Sunday, April 27, 2008

Boston: Lessons learned

For all of you who are planning on running Boston in the future, I'd like to share some of the things we plan to differently next time, because there will most definitely be a next time. In no specific order, here is our list:

1. Stay in Boston. We chose to stay outside of Boston to be a little closer to friends out there, but it would have been so much more convenient to have just stayed in the city for the weekend.

2. Don't rent a car. Boston is "America's Walking City," at least based on the map we got at the information desk at the expo. Even though it's a pretty big city, you can pretty much walk or take the "T" to anywhere you need to go.

3. Get to the expo early. If you wait till 30 minutes before they close on Sunday night, you'll miss out on tons of stuff happening there, and the booths have either run out of what you want to buy or they are shutting everything down, and you might end up with a women's marathon shirt because they've run out of men's.

4. Don't book a flight leaving 3 hours after you finish the race. Things went pretty smoothly for us, but it was a stress we would have rather avoided. Plus, we would have liked to hang out for a while for the post-race festivities.

5. If you don't ever want to run a marathon, don't accompany somebody who is running. As you can see from Lani's recent post, it was very contagious. Or, if you have someone who you'd like to get running, make sure they come with you.

6. Stay longer than just a few days. We felt very rushed on this trip. We would have loved to have had more time to see the sights and friends.

7. Bring the kids with you. This will make #6 more possible. We were happy to have had the weekend to ourselves without the kids, but if we had had them with us, we could have stayed longer and had more time to enjoy all that Boston has to offer.

8. Train hard. I learned that I needed to do more longer tempo runs. Dealing with injuries limited my ability to get those longer runs in, but I know they would have helped a lot, especially toward the end.

9. The Boston Marathon is tough! I never expected it to be as hard as it was. Those hills aren't that big, but they are the real deal.

10. Heartbreak Hill wasn't as bad as I was expecting. As I mentioned in my race report, I felt like that was actually the easiest of them all.

Hopefully these lessons will be helpful for you in making your future Boston Marathon plans.

On a side note, Lani has written another running/birth post on her birth blog where she compares giving birth to running a marathon. It's pretty cool. Go check it out.

Also, I found a picture of the "I get my courage from the crowd" poster I saw in Boston. I've added it to my race report if you'd like to see it.

One more thing. I've added a poll to my sidebar about recovering from a marathon. I'd appreciate your input.

*UPDATE* I've created a new post for a total of 26.2 lessons learned and tips for your next Boston Marathon.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Next time...

By Lani

Last weekend, as we made our way around Boston (learning a few things the hard way), we kept saying, "Next time, we're going to..." When we told friends about our trip, they kept calling it a "once in a lifetime opportunity," and a part of me saw it that way too. But, being in Boston, seeing my friends, remembering how much I love the area, and being totally swept up in the excitement of the race events, we became more and more certain that there was definitely going to be a "next time" and another "next time" and who knows how many others. In fact, with each utterance of "next time," I got nearer and nearer to seeing myself as a runner in those "next times" rather than a spectator, and I found myself getting excited by that prospect, as strange and impossible as it seemed.

Never did I feel more eager for that prospect than on race day. Be warned, my friends. If you are starting out as a runner and then watch someone you love run and finish the Boston Marathon, you're going to be infected by an intense disease... and the only cure for that disease is running the dang thing yourself. Everything about the Boston Marathon is infectious! I feel like I won't be able to rest until I have returned and felt the agony and ecstasy of the journey from Hopkinton to Boylston Street. I want to see and hear and touch those screaming throngs of spectators. I want to stare in awe at the sea of runners ahead of me as I descend a slope. Call me crazy, but I even want to know how it feels to tackle the infamous Newton hills and discover that deep within myself there is a well of strength that flows even when I can't comprehend how there could possibly be anything left to give. I want to experience it all for myself, not just second-hand. Most especially, I want to experience it with Reid by my side. What could be more incredible than that?

