It’s almost the moment of truth and I have been waiting for it for a long time. Through the months of what seems like endless training and through the years of running Boston I know there is a point in the race when the truth will be revealed. For me it’s at mile 21, just after cresting Heartbreak Hill, the last of the 4 Newton hills and just 5.2 miles from the finish. The course turns down for a half mile .. about -3 to -4% and what the running feels like here usually sets the tone for the last 30 to 40 minutes.

The first year I ran Boston 2009 I experienced some unique shooting pains in my quads right on this stretch of road. Something I have never felt before nor fortunately ever since in quite the same way. In subsequent years I have managed to train and race better for this last 5.2 but it’s still the point in the race that commands my attention and my respect. It’s what I train for .. it’s where the rubber meets the road .. like I said.. the moment of truth .. show me your cards.

Tim and I had just run together up and over the Newton hills. We didn’t run the first 14 miles right together but were within shouting distance. Having him by my side was like having my best wing-man as we navigate the course, steering clear of troubled runners, following the tangents and trying to stay on a good pace. I started calling off the hills at mile 16, then 17-1/2, 19 and 20. Between the hills were good stretches of flat or even downgrades to recover some and get the breathing back in order.

We were working but we were also motoring along pretty well and the plan was pretty simple. Survive the hills and then tempo it in after Heartbreak if the legs would allow it.

So after mile 21, I added on some speed and legs responded. For about a half mile I ran 5:40 pace without much complaint although it did feel more like a tempo effort. Things were looking up for a strong finish. This mile does level out and even has a slight climb and I averaged 5:56 for mile 22 which was one of my fastest miles of the day.

Utmost on my mind was my goal. To finish faster than 2:43, my previous Boston best in ’09. I was on 2:42 pace with a chance to get in the 2:41’s which is where my all time PR resides (Twin Cities ’09).

The second on my mind was ‘when is it going to get really hard’? I have yet to run a fast marathon without it getting hard at some point. For me somewhere between mile 18 and the finish the muscles start to run out of usable fibers and it’s a real struggle to hold on to the pace. The closer to the finish the better. When was it going to happen today?

Mile 23 was mostly down and although the breathing was labored I continued to roll pretty well and it clocked in at 6:03. sweet

3.2 to go and bang .. just like that it started to get tough. So I wasn’t surprised. Up to that point I managed 6:07 ave pace on my Garmin. So my private hell became trying to hold it together and not let the pace slip. My legs started to ache. At least it was spread out .. some was in the hamstring, some in the IT Band area .. some in the quads.

This is the part of the race where time and space start to warp. The crowds were super loud and they are waving and ringing cow bells and urging you on. But the stretches of pavement seem longer, the little hills bigger and the amount you really see is less .. a little foggier as everything melts together.

Mile 24 clocked in at 6:12 but considering it was slightly downhill it was a bit of a fade. Actually the number looks pretty good considering how it felt!

From 24 to 25 it starts to flatten out and I was looking ahead for the Citgo sign. I saw it early but low on the horizon so it was pretty far away. Keep the legs turning over, use the other runners, use the crowd. wow .. my legs were not responding but I wasn’t cramping up. This mile was run in 6:16.

I was under the Citgo sign and then at the one mile to go sign/clock. I did the math and understood I would need a sub 6:00 mile to break 2:42.

I threw some coals on the fire and engine room responded with a “she ain’t got nothing captain!” But I did what I could, looking for Tom and Justin’s mom in the crowd right before the Mass ave underpass (couldn’t find her but wow the crowds were huge!) and rolled into the underpass. After popping up the other side I knew it was time for the grand finale .. the right turn on Hereford… straighten up and dig dig dig and then the left turn on Boylston.. fly fly fly.

Somewhere in here my Garmin shows I ran mile 26 in 6:20 pace although I’m quite sure I didn’t look at my watch. Time to get this over! Yes the finish line is far away (.40mile) but the crowds were loud and I did my best to drop it down and ‘sprint’ to the finish.

I was willing every ounce of energy left in my legs… soaking it all in… closing in on others and trying to hold on to the line. And finally .. mercifully.. I crossed the finish line at 2:42:14. Totally spent.. totally satisfied.. a feeling of joy and relief and exhaustion all mixed together. It doesn’t get much better than this.

So there I was once again. I had finished the 2013 Boston Marathon a couple minutes earlier, walked around some and lingered in the finishing chute waiting for other runners. I went up to a group of spectators lining the fence and high fived a woman and a couple of kids who’s noses barely reached above the fence. It felt good to interact with the crowd and share some smiles after racing seriously for 26.2 miles.

Then Tim showed up. By chance the woman I had high fived was a friend (relative?) of his and she cried out his name. I talked with Tim briefly about the last 5 miles and the woman took our picture. I asked her if I could call my wife quickly and soon was dialing the phone. “you did great !! .. It says you are number 1 !!” so after we spoke briefly, returned the phone and told Tim like I did 4 years ago that apparently I won my age group at the Boston Marathon. I wish I could bottle that feeling .. and it’s so hard to describe. Way too many people expected me to win this year as if it was already pre-determined. But so many things can go wrong in the marathon and you never know who is going to show up. But I had managed to run my best Boston Marathon time and it was good enough. And I felt extremely satisfied .. at peace and happy.. the marathon gods had blessed me one more time.

