This weeks vlog is about the Surf City Marathon. I recorded my thoughts before, and then immediately after the race. My goal was to run 2:48 or better. This was my goal the last time I went after a marathon in Chicago in 2014. When I ran my first marathon in 2012 in 4:47 I couldn’t imagine running a single kilometer in 4-minutes, so it’s been a goal of mine to run a marathon at that pace. I didn’t have big mileage leading into the race, but I was getting in good speed workouts and long runs, and my tempo runs were going pretty well. I felt confident about my chances, but ultimately fell short.
This weeks video I look at my 2017 race schedule. This isn’t set it stone, but it’s my current plan. My goal races will be Ironman Lake Placid and Ironman Arizona, but I’ll look to do well at a couple halfs at Eagleman and Barrelman. I expect as the season progresses I’ll add a few more races to this list. Let me know if you’re going to be at any of these races, and if you see me be sure to say hi!
Surf City Marathon – Feb 5. Milton Sprint – June 4. Eagleman – June 11. Rose City LC or IMMT 70.3 – June 25. Ironman Lake Placid – July 23. Barrelman – Sept 17. Ironman Arizona – Nov 19.
I apologize in advance that this is a little lengthier than usual. The actual race report doesn’t start until The Race heading below.
Monday, the 3rd Monday in April, was my first Boston Marathon. It was also my first time ever visiting Boston, and my 4th marathon. After watching last years race on TV, and hearing about running Boston from runners who had been I was excited to have a crack at it. I knew I didn’t have the run fitness I had in the Fall in Chicago thanks to tri-training, and a big bike focus, but my plan was to give it a go with whatever I had on the day.
Arriving in Boston
Lisa and I flew into Boston Friday evening. The airport was filled with runners wearing Boston jackets from previous years, and as we took the subway to our hotel there were New Balance running ads everywhere. It was impossible not to get excited about the race.
Saturday morning was the BAA 5k. I’d decided this was something I wanted to do before the race, it would be my last run before the marathon, and I figured it could be a fun event. Race numbers were sent in the mail, and both t-shirt pickup and the bag drop were really well organized, so pre-race was easy. My plan for the 5k was to enjoy it, and while I had no intentions of pushing the pace, I also wasn’t out for a jingle-jog. I ended up running 18:55, about 3:47 pace. My legs felt good and it was nice to run some of the same streets where the marathon would finish Monday.
BAA 5k before the race
Bib pickup and Expo
After the 5k we headed to the marathon bib pickup and expo. It was still relatively early in the mornings so we beat the crowds that form later in the day. Like the 5k, the bib pickup was really well organized and it took no time to get through.
Next we checked out the expo. I had high hopes for the expo because of what I’d heard from others people, and the expo they had in Chicago, but I was underwhelmed. The booths all seemed squeezed in together, which made it difficult to navigate the isles, and there wasn’t anything in particular that caught my eye.
The Sunday before the race I took it easy. Lisa and I got up around 7:00AM, had breakfast, and then headed out to check out Harvard and MIT. We strolled around the campuses and then were back at our hotel for lunch. The previous day we had picked up take-out pasta for lunch and dinner. We spent most of the afternoon and evening in the hotel lounging around and mostly staying off our feet. We were in bed around 9:00PM.
Monday, race morning, we were up at 4:00AM. It was a bagel with almond butter and honey, as well as some water. We were out the door around 5:30AM and took the green line to Boston Common to bag drop and to get on our bus to the start. Lisa was adamant that we catch the first buses to the start, and I’m glad she was. After 40min or so on the bus we arrived in Hopkinton. We went to the food area to get some cardboard to sit on and then claimed a spot under the tent. This proved to be a good move. It rained off an on in the 3 hours or so prior to the start. The tent kept us dry and the cardboard helped insulate us from the cold ground. As we waited for the start I had a couple of cups of Gatorade and 3 granola bars. I didn’t manage to sleep in this time, but was able to lay down and rest.
Getting my singlet ready
At 9:15 my corral was called to begin to make our way to the start. Dan, a seasoned runner from Durham, had decided to drop back from his position in the first corral to start with me. We walked to the start area together. I did a quick warmup, and took a gel 15min before the start.
