2014 Boston Marathon – A truly enjoyable first half

Thursday, April 24, 2014

                Another week. Another long race. Although Boston was just over half the distance of Lake Sonoma, 26.2 miles is still a long way to run, especially on tired legs. I spent the week between these races focusing entirely on recovery. I took Sunday and Monday off, got a massage (thanks Erika!) and then ran 30-40 minutes each day after that leading up to Boston. I added a track session of 8 x 200 on Friday to stretch things out and sat in the lovely natural ice bath that is Three Wells in Mill Valley a couple of times as well. I ate well and slept a lot. My legs felt pretty good during the 200s on Friday so I was optimistic that the marathon wouldn’t hurt the whole time.

                On Saturday, I flew to Boston and met up with my West Valley teammates at our apartment rental. We went to dinner in the North End and it seemed as though every other runner had the same idea. On Sunday, Matt and I got up and ran down to the expo to be interviewed by KTVU 2 news along with some other Bay Area folks, all organized by Kathy Johnson. After our interviews, we finished up our shakeout along the Charles, showered, and headed back to the expo to get our bibs and wander around. We headed back to the apartment for the afternoon, cooked a team dinner of pasta and salad, and then hit the sack pretty early.

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KTVU Interview Crew

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Abbreviated WVTC Crew: MJ, Hiscott, Rookie, and Ed

                On race (Monday) morning, we walked over to the bag drop in Boston Commons and then ran over to our charter bus. We got to the starting area without any problems and before we know it, we were lined up in the corral waiting for the gun. Temperatures were decidedly warmer than we had anticipated, and while it wasn’t too hot at the start, we realized that it would get warm on the course as the race wore on.

                The first couple miles ticked off way faster than I had anticipated, not because I was running too fast, but because ultras are way slower. I found myself running with Matt Laye and Michael Hiscott and a couple of BAA guys. Crosby Freeman and Chris Mocko were a bit up the road and by 4-5 miles in, I had moved up to them, as Mocko slowed saying it wasn’t his day. I was pretty sure I’d see him again later, but hoped that wouldn’t be the case. Crosby and I ran together for the next several miles, but around 12 miles in, my right hip flexor started to tighten up. I knew that it was due to lack of rest/recovery from the long race a week earlier, and hoped that it would simply remain uncomfortable rather than tightening to the point where I’d have to drop out. Quickly after that, my right calf tightened up, probably due to compensating for the hip flexor. Both remained bearable though, and I pushed forward.

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Crosby is so witty

As we came through the Wellesley scream tunnel around mile 12 (where I had a sign thanks to my family friend Claire!), I was rejuvenated and picked up the pace, but not for long. By the half, I had dropped off of Crosby’s pace (I came through in 1:12:03) and about the same time noticed that the bottoms of my feet were really painful. I was wearing more minimal shoes (Nike Lunarspider R4) than I had for my past marathons (Nike Lunarspider LT) and was feeling it. The relative lack of cushion made the soles of my feet feel like they were burning. I was a bit worried about the metatarsal issue I’d been feeling in my right foot acting up, but I didn’t notice it at all. And while the bottoms of my feet were on fire, there were no particular hot spots forming, which was nice.

                Immediately after the half, Matt Laye rolled past me, as did a couple of BAA guys, one of whom turned out to be an old Davidson teammate of mine, Johnny Baker. It was a nice surprise, but I was quickly dropped by their group, as my pace had started to slow. My legs felt fine in terms of fatigue, but my hip flexor and calf were making their presences felt and forcing me to ease off. More runners passed me and I just tried to focus on running as fast as I could manage. The miles ticked by more and more slowly and somewhere around miles 16-17, Patrick Reaves passed me, as did Mocko. I did my best to cheer them on as I was unable to stay with either of them.

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Hi Johnny! (#149)

 

                By this point, the weather had gotten fairly warm, and I was dumping water on my head to stay cool. The final 10k is mostly downhill and while I was thankful for that, I found it difficult to speed up at all. I tried to kick it in with about 400m to go, caught a guy and urged him to come with me, but was immediately forced to stop and stretch as my left hamstring threatened to cramp. I didn’t think much of it when I stopped, but as I stretched on Boylston St., the crowd roared in an effort to get me running again. I stood up and ran towards the finish line, with a shortened stride as both hamstrings were now attempting to revolt. I crossed the line (in 2:32:05) and again had to stop and stretch immediately after finishing. Every time I straightened up, both hamstrings would begin to cramp, so I’d bend back over. Eventually I got them under control and started to make my way towards the hotel room where Kathy and Dominic Johnson had kindly let us drop our clothes. My left calf was rather sore but my right hip flexor had finally decided to seize up for good, and I was forced to swing the entire right side of my body to move forward because I couldn’t lift my leg at all to walk normally. The volunteers were very helpful, with several asking if I needed a wheelchair, which I declined. I got my medal, blanket, gift bag, and a protein bar and limped to the hotel. I was looking for Matt but didn’t see him. I got up to their room, sat down, took a pain reliever that Dominic offered and we started talking about the race.

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Tying to stick with Mocko around mile 16.5

Matt showed up a few minutes later, and he had run a huge negative split to PR by 4+ minutes in 2:23. He covered the 2nd half faster than Ryan Hall did. Ridiculous. Meb had won the race on the men’s side in a gutsy off-the-front performance and Shalane had valiantly taken the lead in the women’s race only to fade in the later miles. The top 4 women all went under the old course record. The men’s race was not as fast, but everyone was elated that an American had won. It was truly a storybook ending to the past year and the build-up to this race.

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MEB!

After we had recovered for a bit, we headed back to the apartment, showered, and then met up with WVTC folks at a nearby bar. We talked about our races, some more content than others as is normal, but everyone was happy to have finished. Later in the evening, those that were left went to another bar where the Bull City team was hanging out and we had a nice reunion. A stop at Mike’s Pastry’s completed the night and before we knew it, we were up early on Tuesday to fly home. Just like that it was over.

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Bull City Family

It’s hard to put into words the emotion that surrounded this race. I think everyone wanted to run it to prove that you can’t keep the running community down. The city of Boston, the spectators and the volunteers, all made the event unforgettable. As my race went on, I found myself looking at the pavement several times wishing that I was running faster. But instead of dwelling on personal discontent in the moment, I looked to the crowds, waved my arms, smiled, and was met with cheers and words of encouragement time and time again. Heartbreak was especially helpful in that respect, as I am used to cruising up the hills, but my hip forced me to slow even further on the climbs. The spectators on that hill and in the final miles of the course were instrumental in keeping my spirits up and pushing me to the finish. I got goosebumps repeatedly throughout the race as the crowds reacted to us runners and for me, that final boost on Boylston was truly the end of the healing process. Everything was at it should have been.

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Look to the cookie, Elaine. I mean, crowds.

On a completely unrelated subject, but one about which I get asked almost daily, I’ve decided to run Western States. #seeyouinsquaw

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About afvarner

Runner. Donuts. Sneakerhead. Not necessarily in that order. Nike Trail Elite. Picky Bars. Gu. Vicory Sportdesign.
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