16th of April 2018
The 122nd Boston Marathon is over.
The days before the Marathon Mondays has been tapping time; not tapering madness but tapping on mobile phone as many times as possible to check AccuWeather and WeatherUnderground for Hopkinton, Wellesley, Newton and Boston.
We all know that a good weather forecast gets worse the closer the event is.
Is it the opposite a valid rule?
Does a bad weather forecast become better?
The answer is a resounding NO!
The rain will be heavier.
The wind will be stronger (headwind, obviously…).
The temps will be colder.
I can stand the rain.
I can stand the wind.
I can stand the cold.
Not all together!
I carried a lot of clothes from Italy and I decided for the most waterproof mix.
I had also a proper rain jacket but I’ve never liked my arms movement in it.
So, the winner is: two layers of Gore Windstopper and my singlet as the outer layer.
While in my hotel room I studied everything known about Gore-Tex and Windstopper: two layer should be ok.
The singlet would acts as a bib carrier; you’re not supposed to make holes with safety pins in waterproof layers, aren’t you?
Legs and feet follow the “less is better” approach; less fabric means less sponge effect.
No-show socks and split shorts are enough (I supposed…).
Old clothes to keep me warm at AV and trash bags (small for feet and big for body) completed the equipment.
Exiting the hotel I was able to keep positioned the fleece blanket (thanks British Airways…) but I have had no chance with the space sheet from 2017 Boston Marathon: the wind made it to fly away and I lost its use in seconds.
I took one of the big trash bags I had, I made two holes for arms and one for the head and I put it on.
I suppose the move was too aggressive because the holes became bigger and bigger; it has not last long…
Boarding on the school bus I was already wet and cold but I was still hoping that the one hour trip to Hopkinton would have helped me.
As expected, the AV was muddy (super muddy!) and the space under the tents hypercrowded.
And here come the heroes!
I easily found the red dot and my friends made room for me.
In crowded and noisy place I find it hard to understand a chat if in italian; in english I was out of the game most of the time (sorry friends, a problem of mine, not yours) but I spent some valuable time (thank you all!).
In a short while it was time to go.
I had not decided yet which corral to enter; me and the weather are not in Wave 2 / Corral 1 condition.
Nevertheless, better to have many people running faster than me compared to worrying about contacts with runners slowing down or changing direction.
So I enter my corral five minutes before the gun, after having visited a porta-potty at the store parking lot.
I took off the fleece blanket, the trousers and I put on two big trash bags.
Ok, I was not supposed to race in them (the singlet would have been my outer layer) but I didn’t feel right to dress as planned (I will take them away after 1 or 2 miles).
Ready to go…
Deep breathing, the gun, deep breathing and a slow start.
Not only me; I felt like many others took a start slower than expected in W2C1.
“Check the HR.
Chech the pace.
You’re not in top shape, Alberto, and the weather conditions are opposite to your preferred one.
A safe BQ is the target.
A little faster would be a bonus but you don’t have to take risks, ok?
Hitting the wall, crash and burn… not today!”
I disabled autolap on my Garmin because I was using an app that calculates the real pace and predicts the final result based on manual lapping at the distance marks.
Pace and HR were ok in the first kms but after two miles my arms were soaked (out of the big trash bag but two layers of Gore Windstopper were already penetrated) and my body was wet (sweating or water entering from the holes I made for arms and head?); I didn’t want to think about it but I know I had a severe weakness in those conditions…
I was wearing the bib number as an additional layer to protect my belly.
The water not entering my clothes was collected by the trash bag and carried on my legs.
They’re getting a lot more raindrops than supposed; not a problem, at the moment…
Splits were regular; a little faster but I was feeling it as ok.
I’m not a supporter of time banking but I was trusting my feelings.
I didn’t feel cold but wind was an issue sometimes.
Many times I entered in standing water and I became immediately full wet; I still remember running 1500m steeplechase (I was junior so the distance was reduced compared to the official 3000m) when a competitor entered in contact with me and I got into the water…
Luckily enough it seems that socks and shoes were able to dry a little (from soaked to wet).
What happened to km mark?
I lost the 6km sign (I was looking elsewhere, I supposed) so I paid double attention to the 7km mark; no one…
From the 5km mark on, I was able to see the km mark only at timing mat, every 5 kms.