At 9:58, 2 min before the start I discarded my sweats that I was wearing to keep me warm. I didn’t have the nerves or anxiety I’d had before my previous 2 marathons (Hamilton and Chicago). I expect it was because I wasn’t chasing an ambitious goal time, in fact I didn’t really have a specific goal time at all. This worried me some because there’s no avoiding the hurt in the final 10k of any marathon, and without a specific goal to chase down it becomes a lot easier to let yourself off the hook and throw in the towel.
At 10AM the gun went off. I didn’t start moving right away, as there were about 2200 runners in front of me, but after about a minute we started walking towards the line, and as we got closer to the line that walk turned into a jog. My plan was to run the first 5k very conservative and then see how things went from there. As we began running Dan and I were together. The course was very congested. As I began running I focused on keeping my breathing calm and paying attention to where I was running; I didn’t want to clip someones foot. The race starts off with some considerable downhill, and there were a number of runners weaving through the crowd to run faster.
First 5k 21:01, 4:12/km.
At 5k I began to pick it up. I started running km’s close to 4:00 and I was feeling good. I knew to time qualify for the NYC Marathon I needed to beat 2:53, so I had that time floating around in my head as a soft goal. It was around this time that it started to rain. Slowly at first, but then it really teemed down. It caused a slight chill, but I don’t think it had much impact on my running. Around 12k I was feeling great. 30k to go and the idea that I only needed about 3:58s to run a 2:48 marathon briefly popped into my head. I thought maybe I could do something special, but then I came back to reality and remembered my splits were being gravity assisted (downhill) and that I’d be paying for all that downhill later on in the race in my quads.
Just past 15k my stomach began turning. A concern of mine before the race was the timing. A 10:00AM start meant that I ate breakfast at 4:30AM before I left the hotel, but then snacked on granola bars leading up to the start. I’m not sure what aspect of nutrition was my problem, but my stomach wasn’t feeling 100%. Fortunately I had no problem continuing to take in Gatorade at aid stations, and I took a gel around the 16k mark. This leads me to believe my problem had something to do with digesting my pre-race food. I decided I’d continue to keep running until my stomach slowed me significantly. As I kept running towards the halfway mark I heard shrieking, I must be getting close to Wellesley College. Wellesley College is an all-girls school, and one of the most famous stretches of the course. Hundreds, maybe thousands of Wellesley girls line the course screaming with Kiss Me signs. I passed on the kisses, but some of the signs I was able to read did make me laugh. The smile on my face quickly disappeared when I was past all the screaming and realized that I’d need to make a port-a-jon stop for my stomach.
I made a quick pit stop at the first port-a-jon past half way. I was in and out as quick as I could be, and picked up the pace for the rest of the kilometer to keep my foot speed high. I managed to sneak in just under 5:00/km for that one with my stop. My stomach was a little more settled, but I realized that I likely had a long 20k left to the finish.
I knew the famed Newton Hills began somewhere around 16mi (28k). As I approached them my pace began to slow. I could feel my quads and I wasn’t able to push off as strong with each stride. Running through Newton was a great pick-me-up. Spectators spirits were running high and it was a good shot of adrenalin just before the hills started. I ran by some people on the side of the road holding popsicle sticks with something on the end. At the last moment I noticed it was vaseline on them and grabbed one. My sides up near my armpits had been chaffing pretty bad so I rubbed some vaseline in that area as I ran and it didn’t bother me again until after the race when I took a shower.
Hills are tough. Hills 28k into a marathon are really tough. But I didn’t find them to be as bad as I expected. Between the relief on my quads that I wasn’t going downhill, the rowdy crowds, and passing other runners in worse shape than I was it was a nice change of pace to be able to focus on just climbing to the top of each of the hills. Somewhere before Heartbreak Hill I saw Leanne cheering. She was the first, and only, spectator I knew along the course, and that too pushed me to keep going. Unfortunately, around 30k my stomach quickly turned sour in a hurry and I made another port-a-jon stop. I wasn’t able to get in and out as quick this time, clocking a 5:03 km. This would be my only km in the 5:00’s. As I got back onto the road Dan caught back up to me. He let me know there was another hill, and Heartbreak, and then mostly downhill to the finish. Dan’s pace was far too rich for me to hold on and he sped ahead as I continued to plod along.
