Saturday, April 29, 2017

Boston Marathon 2017: The Variables

Before diving into the race report itself, I wanted to touch on a few things that would otherwise turn into huge tangents in the recap. (Ha!) Just a little peak inside my brain regarding a few of the variables that went into race day -- getting sick right before, having a "hot" forecast, and adjusting/not-adjusting race goals.

The Sick

During the second week of taper, my 3-year-old daughter came down with a cough. And that sweet girl would climb into my bed at 1 a.m. each night and snuggle up close, nose-to-nose with her cute little hand on my cheek... and proceed to cough in my face all night long. For multiple nights in a row. So it didn't exactly come as a surprise when I woke up sick the Sunday of race week (8 days out). To make matters worse, it *started* in my chest, which for me is always a bad sign. By Tuesday night, I realized that there was no way this was getting better any time remotely soon on its own and got my bum over to urgent care. The doctor called it acute bronchitis and, bless her soul, she loaded me up with all the good stuff in hopes that I could be functional come marathon day. Meanwhile, I was staying up all night coughing, my heart rate was rocketing, I couldn't take a full breath, and things were looking a little bleak. But I just decided to just think positively and trust that the meds would sort everything out!

On Saturday, my optimism cracked when my heart rate was still through the roof and my cough was ever-present during our final shake-out run. Then that night, we had a quick turnaround between events and I forgot to re-take my medicine before heading out the door for a night out at the Boston: The Documentary movie premiere. And then there I was, mid-conversation at a fancy cocktail party, suddenly hacking up a freaking lung. You know, those huge rack-your-body cough attacks that last and last? Yep. So horrifying -- first to be that person at the party, and second, to realize that I was actually still that sick and had just been masking my symptoms with all the heavy-duty prescription meds. Crap. The really "good stuff" makes you drowsy, so I already knew I wouldn't be taking that after Sunday afternoon... Sooo I'd just have to cross my fingers that the bronchitis wouldn't affect me too much on race day. (Spoiler alert: Coughed through 26.2 and was still pretty sick for the next 8+ days before finally starting to improve. Still haven't totally kicked the leftover cough.)
The optimism-cracking shakeout. My legs felt SO GOOD, but I was coughing and my heart rate wasn't having it either.

The Weather

As soon as a forecast was available, it predicted an ideal race day in Boston. Partly cloudy in the low 50's. It looked fast. And it also made me nervous, because we all know that forecasts like to change! And sure enough, as the race neared, the forecasted temps started creeping up. And up. And up. Finally, the highs were in the mid-70's and the marathon was sending out heat advisories to the runners.

Intellectually, I know that this slows you down. However, literally every other time I've covered the marathon distance, it has been "hot." The St. George Marathon temps were in the mid-70s at all three of my finishes. And don't even get me started about Ironman -- IMTX was real-feel triple digits during the marathon! (Temps in the 90s with high humidity.) And I lived! So I decided the heat wasn't worth a freak-out and if it *did* become an issue, I'd just cross that bridge when I got there. (Ironically, I got there somewhere near Bridge Street. Ha!) All optimism and positivity pre-race!

In hind sight, I realized that St. George heat wasn't an issue for me because I ran during hot summer afternoons all the time leading up to the race, so my body was adjusted. (Plus, you start in the mountains, which were 60ish, whereas Hopkinton was already "hot.") And even Ironman Texas was in May, which allowed for some warmer runs -- plus you run slower in Ironman and approach the run differently from a logistical perspective. But my Boston training, on the other hand? That happened during a freezing cold winter, with 90% of my running in below-freezing temperatures. Our very last 20-miler just three weeks before the race started in 17-degrees, for crying out loud. So yeah, zero heat adaptation in my pre-Boston world. (This was a VERY apparent trend on race day -- the vast majority of people who were still able to run near potential were from hot states like Florida, Texas, and Arizona. Whereas runners who had trained through cold winters were much more affected by the temps.) We actually did some purposeful heat adaptation for Ironman Texas, and I figure, forecasted heat or not, it wouldn't hurt to do it for the next round in Boston!
Already HOT in Hopkinton!