That translated to: “Even more, trust your feelings”.
Pace was ok.
HR was… OMG, higher than desired, for sure, but does it matter?
Yes, as a matter of fact, but I was pretending to run by feel, wasn’t I?
I was taking a few sips of Gatorade at water stations and one of my six gels every 5km, starting at the 10 km mark.
Still running wearing two trash bags…
I was supposed to tear them off after 2 miles or so but I worried about getting cold and worsening my body conditions.
Around 10 miles I felt… no, please not, not today!
“Movements” in my belly.
“Sometimes in training I had to stop due to GI issues but today is not one of those trainings; I’m running (pretending to race) the 122nd Boston Marathon!”
I learned later that Shalane Flanagan did a 13 seconds stop at a porta-potty; mine shouldn’t be a 13 secs affair…
I could keep on running but I would have also kept my fingers crossed!
In our group we already know what might happen and it was not one of my preferred ending…
There was more and potentially worse…
If I still wanted a chance to finish that race, it meant no water, no Gatorade and no gel!
Mentally it got harder.
Bad thoughts in my mind.
Meanwhile, miles passed by.
No need to push (pace easily ok), no tired legs (yet?).
“Have I wrong memories?
I remember me pulling off my trousers at corral and starting the race in split shorts, no-show socks and shoes.
Yes, I’m pretty sure of that but at the moment my legs are “dressed”.
I can touch them and it’s not my skin I’m touching.
At least, my fingers are returning the sense of touching something made of plastic, not my legs…”
That was the way I discovered that they were getting too cold.
Inside, the muscles were engaged and they felt in working condition but, outside, the skin was receiving the water directly from the rain but also what the trash bags collect from my torso and slides to my quads.
Something more to worry about…
Do you know what?
All those thoughts made miles fly away without “done/to do” stress.
In fact, I was still running a “comfortable” pace.
Down to the Newton Lower Falls (remember to be careful during that steep downhill).
Up on the highway (first real uphill, don’t overdo).
The Newton Hills.
I was worried to suffer from the lack of energy; no Gatorade and no gels since lot of miles.
I took one more gel.
I was balancing worrying about glycogen depletion and GI issues; not what I hoped to be focused on at this point of the race!
At the bottom of Heartbreak Hill I took away the trash bags; I supposed I can stand 10k dressed as I planned to be since the start.
My legs were still working pretty well.
I didn’t “race” the uphill but my pace was really good.
After the Boston College I reminded myself not to push the first mile downhill; too risky for my quads.
I decided to progress from there but…
As I tried a slight pace increase, the fuel gauge started blinking.
I hit RESERVE!
The app on my Garmin showed an estimated finish time around 3:17.
My target was 3:20; I would have been ok but not totally satisfied until 3:25 (reasonably ok for receiving the Confirmation of Acceptance for Boston 2019) and super happy moving down towards 3:15 so I was running close to my best scenario (set before the worsening of the weather) but I didn’t want to waste all in the last miles.
I was on the limit.
I had only one way to keep it going; no change at all on what I was doing!
Maintain the same effort; I could not fasten my pace but I didn’t have to slow it down.
And I kept it going…
Miles were not flying away as before; my eyes looked compulsively for miles marks, Garmin, miles mark again and so on.
I was close to miles #24 when, suddenly, I had to bend my body as Rocky Balboa hit my belly as hard as he could.
But it was not Rocky Balboa.
“Are you jocking?
This can’t happen to me NOW!”
I ran for a while with my left hand on my bib number and engaging my abs to warm up my belly; yes, I was still running and I didn’t want to stop but I was in risky business, more than before.
Ctigo sign, under Massachusetts Ave, right in Hereford St and left in Boylston St.
The Finish Line; I saw it and I was running to it.
The first smile on my face since the start.
I’m in for Boston 2019 and I’m targeting a PR.
No less than that.
I sent you an alert, Boston Marathon…
“If you want to stop my streak (one race per year – only the Boston Marathon – needing to BQ each year for the next one), this is your best opportunity because I hate running in bad weather.
In 2019 I will be unbeatable!”
You missed it and in 2019 you will know my racing character!!!