Sunday, April 29, 2018

I am the Storm! 2018 Boston Marathon Recap

“Fate whispers to the warrior, `You cannot withstand the storm,’ and the warrior whispers back, `I am the storm.’” -Unknown

April 16, 2018 weather: cold, wet, and windy. The course was rain swept and a strong, 30 mph headwind pushed against the runners. The weather was going to be so bad, for the first time in a long time the traditional 11AM Red Sox game was postponed. It was the toughest conditions I ever faced... except for the almost 90 degree day in Boston for my first Boston Marathon in 2012.

Like last year, I flew to Boston Saturday afternoon/night with my son since my wife works on Monday (Patriots Day is only a holiday in Massachusetts and Maine). Having my family live in Massachusetts made this plan work. Miles was great waiting for our flight and on the plane. We shared an ice cream and read and watched Elmo. I still wasn't feeling great - I had food poisoning Wednesday night, felt really ill Thursday, and was still in some pain Friday so I canceled my five mile run. Saturday was the first day my stomach wasn't in pain. I was worried I wouldn't get a good carbo load.

A preflight ice cream cone waiting to board

Miles watching Sesame Street during takeoff

Miles slept on the plane to Boston
My parents met us in Logan and we drove to their home in Foxborough. He went right to bed and I followed shortly later. Sunday morning, I drove my father's car into Boston. Usually the packet pick-up is at the Hynes, but this year it was at the Seaport Convention Center. We had to wait in line outside for the doors to open, and I was spotted by Alex and his wife, a fellow runner from the DC area who met me years ago in Hopkinton waiting for the race to start. He was coming off an injury, but I saw that he ran quite well.

Standing on the finish line

A view of the finish line
I didn't linger at the expo since it was $14 for the first hour to park and didn't want to pay for a second hour. I met with my coach, Ryan Vail, for coffee at his hotel near the finish. Amazingly, I found street parking (free on Sunday) walking distance from where we met. It was my first time meeting him in person. On the way to see him, I took a few pictures at the finish line, something I had not done in the past. He hoped to have a good race and we talked strategy and family. I presented him with my club's singlet.

A picture with my coach, Ryan Vail
A picture with my coach, Ryan Vail

Memorial to the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing victims
Memorial to the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing victims
On the way back to my car, I stopped to pay respect at the memorial for the bombing victims. I drove to my folks' home, we waited for Miles to wake up from his nap, then we took him to his cousin, James, birthday party at Launch in Norwood on Route 1. It is a trampoline park. Miles didn't jump, but we got some great pictures with his cousins. Then, my niece and his cousin Molly came back to my folks' house to play. My brother came with his son, Evan. A few friends and relatives dropped by to see Miles, we had our pasta dinner, and I prepared for the race.
Carbo-loading with my boy!
Miles and Daddy enjoy a pre race pasta meal

With Dave and his dad, Larry, one of my first coaches
Dave Gaffin came to pasta dinner

Patriots Day: Race Day

Because last year they closed the road from 495 into Hopkinton, my dad insisted we leave early this time. Luckily, the roads were not yet closed and I was at the athlete's village by 6:45 AM. I was one of the first runners to arrive. As I entered, they made me dispose of a clear plastic bag because it wasn't the approved plastic bag. I had my socks, GUs, and Vaseline in the approved plastic bag. My shoes were wrapped in another clear plastic bag, which they let me bring in. My brother gave me hand warmers, so I gave the volunteers some of the extras, which they appreciated. After I entered, I found a pole that hadn't been claimed yet, tossed my heat blanket I had wrapped around me when I crossed the finish line of the Rock N Roll DC Marathon on the wet ground, and waited. To stay warm, I had an old jacket from my father, two old sweatshirts from my mom, and warm up pants. I had old shoes and shoes that I was ready to ditch. It was enough to barely stay warm.

Fellow DC Road Runner Joe Kane

Joe from my running club found me sitting against a pole, and we killed time swapping running PRs, expectations for the race, and our future race calendars. The rain pounded outside - ice swept off the top of the tent and hurdled to the ground - and the wind was loud and steady. We chatted with a few other runners. Before it was time to exit the athlete's village, I ditched my old shoes and socks, put on my race shoes, and wrapped my feet in plastic bags to stay dry until the race. I walked in those plastic bags over a kilometer to the start line. Ten minutes before the start, I found Derek. Our plan was to pace each other like we had the previous Boston Marathons.

Miles 1-4 = 7:08; 6:56; 6:57; 6:50
The first half of the race didn't feel that great to me. The rain and wind was demoralizing early and often; it was too crowded (as always) to find my pace, so instead of worrying about pace, I settled into feel. I was only able to keep Derek in sight for the first few miles; he was gone after that fourth mile. Unlike in past races, I let him go and stuck to my own sense of what I could accomplish. I wasn't going to chase after him again.

