Friday, April 23, 2010

Finished the Boston Marathon!

The past week has been a tornado for me. Race weekend in Boston was unreal. Just like the Super Bowl or the Olympics. Was an amazing experience and the people of Boston were so wonderful. Thanks to everyone who was out there cheering and thanks to all my friends and family for your support. Special thanks to my beautiful bride Lynn and her friend Margrete for making the trip to Boston…and to Matt Baier for keeping the Facebook crew up to speed.

As it turns out, the actual race was much more challenging than I expected and it didn’t end with the PR that I was hoping for. However, it was an amazing journey and I’m so glad to have been a part of it and to now be an official Boston Marathon finisher.

I’ve been replaying the race over and over trying to figure out what happened and still have no conclusive answers. Was it my nerves, a lack of sleep, was my body fighting a cold, did I get dehydrated, were my sodium levels low, was it my calf muscle injury? Wish I had one thing to pin it on, but in reality, I think it was just a perfect storm where a little bit of all of these added up to a very challenging test of will power to make it to the finish line.

I do know one thing that contributed was the calf muscle knot/injury I mentioned in the post the night before. The same thing nuked my first attempt at Chicago Marathon and acted up a year ago just before SD Rock N Roll Marathon. I thought I was doing everything right during the weeks leading up to the race including rest, stretching and massage.

Unfortunately, my right calf acted up about 3 miles into my last tempo run on Tuesday before the race. I babied it the rest of the week and did massage, ART, the stick, foam roller, stretching, ultrasound, you name it. None would relieve the big knot. I was able to run on the treadmill the night before without pain so thought all was good, but about a mile into the race it hit and I had to adjust my stride to more of a heel strike to relieve pressure on the calf (I'm normally a mid-to-forefoot runner) so I lost my normal efficient/fast stride.

Marathoning is a big mental game so I tried to view it as a positive thing that would help make sure I didn't run too fast the first 5K, which I was told over and over again “don’t go out fast”. My first 5K split was 22:01, which was 30 seconds slower than my target so I figured I was doing good pace wise and would be no problem to make up once I got to the hills. However, the knot in my calf didn’t get better and I could feel a twinge each time my right foot hit the ground. At the 10K mark (6.2 miles) I tried to pick up the pace, but found my legs felt heavy and tired. Was really strange to be tired that early in the race. I knew something was not right and my mind was racing a mile a minute trying to analyze the whole thing…nothing made sense.

My half marathon split was 1:35 so definitely slower than my target of 1:29:30. I wanted to pick up the pace, but was already out of gas. I knew my issue wasn’t that I went out too fast, but I couldn’t figure out what was wrong. My pace just kept declining and I had no ability to keep it up. I felt like I had the weakness of the flu without any other flu symptoms. I had Gatorade at mile 5, 8, and 10 plus Gu as planned at mile 8 so hydration shouldn’t have been an issue. My training had lots of uphill and downhill running and I had recent training runs where I ran 18 miles at an average overall pace of 7:01 so I knew what my body was capable of doing. Was so frustrating!

Anyhow, I knew I was in bad shape when I hit the steep downhill around mile 15.5 because I wasn't able to run much faster even with the downhill to help. The first hill over the freeway at mile 16 was really tough. Around the top of that one I pulled over to stretch my calf muscles and could not believe how tight they were. Hardly any range of motion and stiff like never before.

I continued on and forced myself to "run" the Newton Hills, but the downhills brought no relief and by mile 22 I got cramps in my quads that forced me to stop. Have never gotten cramps like that before. Just stopped me in my tracks. I was able to walk through them, but the last 4 miles were painful. Best part was I hobbled up to a guy from Chicago about mile 24 who's PR was 3:10 and he was having same problem so we carried each other to the finish alternating between baby step running and walking.

My finish time was 3:44. I’m not happy about it, but I did shift gears from racing to enjoying the journey right around the second Newton hill so all was not lost. I tried to focus on soaking up the cheers and enjoying the crowd which was truly unbelievable. Also pulled out my iPhone and shot some videos of heartbreak hill. Just nuts how many people come out to cheer and it sure looked like they were having a lot of fun.

All that said, I'm bummed that my body wasn't able to perform at its peak and disappointed in my performance. However, the experience was priceless and I'm definitely planning to go back next year to exercise those demons!

I’m writing this post 4 days after the race and the good news is my legs feel about 80%. The right calf muscle knot appears to be gone with no more pain when running and the only remaining issue is sore quads. I went for a 9 mile run out to Cabrillo Monument this morning with Randy Gorman. Was really good conversation and so nice to get back on the road. My next race is Rock N Roll Marathon in San Diego June 6th. Hoping to ramp back up the mileage next week and be in peak form for RNR so can race it fast and pain free. Thanks again to everyone. It has been, and continues to be, a lovely cruise!


  1. Hi Mike, I'm so glad you sent your blog site address out with the email to Jim, I was hoping to find your blog someday! By the way, this is Meg, Jillian and Lisa's friend who ran with Jim up here in North County(I gave your wife the cow bell).
    Anyway, my calves cramped up too!! I missed my goal by about 9 or 10 minutes because I had to stop four times but all in all, it was still a fun race!
    I had so much fun with you both during our dinners, too.
    I hope SD RnR goes well for you, I'll be cheering you on!

  2. Thanks Meg. I've heard a lot of people had cramp issues....strange. Was great to finally meet you. We had a great time and Lynn says hi. Let's get the gang back together at Wine Steals or something in mid-May. Cheers!