30 May 2012


We recall wistfully those college days when time blurred, especially time after about three in the morning when you were cramming for that final, taking bad pictures of the sunrise out your dorm window to document the experience, hoping to nail it
(yes, that is actually the Troy sunrise on the morning of my freshman physics final). Then the memories of reality flood back in, and you recall how utterly rotten you felt when you walked in the next morning, how the professor thought you looked so fried that he offered to let you defer, but you motored on anyway, and somehow, at least in the case of the exam following this photo, you nailed the sucker.

Thirty years later we know darn well that all-nighters have a dashing and heroic aura to them, even in the post-collegiate professional world (nothing like that email time-stamped four-twenty-three AM), but in reality they are to be avoided precisely because of how utterly rotten you feel the next morning, how you are in fact so fried that you should defer any meaningful activity not related to sleep. Yes, I still need to pull them occasionally in my line of work, but not by choice, and certainly they’re incompatible with race performance. Marathon prep consists of months of training, weeks of taper, days of rest, and critically, a good night’s sleep before the big event, the word critically indicating that it’s a real problem when that last step of the process fails.

Fortunately, rare is the case where I’m not out in ten minutes flat. And “race nerves” is not a term known to me; heck, it’s just a race. No, I’m generally losing focus long before the end of the chapter I’m trying to slog through. Attaining a semi-coma is just not a problem.

But it was on Saturday night in a suburb of Buffalo on my uncle’s couch. And I have no idea why. Perhaps they served double-caffeine cola at the pasta dinner that night. Perhaps the KGB drugged the air in uncle’s living room. But for whatever reason, it just didn’t happen. Lights out by ten-thirty for that four-thirty-oh-my-God-it’s-early jangle became midnight, became one, two, a haze. Turning and tossing and wondering if there’s a dog (you know, the old dyslexic agnostic insomniac thing), a few brief interludes of fading out, but probably no more than one, two hours total, and already in a semi-wakened fog when that dreaded alarm came. Oh, no, this is not good. It’s typical for me to be dazed when roused, but dazed and fried, wiped, already fatigued, with a starting gun in two and a half hours, no, this is not good.

Such began the first marathon I’ve ever run on an all-nighter. Having shuffled off to Buffalo once again, fourth time for this race, seventeenth marathon, seeking redemption and a fast time, perhaps the Personal Best I figured I’m trained for, after the Boston Bake Fest ruined the previous attempt, focusing my worries entirely on the Buffalo forecast which appeared to be headed into the too-warm zone as well, I never saw this one coming. No sleep? Seriously?

My warm-up only confirmed my worst fears. Ugh. Slug. Might as well, the grave be dug. It was just plain ugly. Bodily functions simply not cooperating on multiple planes (which would become another issue later, but I’ll spare that detail, suffice to say that I spent about fourteen miles wishing for a five minute stop I was unwilling to give myself…). I wasn’t even focused enough to line myself up right at the start, ending up a good five or six back rather than my desired second, maybe third row. Hey, at least the geeky headband thing – it worked in Boston, might as well make it a habit – made me identifiable in the crowd.

And it was work from the start. When I’m tired, I’m clunky. Klutzy. The legs don’t flow, the feet clop harder, nothing seems to work right. Now, the beautiful thing about running is that after a long night of too much work, a morning run will start horribly but improve somewhat. I won’t get past the fatigue, but I will loosen up and feel better despite the tiredness. That works in a five-miler. Not so much in a marathon.

The clunkyness was immediate, though it did fade, even to the point of hearing a few compliments from the crowd on my stride later in the race. But the fatigue was on me rapidly and never faded, only grew. This one was simply going to be a long stretch of determination. There was no avoiding it. There was no period of cruising comfort before the grind set in. It was already in. Well, if this was going to be hard work, so be it. I didn’t get to marathon number seventeen without being intimately familiar with tough days. Let the slog-fest begin. Motor on, and nail this sucker.

