Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Boston Marathon

Boston Marathon
April 18/05

As I mentioned in my pre-race report I had no intention or plans to run Boston this year because of all the injuries, surgery, etc that I suffered from Oct through Feb. I had missed so much time and training during the past 4 months that I was not in any shape to run a competitive race at Boston.

However a close friend from Siesta Key- Frank – who is also a member of our local Running Club had decided that he wanted to run Boston only nine months after undergoing quadruple bypass surgery. Most of his running friends tried to discourage him and his cardiologist (also a member of the Club) advised him that his heart no longer had the capacity or efficiency to run a marathon and he should limit himself to a maximum distance of a half-marathon. Like any runner who is stubborn and invincible I knew that he would/could not be talked out of running the marathon so I decided that I should accompany him to help pace him through the race and watch over him. There were several members from the Club going to the marathon as well as many friends from around the country so it would be a fun and social event.

After meeting up with Club members and other friends during the few days and pasta dinner before the race we were finally ready for the marathon. Unfortunately the weather forecast called for warm, sunny weather although not as hot as last year! Frank and I took different modes of transportation to the start so we agreed to meet in Frank’s corral. I had qualified for corral # 8 but would be permitted to drop back to Frank’s corral (#18). Good idea – but I couldn’t find Frank among the other thousand runners in the corral as I waited for the start. At 12 (Noon) the race started but it took 8 minutes before we started to move in corral #18. Still no Frank so I stepped out of the corral to let the rest of the corral and corral #19 pass by me in the hopes of finding Frank? I jumped back into the throng of runners with the hope that Frank was in front of me and I would catch him after I started the race.

It took 24 minutes to reach the start line (where I started my watch for chip time) and by then the throng was running about a 10-minute pace. By that time the leaders were almost at the 5-mile mark and I as weaving my way around the back of the pack looking for Frank? Fortunately he was wearing a distinctive singlet with his name and a brief message about his bypass and I finally spotted and caught him about 1½ miles into the race. Thank goodness! I slowed my pace down to his and we settled into our race strategy. The plan was to run a 10 to 11-min pace for the first 10 miles and then walk and run the last 16 miles. The heat and sun were bothering Frank by 10K so I decided that we should walk for 1 minute at that point while I poured water over his head and body to cool him down. We reached 10 miles in 1:42. We were doing well but Frank was already starting to tire and having difficulty with the heat (mid 60s) and the sun.

As we approached mile 12 we could already hear the screams of the Wellesley girls. Wellesley College (for girls) is located on the Boston course at mile 13 and the young ladies line the course for about 1 mile and scream encouragement to the runners. The noise level is almost painful but it provides an emotional high that is impossible not to succumb to. They also hold up signs offering hugs and kisses and many male runners stop to oblige. Frank insisted on stopping – twice- while I took his picture getting his Wellesley kisses. After that emotional boost we reached the Half in 2:20.

We continued to walk at the beginning of each mile for one minute and then run to the next mile marker hoping that the walk would provide Frank with some recovery time to rest and cool down. However by mile16 Frank was hurting and in trouble. He was very tired and his body was overheated. He was feeling slightly dizzy so we stopped. I poured water over his head and body to reduce his body temp and we decided to walk the next 5 miles through the hills of Newton. He felt so bad that he conceded that his cardiologist had been right – his heart no longer had the capacity and efficiency to run a marathon and “this would be his last marathon”.

He urged me to continue on without him but I refused. I told him that “we started together and we would finish together”! Besides at that point it was irrelevant and meaningless whether I finished in 4:15 or 6:15? I asked him what his heart monitor was reading? I was both shocked and upset when he told me that he had forgot to wear it! I had specifically instructed him to wear it! Damn fool! So we measured his pulse rate frequently and compared it to my heart rate. Fortunately his heart rate was only about 10% higher than mine and it was well below the minimum level I have set on my monitor. If I am below that minimum level it indicates: a) I am not working/running fast enough or b) I am in big trouble if it is that low and I am working hard! Since we were walking I felt comfortable that our heart rates were not in any danger zone! So I continued to throw water on Frank to cool him down and asked him to eat a carbo gel at mile 17 in the hopes that it would help him recover?

