The first hour
At 3:30 I awoke from a sound sleep, a dream of forgotten memories.
I was in bed by 9:41 and quite likely asleep before 10PM. Five plus hours of sleep is the usual for me.
I made a 25oz ice coffee last night and added low sugar almond milk to it. I popped a piece of gluten-free bread into the toaster and striped down in the kitchen.
Glide, heart rate monitor and then Under Armor go on first.
The current temp in Lowell is 48º with a northwest wind at 14mph, gusting to 24mph, giving a real feel temp of 39º. Humidity is 82%. I should be in Lowell by 6AM when the temperature will be 46º, about the same wind and humidity and a real feel temp of 34º.
At start time the forecast is 46º, 15mph wind out of the WNW gusting to 23mph and humidity at 74%. The real feel temp will be 36º.
As the sun comes up the air will rise to the low 50s but the breeze will keep the real feel, or what we used to call “wind chill” stay in the mid 40s all day. There is little to no chance of rain from partly cloudy skis.
It’s now 4:20
The coffee is clearing my mind. My watch is charged to 100%. It’s time to have another piece of toast, finish getting dressed and head north. I feel like listening to Led Zeppelin on the way up. Maybe LZ II. I can dig it.
See you in 8 or 9 hours.
Baystate Marathon Recap
When I got home from Lowell, the last thing I wanted to do was collect my thoughts. I was exhausted and the day had not gone as planned.
The drive to Lowell was uneventful. I even got to the Tsongas Arena without getting lost. I made one U-turn, but that was because I knew I missed my turn. Half the street signs in Lowell are missing. Driving in the dark on unfamiliar roads with few street signs, I think I did pretty good.
When I pulled up to the gate no one was there. I looked around for someone to take my money. After a few minutes a lady came over with her cash drawer in her arms and set me up. I got a great parking spot and headed to the arena to pick up my bib.
They were strict about not letting anyone in until 6AM. I hung out with a guy running his first marathon, a mother of two getting back into it and a BC student running her first marathon. They were all impressed when I told then this was marathon #15 for me. I gave a little advice, but they all seemed to know what they were doing.
At 6:02 they let us in. By 6:10 I was headed back to my car to get set up. After I had everything pretty well set up I headed for the porta-potties right outside the garage entrance. I may have been the first person to use this one.
I went back to my car, went through all of my stuff again and leaned the seat back to relax a bit. Around 7:15 I headed for the bag drop and then to stand in line for the porta-potties again.
They were lined up next to a canal and it was like being in a wind tunnel. I was so glad to finally get inside the porta-loo and out of the wind. As I redressed and checked my gear I noticed that my Amphipod Micropack was missing. I thought maybe I dropped it outside. Just before I got some hand sanitizer I looked in the shit hole.
My micropack was sitting on top of the pile of TP in the shit hole. WTF! In an instant I had to decide to leave it and everything in it or to pick it up. I reached into the shit hole and picked it up. I had 2 GUs and my crash bag in there.
The pouch was a little wet. I’m thinking, WTF am I doing? It wasn’t soaked, but is was wet in areas. I quickly pulled out the GUs and crash bag. I dropped everything else on the floor, off to the side.
I hope no one saw it and thought, “score!”
I stuffed everything into a pocket, got several squirts of sanitizer, tucked my gloves under my arm and made my exit. My hands were dripping with sanitizer. I figured between the sanitizer and my gloves ,most pathogens would not be able to get to me.
Hanging out pre-race
To get out of the breeze I stood in front of Lowell High School. I re-shuffled the contents of my pockets and put all of the contaminated items in one pocket. I had a bag of fig bars in the pocket where I stuffed the contaminated items. I proceeded to eat those from the bag without touching them. I’m sure the out side of that bag was a bio-hazard.
While standing in line for the porta-potties my friends Lauren and Barry Cossette walked by with their kids all bundled up in a wagon. Lauren was running the half and Barry was there to keep the kids happy until Mom came by. Barry may have drawn the short stick on that one. I saw a few more purple shirts from the club, said hello and went back to the high school for shelter.
Around 10 of they called us to the line. It was nice to be huddled close with other warm bodies. It was freakin cold! I started nursing my Gatorade and then they played that horrendous version of the National Anthem that seems to get played at every race now. Come on all ready. It was cute the first time, now it sounds lazy.
Baystate Marathon Begins
The announcer yelled “Go! Go! Go!” many times. I told a few people that the race gets up to speed fairly quickly. I started 3/4 of the way back and it took 1:33 minutes to cross the starting line.
My goal pace was 8:00 miles. The first two miles were crowded and I ran 8:39 and 8:44. At mile 3 I finally hit 8:00 and thought I would be okay. Through mile 12 I had 4 miles at 8:00 or less. The other six miles were all under 8:20.
Part of the reason mile 2 was 8:44 was that I took my first walking break, I had decided to walk the water stops and the first one was at mile 1.8. It seemed early, but I know this plan works for a lot of people. I walked briefly and everything felt good.
I continued to walk most water stops. At others I grabbed a cup of water and barely slowed down. Thankfully the organizers used paper cups.
Before the turn off of Middlesex Street I saw my buddy Jeff Rushton. He was with his boss Tim. Jeff never mentioned that he was running and even sent a text Saturday night wishing me well. They were going a lot slower than I could afford, so after a minute I took off.
10K reality check
At the 10K clock my time was 53 minutes and change. I needed to be closer to 50 minutes. I was already behind, but still felt good. I knew I could not run all 26.2 miles at 8:00, I also knew that I did not want to bank time. I wanted to run my splits as even as possible and as close to 8:00 as I could. My pace was closer to 8:50.
