2021 Boston Recap

Like many of you, I have been waiting a long time to get back to a race that looked even remotely close to normal. In fact I hadn’t run a race like that since January of 2020 at Houston. Then, crickets. I spent the last 18 months getting my hopes up and then getting them dashed again. After a while, life needed me in other areas, and since there was nowhere to race and I was already on the way out of a professional career, it was easy to lose motivation (or shift that motivation to other areas). 

Given that foreshadowing, I think you have to look back before moving forward. So, before looking at Boston itself, let’s take a look back at where I came from. I think there are some lessons there for all of us to learn here. 

Timeline:

On November 24th, 2020, I ran a 5k Time Trial on the track. My buddy Alex did a workout within it, so about 50% was paced and then the other half was solo. It was pretty solid though, 15:21 in racing flats, or 4:56 per mile. I hadn’t done anything that fast in quite some time. The training for that was pretty solid. I felt like the mileage and workout intensity was where it needed to be. Overall, a victory. 

After that, things get sketchy. The embarrassing thing is that I didn’t really realize it was this far off until going through my training for this recap! 

  • The following 7 weeks included zero workouts. 
  • The seven weeks after that was “eh” at best. My volume was about 85 miles per week and nothing under 5:10 pace. Some of that’s deceiving because it was winter time, but you can still get fartleks in at a fast clip if you time the workouts right. 
  • Then things got really rough. I remember, I did a long run with a local high school legend and I ripped a few sub 6 minute miles at the end of a long run of a cold February morning. The next day I had a twinge and within a few days I wasn’t running. The next 14 weeks were either off or very light easy mileage. Maybe 45-50 miles a week after a good 8 weeks off. No intensity whatsoever. 
  • Then started my buildup to Boston. 

Like I said, after actually looking at it, what the hell was I thinking? Maybe at 25 years old, but at 40? Sir, you need a little more time! The reality of the matter is that I had 28 weeks of, at the very least, suboptimal training. And even before that, I was in pretty decent shape, but not great shape! To expect it all to be ready to rock and roll in less than 16 weeks was a bit overzealous. 

My original plan after the 5k was to get through winter, work on some speed. Ideally, I could have gotten a spring half marathon in and maybe gotten back to the 1:07 range, then spend late spring and early summer on the 5k/10k local scene. That would have set me up for a really solid fall marathon. In a perfect world, the stars would have aligned, the Olympic Trials standards would have been out, and I could have been in shape to hit an OTQ at 40 when the trials would be when I am 43-44. Obviously, none of that happened. Even missing the spring and summer, I thought I would be ok. It goes to show that even being consistent for an entire segment might not be enough if you have missed months, or longer, of consistent training. 

My Marathon Buildup

Given all of that, my marathon buildup itself was solid from the standpoint of consistency and volume. Essentially, I put in 12 weeks of 100 mile weeks on 8-9 runs a week. PM runs were hard to come by with baseball and swim practice (for the kid). I did realize that I didn’t have the speed coming into the segment and I couldn’t force much coming off the injury, so I stuck to what I was comfortable with, lots of marathon effort work and long runs. My only wish would be that my workouts could have been with people as the vast majority were solo later in the segment. Despite sounding negative, it’s not like I was in bad shape. I mean, I did a 5-4-3-2-1 mile at marathon effort a few weeks before Boston solo. I essentially ran a 2:35 marathon by myself for the workout. And no, I don’t think it was too much as it basically came out to the same mileage I’d do for a simulator. It was a good segment that did a great job of rebuilding my marathon aerobic base. It probably got me to 90% of where I wanted to be. I just 1) didn’t race smart 2) manage my expectations appropriately. 

The race itself

The morning of the race was pretty nice from a temperature standpoint. I think it was in the upper 50’s at the start in Hopkinton. The problem was the humidity. It was in the 90-93% range, which is dangerous with the lower temps. If it were mid to upper 60’s you’d back off right away, but in the 50’s and high humidity you get lulled into thinking it’s ok. It just zaps you. This is probably where I made my first mistake- not backing off more at the start. 

