Thursday, April 30, 2009

Memories From My First Boston
The 2009 Boston Marathon Race Report
Part 3 – The Middle Miles – Miles 7-18

Miles 7-9
After crossing the 10K time mat, I knew I was officially entering the “middle miles” of the race. Surprising, the course is still relatively crowded at this point, with not much open running room on either side of the two lane road. Navigating through traffic at the water stations was especially treacherous, given the barrage of water, cups, hands and feet thrown in every direction around me. This “middle-of-the-pack” sensation at mile 7 of a marathon feels completely foreign to me since at most major marathons I’ve done, the passing lanes are clearly defined and relatively clear by this point in the race. To avoid anxiety, claustrophia, and a complete freak-out, I concentrate my attention on a few notable characters that have been traveling at the same pace as me over the preceding miles. There’s the guy running in the fluorescent yellow Boston Marathon Finisher shirt with a hand-written “First Boston” sign on his back who looks like he’s falling apart. Beside him, an elegant female prancer with a face younger than some of my pediatric patients is pounding out the miles with such focus and determination that she does not care to acknowledge the crowds furiously cheering her name. Further along, I see a runner avoid a water station to grab a beer from some spectators on the side. I felt his choice of hydration rather odd until I notice while passing he is running without a bib. “Welcome to the spectacle that is the Boston Marathon,” I say to myself as I stroll through the series of rolling hills that marks the course passing through the township of Natick. (Statistics: Mile 7 – 6:45; Mile 8 – 6:50; Mile 9 – 6:49; Overall Pace – 6:44)

Miles 10-12
The feeling of running through the Natick town center adorned with spectators lined three to four deep on either side feels both invigorating and eerie. On the one hand, I feel like a rock star at a sold-out concert running amidst the boisterous crowds. On the other hand, it is somewhat strange to run through here with such wild fanfare when you realize that this is a picturesque and quiet suburban town the other 364 days of the year. From mile 10-11, I hug the left side of the road, trying to find my friend MT who was dropping by to watch me run the marathon. We had made arrangements over dinner the previous night to hold a spontaneous meeting near the mile 10 marker where she can snap a photo or two of me running this race. Although I am still running comfortably at this point, meeting my splits while conserving energy, I am somewhat desperate to see a familiar face from back home. It feels awkward to be running in such a big race, get cheered on by hundreds of thousands, yet be completely anonymous. Truth be told, ever since FL left me soon after our arrival at the Athlete’s Village, I’d been sporadically looking around for other NY Flyers, friends, anyone I might know during the race, but up to this point, my efforts have not been fruitful, which was somewhat disconcerting. Throughout the mile, I scan the crowd, hoping for a face I’d recognize, which in practice was harder than it seemed. I even lower the pace to facilitate the search, but to no avail. Eventually, after passing through mile 11 still with no sign of MT, I abandon the search, ingest a GU and brace my ears for the craziness at Wellesley. (Statistics: Mile 10 – 6:51; Mile 11 – 6:55; Mile 12 – 6:48; Overall Pace – 6:46)

Miles 13-15
Mile 13 isn’t so much about the running as it is about witnessing an exercise in admiration and vociferation because unless you’ve been through the scream tunnel and ran by the girls of Wellesley College, you cannot imagine what it feels like to be the object of affection for the hundreds of young enthusiastic women that line the side of the course. I likened the sensation to tearing down the 59th Street Bridge during the New York City Marathon only it’s a bit louder, a bit closer, and the voices are all female. As I cautiously make my way through the thunderous ovation and noise, the ladies all reach out for me, enticing me with their “Free Kisses for Runners” posters and “Kiss and Run” cartoon drawings. For a short while, I thought about obliging their offers. But since I’ve already seen a few of my running neighbors disappear into the hordes of women not to be heard from again, I worry that I too would get lost in the gauntlet and never get out alive. As a result, I stick to the center lane and do not dare look over until the voices have trailed off into a whisper behind me. “Next time girls, next time!” Not long after the exhilaration at Wellesley, I pass the half marathon checkpoint at 1:28:44, a minute ahead of schedule and a full 46 seconds ahead of my PR pace in NYC ’08. I am ecstatic with my pace thus far but remain cautious, knowing the worse is yet to come. I roll through mile 15 at a comfortable (albeit a little slow) pace preparing my body physically and mentally for the challenge that is to come a half mile away. (Statistics: Mile 13 – 6:49; Mile 14 – 6:45; Mile 15 – 6:58; Overall Pace – 6:46)