Last Saturday night we went to dinner with two of my friends from high school. One of them mentioned a recent radio discussion about self-deception. Apparently the thing that distinguishes successful athletes from mediocre athletes is that the winners are "good at lying to themselves." I guess I'm starting out on the right foot, then, because I can't believe these words are coming out of my mouth/fingertips:

I will qualify for the Boston Marathon within the next two years, and I will run the Boston Marathon with Reid in 2010!


Crazy, huh? Really though, I prefer not to think of it as "lying to myself." Instead, I'd like to call it "reaching beyond reason." The rational voice in my head says that I am nowhere near fast enough or tough enough to qualify for Boston. The rational voice in my head says I'm crazy to even consider the prospect. The rational voice brings to mind the countless people who have shaken their heads at Reid and declared, "No marathons for me!" and all the times I have uttered the words, "I'm just not built for running." I can be rational. Boston 2010 is pretty much impossible for me. I'm not going to lie to myself. I'm just going to tell that rational little voice to "Shut up." And then I'm going to defy the impossible.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

"I get my courage from the crowd."

I saw a poster with these words Sunday night at the expo, and thought it was a pretty cool poster. I never expected it to fit my experience with the 2008 Boston Marathon so perfectly. The crowd was a definite force in helping me get to the finish.

Our weekend in Boston flew by so fast. I wish we could have stayed longer (I'm sure my girls - and their grandma - were glad we didn't). Saturday and Sunday were mostly spent hanging out with friends and seeing some of the sights. Marathon Monday rolled around with much anticipation and anxiety. Lani brought me into town and I hopped on the bus. It was very overcast, and I started to wonder if we were going to be hit with that 20% chance of rain. Luckily, things cleared up by start time. As soon as I sat down in the bus and started talking to the guy next to me, the nervousness immediately disappeared.

I spent my time in Hopkinton sitting under one of the tents munching on some pre-race goodies. I was hoping for the small chance that I might run into one of my fellow bloggers, but that didn't happen. I did, however, have a nice chat with friendly fellow from England.

By the time 10 o'clock neared and I headed over to the start line, the clouds began to clear slightly, and after the gun went off the sun was out to stay. I managed to heed the many warnings to start off slowly, but it was definitely a difficult task with the down hill, the crowds cheering, and the built-up excitement leading up to this moment. I just kept my eyes up watching the colorful sea of the thousands of runners ahead of me leading the way over the rolling hills. What a sight! I really need to get a camera to take with me to capture moments like that.

As I settled into my race pace, the crowds really became a motivation for me. I was on the outside of the road, and I am so glad I was. It was awesome to run by giving high fives to the kids stationed on the sidewalks. I had "AX" (part of my last name) plastered across my shirt, and this was probably the smartest thing I could have done. How cool is that to have thousands of people chanting "Ax, Ax, Ax!" Every time I heard that, I couldn't help but feel energized. This was definitely helpful when I was making my way over the Newton hills.

I was right where I wanted to be when I crossed the half-way point. And I was definitely thrilled to see Lani just beyond that point. Those hills that followed were definitely tough, though. They really weren't that big, and I actually wasn't too sure when they officially started, but, of all the hills, I found Heartbreak Hill to be the easiest.

After that, it was all down hill. By this point, I was starting to struggle. My legs were beginning to die on me. Once again, the crowd kept me going. It was awesome running by Boston College. It was here that I heard the loudest and most excited chants of "Ax, Ax, Ax!" And from then on the crowds of spectators only grew larger. I could feel myself slowing, and I really wanted to stop and walk, but I couldn't let myself do that. I couldn't let the crowd down. I pressed on.

The last couple miles were by far the hardest miles I have ever ran, but the excitement kept growing. Looking around me, I could tell that I wasn't the only one struggling. As I turned onto Hereford Street, I pictured the "Duel in the Sun" as Beardsley and Salazar made their way to that historic finish. I knew I was almost home. Then the final turn came, and with it the loudest roar of the crowd so far. I could see the finish! What a feeling. I can't even describe it. I get chills every time I think about it. As tired and as exhausted as I was, I had to finish strong, and I was somehow able to push my way forward toward the goal. I had reached the end. As I crossed the finish, I raised my hands with a triumphant smile. I just ran the Boston Marathon!

