I can wrap up 2018 in a couple words: overtrained and rainy. In 2018 I turned 55 years old and it certainly feels like it. The work I did in the three prior years while maintaining a three plus year run everyday running streak turned me into a pretty good runner and triathlete until it became too much. By the beginning of 2018 I was starting to feel beat up and it only got worse. By the time I made it to the starting line of my first Boston Marathon in April I wasn’t sure I could even finish it, but I did, in the rain, the first of many 2018 events run in rainy conditions. The day after running Boston, I ended my running streak and spent the rest of 2018 trying to recover and rebuild. There was a little bit of success there, but I am still searching to recapture the ability to get the personal bests that were happening consistently in 2016.
2018 just wasn’t my year for running. I was in a groove the past five years or so, claiming at each year end that I had just had the best running year ever. But not this year. It seems like I have plateaued, hit a wall, or just plain have gotten old. I’m not sure about the excuse of being old, as I have set plenty of personal bests the last few years in both marathons and Ironman and qualifying for and running my first Boston Marathon. I think I may have just pushed a little too hard toward the end of 2017 and into 2018 that I need to reset myself. It’s hard for me because although my body reminds me daily that I’m in my mid-fifties, my brain still acts like a twenty-something. The brain is writing checks that my body cannot cash any more. I think I need to put my training on some sort of budget, but my brain has already declared that I’m doing two more marathons next year. Dumb brain. Anyway, I did try to dial it back into a rebuild this year, dropping my 3 year running streak and taking more rest days, as well as not trying to set a personal best on every damn training run (thanks a lot, Strava).
30 YEARS – WOW! One thing I’ve been thinking a lot about as I run is that I have been doing it for 30 years now. I started experimenting with running in my teens and college days, but I didn’t start keeping track of my miles until 1989, when I started to see myself going farther and getting faster and wanted to see how I improved over time. I just kept writing it down. Now I log it with an app, which has taken some of the fun out of it because I used to write down comments and notes about my run when I logged it by hand, but I do not do so as much now. I used to hand write this yearly wrap up as well, but I think I enjoy sharing it on this blog page more. I can add photos and leave and share memories that I can look back on easily. Some day I will get around to writing about the years and miles of running I have accumulated, but for now I will just keep on running and enjoying the miles.
2018 – RUNNING REVIEW
Here’s a monthly wrap up of my running miles and milestones.
Total Runs: 31
Average Weekly Miles: 35.5
Total Hours: 20.4
Total Miles: 142
Nothing much of note in this month. Training for the Boston Marathon had begun. I do remember it being super cold and occasional runs in the snow.
Total Runs: 28
Average Weekly Miles: 29
Total Hours: 17
Total Miles: 116
Still training for Boston in the cold.
Total Runs: 31
Average Weekly Miles: 40
Total Hours: 23.4
Total Miles: 159
The plan upped the mileage this month preparing for my date with Boston. I did my one long run on 3/23, an 18 miler. I had no intention on doing any longer runs. I was pretty sore and had no energy.
Total Runs: 23
Average Weekly Miles: 27.5
Total Hours: 16.3
Total Miles: 110
Yay! I ran my first Boston Marathon! It was quite an experience that I will never forget. I beat Galen Rupp! Okay, he dropped out and I didn’t, but technically I think that still qualifies as a win. (The link to my race reports will be at the bottom of this post.)
Immediately after finishing the Boston Marathon I kept the promise to myself that I would drop my running streak. I needed to recover from 3 plus years of running at least a mile every day. It was a good challenge, but it had worn out it’s welcome. Here’s the wrap up of the running streak: RIP Running Streak
Total Runs: 17
Average Weekly Miles: 25
Total Hours: 14.75
Total Miles: 100
Recovery from Boston was pretty quick and I started enjoying some milder running weather. I was kind of surprised that I hit 100 miles this month.
Total Runs: 18
Average Weekly Miles: 23
Total Hours: 13.3
Total Miles: 93
I jumped back into the 5K race season with a decent but slower than usual finish time, but still nabbed a first place age group award in the getting old division at the Frankfort Short Run on a Long Day 5K. As nice of a finish that is, I had my first ever Did Not Start to a race I had signed up for. The weather on race day morning of the Batavia Triathlon was threatening enough for me not to waste my time driving up there, thinking it would be canceled. I took a gamble and lost, as the race was delayed and shortened, but it’s a punch to the gut when you drop out when others committed to it and got it done.
Total Runs: 17
Average Weekly Miles: 33
Total Hours: 19.7
Total Miles: 135
The corral seeding came out for the Chicago Marathon and they put me in the E corral, which is weird because the time I used to qualify for the race should have put me in the D corral from the start. So, I applied to move up to the D corral based on that previous qualifying time and hatched a plan to move up to the C corral by trying to run a qualifier in a half marathon. So on 7/21 I toed the line in Hoffman Estates and attempted to run a sub-1:35 half marathon. I was kind of shooting for the stars, and missed it by about 4 minutes, but it was a pretty good time for a rainy half marathon in July. I was happy to be in the D corral.
I also did the Manteno Tri at the end of this month, with Kari doing the duathlon. We both did well, placing 2nd in our age groups. Fun race.
Total Runs: 20
Average Weekly Miles: 39.5
Total Hours: 23.4
Total Miles: 158
Marathon training was ramping up again. I did the Chicago Triathlon with my Gunner mates and our side kicks. That was a hot race. First time that I HAD to walk a portion of a running race as the temp was into the 90’s.
Total Runs: 19
Average Weekly Miles: 42
Total Hours: 24.2
Total Miles: 167
Highlight of this month was running the Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club’s 20 mile training run. I did surprisingly well and built a lot of confidence on a mid-September Saturday. Since it’s not a race, here’s the link to that report: The Dreaded 20 Mile Training Run
Total Runs: 17
Average Weekly Miles: 25
Total Hours: 15
Total Miles: 102
I gave my best to the 2018 Chicago Marathon but it just wasn’t my year. I held on and was on pace for the first half and slowly lost it from there. The highlight of the race was running with my son Ben, who was running his first. And boy did he, finishing in 2:47. Impressive! I dialed it way back after the marathon.
Total Runs: 13
Average Weekly Miles: 21
Total Hours: 12
Total Miles: 83
I really went into recovery mode in November and I think it paid off. I find that my feet and calves were no longer killing me like they were in 2017. I did start adding some bike spinning on non-running days.
Total Runs: 15
Average Weekly Miles: 20
Total Hours: 12
Total Miles: 82
2018 RUNNING TOTALS
Total Runs: 249
Average Weekly Miles: 27.8
Total Hours: 211.5
Total Miles: 1447
LIFETIME RUNNING TOTALS
Total Lifetime Runs: 4589 – 153 runs per year average
Total Lifetime Hours: 3335 – 111 hours per year average
Total Lifetime Miles: 24995 (Really?! Missed it by 5 miles!) – 833 miles per year average
This was a dial back year of sorts for triathlon. I signed up for three and only started two as I chickened out for the Batavia Tri. But the year was pretty much dedicated to doing the Boston and Chicago marathons. I was thinking that 2019 would be a bigger year for tri’s but I’ve already signed up for two more marathons! I am definitely planning on another Ironman in the next year or two. Swim and bike totals were way down from 2017.
