Outside of the race report itself, I find that the more time I have to think about a race, the more I feel like I can take away from the experience. After 7 marathons, I can definitely say that Boston was by far the most challenging for me.
What Went Right
- Training. As a whole, I am not sure that training could have gone too much better. Every cycle has highs and lows, but I felt like this training block was right in the middle for the majority of the time. It was a steady progression of improvement leading to what I felt was the most fit I have ever been.
- The Journey. I have never, ever had so much fun leading up to a race. In the months, days, hours and minutes that led up to the Boston start, I was able to share the process with incredible friends. Some were near and some were further away, but the support and company could not be beat and I feel very very fortunate for that.
- Coaching. Kevin and I both feel like we found a nice sweet spot for training for this race. It was a good relationship between mileage and intensity with a balance of cross and strength training (and weather). We pushed when it was appropriate and backed off when it was the right time. After two cycles with Kevin, I am ecstatic to build on my fitness and the trust that we have developed to see what I can do in the fall.
- The First Half. Despite already knowing that things were going downhill around the halfway point, I look back at the first half and believe that I ran a smart race. Even with the rollers, I was able to lock into a consistent pace around 7:47-7:56. As I have in my last 3 marathons, I wore only a lap watch and felt good about locking into the upper end of my goal pace. I came through the half right at 1:43 slightly slower than my 1:42:30 target. And crazy enough, that also happens to be the 3rd fastest half marathon I have ever run.
- Never giving up. After walking the majority of the last 7 miles of my first marathon, I have made it one of my missions to never walk in a marathon. I know that once I allow myself that first walk, it is over for me. Some people can walk and then pick right back up where they left off, but for me, it creates a downward spiral that gets ugly fast. So no matter how slow my shuffle is, I try to do everything I can to keep running. I ran a few 10+ min miles and lots of 9+ min miles during the last 7 miles, but I kept putting one foot in front of the other and that is something I am happy about.
What Went Wrong
- The Weather. I know many people would say that this is a cop out. And in some ways I even agree, because “control what you can control”, right?! BUT, this entire brutal winter (my first in the Midwest) I half joked that the cruelest joke that Mother Nature could ever play would be to give us warm weather on April 21st. I know this was not the 90* heat of 2012, but for so many of us who hadn’t seen temps above 50* since October, the 60* start was a big challenge.
- Doing too Much. I mentioned this in my post about the days leading up to the race. I was EXHAUSTED two days out from the race. It was reminiscent of pre-Eugene tiredness and well, that didn’t turn out so well. I know I probably tried to squeeze too much into those days leading up to the race. This is something that I will have to change if I want to do it right in the future. But as far as Boston goes, I have zero regrets.
- My Stomach. There have been only 2 races in all of my many races of varying distances where I have had to stop because of tummy problems. The first was Eugene (ahem, see above) and the second was Boston. I believe that when my body doesn’t show up to race, this is one of the side effects. The heat may also have been a contributor and the Gatorade (blech) could have been a factor as well. (Although, I took Gatorade in NYC and Houston and didn’t have problems at those races.)
- Not my Day. We all know that there are good days and bad days in our running lives. All we can ever do is cross our fingers and hope that our good days overlap with big goal races and then battle it out when they don’t. When the body that shows up to run on a race day is the one that is light, airy, fresh and feels no pain, that’s when magic happens. When the body that shows up isn’t there to race, we learn just how tough we are. Last year in Eugene and this year in Boston, for various reasons, I just don’t think my body came to race. I guess that’s just how it goes sometimes.
- Goals must be flexible. I have to give credit to Jenny on this one. She said in her Boston Recap, “Don’t be a silly goose. Readjust your expectations up until the minute the race starts according to the weather.” Looking back, I think I could have run faster (or run a much more joyful 3:41) if I had started 15-20 seconds slower. When it got so warm, so quickly that morning, I should have readjusted my goals.
- Boston is a Beast. There is a reason that this race is arguably the most famous marathon in the world. It’s significance in the sport is largely driven by the challenging nature of the course. The downhills will wreck you and the placement of the climbs is brutal on trashed legs. I had talked to many, many people and studied course descriptions for hours on end, but nothing could prepare me for the beast that it is. I believe that you absolutely can PR on that course, but it’s definitely something I had to experience before I could truly understand.
- I left it all out there. And if I didn’t, I don’t even want to know how my body would feel if I did. I was sore for well over a week after the race. And when the soreness started to dissipate, it was replaced by what I can only describe as “the aches”. Both of my legs ached so bad a week after the race that I had to take ibuprofen just to sleep comfortably. A typical marathon effort would cause me to be sore for 2-3 days MAX and I have never experienced aches like that.
- Regret is Ugly. My dad and I had a great conversation after he read my race recap. One of the points that he made that really stuck with me is about regret. He told me that I can’t look back and regret what did or didn’t happen in Boston. He said that I have an amazing memory that I should be proud of and that I can be thankful that I have the opportunity to try again someday. He reminded me that this isn’t like my last college softball season where there is no “do over”, but that I have many, many more races to look forward to. This really helped me get over my disappointment and look forward to what’s next.
- Boston Do Over. With that being said, the words “Never Again” were among the first out of my mouth after the race. I was wrecked and never wanted to feel like that again. The more my short-term memory takes over and the pain becomes harder to recall, the more I know I will be back in Hopkinton in the future. I don’t think it will be next year (although I do have a qualifier from NYC), but I WILL have my day at Boston.
- 2013 Reflections. It was hard for me last year when I learned about what happened near the finish line. It was hard for everyone, especially those of you who ran the race that day and passed that area hours and minutes prior. Despite not even being there, it felt so personal. So close. But it hit home more than ever when I digested the thought that MY FAMILY was among those standing in the exact spots this year. It overwhelms my entire being and brings me a kind of guilt that makes me want to crumble into mess on the floor. It also makes me understand terror in a way that I never imagined I could or would. That day was life changing for so many innocent people, and I know that I will never, ever comprehend the agony that the victims have endured over the last year. It’s unjust. I am proud to have been a part of the race that reclaimed at least part of what it means to be at the Boston Marathon finish line…from both sides of the barriers.