Brian and I hit the road early Sunday morning for the 3.5 hour drive to Boston. The drive was uneventful, and before long we were checking in to the hotel and making our way to the expo by 11:00am.
The expo itself was a madhouse. There were so many people crammed into the space it was difficult to really see anything. Nevertheless, I picked up my bib, bought a 2014 Boston Marathon jacket, and quickly said hello to some fellow Central Park Track Club teammates, Dani and Grace.
The rest of the day was pretty low key. I focused on staying hydrated, eating easily digestible carbs, and relaxing. Around 7:00pm, I realized I forgot to buy a bagel for the next morning. I had meticulously planned on buying the Dunkin’ Donuts bagel with the most amount of carbs (blueberry, in case you’re wondering), but completely failed on that front. Luckily, our hotel had a Starbucks, so I rushed downstairs to see what they had available. When I got to the counter, I saw two multi-grain bagels in the case, and two people in front of me. The first woman in line asked for the second to last bagel. Now we were down to one bagel, two people in line. The woman in front of me looked nervously at the multi-grain bagel and asked if they had any plain in stock. “Nope, this is all we have left, but we will *probably* receive another shipment tomorrow morning” the barista said. Probably? That wasn’t very reassuring. While woman number two debated, the second barista asked what I’d be having. I practically yelled, “That last bagel, please!” Woman number two looked slightly panicked as I paid for the last bagel. I sure hope the Starbucks got their morning shipment as expected. A cake pop seems like a poor plan B.
Brian and I had dinner at Legal Seafoods and while it may seem like an unusual pre-marathon dinner choice, it ended up being fine. I usually have a glass of wine before races (just one!) because I find it relaxes me and helps me feel “normal,” if that makes sense. Dinner ended up being a glass of sauvignon blanc, dinner roll times three, a cup of clam chowder with crackers, and a side salad with croutons. And then Brian and I split a strawberry-rhubarb crisp for dessert. Not your typical pasta dinner, but I left feeling full, yet not weighed down, and I think I had a decent amount of carbohydrates. I kept dinner on the smaller side because I had wanted to make my lunch (chicken burrito with white rice and flour tortilla) the biggest meal of the day. From a digestion perspective, this all worked out well. I’m happy to report I didn’t have any stomach woes before or during the race.
Sunday evening, I fell asleep sometimes between 9:00 and 10:00pm. I don’t remember exactly when, but I slept pretty soundly.
Monday morning, I woke up about an hour and 45 minutes before I needed to leave the hotel so I’d have plenty of time to drink coffee, use the bathroom, get dressed, etc., etc. I ate 1/2 banana before I left and then jogged the mile or so to Boston Common to meet up with my friend Laura. Miraculously, despite not having our cell phones (no bag check at the Athletes’ Village this year), we were able to meet up and hang out on the hour long bus ride to Hopkinton.
There’s nothing like driving 26 miles on the morning of a marathon to make you realize how long the race truly is. On the bus, I made a bagel sandwich with my multigrain bagel, remaining 1/2 banana, and a honey packet, and ate that on the bus along with some Gatorade. As I waited in the start village (which, by the way, started to feel prettyyyy warm), I ate a Clif bar, drank some water, and then about 30 minutes before the start, I ate one of those Gatorade carb energy drink thingies. It’s sort of half-way between a gel and a drink. I had never tried one before, but I can tolerate gels and Gatorade pretty well, so I thought it would work out okay. And isn’t the saying, “Try everything new on race day”?? Kidding. But luckily it didn’t bother my stomach, and I felt well fueled as I made my way to the starting line.
Pre-race fuel breakdown: 885 calories/192 g carbohydrate. Which is exactly what I planned.
The weather, however, was not exactly what I planned. After a winter of training in the arctic tundra, a race day forecast of 65-70 degrees and sunny made me a little nervous. I kept hoping the forecast would trend cooler than predicted, but as I was standing on the starting line, I was already sweating. It was probably in the low 50’s when I started, but I knew the full sun would make things heat up quickly. I decided I was going to start conservatively and just hope I would be able to pick it up in the second half of the race. For the first 25k or so, this plan was working great, and my friend Laura and I were averaging a perfect 7:50 pace.
