Saturday, May 1, 2010

Nice legs, shame about the face

I'm just about coming to terms with what happened in Boston. In a way it reminds me of the existential crisis which strikes many after their Finals. You spend all winter working towards a single goal, where everything you do is done in the light of this singular goal. Then one day, you write the final Final, go out for a beer (perhaps) and the next day you wake up and there is a huge exam-shaped hole in your life.

Pretty much the same thing here; after a winter of focussing on a singular event, there is now a huge marathon-shaped hole in my life. Could I cope with the sudden listlessness? Normally, probably. However, whatever coping strategies I may have had to deal with the whole post-marathon listlessness thing have been scuppered by the whole PW thing. Sure it happens, and sure it probably happens to most at Boston, the course is known for it. Some console themselves by saying that running ten minutes slower than your qualifying time is normal; so was my 3:14 typical given I qualified with a 3:05? Sure, except I qualified with 3:05 at Boston! One can't help but feel it was all a bit futile; all those runs in the dark and snow, those early mornings, the spartan diet and for a PW? M'eh.

So how did the day go? Very early start for this race. Up at 04:30; granola and Advil for breakfast and out of the door by 5:45 for the mile walk to Boston Common to get the bus. It was a lovely morning; blue skies and no wind. The first half-mile along Columbus we were the only ones, after we passed the T did we start to see more and more people in track-pants and club-jackets with the official plastic bag over their shoulders.

It helps to be in the first wave of buses. I've heard horror stories of the later buses getting caught in traffic and taking well over an hour to make the 45 minute journey. I can't even start to imagine how stressful that might be. It may have been an early start but at least one stressor was kinda controllable.

It's quite the sight though, that long line of school-buses, as it leaves the Common with Boston's finest holding all the lights and waving the convoy through.

When we got to the start village, club-mate Ray Moorehead had snagged a prime spot for us under the tent, protected from the wind but in the sun. We hunkered down there and munched on bagels and bananas and tried to keep the anxiety down. Ray mentioned he might have peaked a bit too early in March; I said I peaked too early at 08:00 that morning! I was ready to go at eight, but had to hold for another two hours!

Funnily, of the five of us there, four of us were in new shoes. Ray had a fluorescent pair of go-fasters that only had a couple of runs in them. Randall's too. La belle and I both bought new shoes at the Expo; at those prices you'd be mad not to.

These shoes had 5K on them come race day, plus the 1.5km walk to the Common on race morning. Pretty much all I'd done was a quick loop to make sure the laces were right then tied on the official race chip

This year the chips were the disposable ones and I've seen a few Boston marathoners around Halifax still with the chip laced in to their shoes since we didn't have to get them clipped off at the end! We'd better collectively remember that before we do our next race or else we're really going to piss off Mike Richard and the Atlantic Chip guys.

This new shoe thing runs counter to everything they teach you, but really, it wasn't a problem, I'd done this before. I'd been running a pair of Mizuno Precisons since Moose, I ran Precisions all last summer in and, to all intents and purposes, the Ascends I'd run all winter in are the same shoe as well (with a more aggressive sole and a bit of posting). There's nothing quite like that bouncy new shoe feel! If I'd felt like it, I could have swapped the insoles from the old shoes into the new ones, but I didn't even need to do that. To be honest, by the end of the day my feet were the best part of me. This is the third or fourth time I've run a marathon in Mizunos straight out of the box, and run to both PBs and PWs, so overall it works for me. Would I recommend it? As long as you go for exactly the same shoe, and you never have any teething problems with a new pair before - then why not?

Anyway, back to the official race bits, the race packet looked like this, with the stern admonition to us the chip, official number and safety pins.

Of course to my pedantic, childish mind, this sounded like we were to use the official safety pins to affix the aforementioned official number to our vests. So, I used the official safety pins (enclosed) to ensure I wasn't DQ'd on a minor point. Not that someone would try and get me ejected from the race to secure the coveted 3555th place for themselves on a technicality ("he wasn't using the right safety-pins gov!") but still, official BAA safety pins it was.

At the athletes village I have to say, there were enough portapotties; the queue wasn't that bad, considering they were catering to 26000. We were tickled to see at the Expo, the changing room at the Brooks booth was a portapottie....

....if only the ones at race site were quite so well appointed (and fragrant).

After last years mistakes, the game plan was to run an easy first half and not to get carried away on the initial downhill sections. Certainly the first 10K went to plan, thanks to fellow NSer Leah Jabbour. We kept each other company for the first 8K/5 miles and stayed on pace;Leah was aiming for, and got, a sub-3 (way to go Leah) and we knocked off a 21 minute 5K and even though she tailed me off at 8K, I hit the 10K with a 42 or something. All in all, a more relaxed pace than last year and having someone to talk to for the first 30 minutes helped tosettle me down alittle. Funnily, we heard "Gonna Fly Now" from Rocky played at the side of the road three times in the first three miles. Someone was channelling Mark Stein and it made us feel right at home.

