Too Much of a Good Thing?
My name is Ty and I'm an addict. A running addict. There are many pleasures in life, but even something as innocent as water, carrots, nutmeg or too many miles can lead to bad things when done in excess. Monday's 115th running of the Boston Marathon was my fifth marathon in 16 months--about three too many for an elite or more importantly an average runner like me still learning their way around the sport. None of the past five seemed crazy at the time;
CIM/Sacramento (Dec '09;) After a ten month hiatus due to a stress fracture in Chicago, this was my first BQ (Boston Qualifier.) First and only race I didn't feel like I really hit the wall.
Boston (April '10;) I wasn't about to wait a nearly a year and a half to run my dream race. A Charity entry that also allowed by BQ time so I could corral based on time.
Steamboat Springs, CO (June '10) This is the one I should have skipped. Disappointed with my 3:23 at Boston, I signed up for the soonest race I could to redeem myself. Came in 3rd in my division, but had no energy at all.
Portland (October '10;) I figured four months between races was fine and there was no way I'd "not" run a fall marathon. Heart rate training paid off, yet I "hit the wall" around mile 16. Again, no energy, but a BQ (at the time.)
Boston; (April '11) No energy in my first few miles, walk breaks, early "wall" and finished eleven minutes slower than last year with a 3:34. No PR, no Boston PR, no BQ.
The above would explain how I felt flat from the start. If I was a cell phone, I started the race with one or two battery squares.
Here's my full race report;
Let's cover the good stuff first. Mother Nature delivered the best weather the Boston Marathon has seen in a century. Temperatures were in the 50's and there was a tailwind. In a bizarre weather year that has delivered brutal weather to Austin, Napa, and Houston marathons, this sounded too good to be true. The tail wind showed up as advertised and helped deliver the world's fastest marathon, but due to the downhill course and tailwind, Mutai was robbed of the official world record. My pre-marathon portion of the trip was an A+ (read my Boston Marathon 48 hour blog countdown) with Runner's World posting a picture of me on their Facebook page of me and my foam roller working our way through the airport. There were updates from Runner's World's Facebook Page on Hall and Goucher and the back side of an anonymous runner carrying his portable chiropractor all the way from Colorado to Boston. Too cool.
The night before
Wanting to avoid the chaos of Pasta in Boston's North End Italian district, we caught dinner close to home at Grotto in Beacon Hill. Another excellent choice thanks to Yelp and my wife. Sunday night prep rituals went quite smooth as I was getting my game face and KT Tape on. My body had dealt with issues over my Boston training plan that included achilles, heel, IT band, shin splints, a bit of a strained glute, and "throwing out my back" two weeks before Boston. My glute required a bit of a tape job before I laid out all my gear. I'd later discover that I only forgot two items for the race itself; a Breathe Right strip and my "lucky" Power Balance bracelet (left on the nightstand.)
I slept quite well compared to the eve of previous marathons, had my pre-race breakfast (yogurt, cereal, bagel and Juice) and headed to the buses in Boston Common. Staying in Beacon Hill, it was simply a 1/2 mile walk to the bus. Another bonus for staying where I was. Most everything else seemed similar to last year in Athlete's Village which is located at the school up the block from the official corral start. I charged my phone at the Nissan booth which felt like a premonition...they didn't seem to have a charger that could help charge my human battery. A slight twist to last year, I got in line for a pre-race massage in the gym. I never got the massage as I was getting close to the start time, but benefited from the warmth of being inside vs. dealing with the early morning cold and wind outside.
I had bib # 8740 which had me in wave 1 in corral nine which took off at 10 AM. I hit the porto-potty one last time near the corrals and headed in for the last 20 minutes of waiting. I connected with my good buddy Vince from back home in the corral with ironically a couple of other CSU grads which felt like good karma. Vince and I are in the same running club (Runner's Edge of the Rockies) in Denver and have run many a Saturday long run together as well as the Portland Marathon. Prior to the gun, I tossed aside my old sweatshirt and pants. Game on!
I brought three pairs of shoes; a mudder pair to slosh around in Athlete's Village and two pairs to chose from for the race. Given the leg issues I had in Portland, I did not run in my lighter Brooks Racer ST 5s and opted for more support in my every day training shoe; the Asic 2160's. I had my oldest pair of light gloves to keep me warm at the start which I knew would be tossed aside a couple miles in along with the tube sock arm warmers. With the (left) leg issues, I debated wearing the full length skins or calf compression sleeves. I opted for my new lighter Tommie Copper calf sleeves. Tommie Copper infuses their products with (you guessed it) copper. I suppose it's akin to the benefits of wearing a copper bracelet for arthritis in the hands. Unlike last year, my quads held up and the lower leg pain was held in check w/ the new sleeves.
After the National Anthem and gun, my buddy Vince and I crossed the start line and hit our Garmin's for the start of the race roughly five minutes after the elites took off.
Vince is a tad younger, and faster than I so we ran the first mile or so together and I told him to take off. Not having the greatest training session and knowing that going out too fast can ruin a race, I intentionally started out conservative trying to maintain 7:40-7:50 pace, but was not really feeling much energy or adrenaline. Sometimes it takes a few warm-up miles to get "in a groove" I was silently telling myself. The weather was perfect and I did occasionally feel a push from the wind at my back. As I approached the 13 mile mark, train noises on my left and distant screams meant I was near the insanity at Wellesley college. Throngs of (or was it thongs) of women were screaming as if Justin Bieber had arrived on campus. I skipped the temptation of the many signs and hand motions to stop for a kiss. I didn't want to stop so I settled for high fives as I ran next to the mayhem. I ran into another running buddy (Tim) I believe after the halfway mark. Tim was running his 20th straight Boston Marathon, but due to injury had barely trained yet was still running the race. Somewhere around the Newton hills, I began to fade. I got plenty of sleep this last week, ate well, nourished well during the race. while I didn't wear my heart rate monitor, I know that wasn't my issue. Overtraining/racing fatigue was winning the battle as I slowed down. For the second year in a row, I didn't realize I was in the midst of "heartbreak hill." Chalk images on the asphalt of a broken heart was my clue that "this must be it." Unfortunately, at this point, I stopped checking the Garmin for current pace and ran by feel. I knew that 3:20 was not happening and eventually realized that a BQ 3:30 was not happening either. I wouldn't call it my "second wind" because I don't think I ever got my first somewhere around Boston college (Mile 20.) At that point, I started to play the mind games of only five miles left and comparing to all the "easy" five or four mile runs I had back home. Once in the city, I recognized another friend Matt (Luau on Twitter.) He was having breathing issues (since mile 17) and we traded turns providing encouragement to finish strong even though we both probably were already showing disappointment with where we would finish. Weeks from now I may go back and compare my last 3-4 miles in the city, but by "feel" I felt far more energy at the tail end this year vs. last. For my wife, sister and brother in law that had camped out on Boylston all morning to get less than a minute glimpse of my sprinting at the end, I wanted to finish strong. I may have looked like hell, but I felt like I was flying. Their bonus was a front row seat to the fastest men's finish ever, the closest womens finish, and strong showings by Goucher, Davila, and Hall.
One week before I was to run the Boston Marathon, I went to my running physical therapist in Boulder. I hadn't seen her since I had my athletic blood work done the month before indicating prolonged muscle fatigue (high cpk enzyme) and anemia due to an uncommon (among men) low iron count. Explaining that I still didn't feel like I had any energy, she advised that I didn't run Boston at all. She'd gone through it before and it took it's toll and almost a year to rest and recover. She knew that I wouldn't take her advice. It's a tough race to qualify for and this year it was tough to even register for it. Airfare and lodging was paid for. I had family that flew all the way to Boston to see me race a one-in-a-lifetime race. My blog is named seekingbostonmarathon not watchingbostonmarathon. Against my better judgement, I ran it. Got the medal, got the jacket, got the t-shirt but I'd be lying if I didn't say that I wasn't disappointed. I enjoyed the cold beer post race and got plenty of support and congratulations from my family. It was also interesting in that there were thousands of runners in the city the previous two days and I'd certainly met a number (and enjoyed it,) but there was something much different about the interaction among the runners after the race. A lot more subtle nods of the head and verbal congratulations knowing that we'd just finished something special. After the chaos near the end, we went for dinner and a few more beers, reflections and laughs at the Red Hat bar. My sister saw her first marathon that included a woman who shat herself, a man who pissed himself, and her baby brother run sprint down to the finish.
As I enjoyed my cold beer and checked in on my running buddies over twitter, DailyMile and Facebook the congratulations poured in. One runner in particular pointed out that he knew he would never qualify and congratulated me (and others) on completing the race. In Jr. High I was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondilitis which is a form of arthritis that among other things can "fuse" the SI (sacroiliac) joints which is not a good thing for runners. I remember something was not right back then when we had to run laps during P.E. and I came in "dead last" having to run around the baseball chain link fence and back to the gym. It wasn't that I was particularly slow, but I couldn't run without pain. Perhaps I'm a freak of nature because I'm running in my 40s with this disease and was able to run the greatest race in the land--twice. As I battle my imperfect need for perfection, I will try and remind myself of how lucky I was to have been there, and not second guess the last sixteen months. My daughter was trying to console me and reminded me that "Dad, some people can't even run a mile." Such a smart young woman.
I didn't listen to my PT about not running Boston, but her second bit of advice was if I ran, I needed to take a month off after the race to heal and rest. I ignored the first time and know better than to ignore the second.