Miles 1-2: 15:44/7:52 average (I didn’t hit the first split until Mile 2)
Mile 3: 7:50
Mile 4: 7:43
Mile 5: 8:01
Mile 6: 7:43
Mile 7: 7:43
Mile 8: 7:51
Mile 9: 7:48
Mile 10: 7:47
Mile 11: 7:57
Mile 12: 7:48
Mile 13: 7:50
Half Marathon Split: 1:42:41
Mile 14: 7:52
Mile 15: 7:54
Mile 16: 7:40
As anyone who’s run Boston can tell you, the first 15 or 16 miles of the race usually feel okay, hopefully even easy! But then you hit the Newton Hills. Heartbreak Hill at Mile 21 is tough, but it’s actually the series of hills before it that make Boston so difficult. As I finished up Mile 15 (which includes a pretty steep downhill), I remember thinking my quads felt toasted. And damn, I still had ten more miles of rolling hills to go. This was also the time in the race when the heat and sun started to take their toll. 65 degrees and sunny feel great if you’re a spectator, not so great if you’ve been running for 2+ hours. I took a Gu every hour or so (approximately Miles 7, 15, 21) and began taking water and Gatorade at every stop.
Around Mile 17, I knew my plan to speed up just wasn’t going to happen (I would finish a mile feeling like I had picked it up, but when I would look at my split, it would actually be 10-20 seconds slower than planned). Instead of freaking out and letting negative thoughts take over, I just tried to keep steady and focus on getting through the remaining miles. Was this going to be a PR day? Eh, no, unfortunately not. But when you’ve still got nine miles left to run, you can’t tell yourself the race is lost. I knew I wasn’t going to PR, so I tried to focus on the positives – enjoying the amazing crowds and making sure I re-qualified for Boston with a time under 3:35.
Mile 17: 8:13
Mile 18: 8:13
Mile 19-20: 16:26/8:13 average (I forgot to hit the split at Mile 19)
Mile 21: 8:37 (Heartbreak Hill)
Mile 22: 8:11
Mile 23: 8:33
Mile 24: 8:24 (Stopped to give Brian a quick and sweaty kiss)
Mile 25: 8:32
Mile 26: 8:00
Last .2: 1 minute, 32 seconds
3:30:00. At first, I was a little annoyed. Like, seriously?!? I couldn’t run ONE second faster to get a 3:29:59?? But then I realized, it’s better that I ran 3:30:00 vs. 3:30:01 because, if I decide to register for the 2015 Boston Marathon, I’ll be able to register with the runners who have qualified by five minutes or more. For my gender and age group, a BQ is 3:35:00.
In case you’re unfamiliar, the first day of registration is for people who’ve qualified by 20 minutes or more, the second day of registration is for people who’ve qualified by ten minutes or more, and the third day of registration is for people who’ve qualified by five minutes or more. And then finally if there are still spots available, there’s a day of registration for people who’ve qualified by less than 5 minutes. By running a 3:30:00, I am pretty sure I can register on the third day vs. the fourthth day. Not a huge difference, but it’s some consolation.
Did I plan on running a 3:30? Um, no. In my mind, I thought I would run somewhere between 3:20 and 3:25. Am I disappointed by this? Not too much. You can’t control the weather and unfortunately for me, 65-70 degrees will produce a slower result than 45-50 or even 55 degrees. I’m trying to think about what went well in this year’s race: I think I (finally!) nailed down fueling, I ran my fastest Boston yet, and most importantly…I BQ’d at Boston, which is something that didn’t happen in 2009 or 2012.
Dear Brian, Thank you for listening to me complain about training in the cold, icy winter for the past four months. Thank you for also listening to me obsess about the race day weather forecast three weeks in advance, trekking all over Boston to cheer me on, and most importantly, making sure I had a post-race margarita as big as my head.
I was in a world of hurt post-race (quads, especially!), but I was able to get a decent night’s sleep and on Tuesday morning I felt good enough to pay a visit to the Sam Adams Brewery. They were giving special marathoner tours and it was really fun to learn more about one of my favorite breweries.
Most importantly, I was finally able to try their marathon-inspired 26.2 brew. It’s lower in alcohol (no one wants to see a dehydrated marathoner get belligerent!), has a light wheat taste, and has a little bit of salt added. I may or may not have started fantasizing about a cold beer around Mile 21….
In a nutshell: I didn’t PR, but I still had a good race by my own definition. I have no idea when I will run another marathon…maybe Boston 2015? But only if they promise me I can catch a break with the weather. 50 degrees, overcast, tailwind. Is that too much to ask??
Saratoga Springs, New York
[Megan’s blog The Runner’s Kitchen (Fueling the Miles with a Healthy Balance) documents two passions – running and experimenting in the kitchen. Check it out for more running and recipes]