From there, I can focus on the good stuff. The weather held, overcast persisting all morning to hold the air to the mid-sixties, avoiding the late-morning heat-fade which brought down the entire field last year. I settled in to the six-thirties by mile three and stuck there through the halfway point, a little slower than planned, knowing I wasn’t banking enough time to have a serious shot at a personal best, but also knowing I was holding my own on an hour’s sleep. Splits started rising just past the half, which at first I attributed to a lapse of focus through the transition from the busy half-marathon crowd to the lonely world of the full course runners, but it occurred to me later that miles fourteen and fifteen are a tad uphill. The reason mattered not; in my pre-fatigued state there was little hope of holding PR-pace into the high miles. Each ten kilometer segment sagged a little more, but I sated myself with the satisfaction of continued steady progress, as even when a couple late miles slightly topped seven, the body complained but didn’t fail. And truth is, I picked off several others in the second half and succumbed to no one. Mental victory.

No personal best. No surprisingly high placing amidst the masters or age group. No race-career-defining moment. But at two-fifty-five and change, a solid sub-three and a mere minute and a half off my PR, on an hour of sleep, well, I’ll take it. Ironically, being a year older than when I set that PR last fall, on an age-graded basis, this one in fact equaled that one, on an hour of sleep. And since some serious masters talent showed up, only third in my age group (complete with a star-themed trophy we decided looks kind of like it came from a dance or cheerleading competition, but hey, no complaints), compared to second last year. On an hour of sleep. Yeah, I’ll take it.

I’ve no intention of running another marathon after an all-nighter. Those nights are made for blog posts.

Random Bits: Sunday’s Buffalo Marathon marked Day 375 of my streak, tying my record from age 17 in 1980, and Monday’s recovery run broke that longstanding mark. I’ll expound on that in the next post. And the research is in: running Boston in a Greater Boston jersey really IS special. In Buffalo, a surprising number of people shouted, “Go number one-seventy-one!” despite the unavoidably large “GREATER BOSTON” splayed across my chest. Sure, there were a few bits of Boston recognition, but their tone was more of curiosity, not home team pride like I heard in Boston.

20 May 2012

One Two Three Four PRs

Almost lost in this weekend’s excitement was Friday’s excitement. Or perhaps it was Thursday’s excitement, as there is reasonable debate over the date. I’d considered weaving an article about this controversy, but along came Saturday, and the Thursday-Friday stuff seemed rather trivial.

You are wondering what that was all about, so I’ll cover it off first, quickly. Thursday marked Day 365 of the Streak, comprised – by my rules – of a run of at least three miles every day, stretching since the 19th of May 2011. A year! Or perhaps not? After all, this is a leap year, so I didn’t really knit up the calendar year until Friday, the 18th of May 2012, Day 366. So which day marked a year? A year being roughly three hundred sixty five and a quarter days, or any number of variations per Wiki, is rather hard to pin down. It’s not, as the cast of Rent would have you believe, five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes (to the great dismay, I am certain, of my daughter). What it is, on the other hand, well, who cares, Thursday came, Friday came, both were relatively uneventful, no celebrations occurred. And the fact is, the last time I did this Streak thing, when I was seventeen, it also happened to be a leap year, so any doubts sort of cancel out. The bottom line is that it really won’t matter until I break that thirty-two-year-old streak record, slated to happen in about a week, if nothing breaks between now and then.

Far more interesting is what happened on Day 367.

Here’s a study in contrasts. Last weekend, B race, B effort, B performance, absurdly large trophy. Walked away pleased with a fun day, but more or less ambivalent. This weekend, A+ race, A+ effort, A+ performance, no hardware, but an absurdly large confidence boost. Walked away shaking my head at what just transpired. What a difference seven days makes.

