My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience
So…where to begin….well lets go back four months ago the day after the Hamilton marathon where I accomplished a huge goal that had been in my pocket for a year. A sub 3 hour marathon was something I always knew I could do. The question was when would it happen? I never wrote a race report. I am not sure why. I think I was so mentally exhausted and just needed a break to let it sink in. Knowing I only had about a month until training began for Boston, the disconnect was much needed. OK moving on…..
Training-Jan to April -16 weeks- I knew I had not lost fitness coming into the training cycle. I was physically healthy and I would start where I left off. What I didn’t know was whether or not I could get under 3 hours in Boston. That was the only reason I was going back. I have run the race 3 times which I thought was enough for me. Running Boston is a risk you take every year as the weather is unpredictable. I have experienced heat and a day of cold, wind and rain that I didn’t think I would ever experience again…until Monday.
Training progressed well considering the winter but it also all felt easier as I was running the same paces I had in the fall. I was able to push hard on some of my long runs knowing that I had done it before. I had a little hitch in training with about 7 weeks to go when I got hit by a car running. I thought i was OK but ever since that day my knee was giving me issues. As a therapist I diagnosed myself and knew I had to stop any hard hill work , especially downhill for the next few weeks. I managed it well, didn’t’ miss any training but knew the downhill in Boston might affect me come race day more than initially expected. There was nothing I could do about it at that point so I stayed pretty confident and positive. After a few weeks I was able to get back to rolling hills but then taper came. Another small hitch came when I realized my iron stores were too low. After a few weeks of sub par performance in some of my quality runs and just feeling off, I knew I needed a blood test. An easy fix with some iron supplements with about a month until race day and I started to feel much better.
Tapering- I think this was my strongest physically and mentally. If anyone knows me they know I do not like taper, I do not like disrupting my routine. Learning from Hamilton, coach Stan, Larry and I figured out what works for me . I like staying with high mileage and cutting my hard down. It worked out perfectly. I felt great the whole 3 weeks and the days leading up to the race. It also prevents me from getting sick before the race.
The Trip- Destination marathons are always harder to manage. I find it more difficult when it comes to carb loading. I am a planner and usually have most of my carb loading for 3 days planned out. Some would say this is neurotic but I would tell you to read the research and most people don’t get enough or get too many for their body mass. This allows me to know I have done everything possible and I will be going into the race fueled properly. After that the only thing I have to worry about it race day. This can be a great confidence booster. I hit the whole foods, planned the weekend out properly and was ready.
The Race- OK, no buts about it, I was becoming neurotic about the weather. I couldn’t believe this was happening to me again. If you ask Stan and Larry, they will tell you I was not happy. The forecast looked terrible. As some of you know, three years ago in Boston we had similar weather and I got hypothermia and spent time in the medical tent. I swore I never wanted to go through that again. Well, it was looking like I was going to go through that again! I was a little more prepared this time, but knew there was really nothing I could do to keep myself dry or warm. I was going to have to suffer. Did I want to suffer? That was a decision I had to make.
Race morning- We all woke up to the blowing, rain and bitter cold which was definitely worse than expected. I turned on the Boston news broadcasting from Hopkinton and it didn’t look any better. I honestly had not made the decision yet. I really wanted to drop out and call it a day. I contemplated running Mississauga or Buffalo in the coming weeks. I then realized I came here for one reason, to run strong in Boston. I remember a conversation with Larry in the training cycle telling him it was very important for me to finish Boston feeling strong and complete. Strong on Monday April 16th meant throwing time out of the window and running a smart race. Lining up on the start line I couldn’t feel my hands, my feet were soaked and frozen and every gust of wind blew me backwards. I ran into Rob G who didn’t look much happier and we just sighed.
First half-I started the race slower than normal, chatted with Rob for a few km and trotting away with my big red throw away hooded sweatshirt on that was gaining lbs of water by the minute. A little tidbit, don’t try to get a hooded sweatshirt off while running with a visor and two toques on. Runners behind you are going to curse! I finally got it off but lost a glove in the process….yikes…that was going to come back and bite me later. Anyway, back to the race. I started to just sit back, control my easy running. I was still keeping a decent pace considering the elements and not expending more energy than needed. Shivering at the start definitely tore through my glycogen stores early so I needed to conserve as much as I could.
I was pleasantly surprised when I came across the halfway point in 1:30:30 feeling pretty relaxed. Most of my mental energy had been spent dodging puddles, trying to draft and hoping the downpours would stop. This could have been a blessing in disguise because the km’s just started to fly by. I cruised through the ups and downs with ease. I kept on hearing Larry in my head “tuck behind , tuck behind, get on someones shoulder”. Another tidbit…..it is more difficult to draft on a hilly course. Everyone runs up and down differently so paces really start altering and you can find yourself running someone else’s race. As the halfway part of the race approached I was starting to really notice my frozen hands and legs. Not ever running in these conditions before I didn’t know how my quads were going to react later in the race.
Second half- I still felt pretty good but was unable to get any fuel because I couldn’t physically get the gels out of my pockets. After the sixth time trying to reach in and grab them I realized it was not going to happen. I knew I had to get one from the course. I took one from a volunteer at around 28 and then dropped it trying to get it open. Again, I knew this would come back to bite me but at this point it was the least of my worries. The focus was on the hills of Newton. The hills came and went expending as little energy as possible. I still had to hold back as you knew the weather was not going to let up. As you approach Boston the course opens up a bit and you are more exposed to the elements. I know I needed to prepare for that.
Top of heartbreak is at 34 km- This was the first time in the race when I knew my lack of fuel and water (which I had just 2 sips of the entire race ) was coming into play. My quads started to feel like bricks.The cold was becoming so painful I had a tough time getting down the hill. It hit me pretty quick. I was just praying for flat as I was able to get back up to speed but we all know in Boston there is’t any flat….so I guess I was praying for the uphills where I felt no pain and could fly. “Ouch” was the only word I was saying until the finish line. Mentally I was clear as day, I felt like I could go faster but my legs just couldn’t move faster. It was actually very very frustrating. It felt like my femurs were going to break off they were so cold and painful. I was sure around half I would come in around 3:03 comfortably but lost some time those last 8 km and finished 3:05. I was still very very happy with how I ran the race. I raced it for placing like Larry always says.
Post race- My 2018 Boston marathon WAS the grittiest performance of my life. I realized I had a sub 3 in me easily today in good conditions…. but this is the marathon. We all know what we are getting ourselves in to when we sign up. That is why you need to have other goals other than the race times. Love the process more than anything because sometimes that’s all we have.