The Goal(s)

I hadn't run a marathon since my Boston qualifier way back in October 2015. I ran a 3:21 back then -- a whole 18+ months before Boston 2017. It's not exactly crazy to expect improvement in a year and half, even though my focus had been on Ironman training and not strictly running. In fact, despite rarely stepping out of Zone 2, I *had* gotten faster in that time. My half marathon time improved from a well-trained 1:38 to a very un-trained 1:34. My 5K pace had dropped nearly two minutes -- which is HUGE when you consider that it went from a 20:59 to 19:10 (6:45 to 6:10 average). And thanks to all of that Zone 2 Ironman training, I had the aerobic base to back up that new speed. Just give me a good training cycle and I'm on the train for a big marathon PR, right?

I wanted to rock 70 miles per week, nail my speed workouts, pay my dues on the hills, and then try to hit the New York standard, which is 3:13. Dream goal: 3:12:59. Yes, in Boston.

Of course, life is rarely that simple. Immediately after Ironman Florida on November 5th, I had a plant-and-twist mommy accident in which I hurt my knee (the doctor was initially worried about my meniscus but thankfully it was just pes aserine bursitis). I took a few weeks totally off and then tallied less than 20 total miles before lining up for the Tucson Half Marathon on December 10th. The PT gave me the green light to do the race, saying I wouldn't make my knee any worse -- but cautioned me to be smart because if I compensated too much, I could hurt something else. I ran the first 10 miles at what felt like a totally manageable 7:06. And then started limping fairly hardcore and therefore immediately pulled back a minute+ per mile until the finish (a 1:36:49).

I recognized that I needed more recovery and PT before jumping into marathon training, and accepted that I'd have to work off a 12-week cycle instead of 16. I took another week completely off and then had a few weeks with mileage in the teens while I tried to sort my knee out. (I ended up trading my pes aserine bursitis for trochanteric (hip) bursitis, thanks to compensating for knee pain on a particularly freezing 12-mile run right before the 12-weeks-out mark. I should have just called it early but it was an out-and-back and I felt so much pressure to start getting miles in anyway...) And meanwhile, that goal time shifted to something more of the slight PR and sub-3:20 variety--as in, 3:19:59.

But finally, training started. And it started going really well, despite everything. My mommy knee problem was finally gone and I was able to manage my hip. My body liked adding mileage. I was the overall female winner at a big 5K with that 19:10 PR. I found some good speed at the track and decent power on the hills. I had a few awesome tempo runs and was on a roll! So I started to think about working toward the New York standard again.

Things changed abruptly when we lost someone very close to us. Marathon training fell to the bottom of my cares. And yet, I knew I'd regret it if I wasn't prepared, so I forced myself through low-intensity, lower-mileage training. And since our friend was a runner and was excited for me to get to run Boston, I knew I had to follow through. Running proved to be cathartic at the time, and I got by, but it obviously wasn't what it could have been. Time goals? Not a thought.

Eventually, the fight came back a bit and I was hitting good times again. The hilly long runs felt strong, the speed felt manageable, everything was good. I peaked out at 65 mpw and averaged about 50 for those 9 weeks of pre-taper training, so it was a respectable cycle in the end. Two weeks out, I was on a treadmill doing a 10-mile run with 8 of those at goal half marathon pace. I did 7 miles at 7:00 and the final mile at 6:40 and felt great. During my cooldown, I thought, "Twenty seconds slower than that about three times in a row." And felt confident because that seemed so do-able.

My training cycle was less than I wanted it to be. Yet, for what it was? It was actually pretty solid: strong long runs, good hill training, speedwork and tempo nailed down. So maybe I was missing some volume in this training cycle, but I had a good base under that and good enough speed to tap into. Why not shoot for the moon? In my mind, there were three goals. A) Dream status, perfect scenario, 3:12:59. B) Great day, still a PR, finally that "teens" I know I'm capable of, 3:19:59. C) A BQ with a smile on my face.

I wanted to run an even effort throughout and would just have to see where that would get me. And if my watch wasn't saying happy things, I wouldn't let that ruin my day. I figured it was like your first Ironman: there will always be another chance to race the clock, but you will never get that moment back. I will never have another "first Boston Marathon" and I refused to let anything dampen the joy of that experience.

So when I got sick and the forecast struck fear into the hearts of all the marathoners, nothing changed. In my mind, it was pretty simple: I'd give my best that day and let the rest figure itself out. :)

No comments:

Post a Comment