Saturday’s event was the Bedford (New Hampshire) Rotary 12K, yes, 12K, or 7.46 miles for you translational geeks. I’m told that 12K is actually a recognized distance, raced in, for example, international cross country, and the age-grading tables list it (which is a good thing, as you’ll see), but it’s not a distance that pops up often, and certainly not one I’d raced before. As a result, I was guaranteed a personal best just for finishing. Instead, I walked away with four personal records (“PRs”), even if only one really counts, because this race, being one of the USATF (USA Track & Field) New England Grand Prix events, sucked me into a place I didn’t know I had a ticket to enter.

You can race for years and not know of the existence of the Grand Prix series. I was entirely oblivious of these events for years, then only mildly aware of them, and now am frankly in awe of the talent they draw. This series, run here in New England and replicated (I would presume) in each region of the country, identifies a group of events over the course of the season spanning a plethora of distances ranging from five kilometers to the marathon. Both teams and individuals accumulate points toward the annual Grand Prix championship. The result is that every ringer in New England shows up for these races. Just showing up for a race of this caliber gets your heart pounding. Racing on the Greater Boston master’s team meant it mattered.

A week ago I wrote of a local race, a fine event to be sure, but clearly of local caliber. The starting line was peppered with people who had no idea that they shouldn’t be standing directly on the starting line. By the first turn, the lead pack stood at three. On this week’s fine and sunny (if a bit warm) Saturday in Bedford, I knew darn well that I had no right to be standing directly on the starting line. It was that obvious. This was the major leagues. I felt out a spot about six or seven deep from the front, and eyed the runners around me trying to get a feel if I’d be held back in a crowd or simply trampled by an unfathomably fast herd.

My positioning guess turned out to be fairly accurate. I nor anyone else I knew of was gored by the running of the bulls. But oh, did they run. Trouble was, I was really quite clueless as to just how fast they were running. This was no lead pack of three. This was a lead pack of an uncountable hoard, so many that I questioned whether I’d started racing. Am I really slugging this out so slowly that I’m this far back in the pack? Or is this simply an absurdly talented field? Or both?

Awaiting the mile split to answer this dilemma, my brain remotely registered a cacophony of watches chiming. It wasn’t till ten to fifteen seconds later that it dawned on me that I must have heard everyone’s GPS (save Luddite me with my simple Ironman) hit the mile. But a quick glance at my watch quickly dispelled that theory, as even ten to fifteen seconds later the time it reported was too quick for the first mile of a 5K, let alone for the distance we had in front of us.

Still questioning my pace, sanity, or both, and assuming I must be flagging to be so far back in this pack, I locked onto the lady ahead of me to avoid losing contact, while searching for the second mile split, by now realizing I’d missed the first. When a tiny “2m” paint mark passed, another glance at the time told me once again that this couldn’t possibly have been the second mile.

The enigma broke only when GBTC teammate Doug, whom I’d assumed had started ahead of me, arrived from behind shortly before the three mile mark (which again, I failed to see), and by the benefit of both his and my adopted pacer lady’s GPS they clued me in to the reality of the day. This was no slog in the park. This was, at least for me if not for them, flying low.

Last fall, I scratched my head over Kim, the young lady with whom I ran the Bay State Marathon, who wanted nothing to do with splits, pace calculations, and so on. Didn’t want to know. Don’t say a word. She just wanted to run. Saturday, I figured out her mindset. Hearing the pace we’d run for the first two miles, I was glad I hadn’t known. Indeed, I consciously put what they said out of my head. I didn’t want to know. Had I known, had I believed it, I would have cranked it way back after the first mile. Criminy, there’s still six and a half to go! But I didn’t know, and now we hit three miles, not quite at that first mile pace, but not far off, and, well, so what? This was what I was running, and it was really quite manageable. And though I didn’t know it at the time, using Doug’s GPS readout and some very conservative estimates, later I’d figure out that I’d just run my PR 5K, nailing a time I’d set as a goal for this summer. In a 12K.