Mile 16-18
Shortly after entering this mile, we descend quickly and without warning into Newton Lower Falls. In terms of both grade and net elevation loss, it’s the biggest downhill section we have had since the early miles back at Hopkinton. As I glide down the nondescript road, I remind myself that this is a short appetizer for the tough main course that will stretch through the next five miles. I take the short reprieve to review my battle plans. Since miles 16-21 would be the toughest stretch by far along the course, before running I broke down the marathon into three smaller parts. There is a 16 mile warmup, a 5 mile race, and a 5 mile victory lap to the finish. I see the road in front of me unfold into a steady climb and suddenly realize that the game is on. The first of the Newton Hills at mile 16.5 is long and gentle. I take my time and scale it without much difficulty. After a short flat stretch to recollect my thoughts, I consume another GU and find myself at the foot of another hill. This second hill at 17.5 is short and steep, and in a sense is similar to the West Side hills when running Central Park in a clockwise direction. On this hill too, I tried to protect my knees and maintain even effort throughout although it is becoming more apparent with each successive step that I am in fact slowing down. I look for the designated Flyers cheering section in between Miles 17 and 18 but they are no where to be found. I am becoming increasing aware of how anonymous I’ve become since starting the race amongst 28,000+ . Luckily, by this point, I no longer care. My complete focus is on tackling the last 2 hills while keeping sub-3 a real possibility until after Heartbreak. Little did I know disaster would strike within the next half mile that will blow those pre-conceived race goals right out of the water… (Statistics: Mile 16 – 6:46; Mile 17 – 7:03; Mile 18 – 7:03; Overall Pace – 6:48)

25 comments:

Jamie said...

the suspense is killing me! i'm right there with you - you're race reports are the best!

Andrew is getting fit said...

another amazing installment!

joyRuN said...

Seriously, your race report is an excellent guide on tackling the marathon. I'll be reading & re-reading in preparation for mine.

Carlee said...

great description of the different parts...im totally taking notes.

Michelle said...

Me too! I am taking notes, in my head!!

Your writing is amazing and intense. I check your blog a few times a day in anticipation of reading more!!

One thing I notice is how very consistent your pacing is!! That is so great!!!

Nitmos said...

Here we go (rubbing hands together)...the plot is building...I'm curious to see how a 3:02 marathon erupts in "disaster".

J said...

Ok this is really exciting! I need to know what happens!!!

Thanks so much for your supportive comments! I really appreciate it and just wanted to thank you for them!

lindsay said...

gee convenient time for a commercial break!

lovin' your race report still and can't wait for the next chapter and your "how-to run incredibly fast at boston" post of course. :)

M*J*C said...

Again, great visuals!!! Can't wait to read more....

carpeviam said...

I love how you term Hell's Alley as a "short appetizer." So accurate. You are writing well. I hope it's helping.

X-Country2 said...

What a cliff-hanger! Can't wait to read the rest.

Susan said...

Such a cliff hanger!! I hope the next part comes soon!

Ms. V. said...

Disaster!?

I am on the edge of my seat.

Irish Cream said...

Oh Lam, you are such a tease! How can you leave us all hanging like that?! ;)

I am ever-so-anxiously awaiting the next installment of your amazing Boston Marathon Report (refresh, refresh, refresh . . .)!

Spike said...

up to the cruel pause, the race report is great and seems like you are doing awesome. but...seems like you could have spared 30 seconds for the kind screaming girls.

Chic Runner said...

LAM stop doing this to me. I'm DYING to know the next part. gosh. Hurry up and post. Also wanted to check in and make sure that the shoe people contacted you and to tell you that you are so nice and leave the best comments ever on my blog! :)

aron said...

ahhh another cliffhanger!! you know we are all very patiently waiting for part 4 :)

Running and living said...

Can't wait to hear more! C'mon, Lam, skip work if you have to, but give us part 4 sooooon! Ana-Maria

Run For Life said...

I always find the sensation of feeling "alone" in a mass of people such an odd one.

I really hope this disaster isn't as bad as it sounds...

You know runners are mostly type-A, stubborn, and impatient (but awesome people none-the-less) right?!

Vava said...

Man, what a race so far! I am so curious to know what happened and how you were able to almost PR despite whatever that was. Post soon!

Xenia said...

How could you disappoint all the Wellesley girls! I mean, for a man, disappearing into a hoard of willing young women is probably the best way to go, no? :)

sRod said...

I think a few hearts are heavier in Wellesley because of your actions last week Lam.

I see the set up here for a very interesting Part IV

Cowboy Hazel said...

Nice work with the foreshadowing. Now I have to come back here to read the ending... :-)

It's interesting that you mentioned the fact that the race was still crowded at mile 7. I had never thought about that before, but it makes sense being that it's Boston and so many people qualified to run it. That would certainly get a bit annoying after a while. Gives you a chance to see how the middle-of-the-packers run races.

Mike G said...

Great report. I can't wait for the breakdown of what happened next - was it the hills that got to ya?

Of course, a 302 is an admirable time by any objective measure so don't be too hard on yourself.

Also another question - was it a windy day for the latter part of the race? I thought I read that somewhere, about a strong headwind.

The Happy Runner said...

Ack! I had to hold off on reading this until I could sit down and really focus and enjoy it. I'm glad I did! This series is perhaps the best race report I've ever read and we're only at mile 18!!!!

 
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