Road to Boston SLR 5

A great long run on The Road to Boston 2023. The weather was perfect, and I learned a few lessons along the way!

The Road to Boston continues!

I didn’t write about last week’s Sunday Long Run Number 4.

That was a hilly 14.6 mile slog over well trod roads. I climbed the equivalent of 70 flights of stairs or 754 feet and achieved an average pace of 10:11.

We ran the Fells hills in both directions, up Highland Ave and hills on other roads that Jim tossed in just to keep it interesting!

My hamstrings were tired and sore and my quads were maxed. On Tuesday night I cut my club run to 4 miles and my PT had to work on my knee Wednesday night.

Sunday Long Run 5

This is a pre-run group photo that Bobby Taylor posted on FB. I counted 39 people. A few are water stop volunteers, but I’m pretty sure we missed a few.

The weather was as good as it get’s in January for running: above freezing, no rain and no wind. Who could ask for more? How about a great group of people to run with and great support from Bobby and the team of volunteers he pulls together each week? Life is good!

This is Bobby’s photo with his stats, a nice 9:04 pace to run 6.53 miles in under an hour.

Road to Boston SLR 5,January 29, 2023

I knew I wasn’t going to be the fastest so I started first. One of the new runners who I didn’t know soon caught up to me but didn’t respond when I asked him how he was doing.

But I did run the first two miles with Marty Hergert, our club President. We had a good chat about club goings-on and life in general.

Just after mile two we turned onto Main Street in Saugus and our first water stop. This one was mainly for the short runners, but I stopped in for a drink anyway.

My knee was acting up and I was hoping the brief stop would alleviate the pain. It usually does, but this time it just went down a notch and not away.

Main Street Saugus heading out to Wakefield High is deceptively hilly. They are long and not really steep. In a car you would barley notice them as hills.

Just after mile four we reached Wakefield High and the first official water stop for the long-runners. Paul Locke was there and on my return stop Linda Field had joined him.

I had a nice chat at both stops, but my goal was to keep the stops short. I won’t be stopping during the Boston Marathon, hopefully! And your muscles always tightened up when you stop.

Running Breakheart Reservation

Leaving the high school lot we hit our next hill in about 100 yards. It’s not a bad hill, but we had many more in front of us.

I knew that Dorota Bulik was right behind me and expected her to catch me on the hill. But I was all alone most of the way through Breakheart Res.

We always loose count how many hills are in there and we always joke that they added a new one since last time.

Depending on what you call a hill there are four or five hills. Several of them are undisputedly hills. The third or forth hill climbs 80 feet in less than a quarter mile. Yeah, that’s a hill!

On each hill I rose up an ran on my toes at a quicker tempo and shorter gait. It seemed to work as Dorota didn’t catch me until that last hill, and she’s a much better runner than I am.

We both used the facilities at the ranger station and headed out.

Dorota used the flatter terrain on the outbound side to take off. After the water stop at the high school she took a short cut back.

But I did catch up to Joe Winslow before we left the res. and even saw Jeff Rushton at the water stop.

I left the water stop and didn’t see anyone until I got back to the parking lot.

Running it in

The water stop was at about 7.5 miles. It felt great knowing I only had five miles to go and I didn’t feel like I was going to die!

As I ran down Water Street/Route 129 in Wakefield I noticed many new buildings and renovations. It always amazes me how many small businesses there are. And how much construction is going on in every town.

Just after hitting mile 9 I reached Wakefield Center. Traffic was light and very few people were out.

My goal this week was to run a 10 minute average pace. My watch said I was at 10:04 pace as I ran down Main Street in Wakefield.

Everything felt pretty good so I decided to give it a push. Nothing too crazy but mile 10 came it at 9:53 and the last 2.54 miles were all under 9:45.

It was great to see my overall pace tick back to 10 minutes and then tick down to 9:57.

My last 2.54 miles were quicker than my first three miles, which is great.

It’s awesome to get near the end of a run and still have some juice.

Last week I was talking to Bobby Taylor about doing some speed work. I felt I needed some to improve my marathon pace, but was afraid of aggravating something. Over the past two years just about every part of my body has ached at one time or another. I’d rather run Boston slow than not at all!

Bobby suggested doing strides. As he explained them, you basically do your normal run but add speed surges for short distances. He does them near the end of a long run and it really helped him last year.

As I ran through Wakefield towards Melrose I ran four strides using light poles as my begin and finish markers.

I did these when the road was flat. No sense getting too crazy.

What I found interesting was that after I strided for probably 100 to 200 feet, I had to slow myself down. My legs wanted to keep up a faster pace. Not the stride pace but probably 30-45 seconds faster per mile than my goal pace of 10 even.

That was pretty cool.

It was also pretty cool that I didn’t feel like I was going to die or had to stop. And nothing broke! And my breathing hardly changed at all.

It was very encouraging and I will be incorporating this technique into a lot of my runs from now on.

One of the benefits of running alone is that you can do something like that and not kill your running buddy.

It’s hard to have two people feel the energy at the same point in a run. While I hate to slow someone down, I also hate beating the shit out of myself to keep up. Sometimes you have to be big enough of a man to let the other guy go.

Finishing Week Five

I felt pretty good running the last mile heading to the parking lot. This week was a shorter run, but I think it was just as hilly per mile. Fewer miles just meant less elevation.

When I got back to the parking lot I saw Erik Cann. He’s been running with us most weeks and usually I see him off in the distance!

He told me that he wanted to join our club and we talked about the logistics.

After we hung out a bit he headed to Café Nero and I headed to CVS to pick up a few items including something good to drink.

Running Stats

The total distance for me this week was 12.54. Erik had over 11 on his Strava app. We compared maps and we ran the identical route so we were both scratching our heads on that one.

My heart rate peaked at 178 and that was when I was running the first couple of hills in Breakheart. I hit 172 during one stride late in the run and my average was 156 bpm.

Garmin said “this activity had enough intensity to provide a stimulus to increase your maximum aerobic capacity. It increased your high aerobic training load.” It also said my aerobic load was 5.0 on a scale of 0-5.

While it’s good to push it and max out once in a while. The app said 5.0 is “overreaching” and that this can become harmful without enough rest between these types of runs.

Noted!

But my anaerobic level was 2.0 which is at a “maintaining” level. This probably came about during my strides. These higher intensity efforts should only last 10 to 120 seconds. And my strides were probably less than one-minute each.

During my weekly runs I think I’ll start adding longer strides now that I know the parameters.

Overall, it was a great run, I learned a few things and I feel like it was a benefit to my training.

How was your run this week?

Andy

Saturday Long Run January 14, 2023

A Saturday Long Run

This week the Melrose Running Club held their Holiday Party on Saturday night, so we had our Sunday Long Run on Saturday. Some people don’t like to stay out all night and then go for a long run.

Since this is the third week of our program, the Saturday Long run dropped down to 10.5 miles. After the hilly 12.5 miles the previous week, it was a welcome distance.

Last week, my Garmin showed that I climbed the equivalent of 77 flights of stairs on that run. And my legs certainly felt it!

This week we left our starting area behind Brueggers on Main Street in Melrose and headed north on Main Street. Somehow, we forgot to get a group photo!

This Saturday the temperature was around 33F with an occasional breeze and a constant, light drizzle. I think the precipitation kept our group small, probably 25 people?

The first mile out I ran a 10:57 pace in an effort to warm up and see what was going to hurt this time. And I did run a bit with Marty Hergert this week!

Over miles two and three the group settled into groups of runners by pace and I ended up running with Joe Winslow and Dan Slattery. We ran around 10:15 over those two miles and my left knee was bothering me.

This early in my Boston Marathon training, this had me a little worried. Knee pain has been a constant issue but I have learned a few tricks.

When I first started back to running, my PT would have me walk four minutes and then run one minute and slowly progress to running a 5K without walking over the course of about five weeks.

When I got to the point in this process where I was running more than walking, almost every time my knee would hurt. So the walking breaks were welcomed.

What I discovered by doing this progression was that often my knee pain would go away after I took the walk break. Even if I did more than the usual pre-run warm up my knee would still hurt. But walking almost always made it feel better.

So when we got to our first water stop at about 5K I took an extended walking break to the men’s room at the local McDonalds.

Sunday Long Run number 3, Boston Marathon training
Zelia Magliozzi photo

Don Cranley is the guy in the red jacket next to me in the above photo. We both have a Boston Marathon number through our club and both really needed to get this run in.

Don wasn’t really feeling it, so I told him I’d catch up and run with him after my pit stop.

Now, Don might not have been feeling it, but it took me almost four miles to catch up to him at the bottom of Lake Q. I ran all of four of those miles well under a 1o-minute pace. So he was cruising along.

Finishing the Saturday Long Run

As I ran down North Ave in Wakefield I could see Don’s red jacket way down the road. And I could see him taking walking breaks. When I caught up to him he asked me which direction to go in, so I think he had been checking the map on his phone.

This is the second week that someone has asked me for directions, which is generally not a good thing to do. Fortunately, I know these courses very well and they are some of our easiest.

But if you add in a few rotaries and intersections with five roads and poor signage, I could get you lost!

As we ran down Main Street in Wakefield almost every driver let us cross the street and were just great in general. I think both of us really appreciated that.

When we got back to the water stop Bobby Taylor was there manning the stop and the only person there. Then Zelia showed up and started snapping pics. Just like she did last week.