Miles 5-8 = 7:08; 7:07; 7:06; 7:16
No matter how many people there were around me, I just could not find a group to draft off of - it was as if I was an island in the middle of a storm. Sure, I was never by myself, but I was never really with any group. There always seemed to be a gaggle of runners ahead and behind me and a few runners sprinkled in between the two. I didn't want to burn energy to catch and keep up with the front group; and I didn't want to slow to let myself be caught. I remember in Framingham remarking to another runner how utterly alone it felt. Perhaps that was also due to the fact that there were very few spectators, for Boston's standards. I don't blame them.

Miles 9-11 = 7:13; 7:17; 7:20
The rain and wind really was hitting me hard. Mentally, it wasn't enjoyable. I was in a bad mood at this point and thought, "Yet another Boston Marathon I won't be able to run a good race." "I will have to wait another year to try again." "I'm sure glad I ran Rock N Roll DC five weeks ago and broke three hours there rather than putting my eggs in the Boston basket again." This was my sixth Boston, and I felt like I just couldn't catch a break. My first Boston in 2012 was nearly 90 degrees (4:07); 2013 was decent weather but I ran out too fast (3:19); and I have had warm weather since (2014 = 3:29; 2016 = 3:17; 2017 = 3:15). When I started dipping into 7:20, I thought my race was ending, that I would end up in the 3:20s. At one point, I considered dropped out, briefly, before remembering I had to get to Boston and then to the airport to meet my parents to get my son and fly home. Dropping out would complicate my trip home.

Miles 12-13 = 7:16; 7:14
I think my race started to change as I approached Wellesley College and their famed "scream tunnel." I high-fived a few of the coeds and even a cop. I noticed how few of them there were compared to past years. But, when they were behind me, I felt better. Maybe it was the cheering, the encouragement, or maybe I just had enough of the moping and self-pity. I hit the halfway point and something happened - I stopped feeling bad and realized I had hit the half in 1:33:53 and was on pace for a sub 3:10. I knew that I was still on pace to BQ (my qualifying time is now 3:15) with room to spare. I took stock of my body and noted that my legs were strong, my form was intact, and suddenly I had a boost of confidence. I remembered my race plan: don't go out too fast (check), find my rhythm (check), get to the halfway point in respectable time (check) - and what lay ahead of me: take the Newton hills as they come and don't overexert myself, get to the top of Heartbreak Hill in good shape, and then race the final five miles or so. Now, it was time to execute the second half of my plan.

Miles 14-16 = 7:05; 7:08; 6:51
I felt really good from the half until the first of the four Newton Hills. I started to get excited and dialed in a few mental tricks. First, I remembered my email signature “Fate whispers to the warrior, `You cannot withstand the storm,’ and the warrior whispers back, `I am the storm.’” And I told myself over and over again that I am the storm! I even said it aloud to a fellow runner. And as I did that, my legs turned over faster, my mood was lifted, and I tuned into two songs in my mind: Portugal. The Man. Feel it Still for no real reason than I think I heard it on the radio that morning and repeated that I was never going to give up and never going to let you down - that's right, I was Rick Rolling!

Miles 17-18 = 7:19; 7:17
I handled the first two hills pretty well. The crowds, while thinner than normal, propelled me forward. I stayed within myself and thought of past years on these hills - all of which have blended together - and knew I was running these better than my previous five attempts.

Mile 19 = 6:55
That was a big downhill and around this point a spectator shouted that Desi Linden had won! I didn't know it then, but she had pulled herself from a bad mental place to a great second half, just as I was doing.

Miles 20-21 = 7:13; 7:47
I nailed Heartbreak Hill! As I climbed up the last two hills, a female runner was struggling while I felt pretty good. I tried to encourage her and told her Desi had won. After I summited Heartbreak, I was amazed that my legs felt so good. I couldn't believe I still had my legs after Heartbreak! I suppose I didn't trash them early in the race like so many others do in the opening miles down those early hills. And then, I said, five miles to the finish - let's race!

Miles 22-25 = 6:57; 7:05; 7:07; 7:13
I was racing again - damn the storm, full speed ahead! Never before had I been able to race the last few miles at Boston. Not only was I strong and running and sticking to my plan, I was passing roadkill along the way and that lifted my spirits higher. I was looking for Derek as I expected I would pass him. That gave me extra motivation - to track him down and pass him as he had placed ahead of me at every single Boston we raced together. Not this year I told myself!
A friend watching me finish
Mile 26 and final stretch = 7:29; 7:08 (.34)
My 25th mile was when I started to tighten up and slow. I lost my 3:07 because I couldn't run a sub 7. But, with a mile to go, I had 7:30 or so to get in under 3:09, so I got to work. With about 1K to go, I think I had 5 minutes to register a 3:08. And, soon, it was right on Hereford, left on Boylston, and sprint straight for the finish. I put down a 7:10 for my final mile, which got my my new course personal record of 3:08:36 and my first time qualifying for Boston at Boston. It was an amazing feeling... that quick faded when I stopped running because it was wet and cold and windy and I started to shiver and ache.

I limped a few blocks to my friend's hotel where he arranged for me to get in and use his shower. I had dry clothes there that I had given him the day before. I ran solidly and was very pleased with my race. On the T ride to the airport, there were a few other runners and some gave congrats. The exchange of my son at the airport went fine. We sat down at Boston Beer Works in the JetBlue terminal. A lady gave us her table so we could eat and she took a seat at the bar. I bought her a beer for her kindness. Miles and I shared a veggie burger and fries, and I enjoyed a beer while Miles enjoyed his sippy cup. The flight was delayed an hour due to the weather and he made me chase him all over the waiting area. Joe Kennedy, the current Congressman for my hometown, was on our flight. He came to say hi and I told him my son's hair was as red as his. After a long weekend, I was happy to finally get home. It was a successful trip and next year I hope that the weather for Boston will be perfect!

My splits
Flying home. Miles reads the safety pamphlet.
Sammy wears my medal.

I had a friend live text while he watched the race. He referred to me as The Storm in these texts. It was informative to read these after the race:

Weird to see elite runners in long sleeves and winter hats.

Jordan Hasay, Salazar runner, decided not to run.

Conservative first 5K for you. I wonder how the weather is affecting everyone. 

Shalane had to make a portapotty stop but caught back up to the lead group.

Vail predicted finish of 2:12; leader is running a 2:10 pace.

Elite women are running a 2:39 pace. Must be misery out there.

Vail now predicted at 2:15; leader at 2:12. Rupp still in lead pack.

Ethiopian woman goes out to 45 second lead over Flanagan and rest of pack.

Judging by the elite times, this is going to be a slow race.

Elites still wearing their jackets and hats.

Yuki pulls away from lead men!

Vail fading, now at 2:17 pace.

Shalane and Rupp fading.

Kenyan back in charge.

The Storm less than 2 minutes back of Derek.

Vail predicted at 2:21; Rupp 2:15.

American Des Linden in front of the women's race now.

Linden putting the hammer down; gonna be first American winner since 1985.

The Storm gaining at 25K, running 7:08 pace.

Derek has given up the ghost. 7:56 pace at 25K.

Galen Rupp drops out, rumor.

Total downpour. Linden coming to the line! Yuki making it a race.

Nice to see the crowds still came out.

Yuki comes from behind!

Kenan Kirui bonked big time.

It's Yuki in in 2:16. He ran 12 marathons last year and this is his fourth in 2018.

Storm makes his move! Storm still running strong at 7:12.

Linden had slowed to help Flanagan get back in the race after Flanagan's potty break. Great sportsmanship!

Vail and Rupp both appear to have dropped out.

American women make up 7 of top 10, Flanagan in 6th.

Six American men in top 10, top is 3rd place Shadrack Biwott.

Storm still fighting at mile 21, 7:48 pace.

Storm is over Heartbreak and flying again, 6:56 pace to 35K! Derek at 7:57.

Last mile, bring it! BQ at BM!

STORM!!! STORM! STORM! Nice run in the adverse conditions!

Derek 3:16.

Final thoughts

I am very pleased to run another BQ in such tough conditions. This was my first BQ at Boston. I hope to never have to run in such terrible conditions again, but I will tell the story for a long time (of course, I'll take this over heat). I suspect my stroller runs and running to work with a backpack helped in my training. Of course, now I wonder how fast I could have run this year if the weather was perfect. This is my fourth BQ in a row and the best stretch of marathon racing in my career. I hope to keep the streak going as in June I'm registered for Deadwood in South Dakota and this fall I'm in for the New York City Marathon.

Splits: 7:08; 6:56; 6:57; 6:50; 7:08; 7:07; 7:06; 7:16; 7:13; 7:17; 7:20; 7:16; 7:14; 7:05; 7:08; 6:51; 7:19; 7:17; 6:55; 713; 7:47; 6:57; 7:05; 7:07; 7:13; 7:29; 7:08 (.34).

5k = 0:21:44; 10k = 0:43:49; 15k = 1:06:16; 20k = 1:29:07; Half = 1:33:53; 25k = 1:51:10; 30k = 2:13:32; 35k = 2:36:19; 40k = 2:58:33; Finish = 3:08:36; Pace = 7:12

Overall = 3070 (I beat my bib!); Gender = 2847; Division = 423

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