Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Boston Marathon Race Report

Writing this two days after the marathon, I still feel shocked, distraught, and angry at the explosions and needless death and injuries that day.  However, the marathon and our traditions will prevail and carry on, and I don't want some nameless coward to rob me of my marathon efforts and experiences, so in that spirit I write this report:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Alarm went off shortly after 4AM.  After a breakfast of oatmeal with blueberries and a bagel, my ride (fellow  Westerly runner Jeff Vuono) picked me up at my house and we were off to Saunderstown to catch a chartered NRA bus to Hopkinton.  Very comfortable!  I actually fell asleep for much of the ride up to Hopkinton.  This was my 6th Boston, but my first time riding in a chartered bus, and I learned when we got to Hopkinton, that unlike the provided school buses I've ridden in the past, you could get on and off the bus at any time up until race time.
Entrance to Athlete's Village at Hopkinton start

We arrived Hopkinton at 8AM, so we still had two hours before race start.  Spent the time going to the Athlete's Village with bus organizer Dave Tetreault and a few others, small talk, calls and texts.  About 9:15 or so, I stripped down to my running duds, left the bus, and went to the bag drop off bus.  9:30 - slow jog for the almost mile from Athlete's Village to the start.
Endless runners and port-a-jons before start

Now for my bonehead play of the day:  Jogging to the starting line, I notice many runners have GU gels tucked into their pockets, belts, etc.  Where are my gels?  It's not in my pocket.  Did I put it there?  No, the 3 gels I had laid out were in my bag that I just left at the bag drop.  Moron!  Now what do I do?  A light bulb went off - run back to the Athlete's Village and get some Power Bars.  That's exactly what I did, and they fit in the little pockets in my shorts.  Not ideal to eat on the run, but hopefully will work.  Got to my starting corral at 9:53AM.

Start to Mile 10:  The gun went off at 10AM.  No movement for a while.  Finally we moved forward into a very slow jog, and then complete stop.  A few more iterations of this, and then we arrive at the starting line 2 1/2 minutes later in a slow jog.  Thousands of people, network cameras, staging, etc.  It seemed to take a couple of miles before I could move comfortably, and I decided to conserve energy by not weaving around people.  The first ten miles were uneventful.  Bustling in Framingham, but quiet in a number of places.  Average pace for first ten was 6:38.

Mile 10 to 16:  I was feeling good coming into screaming Natick Square and crossing the 10 mile mark. I decided to pick it up just a little bit here.  The girls at Wellesley College were boisterous and infectious as usual.  "Kiss Me - I'm from Florida, [CA, OR, etc]", "I won't tell your wife, girlfriend, etc", were some of the many signs.  Some years I've ran right up against the barriers and slapped hands with them, but this year I was boring and cautious and stayed on the far opposite side of the road to conserve strength and focus.  Mostly flat miles here, except steep downhill in mile 16.  Halfway split was 1:27:10.  Average pace for this section was my fastest at 6:28.
Just before the hill at Mile 16:
Still feeling really good here
(Photo courtesy Terry Hiltz)

Mile 17 to 21 - The Hills:
Now come the dreaded four hills.  At the base of the first (a 3/4 mile climb over expressway), I hear my name called and look in time to see annual spectator Terry Hiltz snap my pic and shout good luck.  An 80' climb spread over 3/4 mile is not steep, but I'm feeling it at end of climb.  My pace slows to about 6:50.  The next two hills are shorter but steeper.  That third hill has me muttering expletives, but I've only got one to go:  Heartbreak Hill - a 1/2 mile, 90' climb.  Not terribly high, but more than two hours in and more than 20 miles, I'm really feeling it climbing this one and can't wait for it be over.  There are people walking at this point - shouldn't I join them and be more comfortable?  Been there; done that; not today.  Finally, top of the hill and the Mile 21 marker.  Average pace for this section (hills) was my slowest at 6:55.
Why are all these people running straight forward?
Clearly, running sideways uphill is the more efficient form.
(Photo courtesy Terry Hiltz)

Mile 21 to finish:  Just hang in there is what I told myself.  Don't look at the Prudential Center finish - it's still 5 miles away!  The college crowds are BC are on fire and have been drinking since sometime early morning.   The quads are killing, but with the next 3 miles of net downhill with a 200+' elevation loss, I'm able to gazelle back to 6:30s pace.  Mile 24 sign - 2 to go.  Even if I drop to 8 pace now, I can break 3 hours, but I push ahead and finish mile 25 in 6:41.  Mile 26 is a blur - tiny bumps and over / underpasses feel grueling at this point.  Finally turn on Boylston Street with the 26 Mile marker and finish in sight.  I hear my name and "Westerly, RI" called out as I cross the finish line.  A volunteer asked if I'm going to puke before she gives me award - that must have been an indication of how great I looked at that point.
Funniest quips:
From a boy about age 5, at train station after marathon, in my Boston Marathon kevlar wrap "cape":  "Mom, look, is that Superman?"  [really]  "No, son, that's Super Gazelle" [ok, the retort isn't real, but the question was]
From my sister-in-law in Georgia, on her Facebook, after the events:  "So scary today ... my brother-in-law ran the marathon today ... Thank god he is faster than a speeding bullet and was long gone!"

Final stats:
Boston #6
Marathon #15
Net time:  2:56:16!  (a PR by over 3 minutes from last year's Providence Marathon, and a Boston PR by 12 minutes)



  1. Awesome work Gazelle! I was following your progress at work (isn't technology amazing) and was rooting for you to PR!

  2. Excellent race, Jeff! Do I win a prize for guessing your time "correctly" (2:56) in our informal pool after the WTAC meeting? I should at least win your sweat-drenched WTAC singlet....perhaps with an autograph or at the very a "hoof print".

    Cheers man!!!

  3. Congrats on a speedy finish and a new PR!