Wow, Boston was not what I was expecting at all this year. Seeing the high temperature from last year, was more thinking that it was going to be somewhat warm. And I love hot weather. Alas no. Here is a recap on my day and nutrition.I arrived in Boston on Thursday, weather was not so bad then but I kept looking frantically at my weather app to see the forecast for Monday (oddly Boston is on a Monday because it is Patriot’s day). It was not budging, it was going to rain hard and the winds were showing to come from the Esat at 42 mi/hour. That meant headwinds all the way.
I had a phase where I was really disappointed. Was hoping to do my best here in Boston and I had trained so hard, hardest I had ever done for a marathon. My friend Marcela introduced me to the Hansons method a few years ago and this is what I used for the buildup. Funny thing is that the Hanson-Brooke distance project is the team that Desiree Linden is on…There are 2 programs the beginner and advanced. I chose the beginner program because going up to 56 mi/week seemed like way enough for me. As a triathlete, it would be a good week if I would end up with 35 mi… So this was going to be a big change. Although I must admit, I never went up to 56 mi, most I went up to was 50. I modified the program a little bit so that I would have one easy day where I would bicycle instead. Also (bad me), I was cutting corners sometimes on the warm-up and cool-down…What I liked about it though, is that there was no really long runs. The longest run was 16 mi, three times during the buildup. I must say I was really skeptical but was ready to try it. I liked that a lot and by the 3rd one the 16 mi felt pretty easy. But how was I going to be able to run 10 more miles during the actual marathon???
The increase in volume was also dangerous for me as I have a high injury rate history, mostly the IT band. I knew I would have to do something about this and since I had not been very successful with strength training decided to go another route. This is when I found Jae from the balanced Runner. It was a game changer. Not only did I not get injured but my form just got a 100x better. Me who had been injured every year for the last 7 (started after I had a fall on my bike). None of this was happening. Here is a blog on my case study if you are interested.
I woke up early to have a breakfast: Greek yogurt, banana, half a muffin. Was not feeling super hungry as usual but I had done a pretty good job the days before. I was looking at my watch thinking: in 8 hours, I will be done. That does not start the day well. The wind was howling outside and the rain pounding. I got dressed up in ¾ tights (no wet shorts for me thank you), a t-shirt, arm warmers and a cap. I decided to also wear a light wind breaker (Thank God!). On top of it I wore a fleece and a big rain poncho that I had bought the day before at Target for cheap. I could throw it off on the course if need be. I put a pair of plastic bag over my shoes and a pair of sock to hold the plastic bag. Unfortunately that contraption did not work for long. Next time wear plastic bags inside your shoes or better bring a second pair of running shoes to the start. But hopefully I won’t have to relive this situation again.
Took the shuttle from the hotel and got on the bus to Hopkinton after dropping my change of clothes. My plastic bags were already ripping apart and I could feel water sipping through. Fortunately it was warm on the bus and I got to chat with a nice gentleman who thought I was 25 (Yeah, that alone made my day! Who cares about a marathon in the rain:)
Hopkinton was a total muddy fest. As soon as I stepped down to go to the porta potty my feet were in 2 inches of muddy water and I was starting to shiver. I then went under the tent and everyone around me had wet shoes and was shivering. Finally, they called my wave. I learned that the start was about another mile away. Seriously? Once the crowd dispersed a bit I tried to jog a little to warm up. Splish, splosh, my shoes were weighting two tons and I could not feel my toes.
Growing up I was used to have frozen toes. As a Quebecer, I spent a lot of hours waiting in line for the chairlift at -20F. I promised myself not to ever do that again. Nowadays I go cross-country skiing and I run because it makes me feel warm! Not today.
I then got into my corral. At that point I did not care anymore, just wanted to be over with it and was bargaining quite a bit in my head. Life is too short to do stuff like that…I’m too old…But when we started running. I must say that at that moment I had a brief smile on my face and people around me were cheering excited to start the race. I was still wearing a big fleece and a rain poncho which was flapping in the wind. Not exactly speedy.
