What can I say about the 2015 Boston Marathon? The weather dominated the day. It was cold, overcast, pretty much steady rain and a solid 20-30 mph headwind. These were not ideal conditions. It's one I will probably remember for a long while ("Remember the rain of '15?" we will say to one another as grizzled old runners many years from now. Maybe).
Anyway, here's how my race went:
The first 3 or 4 miles were OK. The temps were cool, but basically what you want on a marathon race day. I had convinced myself shorts and a singlet were the right choice (plus my snazzy knee-high-socks-as-arm-warmers). The wind was rough, but when I ducked behind people, it wasn't too bad. If the weather held up like this the whole race, I thought, it'll actually be totally doable.
But then at mile 4, of course, it started raining. It was a couple drops, then a few more, until within a mile, it was a pretty steady rain. "Welcome to the rest of your marathon," I said to myself. The rain coupled with the wind made for much harsher conditions and by mile 10, I couldn't feel my fingers too well.
I had my pace band and I tried to stick to the numbers pretty much all the way through (except for one suicidal 7:20 early on -- oops). I stuck to my plan of eating GUs at mile 6, 11, 17 and 24. Due to the numbness in my hands, I had to tear the GUs open with my teeth. That felt enjoyably animalistic -- running in the downpour and wind and ripping food open with my teeth. But the numbness had one bad side-effect: at one point, I was holding a GU gel in my hand, taking tiny bites (I don't eat well when I'm running under 7:40s) and trying to catch my breath -- and I hadn't noticed that I'd begun clenching my fist. So when I went back for another bite, there was GU all over the back of my hand which I'd unknowingly squeezed out of it. Nice. It was also chocolate, so I silently prayed no photogs were nearby snapping shots of me licking brown gunk off my hand (yes, I did that -- what? A gal's gotta eat!).
As always Wellesley was my favorite part of the course. I tried to soak in some of the girls' energy and read some signs. I knew I was going to need the distraction. Later on, as the rain got steadier and the wind felt harsher, I sought out the crowds -- I made eye contact with some random dude on his porch, playing a full drum kit. He paused with one hand still drumming and pointed his drum stick at me. It gave me a boost, but the race was feeling rough already and I wasn't even through the hills yet.
In my head I knew I had to get to Mile 21, post-hills, and see what I had left in my legs. But by the time I hit the middle of Newton, I knew I was not going to have much left. My shoes were getting wet from the rain, despite attempts to avoid the worst of the puddles. At one point, I reached down to adjust my shorts, which were soaking wet from the rain, and I could not feel my legs -- they had gone pretty much numb from the cold. I thought maybe that'd make it easier to run -- if you can't feel them, maybe you can't feel fatigue either? (Ha).
As I crested over the final hill, my one thought was to get to Dan, who was waiting at mile 25 for me. I just thought, "Run to Dan, go see Dan." I think I was so mentally exhausted from having to tell myself "You can do it!" that I needed someone else to tell me that, to pick up the slack. So that was my one focus -- not even getting to the finish, just getting to Dan. I figured if if I had anything left, I wouldn't stop, I'd just wave. But if my race goal was completely out of sight, I'd stop for a hug and maybe a beer. :)
So as I got closer to mile 25, I began moving over to the left side. I'd tried to stick behind as many people as I could during the race -- only leaving shelter to cross gaps between crowds -- but at some point, I figured I had to be over to the left to see him. So now I was tired, soaking wet and exposed to that headwind. Great. I felt like I was hanging onto my mood and my pace by a very thin thread at this point.
I passed a bunch of spots that LOOKED like the spot he would be standing at (it had a big statue on the corner). I was almost frantic, worried I'd miss him. Then finally, a block away, I spotted him and began blowing kisses. The relief of seeing him was so overwhelming. I had glanced down at my watch at this point and knew a 3:24:XX was unlikely, but I knew a 3:25 was still possible. So, I allowed Dan's cheers to buoy me on and I dug in. 1 mile to go, said the sign.
Last year, I remember the right on Hereford (uphill!!) and the left on Boylston (why is the finish line SO FAR AWAY??) had been a tad demoralizing -- sort of like someone dimming the light at the end of the tunnel just as you see it. So this year, I was trying to mentally prepare myself for it. The right and the hill wasn't so bad this time, but yeah, the finish line -- still looks like it's a mile away. I glanced down at my watch one last time and tried to calculate if I could make it. I started a slow second-by-second countdown in my head, but my legs weren't in it. I had spent everything I had the last 26 miles and this was all my legs were gonna give me. No 6:XX min/mile quarter mile finish sprint like last year. I was stubbornly holding strong at just over 7.
Still, I crossed the finish at 3:25:03. I didn't even feel disappointed in that, because I knew I did NOT have an extra four seconds in my legs at that point. But that is still a solid PR and with only :30 off my original time goal, I'm not beating myself up over it. I'll give those :30 to the weather and the wind. A rough race, but it's Boston. Nothing will make me love it less. Not even a headwind.
What would you do differently?:
Maybe been a little more careful on the initial miles not to go too fast. One mile I went 7:20, which was obviously too crazy. I think that ended up hurting me at the Newton hills. A rookie mistake, but I thought maybe I could outrun the weather (ha). Otherwise, I think I did a good job of sticking to my pace and trying to run the course the best I could.
I walked across the finish line feeling pretty ecstatic. Got a fantastic hoodie/mylar blanket/space jacket. Got a medal and lots of smiles and congratulations from the volunteers. The final trek back to the Boston Common was a bit rough, but I was on a high and feeling amazing. As usual, I struck up a conversation with another runner and we discussed how the race went for us. Soon, I was at the tent, grabbing my bag, throwing on my warm clothes (it was a mosh-pit in the changing tent this year -- last year it was practically empty!) and then hobbling my way back to the hotel. I seriously only ever want to stay IN Boston proper for this race from now on. It was great being only a few blocks away from a warm shower.
After a shower, some tea and some more chips, Dan and I headed out to Precinct --where this year they'd hired a DJ. So of course, all these crazy fast people (emphasis on crazy) who'd just run super fast marathons were DANCING. So of course we joined in. One of the best post-race parties I've ever been to. My legs were sore, I was drinking a beer with very little else in my stomach, bouncing around, spinning and shaking my bootie -- and I seriously would not have wanted to be anywhere else.
What limited your ability to perform faster:
I think I'm going to flat out blame the weather on this one. Had I been given a day of JUST rain or JUST a headwind, this would have been a different race. But I'm happy with the result and next up I'm ready to tackle Chicago in the hopes of landing a sub 3:20.
Second Boston, even better than my first. I'll be back next year!
Last updated: 2015-03-11 12:00 AM
Boston Athletic Association
44F / 7C
Overall Rank = 8481/26610
Age Group = F18-39
Age Group Rank = 1357/6011
Like last year, I got up to everything basically already packed and ready to go, so I just assembled my stuff and slipped out of the room trying to avoid waking Dan. I didn't roll anything out because I felt fine -- all the niggles and twinges were gone (of course). Headed to the bus at Boston Common (good lord it was chilly), dropped off my finishing bag, hopped into one of the buses and off we went on the slow long trek to Hopkinton. I ate my peanut butter sandwich on the bus, and had a brief conversation with a runner sitting next to me as he checked the weather on his iPhone (rain, rain, rain, wind, wind, wind).
The weather was NOT going to be favorable today, that much was clear. It was windy and chilly getting off the buses. As soon as I found my friends in the AV (thankfully, they'd staked out a spot under the tent, so we were covered) it began to rain. I used the porta john once while we waited (and talked and huddled together for warmth) and ate my banana, but mostly we just sat there. It was a good crowd to be with and they calmed my nerves -- I was trying to decide if I should still "go for it" considering the wind. They convinced me to just see how I felt at the start, but I think in my head, I hoped I could still hit my time goal (3:24:30 on my pace band). This wasn't just about hitting a PR (the previous one being here last year -- a 3:28:16 in much more favorable conditions). I want to break 3:20 in Chicago this fall and making the leap from 3:28 to 3:19 seemed too large. Boston 2015 was intended to be a stepping stone PR -- a nice solid 3:24 is significantly closer to that sub-3:20 -- a leap that could be mentally and physically feasible to overcome come October. I was using Boston as a mental booster shot.
As they called out our wave and corral, we began moving towards the exit. I stopped by the porta potties one more time and before hopping back into the crowd, unenthusiastically shed my many warm layers. It was windy, but not raining (yet) at this point, and I could tell drafting would be key to the race.
The wait for the start was minimal, even in the cold -- we were moving before I had a whole lot of time to obsess much more about my race details.