Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Boston Race Report

At 3:30 AM I was looking at the clock radio and hoping I could sleep a little more before my alarm went off at 4:30. By 4:15 I gave up and started the hotel room's little coffee maker. I was a little nervous but mostly excited to be running the Boston Marathon.

After eating a little snack and getting a good luck kiss from Laura I grabbed my race gear and headed out to the hotel shuttle. They actually had two shuttles leaving at 5:00 AM because there were so many people there running the marathon. I saw my new friend Chanda, who Laura and I had met a couple nights earlier on the hotel shuttle. We ended up riding the T together and then met her friend/coach, Heath.

On the bus to Hopkinton I sat by an older gentleman who wasn't much for small talk. "I'm not going to talk to you," he said after I asked him a couple of questions. "I do best when I stay calm." So, I rode the bus to Hopkinton admiring the scenery.

Athlete's Village was chilly. They had bagels, water, Gatorade, and bananas so I ate a little more. Then, just when I was on top of the world having gotten an extra trash bag from a worker who gave it to me on the condition that I keep in on the "DL," tragedy struck. I rolled onto my side to rest and enjoy the extra space my new trash bag afforded me when I felt something wet on my leg. This is strange, I thought. I'm on a trash bag, my leg shouldn't be getting wet. Was there a hole in the trash bag? Was the bag wet. Nope. Instead, in my infinite wisdom I had forgotten about the two gels in my pocket. The GU was fine, but the chocolate cherry Cliff shot had popped. After laughing about it and replacing the Cliff gel with another, I got to a porta-potty and was able to get cleaned up.

At 9:10 it was finally time to line up for the race. The amount of people there was just incredible. I was in the 3rd corral of the first wave so I walked with Heath where he left for the second wave. It was very sunny at the start but also very windy so I kept my throw-aways on until right before we started.

Although the crowd was thick and the street was pretty narrow the crowd moved along pretty well and I came through the first mile in 7:10. After that I wasn't hampered at all by the crowds except occasionally at water stops. The first 5k was mostly downhill but I was able to keep a conservative pace at around 6:53 / mile.

By the 10k mark things were going pretty well. My legs felt good and my cold wasn't bothering me too much at all. I couldn't believe how fast the race was going by. There couldn't have been more than 20 feet of street without someone standing and cheering and there were hundreds of kids out giving high fives. There was a solid tail wind and the temperature was in the 50s--pretty nice although it felt a little warm.

Around the 15k mark there was a group of people holding a big Nebraska flag so I had to shout, "Go Huskers!" That got the Nebraska fans all fired up and was a nice mental break for me.

I came through the 20k mark at 1:24:15. It was pretty cool thinking that last year I had went into a 20k hoping to break 1:25 and now I was right where I wanted to be time-wise at the Boston Marathon. My legs still felt good at this point and I was thinking more and more about the Newton Hills.

My half marathon split was 1:28:48. At this point I thought I might still have a chance for 2:55 but I knew I had to get through the Newton Hills first. But, before I got there I saw someone who looked familiar--it was a guy I'd run with for a while at the Fetzer 20k in 2010 named Kam. I said hi to him and we chatted a little before he slowed down a little and we separated.

The first of the Newton Hills comes around 16 miles and I actually thought it was the most challenging of the hills--maybe because before that it been almost all downhill and flat. The hills were tough but not terrible. I tried to relax and save some energy for the downhill finish. There were some people walking on the hill here and there but not a ton. On Heartbreak Hill there was one guy run-walking up the hill yelling to the crowd stuff like, "C'mon, I need it!" and trying to pump them up. Man, if I were walking up a hill I'd save my energy, but whatever.

I knew Laura was going to be watching somewhere around Heartbreak so I looked for her in the crowd from mile 20.5 to 22. She saw me, but somehow I just missed her. In one of the pictures she took of me you can tell I'm looking for her, but I'm obviously not looking in the right place.

After Heartbreak the course is mainly downhill. I was hoping to take advantage of the downhills and get close to 2:55, but yesterday wasn't the day for 2:55. My quads were screaming on the downhill portions and it was tough to hold my pace let alone push it. I don't really remember much about the last 4 miles. I remember seeing the Citgo sign, doing some math wrong in my head that made me think with 3.5 miles left that I still had a shot at 2:55 (I didn't), and the huge roar of the crowd at the finish.

Sub three hours wasn't in the bag for sure until really the last 1/2 mile. With one mile left I knew I needed to run around 7:10 for the last mile and it was by no means going to happen easily. I was able to dip just deep enough into the well to run it fast enough. Turning onto Boylston Street I knew I'd picked up the pace but when I looked down and saw I was moving around 5:50 / mile I was almost certain I'd break 3 hours. Final time: 2:59:42.

It was a great day for a race and I had an awesome time in Boston. Not only did I have fun, I also got to run in the footsteps of the fastest marathon ever run. I'd definitely like to do this race again.

The gel disaster:

Heath & Chanda:

"Where's Laura?" after Heartbreak Hill:

Geoffrey Mutai, on his way to the world's fastest marathon:

At the finish with my beautiful wife:


Stephanie said...

I'm so proud of you Nate!


Nitmos said...

Awesome job and great race recap! I never got to "lounge" around at the athlete's village when I went...it was straight off the bus and straight to the start line arriving just in time for the gun to sound.

Since the hills were so easy for you, you must have been well prepared. Congrats!