SWIM TOTALS: Total Swims: 11 / Total Distance: 14,475 yards
I was really planning to take it easy in 2019, seeing that I didn’t re-qualify for Boston, but that just made me mad. Ben and Emily qualified for Boston 2020 and now I wasn’t content to be a spectator, which I was just fine with in October. But I thought it over and decided to give it one more shot at qualifying. I looked around and found the Spring BQ 26.2 in Batavia, IL in early April 2019. Fortunately, I met the qualifying standard to get into this race and I look forward to running it. It’s an 8 lapper on a bike path, and they treat you like an elite with a table for your own sports drink and nutrition – cool! I hope to dial it in, lock it down and run sub-3:35 for another BQ and join Ben and Emily in Boston. But if it doesn’t happen, I’ll once again be glad to be a spectator in Boston.
Speaking of dialing it in, I’m going to utilize Don Fink’s Mastering the Marathon plan for us older athletes. It’s geared to the over 40 runners, which I certainly qualify. There’s more recovery and I can swap some runs in the plan for running related activities, in my case cycling. This will hopefully still prepare me to do well at the marathon as well as allow me to gear up for the triathlon season.
Regardless of how I do in the spring marathon, I plan on taking it easy for Chicago. The only way I push hard is if my buddy Jeff wants to run it together, but I don’t think I can keep up with him. I’m thinking I might put that race away for a while even though I have legacy status to maintain. Running it every other year would maintain my legacy status. I might focus on 70.3’s and Ironman for a while instead.
Of course I still plan on running my favorite local 5K’s and the triathlons I like to do. I’m already signed up for the Batavia Tri and will definitely sign up for Manteno again. It’s a fun race.
For my 19th time, I hereby do declare I WILL NEVER RUN ANOTHER MARATHON AGAIN! This time I MEAN IT!
This Chicago Marathon will definitely go down as one of my most memorable. The race was my third long distance race this year that was run in the rain. It brought back memories of Boston last April, cool temps, wind and rain. This was a light version of Boston though. The temperature was near 60 degrees instead of 40, and the rain wasn’t pouring. The wind was only noticeable when running certain directions, and only briefly. Thankfully, Boston taught me how to manage crappy running weather, but you can never be fully prepared. And it turns out I’m not sure I was fully prepared for this one.
I was looking forward to running Chicago, as my son was going to be running it as his first marathon. Notice I didn’t say that we would be running it together. He’s fast, I’m not. Well, not as fast as he is anyway. But I looked forward to sharing that experience together.
Here’s the lowdown on how the Chicago Marathon went for me.
After finishing the Boston Marathon I needed to give my body a break. I was beat. I showed up at Boston way overtrained and worn out. The day after Boston I ended my three year running streak of running at least a mile everyday, and told myself I had to get myself right again.
After a trip to the doctor, I learned what I was kind of assuming, that I had thyroid issues. Blood tests confirmed it, and now I’m taking a synthetic thyroid medication for the rest of my life. I had thought that it might change things for me metabolically, but my doctor buddy said not to expect miracles. He was right. I really struggled to lose the ten pounds I had gained over the winter and spring. Eventually, I did drop a few pounds, but nothing like what I had expected. One positive was that I wasn’t as tired as I had been before, so that is a plus.
In mid-June I began following the same 16-week advanced training plan that I usually use. I also had been doing some triathlon related training, hoping to throw in a couple of races before the longer mileage weeks started to kick in. I ended up doing a sprint triathlon in June and the Chicago Triathlon in August.
I was a little nervous about the training after struggling with the Boston training and the race itself, but it actually went pretty well. The highlight for me was the 20 mile training run I did three weeks out from the race. I was able to hold my 8 min/mile pace fairly easily through that run and it really gave me a confidence boost. You can read about it here: The Dreaded 20 Mile Training Run
I took Friday off and headed to Chicago to attend the expo with Ben and his girl friend Emily. Every year that I had gone to the expo I would see proud Boston finishers parading around in their Boston Marathon jackets and be somewhat envious. This year, even though I didn’t really need a jacket, I decided I was going to peacock the hell out my one Boston Marathon finish and sport that damn jacket at the expo. I wasn’t alone. I saw numerous Boston 2018 celebration jackets.
We ended up getting there around midday, and man was it crazy! I had never seen it so crowded before.
Ben and I got our bibs and started the trek through the expo. We ended up spending money on mostly disappointing official Nike marathon gear and other odds and ends. We caught a glimpse of Deena Kastor and then decided to get out of there. The expo can be overwhelming after awhile.
Saturday, we all met downtown in the late afternoon and met at our hotel, the Chicago Palmer House Hilton. The hotel lobby was impressive, the rooms not so much. It’s location to the race start area was ideal, but a little bit of a hike from the finish. The Chicago Hilton is a better option for being closer to the finish, but I didn’t book it fast enough and had to settle for the Palmer House. I will say there were better dining options nearby, and I opted for the Corner Bakery and got some loaded baked potato soup and bread for an evening carb load. I had already eaten some pasta at home around 1 pm, so I think I had enough carb loading for the day.
Ben and I talked some race day strategy and I laid out my options for what to wear in the race. I had already kind of chosen the outfit, but I had brought some options in case I changed my mind.
Sleep went well except for a weird moment in the middle of the night where I found myself sweating like crazy. I got up, used the bathroom, and went back to sleep. The alarm finally went off, and I got myself ready for the day.
Ben met me at the room and after some last minute assurances, we decided it was time to head to the corrals.
We were advised to go into the corrals by entering into a specific gate based on our corral assignments, but I wasn’t having any of that. The first and closest gate was at Jackson and we got in line. Just as we were getting near the inspection point this Chinese guy cuts in front of us. Then he couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t let him carry in his sling bag because only the clear plastic gear bag was allowed. Fortunately, they let him put it into his gear bag, which he should have done in the first place. Off to a great start, but we weren’t done with him yet. As you pass security, there are event photographers ready to take your pre-race photo, so Ben and I decided to do so. Just after the guy takes our picture, we realize the guy photobombed us.
I’m smiling in the photo, but I was laughing right after it when I realized he was in the photo too! Here’s one without Mr. E10796:
Ben and I got to the split where Corrals A and B went one way and C through E went another. I told him that I loved him and that I was proud of him and that I don’t tell him that enough. We hugged and I headed straight to the toilets.
Once in the corral I found it pretty empty as I was there pretty early. So I headed to the front of it to the rope that separates the C corral from D and just hung out. I used my portable urinal (my nearly empty Gatorade bottle) under my plastic bag three times before the race started which surprised me, as I had used the port-o-lets twice before getting into my corral. Nerves I guess. After the anthem the start horn blew and I pulled the plastic garbage bag off and tossed the bag and bottle over the fence, and we started the 7 minute shuffle to the start line. Ben said he crossed the line within 10 seconds. It took me 7:18 to cross it. I gave him a head start.
Start to 5K: Overall Time: 0:25:12 / Ave. Pace 8:07 min/mile
I started off well and felt pretty strong, although my first split was about 8:15 min/mile which surprised me a little. It is hard to concentrate on pace right at the start because we are still packed tight a little, and you spend more time getting through the field than thinking about pace. It was in that first half mile that my Garmin lost track of me as we were under Randolph Street and Wacker Drive and put my split a couple of tenths off at each subsequent mile marker. Ben was going to hit his lap button every mile, but I’m done with that business. I had decided I was warm enough without my homemade tube sock arm warmers and stuck them in my shorts in case I needed them again.