I train a lot by power with the Stryd foot pod and I really like it. My goal for this was to maintain 190W which on the flat would give me maybe 8 min/mile, my approximate goal pace. The day before going at the expo I ended speaking with the folks at Stryd and they told me I should aim for 5W lower because of the wind. It made sense as with the head wind I would have to work much harder to keep 190W. These are not Watts like on the bike where it is a direct measurement, this is estimated through biomechanics, cadence, elevation, pace… so an indirect measurement, but useful when running on hilly courses like in San Francisco. So I lowered my expectation and went for 185W. Knowing that this would also mean a slower time. However the feeling was right.
My feet started coming back alive at about mile 6. My hr ended up much lower because of the cold and my legs unfortunately never really warmed up. I passed a women at about mile 8, she had a shirt from somewhere in Quebec so started talking to her. She asked me if I could feel my legs. She said she could not feel hers. I responded you gotta stop girl, not good. That is how bad it was.
Then I decided to remove my poncho and finally my fleece because it was weighing a ton, all wet. Was I making the wrong decision?
From then on, this is what I did: I just followed the Watts and the feel and counted the miles. Did not look at my pace or time. I thought about stopping a few times at the medical tent because I was cold. But then I also thought that if I stopped I would be even colder. What I learned later is that the medical tents were heated. Of course. But I’m glad I did not realize that.
I also thought about all the people that showed up. If they were there, I should be there too. The crowd was really amazing, Boston really takes seriously its marathon.
The first 16 miles were rolling but mostly downhill which sort of helped. Then at 16 mi that is when the work really started. Hills. It was kind of nice actually. Change of pace literally. I was awaiting nervously Heartbreak Hill. Everyone talks about Heartbreak Hill. But then suddenly I knew I was over it when I saw a sign “ you are at the top of Heartbreak Hill”! Phew, that was it, could not believe it.
Then I knew, it’s all downhill from here, well sort of. Still counting the miles. Then one mile to go, could not see the end of it. Right on Hereford and left on Boylston. There it was. Don’t ask me how but I did accelerate my pace. Really. The body has its ways. I passed the finish line and had no clue about my time. 3:40ish, PR for me! I just started bawling like a baby. People were asking me if I was alright. Emotions.
I needed to change. No place, no volunteer, it was a real mayhem. Found my stuff and changed right there. Just wanted to take off my wet clothes. Next task was to find Jen. Not easy, I was still shivering like a mad person and a bit disoriented. I borrowed somebody’s cell phone and managed to reach her. There she was!
She helped me get back to the hotel. Soon as I got there, I had a hot shower. And then it was already dinner time. By then, I was so hungry! Jen treated me to a nice restaurant and I had a nice steak, wine and some chocolate cake. Thanks Jen for the treat!
Even the next day going back, I was treated like royalty. JetBlue had the finishers board priority and get a free drink, how awesome is that.
I need to talk about my nutrition, unfortunately there is not much to say. I barely ate anything. Had some UCAN with beetroot crystals before. Then during I had a bit of UCAN that I had brought in a flask at about mile 10 ish and then from there I had two clif bloks at one point. Really wanted to take in some caffeine but my hands were too frozen to find the pill in my pocket… So basically had about 150 kcal. I know what you are thinking, no enough. But in reality, I’m just a good fat burner. At the pace I was running, this is my fat burning max and I burn about 1 g/min of fat and only maybe 60g/hour of carbohydrates. A few years back, researchers still thought that the max fat burning capacity for humans was 0.8g/min. This was disproved a couple years ago with the FASTER study from Dr Phimmey and Dr Volek. In their study with fat adapted ultramarathoners, they found that these poeple could burn 1.5g/min. Just to see that for a 125 pounds women 1g/min is a lot! So never hit the wall and felt I had pretty steady energy. My legs were hurting for sure, especially because my muscles were just cold.
Will never forget my first Boston experience and did I tell you I’m going back next year? Thanks to my support team: SF, JC, MC, NF, MF, JD, AR.