it's okay if you're a little fast than goal pace but not much faster. You're goal shouldn't be to bank time--that doesn't work. By the time you pass the Framingham Train Depot near mile 6, you should feel fresh and have settled in on a comfortable pace.

The Flatlands: Framingham to Natick (Miles 6 to 10)

These miles are the closest thing you're going to see to flat until the race's final 10k. This is the perfect time to really settle into your goal pace and to start thinking about hydration and fueling. If you haven't already taken nutrition, go ahead and do so. The sidelines aren't as packed here (though there are still plenty of spectators) and the the field has started to spread out a bit more. Enjoy the breathing room and think about your race.

Cheering Crowds and Co-Eds: Natick to Wellesley (Miles 10 to 13.1)

There are some minor rolling hills in this section but there are also great crowds. Mile 10 brings you through downtown Natick, which is always packed with spectators. As you exit downtown, there's a brief dead zone as you run along some railroad tracks. One of the tricks in this section is to enjoy the crowds but avoid having them affect your pacing. This is especially true as you pass the gates of Wellesley College. You can hear the girls of Wellesley screaming before you can see them and if you're not careful you can find yourself really picking up the pace.

After you pass the school, there's a short uphill and then you're running through downtown Wellesley and some more gently rolling hills. You'll have plenty of spectators and soon you'll hit the half. Hopefully you've managed to keep things in control and you've crossed crossed the half at near goal pace. You can be a little fast, but you're going to need lots of energy for the second half of the race.

The Calm Before the Hills: Wellesley to the Newton Lower Falls (Miles 13.1 to 16)

Washington Street through Wellesley is relatively flat and you should be feeling pretty good. Hopefully you've been consistent with your fueling plan because if not, you'll feel it soon. Mile 15 has the steepest drop on the course since the first mile--90 feet over roughly 3/4 of a mile.  Try to lean slightly into the downhill to save your quads. If you "brake" excessively on this stretch, it will really come back to bite you. That said, make sure your pace is controlled as you cross over the Charles River into Newton and pass the Lower Falls Wine Co.

Those Infamous Hills: Newton (Miles 16 to 21)

This section of the course is undoubtedly the toughest, but it doesn't have to ruin your race. The Newton hills are a series of roughly four hills with an elevation gain of roughly 200 feet. The thing is, for every uphill, there's a downhill. You may lose some time on these miles, but if you run smartly, you won't lose that much.

Try to focus on maintaining an even effort on the uphills. Don’t overstride and try to speed up the hills: they’re too long and there are too many of them for this. Focus on shorter strides and faster turnover instead. You can make up some time by pushing the downhills a little, but also use them as a recovery. The final hill—Heartbreak Hill—comes between miles 20 and 21. You’ll know you’ve conquered it when you pass Boston College at mile 21. 

Well-Earned Downhill: Boston College to Coolidge Corner (Miles 21 to 24)

Right after Boston College the course begins a long stretch of downhill. You have to avoid the temptation of charging down the hill. You still have almost 10k left and if you're legs have made it this far, you don't want to trash them now. Focus on your form and use the downhill to pick up some speed without going out of control.

At mile 22 you run by the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and make a turn onto Beacon Street, a straight line into Boston. Enjoy the increasing crowds and let them pull you forward.

The Final Push: Coolidge Corner to the Finish (Miles 24 to 26.2)

You've made it this far and you know you can finish. The Citgo Sign is looms overhead, right at the 25 mile mark. The Red Sox have likely wrapped up their annual 11 a.m. Patriots Day game and the spectators should be deep on either side of you. Use their energy and focus on the Citgo Sign because there's a little blip of a hill as you run across the Mass. Pike overpass. Focus on moving forward--use your arms if you have to--because you're almost there.

Whether you've realized it or not, you're now running on Comm. Ave. There's one more minor elevation change as the course goes under Mass. Ave and back up, but as soon as you conquer that final dip, it's time to take a right onto Hereford. Hereford is another slight uphill, but it's short and the crowds will be electric at this point. If you have a kick, hold onto it until you make the final turn, a left on Boylston. You can see the finish now so give it everything you've got left. Cross the line and give yourself a high-five--you're a Boston Marathoner!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Race Repot: 2015 Scotland Run 10k

It's finally starting feel like spring here in NYC and yet somehow I managed to catch a cold late last week. By Thursday night I was popping zinc and vitamin c and downing orange juice in an attempt to stave off sickness. I was registered for NYRR's Scotland Run 10k on Saturday and I figured I would wait until that morning to see how I felt before deciding on a race plan. Nonetheless, on Friday evening things didn’t look promising. I took some Nyquil and hoped for the best.  

The race was at 8am on Saturday so I set my alarm for 5:45 a.m. to give me plenty of time to eat and digest my food. For shorter races I stick to a mini bagel with peanut butter since a regular bagel tends to be too much for my stomach at faster speeds. I washed the bagel down with a glass of Kona Cola Nuun since I like a little bit of caffeine but don’t do coffee before races.

I had all of my stuff ready to go, so I found myself with some time to kill (read: time to worry about my cold). I decided I would try racing and see what happened. After my success in the NYC Half a few weeks ago, I also decided to have a Red Ace Organic Beet Juice Shot a couple hours before the race, lest there be any unforeseen GI issues...

Because we're lucky enough to live close to the park, I left the house at 7:25 a.m. to jog to the start. I probably could've left later, but I wanted to check a bag with a change of shoes for after the race and I knew I would need to use the bathroom at least once. I felt pretty good on the jog over, so I my plan of trying to race still seemed like a good idea. I got in the corrals a few minutes before gun time and met up with some fellow Whippets, though I knew they would be running significantly faster than I would.  

The Race

The horn sounded and I followed a sea of humanity across the start line. I had forgotten just how crowded team points races can be--there was no hope of running tangents for the first few miles. I don't wear a Garmin so I was largely running by feel. The first mile, which travels up West Drive is relatively flat. Still, when I clocked it in 5:50 I was shocked. I knew I was running too fast since that's faster than my 5k PR pace.  

The Race Start. Photo Credit: NYRR
Mile 2 includes a minor climb towards the Reservoir (and the highest point anywhere on the drive) followed by a downhill. I slowed a little, but not too much, and settled in near a couple of Queens Distance Runners. My throat was extremely dry so at the second water stop I snagged a cup as I ran by.

Mile 3 covers the Harlem Hills and at this point I started to feel a bit lightheaded. I started to think that maybe I should back off a bit and treat the rest of the race as a tempo run. I slowed a lot, clocking a 6:28 mile. It would have been easy to slow down more, but I could tell by the clock that despite an extremely slow third mile, a PR was sill possible.

Mile 4 is one of the flatest miles on this course and I did my best to keep pushing and make up some time. My legs didn't feel tired nor did my lungs, but I was having trouble moving. I continued onto Mile 5, enjoying a stretch of downhill (Cat Hill is way more fun when you're not running up it) and was greeted by some cheering teammates just past 72nd Street.

With the final mile around the lower loop I concentrated on picking off runners in front of me. For some reason, this final mile seemed to stretch on forever, even though I knew how close I was to the finish. Finally, I hit Mile 6 and knew a PR was unlikely (though, to be honest, I couldn't remember exactly what my PR was). I tried to give it everything I had left and cross the finish in 38:16.

It turned out that I had tied my 10k PR, set last summer, and beaten my Scotland Run time from 2014 by 5 seconds. Considering my cold, I was thrilled with the time. Had I been feeling 100%, I'm sure I could have run faster so now I just need to worry about getting healthy again.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Countdown to Boston: A First-Timers Guide to the Boston Marathon

I was sick yesterday so I'm behind on writing a race report from this weekend's 10k. In the meantime, I figured I would re-post one of my helpful Boston posts from last year, with a few updates. If there's anything you think I missed or you have any questions, feel free to leave some comments!

We're now just over two weeks away from the 119th Boston Marathon so it seems like an appropriate time to start finalizing marathon weekend logistics. In this post, I'm going to give some tips for first timers (and folks who haven't done the race in a while) on everything except how to run the race itself.

The Expo

Phote credit: John Hancock
I think the Boston expo is easily one of the best--if not these best--marathon expos out there. If this is your first time running, you're probably going to want to allot yourself at least an hour to get your bib, wander through all the booths, and stock up on last minute race essentials and overpriced reasonably-priced souvenirs.

A note on the official shirt: Although you had to put down a size on your registration back in September, there's a t-shirt exchange. You can try on your shirt as soon as you get it and if it doesn't fit, swap it for one that does.