Running up Heartbreak Hill was as fun as a hill with 10k to go in a marathon could be. It was loud, there were all sorts of funny signs, twice I was offered beer by spectators, and one spectator even held out a box of cannoli’s from Mikes Pastry’s. I decided I’d stick to gels and Gatorade.
I had about 9k left and I was hurting. My lower quads were screaming with every step but I was determined to run under 3:00. To do that I needed to run about 4:20s for the remainder of the race. I told myself that I planned to run 4:29s in an Ironman marathon this summer, so if I have any hope of doing that I could do this. And I was supposed to hurt, it’s a marathon! Painful kilometer after kilometer ticked off. I kept telling myself 30minutes of running left, and then 25minutes of running left, counting down the time at each kilometer. I don’t know if it was a problem with my watch, or if I was just really poor at running tangents but the km’s on my watch were going off earlier and earlier before the km markers. Not by a significant amount, but 10m this km, 20m the next. I knew I’d be cutting it close to 2:59:59 so seconds counted.
With 2mi to go the famous Citgo sign came into sight. I stopped looking at my watch and just ran as hard as my legs would let me. When I reached mile 25 I was on familiar roads from the 5k. I knew it was under an overpass, right onto Hereford, left onto Boylston. As I ran out from under the overpass I ran by a runner who had an amputated leg. She was receiving tremendous applause. As I ran by I looked at her, and the hurt on her face was evident, she’d pushed through a lot more today than I had. In the late stages of big races I tend to reflect on what went into getting to the start line. As I turned onto Hereford I thought about how lucky I was to have the opportunities I’ve had, as well as how hard I’d worked to get to where I was. Less than 3 years ago I struggled to a 4:47 marathon. In the 3 years since I’ve met a lot of great people and push my limits further than I could have imagined after that first marathon. I was going to finish slower than I’d hoped, but as I made the left onto Boylston I emptied the tank and ran with everything I had for the line. I crossed the line in 2:59:41.
21.1k – 42.2k 1:33:28, 4:26/km pace (Overall 2:59:41, 4:15/km)
After I crossed the finish line I was pleased I’d held on to run under 3:00, but I was mostly happy just to be done. I told myself that I wouldn’t run another marathon ill-prepared to tackle the distance; the hurt in the final 10k is just too much. Very quickly I realized I was very cold. I was soaked from all of the rain and the temp felt like it was around 0. I was handed a bottle of water, but what I was looking for as I shuffled along was something warm. They keep the runners moving once they cross the finish line, so with stiff legs I kept walking. I eventually came across the solar blankets they had out at races. Unfortunately the sun was hidden behind rain clouds so they provided minimal warmth. About a km up the road was bag check, where I had sweat pants and a light jacket waiting for me. As I made the walk I was shivering and I couldn’t control my teeth from chattering. All I could think about was getting to my bag. I shuffled past a couple of other runners who didn’t look in great shape, curled up in a ball on a park bench. But I wasn’t doing great either so there was nothing I could do for them beside alert a volunteer when I saw one. I don’t know what the BAA could have done better, but on that walk was about as cold as I can ever remember being. It was so miserable it just about put the closing km’s of the marathon to shame!
I’d hoped that I’d run faster than I did, somewhere in the 2:52-2:55 range, but I was happy with my efforts. I just didn’t have that kind of fitness, and the time I got was the time I deserved.
That night Lisa and I thought about going out somewhere fancy to eat, but settled on take-out pizza and beer in the warm, dry confines of our hotel. We were both very stiff and getting in and out of chairs wasn’t the most fun.
Post race pizza and beer
On the Saturday before the race we made it to Fenway for a Orioles – Red Sox game
There are those days when you run when everything clicks; legs feel light, km’s tick off, and your body feels great. That wasn’t the day I had at the Chicago Marathon. I set an ambitious goal (maybe over ambitious) of 2:48 and fell well short at 2:55. With that said, I am happy with the effort I gave, I just didn’t have it today.