The specific marathon training started in January. Of course I had hoped for a perfect training cycle but 12 weeks out I pulled my piriformis/upper hamstring demonstrating a hill sprint technique on a crappy little hill. I physically felt it pull and hobbled around for a few days with a sore butt and wondered how bad it was. It improved enough to allow for some good training but it never went away.

Managed 10 long runs of 20 to 23 miles. Lots of long steep hill runs. Many Tempo and 10K paced runs. 75 mpw average for 13 weeks (not including 2 week taper). One 10K race 6 weeks out at 35:49 and one 5K race 8 days out at 16:45. My 20 mile w/16MP time trial was clocked in 6:06 garmin pace.

My weight was lower than ever. Instead of dropping weight at the end I lowered it down early and it kept coming off. The final month of training had me around 145 when 150 was my normal race weight. I did a mild carb deplete and only lost one more pound. Overall things were looking good.

So for me biggest unknown was if the piriformis/upper hamstring would hold up. They had cramped up on some of my harder long runs and almost always was sore post run. But I have learned as a master runner that rarely is one really 100% for very long. The attitude has to be ‘do the best with what you have’.

The Boston weekend was a lot of fun. I had 24 runners in Boston this time and was hoping for it to be ‘drama free’. As it turned out the crew was prepared, everyone stayed flexible and my weekend was very stress free. We managed the carb loading in style, plowing through loafs of pumpkin (PR) bread, pasta, oatmeal, and huge bowls of Pho. The weather was looking perfect and that lowered the stress level for everyone.

My luck started early with my 544 bib number. This adds up to 13 .. always my lucky number since I was born on the 13th.

The luck continued .. during our Saturday group run I saw two familiar runners fly by. It was Shalane and Kara running along the Charles! I took off leaving the group to wonder why the coach was chasing fast girls. So I quickly caught up and told them good luck for the race on Monday and to leave it all on the course. Then I sprinted ahead, turned around a took a picture. Very cool souvenir and memory.

Shortly after the run we were watching a kids race, then headed back to the hotel when I told someone not to cross the street because of some cars speeding towards us. The runner turned towards me and I recognized her from the Carlsbad 5000 race. It was Werknesh Kidane from Ethiopia. I asked if she was running Monday but she said, “No, running 5K”. I asked her “15 zero zero?” while using sign language and she said, “15:11 last year .. course record!” I smiled and said I was a big fan and could I get a picture with her? She said yes. I was oozing luck.

I figured that was it for celebrity runner sighting until during the Sunday run, our pack/tribe was running across the Mass Ave. bridge when another familiar runner passed by… Joanie (Benoit Samuelson). I caught up with her small group and asked her if she had good memories of running over this bridge (the same one used during the ’08 Women’s Olympic Trials). She said, “Yes! But I’m glad I don’t have to run over it 4 times!) So I asked her about her marathon goal (she wanted to go under 2:53 which would be 30 minutes over her ’84 LA Olympic gold medal race). She asked me about my goals and then surprised me by saying she should know me, asked my name and put her hand out to shake. One of the last things she said before I rejoined my group is that she needed a pink hat for Monday. Her running friends said that shouldn’t be a problem.

Getting to the race was uneventful except for the charter bus driver trying to take a shortcut through a state park and having to turn back because of a high restriction. Then she started driving the wrong way until someone in our group went up front to navigate. Instead of arriving at 8:30 we were still on the bus at 9:10. But at least the wait to head down to the corrals was short.

I got into corral 1 about 20 minutes early and made my way close to the front. I looked around for Tom, Dan and Tim but saw no familiar faces. I asked a few young guys standing behind me what their goal was. sub 2:40 for one and 2:35 for the other. They asked about the M55 bib on my back. told them it was for seeded master runners .. and that it was basically a target on my back.

The sun was out and the temps felt about perfect. I was wearing a light singlet and arm warmers. Also a good pair of thin gloves. At about 5 minutes before start time I bent down like I was tying my shoe laces and used the quart sized Gatorade bottle I had found in the trash to empty the bladder one final time. Nothing like being prepared.

The cannon goes off and it took just 10 secs to cross the start line. From this position the course was not crowded or too tightly packed so hitting MP on the first mile was doable.

From the onset I could feel my piriformis/hamstring. Nothing major but it was there as a reminder not to try anything stupid. The front group is pretty fast and the course is luring you to open up. I tried my best to keep things under control and just settle in.
Mile 1 – 6:04

Somewhere on the way to the second mile I see Tom run past and Dan runs with me for a short while before moving on up ahead.

Mile 2 – 5:58

I’m trying to run the down hills as smoothly as possible. I wish I could say it felt super easy but I felt not warmed up and a little rough. I was compensating slightly for the piriformis and trying to just ease into things and stay as ‘asleep’ as possible. So easy to get excited but I knew there was a long road ahead.

Somewhere along this stretch I catch up with Joanie running along the left side of the road. As I come up behind her I raise my left hand and point down at her to help the crowd notice who it is. They start yelling her name out. As I came up next to her I said, “you found a nice pink hat” and she looks over and smiles. I wish her a good race and motor on.

Mile 3 – 5:58

I’m wearing an even split 5K pace band for a 2:40 marathon and I’m 14 seconds ahead of what the band says. But knowing the first 5K is downhill I figure I’m right where I need to be. The HR is all over the place. I’m getting some strange high numbers so re-adjust the chest strap and it comes down to the range I’m used to. I purposefully left the HR on another screen and figure I will check it every 5K or so but not worry about it.

Mile 4 – 5:56
From here the course flattens out .. actually mile 4 to 5 has about 50 foot incline so the pace starts to adjust for that

Mile 5 – 6:12

Pretty flat miles from 10K to 15K.

Mile 6 – 6:04
10K – 19:02 (6:08)

Now my pace band and the 10K clock are within a couple of seconds. Every time I go over one of the 5K mats I think of friends and family members following along. I’m glad to send a signal that I’m on pace and it gives me a good jolt of resolve to hold on. I wish things felt easier but for some reason it feel a bit hard to hold this pace. The breathing more labored than I hoped for. Some little doubts creep into my mind about how the butt/leg is going to hold up but I bury them deep. I sip on my first gel and chase it with the small 12oz throw away bottle I’m carrying. I’m glad to carry it early and avoid slowing for any water stations.

Mile 7 – 6:02

I’m pleased to see the garmin splits pop up in this range despite being reminded that the Boston course is not that flat. There are tons of little rollers which require some focus to modulate the pace/effort. I’m not sure why I don’t remember this from year to year?

Mile 8 – 6:07

The crowds are huge this year. I remember more stretches of no spectators in years past but with near perfect weather there are very few quiet zones. My garmin vibrates to let me know another split has been posted. These are occurring farther and farther in front of the official mile markers but I still have the pace band to check my progress. Somewhere along here my 12oz bottle is out so I chuck it. From here out I grab water cups every two miles and take two sips. The sun has been going in and out. Some sections actually feel nippy so I’m glad to have the arm sleeves and thin gloves.

Mile 9 – 6:07
15K – 19:03 (6:08)

15K split is within 2 seconds of my pace band which is good but I also know the second half of Boston has the hills. Somewhere along here Tim catches up with me. It’s great to see someone I know and have run parts of Boston with before. He informs me we are on pace for sub 2:40 (his goal) but I remind him we have the hills that will eat up a minute or two. He asks how I feel and I say “alright but ask me at mile 21”. Honestly I’m going through a mini rough patch where the pace feels hard to hold. He moves on past me and up the road slightly.

Mile 10 – 6:09

I can still see Tim as he is at most about 30 yards up ahead. Some guy behind me hits the bottom of my shoe with his foot so I say, “whoa!” and he apologizes for following so close. The course seems more crowded this year with people on this 2:40 pace and it’s harder to line up the tangents without weaving around people. I’m always amazed that people don’t look ahead and see the shortest line but oh well.

Mile 11 -6:10 – This mile has a bit more incline but I’m starting to feel a little bit better

Mile 12 – 5:57 – This mile returns the favor and goes back down. Plus this includes the scream tunnel at Wellesley. I decide this year to stay in the middle of the road and avoid any crashes from runners stopping for a kiss and starting up again. Maybe because it’s early but the volume is not as loud as years past. I’m think the volume in the towns was louder than Wellesley this year.

20K – 19:10 (6:10) This is about 10 seconds faster than my pace band.

Mile 13 – 6:05

Half – 1:20:05 (6:06) About 10 seconds over pace band. I wish this was sub 1:20 but it’s close enough and hopefully I’m just be patient and saving energy for the second half.

Mile 14 – 6:08 Somewhere around here I catch up with Tim. We pass a photo station together and we talk a little about the hill and final 5 mile strategy.
Mile 15 – 6:05
25K – 19:00 (6:07) about 15 seconds over pace band. I take off the gloves, fold them and tuck them in my waist band.

Mile 16 – 5:54 This includes a steep half mile downhill. It signals the Newton Hills are going to start. I’ll just give the splits one more time without the narration since I covered that in the beginning.

Mile 17 – 6:24 – Includes first Newton Hill
Mile 18 – 6:22 – Includes second Newton Hill
30K – 19:35 (6:19) – 54 seconds over pace band
Mile 19 – 6:05 – downhill
Mile 20 – 6:22 – Includes third Newton Hill
Mile 21 – 6:33 – Includes Heartbreak Hill
Mile 22 – 5:56
35K – 19:38 (6:20) – 1:35 over pace band
Mile 23 – 6:03
Mile 24 – 6:12
Mile 25 – 6:16
40K – 19:23 (6:15) – 1:58 over pace band
Mile 26 – 6:20
5:59 (last .46 garmin)

Official time 2:42:14 (adds up to 13 of course

6:11 official pace

average HR 161 (max 207 .. faulty readings .. probably more like 181 in the final stretch)
AG score 89.99% if I use 55 age. One second off getting 90% !!
1st place AG
333 Gender
355 Overall