Boston was my A race for the year. Last year I raced myself into the ground and got slower and slower in successive races, so after The Athens Marathon in November, I took some time off to recover and then from the 1st of January my focus was firmly on Boston. I banned myself from signing up to any marathons or ultras beforehand (except my 4 day jaunt of the Cotswold way end of January but that was social and not a race – see separate blog post).
I made a training plan which was rather like a traditional marathon training plan building up the distance of the weekend long runs with 2x20miler races and a 17miler as my long training runs, a couple of halfs and a tune up 10k at the end. And I stuck to it. I felt like I was taking a risk and stepping into the unknown because it meant going 22 weeks without running a marathon or an ultra which is unusual for me. How would I know I could cover the distance? How would I feel past 20 miles? How could I gauge how I would do? But on the other hand, I should have more consistent training rather than constantly being fatigued from one race or tapering for the next as I was racing every weekend if not more than once a weekend.
My general training was 1-2 swims a week; hot yoga class a week; and while I had planned 2 weight training sessions a week, these were the thing to slip and I probably averaged 1 a week across the Jan-Apr training phase. Then I generally had 1 long run, 1-2 speed sessions, 1 tempo, and 1-2 easy runs per week averaging 5 runs per week.
Over the 15 weeks before the marathon, I ran 573 miles so averaging 38 miles a week. That doesn’t sound an awful lot when I see other people’s mileage exceeding 100 at times, but it seems to work for me with my monthly mileages almost mirroring 2015 and 2016 when I had some really good spring performances. The difference was a lot more runs in the 10-20 mile range and far fewer 20+ runs.
In March of 2015, I ran a half marathon PB of 1:28, then 2 marathons in 2 consecutive weekends, the 2nd of which I PBd at with a 3:17, followed by the Marathon des Sables, and then came back to do a 3:22 the next week. In the same season I ran a 5km PB of 19:19 and a 10km PB of 40:20.
Llanelli, Wales 3:22:13
In March 2016, I ran two disappointing half marathons, and was way off my best for 5km and 10km too, so I was very surprised to shave 3 minutes off and get a new PB of 3:14 in the London marathon.
This year, again I ran two disappointing half marathons in March, but was getting a bit of pace back in my shorter distances, with a good 5km and 10km two days in a row, and improvements over segments for speed sessions according to strava compared to the same sessions I’d completed in the past. I’d also been quite happy with some reasonably consistent training runs at the Gade and Finchley 20s. I hoped with the training consistently and less of the over-racing, that my focus on Boston would afford me at least a PB, but was really hoping for a 3:10.
It didn’t happen. I’m gutted. I ran 3:33:06, which I know is a good time, but it’s my 5th best, only seconds better than my 6th and 7th, and a couple of minutes better than my 8th. Considering my 4th I ran pretty much entirely alone as it was such a small field with laps, and my 7th and 8th were the day after 112 mile bike rides and two days after 2.4 mile swims, I feel like I should be able to do better. But it wasn’t to be. I’m gutted because of the focus I put into it, months aiming for that one race and I don’t have another to try again, whereas usually it would be a case of “oh well, next!”. But as I say, it wasn’t to be.
The weather was HOT! A couple of weeks before we flew out, the weather was cold, wet, rainy, even snowy, with temperatures below zero. It got a bit milder the few days before we flew, and we were able to enjoy a glorious week of sunshine before the race. The day before the race when I needed to rest my legs, I lay out in the midday sun for 4 hours and will admit I got a bit burned. This was probably mistake 1. Afterwards, I hydrated with about 5 litres of fluids making for quite a disturbed sleep – mistake 2. I think I probably walked too many miles in the week before the race, (according to the health app on my phone which I generally pay no attention to, I walked 10-25km a day only counting the steps where I was carrying my phone each day of the holiday except Sunday when I tried to rest and still did 5km even though I felt like I barely moved), but I was on holiday and wanted to see things. The flat ballet pump type shoes rather than trainers possibly mistake 3.
Race day was Monday and not as hot as Sunday had been, but definitely warm even when I left the house at 6:30am. I got an uber to the bag check area, and then boarded an official bus (a yellow school bus) to the athlete’s village in Hopkinton where they provided coffee, tea, bagels, water, Gatorade, and fruit. I lay on the floor and drank a bottle of water having already had my first breakfast of peanut butter on toast with a green juice before leaving, and my second breakfast of a chocolate crepe roll, a banana and a vitamin water on the bus.
