Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Boston disaster

I guess you can say the answer is in. Doing a fair number of medium distance (12-16 mile) runs is not as good as doing fewer, shorter (8-10 mile) runs combined with some serious 20 minute tempo runs and intervals. For some odd reason, I expected this all along and expressed my concern on this blog prior to going into Boston. It had just dawned on me that, although I had run a lot, I had done very little intensity-wise this year.

Blame the weather and fact that I had no treadmill.

The fundraising too was a disaster. It started out well with some great early donations. But then everyone let me down and I was unable to gain traction. Unlike last year, most people did not even bother to reply or come up with some (lousy) excuse. They simply ignored my pleas. I find it hard to believe that the economic hardship is that great.

In short, the marathon was a disaster. It started out somewhat ominously when I woke up a week before with back pain. The back pain eventually went away and it did not play a major role in what happened, other than darken my mood a bit. Then there was the weather. Although Boston had seen nice weather all week, the day I arrived it got cold and started raining. No fun.

Miraculously it all went away on Monday and the day was near perfect for a marathon. It was nice, not too hot, and sunny. Blue skies at last. Perhaps the only problem was a chilly breeze although some might argue it was a tailwind for much of the distance.

I took it easy in the days leading up to the race and I felt pretty good going into it. I ran easily and the first 12 miles were fine. Maybe I started out a bit too fast but it didn't feel that way and I wasn't overly excited or pumped up with coffee. I actually drank very little coffee that day.

But in Natick things started to fall apart. First I slowed down, not because I was breathing hard, but because my legs failed me. I had some trouble leaving the town and heading up the small hill to Wellesley College. Then I suffered some more on the downhill into town, where Andrew and Andreas were ready to cheer me on. Once I headed into the second half things only got worse. By mile 16 I started suffering from cramps in my calf muscles and an upset stomach. I was forced to take a potty break. That is never a good sign. However, I still felt I could salvage a 3:25 or close to that.

On Commonwealth, even before heartbreak hill I had to start walking because of the cramps. By the time I hit the top it was really bad. Not even the downhill offered any respite, and those final 9 miles of downhill and flats were hell. The cramps got worse and the jogging -I wasn't running any more- stretches shorter and shorter as I was forced to walk more distance and more often. I was still hoping for a 3:30 or maybe a 3:35.

The last 2.2 km (1.4 mi) were especially painful and it took almost 15 minutes for me to finish. I walked large stretches of Boylston with the finish line in full view. Not even the near-hysterical Boston crowds could alleviate my misery. By the time it was all over, I had used up nearly 3:42 and I continued to suffer cramps, which would last for hours afterwards.

Fortunately, Andreas had decided to come into the city and pick me up. Although I had trouble getting into the car, I felt quite relieved. As expected the delayed-onset muscle soreness also came with a vengeance. Today I woke up sore and stiff and I have trouble walking stairs. Perhaps the best part was that the flight home was rather pleasant and uneventful.

The good news for the weekend is that Alistair won the Sea Otter Road race for the second year in a row, and he did so in a very dramatic solo breakaway, which vindicated my status as his coach.

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