We were about seven and a half miles into the run at this point. I didn’t feel great but my back and left knee were manageable. And while my cardio wasn’t in marathon condition, my breathing was comfortable.

After a minute or so, Don and I headed out for the last 5K of the run.

Don was kind of struggling and he told me later that I helped push him along. He was only going to do the half distance.

Soon after we left the water stop we hit a small hill and both of us felt it, but we kept on going and talking.

It’s always a good sign when you can talk and run!

At around mile nine Don said he had to walk and that I should go on. We’ve all been there and it’s no slight to run on ahead of someone during a training run. Especially when you are almost done.

I ran in the last approximately 1.7 miles by myself around a 10 to 10:30 pace. It felt comfortable and my pain was manageable.

My total distance was 10.81 miles at an average of 10:02 which was the pace I wanted on this run. Now I want to try and run this pace at the longer distance next week.

I had to do some club business in town after the run, so I didn’t hang out for coffee afterwards. Maybe next week.

I hope your training is going well,

Andy

The Road to Boston SLR 2

Celebrating twenty years since my first training run, I ran the second Sunday Long Run with the Melrose Running Club and guests.

The Road to Boston has begun with the second Sunday Long Run. The Melrose Running Club has been sponsoring these Sunday runs for the past twenty years and all runners are invited.

The Road to Boston SLR 1

Since January 1st was the first Sunday of 2023 we didn’t have an organized club run that day. Many of us ran various New Year’s Day races, such as the Hangover Classic in Salisbury Beach.

Because I was running a New Year’s Day race I decided to do my first long run on December 30th.

For that run I started at my house, ran through Malden and out on the North Spur bike trail to Saugus.

This route in almost entirely flat, so it was a great way to start ramping up the miles. I ran 10.3 miles that day at a comfortable 10:05 pace.

Idle Hands Craft Ales Vienna Lager - Emelyn, Brew Pub
Idle Hands Photo

On the way back I stopped in at Idle Hands Brewing and had a nice half liter of Emelyn, their Vienna Lager. I also had a nice conversation with the bar tender, John. I was the only customer in the bar!

The Road to Boston SLR 2

January 8th was the first official Melrose Running Club Sunday Long Run. And since it is technically the second week of Boston Marathon training, we ran the week 2 route which was 12.5 for the long run and 7.1 miles for the half distance. 

I know, not great math there. But when you’re not up for almost a half marathon, 7.1 still feels like half of the full. Or a short run.

Group photo on the 2nd Melrose Running Club Sunday Long Run
Julie Galvin Photo

We had at least 44 people show up for this chilly run. I think a few more people joined us after this photo was taken.

When we started it was 24F and it really felt like it. We were lucky in that there was no wind or rain. That makes a big difference in the comfort level.

In this photo you will notice that several of us have our hands stuffed under our arms. Even with gloves my fingers were freezing.

It was so cold that I headed out with the first runners. I knew I would warm up eventually. And if I was in the lead pack all the faster people would catch up and I’d get to talk to everyone. I’d also not be at the end of the pack.

At mile one my fingers and toes were feeling a little better, but I was trying to figure out if they were warming up or if I was loosing feeling in my fingers and toes!

At mile 1 we were close to the intersection of West Wyoming Ave and the Fellsway East. The road was clear so we crossed the Ave like a stampeding heard of beast breathing frost into the air.

At the intersection we took a left and headed for the hills of the Fellsway East.

At this point I began to adjust my running pace and approached the hills by my self. I’ve been doing this twenty years and I know what running hills can do to you if you’re not prepared.

As I made my way up the first hill our former club President, Bobby Taylor, caught up to me.

He noticed that I was wearing trail shoes on a road run and asked if I always wore them for road runs.

I told him I have been for the past few months.

I started wearing the Brooks Cascadia shoes about 10 years ago. At the time I was looking for a shoe to keep my feet warm in the winter. At the time these shoes featured Gore-Tex which helps insulate the shoe.

Trail shoes are generally stiffer and heavier than road shoes. The outsoles are designed to give you extra traction and support. They do not flex as much and are good for landing on stones and tree roots.

But they are stiffer, don’t have as much cushion, and are very loud on the road. Like many runners, Bobby prefers more cushioning. I agreed that I should pick up a pair of road shoes to use on nice days. It’s good to rotate shoes and the Cascadia are a bit much for a road run.

Eventually Bobby moved along and the group prepared for and made our move across the Fellsway so we would be ready for our next turn onto Highland Avenue.

Highland is a nice wide avenue with a wide bike lane to run in. It’s also a hill for the first half mile.

5K and Water Stop One

Shortly after turning onto Highland we hit 5K. Only 9.4 miles to go!

At this point all of us still felt good and both the long and short runners were still together.

Julie and Gail had the first stop set up for us. When you get a group of runners together, it can be hard to get them going once again. We have so much fun catching up.

Zelia Magliozzi had run down the Fellsway and met us at the water stop. She was doing a recovery run after doing her long run on Saturday.

Sunday Long Run at the first water stop.
Zelia Magliozzi Photo

I left the water stop by my self. If you hang out too long the muscles tighten up and you get cold.

As I headed out of the Fulton Street rotary I could see a few runners ahead of me heading up the Elm Street hill. They had crossed the road already and were moving along nicely.

I put my head down and dug into the hill. About half way up the hill I made my crossing to be in position for our right onto the Fellsway West.

As I approached the turn I saw a runner in a 2017 Boston Marathon jacket. He was standing there looking at his phone.

When I reached him I asked if he was okay and he said he thought he was lost. He had downloaded the half-map and thought he needed to turn left.

I assured him that we were taking a right and off we went. His name was Eric and he was with The Mystic Runners. Eric is also training for Boston 2023.

This piece of road has a number of challenges. The breakdown lane is nice and wide in most places, but there is hill. There is also a ramp to Rt. 93 South and if someone is coming up behind you and doesn’t care about hitting you, it can get dicey.

Fortunately we waved someone on who was coming towards us to take the ramp.

The run over the Rt 93 bridge wasn’t too bad. Some days this wide open area can be windy and cold.

Shortly after the bridge we hit mile 5 and approached the exit ramp from Rt. 93 North. People come flying up this ramp, there isn’t a cross walk and no one would expect to see runners crossing their path.

Once again, we were fortunate and there wasn’t any traffic.

10K and Water Stop Two

Just as we hit mile 6, we made our turn at Straw Point for water stop two.

Nicole Jacob was our goddess at this stop. We weren’t especially parched or anything but it’s always nice to see a friendly face.

After a quick drink we continued on our way and hit 10K before we left the parking lot.

Eric hadn’t run much beyond 10 miles in quite a while and as we told Nicole, “it’s beginning to feel like a run.”

We ran down Pond Street in Stoneham and made our way past the Stone Zoo. Running past the parking lot we had to run another hill.

The Road to Boston SLR 2 course map

Shortly after we hit mile 7 the road turns into Woodland Road. This is one of those curvy, hilly roads that our forefathers designed for Sunday driving in the suburbs. We managed to stay pretty close to our average pace running the hills they designed for amusement.

As we approached Flynn Rink we hit mile 8 and it felt like a gift. I hardly noticed the mile. I still felt pretty good but both of us had become more focused on putting one foot in front of the other.

We negotiated the Fulton Rotary again and headed for water stop 1/3.

It’s always nice when the club can use a water stop twice. It’s often challenging to get enough volunteers to man all of our stops. Sometimes one person will cover more than one stop.

Four miles to go at Water Stop Three

Eric and I were the only two runners at the stop this time.

Julie and Gail said they ran out of cups and had to go buy more. Based on the cup count they figured 40 runners were on the course. Amazingly, there were a few people behind us.

We didn’t hang out long. We were both sweaty and tired and didn’t want to get cold and have our muscles tighten up.

Stiffly we started out and crossed the road to get ready for our next turn.

This was onto East Border Road which is a hilly piece of road on the south side of The Middlesex Fells Reservation.

As we ran down the hill approaching the Fellsway East we hit mile 9. Only 3.5 miles to go.

The turn onto The Fellsway had us running up hill immediately.

Drivers tend to fly up this road also. Seems to be a common theme here!

But the pavement is only a few years old and there is a pretty good break down lane for most of this section of The Fellsway.

We continued to chat as we made our way over these hills. As we crested the second hill we hit mile 10 and still felt pretty good.

As we ran down the hill I knew I needed to make a pit stop at the Dunkin Donuts.

Eric asked if I wanted him to hang out, but I told him to go on and I’d try to catch up.

Fortunately the restroom door wasn’t locked and I was back on the road in no time.

As I left Dunkin’s parking lot I didn’t see any other runners. But I knew where I was going.

As I crested yet another hill I saw Joe Winslow ahead running on the sidewalk. It took me a bit to catch up with him, but when I did we ran the rest of the distance together.

Joe and I haven’t run together in probably three years. We did chat after a club run a few weeks ago, but it was still fun catching up. Both of us once had little girls and are now empty nesters.

As we approached West Foster Street I made sure we got to 12.5 miles. This early in a training program, you don’t want to be taking short cuts. Training is about doing the work.

Apre SLR 2

Before COVID we used to hang out at Brueggers after a long run. They had a few long tables and we could get twenty or so people seated. It was great and we left some cash in the till.

But Brueggers removed all of their tables during COVID and still hasn’t replaced them.

So we headed to a new coffee shop called Café Nero. It’s in a new building on Main Street and is a new shop in town. I think they are a local chain.

There menu looks like Starbucks but they have a wider variety of food and the décor is a bit more modern and hip than Starbucks.

I was celebrating twenty years since my first ever training run. So I got a grande coffee and an almond cressant.

As one of the last long-runners to come in, I found the table full. But AJ Drummond was gracious enough to offer his seat. He had to head out.

It was fun to hang out with everyone. Some people I knew, some I recognized and some I didn’t.

I finished my cressant, said my good byes and headed home. While I sat there my muscles had tightened up and I knew that I needed to get home and stretch.

Run well My Friends!

Andy

5 Ways to Cut 5 Minutes off Your Marathon

Even the best runner in the world can loose time by making simple mistakes. You don’t have to!

Updated November 20th, 2022

Are there really 5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon?

There are many ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon time.

All runners focus on training to get faster and stronger.

But genetics and age put a limit on our peak performance. And most of us don’t have the time to reach our peak fitness level.

Even if you are at peak fitness and an old pro at this, these tips can still help you.

The easiest way to improve your finish time is to avoid adding time by making these mistakes.

Use the Porta Potty

Something about race morning seems to get the innards all worked up and ready to explode.

Most races have plenty of porta potties but you need to use them.

No matter how many porta potties a race has, the hour before a race the porta potties will be more crowded than the registration tent!

During a race, stopping to use the facilities can easily add a minute to your time. If you can’t wait and there is a line, you could loose much more time than that.

Shalane Flanagan may have the course record for using a porta potty during the 2018 Boston Marathon, at 14 seconds. But watch this video and see how that stop effected her run.

Des Linden won that year.

Des Linden 2018 Boston Marathon Winner
BAA Photo

During every Boston Marathon that I’ve run, I’ve seen lines at most of the on-course porta potties also.

Usually the first water/porta potty stop is at mile two or even mile five. For Boston it’s at mile two, and I’ve seen men and women “in the woods” side by side well before that first stop.

If you can avoid the first water stop you may find a porta potty without a line. But when you really gotta go, you may have to wait in line.

Tip #1 – use the facilities before you cross the start line.

Stop eating and drinking 1 hour before you start

Most people have nerves before a race and will eat or drink as a way to deal with their anxiety. Many of us do this unconsciously.

If you use the porta potty and then keep drinking, your system will not have time to process that fluid, or food, before the race starts.

Then you will have to make that porta potty stop.

Sometimes eating too much before a race can upset your stomach. Often there are samples of power bars and sport drinks available before a race.

Boston Marathon 2019, Hopkinton, MA
BAA Photo

While these items may be tempting, you should avoid eating anything new or over eating on race morning.

Even if you give your system an hour to digest everything, something new could upset your stomach. This could force you to make a pit stop or even drop out of the race.

Tip #2 – stop eating and drinking 1 hour before your race starts.

Double tie your shoes

double tied laces, 5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon, Newtons

I see people running with loose laces all the time.

If you double tie your laces you can avoid this problem.

Un-tied laces may cause you to trip and fall and at some point you will have to stop and tie them.

Just like a porta potty stop, you have to fight the crowd and move to the side of the road and get out of the way. Then you need to bend over and tie your laces and possibly undue some nasty knot that tied it self as you ran.

Double tieing your laces can cut 5 minutes off your marathon time by avoiding the stop.

If you have to stop later in the race, your muscles may tighten up when you stop and bend to tie your laces.

All of this can be avoided by double tieing your laces, even if the second knot is fairly lose.

Tip #3 – Tie your shoes properly!

Carry a Water Bottle

Some people always carry a water bottle and some people never carry a water bottle.

For a Marathon or a Half, you will want to take a water bottle of some kind.

Even if you just use a Poland Spring 500ml bottle, you will save yourself a ton of time.

Here’s why.

Everyone who has planned poorly will be at the first few water stops and probably in line for the porta potty!

5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon finish time, run with sports drinkAt most big marathons, including Boston, those water stops will be a crowded mess.

To get to one of these water stops you will have to make your way through a crowd of runners to the side of the road.

Then try to grab a cup, drink it and get back up to speed all without tripping over someone else.

Even if you don’t fall over someone or drown yourself with a cup of water, you will have to slow down and break your stride.

If you can skip the first five or more water stops, the rest of them are usually pretty easy to get to.

I like to run through the stop, grab a cup, pinch it and chug the cup in one or two gulps.

Tip #4 – carry a water bottle and avoid the crowds!

Bring some Food

I know that some people like to run as light as possible while some people look like they are packed for expedition.

I would suggest something in the middle.

Hopefully by now you know what your stomach will tolerate. There are many brands of gel to choose from and you should have tested a few while you were training.

fig newtons, glycemic index, glucose, marathon foodI’ve run a few races with Snickers bars or fig bars. Both are loaded with sugar and I’ve been eating them as long as I can remember.

I know these foods wont upset my stomach.

Even the elite runners take on fuel while they run. It may be sports drink in their water bottle, a gel or both.

They know what they need and during your training you should have figured out what you need and what you body will tolerate.

If your stomach can only tolerate certain sports drinks you really need to bring your own. Even the elites cannot finish a marathon without some hydration. And you know the mix in their bottle is what they have trained on.

It is similar with food or gels. Some people hate gels so they need something like fig bars.

Some races hand out gels late in the race. But you should not wait to fuel during a marathon. Over the years, I’ve learned to start fueling at 5K.

Your timing may be different, but you will need to replenish your energy stores during a marathon or half.

Tip #5 – bring food that you have run with before

It’s all about control

There are things you can control and things you cannot.

You can’t control the weather and often you can’t control your sleep or how your body will react to the last proper meal you eat before the big race.

My post, My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience, is an example of how I prepared to run in horrible conditions. If you’ve never run Boston before, this blog post will also give you a few insights about the course.

Boston Marathon 2018, 5 ways to cut 5 minutes off your marathon
BAA Photo

All of the tips I have provided here are things that you can control. Any one of them could save you five minutes. Together they could save you much more time than that.

You’ve put in the miles and the time to get here. You are as ready as you can be.

I hope that these tips that I have learned from running 18 marathons and 9 Boston Marathons will help you have the best marathon of your life.

Looking for a fall marathon? Check out New England Marathons Fall 2023 for some ideas.

Run well my Friends!

Andy

My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience

Originally posted April 23rd, 2018

I spent about fourteen weeks training for the 2018 Boston Marathon.

It’s challenging to maintain focus for that long and not get distracted. A lot of life can happen over those long weeks of training.

Before you know it the weeks have flown by and it’s taper time. As they say, the days are long but the time is short.

I spent the two weeks before the race assembling and packing my things.

The last week before a marathon is typically the second week of marathon training taper. With more time on my hands I had more time to think. Without the regular fix of endorphins I sometimes became cranky or blue. So even as the miles tapered down there were these other challenges to deal with.

And just when my brain went on the fritz, I had to think and focus on what I needed for race day. Runners often start looking at weather forecasts way before they can be accurate. We can’t help ourselves.

This year things looked bad from the get-go and proceeded to worsen. I’m not sure that any of us could imagine 2″ of rain in 12 hours and 40 mph gusts of wind.

It made the collecting and packing of gear a real challenge!

2018 Boston Marathon Morning

Charles Street divides the Boston Common and the Public Garden. This wide street is where the buses to Hopkinton line up. My official boarding time was from 8:55 to 9:30 AM.

For most races I have to get up at 6 AM and drive for an hour or two. Since my house is only six miles from the loading area I didn’t need to leave until at least 7 AM. I got to hang out at my house, drink coffee and relax.

My colleague Brian Sohns was my running mate this year. In 2017 he was able to get on an earlier bus, so we decided to give it a try. We met at our office around 7:30 and walked to Charles Street in the rain and wind.

We crossed The Public Garden on a sidewalk crowded with hundreds of runners walking in the Boston Marathon 2018 Bus Loading Area, Boston Marathon busesopposite direction. There was mud and puddles everywhere.

Our bag drop was closest to the finish line, but the farthest from the buses. This was great after the race but not so great in the morning.

The bag drop was well manned and we were on our way to the buses in no time.

To get to the buses we had to walk on the sidewalk inside the wrought iron fence of The Boston Common. This was our first check point. As long as you had just your clear plastic go bag and were dressed like a runner they let you through.

We had the wrong color bib for this group of buses but they didn’t seem to mind. Almost everyone was wrapped in something and almost none of it was clear plastic. I lifted my silver Mylar sheet and showed the guy my running shoes.

More volunteers checked us at the gate where we exited to Charles Street. I tried to keep my bag or Mylar sheet over my bib as much as I could. I did not want to get turned back this close to the buses.

The next volunteer directed us to the boarding area. They had cones and tape to create shoots to each bus. The first few buses were full and we were directed to the row of buses behind the front row of buses.

The buses were lined up and staggered so runners could walk between them easily and board. The driver and a volunteer kept a pretty good count of runners on the bus. Brian and I found a seat in the back where we could sit together and about five more people got on board behind us.

We were so busy talking to each other, checking our gear and eating that we never really talked to anyone else the entire ride.

The foggy windows were open a crack to let in air and keep out the rain.

It rained the entire trip and the windows never cleared. Not being able to see anything and our constant banter made the trip go quickly.

Entering Runners Village

The buses pulled around the back of Hopkinton High School. From the drop off it’s a short walk to the Athlete’s Village. As soon as we got off the bus we were hit by blasts of rain and wind. In no time my running hat was flying across the parking lot. Fortunately I was able to grab it before it got too far away.

