Sunday, April 24, 2011

Boston Marathon Performance Review

Performance Review...
115th Boston Marathon
April 18, 2011
Boston, Massachusetts
10th Marathon Completed

Official Time: 3:20:25 PR & BQ
Avg Pace: 7:39
Avg HR: 166
Finish: 5,197 out 23,879 (top 21%)
Weather: 55 degrees, 70% humidity, 15mph tailwind
Comments: 10th marathon completed, no walking or pee-stops, and best race ever!
Garmin Connect Link:

I've ran few races where I managed my prerace pace plan so well.  I was within a few seconds of my planned pace all day and only really slowed on the Newton Hills, which were a little tougher than I thought they would be.  I drew so much energy and emotion from the incredible crowds that lined the course.  I had never experienced anything like it - they were amazing.  Looking back, they are the thing that I will remember the most about the 115th Boston Marathon.
The crowds were almost exactly like this whole way!
Race Weight & Nutrition
Going into the race, I wanted to get down to 175 lbs - I hadn't weighed that since high school.  But I thought if I could lose about 5 pounds, while maintaining strength, it would make for a stronger, faster race.  For the past few months, I floated around 180-183, and I thought losing 5 more would be tough.  But for the last two weeks before the race I really watched what I ate and maintained my core fitness workouts.  On race day I was about 177 - which felt great.  I felt light and fast, and most importantly, still felt strong.  I had a feeling I could run pretty well that day.

Since we were out of town without a car, and unable to find much that was fast and convenient for food, my pre-race nutrition for the week wasn't the best.  We didn't want to travel on the plane with a bunch of food, and there weren't any grocery stores close to our hotel.  So I probably didn't get as many calories as I would have preferred in the days leading up to the race.  As a result, I felt a little weaker than normal at the end of the race, but nothing disastrous.  I just could have used a little more fuel.  I ate Italian for a couple of meals with pasta and chicken - but I really could have used a lot more produce.

Waiting for two hours at Athlete's Village in Hopkinton wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. It seemed REALLY cold.  The actual temp was about 45 degrees, but there was a swirling 15-20mph wind that you could just never seem to get out of.  Fortunately this breeze would be at our backs for almost the entire race. I didn't really want to sit or lie on the flat ground for two hours fearing I would get really grawgy.  Also, I'm not very flexible and I was afraid it would put a strain on my legs in that position for two hours.  I would have preferred a chair, but I found the next best thing.  I cobbled together a couple of giant Gatorade bottles that acted as a make-shift chair.  This kept me up off of the ground and let my legs take a more natural position.  I also met a runner from Chicago who was really cool and talking with him made the time go by much more quickly.

The one mile walk from Athlete's Village to the staring line at Hopkinton was chilly as well.  I used two plastic garbage bags to break the wind.  Everyone was excited that the start was almost here, so it didn't seem quite as chilly.  Right before the gun, I shed the bags and off we went.  The start was AMAZING!!! There were people everywhere and it really made you feel like a superstar running in such a prestigious event.  I'll never forget it!

The Race
As the elevation indicates, the first 4 miles from Hopkinton to Ashland are really down hill for about 275ft.  The adrenaline and slower starting pace made it feel fairly flat, but later in the race, my quads proved otherwise.  One of the toughest challenges for the entire race was controlling your pace and emotion.  It was very easy to speed up from the charge you got from the crowd.  And if you could manage to keep a steady pace, the cheers made your heart race.  Most of the day, my heart rate was pretty steady, around 160-163, but at times I would look down and notice that it had spike to 167-169 just from crowd emotion alone.  The people watching along the way were one of a kind, and they undoubtedly help you in many ways.  But in some ways, they probably hinder many runners' performance if they can't control the effect of the energy.  
Boston Marathon elevation from my Garmin
Miles 6-15 were fairly uneventful, as far as the course goes.  It was reasonably flat with some rolling hills, but nothing terribly unmanageable.  It also seemed fairly easy to run the tangents on this course.  Partly because there weren't a lot of turns, but also because the race was comprised of mostly experienced runners.  I only ran an extra .2 miles during the race for a total of 26.4 miles.  I was continually amazed as we passed through all of the wonderful little New England towns ... Hopkinton, Ashland, Framinham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and finally into Boston ... there were more and more people gathered at major intersections.  I mean like hundreds if not thousands!  There were bands, bars, cookouts, honking horns, clanking cowbells, signs, and little kids offering high-fives at every town-center.  And the Wellesley scream tunnel at around mile 13 was deafening!  A quarter mile stretch of screaming young ladies.  It was incredible!