Our Cheer Crew was amazing. Kari and Rebecca, along with our friends Jeff and Jill were there, plus Emily and a couple of Ben’s running buddies from Loras College braved the wet day to cheer us on. Although I had told Kari to stick with Ben, I saw Jeff and Jill up through the half way point, and then Jeff at a few other spots. Seeing everyone was always a big pick-me-up.
5K to 10K: Overall time: 0:49:03 / 5K Split: 0:24:31 / Ave. Pace 7:54 min/mile
It was raining pretty steady now but I wasn’t cold really. I managed to get my pace under 8 minute miles and was feeling good. Nothing out of the ordinary through here, just still going north.
10K to 15K: Overall time: 1:14:29 / 5K Split: 0:24:27 / Ave. Pace 7:59 min/mile
Miles 6 through 9 really had nothing remarkable about them. Right about the 10K mark the 3:25 pace group went by me and I took note of that. I usually see an Elvis impersonator through this stretch, but I’m guessing that he wasn’t into the rain this year. I did start to sense I was getting a blister on my left pinky toe from my shoes being soaked. That was a little surprising because I had lubed up my toes very well. Kept my average pace near 8 min/miles.
15K to 20K: Overall time: 1:39:55 / 5K Split: 0:25:26 / Ave. Pace 8:11 min/mile
As I neared the halfway point, I started to tell I was slowing a little. The effort was getting harder even though I was on top of my nutrition plan. I felt okay, but that would change as I passed the halfway point.
Halfway: Overall Time: 1:45:42 / Ave. Pace 8:29 min/mile
I hit the halfway and felt not so great. I was only 45 seconds over my intended split of 1:45:00 for the half, but I knew that I was losing it. My average pace dropped from 8 to 8:30 min/mile and I really didn’t see how I was going to maintain it.
Halfway to 25K: Overall Time: 2:06:32 / Split: 0:20:51 / Ave. Pace 8:36 min/mile
At the 14 mile area I saw Jeff and Jill and said I wasn’t feeling good any longer. It seemed like I was being drained of my energy. We had just passed a couple little inclines downtown, but I don’t think that was a factor. I was starting to realize that this was going to be a get to the finish line in one piece marathon for me. My time goal of 3:30 was slipping away.
25K to 30K: Overall Time: 2:34:01 / 5K Split: 0:27:30 / Ave. Pace 8:51 min/mile
I generally call this section the Dead Zone and it was no different this year. It’s mainly just runners along this portion as it is the farthest west part of the course. I will say though, that I expected the rain to drive away the crowds this year and in reality, the course was pretty populated with cheering fans. My time is creeping closer to the 9 min/mile average.
30K to 35K: Overall Time: 3:03:47 / 5K Split: 0:29:46 / Ave. Pace 9:35 min/mile
Running through Pilsen and Chinatown are highlights of the race usually, but not this time. I just wanted to get past the 20 mile mark and know I had 10K to go. It was in this section that the 3:30 pace group passed me by like I was standing still. I was resigned that my goal of finishing 3:30 was gone, and I also knew that being sub-3:35 for a Boston Marathon qualifier was pretty much out the door. I was a just finisher now.
35K to 40K: Overall Time: 3:37:22 / 5K Split: 0:33:35 / Ave. Pace 10:49 min/mile
Hello 3:35 pace group. Goodbye 3:35 pace group. I was walking the aid stations now and willing myself to keep moving forward. In 2016 I was passing these zombies, this year I was one of the un-dead. Along this section I did get a pick-me-up though – I saw the guy that is always at Ironman Wisconsin on Old Sauk Pass wearing the orange afro-wig. He was cheering us on here as well. I stopped and said hello to him because we spent some time with him on that course cheering for Jeff and his sister Jan.
40K to the Finish: Overall time: 3:52:07 / Split 0:14:46 / Ave. Pace 10:50 min/mile
I saw Kari and Rebecca waiting for me after the 25 mile mark and I stopped to say hello. Not much longer and I would be done.
I started to press forward and make it up Roosevelt Road and head to the finish. As I was climbing Mount Roosevelt as we marathoners call it, a volunteer said to “Fight up the hill!” I told her I was a lover not a fighter. She laughed and then I heard her yell, “then Love up that hill!”
As I headed toward the finish I heard my name get called out from the stands. I turned to look and saw Calvin Jordan, a fellow runner from New Lenox that I had met this fall. I made a beeline over to him and said hello. I think he thought I was nuts not sprinting for the finish, but I was glad to end the run with a friendly face and hello.
The goal for me was to take advantage of a 10 minute Boston qualifying cushion that I would receive just by turning 55 years old. But in September, the BAA decided to reduce the qualifying times by 5 minutes. So I went from needing a 3:40 marathon to 3:35, which didn’t seem to be out of the possibility for me seeing that I had ran a 3:25 in 2016. But this just wasn’t my year. I wanted to join Ben and Emily in Boston in 2020, but instead of being in the field, I will happily go to be a spectator.
I think my main issue this year was volume, and essentially too much of it for a guy in his mid-fifties. When I finished Boston in April, my body was beat. Everything hurt. So I dropped the 3+ year running streak I had and worked on rebuilding myself. I was really feeling pretty good again come summer, and when I did my 20 mile training run in late September, I held that 8 min/mile pace well. Just wasn’t my year this year.
But I must say I’m very proud of my 3:52:07 finish. Being sub-4 hours is always pretty cool.
Ben made me very proud. He crushed his first marathon in 2:47:11! After the race he seemed like it was just another day of running to him! Not tired at all. The next day I went out and got my Chicago Tribune and saw that he was in the banner photo at the top!
We wrapped up race day back at the Corner Bakery with some hot soup and then headed for home.
Distance: Olympic/International: 1500 meters (0.93 mile) Swim, 40 Kilometers (24.8 mile) Bike, 10 Kilometer (6.2 mile) Run
Results: 2:53:43 – 756/2238 overall, 24/36 M55-59 Age Group, 171/483 Males Over 40
The Chicago Triathlon is always fun to do, even more so when your Team Gunner friends join in on the fun! WE LOVE THIS SPORT!!! Especially Gunner Alex! He loves it more than anyone!
I thought I’d let the pictures tell the story this time – so buckle up! Here we go!
Team Gunners started trickling in and I started taking selfies. The expo was where we all met and sat through the mandatory course talk in order to pick up our race packets.
I was kind of disappointed in the expo. I usually buy an event tri kit to wear in the race but they were almost completely sold out, save for a few size small tri tops. What guy wears a size small tri top? Nobody, that’s who.
After a quick discussion upon leaving the expo, we decided that we would take advantage of pre-racking our bikes in transition the day before the race. Here’s a few shots of what the transition area looks like. The photos don’t show the 7,000 plus bikes.
For dinner we went to Jeff and Jill’s house on Michigan Ave. and were treated to a wonderful spaghetti dinner. It was great, as was the conversation. Their view of Millennium Park and Lake Michigan is amazing.
RACE DAY – SUNDAY MORNING – 4 AM and the alarm goes off. I had written down that Dave said we should meet at the elevators of our floor at 4:40 am, but for some reason my mind registered to meet at 4:20 am. So there I was, 20 minutes early wondering where everyone was. Triathlon makes you dumb. The crew finally arrived and off we began our trek from the Chicago Hilton to transition again to set up the rest of our race gear. This is a long walk, and we were regretting not having our bikes to ride there. But honestly, the racks were so packed with bikes that I doubt I would have found room to rack the thing.
Upon leaving I saw three of Rebecca’s music teachers who were racing the Olympic distance as a relay team. I chatted them up and they seemed pretty excited.
Alex was first up. His wave started at 6:16 am. Lucky him. Did I mention that he loves this sport? He was racing in the Collegiate division with his buddy Brandon.
More pictures of Alex in the water. Nice sunrise photo, too! Thanks Kari!
It was Jeff’s turn to go next. He really loves this sport too. He’s on Week 28 of 30 training for Ironman Wisconsin. Fun times.
This cutie was next. This year Elizabeth and her friend Claire were in different waves. So Lizzy and Claire had to go it alone. I’m not sure if they love this sport too.
Somehow we missed taking pictures of Claire getting in the water, but I found this awesome photo on the race website. Go Claire!!! I’m guessing that she doesn’t enjoy this sport as much as we do.
My turn has finally come. What was I thinking about you ask? I was looking at these 55-59 year old men and thinking about how we all grew up listening to the same music, wearing the same types of clothes and doing the same stupid stuff back in the 70’s and 80’s. We’re the crew that somehow survived that period in one piece. Deep stuff man. Actually, I was fretting about how hot I was, that I had to pee, and that the run was going to suck. I love this sport.
SWIM: 1500 Meters – 32:03 – It was a pretty good swim for me, seeing that I had done practically NO swimming the entire summer. I was worried that the water would be warm – a week prior the water temp was 80 degrees. But thanks to some strong wave activity this past week, race day water temp was 70 degrees. I was surprised when I jumped in at how cold it felt. The water was perfect, very calm. I stayed wide of the fray and avoided contact. It was a pleasant swim.
T1: 5:40 – The distance from Swim Out to T1 seems like 1/2 mile. It’s a long way to go. I got my wetsuit off quickly, grabbed my bike and headed for Bike Out.
BIKE: 24.8 Miles – 1:13:49 – The bike course takes you north on Lake Shore Drive and although it can have some rollers, it’s pretty flat and fast. I’ve done about as much bike training as I have swim training, but I was moving along pretty well at an average of about 20.5 mph. Seeing that I was in Wave 24, I knew that there would be plenty of slower riders I had to pass around. I passed Elizabeth and then passed one of the Becca’s band teachers. I probably passed Claire too, but I didn’t see her. After coming back down LSD, you head into Lower Wacker Drive, and then the fun starts. I felt like I was riding a motorcycle. You loose GPS signal on Lower Wacker, so I really don’t know how fast I was going, but I assure you that I was easily getting over 25 mph. Love that section of the race. It’s was a lot cooler under there as well. The last third of the bike course is no fun. It’s on a bus only, two lane road and gets pretty crazy down there. I saw the aftermath of a crash with one guy still on the ground. I just wanted to get through it without any trouble, keep my average speed up, and get to the run in one piece.
T2: 3:27 – I’m kind of surprised that this isn’t longer, as helped a guy find his bike that he couldn’t locate, and I took time to shove an empty Gatorade bottle down my pants and pee into it as I walked from my bike to Run Out. Gotta love triathlon.
RUN: 10K/6.2 Miles – 58:46 – The run was a literal “hot mess” as the kids say. The race results listed the temperature at 93 degrees. It felt hotter. I started picking off other runners right away and got into a good pace. My split for the first mile was 7:42 and I knew I was not going to be able to hold it. By mile 3, I was walking the aid stations and just shuffling along. I felt like I had enough nutrition, I had taken 3 salt capsules leading up to this point, and I seemed like I was hydrated enough, judging from the color of my pee in that Gatorade bottle in T2. (I know, too much info.) My real concern was heat stroke. I could feel myself getting really hot. Fortunately, the aid stations had plenty of water and I kept putting it in me and on me. One table around the 4 mile mark had ice and I stuck some in my jersey pockets. By the time I passed by the 5K sprint turn around, they were sending all athletes back. The Event Alert System had gone to RED. Miles 4 and 5 were my slowest, notching a run/walk average pace of 10:35 and 11:03 respectively. But I think it was smart race management on my part. At least I didn’t end up like this girl:
Kari snapped this picture of another racer trying to prevent this girl from face-planting. She got medical assistance. The guy ended up in Dave and John’s race finish video. Kuddos to that guy.
I told myself that I would pick up the pace for the last mile and ended with a 9:27 pace for that mile. I’ll take it. It was brutal. Probably the hottest running race I have ever done. I can’t remember a hotter one.
My race finish video. I’m on the far right. If you watch it, turn the volume down. You’ve been warned.
Time to wrap it up:
Here’s Alex thoroughly enjoying his run. If you look at his leg you can see where he donated some skin to the pavement on Lower Wacker. I got to hand it to him – in spite of the signs saying to slow down for the turn, he went FULL GUNNER into it and wiped out. HE LOVES THIS SPORT!!!
To sum up this race in one word: strange. Of all the 5K’s I have done, this one always has a weird vibe to it. The anxiety is different for me here. I’m always a little more amped up for this race for some reason. Today was no different. There’s usually some good competition here, especially for a Wednesday night race.
First of all, this was my first hard effort in a race since running the Boston Marathon, a race I did not do very well at. Oh sure, Boston had some extreme conditions, but I never really felt prepared for it and it seems that I had struggled with effort since. My expectation was that I was not going to be able to run my typical sub-21 minute 5K.
Then there’s the club vibe at this race. The competitive aspect seems high for these clubs. I follow the Frankfort/New Lenox Running Club online and have interacted with a few of the members, and tonight I decided to sport the club singlet and represent. Although I tried to interact with them pre-race, I just kind of felt like an outsider. That’s mostly on me, as I don’t really run with them much, mainly because they schedule their runs in the evenings when I’m doing dinner with the family, or early on Saturday morning when I would rather take my time getting up and around. But I do value associating with them online. The Tinley Track & Trail club is always competitive at this race, and I noticed a few other clubs this year as well.
I did my typical slow warm-up, a few quick up-tempo strides and then got in line at the start. Ben and Emily joined in on the fun this year, and I positioned myself behind them. The guy with the bullhorn started the race, not from the middle of the road this year for a change, and off we sped. We weren’t a 1/4 mile into it when an 8 year old kid went in front of me from right to left. He had his arms raised, flexing his muscles for some reason and we clipped feet and down he went. Immediate dread filled me and I stopped to see if he was okay. I hadn’t even got turned around and he was already up and running. Must not have affected him much, because he finished in 32nd place. Yes, the 8 year old kid that I accidently tripped when he cut me off almost beat me.
Back to running again I found that I was pegging the heart rate into the red, in my typical fashion. Not sure why I can’t hold back at the beginning of this race, but I go out too hard every time. At one point I glanced at my watch and it said I was running sub-6 minute pace per mile. Oops. I dialed it back and hoped I could salvage a couple of miles around 7 min pace.
I saw Todd Street spectating somewhere near the 2.25 mile mark and said hello. After that I was all about trying not to get passed, but it was happening with regularity. I saw a couple grey haired guys pass me and I had the feeling that I wasn’t going to finish in the money. With about a half mile to go we crested a hill and I used the downhill to make a final push. The last 100 yards or so is uphill slightly, and I pushed as hard as I could while still checking my shoulder for the guy I passed. I was able to hold him off. I could see the clock and saw that I wasn’t going to break 21 minutes, which deflated me a little, but I was more worried about place than time at that point.
I found Ben at the end and he said he had won the race. Very proud of him. He’s finished this race in 2nd way too many times. Nice that he got the trophy this year, even if it is the most annoyingly big 5K 1st place trophy ever. Emily did well too, grabbing 1st in her age group and 3rd overall for the females.
So I finished in 30th place, 14 places later than last year’s 16th place. There were less faster old guys this year and a lot more kids. There were 7 men in their 50’s in the top 30 last year, and this year there was just two. Last year I finished in 20:45; this year more than a half minute slower. It is a little bit of a head scratcher for me, as it seems that I am still feeling the effects of being over-trained the past year, or old age is just catching up with me. I’m not really training to race 5K’s, but I do like to push myself and race them. I just don’t like getting slower as the years pass.
I was reviewing the race on Strava and saw this really cool Flyby feature that shows other Strava using runners in the race and how we ran. Fun to watch. I hope the link works. Click on the orange start button to make it work. Strava Flyby of the 5K
I am a Boston Marathon finisher. I never thought that I would be able to say that, but after running through some of the harshest conditions for a race I have ever run in, and possibly the harshest weather in the race’s history, I finished the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon. It wasn’t easy getting there, and I should have known it wasn’t going to be easy being there. But it made for a lifetime memory.
Here’s a marathon worthy recap of what got me there, the few days beforehand, and the race itself.
The Pursuit of Boston
When I began running in 1989, marathons weren’t even really on my mind. I started to run mainly to keep my weight down, and because I was bored. I bought a pair of MacGregor brand running shoes from Kmart and put on a t-shirt and gym shorts and started an evening ritual of running around the apartment complex. A mile or two turned into five. The crappy MacGregor’s were replaced with Nike’s. It wasn’t long until I entered a couple of road races and caught the competitive running bug. I was hooked. Within a year and a half, I ran my first marathon in 1991. That lead to a few more, and I eventually came to know about the grand daddy of all marathons, Boston. I wanted to someday run it.
But they don’t just let anyone who wants to run it do so. You have to earn your way in, you have to qualify. Oh sure, nowadays the fourth and final corral holds about 7,000 charity runners who don’t have to meet the qualifying standards that the others meet. They have to raise a significant amount of money for a charity, which is a noble thing. I will gladly run along side them and congratulate them as a finisher. But for those who want to count themselves as one of the select few, meeting the standard that the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) sets for it’s marathon is the only way to go. It was the only way I wanted in, but there was a catch – I was no where near fast enough.
Getting in isn’t easy. In order to keep the race competitive, the BAA has time standards which you have to meet. In the early days, the standards were simple and very fast – only a very select few could do it. As interest in the race grew, and the race itself grew larger, the BAA set the standards we have today, standards they could change any time they want to. For me, a male runner in the 50 to 54 age group, I had to be under 3.5 hours. Over the years I had perfected finishing marathons typically around three hours and 45 – 50 minutes, which meant a younger me probably had to run 30 minutes or more faster than I was able to do. It seemed impossible to me. But as you age, the standards get a little bit slower. As I neared 50 years old, the standard started getting closer to my ability. I was now about 8 minutes away from qualifying, and I was also getting faster.
The possibility of actually qualifying for the Boston Marathon started to become realistic for me when I made some changes and additions to my running. First off, I stopped winging it and started following a marathon running plan. Concepts like periodized training, and building mileage gradually with the addition of speed work were methods I had not known of or I had ignored in the past. I usually just ran and ran as comfortably hard as I could. That only got me so far. Training with purpose improved my times significantly. Secondly, I became a triathlete and an Ironman. Ironman training was very detailed and methodical as well, and the addition of the cross training activities of swimming and cycling made me more of a complete all-around athlete and runner. Third, I started a running streak in 2015, running at least a mile every day. It added more miles to my weekly totals, taught my body how to deal with a large workload, and how to adapt to tired legs and endure. Lastly, after completing my first of three Ironman races, I started to believe in myself. I believed I could do it. I was very close.
In 2015 I finally qualified, running a 3:28:19 at a course known for being fast, the Chicago Marathon. It was bittersweet however, because not only do you have to meet the qualifying time, there are too many runners who do so than the Boston Marathon can host, so they take the fastest of the qualifiers first until the field fills up. I missed the cut by 28 seconds. Disappointing, but I knew that after getting that rejection to my application in September of 2016 that I would be running Chicago again the following month. Now I was determined. I had finished Ironman Lake Placid in July 2016, which would also prove to be a wild card in my build up to Chicago. I was a lean, mean running machine and ready to do it. At the 2016 Chicago Marathon, we were given a beautiful day for a race and I improved my time to 3:25:08 – 4:51 minutes under the qualifying time. I was in.
Race Week – April 12 – 16, 2018
Here are the pre-race week activities.
Thursday, April 12
Kari and I flew in on Thursday and I was already a bundle of nerves because of the forecasted weather, and the fact Ashley and Rebecca were flying on their own for the first time. But thankfully I have the best life partner in the world, Kari, and I let her handle all of the side circuses that were occurring. We tried to settle in and wait for the whole crew to show up.
The flight in will always be memorable because of this dope I was sitting next to. He was definitely trying to prove he was the alpha dog, hogging the armrest in the manner he was doing. He also wanted to be upgraded to first class and wasn’t getting the satisfaction he was seeking. He finally got up and pretty much tossed his seatbelt into my lap. I flipped him off as he went into first class, and took his seatbelt and fastened it back together. I thought he was gone, but he got rejected in first class and made his way back to his seat. I had already placed my elbow on the arm rest and decided I wasn’t budging. He started pushing very hard. I had to apply pressure consistently back until I decided that I’m a better person. I moved and focused on my wife instead.
When we finally deplaned, I headed to the bathroom and the only urinal available was next to this jerk. I waited for another spot to open.
We got our bags and took a cab to our hotel. The slightly annoying rush hour traffic was only trumped by the fact that the trip from the airport to the hotel was mostly through tunnels. Pretty boring, but we made it.
After check-in, we headed over to the finish line, which was about 2-3 blocks away. I wanted to see Boylston Street where the race finishes, and visit the running stores there. Upon entering the store I was impressed with the history lining the walls. Lots of old pictures, old running shoes and the like. And then Boston Billy walked in.
I couldn’t believe that multiple Boston Marathon winner Bill Rodgers was in the store at the same time. He came in to drop of a framed photo to the staff, made some quick small talk with them and was gone like he was making a break from the lead pack for the win. Next time, I will assert myself and ask for a photo!
After some more finish line area sightseeing, Kari and I opted for dinner. What do you want to eat in Boston? Lobster, of course. We inquired at the hotel and a local place was suggested, but when I saw the prices, this guy who grew up knowing money didn’t grow on trees opted for the lobster roll sandwich instead. It was still lobster, and it was pretty good.
I had my first freakout of the weekend walking back to the hotel. The restaurant was cold inside, and I was also cold from having walked around. By the time we made it back to the hotel I was shivering. If I was shivering now, how was I going to handle race day, with it’s cold and rainy forecast? I got back and warmed up and watched some Bruin playoff hockey to get my mind off of it.
Friday, April 13
Upon getting up, I opted for a one mile treadmill run in the hotel gym to keep my running streak alive. After showering up, we tried another suggested restaurant for breakfast that really wasn’t built for breakfast. We should have opted for a Dunkin’ Donuts, as they are practically on every street corner in Boston.
My life long buddy Dave and his wife Carla were the first of the Cheer Crew to arrive. Dave wanted to join in on the fun at the race expo and check out the excitement. John Hancock, the major sponsor of the race provided a bus from downtown to the race expo and we took it over there. As race expos go, this was pretty typical. Stand in line, prove who you are, get your bib number, get your event shirt, walk through the expo and buy junk. We did just that. Kari was a trooper and stood in line to pay for the $300 worth of Adidas junk I wanted. The must have at this race is the Celebration Jacket, which oddly enough people wear as soon as the receipt is printed. I wanted no part of that until the race was over, but I did make sure I got mine.
Me and 2 of the Crew
Didn’t stand in line, just snapped a pic
Lady wasn’t having any of my BS
The line Kari stood in to by junk for me
After the expo, Kari and I met up with Dave and Carla at a burger joint halfway between our hotels for a late lunch. My burger hit the spot and everyone was excited about the evening plans. Kari had the great idea of taking in a Red Sox game, and fortunately for us we were able to get great tickets for the Sox vs. the Orioles on the nicest day of the weekend. After a trip back to the hotel for a while, we all walked over to the oldest baseball park in the league, Fenway Park. Not sure why I expected it to be more run down than it was, but it was a really great looking ball park. The seats though were designed for the small people. My 6’4″ buddy was a little scrunched, but we endured. Red Sox won 7-3. After the game we made the easy walk back to our hotels.
Excited to be at Fenway!
Me and my besties
Our view of the game
Saturday, April 14
I needed to burn off some energy, so the first thing Kari and I did was get dressed and run three miles around the area, including down by the banks of the River Charles. Very nice riverfront they have there, with a nicely paved path. Saw some serious runners doing the same thing we were doing, only doing it much faster. The weekend also included a 5K race, and there were several runners heading there as we made our way through Boston.
Upon getting back, we opted for an overpriced breakfast at the hotel, which at least was better than what we had the day before. Then we hopped into a taxi and headed to the airport to pick up our two daughters. While waiting there I saw a girl carrying around an Ironman Louisville 2017 backpack and told her that I had done the race as well. We shared stories of that race and talked about our nervous energy about the marathon.
With the girls collected and lunch finally consumed after a lengthy delay waiting for our food, we did some more sightseeing. We walked the finish line area and went inside the Boston Public Library, which had some really cool old murals and stuff.
On Boylston Street
Area where the bombings occurred in 2013
It had been 5 years since the 2013 finish line bombings in Boston. Lots of events and memorials occurring over the weekend.
A highlight of the trip included a Boston Duck Boat tour, which I really enjoyed. Our guide was funny and made sure we saw most of the important sights of old Boston.
Kept warm inside the boat
Where the Sons of Liberty planned the Revolution
Cemetery where Revere, Sam Adams, Hancock, et. al. are buried
Dinner was at California Pizza Kitchen, which was accessible by hamster trails from our hotel, meaning we didn’t have to walk outside. I wasn’t expecting much, but the loaded baked potato soup was outstanding, as well as the pizza I had.
Back to the room to relax and turn in for the night. I woke up around 2:30am with some acid indigestion, which I always feel like it is a heart attack happening. Kari woke up as well and brought me some Pepcid or something which did the trick.
Sunday, April 15
Back to the hotel gym for a mile on the treadmill first thing in the morning. We ate breakfast again at the hotel, and waited to meet up with the rest of my Cheer Crew, my in-laws Gary and Darla, and my buddy John.
At Paul Revere’s house
We all ate at an Italian place near Paul Revere’s home and did a little walking around the area. We also took the Trolley Tour, which also highlighted several great spots in Boston. It’s a nice tour because you can ride and get off at various spots and hop back on at any time. The only thing I wanted to do was to walk the Freedom Trail, a self-guided tour of Boston’s historical area, but I wanted to limit walking at this point, and the weather was getting cold, wet and crummy. A sign of what was to come.
Back at the hotel I planned out my strategy for what to wear the following morning and for the race. It took a while, but I finally decided on using various layers with the option to shed whatever I wouldn’t need during the race. This is what I chose: a sleeveless tri top, a very tight long sleeve cycling jersey with pockets, a long sleeve tech shirt, a polyester windbreaker for the top half; a pair of track tights/shorts, long running pants, calf compression sleeves for warmth, and a pair of socks; a pair of cheap liner type gloves and a pair of nicer Brooks gloves. For my head I opted for a visor and a beanie.
Before bed I had a good chat with Ben about pre-race nerves and then it was lights out. One of the nice things about the Boston Marathon is that it starts mid-morning, so I didn’t have to get up super early. That was a good thing, because I didn’t really sleep very well.
Marathon Monday, April 16
Even though it’s Patriots Day in New England, the locals and in particular anyone associated with the race refers to it as Marathon Monday. The alarm went off at 5:20am, and I was already awake. I got up and took a peek outside the window. Yep, just like they had predicted for the past two weeks, it was raining and it looked cold and miserable. If it had been any other race, I might have passed. But knowing how much it meant to me to get there, the amount of cash I dropped on being there (!), and the fact that my Cheer Crew had also came to provide support, there was no chickening out.
After the bathroom, I started in on fueling myself for the race. A banana, a bagel and a coffee was a good start. I was concerned for my feet, as my fingers and toes will prune up in the shower. I decided to coat my feet first with Skin Glide, a lotion form of Body Glide. Then I hit the entire bottom of the feet with Body Glide. Finally, I added copious amounts of Vaseline all around my toes. That combo has worked pretty well in the past for most marathons and Ironman races. I got all the aforementioned running junk on and then donned the rain gear. The marathon is a point to point race and you are bused out to Hopkinton, Massachusetts and wait until the start. That means an hour long bus ride to the high school there, and then an hour or two of sitting around waiting for your wave to start. All of which meant, I was going to be doing that in the rain and cold.
To keep me warm and dry for the morning commute to the start line I was glad I layered up with a sweatshirt and pullover, along with a zippered/hooded rain coat. For pants, I found a pair of “sauna pants” in Walmart for $8 which were perfect. I covered my shoes with crime scene booties that I stole from work. I hope my boss doesn’t read this far.
The bus ride sucked. Having all that gear on made me warm, but I wasn’t going to complain. School busses are designed for little kids, and leg room was at a minimum and was uncomfortable to say the least. I tried to make small talk with my seat mate, but he advised he knew little English and told me he was German. I told him that I had been to Munich, and he said he had qualified for Boston at Berlin. He was eating “brot und wasser”, which are literally the only German words I know. I should have said that, he might have been impressed.
We finally arrived at the high school and we were immediately met by the most friendliest of volunteers, cheerfully directing us where to go. I’m still scratching my head as to why any of the volunteers or spectators showed up on such a miserable day. I guess New Englanders are a hardy bunch, and they are definitely proud of their marathon.
It was raining pretty hard. I made my way to one of the lines for the scores of portable toilets lining the field. The wait was easily 20 minutes, but once inside I made sure I took my time and got the job done. I hated to leave the shelter of the port-a-potty, but I figured one of the three large tents would offer some good shelter. Wrong.
It was pretty crowded, and the drier grassy spots were filled with runners from Wave 1. Once they were called to the start, it cleared out pretty well, and I found a mat/blanket thing to sit on until it was my turn to head over. I ate another bagel and most of a Clif Bar and drank a little Gatorade while I waited.
At 9:45am or so, the announcer made the dreaded announcement: “Wave 2 Runners! It’s your turn to start heading to the start line!” I waited about 10 minutes and then made my way to a set of port-a-potties that were behind the tents that no one seemed to be using. There was no wait. I’m glad I made that last stop, and then I trekked through the mud to the street for the 3/4 mile walk to the starting line.
As we walked there were ample opportunities to shed the pre-race clothing that people had donned to keep warm. I figured I would hold on to mine as long as I could. I finally got near the corral entry point and decided to shed the shoe covers (NO!!!) and the vinyl rain pants I was wearing (NO!!!). I kept the rain coat hoping to stay warm and a little dryer. There was no turning back now.
Small talk was made, announcements were announced, and I felt the group moving forward. We were starting. And the wind, rain and now a wave of emotions hit me. I was crossing the start line of the Boston Marathon.
Miles 1 through 5: Hopkinton – Ashland – Framingham
“I’m finally here. I’m running Boston”
We runners tend to have a lot of deep thoughts when running. I’m certainly no exception. Most of my ideas for my blog posts come from runs. And I can tell you, I had plenty of deep thoughts on this run. Mostly negative. I’ll share what I can remember.
The first mile was exactly like I had been warned. Yes, warned. It’s a tight, two lane road that is all down hill. Most of the advice from others was to not to start fast on those first down hills. As I started, I gave some quick reflection as to my race plan for the day. I had options. I could try to run hard to justify my being there. Nah. The hard work was getting into the race, there was no requirement to justify anything. I could run hard and try to re-qualify for next year. Yeah, right. Even though I would gain an extra ten minutes of cushion for qualifying just by turning 55 in the fall, I think I will take a pass on this kind of torture next year. I could take my time and take a bunch of selfies, or even go live on Facebook. In this downpour? Not going to happen. What I wanted to do was run faster than the Kenyans, and get this misery over with quick. That is very definitely not happening, even if I wanted it to. I decided to take it easy and run comfortable, keep track of the little nagging pain in the sole of my foot that has been an issue for a few weeks now, and just try to stay dry and warm.
“Puddles are everywhere.”
I spent the first mile also trying not to keep pace with those evenly matched runners around me and not get swept along at the groups’ pace. Every once in a while someone would yell “PUDDLE”, but there were so many that after the first 5 minutes, my feet were soaked and I stopped worrying about stepping in any puddles. I did try to stay in the middle of the road where the crown of the road meant less water, but it didn’t matter.
“My legs are getting soaked”
It was nice having the blue rain coat on at the beginning because it was doing its job of keeping me dry, but since the rain was running down it that meant my running tights were getting soaked. By Mile 3, I stopped for probably a minute and struggled to get the rain soaked tights off of me while still wearing my running shoes.
“There’s running junk everywhere.”
People were tossing off all kinds of good running gear. I had already lost my tights and I was contemplating tossing the rain coat. By the fourth mile I needed an energy gel, and couldn’t get to it under the rain coat. Bye-bye rain coat.
It wasn’t long after losing the rain gear that I decided to take off a pair of cheap liner type gloves I had on under my main gloves. My hands were getting warm and I didn’t think I needed them any more. I got my good gloves off, tossed the other gloves and went to put the main gloves back on and realized I only had one. I had dropped one by accident. I turned around and saw it laying about 10 feet back. I would have to act like a salmon and swim up stream and get it. How apropos.
I retrieved my glove and immediately the wind blew my visor off. Time to back track up the river again.
Miles 6 through 10: Framingham – Natick
“This quite possibly might be the worst thing I have ever experienced.”
It was getting real. Six miles in and 20 miles to go. In the worst weather I have ever run in. I had really hoped to enjoy the crowds, the landmarks, and whatever other experiences the course would offer, but I spent most of it with my head down, shading my face from the 20 mph head winds and rain.
“Looking good!? Thanks for shouting that to me from your sheltered front porch, lady.”
Somewhere in this section my watch alerted me to a text that Kari sent informing me that they would be near the 14 mile mark, on the left hand side.
“Yay! Something to look forward to.”
Miles 6 through 10: Natick – Wellesley
“Welcome to NAY-TICK” said the guy on the side of the road as we strolled into the town of Natick.
“Now I know how to pronounce Natick.”
Miles 11 through 15: Wellesley
After getting through some of the town of Natick, we ran through a pretty heavily tree lined area. Lots of rolling hills but pretty boring. Then I heard it – a distant roar, still probably at least another mile away, but I could hear it. I was getting closer to the ladies of Wellesley College and the famous “Scream Tunnel.”
Right around the half way point you pass through the campus of Wellesley College, an all women’s school with notable grads such as Hillary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, and Madeline Albright, that comes out to the course and screams their lungs out. Can you image Madeline Albright as a college girl screaming at marathoners?! I didn’t know this as I ran through, but it’s kind of a right of passage for graduation for the girls to get kissed by a runner. Had I known that, I might have spent a little more time there. I’m just kidding. I did high-5 many of them with a big smile on my face. It was a huge pick me up.
“I’m half way there!”
Immediately after leaving the Scream Tunnel I remembered that Kari and the Cheer Crew would be somewhere around the 14 mile mark, so I started scanning the sides of the road. Usually I avoid this because it drains me mentally, but I only had to look for them on the left hand side, so I slid over to the left more and kept looking.
“Damn, the town of Wellesley goes on forever.”
It wasn’t long until I saw the gang. Another emotional moment for me. Having Kari, Ashley, Rebecca, Gary, Darla, and my two best buddies Dave and John there standing in the rain waiting for me was such a great feeling. I stopped and gave them all a big group hug. I may have mentioned to John that this was the worst thing I have ever experienced. I didn’t spend a long time there because I knew if I did I might get chilled or possibly cramp up. So, I said goodbye and headed down the road.
The rain where the Cheer Crew was.
Refuge from the storm.
Miles 16 through 20: Newton
“Mile 16 – only 10 to go. Only 10.”
The next town was Newton, known for a couple of things on the course. First there is a right turn right by the big Newton Fire Station. Lots of activity going on there. The crowds had picked up again and you could feel the excitement. The second thing about Newton are the hills. They aren’t hard, but they just keep rolling at you. And you keep thinking that the biggie is coming.
Miles 21 through 25: Newton – Brookline – Boston
“This must be Heartbreak Hill. Whatever.”
Between mile 20 and 21 I finally came to the most famous part of the the Boston Marathon course, Heartbreak Hill. They say many a runner has lost the race here, but for a middle of the pack guy like me, I just shortened my stride and made it up in no time. It’s only about a half mile long, but I wasn’t attacking it like an elite runner set on winning would do. There was this one old guy who passed me going up it chanting “YES, YES, YES!” He was determined to kick Heartbreak Hill’s ass. He did.
“I don’t think I can feel my quads any more.”
Somewhere around the 22 mile area I realized that I really couldn’t feel my legs any longer. They were cold, sore and numb. I had been seeing a lot of runners stopped along the course at this point walking or stopped and stretching their quads. I tried to take a status check of my legs, but all I could determine was that they were still moving and I didn’t think they were going to cramp up.
“I think I’ll skip this last gel. It’s only 5K to go.”
I thought about the fact that there was only 3 miles to go and that I was feeling pretty good, so I decided to skip fishing a gel out of my back pocket, which had been a hassle all race long. Kind of a mistake.
“I wish I had eaten that gel.”
After getting by Heartbreak Hill, we had been going downhill pretty steadily with some pretty good drops. My quads were killing me.
Around the 25 mile mark I was starting to wonder where I was, I knew I was now in Boston but wasn’t sure. I had been watching my step quite a bit, as there were plenty of trolley rail type tracks in the pavement and lots of small lakes of water on the road. I took a second to look up and there it was – the giant CITGO sign. I almost missed it! I had made it to Boston. I looked over and saw Fenway standing there empty, not because the game on Patriot’s Day would have been over by now, but because the game had been rained out. I knew it was just a mile or so more to go.
Mile 25 to the Finish: Commonwealth Boulevard to Boylston Street
Running down Commonwealth Boulevard reality was starting to hit. We were almost there. Along this stretch there were a few little jogs to the right and then back straight. Not sure why, as they were slightly annoying, but the scenery was getting better. It won’t be long.
“Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston.”
As I said that to myself in my head, I repeated it out loud. “Right on Hereford, Left on Boylston. The last and most notable of directions that this fairly straight shot course had, and I said them over again. Once on Boylston, the crowds came alive. The uninitiated may not have known, but it’s about a third of a mile down Boylston. On one hand I wanted this race to be over, but on the other I wanted it to last a long, long time.
“I am a Boston Marathon Finisher!”
The Finish Area and the Marathon Back to the Hotel
Emotionally, I was ecstatic. I was smiling and very happy to have finished my first Boston Marathon. But I was also ready to be done with being outside. I felt really good for some reason. Normally I would kind of pass the Medical Tent slowly until I was sure I was good, but I just blew past it. I found the medals and had a lady put one around my neck. My next stop was to get a mylar wrap to keep warm. I was surprised however to be given a really nice and thick rain poncho with the marathon logo all over it. A firefighter standing by the fence helped me get it on, and I then I saw the mylar wraps and wrapped one around my waist under the poncho.
My plan was to retrieve the sweatpants and sweatshirt that I had dropped off in the morning at the Gear Tent, but I said forget it. I felt pretty good and I wasn’t shivering, so I decided to head to the family meet-up area.
“WHERE THE HELL IS MY FAMILY?!?!”
I made it to the family meet-up area, but apparently my family didn’t. They weren’t there. I figured that maybe they were having trouble getting through the crowds, and my path to the area was pretty short. Fortunately, there was some shelter there and one of the volunteers helped me get my phone out. Kari called and informed me that they weren’t back into Boston yet. Uh-oh. There was no one there to help me get back. I was on my own.
I asked the volunteer to show me how to get back to the Marriott Copley Hotel, and she told me which way to go. So I went. I got about 2-3 blocks and then the phone rang again. It was Kari.
“You’re going the wrong way.”
“What the FUCK!!!”
Kari was following me via the Find My iPhone feature. I was lost, no one was there to help me, and I was starting to shiver. Fortunately, I pulled my shit together and let Kari turn me around and get me going the correct way. It wasn’t long until I saw a landmark I was familiar with, and I headed indoors to begin the walk through the mall that lead back to the hotel. I got back to the hotel lobby at the same time everyone else did. Hooray! All was good again.
Back at the hotel room, it was a frantic scramble. I was trying to get undressed to take a hot shower, but was too sore to be very efficient at it. And Kari and the girls were gathering their bags to hop in a cab to get to the airport to catch their plane home. We all figured our issues out, said goodbye and parted ways.
“The last thing I want to do is to warm myself up with more water.”
After being wet for the last four plus hours, I didn’t want anything to do with water. But my best bet for a quick warm up was to take a hot shower. It did the trick. I toweled off, got dressed, including putting on my new Boston Marathon Celebration jacket, and cranked the room heat to 85 degrees.
Kari got back from the airport and we headed back over to the California Pizza Kitchen. I had some really good tortilla soup and split a pepperoni pizza with Kari. Plenty of finishers in the restaurant reliving the race. It was a good finish to the day.
Many, many thanks to pass out to everyone who cheered me on. My co-workers Carl (always my Number 1 fan!), Julie, Mary, Tracy, Micah, Lou, and all of the gang that took even a polite interest in my path to this day.
I can’t forget all of those friends on Facebook that offered such great words of encouragement and congratulations. I have read each post and they are greatly appreciated.
Thanks to my daughters Ashley and Rebecca, for being brave enough to get on a plane by themselves for the first time, and miss some school just to stand in the rain to watch me run by for 10 seconds. I’m glad we got to see some real American history in Boston.
A huge, huge, HUGE thank you to Ben for getting Ashley from school and making sure the girls got to and from the airport. I felt bad that my number one favorite runner couldn’t be there, but I certainly carried his running spirit with me. Let’s qualify at Chicago in October and run Boston together in 2020!
Gary and Darla – thank you for coming up from sunny and warm and dry Florida to watch me in that crazy weather. I think you probably would have preferred a tropical storm to that mess. Thanks for flying instead of driving as well. Smart move.
Oh my God! My life long friends – Dave and John – and Dave’s wife Carla, thank you so much for sharing this with me. I can’t tell you how much it meant to me. Your presence made for a fun weekend, as well as got my mind off of the impending doom that was coming. I got through the race bolstered by your presence.
And finally, thanks to my awesome partner in life Kari. She is by far the most important part of my journey in the marathon that is my life. Thanks for carrying me through not only for 26.2 miles, but also for almost 26.2 years. I love you.
As I look back on my training for my first Boston Marathon, I was pretty surprised to see that half of it is over. I haven’t done any writing about my journey to Boston, because it’s been very typical for the most part, taking it day by day and running the workout that the plan calls for. I’m eight weeks into my sixteen week plan already, and I’m not sure how it went by so fast. It had been going pretty well for the first six weeks, but a bothersome knee issue has made me very aware of how much time I have left, because not only now do I have to get in the remaining weeks of big miles, but I also have to do it without aggravating the injury and having it prevent me from running those important training miles. Or worse yet, not being able to run the race itself.
I have been able to run okay, even with the knee pain. It hurts more afterwards, especially noticeable going up and down stairs. Also, if I sit in a chair with my leg bent at a 90 degree angle, it will start to hurt. The pain is right at the top of the tibia, and I don’t believe the knee cap is affecting it. My son has suggested stretching my leg muscles more, which has given some relief, but I have also dialed back the miles the past two weeks as well, so at this point I’m not sure if the fewer miles or the stretching has been most advantageous. I’ll keep doing the stretching, but I’m afraid to lose too many long, slow weekend runs. I also retired my running shoes that were probably not really that worn out yet, and upgraded to a more cushioned shoe. Today’s 8 mile run in them went okay, but I found them to be very stiff. Not sure if I made a good choice there.
The first eight weeks saw a build to 12 miles in Week 6, but that’s when I started experiencing the knee issue. I dialed it back to a mile or two throughout the last couple of weeks, mostly run on the treadmill. Today was supposed to be a test of speed, with a half-marathon race built into the plan. There was no way I’m ready to race anything right now, and trying to find a 13.1 mile race in the latter part of February in the midwest is nearly impossible. I will now have to adjust my plan and reduce some of the big mile weekend runs that the plan has built into it. I will drop each long run by two miles and skip the speed work in the plan until I feel confident that I can do it without pain or further injuring myself.
The one thing I haven’t resorted to yet is stopping the 3+ year running streak that I have going. I may need to say goodbye to it if it means that I am doing myself more harm than good. I’m not going to jeopardize getting to the start line of my first Boston Marathon. I worked too hard to get there.