Everyone was in good spirits and taking the entire situation in stride. Runners have to be the happiest go lucky crowd in the world. Nothing bothers us and nothing stops us.

Half way to the Runner’s Village and we saw a bunch of people in the woods taking a leak. There were about 1,000 porta-potties in sight! You could almost smell them! We all had a good laugh at their expense. It was comic.

Brian and I were running for Mass General Hospital, MGH. MGH was using Hopkinton Dental as a staging area for our team. Instead of taking a left towards the fields, we headed strait up the driveway to Grove Street and started looking for that dentists’ office.

We couldn’t imagine how a dentists’ office could hold 75 to 100 people. We guessed they would have a tent in the parking lot and hoped it had sides.

It seemed like a long walk in the wind and the rain, but there were other people on the same quest so we felt pretty confident that we were going the right way.

My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience, Brian Sohns, MGHAs we turned into the parking lot we saw a large banquet tent with clear plastic sides! Just what we had and hoped for.

The lady at the door gave us a quick look see and let us in without too close of an inspection. I guess we looked like we belonged there.

As we walked in, the noise level and temperature instantly rose. While it was not hot, it was at least 10° warmer than outside. I was freakin thrilled! They had a heater!

We quickly found a few unoccupied seats, got settled and looked around for familiar faces and what supplies were available. Charities always take good care of their runners.

Final Preparations for the Boston Marathon

The weather conditions totally sucked. No two ways about it. I’ve run in the heat. I’ve run in the cold. I’ve run in the rain and even a thunder storm. I’ve run in snow and close to ‘Nor Easter conditions. I’ll take any of that.

If it’s warm and it rains, you just go with it. You may need to take extra precautions to avoid chafing but a warm rain never hurt anyone.

If it’s cold and dry you can wear layers according to the conditions and just go with it. If it snows, at least you can stay dry.

When you combine rain and cold you’ve got a shitty situation. Any garment that will keep the rain out for four hours will hold in your body heat and sweat. You will literally become a hot sticky mess.

Since you cannot stay water proof for four plus hours, you have to plan on soaking through at some point.

Layers are really the only option. During a marathon in the rain you are going to soak through eventually. And when it’s a cold windy day you need to prepare for the cold.

In the days before The Marathon I planned to wear a long sleeved Under Armor shirt and my MGH singlet. I was running for MGH so I wanted to show it. As the forecast worsened I switched to a t-shirt and then switched again to a long sleeved running shirt. The night before the race I couldn’t find my MGH long sleeved tech shirt!

Sunday night I still wasn’t sure if I would run with my running vest or my MGH running jacket. Monday morning I wore the two long sleeved shirts, my running vest AND the MGH jacket. I also wore a neck gator that I normally wear in freezing temperatures.

I brought a Mylar blanket to keep my shoes dry between the bag drop and getting on the bus. While getting a bagel in the MGH tent I noticed that they had tape. Many people were using it in on their running shoes.

I decided to take two pieces of that tape and use it to hold my Mylar blanket around my shoulders. I figured it would stay on for a mile or two and then the rain would loosen the tape and I’d toss the sheet. I was looking for anything to keep me comfortable for as long as possible.

About an hour before we were to line up I took two Hylands Leg Cramp pills and a salt capsule with a 500ml water. I had another bagel and made another porta-potty trip. It was cold outside of the tent!

With an hour to race time my body had time to process that and I’d have time for one more porta-potty stop.

About 10 minutes before we headed to the start they had us all get together for a group photo. I’m about 6 feet tall, so I usually end up in the back of these photos. Somehow I ended up in front kneeling down.

The photographer had to give instructions a few times. He was taking a series of shots that he would use to create a composite photo of the group. He took the series of shots twice, and my knees were killing me! Next time I’ll remember to stand in back!

My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience

Our group of Mass General Hospital runners left the tent together and joined the other 4th wave runners on the 0.7 mile walk to the start line.

Normally there are all kinds of people at the barricades. People are on their front porch or stairs cheering us on. Not this year. I don’t think I saw anyone out in front of their home cheering for us. The only people at the barricades were BAA volunteers and other volunteers there to collect discarded clothing.

Everyone was cheerful and wished us well. But just about everyone there was there to do a job.

The rain and wind wasn’t too bad as we walked along. It seemed like a long walk especially as we were getting ready to run 26.2 miles.

In the CVS parking lot at the corner of Grove and Main Street the BAA must have had 100 porta-potties.

I like to tell the story from one of my first Boston’s of watching two guys trying to take a leak up against the side of a house. There were thousands of people behind them and the lady who owned the house was on her back deck yelling at them to get the hell out of there! It makes me laugh just thinking about it! Imagine that Maxine lady on the Hallmark cards.

The house appears to be gone now, but CVS has a huge parking lot.

My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience, Marathon RunningBrian decided to make a pit stop and I waited on the street. As I stood there I realized that there were piles of ponchos, jackets and plastic and Mylar sheets in the parking lot. Many piles looked to be a foot or two high. It was unbelievable. I just shook my head at the incredible waste.

Soon we were headed for the start line. We took a right onto Main Street and started walking up hill. They had us walk to the left side of the road. Usually they keep us to the right because another group is lined up to go.

When they move a group into position the announcer gets everyone wound up and a camera boom swings over the crowd. Then they give us the “Go, go, go!” It really helps pump up a pumped up crowd.

Not this year.

I started my watch when we left the MGH tent. It usually takes my Garmin 610 a few minutes to lock in on a signal. With thousands of GPS watches looking for a signal I figured that I’d need the entire walk to the start to get a signal. Remarkably I got a signal almost instantly.

It was a good thing my watch was ready to go. As we walked towards the line we noticed how thin the crowd was. There weren’t a lot of people behind us and we were getting close to the line.

Then I noticed that as people got to the line no one was stopping them. Everyone just started running when they got to the start! I had never seen a rolling start at The Boston Marathon. I’ve never seen a rolling start at any race.

All of this occurred to me all of a sudden when we were about five feet from the line! My little bit of preparation had paid off. We we were running and didn’t even get an official signal!

It’s all Downhill to Boston

From the start line it is down hill for the first half mile or so. The course starts at about 400ft above sea level and ends at just a few feet above sea level in Boston. But it is all rolling hills in between.

Any other year the crowd would have been 20 people deep on both sides of the road heading out of Hopkinton. Between adrenaline, the announcer winding people up, the crowd cheering us on and the down hill, most runners blast out of the start way too fast.

For the first five miles of the race almost any runner feels great and inexperienced runners sometimes think that is how the rest of the race will go.

This year we only had gravity and adrenaline to get us rolling down that hill. The barricades only held bags full of discarded clothing. I assume they are there every year but the crowd blocks them from site.

Even the first half mile in Hopkinton was vacant of spectators. Most people there were BAA volunteers. I was shocked.

As we ran the first few miles Brian and I were really surprised how small or absent the crowd was. There were hundreds of feet of barricade with no one there. I’d never seen anything like it before.

When we got to the first few clearings in the woods, sure enough, there were people peeing. It’s a Boston Marathon tradition! At mile two they had porta-potties and people were in line.

Brian and I hit the 5K mats at 30:05. I hollered back to Brian that we were still on track for a 2-hour half. I tried not to get too far ahead of Brian but with each mile the gap widened.

At mile five I looked over my shoulder and could tell that he was not going to catch up. He was running his pace. We made eye contact and I gave him a wave as I dug into the Framingham Hill.

Brian told me days before the race he was going to run a slower pace and I told him we’d run the first few miles together. I didn’t feel bad moving ahead. We each have to run our own race.

21.2 Miles to Boston

Running a race by yourself is different than running with a buddy. If you’re not a runner it may seem odd to say you’re by yourself while running with thousands of other people.

When you run with someone, someone is always keeping up and someone is always pulling. It may be unconscious, but someone always wants to push the hills harder or run the downhill and flats faster.

Someone is always having a better day. To stay together you have to compromise and usually one person ends up pushing too hard.

When you run by yourself you get to focus on your run and not worry about keeping up or holding someone back.

Boston Marathon 2018 in the RainI’m a hill climber and I can’t help it. Late in this training program I started teaching myself to relax on the hills. I knew I wasn’t in shape to run a four-hour marathon. My strategy was to take it easy on the hills and save my legs for Brookline and Boston. It worked on the 22 mile training run, I hoped it would work on race day.

Running by myself I was able to focus on relaxing my shoulders on the uphills and focus on letting my feet fall and not reach. I was able to pay attention to the mile markers and fueled at 5K, 6 miles, 9 miles and 12 miles. I really had it dialed in for the first half.

I was running my plan.

I remember being in down town Natick around mile 10 and realizing how good I felt. I had been in this place before and the space had not felt as clear as it did on Monday.

At other points in the race and on other hills I was conscious of how my body felt and how different it was than previous years. It was an interesting experience.

I was running slower than previous years and I was doing it on purpose. The Honolulu Marathon had been a disaster for me in so many ways. I had to run Boston differently than I had ever run it before.

As a runner you are always aware of your body. Quite often something or many things hurt. I tried to have a higher level of consciousness this time.

It wasn’t just about doing a system check and seeing what hurt. It was about assessing my energy level and eating and drinking carefully. It was taking into consideration how my knees felt and how much more I thought they would take. I was constantly making judgement calls.

It was interesting to see a land mark or recognize a piece of road and recall how I felt in the heat of 2014.

When we got to the half-marathon mark it passed almost without notice. There was a timing clock, timing mat, some photographers and a small crowd. Usually the photographers are in bucket trucks or a structure. Without the photographers overhead, it just seemed like another mile.

As I crossed the 13.1 mile mat at 2:14:06 I thought, well at least people know I’m still alive! I missed my two-hour half and knew I was only going to get slower.

Just past the half is the “Wellesley College Scream Tunnel” or what ever they call it. It was less than impressive in 2016 but this year I could hear them as soon as I turned the corner. I was impressed.

I was highly focused on getting to Boston so I moved to the center of the road and barely made eye contact with anyone. The crowd seemed thin but their voices were loud. Well done Wellesley College!

I was now 14 miles into the race and more than half way. My knees had been hurting for a few miles and my legs were beginning to feel it.

In a marathon, the race doesn’t really start until mile 20, and I was only at mile 14. It was time to hunker down and keep to my business.

As I ran along I knew that the Rt 95 overpass bridge was coming. This is the first significant, challenging hill.

As we ran up the hill to the bridge the torrent of water on the right side of the road kept growing. It had to be three feet wide and at least a foot deep. Just before we went onto the bridge we saw water gushing a foot in the air out of the drainage grates! I think everyone muttered “holy shit” when they saw that. It kind of hit home just how much rain was falling. And we were only at mile 16.25.

After the 95 bridge the road continues to climb for another half mile or so. As I was climbing the hill I realized that I didn’t need to walk. My slower pace was allowing me to maintain my energy level.

The Newton Hills

We were now about a mile before the turn onto Comm Ave in Newton. This is where the series of hills that includes “Heart Break Hill” begins.

I stuffed the Cliff Energy Shot handed to me at mile 17 into a pocket and had another Snickers bar. It was time to get ready to climb some hills. My drink bottles were about empty and I had begun taking water and some Gatorade at the water stops.

At the next water stop I took two more salt capsules and a Hyland Leg Cramp pill. I washed them down with a cup each of water and Gatorade.

At the turn onto Comm Ave the street gets very wide, almost like a plaza. I usually stay right to cut the corner as much as possible.

My daughter and some friends told me they would be on the left in Newton or somewhere around Heart Break Hill. In hopes of seeing someone I swung wide and scanned the crowd. Just faces.

As I ran up the first hill I thought I saw my daughter. I continued to stay to the left side and look for people.

After the hill we had about a mile of down hill to Newton Lower Falls I thought someone else told me they would be at the bottom of the hill. So I looked. I was so focused on finding someone that I barely noticed when the road headed up again for the steep climb out of Newton Lower Falls.

This hill at mile 19.25 gets a lot of people. We’ve just run the Rt 95 over pass, the first Newton Hill and it’s past the 19 mile mark.

This second hill isn’t as steep or long as the first hill. But I still had to weave between walkers and almost walkers. At 19.5 miles the race was taking it’s toll on all of us.

At mile 20 I began to look for my running club. I knew they were at mile 21, but I always look for them at mile 20. I felt both disappointment and hope.

I ate another Snickers bar and grabbed two cups of water at the next stop.

Heart Break Hill doesn’t have a sign. I’ve finally come to understand that it is the third hill.

As I pushed up Heart Break Hill I passed more walkers. I knew I was about to stop and all of these people would then pass me, so why bother?

As I crested Heart Break Hill I knew my club was near by. Down a bit of a hill and up the other side I saw the purple pop up tent canopy.

I knew there would be friendly, familiar faces but I couldn’t stop and chat.

As I approached I heard familiar voices call my name. Hands were out stretched with Fig Newtons and Snickers bars. The Snickers bars were still wrapped and I couldn’t open them with my wet gloves so I took two Newtons and then someone opened a Snickers for me.

My stomach had been growling for the past few miles and it felt good to have the Fig Newtons in my belly.

The 2018 Boston Marathon Begins!

Most runners will tell you that a marathon doesn’t really begin until Mile 20. If you didn’t pay attention to pace, fueling and hydration your stores of energy are probably depleted by Mile 20.

The body absorbs calories at a fixed rate per hour. If you have relied mainly on the glucose stored in your body and not allowed your body to absorb more calories, by mile 20 you will hit the wall.

Some runners hit the wall at mile 18. Elite runners can get through a race with just a few sips of sports drink. If you watched the Boston Marathon on TV you saw the elites grab a water bottle at two points on the course. But they are only on the course for a little more than two hours. Des Linden won in 2:39:54.

For the rest of us who are out there for four or five hours, proper fueling is essential.

By Mile 20 all of your injuries are acting up and you may have acquired new ones.

Between the aches and pains, depleted energy and a realization that your dreams may be slipping away, the last 10K of a marathon is the most challenging.

I hadn’t run a sub 10 minute mile since mile 7. Mile 8 through 16 were mostly sub-11. Shalane Flanagan made her pit stop at mile 7. It’s reported that she was in and out in 30 seconds. Absolutely amazing.

I made my pit stop at Mile 9. I wasn’t sure if I really had to go or if it was just the cold. I knew that I wanted to start taking water at the stops but the idea made my bladder squirm.

At mile seven I started watching the porta-potties. At mile seven and eight there were people in line waiting. I wasn’t going to wait in line.

At mile nine there wasn’t a line so I pulled over. A woman went in just as I got there. While I untied my shorts I hollered to her to lock the door. Another runner could have run up and tried to jump in with her.

I had so many layers on and was so cold I wasn’t sure if I was pointed in the right direction. Fortunately I was okay. Getting all of my layers back together took way more time than I wanted.

Including my wait and getting repackaged, my pit stop took 2:41. If I had been going for a Boston PR that stop might have made the difference. With the pit stop, mile nine came in at 11:58.

From Mile 17 on all of my miles were 11 minutes plus with a 12:40 and a 13:07.

The 12:40 was Mile 21 when I stopped at the Melrose Running Club water stop. After that stop most of the course was down hill with a few minor hills. I decided to run the down hills and see how I felt at Mile 22.

At Mile 22 we had some more downhill, so I kept on running. Then we hit the uphill passing Boston College on our way to Cleveland Circle.

I made up my mind to press on up the hill and run through Cleveland Circle. At BC the crowds were really building. At Cleveland Circle they were larger, though not as large as usual. Still, how could I walk?

After Cleveland Circle Mile 23 was coming up, so I had to run to the next mile.

At Mile 23 I told myself I only had about 5K to go, so keep going.

As I ran these last few miles I compared how I felt at that moment to how I had felt in previous years. I was amazed to realize that I felt good enough to keep going and not walk.

I had the energy and determination to keep going. Often at this point in Boston I need to take walk breaks. Sometimes they are only a hundred yards or so but I just can’t force my self to run. I knew that if I walked my muscles would tighten up and running again would be very difficult. The fact that I was soaked to the skin and it was cold would have made running again even more difficult.

So I kept running at a slow pace. Mile 23 came in at 11:29 and Mile 24 came in at 13:39. I had to walk when I got to the water stop and getting started again had been difficult. But I did get started again.

Mile 25 came in at 11:39 and mile 26 came in at 11:44. I managed to run a pace of 10:46 for the last 0.46 miles to the finish line.

Finishing the 2018 Boston Marathon

As we came down Beacon Street towards the I-90 overpass I was struggling. I had been cold and soaked to the skin for over four hours. I was so focused on finishing, on keeping keeping on, that I didn’t pay much attention to the crowd.

I ran in anticipation of the I-90 overpass. The rise is only a few feet, but this late in the race it might just as well be a mountain. All Boston Marathon Runners can tell you about this bridge over the turnpike.

I had anticipated a nasty gale blowing down the turnpike, but it turned out to be not that bad. At least compared to what we had already endured.

After the bridge it was the run to Kenmore Square. We were so close! Somewhere on this piece of road, the the One Mile to go sign appeared. I love that god damned sign! Even if my knees are blown out and I’m bleeding, I can make it one more mile!

As we ran through Kenmore Square I noticed the brick pavers but did not fear that they would trip me, unlike my last Boston. There was a crowd but the weather and our late arrival had thinned them considerably.

I looked down the road and saw a line of police. It looked like they were blocking the Mass Ave underpass. I thought that maybe the rain had flooded it and we wouldn’t have to deal with that hill.

No such luck. They were at Charles Gate East and West keeping an eye on things. My perspective was off a bit!

As we ran under Mass Ave, no one let out a whoop like they usually do. Everyone needed every last breath to keep their legs turning over. We all had our nails dug into the bottom of the barrel at this point.

As we went down the hill I dreaded running up the other side.

Many of us were barely running as we ascended the tunnel. It was a struggle.

But soon after we emerged from the depths, we could see Hereford Street! The Golden Corner!

I tossed the last of the juice into the engine and made my way to the corner. I started looking around at the crowd on both sides of the street. I even picked up my pace a bit.

A wave of joy came over me and a big smile spread across my face. I was going to make it!

As I turned onto Hereford Street I was with only a handful of runners. As I looked up the street to Boylston Street I smiled that it looked like such a hill. Then I felt sad when I saw the mountains of ponchos, Mylar and plastic sheets pilled on the road. Yet again, such waste. I was too tired to be pissed off.

Hereford Street was packed with spectators. For the first time in the race there seemed to be a lot of people.

As I got near the turn onto Boylston Street I came upon a hand cyclist. This poor guy had started about two hours before I did. Talk about heart!

As I ran past the piles of crap discarded by previous runners I worried that one of this guy’s wheels would slip on a tarp. Or maybe a plastic sheet would wind around one of his wheels. What was he supposed to do if that happened?

He was barely making any forward motion. I knew what I was going through. This guy was using his arms to finish a marathon. I was using my legs. I didn’t have half a breath to give him any encouragement, and I doubt he needed any.

My 2018 Boston Marathon Experience, Boylston Street, RainAs soon as I made the left onto Boylston Street the wind and the rain blasted me. It was at-least as bad as any other part of the race and possibly worse.

The rain was torrential and the wind must have been 30 MPH. My Mylar sheet was plastered against my body. As it had done with every other gust of wind during the race, the Mylar sheet kept the wind from whipping through all of my other layers.

I have no doubt that without that Mylar sheet I would have gotten hypothermia during the race. Like many others, I would have had to drop out of the race.

Something that I kept after a race and most people tossed saved my 2018 Boston Marathon.

The finish line seemed like it was a mile away. The wind and the rain made it feel like I wasn’t making any forward progress. I guess you should relish the finish of a marathon like this, but I just wanted it to be over.

I ran on and on and it seemed like the finish line didn’t get any closer! Eventually I got to where the bleachers were, and there wasn’t anyone sitting there! I felt like I was late to the party.

2018 Boston Marathon Finish Line, Marathon Running, RainAs I approached the finish line I made my way to the left side of the road. No idea why. Why not? The super structure had an electronic sign on it this year and said Wave 3 and 4.

Check out this Video taken on Boylston Street

It felt so good to cross that finish line. I knew that my friend Meg Michaels was on the left giving out finisher’s medals and I wanted to see her. There’s nothing like seeing a friend at the end of a marathon!

After a quick hug I was after water and my food bag. Then I proceeded to stager towards the bag drop tent. They were pretty good getting my bag and I headed out of the security area.

Apre 2018 Boston Marathon

MGH had an after party of the Boston Sports Club (BSC) on Boylston Street. They told us that Mass Eye and Ear also had an after party at the BSC. I missed the fact that there were two BSC on Boylston Street.

As I looked for any BSC no one seemed to know where either one was. After wandering around in the cold rain I ducked into a Panera on Boylston Street. I found an open table and sat down. Through my foggy glasses I tried to find the email with information. My fingers were so cold that sometimes my phone wouldn’t do anything when I tapped it.

I was obviously cold and shivering. Several awesome people asked me if I wanted anything. I’ve experienced the kindness of strangers on Marathon Monday before. It is such an affirmation of humanity and decency. I barely looked up to say no thank you to these incredible examples of humanity.

I hope I didn’t come off as a jerk. I was freezing and trying to hook up with people who could help me. And the people who could help me were right by my side.

I finally found the BSC at 505 Boylston Street and headed in that direction. A Boston Cop told me I could cross the security area, but no one could come with me.

I hobbled across the street and headed for the BSC. In the windows I saw signs for Mass Eye and Ear and figured I was home. I thought MGH and Mass Eye and Ear were in the same club. At the time I didn’t realize there were two BSC on Boylston Street.

The Mass Eye and Ear folks welcomed me with cheers when I walked into the lobby. The lady manning the door said, “well you have the right bag over your shoulder, so come on in.” She was also kind enough to direct me to the elevator! What an angel!

When I got down stairs I explained my situation and another beautiful human being asked me what I wanted to eat and directed me to the hot coffee. I told her, what ever you have.

Someone gave me their seat and I sat down holding my coffee to warm my hands. Soon the kind angel returned with a banana and two halves of different sandwiches. I inhaled the sandwiches and wanted to ask for more, but I was a party crasher.

I hung out for about a half hour, thanked my gracious hosts and started looking for a cab.

Getting Home

Before the race Uber made a big deal that they were giving discounted rides to Marathon runners. That sounded great to me. Any ride sounded great to me at that point.

I walked down Boylston Street towards the finish line where I saw an Uber tent when I was finishing the race. The tent was empty and being cleared out! I was freezing cold and Uber was gone. What exactly did they think they were offering us when they made a big deal about discounted rides?

I headed to the Family Meeting area to try and find an open street, but found none. So I left the meet up area and headed to what I thought was an open corner.

I opened my Uber app and thought a car was on the way. I was standing under the canopy of a store on Dartmouth Street. It was cold and raining out and I was in running gear.

The driver called me right away and said the area was closed and he couldn’t pick me up. He cancelled the ride and it looked like another driver was on his way. He also called to cancel.

I was so pissed at Uber that I was ready to cancel my account. I mean WTF? No one thought that streets would be closed and maybe they should direct people to an area that was open?

No one around me was from Boston or knew shit about Uber. I was in one on the trendiest neighborhoods in Boston and no one lived there or knew anything about Uber?

Boston Marathon 2018 ExperienceSince I couldn’t stand around and wait for hypothermia to set in I decided to use dead reckoning and head for Cambridge.

So after running 26.2 miles and walking around Boston several more, I had to walk from the Back Bay, across the Longfellow bridge to my office in Cambridge.

I mean, what the fuck was I going to do? The rain was pelting down and I was freezing. It really was an insane thing to do but I didn’t have any cash because I was going to use Uber.

I entered my building through the gym and took this photo. It doesn’t do justice to how miserable I felt. A volunteer at the finish line had to help me get the BAA poncho on.

After taking a leak and warming up a bit I headed for the garage and drove home.

2018 Boston Marathon by the Numbers

Boston Marathon 2018 factsBoston is the most famous marathon in the world and the Holy Grail for all marathon runners. People come from all over the world to run this race. Even back of the pack runners who get a number by fundraising for a charity come from all over the world.

I’ve run 16 marathons now and eight of them have been Boston. There is just something about Boston that makes any runner give just a little bit more.

It takes a lot for someone to drop out of Boston. It does happen and in 2018 the drop out rate was 50% higher than usual. Check out this graphic for some stats. Click on the photo to read an interesting article with more stats and back ground on the race.

American women took the top two spots and seven of the top 10 finishes! Remarkable.

Des Linden won at 2:39:54! We are all so proud of her!

American men took six of the top 10 spots and Shadrack Biwott came in third place at 2:18:35.

Yuki Kawauchi of Japan won the men’s race at 2:15:58.

Run well My Friends,

Andy

Running 2019 Boston Marathon

The 2019 Boston Marathon was another adventure run. We had rain, we had heat, a little bit of wind and a whole lot of fun.

Originally posted on April 28th, 2019.

I awoke to the sound of thunder around 5:30 on Marathon Monday.

All week they forecasted rain and possibly thunder and lightening during the race.

I didn’t pay much attention until Wednesday.

On Wednesday, April 10th, the BAA sent the following email update:

Marathon Monday is a fun day for all, but amateurs to elites should all remember to take the weather seriously. The current weather predictions are predicted to be similar to 2018’s race, so please keep an eye on the extended forecast and dress accordingly for the weather conditions. Packing extra layers, gloves, hats, and waterproof gear is encouraged.

By Friday meteorologists said the rain should end before the race and most likely before noon. Over the weekend the forecast improved to rain ending before 9:00 with race temps in the 50’s and some wind.

2019 Boston Marathon Weather ForecastOn Friday the BAA announced that Wave 4 would start immediately after Wave 3. Normally there is a 25 minute gap between waves. In 2018 when we had close to a Nor’easter they also had Wave 4 start right after Wave 3.

Even with the improving forecast, everyone knew that anything could happen.

As I had my coffee and toast I hoped that they were right. While getting dressed I noticed that the thunder had stopped and the rain seemed to be getting lighter.

I checked my go bag and running belt for the 10th time and headed out. As I drove down my street NPR said it was 7:01 on Marathon Monday, Patriots Day.

Getting to the 2019 Boston Marathon

I parked in my garage around 7:30 and walked to the Kendall/MIT Red Line T station. The rain was now light, it was reasonably warm and there wasn’t much of a breeze.

I had considered walking, but the Red Line stop at Arlington was right around the corner from the bag drop area. Last year I walked over in the rain and got soaked. The walk also added over a mile of walking which I wanted to avoid.

 Pre Race Map bag drop, bus pickup
Boston Marathon Pre Race Map

The train ride was uneventful and the cars were not crowded. I even made a good transition at Park Street from the Red Line to the Green Line.

In no time I was walking down Boylston Street towards the 2019 Boston Marathon finish line and looking for my bag drop. The buses where they collected our gear were not lined up in bib order so I had to look around a bit.

There were plenty of eager volunteers ready to take my bag and I was on my way to the buses in no time.

I slipped on the KT Tape poncho from The Expo and made my way down Boylston Street. As I crossed Arlington Street I heard my friend Bill Ozaslan call my name! He was directing runners towards the buses. We said hello and chatted briefly in passing.

It was great to see a friend and get some encouragement before the race.

The Walk though the Public Garden was easier than last year. The puddles were smaller and the crowd seemed lighter.

I was seeded in Wave 4 and my assigned bus loading time was 8:55 to 9:30. It was around 8:00 AM when I got in line for the buses. Wave 3 loaded from 8:00 to 8:45 AM, but no one was turned away. Their goal was to fill every seat in every bus and roll em out.

As we stood in line I chatted with several people. One young lady had come to Boston from Paris! That was pretty cool. We made idle chit-chat while waiting our turn to board.

