03 May 2014

Boston Baked Bits

After the story of the race is told, there are always ancillary tales to enjoy. So enjoy!

Best Signs of the Day: Walking the mile from the Athlete’s Village to the start, Hopkinton residents always pour themselves out for the runners. One home in particular, year after year, sets up a table with all sorts of stuff that runners may need – all gratis – and we thank you, whoever you are. But this year, another home took the prize for most creative, biggest laugh of the day, and fortunately, I was able to find a picture posted online of their sign and offerings (and yes, they really were offering up the smokes, no takers at least amongst our front corral crowd)!

Later I learned that I had my very own sign! A friend of Dearest Spouse created it (it’s the green one) and hit the course with some personalized motivation for me supported by her daughter. I wish I’d known it was there, I wish I’d seen it, but I thank them anyway!

Dazed and Confused: Did I mention it was warm? (Of course I did!) It was a glorious day to watch a marathon, but a surprisingly tough day to run one. With the sun at full strength, the sixty-degree air temperature was considerably magnified. I sure felt it, but worse stories poured in of others’ difficulties, especially those in later waves enduring even more warmth.

But even in my wave it was tough. Rival bud Bad Dawg EJ, so immensely capable as to have smoked me last year with a white-hot two-forty-eight (at my age!), wrote how he literally stumbled through mile twenty-five in something close to twenty minutes. Clubmate Joe, who caught and passed me at seventeen, later succumbed, though in my numbed reality state I never realized that I passed him back. But best (or worst?) had to be Lloyd from Alaska, with whom I shared a mylar-blanket campsite at the Athlete’s Village, who trundled up alongside me somewhere around twenty-three on Beacon Street. Surprised – and pleased – to see and recognize him, I called out to him. No reply. Louder. Nothing. A third, a fourth, perhaps even a fifth time before I could pierce his catatonic stupor. I was getting seriously worried about him until he finally grunted back (which was about what I was capable of at that point), indication consciousness (merely running, late in a marathon, does not always qualify as such). Based on our conversations at the Village, I think he ran a personal best, but he certainly paid dearly for it.

The Price of Poor Training: I ran some numbers afterward, numbers I didn’t want to know beforehand so as not to further upset my tenuous mental state going in. By April 15th last year, I’d logged over nine hundred miles since the year began. This year, even with the later date of the race, only five-seventy-five, and that of wildly varying quality. Thus running fifteen minutes slower than last year was no surprise; indeed, it was a gift to get away with that.

My training weakness had nothing on clubmate Jon, though. Suffering from a nasty bout of plantar fasciitis, Jon racked up a mere one hundred and fifteen miles spread over only ten workouts, seven of which he tagged as “crushingly painful”. And turned a two-fifty-four. Granted, he’s a mere kid in my eyes at forty-three, and granted, he’s a sub-two-forty guy, but still! It was gutsy for him to even step on the line, let alone to gut out the run that he did.

Commiserating pre-race on our respective conditions, his was the quote of the year, when he wrote, “I think we would both regret it if we weren't in Hopkinton this year. I'm worried we might also live to regret the decision to go to Hopkinton this year.” So far, sore knees, but no regrets. Jon’s excellent recap of his race can be found at this link.

Joy Erupts: I was in Newton, just past nineteen, when someone in the crowd yelled that Meb had won the race. Unbridled joy erupted, both from the sidelines as well as from the hill-wearied runners. Chants of U-S-A continued throughout the day. Talk about a lift when you need it most!

Closer to Home:
Training partner Issam, starting three corrals behind me but far better prepared, ended up a minute and a half behind me when the dust settled. But sorting out the vagaries of starting time offsets, mid-race splits, and so on, left us quite convinced that he’d been within about a hundred feet of me at the mid-point, and not much further behind for the duration, but we never met up. Ships almost passing in the daylight…

More Clubmates: GBTC clubmate Anna, who calls me her ‘good luck charm’ in that every time she runs a race with me in it, she does well (really, I can’t take the credit), flew in all the way from Japan, where she teaches, to run the home-town race. She, like most of my clubmates, caught me; for her it was around mile twelve, and we commiserated for a mile before she turned on her second wind and ran an outstanding near-personal-best, while I muddled into my satisfactory result.

GBTC clubmates Anthony and Eric made the biggest splash with a truly awesome photo that appeared on Sports Illustrated online, replicated with due credit here. Sadly, it didn’t make the print issue so far as I know.

Partyus Non- Interruptus, and On To Groton! Once again, my Squannacook River Runner friends put on an outstanding post race bash, thankfully this time not interrupted by a couple of angry whack-jobs. Besides the usual goodies – including not just one but a pair of Massage Saints – they made up for the BAA’s lack of baggage service by generously hauling in our gear bags. I can’t thank them enough for this annual extravaganza, but to try, Darling Daughter the Younger and I waltzed northward last weekend to help out at their Groton Road Race.

The Groton Road Race is everything a community race festival should be. To my eyes, the entire town turns out. Races range from twenty-five yards for one-year-olds (literally, and it’s a lot of fun to watch) to a 10K with some decent competition. The amount of support from volunteers, not just from the club but including plenty of kids from the school, and more, is heartening. Our jumping in to help is almost superfluous, but it's a great feel-good after the Boston hospitality, and well worth the trip.

Working starting line detail, we found ourselves with a hundred over-eager kids toeing the starting line a full fifteen minutes before the gun for the two-kilometer event. How to keep them busy? I have a rule: the marathon medal stays in your pocket for two weeks after the race; you just never know when it will come in handy. And here, it came in handy. Pull it out, pass it around, and watch their faces light up! Once they realized what it was, these kids were in a frenzy to get their turn to put it on and pose for pictures – moms standing by of course. Great fun, and to top off the day, DDY and I also took the opportunity to run the 10K course at the end of the day.

Maybe it Wasn’t So Stupid, After All: Last week I wrote how my attack on the Boston course, though subdued compared to last year, was a bit reckless at the least, and rather foolish by most standards. But being the true OCD type, I later ran my usual post-marathon analysis, and found that it really wasn’t executed all that differently from usual.

Going out hard and fading – almost constantly from the start – sounds like a fool’s idea of how to run a marathon, and perhaps it is. But that’s exactly the strategy that produced my best-ever two-fifty-two last year. And interestingly, when per-mile splits for this year are plotted against the same from last year, the difference in training and readiness jumps out instantly as a gap between the two lines, but the progression of those two lines is remarkably similar, indeed, nearly identical.

But it doesn’t stop there. I’ve been doing this for a while, and I’ve been OCD for more than just a while (don’t just ask Dearest Spouse, you can go back and ask mom or sis, this isn’t new…). Of eight Bostons, I’ve got the data from six (one was immediate post-surgery, an outlier, and the other missing one is my first, before I’d built the spreadsheet). Plotting them all together looks remarkably like a map of the hills of the Boston course, superimposed on gradually growing fatigue. But more important is the uniformity from year to year. Smart or not, it’s apparent that this is just how my body works, like it or not.

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