This strategy seemed to work. By mile 19 we started to ‘jog’ some of the downhill sections of the hills but continued to walk all the flat and uphill sections. Finally we approached the last big hill on the course –‘Heartbreak Hill’. I had never ‘seen’ Heartbreak Hill even though I had run Boston six previous times. I was always too obsessed with some specific time or performance goal and totally focused on charging up the hill and blocking out the pain to ‘see’ the hill? In fact I had never had time to see or enjoy the Boston course or the millions of spectators like I was seeing and enjoying it during this race? Heartbreak Hill ain’t that big and bad – it only seems that way because it is the last big hill on the course and located at 20.5 miles when your legs are totally trashed from all the hills. We crested Heartbreak Hill at 21 miles in 4:26 (but that was chip time and official clock time was 4:50). I informed Frank that we had only 70 minutes to complete the final 5 miles if we wanted to finish under the course limit of 6 hours and receive a finishers’ medal. We could do it easily if we walked and ran.

Frank again urged me to continue on without him but I explained that we would finish together and either receive a medal together or not! I knew that he wanted to walk the final 5 miles by himself because of his concern about his health and lack of confidence that he had recovered. He just needed some motivation and a gentle push. So I coaxed him to try running just a short interval until he tired and then we would walk again. Much to his credit he dug deep and starting running. Soon the running intervals started to become longer. When we reached 35K we got some unexpected motivation. The race volunteers had already unplugged the mats that read the electronic chips. It was like they were saying “the time limit is 6 hours and you bozos are too slow to make it so you don’t need a split at 35K”! We were determined to prove them wrong! The running intervals became longer and the walks much shorter. By the time we reached 40K they were removing the mats from the course and we were really PO’d because we knew that we were going to beat the 6-hour limit. We later learned the early removal of the mats caused much concern/worry to Frank’s wife (and my sports manager) who were following our progress on the Internet via the split times. All of a sudden there were no more split times and we were no longer on the course? Shame, shame on the BAA for being so thoughtless and unprofessional.

We ran all of the last 2K except for one brief 30-second walk that I forced Frank to take just before we made the final turn on to Boylston St. I wanted to make sure that we could run the last ½ mile down Boylston St in front of the thousands of screaming spectators. Yes, even 6 hours after the start there were thousands of spectators along the course screaming encouragement at the runners to beat the time limit! This is one of the many things that make Boston one of the best marathons in the world – and my favorite!

Frank and I crossed the finish line together in 5:54:42. I had a net or chip time of 5:30 and Frank had a chip time of 5:32. That was 15 minutes faster than his time at Boston last year. As we walked through the finish chute I congratulated Frank on a great performance/race for his last marathon. He admitted that this race “had been the most difficult marathon in his life” and I commented that was a fitting tribute for a ‘retirement’ marathon. Knowing runners and how easily and fast pain disappears (and minds change) I reminded him that I would tell everyone and hold him to his promise “not to run another marathon”!

It would be hard for him to top this performance. If he was not the first runner to run Boston after quadruple bypass surgery he must surely be the earliest – only 9 months after the bypass?

As for the Maddog it was an interesting and unique Boston experience. I was happy and proud to be a small part of the team that supported Frank in his quest. (Even his cardiologist went to Boston to run the marathon and provide support). And I got to see and enjoy the scenery and spectators along the course for the first time. The race itself served as a very lonnnnnnngggggggggggggg training run. Since nothing hurt or was sore at the end of the race I will be able to continue my speed workouts in preparation for the marathons in Europe in a few weeks. I believe that I should be in good enough shape by then to run sub 3:45 in both marathons.

Stay tuned for the next adventure!


No comments: