125th Boston Marathon

My A Goal was 3:10. That was to give me a 10-minute qualifying buffer for the 2022 Boston Marathon. I wound up pulling off a 3:04:10. In the months, weeks, and days leading up the race, I was avoiding committing to a goal. I don’t know why. Even after we’d arrived in Boston on Friday night, I still wasn’t 100% sure or committed to a goal. I think my mind was giving my body an out, just in case I became sleep-deprived, sick, or injured. It wasn’t until I hit the 5k mark in the race that I decided I would shoot for a sub-3-hour marathon.

I slept well the two nights before the race. I was very cool and calm the morning of the race. I woke up at 5 a.m., ate a bagel, had coffee, and got the system into go mode. I humped it the 1.5 miles in the drizzle to Boston Common to catch the bus to Hopkinton. Made small talk with some of the guys I was sitting near in the back of the bus. Forty-five minutes later we’re getting dropped off a mile from the start line. I hopped into a portapotty and started the walk to the start. Amid the thousands of red bibs already there, I managed to run into Iram. We hugged and walked together to the start. He dropped an emotional bomb on me about his and Elaine’s imminent divorce situation. It was a lot to process and I wanted to be sympathetic, but I learned that it’s damn near impossible to render sympathetic encouragement when you’re 5 minutes away from endeavoring on the most iconic footrace in America. The best I could come up with was, “Don’t think about it for 26.2 miles. Be present here.” Iram’s ritual is to double knot his shoes before toeing the line. I kept walking, thinking he’d catch back up, but I think he veered off to hit the restroom, so that’s when we parted ways.

I got to the start line at 9:02:xx a.m. I decided to wait to take off at exactly 9:05. Because of COVID and efforts to maintain social distancing, the Boston Marathon held a rolling start this year. Buses were scheduled to arrive in Hopkinton at set times based on bib color. Bib colors are assigned based on your qualifying time. Faster qualifiers leave early and so on. This keeps the course moving efficiently. I did some high knees and bouncing around as I watched the clock.

9:05. Boom. I was off. There were probably 10 others that took off at the same time as me, but I was pretty much alone.

The first half of the Boston Marathon is fast with a lot of downhill. I’d decided on the bus that I’d just stick with my A Goal plan of 3:15. I’d run even splits (7:15 pace) and stay steady and ready for the hills later in the race. First split was fast. Second split was faster. Third split I’d dipped into the 6’s. So I thought, “Screw it. Let’s go sub-3!”

I kept checking in with myself and felt completely fine at the pace I was keeping. I took in 100 calories of GU every 5-miles, followed by a few ounces of water at an aid station. I had some worries that I might run into GI issues, but I wasn’t too concerned with that getting in the way of Goal A if I had to duck into a portapotty and make grody loud noises.

At mile 7.5, going into Natick, I witnessed the scariest thing I’ve ever seen in a race. A young lady on the road receiving chest compressions. The EMT who was working on her was fighting for her life. I almost stopped because witnessing that zapped my spirit. I was so scared that I’d just ran past a dead body. I later found out that she’s an extremely talented runner and only 34-years of age. She’d suffered a cardiac arrest and thankfully she survived. I know that EMT who I witnessed working so hard for her was her guardian angel.

I shook it off as best I could, said a little prayer, and kept going. Soon I was at mile 12 and I could hear the scream tunnel. That is the most amazing sound I think anyone can hear in a marathon. Those girls cheer so incredibly loud for the runners and it sends my spirit through the roof.

And then a few miles later, I hit the Newton hills. I was admittedly cocky and powered through them. After all, all of my training was done in Austin where we have a lot of hills. Heartbreak Hill at mile 20 got me though. I had to walk for a bit and catch my breath. And once you stop once in a race, your mind goes to that place where it starts to convince you that it’s okay to stop again. And again, if you really want to. It’s hard as hell to shake that monkey. I walked for a bit at mile 23, and then again at mile 25.

Mile 25 was when my left big toe “exploded.” I didn’t feel it coming on, but apparently I’d been building a nice blister on that toe during the race and it ruptured right at the 25-mile marker. And it hurt. It felt like someone jabbed a searing hot ice pick through the bottom of my toe. I stopped to take inventory because I was certain that there was going to be blood gushing from my left shoe. The shooting pain persisted, but there was no blood, so I just jumped back into my stride and gutted it out.

Right on Hereford, left on Boylston.

Craig told me that the family would be on Boylston, right in front of the Tesla and Under Armour store. So I swung wide turning onto Boylston and I kept my eyes peeled for everyone. I can’t remember who I saw first. I think it might’ve been Elise. I think I heard her first so I could follow her voice. I’ve gotten used to listening for my #1 cheerleader’s screams. I saw Terri. I saw Joanne. They were all smiling and cheering. And so was I. I threw out some fist pumps as I barreled past them. I could see the finish line at that point.

My watch said 3:02:xx. I probably had 400 meters to go. I kept a steady clip thinking I’d come in right at 3:05. I thought that made sense because I left Hopkinton at 9:05. I changed my plan and dropped the hammer. I wanted to beat 3:05. So I came in right at 3:04:10.

I beat my A Goal by over 5 minutes and BQ’d (Boston Qualified) by over 15 minutes. That was my second fastest marathon, and Boston’s not an easy course. I was over the moon. Still am, actually. It was a beautiful and magical day. I’m thankful and blessed that my family could be there for me, and really happy that my daughters could witness their dad smiling and gunning it for the finish line of arguably the most prestigious road race in the world.

Now I get to decide if I want to submit my time and register for the 126th Boston Marathon this upcoming April. I probably will. The Boston Marathon is too damn fun.

Boston Marathon training is done

I just wrapped up my last run for this Boston Marathon training block. 22 weeks and 871.4 miles in preparation to run 26.2. I’ll take it easy the next two days and then go on a shakeout run around the Charles River in Boston on Sunday. Until then, it’s rest, relax, stay hydrated, fed, and, God willing, toe the line healthy in Hopkinton on Monday morning.

This training cycle has been, in a word, interesting. I’d qualified for Boston in Houston back in January of 2020. And then the pandemic happened so any potential races or running goals that I might’ve had never materialized. The “normal” Boston Marathon in April of last year was canceled in lieu of a virtual event. The B.A.A. announced they were going to do the 125th running of the marathon in October of this year, so I decided to submit my qualifying time from Houston. A week or so later, I received the email that I was in. So then I had to start thinking about how I was going to get back into shape and train for a marathon.

Getting into Boston is an achievement in and of itself. I’ll go out on a limb and say for most first-timers, and even veterans of the race, you run the Boston Marathon to experience the Boston Marathon. It’s the oldest marathon run on U.S. soil, it’s rich with tradition, stories, amazing victories, heartbreaks, and, unfortunately, horror.

There’s been a part of me that just wanted to go back to Boston and run the race to experience and enjoy it. I ran my first Boston Marathon in 2018 when it was cold, pouring rain, and we all fought headwinds reaching 30 mph the entire 26 miles. I “experienced” the race, but not the way I’d hoped. I think this training block has got me into shape to where I can cover the distance, but I haven’t really settled on any kind of time that I want to hit. It wasn’t until today, on my final run, that I decided that I should put a goal out there. I learned the hard way that it’s not wise to train for a big race without a plan. And I reckon that it’s probably equally unwise to go into a big race without some kind of goal. You’re setting yourself up for uncertainty which, I’d also venture to guess could lead to poor performance. I could be totally wrong. But for me, I think if I don’t have a goal, then I’ll flounder. If I do have a goal, I can be present, mindful, and conscious of my splits and check-ins at certain course mile markers.

Today I decided that my goals would be the following:

Goal A: 3:10 (Boston Qualifier that will more than likely get me into Boston 2022 (or 2023?)
Goal B: 3:19 (BQ)
Goal C: 3:30 (PR the Boston Course by 7 minutes)

Up until today, I’d settled on the notion of “I’m just going to see how I feel Sunday evening and Monday morning.” I think that’s always the case for any race. It’s not a goal. It’s not a strategy. It reminds me of what a sales manager of mine used to always say: “Hope is not a strategy.” I obviously hope I’m healthy and feeling spry on Monday morning. My goals are to run hard, feel good for the 3+ hours, and have fun. And now I have quantifiable numbers behind those goals. The psychology, feelings, and emotions are implied. They’re going to happen regardless of anything that I can do. I have to work for the splits. I’ve been working for the past 22 weeks in my training.

Monday is when the real work happens.

Deck repairs

I was a lot younger when I built this deck. It’s probably 17 years old now. Now it’s in need of repairs. I think this’ll be the last deck I build for myself. if my children ever have a house of their own and want a deck, I’ll show them, and I’ll help them. The same way my dad did.