Running with Doug at the five mile mark, where for the first time I saw the milepost, this time I was aware as it happened – another PR at five miles. A mile later at six, again a visible milepost, a clean split time, and easy extrapolation later turned up yet another PR at 10K. And though the only disappointment of the race came shortly after, another cramp (two weeks in a row!) which slowed mile seven, I held on to click off the 12K in sub-six pace. And since those aforementioned age-grading tables do indeed recognize the 12K, I was treated to seeing this scored as my highest rated race ever.

Oh yeah, and there were still over eighty people ahead of me. An utterly awesome field!

One of the mantras I would constantly tell the kids I coach is that you have no idea what you are capable of. I sucked up a little dose of that myself this weekend. Who needs a trophy when you can walk away with a carton of confidence and satisfaction, instead?

13 May 2012


Not every day is an A-Day, and that’s not a bad thing. No, I didn’t tank at the races today. In fact, I walked away with an absurdly large trophy, the largest I’ve ever received. Large enough that it won’t fit in any of the usual trophy-stowage spots in my already overcrowded basement lair. It’s simply that having what’s clearly an A-race slated for next weekend, followed by yet another the weekend after that, I couldn’t look at this weekend’s event as an all-out, everything you’ve got kind of race. Even my level of obsession knows some bounds.

In the balancing act between my local club and friends – the Highland City Striders – and my racing club and friends – Greater Boston – this was a Striders weekend, a Striders race series race, and therefore a weekend to keep the home fires alive. As a local race that I’m only aware of due to my local club, and really only running due to my local club, it made sense to wear green and join our Striders contingent for this weekend’s event. I was sure my red friends would understand – or at least they would so long as I didn’t go and do something silly like win it while not wearing GBTC red.

No worries, that didn’t happen. It was a B-Race day, and a B-Race outing. In the end I landed in third place with the aforementioned massive SUV-scale hunk’o’hardware for – gosh – only second place in the masters – not even winning that! (No, sadly, the wine wasn’t included in the prize, that’s just for perspective.) We’ll call it a hard day’s work and a decent but not remarkable outing, and be happy with it.

How is it that after Boston’s oven-baked wonder, we’ve endured four weeks of almost universally chilly, often wet, frequently windy, even downright uncomfortable training weather, then suddenly, along comes my first return-to-racing day and… of course, it soars up to about eighty. Go figger’ And like Boston, again it was mercifully non-humid, but oddly so non-humid that I’ve rarely felt so dry-mouthed in any race, let alone a brief five-miler. Sigh, suboptimal weather again. Whatever, it’s a B-Race day.

Now, none of this B-Race talk is in any way intended to demean the fine event known as the Clinton Tribute Road Race, a thirty-four-year tradition with tremendous town-wide volunteer and fan support. Few local races get people out of their houses along the course to cheer, but this one does. The race honors local heroes, and the town stands up and takes note. And the local newspaper in Clinton provides more coverage their local events than anywhere else I’ve seen. No, no belittling at all, they did a fine job. It was simply a B-Race day.

And a wicked hilly one to boot. Right up my hills-in-my-blood alley. I’d been warned, and so I’d scoped the course in response to those warnings. Four notable hills in a mere five mile race., the third being clearly the worst, the last also tough but seemingly manageable, since it’s the second-to-last hill in Stu’s 30K, and knowing that I wouldn’t have to climb the killer final hill of Stu’s made it seem that this one would be a breeze. Well, relatively, at least. Well, not, it would turn out.

For starters, this race starts uphill. Significantly uphill. That alone is pretty unusual. I also note that this one had more than its share of the usual hoo-ha’s who sprint off the line and more or less fall to the ground panting by the first tenth of a mile, and this was even more fun to watch when that first tenth was uphill. We’d cleared them out by the first turn at the third of a mile mark, and by the mile, the field of three hundred had winnowed to a mini-field of three. I’d already long ago heard the last of any footsteps or crowd support for anyone close behind, and just plugged myself into a slot about fifty yards back as John & Brad duked it out up front. I was holding their pace, and not at my limit, but I just couldn’t find it to press harder to catch them. Not that they would have necessarily just let me do so, but… It was a B-Race.

