Boston 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Left on Boylston

The final, final, final hill on the Boston course is the relatively short stretch up Hereford before you make the left onto Boylston.

I've cramped up on this hill in the past, but not today.

Today was different. I still had something left in the tank to get me over the hump.

I've rehearsed this stretch of the run at least seven times over the past four months, mostly on my Wednesday night BU Death Runs. I always made it a point to detour my BU run to make sure I get this part down pat.

Cut the tangent on the turn, look out for that pothole, don't turn too wide.

Also on my BU run two weeks prior, I walked off the distance from the corner of Hereford/Boylston to the finish line, and my Garmin told me that this stretch was .35 miles. That's pretty short considering that this stretch becomes the longest stretch of road on Marathon Monday.

.35 miles, huh? I should be able to do that within 1:40 with fresh legs.

My Garmin now read 2:48:15 as I powered my way around the final turn for the home stretch.

I couldn't believe how close this was actually going to be.

.35 miles to go.

I thought back to all of the track workouts over the winter at the Rat Dome in Lexington. All of the 200's, 400's, and 800's that Coach Run Faster made us do. What was the point of all that?

Now I know.

2:49:00 with less than 400 meters to go.

I barely recall much of this part on Boylston other than the fact that I looked for a clear path to the finish, closed my eyes, gritted my teeth, and went for broke.

365 Days, New Year's Run, Track Workouts, Catamount Hill, Park Ave, Wollaston, Eastern Ave, RT2, BU Death Runs, Fudgcicle Series, Super 5K, New Bedford Half, Good Times #1.

Training runs and races with and against Reno Stirrat, Joe Donnelly, Dima Feinhaus, Jim Rhoades, Ephraim Ezekiel, Chris Spinney, Joe Navas, Gary Allen, Lawrence Allen, Jim St. Pierre, Jim Garcia, Blaine Moore, Gary McNamee, John Rheaume, Dan Verrington, Mike Shanahan, Ken Skier, Keith O'Brien, David Penn, Paul Kelly, Michael Brodeur, Matt Germaine, Jonathan Morris, Eric Beauchesne, EJ, Fil, Frank, John, Jeff, James, Andy, Jill, Glenn, Cody, Titus, Festus, Scooter, Teddy, and on and on and on.

I opened my eyes at the very last possible second of my dead sprint....


All of that work over four months for this one literal second of pure joy.

I had nothing left on Boylston, but a smile on my face.

(Happy Ending)

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Right on Hereford

The GLRR mystery man at Mile 22 was none other than GLRR legend David Oliver!

(flying high)

I didn't recognize him at first because he was wearing the prototype GLRR racing singlet (gotta get me one of those!). Once I did though, it was a whole new race for me.

This sighting gave me a huge boost of energy and a 4th wind. I stayed focus on trying to catch David and that kept me right on the pace that I needed to maintain. This was very similar when I chased down Andrew Biancheri, also of GLRR, near the end of this year's New Bedford Half to help me finish strong there.

On a side note, this is another reason for you to sign up for a running club! So why not join the chickens?!

It took me at least another half mile before I was able to catch David, exchange pleasantries, and continue on my way with a new found bounce in my step.

I was actually hoping that David was also shooting for sub-2:50 so that we could work together and pull each other in over the final two miles. Unfortunately, I took a quick peak and saw that I was pulling further and further away from David as we powered down the descents on the other side of Newton.

Once again I found myself all alone among hundreds of other runners.

I took my third and final GU before hitting the 40K mark in 2:41:27. I was officially 8 for 8 for the 20 minute 5K goals, but now I had less than 10 minutes and 1.4 miles of pain standing in between me and my ultimate goal of 2:49:59 at the finish.

I definitely didn't want to settle on being "in first place for the most days during the season", only to come up short when it counted most.  

The first sign of the impending finish appeared off in the distance as I approached my nemesis at Mile 25.

(running on fumes)

The relatively tiny hill that is the Mass Pike bridge overpass looms large for me every year, and has always tripped me up in the past.
I needed another boost, and that boost came in the form of Kara Haas!

(wonder woman)

She told me that she'd be out at Mile 25 to give everyone that extra boost, since she also felt that this was the crummiest part of the course. Boy is she right, and boy did she help!

I heard her scream my name and I looked over to my right to see her beaming smile!

And with that I shot over that puny little hill in record time and made my way into the Comm Ave tunnel.

Inside the tunnel I could easily hear other runners behind me swear up a storm as they cramped up on this final down hill.

I just focused on the daylight at the end of the tunnel.

I quickly thought back to Jan 1st when Reno, Gary, and I last ran this actual portion of the course. I've been here before. I've done this before.

Let's Do This!

My Garmin read 2:47:30 as I made the final right on Hereford.

The Hills Are Alive

The tweak in my hamstring at the half-way mark turned out to be a false alarm. I was just passing gas and something slid down my legs. No worries.

(Oh, crap!)

I was now alone and running my own race. I got through the 25K in 1:39:48. Another 20 minute 5K in the books, but the worse was yet to come as I entered Newton.

My legs were feeling a little heavy, but nothing that a little GU couldn't fix. From under my cap I took out my first packet of GU and slowly ingested it before going down the steep Lower Newton Falls, and tackling the first hill of Newton on the other side of mile 16.

This is my second least favorite hill on the course. After running pretty much downhill for 16 miles you come up on the 128 overpass and have to change gears. This is the first true test of your marathon training. You'll definitely feel it here if you haven't sufficiently prepared for hills in your training.

All of those repeats on Catamount Rd paid off as I kept up the same effort going over 128. 1 down, 3 to go.

Managed to catch my breath on the fast downside heading towards the Newton fire station and the (in)famous right hand turn.

I always let out a sigh of displeasure once I see that first hill after the turn. No matter how many times I run this course, I always forget how much it sucks.

I also continued to drench myself with water at every aid station in order to remain cool even though my GLRR singlet now resembled a sweater vest on steroids.

The tailwind today was heaven sent, but it made for a very, very warm day. In between water stops I was now forced to take water from little boys and girls who were kind enough to offer up their cold drinks to me. Well, I hope they were anyways....

After grabbing some water from a spectator at Mile 18, I heard someone yell at me for illegally taking water from the crowd. It was fellow GLRR'er Jim Garcia and his eerie pre-race prediction ("See you at 18").

I got a good laugh from that one and it also gave me a huge boost of energy to know that I just passed a GLRR runner who was going to go onto his 5th straight decade of sub-3 marathons (all at Boston no less)!! Congrats Jim!

The 30K mark came and went in a little over 2 hours. I now had less than 50 minutes to get through the next 7+ miles. I just needed to keep up my current pace and manage sub 7's the rest of the way, but of course, the rest of the way included two more Newton Hills, including Heartbreak.

I also made sure not to miss Jim Rhoades this time around, and managed to pretend that I was still having fun.

I put my nose and eyes to the ground and went into survival mode over the next two miles to get over hill #3. I leaned heavily into the hill and did a steady cadence count as I put one foot in front of the other. Water and sweat was pouring down my visor.

Then it was over.

I felt a little delirious and actually mistakenly thought that I had just crested Heartbreak! My first clue that I was an idiot was that there was no BC or Cleveland Circle. DOH!

It's a actually a relatively long stretch between the 3rd hill and the top of Heartbreak, and it always feels a lot longer at this point in the race. This did however give me some time to recoup and take another GU before the final assault.

Once again, nose and eyes to the ground, arms pumping, high knee lifts, cadence count, same effort. Just as I had practiced and been instructed by Coach Chewy Stirrat.


Then it was over!

It took nearly everything I had to keep my pace from creeping up into the danger zone, but I was finally over the last hurdle on my way to sub 2:50, and now the fun was about to begin.


But wait, I'm all the way back here. Who the heck from GLRR are they cheering for up ahead?!

(???? ??????)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Half

Brendan and I rolled through the 10K, 15K, and 20K marks like two well-oiled sumo wrestlers going down a water slide (hard to believe that there's no image for this description on the Internets).

(4 down...)

Like I said previously, everything for much of this race was going to be a blur to me, and this section was no different. I only recalled a couple of memorable items of note through this stretch.

One clear memory was seeing Team Hoyt at mile 8.9 going as strong as ever. Simply amazing and inspiring.

On the comical side, Brendan and I witnessed a spectator offer up a beer to a  runner (from Ireland no less), and that runner taking the offer and running off with the beer with the drunken spectator in tow for a good 20 yards! I think we were finally able to relax now.

The other memorial part of this run were the cheers for Greater Lowell and the lack thereof for my running partner's club, Somerville. Well, to be fair a couple of fat chicks did scream Somerville, and we eventually agreed that those girls would count as two on our virtual scorecard. Then again, to be even more fair we counted old chicks as deductions. So, in the end it was GLRR 89, SRR -32.

I think Brendan finally had had enough of my new found fame by Mile 11 and decided to run his own race. He told me to go for it before dropping back into the pack. 

One final note on Brendan's assistance during this stretch. We were hitting very low 6's around the Framingham T station, and it was Brendan who, thankfully, reeled me back in. I clearly remember him telling me that it was too early to be hammering it. I'm sure I would have pushed it even harder, and paid for it later on, if not for his warning. Thanks again, buddy!

Once Brendan dropped back, I took that as my cue to really see what I could do. At this point I felt like I was in good shape for 2:47ish, and was only about 3 seconds per mile off of that pace. I also wanted to build that buffer by the 13.1 mile mark.

To my amazement and in a way my displeasure, I hit the half-way mark in 1:24:10. This was exactly (I mean to the millisecond) of what I needed to run according to the Boston spreadsheet. Displeasure because I pretty much had banked NO extra time whatsoever. This meant that the second half was going to be 1:25:49 or bust!

There was definitely no room for error or Mile 14's now.

And then I felt a tweak in my right hamstring.

First 5K

The start was as fast and as crowded as I remembered from prior years.

The one thing that I knew that I'd regret about this run, if everything went according to plan, was that I'd pretty much miss everything that happened around me. I was already zoned out and so focused on my goal that I didn't even pay attention to the early crowds and the party atmosphere.

I don't even recall seeing/hearing the drunk bikers at the biker bar!

The weather was absolutely perfect for running and spectating, so right away I knew it was going to be an epic day in some form or fashion.

I had no trouble getting into 6:30 pace mode early on, but every now and then I'd run up against a 6:45 or 7 runner and would have to squirm my way through. I eventually just went off to the far right hand side and settled in.

I even missed Jim Rhoades (and he missed me) at mile 1 (6:34)!

The same thought kept on running through my mind: 20 minute 5K's. 20 minute 5K's. 20 minute 5K's.

I'd have to do 8 of them at that pace. Tough, but not impossible.

I didn't realize it at first when I looked at the pacing sheet, but that pace would leave me with very little room for error. I'd have to get myself to the half in 1:24:10, and then get through the second half in 1:25:39, giving me a positive split of ONLY 1:39 at the finish.

That folks would be a marathon PR split for me.

Let me just say that I suck at marathon splits. I have never had a negative split in any of the 8 marathons that I've officially completed. My best being 2:21 (Portland) and my worse being 22:54 (NYC).

The best half split that I've ever managed over the 26.2 distance was at my first BQ'er, and first official marathon, in Portland, ME back in 2009. I had a positive split of 2:21 on that rolling course, which is considered very runner friendly.

I had a positive split of 5:59 at last year's Boston, in what I thought was one of my better marathon runs, albeit a little too conservative through the first half.

I even started to doubt the fact that I could even pull this off today when I finally realized the split that I'd have to do.

Perhaps I should try to get through the half in 1:23 and give myself a little more breathing room at the end?

Then nature came calling. My bladder was already at full capacity again and I was only 2 miles into the run! There was no way I would be able to hold it in for the rest of the way, so I dove off to the side of the road and into the woods for a quick pee break.

This cost me about 30 seconds and brought my overall pace up to 6:45, but I quickly made that back up now that I wasn't thinking about an exploding bladder. Trust me, it's always better to just take the time to go during a marathon, even if it's Mile 14 and all you have are your gloves...

I was just about to pick up the pace even more when out of nowhere, and in the sea of runners, I managed to ID Brendan Kearney and his mustard stained Somerville singlet.

(running gods smiling down on us)

Have I ever spoken to Brendan in person? Nope. How about seeing him at other races? Nope. Not really. I just knew him from Facebook and remembered his last comments to me regarding my annoying Boston Marathon weather watch:

(See, I was right!)

But for whatever reason I really felt compelled to say hello to him in the middle of a sub-2:50 run and shake his hand.

We exchanged quick pleasantries and he asked me if I was still going to run 2:50. I told him I was going to run eight 20 minute 5K's. He just smiled and said let's do it!

Brendan basically saved my race from that point on.

First 5K: 20:12

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Start

It was a little after 9:15AM when Bash, Chris, and I made our way down Grove St towards our corrals. The general layout of the area appeared to be different this year, I'm guessing that it was setup that way to accommodate the newly implemented three wave start.

It actually took us about 10 minutes of wandering around before we were even able to find Grove St!

The nerves were definitely starting to kick in now. I could feel the energy from the crowd around us as we just kept on moving forward down Grove. This part to me always feels like the start of a roller coaster ride. A nice, slow, unassuming start, and then BAM!