They tell you in marathons to look outside you as much as possible; if you dwell on inwards thoughts from the begining you will start to feel bad earlier. I tried this, tried to see more of the course than I had the previous year. I think I managed this and I have more memories from the road-side than last year, where all I remember seeing was the patch of tarmac straight in front of me.

Then sonmething funny happened. I startd to feel bored; when would this thing be over? I've been running for ages and we're not even at Wellesley yet. Weird; never had that in a marathon before. I think this was a manifestation of the overall malaise I'd had coming into this event. And my quads started to ache. Already! Dammitt.

Wellesley was loud and the screams were at the exact pitch that made my ears hurt. By this point I was trying to zone out a little and just concentrate on putting one foot in front of the other. I tried not to look at mileage markers and tried not to look at my Garmin; the numbers weren't going to make good reading and I was feeling crappy enough without seeing pace numbers like that. Plus, when you look at your Garmin six times and see 23 point something each time, well, it doesn't feel that you're making progress. So just keep on putting one foot in front of the other and try not to worry about numbers.

Surprisingly the Newton Hills didn't feel too bad after all, but then I didn't have to fall that far to feel bad. Even though my running form was bad and my pace was worse, I managed what passed for a run all the way through the hills. In fact, I didn't walk until mile 23, and even then I always managed to keep some forward velocity and never actually stopped. Even though I'd had those threatening "wobbles"in my legs, I didn't get cramps until the last mile though either, and then only in the gastrocs and they weren't bad enough to stop me from running. Not quite sure how I pulled that one off.

The crowds get thicker and more vocal the closer you get to Boston. That I remembered from last year. What surprised me was how aggressive the crowds got after Boston College (20 miles). On a couple of occasions I was scared out off walking breaks by guys screaming at me, and not nicely, to stop walking. Can you imagine what it must be like to be a pro sucking on the Red Sox, Bruins or Celtics roster when they treat random runners in the marathon like this!

Either that, or the sight of me running wasn't pretty (as you can see). Of all the pictures to be sent as a freebie it had to be this one. And what's with the arm; am I channeling Elvis (thangyuhvurymuch)? Apart from one awesome bulging quads shot (nice legs but shame about the face) the official pictures are a depressing sight. My bib # is pretty much the smallest number in the shot and a race-walk official would have no reason to disqualify me!

I like this one though.... was nice to get a shot together at the end; last year I was in the med tent (getting soup) and we kinda missed each other.

On the subject of medical tents, I had Advil for breakfast, another two on the start line and a couple more to help me move (then sleep) afterwards. Or put another way; you know those packets of Junior Motrin, the 24 x 100 mg tablets? Yup, I ate the equivilent of a whole one of those in one day to cope with one marathon. Thank goodness for childproof caps!

There's a saying in marathon circles that 20 miles is half way. This graph proves it. I was keeping a good pace in the early part of the race, a slight upwards trend as I tired, but not too bad. The blue box is the Newton Hills, with the far right edge being Heartbreak (at 32K/20 miles) and it seems apart from Heartbreak itself, I was holding my own. I kinda came back to normality in the few kilometres after it then bang, all hell broke loose, going from 4:30s to 5:30s. Ouch! That was the walking for you. Would not walking have helped the time? Maybe, it would have saved 4 minutes (4 kms at 5:30 instead of 4:30), which whilst not quite a PW wouldn't have been an outstanding result. Besides, the marathon is 26 miles, not 23, so there's no point what-iffing. It looks like I found my legs again around Kenmore Square/the CitGo sign. I didn't think I did, but I neither do I think the Garmin lies, so clearly I found something in the tank!

I must have been bored one day, or perhaps I just can't switch it all the way off, but I got to thinking how good a predictor the had Moose been? I remember thinking at the time that my 1:38 was indicating a 3:08-ish marathon, based on the what happened at PEI or last year at Boston. Was I right?

Kind of. This year is in red. If this point is excluded, there is an r2 of 0.53 (black dotted line). Granted, not Letter To Nature/trip to Stockholm significant, but certainly suggestive there is a relationship. Include this year's Boston, that figure falls to 0.35 (red solid line) which is the statistical equivalent of go home and take two Asprin - you're seeing things. So statistics, at least, tells me this race wasn't normal by any standards. And regardless of how you feel about Disraeli, if it gets to where a linear regression has to tell you you had a sucky race, then you definitively had a sucky race. Ninety-five times out of a hundred!

What went wrong? Many things I suspect and I could drive myself mad trying to isolate each variable and give it an appropriate weight. Weight, however, is probably some of it and is tied in to how I was training for this one. I was told I was training too hard, however such a spectacular failure of form might suggest I wasn't training enough.

So where next? Believe it or not, Bluenose. I'm bunnying the half and I'll carry on and do the whole thing. Call it "getting back on the horse". What can I say, it's all Mark Campbell's fault!

Fricking marathon.



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