Compete with the very best runners in the world at the Boston Marathon – mission accomplished! The race didn’t unfold like I wanted it to. I’ve learned that no matter how prepared and confident you are heading into a race, some days just don’t go quite like you’ve planned. Although the last 10 miles were brutally painful, I’m proud of myself for NEVER refusing to QUIT!
Our memorable weekend kicked off with seeing Eric Church in Milwaukee Friday night. The Bradley center was packed with 18,000 screaming fans. There was so much energy in that place with that many people! Then I realized that was nothing… I’d be toeing the line with 30,000 adrenaline filled runners and nearly a million spectators on Monday. Leaving the concert, I was pumped! LET’S GO!
After the concert Friday night, we had to drive to Chicago to our hotel. We finally rolled into our hotel around 2 am and got a couple hours of sleep before we had to get to the airport for our 8 am departure. Yeah, we were a little sleep deprived on Saturday… You only live once. Suck it up, buttercup! This was our first time flying to a race which added to the excitement of our mini-vacation.
Luckily, we had a direct flight on the way out so we had a full day to tour Boston. One of the main reasons to run Boston (not being much of an “open” marathoner), was to visit my cousin, Tony, and his wife, Steph, who live in Charlestown. It was so cool staying with people that knew the city inside and out. It was like we had a tour guide everywhere we went. There is so much history in Boston, it was a little bit overwhelming trying to take it all in. Nearly every building had a story which dated back to our independence. God bless the USA!
I should really start off by saying we made the decision to put our vacation to Boston first and racing second. Saturday and Sunday were full of tourist activities, logging 39,000 steps. Phew! On Saturday, we tried to test the strength and will-power of my stomach. We threw everything we could at it. New England clam chowder/bread bowls, raw oysters, pitchers of Samuel Adams beers, a freaking 2 lb lobster! Oh yeah, and cannolis! Everything I ate, I just kept telling myself if it added 2 mins to my time, it was worth it! Waking up Sunday still full from my indulgences the previous day with a stomach that felt like it went 12 rounds with Mike Tyson in a boxing ring, I was starting to wonder if what I ate Saturday was a good idea… Yes, yes it was! Time for a massive brunch with mimosas! Sunday afternoon, I started to detox myself with many glasses of water and some spaghetti. I mean, I do have to run a marathon the next day… By Sunday night, my gut returned back to normal and I was ready to give it a go!
I woke up on Marathon Monday at around 6 am with a solid 8 hours of sleep. I had minimal nerves and for the most part, felt like I had potential to put together a very solid race. I got dropped off at the buses which takes us to the start of the Boston marathon in Hopkinton. It was nearly an hour bus ride before we got dropped off at the athlete village. The weather was mid-70’s and full sun during race day which was a little bit of a shock to the system for this Wisconsin racer. Luckily, there was tons of hydration on the course which made the temperature bareble. The race itself was a net downhill race that goes east and finished downtown Boston. This course is notorious for the long downhills which I grossly underestimated. More on that shortly…
I didn’t have to wait long in the athlete village before they started to corral the Wave 1 runners to the start line. I lined up right at the divide between corral 1 and corral 2 runners, which put about 800-1000 runners in front of me. It was pretty cool when they lead the 100+ elite women and men past us, close enough to give out a few high fives! The $150,000 prize for 1st brought the very best talent to this race. I tried to keep my addrenaline and excitement in check after brushing shoulders with the elites. My efforts didn’t last long after having a pair of F-16 fighter jets fly over our heads. Game on!
I put down a Huma gel 10 minutes before the race start. Right at 10 o’clock, the gun went off and the flood gates gave way to the thousands of anxious runners. My goal for the race was to average around 6:15 min/mile. All of my long runs leading up, I did a good chunk of the miles at “race pace”. The first six miles included mostly downhill right out of the gates. I immediately got to my race pace (a little bit faster), and although my HR was unusually high, the pace felt effortless.
Running shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of people running the exact same speed as me (~ 10 mph) was INSANE! You didn’t dare running anywhere but straight… If an aid station was on the other side of the road you were running on, there would be little chance you could navigate over without tripping up other runners. It took me a few aid stations before I got the hang of it and comitted to a side of the road. I really tried to stay on top of hydration given the weather for the day. I would put down as many cups of gatorade or water I could get my hands on at every aid station (usually 2-3), followed by a cup or two over my head to help keep cool. This is one area I executed pretty well which helped to minimize the effects of the weather on race day.
At mile 8, I ran past my wife, Liz, and Tony and Steph. I thought no way I would see them during the race. It was a great surprise to see them, and at that point I felt like I was still on track to execute my race plan/time of 2:40-2:45. The number of spectators on the course was way more than I could have ever imagined. Literally the entire 26.2 mile course was packed shoulder to shoulder on both sides of the road with hundreds of thousands of screaming spectators. Who knew a marathon could be so exciting?!
Things started to take a turn for the worse at mile 12 when I started to feel sharp stinging pain in my quads. I expected this type of pain at mile 20, but knew it was not a good sign of things to come to have this feeling this early in the race… I kept trucking along for the next few miles without any more added discomfort until we had a good ½ mile+ descent. By the time I got to the bottom of the hill at mile 16, my quads were absolutely destroyed! At that point, I changed from race mode to survival mode… I knew I wasn’t going to hit my time I wanted, now I just needed to minimize the damage.
Each gut wrenching mile after that, my pace went slower and slower and my HR began to drop. It didn’t take long for my 6:20 miles to become 7+ min/miles. I tried my hardest to try and get my legs to turn over faster and they absolutely refused. Each pain-staking step sent shooting pain up my quads. I would breathe a huge sigh of relief to see any kind of uphill to relieve the pounding impacts on my legs. The last 6 miles was a real mental challenge as I had hundreds of runners passing me and everyone made it look so effortless to cruise to the downhill finish. Each step I took, I just repeated to myself that “pain is temporary” and put tunnel vision on to block out all of the runners and spectators around me. I have never been so relieved to see the finish line! I finished with a time of 2:53:31 (6:38 min/mi pace), quite a bit off of where I wanted. I was still proud none-the-less for racing “tough” and completing such an iconic race.
I didn’t have too much time to lick my wounds after finishing around 1 pm in the afternoon as we had to catch our flight just a few hours later. It was one long flight and drive home on Monday. My bed never felt so good! I was back to work on Tuedsay and starting my road to recovery. It’s taken a good week for my quads to start to feel somewhat back to normal and for me not to cringe thinking about running downhill!
One thing I did nail at this race was my hydration and nutrition. Getting on top of my hydration levels early is crucial being a heavy sweater. I probably drank a good 80+ ounces of gatorade and water. I put down 4 huma gels (400 calories) throughout the day (before, 7 mi, 15 mi, 21 mi) and had absolutely zero stomach issues. It’s definitely been a lot of trial and error to nail my nutrition and hydration plan. I’m pretty excited that those issues are in my past!
Thank you, Tony and Steph, for being such great hosts! Also, thank you all of my friends and family (especially my wife, Liz) for the amazing support! Thank you coach Blake Becker for getting me ready to race. Thank you, Dr. Tislau, at Creekside Chiropractor for your amazing work getting me recovered from this race. I’m back into heavy training mode and ready for my triathlon season to start. I’ll defend my win at a local duathlon in a few weeks, then kick off my triathlon season in June at Wisconsin Ironman 70.3. I’ve got a little chip on my shoulder for not having a great race and ready to start hammering my training!
Thank you to all of my triathlon sponsors, Quintana Roo, Epix Gear, Zone 3 USA, Creekside Chiropractic, Attitude sports, and Huma Chia gels. Lets get this season started!