The Boston marathon has several waves with mobility impaired athletes, wheelchair athletes, handcycle athletes and the the professionals setting off about an hour before me. Then waves 1-4 are seeded by qualifying time with 8 corrals per wave. Wave 1 set off at 10, and I was wave 2, corral 2 based on my qualifying time of 3:14.
Just as my wave was about to start, the sun hotted up. I was already thirsty in spite of over 5 litres of fluids the previous day and about 1.5 litres already that morning.
The start was congested and I couldn’t get into a rhythm for probably 5 miles. I naturally wanted to go faster, not least to take advantage of the downhill start, and felt I was wasting energy both by holding back or by dodging around people ahead. I got to mile 1 five seconds behind schedule, and grabbed a drink. I got to mile 2 ten seconds behind schedule, stopped at the portaloo, and grabbed two cups, drinking one and pouring the second over my head. I got to mile 3 around the time I should have, making up the deficit, but the pattern was set: drink a cup, pour a cup. I felt like I couldn’t satisfy my thirst, and I was too hot. I continued like this stopping to drink and douse myself every single mile until the end. I also accepted an energy gel at each of the 3 stations offered and I very rarely take on any nutrition other than something like Lucozade or Gatorade during a race of marathon distance or less. And it wasn’t just the gels. Spectators were so kind, giving out additional drinks and treats. I took an orange segment, an ice lolly, and ice chips. I stuffed icecubes into my bra and ran through about 6 hoses and showers. I also felt like I needed some salt and greedily grabbed a pretzel stick proffered to me. I only took one bite, but it was so dry, I felt like I couldn’t breath and spluttered crumbs everywhere for a quarter of a mile until I could get a drink. Whoops!
The whole course was so congested, and people were colliding with eachother weaving across to the water stations and back out to continue running. I walked through all the water stations to get as much fluid on board as possible as evidenced by my pace graph!
By about mile 6, I knew 3:10 wasn’t happening and thought maybe I could squeeze a PB, but later lowered that goal to a 3:20, and to enjoy the experience, then a 3:25, then a sub 3:30. I ended up finishing in 3:33:06, a Boston qualifying time and a London good for age time for my age group so I’ll take it! (Not that I’m planning on racing either in 2018 if my plans work out).
But I was pleased that in spite of the disappointment and the pain, I enjoyed the experience. The spectators and volunteers were wonderful. The enthusiasm was brilliant. OK, so they weren’t Welsh (haha), but the course was lined the whole way. The Wellesley scream tunnel was particularly fun. The college girls all hold signs “kiss me, I build robots”, “kiss me, I’m British”, “kiss me, I’m queer”, “kiss me, I have low standards”, “kiss me for an energy boost”, “kiss me, I’m graduating” etc and a few were topless holding signs in front of them saying “run faster and we drop the signs”. I waved my arms and sang along to every song blaring out of speakers I passed. I appreciated the signs saying we were running better than the US government or “if trump can win, so can you”. Restored my faith in Americans to some extent! I also had a chat to a man with a Guatemala flag on his back about my time there, and kept seeing him pass me at water stations then I would pass him again. We finished seconds apart and had a photo together.
I set up the tracker to follow about 6 people I knew who were running and they all ran slower than I thought they would based on their training or PBs so I’m not alone in feeling it was a hard day at the office. I chatted to a Clapham Chaser at the finish who qualified with a 2:51 and came in just under 4 hours. Ouch. I ended up 7859/26411 finishers so top 30% overall and too 15% females which makes me feel much better in the grand scheme of things when I consider this was a race requiring qualification. And with my finish position at 7858, lower than my bib number of 9167 which is seeded based on qualification time, it implies I placed in the field about where I should have compared to the seeding. There were 27221 starters, so quite a high drop out rate. And I heard 1200 needed some sort of medical attention on the day.
The heat and hydration issue seemed to bother me more than at the Marathon des Sables!
So I didn’t get the time I wanted, and I don’t know when I’ll next have a shot at it, but I’ve run Boston which is a goal for so many runners, and it was brilliant! 2 down, 4 to go on the quest for the Abbotts Marathon Majors 6 Star Medal. And a nice round 600 miles for 2017 so far.
Next up, a few days recovery:
1)Cheesecake Factory – check
2)Massage at Boston Bodyworker – check
3)Extra leg room seats on the plane home – check
4)Pick up Mafon from the cattery for furry cuddles in a couple of hours
5)An oncall shift at work Thursday (grrrreat) and normal work day Friday
6)Fish and chip run (minus the run) with my running club
7)Probably a swim
And then…. London Marathon Sunday!