We arrived in Chicago Friday morning. This was my first time in the city, so I was looking forward to checking it out. We got settled into the place we were staying just outside the downtown core and then headed to the expo. The expo was very well organized. In no time we had our race kits and then browsed the vendors.
At the expo
The Saturday our plan was to do very little. I ran about 2.5k with strides to make sure everything felt good, and then Lisa and I did the architectural boat tour that it seems everyone who has ever been to Chicago has recommended. It did live up to the hype, it was pretty good. After that we went back to the condo and worked on staying off our feet. Lunch and dinner were both spaghetti and a bit of Gatorade.
I got a solid 6 hours sleep the night before the race and was up around 4:00AM. I had a bagel with almond butter and honey for breakfast and we were out the door on the way to the race just after 5:00AM. We arrived at the race site by 6:00AM, got our bags checked, and got in line for the port-a-loo. It was a little chilly so I had on a long sleeve and sweat pants that I planned to discard just before the race started. I made my way to my corral, did a couple sprints to warmup, and then made my way into the corral by 7:10AM (it was a 7:30 start). I lined up on the left side because I heard the first two 90* turns were both lefts and it can be a long way around on the right.
In my head I broke the race up into two 15k’s and a 12.2k final. If all went to plan I’d run about 60:00 for each of my first 15’s and 48:48 or better over the final 12.2k.
First 15k – 58:40, 3:55/km
At the gun I felt good. I was about 4 people from the front of the corral, so it wasn’t too congested. You run under a really long bridge in the first km, which throws off your Garmin, so I wasn’t completely sure of my pace, but I felt like it was a little fast (as expected). There were so many spectators, the atmosphere was great. I ran through 5k in 18:53. This was definitely fast, I knew the opening km’s would be a little quick, but even with that I wanted to be around 19:15. This was likely one of the first mistakes that derailed my day. Running downtown my Garmin was jumping all over the place so I never really knew how quick I was running. I’d try to run at someones pace who was near me, but I think I ended up surging and slowing down quite a bit. I began taking little sips of Gatorade right from the first aid station.
The next 5k I had cooled my jets and bit and ran 19:40 (38:33 through 10k). Around 8k I felt a little twang of pain in my right calf, but it didn’t last more than half a kilometer. I was alert, but not overly concerned at this point. I still felt like I was running well through 10k, and the crowd support was incredible.
From 10-15k I ran 20:07. I took my first gel at 11k. I had planned to take it a bit sooner, but wanted to take it right before an aid station so I could wash it down with water. At about 13k my left calf (which I had experienced problems with leading into the race) began to act up. I began to wonder if I was beginning to cramp up after the problems I had with my other calf 5km earlier. I wasn’t going to change anything just yet, but I would keep a closer eye on how my body felt moving forward in the race.
My first 15k took me 58:40. I was happy with this time, and how I felt. I did notice that the running began to feel like work earlier here than I remember it feeling like when I ran the Hamilton Marathon last year, but I chalked that up to the faster pace I was needing to run. I was 1:20 below the pace I needed to meet my 2:48 goal.
Second 15k – 60:26, 4:02/km pace (Overall 1:59:06, 3:59/km pace)
The second 15k section of the race is when things started to unravel. From 15-20k it began to feel like a struggle. I ran it in 20:08 and even through I felt like my effort was increasing my pace was slowing down.
20-25k I ran in 20:06. My last 15k were pretty steady at 4:01/km pace, and if I kept that up it would get me to the finish line inside my goal time, but that was a big ‘if’. I took my second of 3 gels I planned to take at halfway (21.1k). I began to make an effort to try to take in more Gatorade at the aid stations to try and combat some of the cramping I was feeling. I knew this was a risk because the extra fluid in my stomach could cause some problems, but the cramping was getting worse and I needed to do something to stop it from going past the point of no return and stopping me in my tracks.
