Well, here we are again. Tomorrow I will toe the line for my 6th Boston Marathon (that number still boggles my mind a little bit). And for the 4th time in 6 tries, the weather is going to be sunny and unseasonably warm. (Insert every single frowny face emoji you can think of here).
I think the fact that it's going to be almost 70 tomorrow stings even more this year because unlike last year, I'm not injured, but similar to last year, I feel like I'm in really. good. shape. My racing performance and long runs in particular seem to point to the fact that my fitness is there to run a 3:15, but I'm fairly confident based on my past performances in warm weather that I'd have to be in at least 3:10 shape to run a 3:15 in unfavorable conditions, and I am smart enough to know that I'm just not there yet.
Just for fun, let's take a little trip down memory lane of my past Boston races...
2010 - 3:48:46 - My first Boston and BOY was I naive to how fickle the marathon could be. I had trained with a sub 3:30 in mind but I actually managed to overtrain pretty significantly (that training cycle was the highest mileage I've ever run, before or since, with a pretty high level of intensity as well), my legs did not show up on race day, and I made some pretty significant nutrition boo boos. It makes me a little sad looking back on this race because for me that year was ALL about the time and I don't think I let myself enjoy the experience and the fact that it was BOSTON at all. Weather was as perfect as you can get for April, high 40s at the start into the low 50s by the end with some clouds.
2012 - 4:32:who even cares - A shit show of a race in every single sense of the word. This was supposed to be my "comeback" race after pretty much taking 2011 off from serious training for a variety of reasons. It was...not. I pushed the comeback too hard and too fast and wound up with a tibial stress fracture (the only one I've ever had) in the beginning of February which took me out of the game until mid-March. I attempted to cram my entire training cycle into 4 weeks which worked about as well as you'd expect...AND THEN this turned out to be the year it was 88 and sunny and just a complete death march. I ABSOLUTELY should have deferred to 2013, I had the option, but I had a bunch of friends watching the race who weren't going to be in the city the following year so I couldn't bring myself to do it. Absolute trash, managing to finish without hurting myself or getting heatstroke was probably an achievement.
2014 - 3:32:14 - I went into this race hoping to PR (at that time a 3:22) but was thwarted by the weather. I actually didn't have a complete meltdown but it was tough. What is probably more notable about this year, though, was the fact that I was able to get a number through my club and thus got to run the really, really, really special year after the bombing even though I hadn't qualified. The race was incredibly special and meaningful and while I was disappointed with my time that day was about a lot more than that. It was also a 16 minute PR for the course, so it was progress.
2015 - 3:17:30 - Absolute. Freaking. Magic. The stars aligned, everything clicked, and for the first time ever I negative split a marathon and ran a 5 minute PR. The big story with the weather this year was the fact that there was going to be a headwind, and I somehow managed to ignore the fact that there was indeed a headwind, that it was 50 and raining - I was just so happy not to be hot, and it felt like my training from the previous 2 years pretty much all culminated in this race. Incredible.
2016 - 3:35:21 - Basically, the race I am trying desperately to avoid having this year. I had gotten into a bad bout of hip tendinitis about 2 weeks out so my taper had basically become "do nothing" and I'm sure that didn't help matters, but I overheated in the 70 degree temps at the start almost immediately and death marched my way through the remainder of the race. I think this year was especially awful because the forecast for BOSTON didn't look so bad (it was in the 50s at the finish line) but it was a completely different scene through the first half and by the time you got a glimpse of the "cooling sea breeze" (read: headwind) that the local weather people were so delighted to talk about, you were toast.
So, we look back on my Boston performances and we have one outstanding, transcendent day, one medicore performance that was decent given the conditions, and 3 pretty much disasters. We also have 3 unseasonably warm years. They say insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I ran the race pretty much the same way in 2014 and 2016 with poor and poorer results, SO, given the fact that I'm once again dealing with conditions that I know spell disaster for me, I am doing everything in my power to change my behavior so that I can have a different result. Unfortunately, the first part of this plan is completely and totally letting go of any hopes of running a PR. It definitely sucks being in PR shape and having done SO MUCH RUNNING at a goal pace of 7:25 and then having to say, OK, I have to go out in 7:45. But that's what I think I need to do tomorrow. I'm considering a 3:25 to be my goal in the conditions. My plan is to go out VERY VERY conservatively and reevaluate at the half - if I have something left to push the hills and run the last 10K hard, that would be WONDERFUL. I would rather jog the first half and run a strong second half to run a decent time, albeit not a PR, than hold stubbornly to my goals, blow up, and spend 3 hours absolutely hating my life (2016 was really a scarring experience haha, and it probably doesn't help that since I was injured all summer I haven't run a marathon since then). I think part of the challenge is KNOWING that Boston can be a PR course for me; having had that magical day in the past and just knowing that days like that just don't come around every year. My other concern is: what if I go out slow and I STILL blow up? I feel like I need to trust my fitness on that point; I'm fit enough to run 3:15 and I'm making the necessary modifications, so I have to trust that my body can meet me halfway.
The other change I'm making is to my hydration and electrolyte strategy - I'm a heavy and salty sweater and once I get in the hole with electrolytes and/or hydration it becomes extremely difficult to climb back out. Last year I'm pretty sure I went to the line dehydrated already and that's one reason I blew up so fast. This year I plan on at least doubling my usual water intake the morning of the race (if I have to pee myself, well so be it - no shame in my game). The past couple of times it's been warm I've also carried a chopped up nuun tab and eaten it when I take water if I feel like I'm having issues. This year I'm going to actually take it at planned intervals, starting relatively early. I take my gels at 6, 11, 16, and 21 so I'm planning on taking 1/4 nuun tab at 4, 8, 13, and 18 - I'm also going to aim to get 2 cups of water at those stops.
All in all, I think I'm hoping for the best but prepared for the worst. At the end of the day Boston is just such a special race and I'm trying to remember that instead of just getting wrapped up in a time. I already know I'm planning to run a flat, fast marathon in the fall, and this training cycle will build into that one. And Boston...well, it's Boston! I sometimes don't know why I keep doing it year after year when more often than not I get my dreams crushed. But I love it. I love knowing every inch and every step of the course, what random businesses are on the side of the road in Wellesley and the exact rise and fall of each Newton hill. I had the opportunity last night to attend the world premiere of the Boston documentary and it was just incredible. I had chills, I laughed, I cried - it was outstanding. And it really just reminded me what an honor it is to be here, to be able to run this race. People dream of doing this, they travel across oceans, they work for years just to qualify. And I get to have it right in my backyard! So tomorrow, I want to run strong and run brave on this course that I know so well, to represent my team and myself with pride, and to try to love every moment that I'm out there, getting to do this ridiculous thing that I love so much.
One of the songs that really struck me during training this year was "Daugther" by Sleeping at Last - it's fairly obviously written for his daughter and is not at all about running but I really related to these lyrics (it's also just a really beautiful song):
this is your kingdom, this is your crown, this is your story
this is your moment, don't look down...
and all you've gotta do is put one foot in front of you...
I'm ready. Let's fly.
(Bib 10247 if anyone wants to track - I'll be starting at 10:25!)