Boston Marathon Memories
A personal note about some distant memories
As today is the Boston Marathon, I got to thinking about my time running it in 2004. I hadn’t planned on doing it and did I not train to qualify for it. My focus for the prior three years had been Ironman triathlon: my first IM was in 2000, followed by another in 2001 (with a third about six weeks later but that was a DNF due to my aero bars breaking), another in 2002, and my fourth in August 2003. My first marathon was in 1999, which was a distance I never thought a sane person would want to do, let alone me.I soon accepted marathons as catered long runs useful for Ironman training.
After my fourth IM in 2003, aka “Fireman” Canada with massive forest fires in Penticton, British Columbia,I just took it easy and ran on the trails in the Santa Monica Mountains with my dog Luna (who you can see as my profile picture). She was great for up to 12-14 miles with aggressive climbs, mostly on, through, and around Westridge, Sullivan Canyon, Sullivan Ridge, Rustic Canyon, and “dirt” Mulholland Drive. Sometimes I’d do 8-10 and then hand her off to my wife and do another 8-10 miles. That was it. There was no track work, and no road runs in the training.
The Las Vegas Marathon had been a point-to-point run from nearly the State Line to the finish near McCarran Airport (I think they’ve since changed the course). It was also one of two marathons at the end of the calendar to qualify for the Boston. I wasn’t running it for that, but because I had done it several times before and it was a fast course with about twenty miles of gradual downhill followed by 10k of “brutal” flat,which was fun. Checking into the hotel the night before, I phoned my wife and said, “You know, I feel kind of good. I wonder if I can qualify for Boston?” I checked and the time qualifying time was 3:15.59 (I was 36 at the time). Hmm.
Well, the short of it is I was watching my pace. It was getting close in the last 6-7 miles and I kept a close eye on the pace. Ultimately, I crossed line with a chip time (the important time) of 3:15:49 :D
So, ok, Boston here I come! So that race was on January 25, 2004. On March 7, I ran the Los Angeles Marathon as a coach for Team in Training because, at the pasta party the night before the run, the group I was coaching asked me to run with them. Sure! (A coach at one of these events, you typically run more like 30 miles or more as you end up shuttling back and forth in the last 10k to help people finish.) A few weeks later, on March 27, I ran the (very not flat and with some very aggressive ascents and descents and rocky segments) San Juan Trail 50k (31 miles) in 85+F.
With that setup, I flew to Boston for the Boston Marathon on April 19, 2004. I wasn’t thinking that it was my fourth marathon (or longer) distance in less than three months. I did have something of a goal time, though. My stretch goal was to beat my marathon PR and qualifying time of 3:15.49 while my “easily” achievable goal was beating my Ironman marathon PR of 3:35.
Well, neither happened. The 2004 marathon was hot, with temperatures around 85F. Somewhere around 5-6 miles in, I realized that I had not brought enough salt tablets and I was going to be in a world of hurt. I also started to realize that perhaps, physiologically, I may not have recovered from the heat stress from the 50k ultramarathon three weeks earlier. Fortunately, I was so accustomed to running hills – and trail hills are steeper than road hills – I was surprised that when I asked another runner when was the famed Heartbreak Hill, I was told we had already passed it.
I managed to finish with a chip time of 3:37 (with the race clock showing 3:40), but I wasn’t in a good way. To be clear, I was happy with the time considering how ill-prepared I was. Instead of going to the med tent, I rested for a bit before making the walk to the apartment I was staying (that of a former b-school classmate of my wife; my wife hadn’t come to the race with me and the classmate was out of town). I was certain the walk was well over a mile, and I had to stop and pause in a doorway, where I fell asleep (or passed out, it’s a matter of perspective I suppose). Awakened by concerned passers-by, I got up and, realizing I wasn’t going to be able to walk the rest of the mile or so, I hailed a cab. I shared this story with my wife today as I noted how upset the taxi driver was when he dropped me off at the apartment. She told me it was because he drove me perhaps 2 blocks! No way, I responded, the apartment was more like a mile or more from the finish. No, it was 3, maybe 4 blocks away.
After getting upstairs, and realizing that I hadn’t peed for a very, very long time (it would be about 9hrs from the previous time to the next time), I went down the stairs (yes, a 3rd or so floor walk-up with no elevator) to visit a convenience store and get some 7-Up and Gatorade, etc. to rehydrate. My legs didn’t hurt, so that was good.
I had a few more events in 2004 before I called it quits for over a decade in terms of any swimming, cycling, running, or any other cardio for that matter. (These trailing events were in May and June and included guiding a blind triathlete at the Alcatraz Triathlon and for the Olympic distance at the Wildflower Triathlon, a relay in the 140-mile Mojave Death Race with temps over 100F, and running as a Team in Training coach – it was definitely over 30mi – at the Mayor’s Midnight Sun Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska.)
Since I’ll be living in Boston starting at the end of this July, maybe I’ll try to qualify for 2024 or 2025. We’ll see. I certainly won’t be in a position of just winging like nearly two decades ago, not to mention I’m thirty pounds heavier with a fraction of the muscles I had then.
Perhaps I should mention that the day before my first marathon, the Los Angeles Marathon, in which I sat on a curb a couple of times, I did my first 100-mile bike ride, the Solvang Century. The two happened to fall on the same weekend that year, and I cannot tell why in the world I decided to do these two events on the same weekend. I had no intention of doing an Ironman later when I signed up for them.
After inhaling smoke during much of the bike segment and in the days before the event, I was reduced to walk / barely a jog on the run. I soon connected with two pros, first a woman and then we collected a male pro, and we shuffled and walked to a chip time (for me) of 11:50. My body was so stressed that I soon lost enough weight to fall below my high school weight despite the feeling of eating massive amounts (my wife says I barely touched my food).
It was described to me this way before my first time there. I couldn’t fathom what they meant until I hit the flat. After twenty miles of net downhill, even if undulating, the flat section felt like it rose up to you.