25-30k took me 20:12. Again, losing time vs. 4:00/km pace, but still under my goal time. The problem was that it wasn’t just my calves that were bothering me, my hip flexors and hamstrings were heating up and a light, easy stride was a thing of the past.
Through 30k I was still on pace but I was holding on by a thread. I still had 0:54 in the bank for the final 12.2k but I was losing time every split. My legs weren’t in good shape. Even though I’d been experiencing the calf pain longer, it was my hip flexors and hamstrings that really worried me.
Final 12.2k – 57:26, 4:43/km pace (Overall 2:55:32, 4:10/km pace)
The stretch from 30-35k was when reality set in and the wheels fell off. I ran it in 21:23 and I went from 0:28 under my goal time to 0:29 over. My calves were cramping, my hip flexors were burning, my hamstrings hurt, and my stomach was in a knot. I planned to take my 3rd of 3 gels around 31k, but there was no way I’d be able to get it down (and I never ended up taking that 3rd gel). I think I had too much fluid in my stomach from the extra Gatorade I took in to combat the cramping. I knew I should back off my pace and go into survival mode to get to the finish, but the 2:48:48 time is one that means something to me, and I trained hard to achieve. I was going to force my body to keep moving as fast as possible until I broke and would need to walk. Just before 35k I reached that breaking point. My legs effectively said no more as I felt pain shoot up each of my legs and it was all I could do to stay standing. I was on the very left side of the road and steadied myself on a fence as I walked. I knew I needed to keep moving forward to salvage any sort of respectable (in my own mind) time. I only walked about 150-200m, but that was enough to have me lose all of my time cushion and put my 2:48 goal out of reach.
35-40k took me 24:58. It began with me moving back into a jog, even though I knew my goal had slipped out of reach I still wanted to get to the finish as quickly as possible. Low 4:00 km’s were no longer in the cards for me, but I was able to shuffle along at about 4:40s until I got to 39k and I was forced to walk again.
40-42.2k was 2.2km’s that felt like they would never end. It took me 10:05 (4:35/km pace) but I felt like I was moving a lot slower. I would usually soak in the crowd, the race, and the training that I went through to get here and really savour this part of the race, but not today. The burn going through my legs felt like the burn I felt when I did my first marathon in 2012. I had no finish kick and don’t think I managed to muster a smile at the finish.
Finish 2:55:32, 4:10/km
Right after the race I was in a massive amount of pain, and the way the finish chute is set up you have another 400m of walking before you can sit down. I knew after I sat down that getting up would be a challenge but I wasn’t sure how much longer my legs would support me. I got a little Gatorade and food into my body, and just sat there in pain for about 20 minutes. Maybe not the best thing to do, but I was in a world of hurt and not really thinking straight.
I think I made a few mistakes in this race.
First, I’ve run a number of 4:00/km’s, but I can’t run them blind. Throughout the race (but especially in the first 5k) buildings and bridges caused my Garmin to jump all over the place. I had no idea what pace I was running for a given split until I ran past a mile marker with a clock. If I was more in tune with my paces I could have done a better job at running by feel during these sections.
Second, not only was I running fast over the first 5k but I was surging a lot. Even though I knew the buildings were throwing off my Garmin when I saw a slow pace I would speed up, and then end up slowing down when I saw a much too fast pace. This wasn’t smart running, and something that came back to haunt me in the closing km’s.
Finally, I should have been better prepared nutritionally. When I race I rely heavily on the natural systems of my body and try to avoid taking in too many things during. Only in my preparation for Chicago did I make a plan for taking gels during long runs, I would take in minimal fluids and no salt pills. After the race my skin was covered in salt like I’ve never seen on anyone before. I’ve never bothered to train or race with salt pills, and this was a mistake. I should have been taking them during some of my runs to test if they were beneficial for me. If they were I could have carried salt pills and taken them if need be during the race to ward off cramping, without all of the extra liquid from the Gatorade I was drinking.