At mile 16 I started my fastest paced 5 mile stretch of the race.  I intended to run at about 7:15/mile pace - but I was a little under that for this stretch.  I felt like I could have done it with no problem, but I was really concerned about saving enough energy for the finish.  I DID NOT WANT TO WALK IN THE FREAKING BOSTON MARATHON!!!  Plus, I wanted to make sure I made it through the Newton Hills with no problem so I took it easy and didn't push it unnecessarily.

When I got to the Newton Hills around 18-22, they were a little steeper than I had anticipated.  They weren't the worst I have ran in a marathon by far, but they were later in the race and they seemed worse in person than they did on paper.  I ran my two slowest "non-warm up" miles at 18 & 19 with a 7:50 & 7:43, not horrible, but I lost about a minute off of my overall goal. 

Heartbreak Hill at mile 20.5 was definitely the toughest hill of the race.  I took it slow, and probably more than any other stretch in the race focused on the hill, my pace, and my breathing and forgot all about the people cheering us on.  I just wanted to make it to the top and then push the last five to the finish line.  Mission accomplished!!!  I ran mile 20 at 7:38, which I could live with. I still had energy to burn, so I down shifted for the final 5 mile decline and pushed for a PR.

The last 5 miles of the race were amazing.  I tried to not look at the Boston skyline on the horizon.  Seeing the city would make the finish line seem closer than it was, but I had a sense in those final miles that I could get my PR.  One concern though was my left quad which continued to tighten from the downhills early in the race.  I kept thinking, "Note to self:  Include more leg extensions at the gym for stronger lower quads"  But the tightness was not a deal-breaker, just an inconvenience that I had to be aware of.

The temperature had risen to about 55-57 degree sunshine and it started getting a little warm.  I took water and/or Gatorade at every stop and even took a gel at about mile 15.  Gels are great, but sometimes all the sugar mixed with the Gatorade is hard to process and gives me an upset stomach in the final few miles.  I also kept pouring water on the back of my head and neck which really seemed to cool my body temperature.

Mile 25 is where I really had to focus.  I had started in the back of wave #1 with a bib number of 8595, so most of the race was really pretty open for me with little or no congestion.  But I had caught about half of the group (I finished about 5,000th) and the congestion made it tough to weave in and out efficiently.  Plus, my legs were spent and my stomach was a little uneasy.  I didn't feel like I was gonna hurl or anything, but I was definitely holding it back and could have without too much trouble.  But I was getting faster and faster over the past few miles! Unfortunately, I didn't know how much I had left.  The crowds really helped, but there is a point were your body just doesn't respond to constant cheering and high-fives!  It has to be training, determination, and heart.  I knew I had the first two, but I kept questioning the third - did I have the heart to finish this thing strong?

Focusing on Commonwealth Avenue
I kept telling myself "FOCUS!!!", and my usual "BE GREAT TODAY!!!", because I knew this had the potential to be my greatest marathon yet.  I mean it already had proven to be the greatest race experience ever, but a PR at Boston - c'mon man, that would be awesome!  I wanted to stop a couple of times, but I had made it this far, surely I could press on a little more!  And as I made it to mile 26, I knew I had a strong finish in me. 