Brad, running second as we worked hill number two, proved to be outstanding at striding out the downhills but not so strong on the climbs – or in short exactly opposite of my strengths and weaknesses. On the flats around the two-mile mark, he briefly took the lead from John, whom I’d last faced – and lost to (and didn’t care because he’s a youngster and a nice guy) at the Tri-Valley 15K. Not only did John repay the favor as we hit the third and biggest hill at mile three, but I piled it on, also eclipsing Brad and moving into second on the climb. This positional jockeying was kind of fun, but it didn’t last. Following that biggest climb came the biggest downhill screamer, and by the four-mile mark, cramping and uncomfortable, and feeling like it was a B-Race day, I just smiled and waved as Brad grunted by and I realized that yes, he qualified for the Old Farts Club, and I wouldn’t be taking the masters’ top prize. C’est la vie.

Given that, the final climb back into town, which I’d earlier mentally called a gimme’, was anything but, transformed into a fatigued slog. Being ninety-five-percent certain there was nobody within reach (though never entirely certain) it pretty much just didn’t matter. Between the heat, the hills, and the cramp, my time was nothing to write home about. So just wrap it up, call it a hard workout, a decent day, unremarkable, a B-Race. A fine day, to be sure, but a B-Day, with no regrets.

With an absurdly big trophy.

Tidbits of Note: Entering that killer hill at mile three, my odometer clicked over mile one thousand miles on the year. I’d known it would happen that day but had forgotten about it in the heat (pun intended) of the competition. It was an appropriate spot for the event. And post-race, I had the pleasure of bumping into a former co-worker I hadn’t seen in years. Truth be told, he spotted me. Jim played football when he attended my alma mater, Rensselaer, and I was tickled to see he’s keeping himself in fine shape during those years when most people focus on their careers and neglect their fitness. Way to go, Jim!

11 May 2012


I am reminded during this political season (though, when is it not political season?) of the old joke that goes something to the effect of, “How many times can you hit a liberal before he’ll hit back?” Conveniently skipping the morass of any political commentary, I’ll simply translate that to, “”How many times can you hit a marathoner before he’ll hit back?” The answer appears to be precisely one.

We’re in an unprecedented bounce-back season it appears. On the heels of the Boston Bake-Fest, many of my marathoning friends have found themselves in an unusual position: without a Boston Marathon Qualifier, and though months away, with the Boston registration season looming large. These people are not taking it sitting down. They’re taking it to the streets.

Used to be (ah, the good old days…) that you had plenty of time in the fall to nab a qualifier. Then came that famed eight-hour sellout of 2010, and the world changed rapidly. The Boston Athletic Association made changes, the world grumbled, and we moved on. Frankly, I thought the scheme to sign up on day one, day three, day five, based on where you stood vis-à-vis your qualifying time was a good idea. Of course, I wasn’t at any risk with that scheme, so why wouldn’t I think it was a good idea? But if Boston is to continue as a race primarily for qualified runners, it’s fair to give an edge up based on one’s level of qualification. Further tightening the qualifying times was right in line with that philosophy. Someday I too may find myself on the outs and grumble, but I cannot complain about the fairness of the system.

But the other major change puzzled me when it was announced, continues to puzzle me, and today is vexing a whole lot of runners who were baked and basted out of their expected requalification last month on the skillet from Hopkinton to Wellesley. That’s the odd fact that the BAA moved the qualifying deadline up from mid-October to mid-September. If your intent is to bring together the most qualified marathoners to maintain the elite nature of the event, it makes sense that those qualifying times be recorded relatively close to the event. By moving this date back, the BAA has eliminated the bulk of the fall marathon season – the optimal time weather-wise – from the pool of qualifying opportunities for the following year’s race. This forces runners to use much earlier races to qualify.

