Well, that was hard.
The alarm went off at 5:15am (2:15am PDT). We got dressed, double checked the gear bags, and ventured out into the storm. The forecast was bad and even though I had been checking it over the previous ten days with the frequency of 19-year old me checking my ICQ messages, I wasn’t prepared for how cold/windy/rainy it actually would be. Even though I was wearing a raincoat, I was soaked by the time we had completed the ten-minute walk to the busses. I handed over the things I didn’t want to discard at the starting line, donned my trash bag (raincoat pro temp), and said goodbye to Noreen. She sweetly tried to “it could be worse” the weather and took my photo as I passed through the security line. Another line, bathroom, yet another line, pouring rain, bus. It was hot on the bus and everyone performed an awkward damp-thrift-store-clothes striptease to avoid overheating on the hour-long trip to Hopkinton. Cars with a layer of snow passed the busses on the highway. That was a bad sign.
When we got dumped out of the busses at the Athletes Village, we were greeted with rain, wind, and (at best) really wet grass or (at worst) three-inch-deep slippery mud. Moats began to form surrounding each of the three giant circus tents pitched in an absurd attempt to offer some protection from the deluge.
My time in the "village" is detailed below.
- 7:40 - Picked a tent. Walked around looking for a place to sit. Stood there in the mud like a pig.
- 8:08 - Checked the time. Found a place to sit. Tried to relax. Texted Noreen, "Honestly, it's an absolute nightmare."
- 8:14 - Checked the time. Started to shiver. Shifted positions.
- 8:17 - Checked the time. Toes started to tingle. Decided to stand up. Stood up. Teeth started to chatter. (Is my watch broken?)
- 8:23 - Checked the time. Entered the port-a-potty line.
- 9:18 - Bathroom!
- 9:20 - Back to the tent. Surveying my fellow captives, I realized that I was not the only one starting to unravel. This provided me some comfort. (Is that bad?)
- 9:30 - Walk to the start.
I couldn't help but be excited as we started the 3/4 mile treck to the start. We were finally moving and the horrors of the pig pen mud tent were behind us. At the starting area, I ran into some friends. Never underestimate the power of seeing a friendly face at a race. It was pouring yet it was time to discard all my extra clothes. Official starting temperature: 38˚F
...and we were off! My reach goal was sub 3:00:00. To that end, I planned to run a 6:45 pace through mile 16 so I had some time to relax on the rolling hills at the end. The start was cold and my legs were stiff in the first few miles. I thought I would warm up so I settled into a rhythm and just waited for my legs to catch up. The first 10K was surprisingly smooth and easy given the weather. 42 minutes -- right on pace. Actually, the first half went to plan at 1:29. 90 minutes into the run, however, I didn't feel "warmed up" and my legs were starting to hurt. I didn't feel tired or weak, I just felt a dull ache in my big muscles. I don't think I was taking in enough calories to maintain my body temperature while running in those conditions. When I started to figure that out and really worry about the second half, I began to hear cheering. This wasn't the crowd I was immediately passing, this was a far-away roar like hearing the home team score after you have left the stadium for the parking lot. Those who have run this race know that I was hearing Wellesley College.
The students of Wellesley College are race spectators unlike any other. Even in the unimaginably bad weather, they lined the course five deep. And they SCREAMED. I needed them at mile 14. That incredible outpouring of support helped get me through at least another 45 minutes of that incredible outpouring of rain. It's too bad I had to stop for the bathroom soon after. Figuring out food with a wake-up almost five hours before the start was hard and I just didn't get it right. I lost 90 seconds but it could have been worse.
I worked to gain back the time from my pitstop, and for the first time in the race, started to really notice the toll the headwind was taking. I kept trying to find a pack in which to tuck, but since I was running a bit faster than my qualifying time, it was hard to find a group. There was a 20-30mph wind nearly the entire race. When we were lucky, it was a crosswind but we were often unlucky and it was a headwind. When you look at my mile splits, two things stand out: 1. Miles with climbs were slower. 2. Miles which ran directly into the wind (due East) were slower. Only miles 15 (bathroom), 17 (hill), 18 (wind/hill), 20 (wind/hill), and 25 (wind) were off my goal pace. Looking back I'm pretty surprised it went so well in these conditions and while the slowing was in the second half, it didn't feel like it was connected to my fitness level as the other miles at the end were at or faster than my goal pace. Obviously, the race would have been quicker in better weather but I also could have eased up in the first half to better handle the conditions when they were amplified by the hills in the second half.
Passing Boston College and cresting Heartbreak Hill, I realized that I wasn't going to go under 3:00:00 but I was confident that I could still run faster than my previous PR (3:03:55, CIM 2016). So at the end, I eased up and tried to take in the whole event as I turned right onto Hereford and left onto Boylston. Each time I caught myself feeling accomplished or having too much fun, the rain redoubled its efforts to wash us in the Charles River. The last steps were no exception but at least there I couldn't hear squish of my shoes over the cheer of crowd.
Thankfully, the volunteers were amazing. I have never seen so many runners in bad shape at the end of a race. The gear check line was awful and the post-race food was a soggy mess but I was done. I found Noreen under the letter "L" sign in the "Family Reunification Area" and we all made our way the few blocks back to our Back Bay Airbnb. Showers, food, hot sake, Lush facemasks. 3:03:09. 6:59 average.
Tuesday was sunny. The light breeze would have been a tailwind.