No one likes to write a race report about a race that didn’t go well. I questioned putting these thoughts out there, but I know eventually I’ll be glad I did. It will be good to look back on it in the future–hopefully when a race goes “right.”
The first few days after the marathon, I didn’t really feel like reliving each mile of 26.2. And then I thought, “Well, this year should be much easier to write than last year.” (Biggest understatement ever. It’s clear this recap was easier to write for different reasons.)
Like many, I found 4.15.2014 to be an emotional day. To be honest, I didn’t even fully realize it was 4.15 until that Tuesday morning. I was so focused on being days out from reaching the Boston start and finish lines again that the anniversary hit me like a ton of bricks. I know I wasn’t alone (just like I wasn’t alone on 4.15.2013).
4.15.2013 was a great day and then, suddenly, it was a terrible day.
Last year, I ran Boston in a three plus minute PR of 3:14:37. With practically zero hill training and a very short training cycle (just 14 weeks), my results surprised me. I ran strong and hit almost every pace I planned in my race strategy. It was a day to remember. Yet a day I wanted to forget for so many days, weeks, months afterward.
This year, I wanted to repeat the race experience at Boston 2013, and enjoy being part of the kickass running community that clearly can’t be stopped.
I didn’t run the race I was capable of this year. I ran 3:21:16, over eleven minutes off of my “B” goal. I know I should be proud of this time. If you had told me two or three years ago I would run this time at Boston, I would have been “over the moon.” I wouldn’t think of this time as a failure or a disappointment. It’s perfectly ironic to me my 2013 Boston experience was wonderful in terms of the race, and so devastating in terms of its events, and my 2014 Boston experience was absolutely wonderful in terms of the people with whom I shared it, and so disappointing in terms of my race itself.
But then, you think about last year. Facing each day was much harder the first few days after last year’s Boston Marathon. I don’t want Boston 2014 to be about coming short of my goal. And I definitely don’t want to take the experience for granted. A week later, I gradually started to find a sense of humor about the whole experience. For example, how ridiculous is it so many of us Midwestern runners trained through one of the WORST winters in history, and then ran 26.2 in 60+ degrees. That’s the luck of the draw with most spring marathons. Blaming the heat feels like an excuse for failing, but there were factors I could control, and others I could not. That’s the way the marathon goes.
Even though Miles 16-26.2 felt more like a slow march, I want to recap the miles of Boston 2014:
My goal was 7:10-7:15/mile, or between 3:08:00 and 3:10:00 for the whole race. The last two months/ nine weeks of my cycle went really, really well, and I felt confident in this goal time. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but I felt ready.
I woke up on Marathon Monday rested and calm. I slept surprisingly well and got up right away when my alarm sounded at 4:30am. Chanthana Tsai and I seemed to have a similar morning—we felt like we had plenty of time to get ready and we weren’t rushing around. We even had a few quiet moments to sit and have breakfast together. We left the hotel with Lauren with enough time to meet Corey and Molly near the buses at Boston Common. We all climbed on a bus together and chatted the entire ride. (I remember the bus ride being much longer last year–probably because I was super nervous then.)
Quick shout-out to the $5 Walgreens blanket pictured here! I didn’t realize it was a Christmas tree until I opened it up on Sunday night! Almost didn’t want to ditch it in the Village. 🙂 Also, as I was leaving the hotel on Monday morning, I showed Manny my awesome hobo outfit and he immediately said, “You’re so lucky I love you.” I mean, how could you not with that kind of outfit?!
After spending the morning in Athletes’ Village laying down, chatting with friends, and waiting in the bathroom line (75% of my time was spent there, I swear), I was in a bit of a rush to get to my corral. Never fails. You wait and wait and wait, and then you’re suddenly in a rush to apply BodyGlide, count your Gus, double-check if your watch is working, and get to corral before the start. I nervously walked up to my corral, walking a bit and jogging a bit when space allowed. By the time I got there, I had five minutes before the start of Wave 2.
I saw Leticia and Michele (didn’t know they’d be at the start!). I told them I was nervous and a bit worried about the temp. With two minutes before the start, I heard the announcer say “Alright runners, it’s 58 degrees right now. How about we hold it right there?” And I thought, hell yeah, man, it’s already warm! I had throw-away arm-warmers on, because you come prepared for cold weather when you train in -10 to 40 degree temps! I immediately threw them to the side. I most definitely wouldn’t need them.
My goal for these miles was just to let the downhill do the work. I wanted to stay relaxed and find a flow, without putting the “breaks” on (that would just kill the quads even more). My pace for these miles should have been 6:55-7:05 per mile. I didn’t feel like I was getting caught up in the excitement of the race. I felt really smooth and focused on keeping my heart rate low.
Looking back on it, I probably could have cooled it down a tad. Running 6:50 compared to 7:05 doesn’t seem like a big difference but I know better.
The course here is gently rolling with no major hills. It’s a good time to settle into goal pace range and just focus on fueling properly. The goal here was 7:10-7:15, to stay consistent. Even thought there are no major hills, it’s still a challenge, something I remember being surprised by last year.
This section felt pretty good. The rolling hills felt like the hills I had trained on at Morton Arboretum. My legs had more pep on the hills this year than they did last (which, again, makes sense because I did zero hill training in 2013). Miles 6 and 7 felt just as strong as Miles 1-5. Right after the Mile 7 marker, I felt like I needed to make a pit stop and got lucky when I found an empty one. False alarm . Wasted time on the stop.