Fall marathons still count due to the roughly eighteen month window, but only for the following year. A lot can happen to a runner in that period of time. It seems to me that it would have made more sense to reduce the window length to winnow out the long-past races, but keep the immediately preceding fall season within the window. It seems to me this would have produced a field more likely to be in “Boston” condition. But I’m sure they had their reasons, so who am I to judge?

I’m sitting in a comfortable position, since my race at Bay State last fall, which didn’t count to get me into this year’s Boston but did count to improve my seeding once I was in, now counts to get me into next year’s race. Provided the registration process works well again as it did this year, I’m set, with a solid time for seeding. On top of that, I was fortunate to be one of the few who, despite the heat, would have requalified with my Boston time, with over twenty minutes to spare, a big advantage with the new registration system. I don’t need to scramble.

But a lot of other folks do. People who qualify year after year suddenly found themselves on the outs. For many, each Boston is the primary route to requalify for the following Boston, and if for some reason that race went poorly, they’d pop in a fall marathon, get their time, and be done with it. No longer. It’s now a case of doing it now, before the summer heat (one hopes, look what happened last month), or traveling northward and hoping for a cool day in early September, a pretty big gamble with that deadline looming.

Most people don’t stack marathons back-to-back. I’ve done it with the Boston-Buffalo combo a number of times, but typically to raised eyebrows. My compatriots are now exploring that world. Granted, the slower pace of this year’s Boston did reduce the pounding and wear-and-tear factor, so one could construe it to have been a full-scale training run, and see a follow-on race as not quite so absurd.

And so off they go, a few to Providence last weekend, where two of my friends did get their qualifiers, one blowing a huge personal best with and leaving himself room to spare, one uncomfortably close to his needed time, leaving him still at risk based o the new registration process. Another friend heads to Sugarloaf in Maine in a week for their famously downhill romp, and hopefully cool weather. And he found himself in the midst of a cattle herd heading north, over a dozen Boston Burned Boys all thinking the same thing. I’m quite certain that late spring marathons have seen an unusual uptick of late registrations, all owing to this strange confluence of events.

I’m set for Boston 2013, but while I’m pleased with my race considering the conditions, I’d sure like to see what the winter’s training can produce on a good day. And so I’ve tossed my hat into the ring to take on my favorite late-spring race in Buffalo again this year. I’m a little worried that the mild winter could mean a warmer-than-usual Lake Erie and the absence of cool breezes we rely on for that race. After all, last year did get hot by the end. But I’ll take my chances and see what Mother Nature deals up this time. Knock on wood, it can’t be as bad as last month.


05 May 2012

Bake-Fest: From the Marlborough Enterprise

Ed. Note: Much to my amusement, I was invited to pen a column on my experiences in the Boston Marathon for our local weeklies, the Marlborough Enterprise and the Hudson Sun. What follows is that article. You will find some repetition from my two prior Boston articles (which can be viewed below) but also some new material. Enjoy.

To all but elite runners, for whom actual victory is possible, the Boston Marathon is the biggest victory lap in the world. It’s not a relaxed jog by any means. Competitive runners race it with everything they’ve got, and charity runners dig deep to reach a goal they may not have thought possible. But just to get into Boston, whether through training and qualifying, or through the arduous altruistic work of fundraising, represents a tremendous achievement. Once in, once trained, once here, it’s time to bask in the spectacle. It’s your victory lap. You earned it.

Imagine you’re a marathon runner. Remind yourself that Boston happens only once a year, indeed for many, once in a lifetime. Remember there’s a limit on how many marathons you can run annually. Then ponder your reaction when you realize that this year, someone turned on the oven and made the party extremely uncomfortable, even dangerous for 25,000+ guests. Disappointed? Pretty much defines the word. But marathon runners don’t take disappointment well. You don’t reach the starting line of any marathon, let alone Boston, unless you’ve learned to weather disappointment. Every runner faces setbacks. Fall down, get back up, press on.