A note on the free posters: Each year at the expo, they hand out race posters courtesy of Adidas. The poster has the name of every marathon participant on it so it makes for a great, free souvenir. There's no reason not to take one.

A note on the now infamous jacket: Even if you've seen the official jacket online already and think it's the ugliest thing ever created don't particularly care for it, if this is your first Boston, you're probably going to want to buy it. My suggestion? Skip the terrible lines at the Adidas booth at the expo and head to Marathon Sports.  They've got a store on Boylston right by the finish but also have a number of other locations throughout the metro area so even if you're not staying near the finish, there's probably one near you.  If you sign up for their email newsletter, you can get a 15% coupon that works on the jacket too.(Sadly, they don't seem to be doing the monthly coupon anymore). Now you're skipping long lines and shopping local.

The Day Before

Everyone has their own pre-race rituals so somethings here may be totally irrelevant to you. Oh well!

A note on brunch/breakfast: Last year, the Sunday before the marathon fell on Easter which meant that reservations were a must for breakfast or brunch. This year, it's just a normal Sunday but with swarms of marathoners and their adoring fans in town, I still highly recommend reservations, even if you're just planning to eat at your hotel.

A note on church: This section may be irrelevant for many of you, but if you're someone who goes to church, even occasionally, the day before the race is a great day to go. Most churches in the Boston-area know what a big deal the marathon is and it's not uncommon to get a sermon or homily that's running-related. Many also do a special blessing of the runners. It's always a very cool experience!

Photo credit: BU News Service
A note on dinner: As with brunch, if you're not doing the B.A.A.'s pre-race dinner, you're going to want to have reservations (I'm assuming you already knew that). Many restaurants have special marathon menus with cleverly-named entrees or bottomless pasta. A couple quick recommendations based on past experience:

Dante (Cambridge) - Dante serves bottomless bowls of their homemade pastas on Sunday nights. The service here is great and it's never as hectic as some restaurants closer to marathon events.

DaVinci (Bay Village) - Close to the expo, DaVinci has a special pre-race menu with items like "finish line shrimp linguine" and  "Heart Breaking Chicken Pappardelle." 

Scollay Square (Beacon Hill) - If folks in your group are looking for more than red sauce Italian, Scollay Square is a decent choice. In years past they've had a special pre-marathon menu but their regular menu is wide-ranging with options that could please anyone.

Maggiano's (Back Bay) - Maggiano's may be a national chain but if you're looking for giant family-sized portions of pasta, it's a great place to go. They have plenty of spaces for larger parties too which makes it great if you're traveling in a group.

Papa Razzi (Multiple Locations) - A New England chain with a location on Newbury Street near the expo and finish, Papa Razzi serves up oak-fired pizzas, homemade pasta, and other Italian fare. This year they're doing a special deal for marathoners: sign-up online and get $5 off your first visit, $10 off your second visit, and $15 off your third visit between now and May 15th.

The Morning Of

Photo credit: The Lakefront Trail
I'll keep this short: TAKE THE OFFICIAL TRANSPORTATION. Hopkinton is a small town with narrow streets. It gets extremely crowded on race day and if you're not on a B.A.A. vehicle (or a charity bus), there's a good chance you won't be able to get anywhere near the start.

A note on bag check: Yes, it's a bummer that you can no longer bring a bag with you to Hopkinton, but it's not the end of the world. If you're staying far from the finish and/or won't have family and/or friends meeting you after, you may want to check a bag. The question to ask yourself is whether the Common is more convenient than wherever else you could get a change of clothes. You will get an insulated waterproof poncho at the end which should buy you a little bit of time before really needing to change. Regardless of what you decided to do, I recommend dressing warmly in multiple layers for the wait in the Athlete's Village.

A note on lines in the Common:  If you're taking one of the buses from the Common, don't be alarmed if you see what look like massive lines when you show up. Each bus has its own line and they move surprisingly fast. The B.A.A. may not have been running buses for all 118 years of the marathon, but they've got plenty of practice. What you'll experience is a well-oiled machine.

A note on when to catch your bus: Get to the Common at your designated time. Buses get backed up as you approach Hopkinton and you don't want to miss being called to your wave because you took a later bus. The Athlete's Village is a 5 to 10 minute walk from the start and you're probably going to want to use the bathroom too. Allow yourself plenty of time.

Okay, those are my tips for now. I'll be back with a post on course strategy as we get closer to the race.