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Boston 2011

Pre-Race
Following my 3:18 marathon in January, my plan was to add 2 easy weeks onto Pfitz’s 12-weeks-between-marathon plan and basically decide along the way what my time goal would be. I had never done two marathons in such close succession before, so I wanted to stay tuned to my body to figure out if it would let me actually race Boston for time rather than just to finish.
And just like that, life gets in the way of the most well-laid plans. For the first 6 weeks, I was still in Israel but running through a broken heart. For the second 6 weeks, I was running in Tucson and just trying to check off the miles, the one thing I could really control. Needless to say, I had none of my usual fitness gauges along the way. There were no tune-up races I could get to easily. I couldn’t tell based on how I felt at certain paces on my familiar routes how good of shape I was in because there were no familiar routes. I was a mental mess during any and all track workouts. My one MP workout was done into a wall of 30 mph wind gusts. But I got the miles in. I felt healthy. By the time I started my taper, I figured I hadn’t lost any fitness, but that I wouldn’t be able to count on much of a PR. Initially, a 3:15 goal entered into my head when I knew several other RWOLers wanted to meet that goal, and it was a nice round number. It had nothing to do with what I thought I could do. But, it gave me a goal off which to design my gmaclin pace band, and a group to start with in the corrals. It also gave me some extra pre-race discipline and another reason to get excited, in addition to the prospect of ending my self-imposed life quarantine and hanging out with all my imaginary, but oh-so-real, RWOL friends.
Race Weekend
The social aspect of the Boston marathon has to be included in any race report. I am lucky to share such a strong camaraderie with folks from all over the world through the RWOL Boston Forums. I had met many over the past 2 years, but even more remained “imaginary” until this weekend. I had a blast being GoAnnie’s roommate, drinking too much beer on Friday with the infamous instigators iRun, and welshgirl – although CGruett, RD, bird, vitadolce, Kari, KJ, AlaskaWrestler, and dcv were certainly not hard to convince. 

Saturday meant more gallivanting with forumites at the Expo, at the mall, and in the North End for dinner. And, of course, at the Beerworks party. It’s great to be able to jump right over the silly small talk and feel comfortable with people you’ve technically never met! I met IndyNate and MichRunR, who were two of my 3:15-or-bust group. I got to meet Lap’d on Sunday morning, and I knew we’d have a great little group of runners together! 

Sunday morning I did a 3-mile shakeout run with the Aussie-load sprint routine, followed by 1.5 servings of UltraFuel over the next hour or so. Sunday was pretty low-key, and after a small and early dinner with the ladies on Sunday night, it was back to the hotel to get organized and relax with The 40 Year Old Virgin on tv and an early bedtime.

Race Day
I was up at 4:45 to meet a small group of runners at the hotel who wanted to be on the first busses at 6:00. I felt pretty well-rested and energetic and definitely in a good mood. 

We were some of the first to get to the red dot, where the time passed incredibly quickly between securing the paceband, bib, sunscreen, BodyGlide, ponytail, gels, hat, bladder control, etc. etc. 

I had 3 servings of UltraFuel that I had finished by about 7:00. I had done the UltraFuel routine before long runs in the past, so the slight unsettled feeling in my stomach wasn’t a surprise and didn’t worry me. Before we knew it, it was time for the 3:15 group to head to the corrals! Once we got in the corrals, we noticed we were next to Rock and Tadpole, and the time passed quickly joking around and keeping the mood light. It took several minutes to get to the starting line after the gun went off, and I found it amusing that people started to jog before actually crossing the starting line, only to be forced to stop and walk again. I had my paceband set for a slow start and a moderate fade, giving me paces ranging from 7:45 (first mile and Heartbreak) to 7:12 (yikes). I figured I’d stick to it as closely as possible the first half, see what happened on the hills, and then just gut it out the last 5 miles. And we were off!