And loyal New England marathon fans don’t take disappointment well, either. The best fans in the world won’t let a setback like deadly heat interfere with our signature event. In the spirit of the best, they simply buckle down and contribute more. Millions watch the Patriots or Sox on television, but Boston Marathon fans come out live and get into the game. When the going gets tough, who better on the field than runners trained to gut it out? And who better on the sidelines than a 26-mile chain of world-class support? Add 8,000 volunteers who give every effort, and the Bake-Fest became survivable.

More than ever, this was a race of the people. The crowd pulled us through, not just with their voices but with their hugely omnipresent material support. I am humbled at the goodness a half-million souls poured upon us, in many cases, literally. I offer entirely inadequate thanks to everyone with a hose, water, ice, refreshments virtuous and otherwise, comforts of every imaginable sort, and those young ladies near Heartbreak Hill with their powerful Super Soakers which bruised my ribs but felt great just the same. We can’t thank you enough.

The race? Epic. No other word comes close. In Utica, in my native New York, there’s a race called the Boilermaker. Here, we had a Broilermaker. Few runners recall any race where the race director said not to consider it a race. They suggested we see it as an experience. They nailed it. It was an experience like no other.

How hot was it? Depends who you ask. The Weather Gods forecast 75° at the start. Some reported lower, some over eighty, I can’t say except that it was hot. Those Gods predicted 85° by 1 PM in Boston. Some reported close to ninety on the course, and most didn’t finish by one. For the four, five, six-hour runners, who inconveniently started later, their time in the heat was vastly extended. It kept getting hotter.

It wasn’t summertime oppressive. The humidity stayed below 50%. That made it possible to control your core temperature, the key to the day. Not everybody succeeded at that game.

I did survive, but nobody was immune to the heat. A string of strong races had me primed for a personal best. Along came that forecast. Toss hopes of a top performance out the window. The reality of the day was inescapable. Slow the pace, seek maximum shade, drink obscene amounts of fluid, and settle for whatever time comes up on the ticker, so long as your own ticker is still ticking and you are vertical all the way down Boylston Street.

On this day, even having the finish looming large in your sights wasn’t enough. A friend made it to Boylston Street, but not to the end. Twenty-Six-Point-One, lights out, woke up in an ice bath having had a core temperature of 105°. That’s the kind of day it was.

Early on, a friend blessed me with a glorious bag of ice. Hands turned radiators, I gripped those cubes till they vanished. Tricks like those kept me going. Ice. Water from every source, two gulps, remainder over the body. Hoses. Pictures show me utterly drenched, but it was worth it. Even the bathwater from the sunnier stations effected evaporative cooling. A complete family refueling at Lower Falls with a set of life-sustaining rocket fuel bottles. And skipping the hat, which would wick fluids uselessly off the visor, I opted for the expo-freebie headband. Geeky? You bet. Effective? Priceless.

Dropping the pace turned down the burn rate, and I hit halfway feeling pretty good. Usually I’m constantly calculating pace. This time I didn’t count, didn’t know, didn’t care how I stood relative to any goal. When scores were walking at five miles (and those were the guys up front), it just didn’t matter.

Typically I’m wondering whether my glycogen stores will hold out. This time I thought of nothing but whether my temperature would stay down. Typically I’ll never try anything I haven’t done in training. This time I had “In case of emergency, break glass” in my pocket, electrolyte capsules I’d never tried. Late in the race, I broke the glass. With calves starting to twitch, warning that electrolyte levels were dropping, it seemed a reasonable gamble.

The sum of these strategies kept me moving. Running with USA Olympic team champion Meb Keflezighi’s signature on my bib for divine protection, I halved my seeding, nabbing 742nd place (38th among 45-49 men), ironically my best Boston finish place-wise. On a day when most ran twenty, forty, even sixty minutes behind expectations, I held the lag to under ten, finishing in 3:05. Marathon #16, Boston #6, by far my most challenging weather-wise and not one to repeat, but with the help of the crowd, the volunteers, and my family, I survived.

Thanks, everyone.