I’m disappointed in my result but I’m happy with my effort. I didn’t feel like I’d felt on other great race days, and I’m not sure why, it just wasn’t my day. I’m glad I kept pushing at 4:00 pace until I broke as opposed to scaling back the speed early, it leaves no doubt in my mind I didn’t have 2:48 in my legs on that day, and that’s what I went to Chicago for. Maybe I could have had a better paced race, but I can live with going for it and having the wheels fall off. I feel like I’ve progressed leaps and bounds as a runner over the past 14 weeks, and despite this result it gives me confidence in the run I hope to produce at IM Whistler next summer.
This week is when I get a little bit more serious about tapering. My normal easy runs will be cut from 15k to 12k or even 10k (depending on how I feel).
I fit in a longer run earlier in the week than normal (24k on Tuesday), to give my body one last longer effort with a 5k section at marathon pace, while also allowing for enough time that recovery wouldn’t be an issue. My intervals on Thursday are shorter than what I had been doing in training, I just want them to ensure I stay sharp. My Saturday ‘long run’ will be down to 20k this week seeing as at that point in the week it’ll be only about a week out from Chicago.
M: Easy 12k. Not much of note, didn’t feel tight after the Ajax 5k the day before.
Tu: 24k w/ 5k at marathon pace. This was to be my last real effort before race day. The first couple km’s I wasn’t really into it but I got focused right when the marathon pace section started 4k into the run. My first km was just over pace, but the other 4 were all just under. I took a gel at 9k, right after I finished the marathon pace work. I was a little low on fuel over the final couple of km’s and could have used another around the 18k mark. Overall I was really happy with the run, and getting it done.
W: 12k easy. The run didn’t start well. Almost from the beginning I began thinking about cutting my route, but as I got into it I felt better and ended up doing the whole run as planned.
Th: 8x400m. I planned on running on the track at the local high school, but one of the teams was using it so I did my workout on the road. My legs felt alright once I got into it, I was able to get my speed up for the 400m repeats and really let my legs loose.
F: Easy 10k. Nothing special, easy 10k to keep my legs moving.
Sa: Easy 12km w/ strides. I had planned to run 20k but my legs were extremely tired when I woke up. Part of that was likely due to the massage I got Friday. I held a 4:39 pace, which I was surprised with considering how tired my legs felt when I woke up, but I was happy with my decision to cut my run short from the beginning.
Su: 0km. I planned a day off to help my legs with recovery.
This week I began to scale back the effort levels in the quality workouts. The plan for this week was that my volume will remain around the same level (100-110k), but quality workouts would be at a more controlled pace. At this point my priorities are to stay injury free, maintain fitness, and remain sharp for Chicago. I’m no longer looking at building fitness, just setting myself up to get the most out of the fitness I have.
My plan for this week did include the Ajax Waterfront 5k. This would be the first proper 5k I’d ever done. My plan for the race was to run all out, but if I had so much as a niggle I’d back right off. The 5k was 2 weeks before Chicago so I wasn’t worried about recovery.
M: Easy 16k. After taking Sunday off my legs felt good running 16k easy. I didn’t push the pace at all, was a good run.
Tu: 5k marathon pace. My plan was to run 7k at marathon pace but my effort to hold 3:59 pace seemed far too high so I cut it at 7k. Maybe between the Harvest Half, my 6x1k workout and my long run last week I took a lot more out of my legs than I thought and need more recovery.
W: Easy 18k. Easy run, legs felt alright. Pace was a little slow (just over 5:00/km) but that was likely more because of talking.
Th: Easy 16k w/strides. After Tuesday’s workout didn’t go great I decided not to do quality today, but I did get in 20 short stride pickups. I felt good and was able to get my foot speed up for each short pickup.
F: Easy 12k. My legs weren’t feeling great for this run. Don’t know if something was missing from my diet or if it was fatigue but I was lethargic throughout the run.
Sa: 24k long run. I wanted to run 24-28k, and ended up on the low end of the scale because of time constraints. The run was alright. I didn’t have much to eat before and took 1 gel at about 16k, but I felt really hungry for the final 4k.
Su: Run Ajax 5k. Good run for me, 17:17, which is about 3:28/km pace. Before the race I didn’t feel amazing, but once I got going I was able to run hard. A more thorough race report to follow.