We arrive Saturday morning red-eye, literally. For the taper we ran (Bessy 8, and Roger 12) in order to orient ourselves in the city and doing some of the BAA 5k race. For breakfast we hit up a local coffee joint Pavement, where they bake their own bread/bagels sandwiches and coffee so good no syrup needed. We stayed at an AIRBNB.com location (one block from the finish line) as the early-bird rates for hotels/motels were around $400 a night. AIRBNB.com works since it is a bed and breakfast, by chance our flat mate happened to be racing too, and from California, it was only 120$ per night & right next to the finish. It was to be an easy day as we needed to catch up sleep lost in the uncomfortable plane (melatonin didn’t help much).
The main plan for the day was the expo. It was quite unorganized and packed like a subway train compared to the Rock n Roll series. All the hype was to buy the “exclusive and coveted” finishers jacket, which completely lost it’s appeal when we saw everyone and their mother buying it. Turns out, the greatest memorabilia was the free swag for actual participants: Adidas race tech tee, medal, heater cape and branded 26.2 sticker. Next morning, 35 LOW, 55 HIGH coldest of all 3 days there, we run through our pre-race day preparations:
1. Shake-Off Nerves: 2 mile jog to find our route to the TCSD shuttle pick-up (organized by fellow tri club member Craig Zelent). 4 mile course preview on Beacon Ave to mentally prepare for the surprise small hills that can take people out easily on mile 25. Motivation to run it quickly was to stop shivering!
2. Memorize the Strategy: The panel at the Expo Running your best Boston Race advised “Do not fly down the first 4 miles unless you want to walk the last 4.” For months we studied the elevation profile and figured the same training we did for San Diego Rock and Roll with its evil hill climb will work out. The course is mostly residential suburb Massachusetts leading into downtown village of Boston for the finish line. The charm of the course is balancing the emotions caused by the 5-layers deep of cheering spectators and the rolling hills filled with runners. Trusting our training the last 6 weeks of 16 milers, followed by 20 miler next day, were to stay strong even when tired. We prepare all our nutrition, outfit, food for next day.
3. Relaxing Distractions: We stroll the Prudential Center Mall, and meet up for lunch with Craig to meet other TCSD members at the food court. It was great to get infected with friendly runner spirit and hear stories of their past Boston experiences. We opted out of the clam chowder booth unfortunately, due to transfat in the recipe, and ate our salads socializing with the gang. On the way back, we find a bar for some billiards where Roger beats me by TINY bit. Pool is better with Beer.
4. Appetizer & Dinner: Craving seafood we got our fix at a New England oyster bar that served lobster bisque, and some large sized oysters like we used to have in Netherlands, not available in California. On the walk back we find Fenway Stadium that’s packed with all the people in town for the Marathon with the “Boston Strong” t-shirts. Around the corner to our house we find the spot for our secret special pre- race meal: Sushi (high in sodium and easy to digest). When we ordered the people at the register said, “Wow you hosting a nice big party, huh? How many people coming?” We pause, smile and say “It’s just for us two! We are running Marathon tomorrow.” The whole kitchen goes, “Oooh!” Then sleep. I will admit we slept well, it really helped our room was comfortable.
Monday Morning, its game time – bathroom, clothes and run over to the shuttle meet point military style. We were so on point we arrived early and got to hang out with Craig and his Wife Laurie in their hotel room. The 1st shuttle takes us over to a school, where we need to board the school busses as that was the only method to enter the Athlete village, so we still had part of the bus experience. During this ride we are snacking on some cliff bars and drinking our zip fizz slowly. As soon as we arrive at the Village at 9:30am, Roger’s corral begins loading up so no time to relax. It’s a long downhill walk with hilarious side stints of people selling beer, cigarettes and donuts.
Over a year’s worth of training and races and it finally comes down to this one day. Imagine the echoing adrenaline that fills your whole body in a packed stadium with thousands around you, and you’ll get the idea of running the Boston Marathon this most important year to “reclaim the finish line”. The start goes off but because of the extra amount of people this year it takes a while to get to the actual start. This whole course is lined with crowds of people, quite spectacular to see.
Roger’s Race Report: I planned to run -10s under pace on the downhill and it honestly felt fine (as opposed to other’s advice saying to stay at goal pace). I didn’t look at my watch much that it was getting -15 under at points… that is what a big race with fast people creates, a sense of slow motion. With all the hype of hills, I was running faster than pace hitting redline. I even saw our flat mate who’s goal was much faster than mine. I thought I might as well go for a half PR, which did happen 1:25 on Garmin (1:26:15 official) as I was zigzag avoiding people and missing a water station it added distance. After this point the average pace builds slightly, but still 10s below goal pace. I approach 16 on a downhill with a 5:48 mile and knew I set up for trouble, with the first climb being from 16-17 was quite tough averaging 7:30. This worried me for the famous heartbreak hill at mile 20… but it turned out to be over hyped, a similar climb to 6th Ave for the AFC 13.1 race. People did walk like zombies, and the amount of zombies continued growing forcing me to go around people and tap them to indicate I am barreling through. I keep wondering when my body will give up on the pace even though it grew another 5 seconds I felt fine. Since we had previewed the critical points on the last 2 miles, I knew to conserve until I came into the final turn and was able to turn it up for a 2:54:52… in a distance of 26.44 miles! I was planning only 2:58 – I never ever say my goal out loud or I feel I am cursing myself….. 2:54 was a future goal of mine but I got there much sooner than I thought I would.
Bessy’s Race Report: Wave 2 started at 10:25. I planned to stay between 7:00 on downhills and flats and no more than 7:30s on uphills. All the pamphlets were talking about overhydration issues so I decided to be cautious about this. My sodium levels get low quickly when I drink every other water station, so I planned my water around my gels instead. I did look up and soak in all the crowds and ambiance but I stayed focused to not waste energy I needed for mile 25. In Wave 2, each water station felt like an obstacle course with the water cup debris on the roads and sticky Gatorade covered ground. I really tried not to swerve too much, but I did focus on staying on the tangents. My last marathon, Phoenix in January I had to pee 4 times during the 3:27 so I was super excited to have had no peeing issues in my 3:22. I passed a challenged athlete on crutches and another with the carbon leg and cheered for them. Boston Marathon Veteran Tip: I learned that you should write your name on your arm so spectators can cheer for you. The course can become addicting because it’s charming. Only strategy will allow you to perform well. I felt like I was going steady and comfortable, I hadn’t trained going faster than that for such a long distance. I can’t imagine “redlining” like Roger for 26 miles. I was profoundly disappointed that there were no finisher photos after the finish line.
I overheard my name cheered and “Go Tri Club” from multitudes of people along the course, I appreciated people came to watch and support us along the way. I walked to the planned family meeting area, and became worried as the time kept ticking past Bessy’s goal time. Finally I see her and cript walk/jog to her to give her a kiss. She finished with a 5 minute PR also 3:22! Could it be the magic of training together? Afterwards we find my family and flatmate Alex and all head to our celebration tradition, Brazilian rodizio at Fogo de Chao!