At the start, the wheelchairs and the para runners took off. We started 7 minutes after that. It was a little weird because the crowd was sparse and there were only about 50 of us in the corral. Usually, it is us and then wave one is right behind us. We get sent on our way and about 20 strides in, I am already in the very back. I mean, I am not even on the backend of the pack. It’s just me with a few guys in front of me and then the pack getting further away by the step. I hit the first mile in the mid 5:20’s and realized that this was going to be a solo effort. I knew there were a few other guys in the field that were about my level, but they were gone too. So, the plan had to shift. Try to get in some kind of rhythm and get locked in. This is a bit tough when you are on a course where you feel like you are either going up or down the whole time. I’ll admit, it was a little deflating getting spit out the back. When you come to a race like this, it’s not really about the time, but competing against people. To not even be in a micro race of the bigger race kinda sucked. 

In any case, I continued on. To my surprise, I was not in last as another master’s guy huffed and puffed up to me. I told him that I thought I was the last one. Between breaths, he said something about the field going out really hard. He tucked in behind me, which was fine. He had to bust his butt to get latched on to someone. My hope was that he would eventually do some work, but he didn’t and so it was all up to me. By 4 miles, the two guys I mentioned were actually coming back. By 5 miles, I pulled us up to them to make a group of four. However, for whatever reason, the two guys didn’t want that and so some games started to be played. I can’t race like that- I never have, so I stayed on my rhythm and was again spit out the back by about 10k. Maybe 7 miles. I remember seeing Kevin and Nancy around there, but then was passed by after I saw them. Either way, in a field of 20,000 people, I was left to my own. 

Honestly, once that all broke loose, I was just out there running alone. Wellesley was insanely loud and it pumped me up a little, but I was still looking at a nearly empty road in front of me. By about 20k, my calves started to give me some twinges. It was forcing me to adjust my stride a bit, which caused my shoulders to start to tighten up. I must have been favoring one side a little because that started to seize up a little bit. I had to slow down to just below the cramping threshold in order to keep running. The last 14-15 miles were pure management to get me through the hills. By the time I got to Cleveland Circle at 23ish, I was laboring pretty bad. I go through it and I couldn’t do it anymore mentally. I had to take a walk break. My calves were on the verge of becoming cement blocks. My shoulders felt like they were in my jaws. I was at a mere shuffle. In all honesty, if it weren’t for the crowd, I would have stopped. So many urging me on, calling me by first name (my last name was on the bib), even as the lead women rolled by me. If you were out there, thank you. You got me through! 

The last two miles were a walk/jog combo. I’d run til I knew my calf would seize, then shut it down for a minute. I finally made the left onto Boylston. I limped it through the finish line and thanked God for making it through. I was just happy to be done. I went back to the recovery area, snaked a can of coke to give Nikki at the finish line, and limped it back to the hotel. All that fuss and then “poof” it’s over. 

Key Take Aways

  1. My segment was fine. It was the 6 months prior that were the main issue. 
  2. I should have looked at it fo what it was- a opportunity to get back into racing, but at a lower fitness level. 
  3. I should have followed my own rule better and adjusted to what my training indicated. If I would have gone out in 5:40-45, I would have run that. It really wouldn’t have mattered as I was alone the whole time anyway. 
  4. I know I was in the sub 2:30 range, just by the workout I mentioned. I don’t doubt that I can flirt with the sub 2:20 threshold if I can now put together what I wanted to over the last year. 
  5. I really didn’t need to be in the pro field of Boston. I would have been much better of in a race like the Detroit marathon or the first wave of Boston. But, I can’t thank Mary Kate enough for inviting me. 
  6. I think I have it worked out as far as knowing the volume I can do, manage my schedule, and meet my responsibilities. 
  7. Age is less of a factor as is motivation, desire to move on, wanting to prove anything, life responsibilities, and organizing priorities. 
  8. I did cross the 100,000 Lifetime Mile threshold towards the end of the segment. Yes, my knees are fine. I feel like that’s a pretty cool lifetime achievement. 

A good day, no, certainly not. But, at this stage of life, I am pleased to find that I no longer dwell on these things. For me, there are still a lot of positives that came from it. I am healthy. I realize that I can’t run 120 miles a week, don’t want to, and don’t need to. I can run 100 miles a week pretty comfortably and I think I can supplement what used to be blocked for afternoon runs for quick bouts of strength training or mobility. I feel good about getting in shape and ripping workouts. Even if I had that, I wouldn’t really care about races. However, I still need some kind of competition in my life, even if it’s just with myself. In any case, that was my Boston. Always an incredible experience. I hope that you all get to enjoy that experience at least once. At the very least, enjoy the journey it takes to try and get there. On to the next! 

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