Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Rick's take on the Boston Marathon

As always, our roving reporter, Rick Cleary, has provided his own unique take on his 31st--YES 31st Boston Marathon start:

Hi Running Pals:

So here are a collection of thoughts and scenes from my 31st Boston marathon start, 29th same day finish:

The basic question: HOW'D YA DO?
Pretty good! I ran 3:37:02 to crack the top 8500 of almost 22000 finishers. I was 900th male 50 - 59, but one of the first 899 was Fast Eddie Sandier, so call me Fat Ricky for at least another year. The good news was that it was my fastest Boston marathon since 2002 (what a coincidence that my son Eddie was born in March, 2003!), the bad news is that to officially requalify for my age group I needed a 3:35:59 so I missed by 63 seconds. I hope to take advantage of my upcoming sabbatical, actually our upcoming sabbaticals since Ann has one too, to get in slightly better shape and run a good time somewhere in the fall.

Well, the obvious place would have been to reach down and run the last couple of miles hard. At 24 miles I was 3:16:05 on my watch with 2.2 miles to go, and my recent miles had been about 9:30 each. A modest pick-up to under nines would do the trick. But I'm just not a reach down kind of guy. I like to think that the same failure to stress myself to make up those 63 seconds accounts for the fact that I've been running for 35 years without injury.

Related story #1: I saw two guys earlier in the race wearing t-shirts that said, "Pain is temporary, quitting is forever!" I didn't want to waste energy in a debate but I immediately thought to myself, "No, no, no! Quit and try again next year; but hurt yourself seriously and you might never run again." This will all be explained in my upcoming book, "The Mediocrity Manifesto: How Doing Your Best is Killing You."

Related story #2: Two weeks before the marathon I went Marathon Sports in Wellesley and bought a new pair of shoes for the race. The eager twenty-something waiting on me said, "If you go outside and run along the sidewalk we'll do a stride analysis and we'll know if you need a stability shoe and..." I said, "I've been running for 35 years, never been hurt, and I almost always buy the second cheapest Asics. Get me a pair of these in 11."

Some other places I might have made up that 63 seconds to requalify:
-I did need to stop briefly in the woods by the railroad tracks near the 15K mark in Natick, and in my modesty I probably went farther off Route 135 than was really necessary given the circumstances. Let's call that 30 seconds lost.
-Mugging for a picture taken by Sunday AM running pal Jeff Dosdall at the Natick/Wellesley line. Maybe five seconds.
-High fiving the family and friends at Wellesley College ... another 15 seconds.
-Shouting to spectators with radios on to get Red Sox score updates ... maybe three times at five seconds each time.
There, that's 65 seconds. OK, I've convinced myself and I'm strong enough to run the time I need if I focus better!

Experienced runners would ask: DID YOU RUN EVEN SPLITS?
Well, no. Fast Eddie ran impressively negative splits, running the second half faster which is something I've managed only twice 78 marathons. I ran the first half in a little over 1:42; (7:50/mile) the second half a little under 1:55 (8:45/mile) so a minute per mile slower the second half. So should have I gone out slower? I'm not so sure. I know as a coach and as a rational math professor that everything in the literature would suggest even pacing is better. But I get really tired of running after two hours or so. I did my 20 mile training run in March at about 8:30 pace for the first 14 and I was still so tired I slowed way down and was well over 10 minute pace the last couple of miles. I think picking it up can work if you're generally fit but for those of us living on the margin getting time in the bank might not be a crazy strategy. Steady splits also require great mental focus and toughness, which (as previously noted) is not my long suit. At least this year the decline in splits was linear, not exponential!

And everybody asks: HOW WAS THE WEATHER?
Close to ideal. Sixty or so, sun came out just as we started. I'm glad I wore a tee shirt under my BAA singlet, as I saw a lot of badly sunburned shoulders after the race! I got slightly burned on the right (south facing) arm.

Other little moments from the day:

-My number of 14024 (the zip code of Bliss, NY, near Geneseo) put me in the first corral, right near the starting line, in the second wave. This was great, as it only took about 30 seconds to get across the line and I was running comfortably within the first mile. The earlier start and two wave starts are both huge improvements in the whole process.

-There's always those people you keep trading back and forth with ... For me this year the most memorable was a women whose entire uniform was an ad for Aquaphor ointment. I spent more time than usual worried about chafing.

-It's astonishing to me that in a race with water and Gatorade every mile there are people carrying enormous amounts of their favorite foods and beverages in various tummy packs, fanny packs, camelbacks ... I expect to soon see people pulling small carts with their preferred refreshments. This is especially annoying for those of us who weigh a little more than we'd like to and would run better if we were a bit lighter; seeing these people deciding to carry a few extra pounds just seems crazy to me!

And the thank yous:

-Ann, Eddie and Tommy for training encouragement, race day logistics and excellent cheering.

-My Wellesley College fan club, whose support really encouraged me to get into this year's race using my membership in the Quarter Century Club. One of the reasons I run the first half faster is to get to see everybody there!

-Martha and Bob Collins for the super service ride to Hopkinton; and the rest of the Sunday morning training group for their encouragement.

-My colleagues Dave Carhart and Erl Sorensen for their excellent cheering by Dave's house near mile 2, and the traditional complicated math sign with a code for my goal time. (This year's sign: 3^3+4^3+5^3-(Sum n=1 to infinity of 1/2^n)
Note that's 215, and 3:35 is 215 minutes.)

OK, time to rest up and get 63 seconds faster... I'd love to speed up enough to get my qualifying time back toward an Eastern NY zip code ...


No comments: