I guess it's about time I finally got around to writing up my experience in Boston. As you can see from the title, I did not run the 3:00 - 3:05 I had hoped for. Am I happy with my time? Most definitely! The number on the finish clock is not capable of reflecting what I took away from this race. Not only did I get to experience the amazing atmosphere that only the Boston Marathon can provide, the feedback I got from this race in terms of my fitness has me really excited about fall marathon training.
My husband and I arrived in Boston on Saturday evening. Our hotel was just blocks from the finish line, which is a huge asset post race. We had a great dinner and I got to sleep early. I'm sure you have read the same articles I have stating that it's not the quality of sleep the night before the race that makes an impact, it's actually the previous night. I follow that rule religiously.
Sunday morning I ran four easy miles around Boston, taking in all the sights. Later that I morning I was lucky enough to meet my coach, Esther Atkins, and some of the other awesome members of the McKirdy Trained family. I spent a few hours at the expo, which may sound like a lot but I could have stayed much longer. So many booths, so little time! I was very excited to meet Katie Visentin, the coordinator for the Generation UCAN Ambassador Program that I am very honored to be a part of. Later in the afternoon I met some friends for drinks at the Four Seasons Hotel. For the most part, this is the only time I get to see these ladies. We have all met through various running related social media sites. When we do get together I feel like I we see each other all the time. The conversation is easy and nonstop. By 5:00 pm I was back at the hotel and ready for dinner. I had a very simple meal of brown rice (lots of it!) and grilled chicken. I definitely spent more time on my feet than I normally would the day before a marathon but I didn't want to deny myself all of these great experiences!
Those of you who tracked a runner or ran the marathon know the temperatures were unfortunately warmer than one would hope for on race day. In fact, when I woke up on the morning of the race and checked the forecast, temps had risen significantly overnight. Of course this was disappointing, but one of the maddening things about training for a marathon is you are powerless over the weather you are handed on race day. As I have mentioned before, I am really working on my mental game when it comes to racing. Rather than be discouraged, I decided to accept the less than ideal conditions run the smartest race possible given the weather.
When we arrived in Hopkinton, there was not a cloud in the sky and there was no need for the throwaway clothes I had brought with me to stay warm. On a sunny day there is hardly any shade on the marathon course, so I doused myself with sunscreen. I tried to stay in the shade until it was time to make the .75 mile walk to the starting line. In addition to my gels, I planned to take a Salt Stick capsule every five miles to ward off cramping.
Finally it was time to go! My plan for the first 10K was to average 7:00 - 7:05 per mile. I fought the urge to go out faster, and at the 10K mark I was averaging exactly 7:05. Unfortunately, I was already feeling extremely warm. I was getting chills and just feeling "off". I had spent most of the first few miles running next to a woman who was hoping to break three hours, and she said to me she was so hot she was thinking about dropping out. At that point I had to be really honest with myself, and based on how I felt, I knew I couldn't continue at this pace for another 20 miles. So I pulled back a bit, and focused on the unbelievable crowd support and on how fortunate I was to be running this marathon. I took two cups at every aid station - drinking one, and pouring one over my head to stay cool. I continued to tell myself I was ok, I was fit, and I earned the right to be here. I focused on maintaining marathon effort, rather than pace. More than anything else, given my previous three experiences in Boston, I wanted to finish this race knowing I controlled it, and that the course did not control me. Before I knew it, I hit the first of the Newton Hills and had to smile at how many people I passed on the way up! By the time I got to Heartbreak Hill, I had to double check myself and make sure that was actually Heartbreak, because I felt so good. At mile 21, I braced myself for the knife-like quad pain I had experienced in past years, and it never came. The last 5 miles of the race were my happiest. I felt strong, relaxed, and thrilled at the idea I was going to finish the Boston Marathon. I have no idea how many people I high fived during that stretch! When I saw the famous Citgo sign at Mile 25, I decided it was ok to pick up the pace a bit and start celebrating. As I made the final turn onto Boylston from Hereford, I saw the finish line in the distance, and my husband cheering for me. I tried to pass as many people as I could during the final stretch, and then it was over. In spite of the heat, I ran my fastest Boston Marathon by over five minutes. I'll take a course PR any day, but in the heat, it meant so much more. I saw a lot of runners really suffering, and was extra sympathetic given my med tent experience in 2012 due to heat exhaustion.
So my takeaways from this are numerous. I am 100% confident I am in the best shape of my life given how I handled the hills, the temperature, and how strong I felt at the finish. My coach prepared me to do my best and I am so thankful to her for that. Mentally, I hope I can make this newfound positive self-talk a permanent fixture. I never went to that negative place once. This is a really significant change for me. When it comes to hot weather races, I learned that Salt Sticks and sunglasses are your best friends!
So now I am in the least favorite part of training, second only to the taper: recovery. Although I had very little post-race soreness, I know I put my body through the ringer and it needs time to rest and recover. So for the first two weeks I will run when I feel like it, keeping time to an hour or less.
I am really looking forward to what is next. I decided to forgo the Detroit Free Press Marathon in October and run the Indianapolis Marathon on November 4th. I have run Indy twice before and in 2015 it was the site of my PR, 3:04. It's unlikely to be overly warm in November, the course is flat, and I know it well. Combine that with a solid training cycle and I am excited to see what happens. I will also run the Crim 10 Miler in August, and the Detroit Women's Half Marathon in September.
In addition, my coaching business continues to grow! I recently started working with two new runners and will add a few more when fall marathon training is in full swing.
I could not be happier with my adventure in Boston. From beginning to end I loved every minute. I truly feel like I conquered the course. The PR didn't happen, but I have no doubt it will.