That final mile is kind of a blur in my memory.  You make two turns - one onto Commonwealth, and then on the final stretch of Boylston.  But all I really remember is making sure I didn't trip or fall, and being amazed at how many people were on roof-tops in downtown Boston watching the race!  Also, I remember my heart trying to beat through my chest at about 185bmp as I began to pick  up my pace for my fastest mile of the race, 7:17.  I knew I was running faster, but I couldn't believe that it was actually the fastest so far!!!

At the final turn onto Boylston, I glanced at my watch and felt like with a strong finish I could get a PR.  So I literally started to sprint with everything I had.  From Mile 26-26.2 I ran a 5:45 pace, and within a few yards of the finish, I knew I had my PR. I instinctively through my hands in the air as I crossed the finish line!  I had never done that before and I don't why I did at Boston, but it just felt right!  I had ran my fastest marathon ever on the biggest Marathon Stage in the world.  A personal record 3:20:35!  My PR qualified me for the 2012 Boston Marathon as well!  My last mile was my fastest!  I had ran progressively faster throughout the race with a 13 second negative split.  And I hadn't walked or stopped for one second, a new marathon record for me as well. 

The 115th Boston Marathon was just one of those days where everything clicked!  I had felt stronger in other races, and had been more prepared for other races, but this one was just magical.  Everyone and everything was perfect.  Michael even gave me a leg massage later that day at our hotel.  I'll never forget the experience and hopefully can do it again someday!  It was just one of those days where I truly felt great!
... be great today!


  1. Great job, Daddy! I am so so proud of you! =)

  2. Congratulations! You certainly executed the race perfectly!

  3. What a fantastic day for you!!!!!! I loved reading about it, I can't imaing what it was like to be on that course.

  4. You ran a textbook perfect race in freaking Boston of all places. I can't think of many things much cooler than that!

  5. I like the detail, especially the tip about leg extensions. Do they really ease quad issues in marathons with a lot of downhills? Any other good exercises for calves and quads? I have had problems with both. The racing weight info was interesting. Good report!

  6. great report!! i'm so new to all the technical running stuff, so i really enjoy reading it. i have A LOT to learn! you ran an amazing race (and got a leg massage from your wife, to boot!)--CONGRATULATIONS!!

  7. I am having so much fun reading all these race reports.


  8. You should write on your nutrition!

    Great blog though. Made for good reading!

  9. Congratulations ona great time, great race, PR and a BQ! Wow, this was only your 10th marathon, i can't wit to see what your time will be on #20!!! :-)

  10. Incredible race Jim - it literally sounds like you ran a perfect race exactly how you drew it up! Of all the race reports that I read out there, seems like very few races that people have go this well. I love all the details of this race report, especially the heart rate data, I try to base all my runs on heartrate, so I think it's really good to pay close attention to this. Can't believe that your 2 fastest miles were miles 24 and 26. Awesome that you got a negative split marathon!

  11. Reading through your notes really makes me want to BQ. Glad you had such a great day. I was tracking you during the race, and thought you were negative splitting and PRing. I've been a little bit of a blog slacker lately, so I've got to go read/catch up on your other Boston posts now.

  12. Congrats!! I love all these details you've broken down for us. Great job! To PR at Boston is amazing!! I'm running my first marathon this fall and am taking all the notes I can.

  13. Great run, great recap. Well done. I like that you threw your arms up in celebration. If you PR in Boston, you definitely gotta throw your arms up.

  14. Outstanding performance. Really liked your RR; I will be back again. As for your talents - wicked fast you are.........

  15. I have enjoyed reading all your posts about Boston. What an amazing experience!! Congratulations on an awesome race and memories that will last a lifetime!!

  16. Great job... this break down was awesome! :)

  17. What an awesome run and great recap. You were booking! I too try to have a specific race weight, it's amazing what a few pounds will do!


  18. You had an amazing race!! Congratulations!!!
    Great recap too! :)


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