12 mile reality check
After we crossed the iconic Sherburne bridge, we were on the nice flat, well paved Pawtucket Blvd north of the river. I was beginning to feel tired! I walked the next water stop, had some fig bars and finished my Gatorade. My stomach was full.
At the mile 12 marker I knew the BQ was out of reach. I needed to hit 13.1 miles at 1:40 and I knew that was not going to happen. At 13.1 miles my time was 1:49. That’s a better half than 2 of the three halfs I’d run in 2014. But…
13.1 miles is not really half way in a marathon. It’s more like a third. Mile 20 is really the half-way mark in a marathon.
Before we hit Half Way we crossed the Rourke Bridge. This is a steel bridge with patches of pavement on it. The half marathon folks were crossing in the opposite direction on the left side of the bridge. We exchanged a few whoops!
As we got off the the bridge the Melrose Running Club Cheering Team was there. Here are a few photos.
I kept running after crossing the bridge and seeing my friends. It went from, “I can’t let them see me walk” to “I’ll run until the next water stop.” The road was flat or down hill so I ran for most of the way back out to the bridge.
Mile 16 Reality check
When we hit mile 16 on Tyngsboro Road I knew that my PR was slipping away. My watch showed that I was about 3 minutes behind PR time, and I knew the next 10 miles were going to be more challenging.
Things were beginning to hurt and my quads were shredded. My plan was to try and keep from falling behind my goal time by more than 17 minutes. If I could do that I would get a PR.
Going up the ramp to the Sherburne Street bridge was an effort, but I chugged along. There was more traffic than when we crossed earlier. I ran inside the cones on the side of the road. As we crested the bridge I picked up speed and had to call out “on your left” to get by a guy.
I was at the point where I needed to run the downhills to try and keep my splits from getting out of hand. The flat of Old Pawtucket Blvd was welcome. This time when the sign said “18 miles” we really had run 18 miles. And it felt like it.
After the Rourke Bridge on Pawtucket Blvd. a lady in front of me went down. She went down so fast she didn’t even get her arms out to break her fall. I was a few feet away and it looked like she bounced along on her nose. I thought she was unconscious but she sprung up like nothing happened and started running again!
There were four of us near her and two guys grabbed her arms as she was getting up. I expected to see blood shooting out of her nose after the fall she just took. I don’t think she even had a scratch. It was scary and amazing to see.
At mile 18 on, we were all getting tired and altered. It’s easy to catch your shoe on a perfectly flat road when exhaustion has set in.
After mile 24 I took off my vest. I wasn’t going to take any more GU or fig bars, so I wouldn’t need to get into the pockets again. A few people called out “Go Melrose” to keep me going. I was all in black before, so no one had anything to cheer me on with. My club friends from the bridge said I looked like Johnny Cash or a Ninja.
A few times during the race that baritone voice did echo through my head. I often wear black when I run. All but one pair of my running shorts are black. My running shoes are always bright, that’s the way they make them.
Mile 24 to the finish
At mile 24 the end was practically in site. Last year at this point, I saw a guy laying on the side of the road wrapped in foil with 4-5 EMT and police attending to him. He was waiting for a ride to the hospital.
I know how dangerous these last 2.2 miles can be. All reserves are spent, everything hurts. The only thing that keeps most of us going at this point in a marathon is the finish.
I pushed as hard as I could but started to feel like I couldn’t catch my breath. I’ve had this happen before. As much as I hated to, I had to walk a hundred yards before mile 24. I did not want to be that guy. Mile 24 ended up being my slowest split at 10:36!
Mile 25 I manged to run an 8:53, mile 26 9:49 and 7:59 for the last 0.42 miles of the race.
That was my kick. 7:49 for 0.42 miles. At the time I couldn’t run any faster and I was uncertain how long I could keep it up.
As we entered the final stretch of the race they had barriers on either side of the road. As we made the final turn onto Arcand Drive I passed two guys! I couldn’t believe it. I was running on a prayer at this point but these guys were barely moving.
I couldn’t believe it. That little victory gave me the juice I needed to run it in all the way to the finish line. As I got to the line the clock turned 3:49 and I knew I missed my PR by about 2 minutes.
I was utterly disappointed. For a few minutes I thought I was going to have some tears. I was mentally and physically exhausted and emotional. It was my own little pity party and I was gonna cry if I wanted.
Fortunately my guardian angel Mike Hartin was there. He said he would be there and he got to me before another volunteer could grab me. Between the breeze and my own feeble attempts to help, he had to work to get the foil blanket on me.
We talked the whole way and that helped bring me back from the edge. He asked if I wanted to head for the medical tent, but I told him I was okay. My breathing was a little labored, but better. I was just cold and sore. He let go of me and I received my medal. Mike congratulated me yet again and headed back to help other runners.
I staggered to the bag drop tent like Frankenstein. I was slow and had a hard time maneuvering around people. Everyone pretty much had to move for me. I just couldn’t do it.
I put on my jacket and headed for the food tent. Hot soup and a PBJ on whole wheat. I slowly set my soup on the ground and had to think about how I was going to get onto the ground without falling.
I rested on one arm and wrapped the foil around me. As I ate I spoke with two other runners. I moaned about my finish and then the other guy told me he finished an hour slower than he did at Boston. He had a smile on his face.
My 3:49 is 15 minutes faster than my Boston PR from this year. I ran my 2nd fastest marathon ever but did not meet my high expectations. That’s just the way it goes.
There are plenty of excuses and reasons why it happened. Running is my hobby and not my life. My year was full of great family times that I wouldn’t trade for a PR or a BQ.
My marathon season is over. The first time running three in a year. I’m not sure I would do it again. Training is a big commitment and if you don’t do it right, why run the marathons?
Run well my friends,