Oh yeah, there was running
Miles 1-5: Getting in the groove (7:50/7:32/7:15/7:25/7:30).
All the paces were really close, +/- 5 seconds. There was a lot of dodging, but the group all stayed in sight. I could tell that Nate was behind me even if I couldn’t see him because of the cheers – he had his name written in large letters on his shirt. At some point fairly early, Lap’d remarked that the pace seemed slow. I said that was a good thing, and she slowly but surely pulled ahead to her eventual 3:13 finish. We ran into Jonathan A pretty early on, who also went on to an awesome PR.
I felt pretty smooth and confident during these miles, and didn’t feel much early-mile creaking or tightness. I was alternating water and Gatorade and took a gel at mile 5. My stomach churned a bit but nothing too serious. I wanted to be diligent about fluids because it was hot enough that it would be a potential problem if I didn’t.
Miles 6-11: Dialing in (7:23/7:24/7:25/7:24/7:27/7:29).
This is the one portion of the race where a groove is at all possible. According to my splits through here, I was definitely there. There were some awesome crowds around 8-9 who advertised they were drunk already. A sign for a shortcut was actually not tempting, although humorous. I just wanted to keep feeling this way until Newton. Strong and steady. The only bad part through here was my first though about peeling off for a bathroom, but decided to stick to mostly water instead of Gatorade and thought I’d be fine. Another Gu at mile 11. Almost to Wellesley, and Nate and I were still leapfrogging and together.
Miles 12-16: Feeling it (7:18/7:29/7:19/7:27/7:10).
I cruised through the Wellesley scream tunnel, blowing kisses, but reminding myself to rein it in and not let myself get too pumped up from the crowd. I was successful, but definitely started noticing how tired my quads already were. I also noticed I stopped hearing Nate’s name and realized I had lost him. I hit the half in 1:37.47, perfectly on for an even-split 3:15. The state of my legs really had me worried what Newton would bring and I struggled here a bit mentally. I remember looking down at my paceband before mile 16 and cursing about the 7:12 pace it had for me. Surprisingly, I pushed through it, glaring at the “Entering Newton” sign as I passed. I had a lot of work to do the next 5 miles.
Miles 17-21: Hello, hills (7:33/7:41/7:21/7:42/8:00).
When I ran Boston 2 years ago, I remember being challenged by the hills but not killed by them. Not so this year. I basically just needed to get up and over them without stopping, paceband be damned. I was pretty rejected when I saw that 8:00 split, but considering how I felt trying to get up Heartbreak, it could have been a lot worse. I knew the last 5 miles were going to be painful. But, they would be painful if I was running 7:30 or 9:00, so I knew I just had to endure.
Miles 22-25: Who needs quads, anyway? (7:20/7:36/7:24/7:41)
The paceband had been ripped off. I knew looking at the goal paces wouldn’t actually do anything for my paces: it was all heart at this point. My quads were screaming, my stomach was noticeably queasy, and I just had to press on and run. I let the crowds pull me through, and did notice I was passing people even though I felt like I was plodding along. I tried to focus on my form, even though it was shot to hell. Anytime anyone yelled “looking strong, Erin,” my first thought was to scoff, “yeah, right” but used it to at least pretend I was having a strong finish. I blindly hit the lap button on my Garmin without checking my splits, knowing I’d probably have a PR but the 3:15 would probably be just out of reach. At some point that last mile, Rock flew by me, telling me to look for Sully and “let’s do this!” Then, the Citgo sign appeared (although, seriously, who put that hill there this year?!) and I knew I was in the home stretch and just needed to hold on.
Mile 26.2: Down-up-right-up(?!)-left———–finish (7:37/1:36[6:50 pace]) 3:16.32/26.41 miles
No offense Sully, but a cannoli would have made me puke. Looking for the cannoli would have made me puke. Doing anything but getting to the finish line would have made me puke. So, I got myself there. There was no kick. I am convinced the hill on Hereford did not exist before. I am convinced the course was stretched between the turn onto Boylston and the finish. I knew every step was bringing me closer, but it was like one of those nightmares where the finish kept moving away as I ran towards it. Mean tricks the mind plays. But then, I realized I had to position myself away from the dudes around me to be visible in my finish line photo. That I wouldn’t get the 3:15 but I would get a nice PR. That Rock was hanging out on the other side of the finish line with a big, sweaty hug. That Sailrun saw me from the back and served as my Gatorade-grabber and post-race analyst. That lifting my knees up caused my hipflexors to scream. That my GI tract needed a bathroom, stat (or, as it turned out, Guinness and a cannoli at Jury’s). 

And then, it was onto the party! Three cheers for good friends!

Post-race thoughts
I forgot how hard Boston is. I only momentarily and very temporarily felt in a groove, where I had hit a pace I could hold all day. This course does not allow that – there is constant adjustment and readjustment of pace and effort. Looking at my average HR of 172, I know I was on the low end of where I should be for a marathon. What limited me? Was it mental? Was it the quad-trashing? I am convinced I couldn’t have found another 1:30 on the course that day. I’m also convinced I can run faster. I think the positives of the UF outweighed its apparent affect on my tummy, since it wasn’t so bad at the end and I never hit the wall, but I’ll have to play around more with amounts and timing. It has me mulling over my training plan for the summer before NYC in November. Do I stick with Pfitz? Do I use Daniels in order to bump the mileage up a bit (but not as much as the next Pfitz jump would be)? Do I do more long, slow base-building or focus on speed? In the meantime, I’m giving myself a bit of time to just run, even though I have my 30-miler on June 18th to finish.
I signed up for Boston not knowing what role it would play in my life. It gave me a goal, a purpose, and a transition from one point of my life to another. Maybe it will also serve as a transition in my running life as well, as I think about what my new goals and purposes will be.
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