About a half-mile later we turned the corner onto Main St and Chris was the first to reach his corral. We wished each other luck and parted ways. Bash and I continued on further up Main St. This part is always a little sad due to the fact that you won't see each other again for at least another three hours, and that's if things go according to plan.

Bash went into his corral and we repeated the farewell ritual. I continued on down about two more sections until I reached corral #2, my home for the next 15 minutes.

Corral #2 is directly across from the church where the elites hang out before the race. Even then I couldn't catch a glimpse of Ryan Hall when he was introduced to a nice ovation. I looked around for a couple of minutes to see if I recognized anyone else in my corral. Nobody.

I eventually moved to the far right of my corral, with about five minutes to the start, in order to discard my throw away top. That was when I saw Jimmie Cochran and screamed "JIMMIE!!".

Unbeknownst to me, Jim Garcia was standing right next to me and probably thought that I thought that he was deaf! Before JC made his way over to me, JG shook my hand and congratulated me on receiving the GLRR Runner of the Year Award a few days prior. Then he said the oddest thing, "I'll see you at 18".

I didn't think anything of it at the time, and couldn't, since JC was all over me by that point. We gave each other a big man hug and smiled for the camera.

(Boston was just a warm up for Jimmie's day)

I removed my hat for the live rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, which gave me a chance to check on the two GU's that I had stashed away under my cap. I made sure to fasten my cap as tight as possible since the winds were howling at close to 20 miles per hour. Thank god it was supposed to be a tailwind today.

I think there was a fly over some point, but if they used a stealth fighter, we'll never know for sure.

I checked my Garmin one more time and then looked straight ahead.

The gun went off and the corral surged forward.

I was at least 30 yards from the front so it took me about 30 seconds of shuffling before I reached the official start of the race.

26.2 miles to go. 

Thursday, April 21, 2011


After dozing off for what felt like a whole five minutes, I was wide awake and ready to take on Boston 2:49:59!

My bags were packed, the dogs were eaten, and the breakfast walked (Yeah, I know, I'm riding this joke like a dying water buffalo in a persistence hunt).

I gave Rachel a quick kiss before she headed off to real work. She told me not to come home if I didn't break 2:50. Ah, the love of my life!

While going through my mental checklist, with only about 15 minutes before I had to head out to the bus stop, I realized I had overlooked one major thing. My pacing strategy!!

In the hustle and bustle leading up to Boston I never once thought about how I was going to specifically tackle my sub-2:50! I'm typically very anal about my pacing strategy for my runs, especially marathons, but I completely bonked on this one.

I had previously played with the well-known spreadsheet specifically developed for Boston pacing a few weeks prior, but I didn't really study it in detail.

I quickly fired up the laptop and plugged in 2:49:59 into the spreadsheet, and the simplest thing that I noticed about the pacing was that I just had to roughly hit 20 minutes per 5K to reach my goal. Well, that was simple enough, but these things are never right..............

My dad had the day off from work (supposedly he works for the only company in MA that actually recognizes the greatest holiday ever, Marathon Monday!), so he drove me the 3+ miles from my apt to Cawley Stadium where my over sized chariot awaited me...and the rest of the Boston bound GLRR runners.

The Boston Bus is the best part about being a member of GLRR. Well, besides being able to drink with Glenn Stewart that is.

(I once knew a man from Buckingham...)

The whole package includes the ride into Hopkinton (on-board toilet at no extra charge), a pre-race massage, a warm place to hang out before the race, bag check, post-race massage, hotel rooms at the Park Plaza, and all of this for the price of putting up with Fil! You Just Can't Beat That!

We all mounted up and were rolling by 7AM, on the dot, all thanks to the crack organizational skills of Gerard Ottaviano (congrats on #28 in-a-row!!) and his crew of Boston volunteers, including Cathy O'Donnell!

(This is why you don't want to be late for the bus)

I finally got some sleep on the one hour ride down to Hopkinton. Unfortunately, I was seated next to Fil, so I had nightmares the whole way.

(Yeah, that's a 2:33 Boston Marathoner behind me...and Titus)

Once we got to the Athlete's Foot Village, I decided to stay asleep.

(Could someone check his breathing)

At least I managed to stay awake long enough for the group picture.

(...who liked to do a lot of things that rhymes with Buckingham.)

There was only one thing left to do and that was to hurry up! and wait...and enjoy these fine photos taken by team photographer, Jimmy Lee Shelton.

(why is there a homeless man on our bus?)

(and this was just EJ's shit)

(touch it Bash, you know you want to)

(wait, that's just Scotty Graham giving another Lowell Sun interview)

(the rest of EJ's shit)

(it sure does, it sure does)