Later in the day when I heard about the massive fire at Notre Dame I felt bad for her. She probably heard about the disaster in her home town soon after finishing the race. To feel such sorrow and anguish after achieving such a triumph.

On the bus I sat with a guy from Vancouver, BC. He went to college in Boston many years ago and had run Boston a few times before. We were both old hands at running and had a good chat all the way out to Hopkinton.2019 Boston Marathon Recap and course description Click To Tweet

Hanging with Team Mass General

When I ran for MGH in 2018 they had a heated tent for the team. Since the 2019 forecast was similar to 2018, I hoped they would have the tent again.

All training season, I hadn’t received a single email from MGH about the race. I had no idea if they would have a tent, but I was hopeful.

While working the Bib Pickup station at the Boston Marathon Expo Sunday night, me and my friend Marty Hergert started looking for an MGH Twitter account to reach out to. Turns out that MGH has many twitter handles, none of which seemed like the obvious choice to contact.

I sent a Tweet to an MGH account but didn’t get a reply until 10:24 Monday night.

They had a post race get together that I didn’t know about that until after the race also. I was too busy before the race to even think about these things.

As I walked into Athletes Village I asked a volunteer about MGH. They didn’t know but pointed to someone holding an MGH sign. The person holding the sign told me the tent was in the same parking lot as last year.

Because the first wave had been called and I had a fourth wave bib, she had to walk me through security, which was no problem. I was so grateful for her assistance.

I managed to find my way to the MGH tent in a few minutes. I had my MGH singlet on and they let me in with a smile.

MGH Tent Boston Marathon 2019The tent wasn’t heated but they had food, drink and just about anything else a marathon runner would need. They even had a DJ and an MGH photo background.

I settled in and started chatting with people like we were old friends. I recognized one older guy from last year, but that was it. I was in a room full of strangers and fellow travelers.

They had a line of porta-potties in the parking lot and I only had to wait a minute or two. When I went back inside the tent I surveyed the food and beverages, got a cup of coffee and some sort of breakfast bar. I wasn’t really hungry but I knew I would be in a few hours.

Each time I went back to the seat I claimed, there seemed to be new people around. Each time people struck up conversations like we were my old friends. It was pretty cool.

A lady next to me was putting her name on her bib with a sharpie. I asked if she would write “Andy” on both arms. No problem!

I finally got some ink!

Running 2019 Boston Marathon

Sometime after 10:00 they told us to make our final race preparations and to then head outside for some photos. I was pretty much ready to go so I headed out to the porta-potty line one last time. It’s the most important pre-race check box to tick!

People were still coming out of the tent when I exited The Loo. I tried not to be in front but the way the crowd moved into place I was pretty much in the middle. They took a bunch of photos and had a high tech camera that I think was going to make a 3-D image, or something.

With that most of us headed for the start. A few people were still getting ready.

As I walked down the street I could feel the excitement build. Even for my 9th Boston Marathon it was still a thrill to walk with the crowd towards the start.

As we approached Grove Street, the road that goes from the High School to the start area, we went through a check point. They were using wand metal detectors! I was shocked they didn’t go off since all of us had a phone, keys or something metallic on us.

Grove Street HopkintonThe walk down Grove Street was joyous and long, as usual. Unlike 2018, people were out on their lawns wishing us well. Some folks offered supplies and I think one little girl had a free lemonade stand.

You gotta love the people of of Hopkinton. 35,000 runners massively inconvenience them and they offer the sweetest kindnesses to strangers in return. That is class.

I saw the tent for Race Cancer Foundation and my friend Jessie Lizette was there! Another friendly face to share the day with. We had a quick hug and I was on my way.

As we turned right onto Main Street and started to walk up the hill my excitement clicked up to 11. The crowds were growing and it was beginning to feel frickin real!

Like 2018, we just kept walking towards the start line. No stopping and engagement with the announcer. No camera on a huge boom swinging over the crowd. I was totally prepared this time.

As I crossed the first timing mat I started my watch. It was freakin real now!

And They’re off to Boston

In 2018 only steel barricades lined the road out of Hopkinton. This year the cheering crowd was back!

The road out of Hopkinton is down hill for the first 0.7 miles. This makes it easy to let the adrenaline and crowds carry you along like a leaf in the breeze. Everyone feels awesome at this point in the race.

I did my best to stay in the middle of the road and chill out. My left knee conveniently started acting up about two weeks before the marathon. So I was paying attention to how both knees felt as I ran that first mile.

At 0.7 miles we hit our first hill. In the first mile we lost 130 feet of elevation and that first hill gave us back 34 feet. I was so pumped up in 2003 that I didn’t even notice this hill. In subsequent years I’ve noticed it.

Over the years, I’ve become a student of the course.

I ran the hill intentionally knowing there were many more hills to come and paid attention to how everything felt.

Mile One came in at 9:31. Right on my goal pace of 9:30.

Mile two was gently rolling hills. At 2.1 miles we hit our next hill of about 29 feet.

Mile two was 9:21 and mile three was 9:12. My goal was to run even splits around 9:30, so these miles were a little fast.

I skipped the first water stop at mile two and drank from a 500ml bottle to which I had added an electrolyte mix. At 5K I took my first gel and washed it down with some water.

Somehow my bib didn’t register at the 5K mark. I believe my watch had me around 28 minutes at the 5K mark. Way off my 5K pace but close to my marathon pace.

Things were going well.

Around this time I began to think about a porta-potty stop. I really didn’t want to but sweat was dripping down my left arm. In order to keep drinking the way I knew I needed to, I would need to make a stop.

The BAA had water stations and porta-potties starting at mile two and I began to look for on open porta-potty.

The mile three porta-potties looked occupied so I kept on going. At mile four they had ten in a parking lot and at least one had a green handle.

As I ran into the parking lot someone else ran in front of me and I was afraid I’d have to wait. But as the other runner went in, a runner came out of another door.

I still had two water bottles with me and managed to balance them on the “shelf” in the corner of the porta-potty.

I timed my self and got in and out in 30 seconds. I joked that I had done a “Flannagan” like Shalane did in 2018.

Mile four came in at 9:36 with my pit stop, but mile five came in at 8:56. I was definitely feeling better.

At 4.2 miles we hit the first hill that I remember from 2003. It’s 52 feet over a half mile as we entered Framingham.

This time I greeted it like an old friend. I took the hill.

Settling into The Run

Now that I had resolved my hydration issue I could focus on running. My knee was only a 2 on a scale of 10 and didn’t seem to be getting any worse. I worried about pounding it on the down hills in Newton, but that was many miles away.

I had plenty of gels, two bottles on my belt and most of two bottles in my hands. I was warmed up and was settled into the race.

Mile six and seven were 8:55 and 8:49. At 10K I took my next gel, finished the plain water bottle and tossed it.

The BAA clocked me at 57:51 at the 10K mark. I estimated that my second 5K had a pace around 29 minutes. The fact that the 2nd 5K included a pit stop, my 5K splits were basically even.

My overall pace at 10K was 9:18!

Mile eight chimed about half a mile into Natick. My pace was 9:12.

The crowds were pretty deep and consistent through Natick. I finished and tossed my second bottle, so now I could slap some hands along the way!

At Mile nine I ate one of the four Snickers bars I brought with me. Even in what seemed like heat, it was firm. I washed it down with some electrolyte drink from one of my belt bottles and satisfied some of my hunger.

There was very little cloud cover at this point in the race. Remembering 2014, I tried to run on the shaded side of the road but it didn’t work very well.

Just after mile nine I crossed the 15K timing mat at 1:26:23. It took me about 28:32 to run the 5K between the 10K and 15K mark.

I was running remarkably consistent splits of 9:16 still.

On one hand I figured I was one-third of the way through the race, on the other hand I knew that the halfway mark was really at mile twenty!

Mile nine through 13.1 miles went smoothly. I took a gel around mile twelve and started taking water at stops. The crowd at the stops was thinner now and I was getting tired of gels and sport drink.

At 20K the BAA clocked me at 1:55:10 or 28:43 for that 5K. Still at a 9:16 overall pace.

I crossed the Half Marathon mat at 2:01:31, still a 9:16 pace.

Running to Boston!

After mile thirteen we were headed for The Wellesley College Scream Tunnel. In 2018 there were a few hearty souls still hanging on the barricades for us. I was so miserable by then that I could barely muster a smile for them.

This year there was a huge crowd of college girls screaming at us. Many held signs, some with provocative or funny things on them. Oh to be 20-something again!

I smiled and waved but didn’t stop for a kiss.

There are just rolling hills between 20K and 25K, nothing challenging at all. Just the miles.

25K is at the top of the hill that drops down to the ramp to the Rt. 128 bridge. I heard Shalane Flanagan call this bridge the toughest hill on the course and I am inclined to agree.

At 25K my time was 2:24:42, just under a 9:19 pace. Mile 15 had rung in at 9:43 and I’m not sure why.

I managed to run down the hill to the Rt. 128 bridge and mile 16 came in at 9:10.

While training for this marathon I had practiced running down hill. It takes more than just throwing your foot out there. You have to condition your muscles for the impact, practice maintaining good form and trust that you can control your body and not fall on your face.

After the trough at mile sixteen we began the climb up the ramp to the bridge.

In 2018 there had been a raging brook running down the right side of the road! About half-way up the ramp there was water gushing two feet out of a drain and creating the torrent. It was a sight to see.

This year I just focused on getting up that damned hill.