I knew this was bad. At this point in the race, I should have been plenty hydrated. When you realize you may be flirting with dehydration at Mile 8 of a marathon, it’s a really bad sign. I tried not to think too much about it and kept running.
I took water at every other water stop in the first 13 miles. Once I reached Mile 14, I knew I needed to be taking in much more than that. I also started to pour water over my head and my back by Mile 8. (And another bad sign– it felt so cold on my skin it took my breath away for a second). I took a Gu about every five miles and washed it down with water.
Right after Mile 14, Jess and I exchanged a few words. She looked so strong and I have to say, I was 177% jealous of the water bottle she chose to carry during the race. She asked me how I felt and I said “I’m hot.” It was nice to see a familiar face when it all started to go downhill (errrr, actually when the course started going uphill!)
The first time I looked at my splits after I finished (this wasn’t until Tuesday afternoon–didn’t have the nerve before that), I was actually shocked to look at these miles–the splits weren’t as bad as they were in my head! Miles 13-14 felt pretty tough, Miles 8 and 11 were slow due to bathroom/water stops, but the remaining miles were pretty much in goal range. Still, the fact they’re a bit erratic (even with the rolling course) isn’t a good sign.
The hills. Yeah, this is where it gets real.
Mile 15 – Not good.
Mile 16 – “Mayyyyyyybe I can get back into it.”
Mile 17 – Nope.
Mile 18 – Yeah, this isn’t going well.
By Mile 18, I was playing mental games with myself. I spent so much mental energy just calculating and recalculating my projected finishing time. Each time I passed a mile marker, I weighed whether or not I could hold a pace closer to 7:00 and what the finish time would be. And then I gradually resigned to “ok, what if I just hold eight minutes per mile? I mean, that’s 30 seconds slower than your long run pace, Jenny!” It wasn’t pretty and I stopped to walk at least ten times. I’ve never walked in a marathon before (except to drink water, or recover from choking on my water!). My legs felt like lead and I was ashamed to even look ahead or to the side at the thousands of spectators lining the course. If there’s ever a time I wished there were zero spectators at a race, it was then. [Spectators: You are amazing and in hindsight I’m happy you were there! I mean, I probably would have just sat on the curb if you hadn’t been screaming your %#@# heads off!]
Just trying to hold it together. After the hills in previous section, my legs didn’t even want to run downhill. I wanted to love those downhills, but my legs definitely didn’t. They were boycotting and I felt like there really wasn’t anything I could do about it. I walked in this section a few more times, yelled at myself (internally) a bit (example: “You only have two, three, four miles to go. Do you really need a walk break?”), and generally just felt sorry for myself. The goal for this section was to hold it together and just get back into goal pace after the hills. This clearly didn’t happen. (I remember thinking my slowest mile of Boston 2013 had been a 7:59 around Mile 22-23. After seeing a few 8’s on my watch, this made me disappointed.)
I had a bit of a mental boost seeing the huge Chicago crew (seemingly led by Lynton) and getting a side-5 from Jeff around Mile 22. Seeing some familiar faces kind of snapped me out of my own head for a second–that was MUCH appreciated! Around Mile 25, Mary said hello as she passed and did her best to keep me going, but I just didn’t have anything left.
Making the right on Hereford and the left on Boylston was emotional. The crowds were unbelievably loud, yet I felt like I couldn’t quite hear them. Manny, my mom, my sister, and some friends told me they would be cheering on Boylston (closer to Hereford than the finish). I remember looking to my left several times to try to spot them. And once I turned my attention on that beautiful finish line and put my hands over my heart, the tears started to flow.
I cried because I felt lucky to be back again after last year. I cried because I didn’t run the race I wanted to. I cried because of the crowd support (despite wishing them away when the going got tough). I cried because my legs hurt. And I cried because there’s only one place I was thinking about throughout this cycle–the Boston Marathon Finish Line. It’s so beautiful.
Not every marathon can be beautiful but that finish line surely was.
Marathon #4 was the toughest marathon I’ve ever run. It was also the most meaningful after a difficult 2013. I know I have a 3:08-3:10 in these legs of mine. It’s probably just a matter of time before that happens. And I can’t wait until it does.
Things I’ve Learned:
*Don’t be a silly goose. Readjust your expectations up until the minute the race starts according to the weather.
*Just when you think you’ve had enough water to drink, drink way more (this goes for the day of, and especially the day before). I’m normally good at hydrating before a race (and maybe my body just didn’t have enough time to acclimate), but I think I should have had more water on Sunday. (Rookie mistake.)
*Just because I didn’t run the race I wanted to, does not mean I’m not strong. (And one bad race usually means a great one is just around the corner.)
When a race is going poorly, try to at least make the mental switch to just enjoy yourself. I clearly didn’t do this. It’s obviously much easier said than done, but I wish I would have just let go and had fun with the crowds.
*I had so much more fun training for this year’s Boston than I did last year’s. It’s no coincidence it’s because I spent the majority of every Saturday with Chanthana and Corey. Those two helped me through long runs in ice, snow, and wind—and they’re both ridiculously good at brunching. (#alltheBACON!)
*Returning to Boston with *almost* the same crew as last year was very special.
End of one chapter and the beginning of another.
[Jenny Poore created her blog WE WANDER AND PONDER …preferably while running in 2010, when she decided to train for her first half marathon.]