Some people were walking and most everyone slowed down. Running the seventeenth mile, a 76 foot hill kicked everyone’s ass. I managed to keep running and felt okay for where I was.

Mile seventeen chimed in at 10:10. My first mile over 10 minutes. It was beginning to feel like a run.

Dem Damned Hills!

At about 17.25 mile we took that famous turn in front of the Newton Fire Station.

The road is so wide here and the crowd is large and loud.

I knew that the Melrose Running Club and my daughter were less than four miles away, atop Heartbreak Hill. I wished they had been at mile 16 or 18. Mile twenty-one, for god’s sake!

The Rt. 128 bridge may be in Wellesley, but it’s the first of the “Newton Hills.” At 17.5 miles we made the steep ascent of hill #2. 50 feet over a third of a mile on tired legs and a swimming mind.

I could have been pulled over for an OUI at this point, I was so altered. Count back from 100? I can’t even count up to 10!

Mile 18 came in at 10:08 even with the hill.

After summiting hill #2 we had a dip and another rise. Then mostly down hill until 19.25 or so.

My quads were shredded by this point, so I couldn’t really run down the hills. I did okay and mile nineteen came in at 9:45.

30K was just before mile 19. The BAA clocked me at 2:56:12 and my overall pace had dropped to 9:27.

Still under my goal of 9:30 but the hills were taking their toll on me.

At 19.25 we hit hill #3 and ascended another 50 feet over about a third of a mile. Mile twenty came in at 10:11. I was doing better than a lot of people but I was running out of gas.

At mile twenty I took some Gatorade and another gel. The big one was coming.

The crowd was huge and loud. Somewhere along here I realized that my ears were ringing! It was that loud. Or was I that altered?

I took a salt pill and two Hyland Arnica pills after the big turn at the fire station. So I should have been in relatively good shape. I knew what I was doing.

Heartbreak Hill

At 20.3 miles that big damned hill began! It’s 85 feet over about a quarter of a mile!

I knew that my stop was coming up, but I still chugged up the hill like the express train. It gives me such a feeling of accomplishment to run Heartbreak Hill. I have walked it before, but not in recent years.

As I ran the hill I moved to the left side of the road and kept looking ahead. The Melrose Running Club color is purple and I was looking for our pop up tent.

Finally it came into view and looked so far away!

I never stop for long at the tent. It is a race after all!

In 2018 they had plastic barricade fencing along the road. This year they just had a rope, so I could get off of the course.

2019 Boston Marathon, Angela NagelinI saw my daughter Angela standing there and gave her a big hug. I’m sure she was thrilled. My buddy Matt Sazama was a few feet away with his camera.

I had to motion to him to take our picture. That’s all I really wanted from this stop. Later he said he wasn’t sure who the girl was so he didn’t want to just take a picture of me with some random girl!

I don’t recall what we said but I’m sure she asked how I was and I probably said okay. Next I moved to the pit crew. My throat was so dry I could barely speak. My friend AJ Drummond kept asking if I wanted a pretzel for salt.

I kept try to say I had taken a salt tablet a few miles back but the words just wouldn’t come out. Finally Jose Viveiros understood that I wanted water.

He came over with a bottle and I took the top off of one of the bottles in my belt. The electrolyte mix was too strong so I wanted to top off my bottles and make them drinkable again.

I quickly got the top on the first bottle and then filled the second bottle. I tried to look into the crowd to see who else was there, but my eyes didn’t seem to be working!

I waved goodbye to everyone and I was off. With just a bit of uphill left, the long descent into Boston began.

Mile twenty-one came in at 12:36. The pit stop was well worth the loss of a few minutes.

To Cleveland Circle and Beyond!

Mile twenty-two was mostly down hill. The crowds were still as big and as loud as they were all through Newton.

Nothing hurt, I was simply exhausted. My muscles were shredded. But nothing hurt, so I kept running.

At 35K the BAA clocked me in at 3:30:09 and my overall pace was just under 9:40. My goal pace was 9:30. It didn’t look like I was going to hit that mark, but the wheels were still on the bus.

Just after 35K I hit the twenty-two mile mark at 9:34. With only 4.2 miles to go it would be hard to bend the time much closer to 9:30.

As we cruised past the Chestnut Hill Reservoir and headed into Cleveland Circle I felt a second wind. Mile twenty-two has 79 feet of decline and I kicked it in.

I moved to the left side of the road and ran between the tracks. I had the road to my self here and moved freely.

Heading out of Cleveland Circle toward mile twenty-three we lost an additional 54 feet. It was just what I needed. Mile twenty-three came in at 9:33!

After mile twenty-three, my two miles of exuberant running began to take their toll. Mile twenty-four is mostly downhill and the crowd support is phenomenal.

I could feel every rise in the road in my thighs. Even with pretty good fueling and hydration I was running on fumes.

Mile twenty-four had 21 feet of incline and 54 feet of decline. Nothing really. But mile twenty-four dropped to 10:09. With only 2.2 miles to go I decided to go all in.

2019 Boston Marathon Finish

Somewhere around mile twenty-four we entered Boston. The home stretch!

No one in the fourth wave had qualified for Boston. We paid our fees, did our fundraising and ran as much as we could. At this late stage in the race many runners were beyond any distance they had ever run before. It was all guts and will power fueling these brave folks.

The crowds were deep and loud even this late in the day. Usually I look into the crowd and exchange a few whoops with someone who has had a few more beers than I. It’s a lot of fun and helps distract me from the pain.

For 2019 I kept my head down for the most part and focused on keeping my feet moving.

I knew I could keep moving and not walk. It just took every fiber of my being to keep the party rolling towards Boylston Street.

Part of the reason a marathon is so mentally taxing is the reduced level of glucose going to your brain. The other reason is the level of focus required to keep running when your body and good judgement say, “hell no!”

At 40K the BAA clocked me at 4:01:20 for an overall pace of just under 9:43. Mile twenty-five came in at 9:57! Under ten minutes! 40K and 25 miles are just about the same distance.

I was running about 0.3 miles long, so Garmin shows mile 25 before the Turnpike Bridge. The BAA map has mile twenty-five just past the bridge.

The bridge is one of the last challenges for runners. In a car you’d barely notice it. On marathon Monday it’s just one more hill between you and the finish.

Somewhere after the bridge there is the “One Mile to go” sign.

Then we entered Kenmore Square. The crowd was huge and loud! I looked to see if any of my colleagues had managed to make it to the race. A few hinted that they might, but I didn’t see anyone.

As we left Kenmore Square we came to the last water stop near the Charles Gate overpass. Some people grabbed a cup but I kept in the middle of the road.

Commonwealth Ave was packed with people. I was highly focused on finishing the race and didn’t engage with the crowd or pay them much attention.

Soon the Mass Ave underpass came into view. Most runners hate this dip in the road. Our legs can handle neither the decline or rise out of the tunnel. I don’t think anyone let out a whoop in the tunnel.

I was surprised how easily I made the ascent out of the tunnel. As soon as I got back on Comm Ave I made my way to the right side of the road.

I could hardly believe that I was seeing the Hereford Street sign come into view! I’ve run this corner many times between the marathon and BAA 5K.

During a marathon, seeing that sign is like seeing the shoots open before splashdown for an Apollo mission. Almost home, but it’s not over yet!

Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston

2019 Boston Marathon, Comm Ave onto Hereford StreetIn 2018 Hereford was a slick hill littered with piles of ponchos, jackets and other trash. What a freakin mess was all I could think.

This year the road layed invitingly before me. There were more runners than last year but it still felt like the road was mine to run. I took the hill and approached the corner.

As I got to the top of the hill I moved left and got ready to execute the turn onto Boylston Street. It went perfectly.

All of a sudden, there were runners around me. The road is so wide but there were people near me!

Way the hell down the road I could see the finish line. This year it was a big screen TV or something. I didn’t recall all of the lights from before.

We ran and ran and ran! Then all of a sudden the finish line was there! I moved to the right side for Wave Four finishers and threw peace signs into the air as I approached the sacred line!

Finishing my ninth Boston Marathon was just as exciting as any other, except for maybe the first one!

As I left the finish area one of the BAA executives was standing there clapping for everyone. I stuck my hand out and he shook it and said “Congratulations.”

As I caught my breath I kept walking towards Mylar blankets and my medal!

Boston Marathon finishers medalMy friend Meg Micheals volunteers to give out medals every year. I always look for her and found her this year. It was great.

I had to keep moving and got my bag of food and headed to the bag pickup area. The volunteers saw me coming and had already called into the bus with my bag number. Very efficient.

I didn’t have anything to hang around for, so I headed for the exit. At the corner I took a left and the Arlington T stop was right there!

After the 2019 Boston Marathon

I was surprised how easy it was to get down the stairs to the platform. Someone was playing music and the air was warm. Unlike previous years, no one said a word to me.

At Park Street I made an efficient transfer to the Red Line and headed for Kendall Square. Walking up the stairs out of the Kendall/MIT stop was a bit more challenging.

Walking down the street to my office was cold and seemed to take too long! Fortunately the garage door was open and I didn’t have to go around to the front of the building.

I tossed my stuff in the back seat and tossed my self into the front seat.

The drive home was okay. It was a holiday so traffic was light.

Getting out of the car was a bit of a challenge and so was getting up the stairs! My muscles were tightening up.

I took a nice shower and sat down to watch my DVR recording of the 2019 Boston Marathon. What an exciting finish!

Run well my Friends,

Andy