What an experience! I finished with a time of 3 hours 25 minutes and 35 seconds. A little slower than what I was hoping for, but this race was far from disappointing. I loved every minute of this marathon. The journey from Hopkinton to Boston was the hardest thing I have ever done, but definitely one of the most exciting. I really don't care that my time wasn't what I was aiming for, or that I wasn't able to finish as strong as I started. I made it! I reached my goal, and I am so proud of what I was able to accomplish.

Here are some more pictures from the incredible experience.


Boston was simply incredible! It was such an amazing experience. I'm hoping to get a race report posted sometime tonight. I just wanted to let you all know that I am alive and had a great time. Check back later tonight hear about my Boston adventure.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Anybody else getting nervous?

Last night I had a hard time going to sleep because I was starting to feel nervous. I feel like this is my first marathon. It's been a year and half since I qualified to run Boston, and I haven't run a marathon since. Maybe it's due to the fact that this race is across the country and the entire trip is an adventure. Maybe it's the excitement of "Boston." Maybe it's because I've had to deal with injuries this time around. I don't know, but I'm a little nervous. But definitely excited! It's going to be a fun (but rushed trip).

We are flying out Friday night on a red-eye. Hopefully I'll be able to sleep on the plane. Lani and I plan to jog the Freedom Trail in Boston Saturday morning and get a little sightseeing in along the way. After that, we'll meet up with some of Lani's high school friends and check out the sights in the town where she used to live. Then, we'll get a bite to eat with them and hang out.

On Sunday, we'll go to church where Lani went when she lived there, and spend the day with some folks she knew back then. I'd love to check out the Olympic Trials in the morning, but I don't think there'll be enough time. Later on, we'll head over to the expo, pick up my bib, etc. and eat at the pre-race pasta dinner. After that, we'll head back to the hotel and try to get a good night's sleep.

Race day, I'll catch the bus to the start and run like I've never run before! Lani plans to look for me at about the half-way point and then meet me at the finish. I'll get my stuff, stop by one of Lani's friends' and take a shower and then get to the airport. Whew!

If you'd like to track my progress on race day, just type in my number (#5096) on the Boston Marathon website. You can also watch the race online.

I've become a little obsessed with thinking about the race tonight. Here is a video tour of the course:

And here is a Google map of the course I came up with (it's not exact due to the one-way roads near the finish, but it's still pretty close, and you can zoom in really close):
View Larger Map

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Boston Q&A

I provide the questions, you provide the answers...please. Boston is less than a week away, and my wife and I are trying to figure out some of the logistics for our trip. So, I have some questions for all you Boston Marathon veterans.

1. Would it be worth it for my wife to drive me to the start? She would like to see me start, but I know there is limited parking. So I am wondering if it is very likely to find a place to park without getting there super early, and if my wife would be able to get out of there and still be able to see me at a couple other points along the course. Would it be better for me to just take the bus and meet my wife somewhere along the course?
2. Do you know of some good places for my wife to see me and be able to get in and out quickly?
3. While I was reading in the race booklet I got in the mail, it said that it could take considerable time getting through the finish area to meet family and friends. How long is a considerable amount of time? I don't want to spend considerable time getting through, I want to see my wife (and we have a flight leaving in the early evening that I would rather not miss).
4. Is the pre-race dinner worth the $20 we'd have to pay for my wife to get in?
5. Any other tips or advice for me or my spectators is much appreciated!

We've got a pretty packed schedule for the weekend. Since my wife spent part of her childhood near Boston, we have friends to see and visit, and then we need to fly out not long after the race (hopefully I can get a shower beforehand). I would love to meet up with some of you bloggers in the athlete's village before the start if anyone is up for that. Where would be a good place to meet?

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Toenails, revisited

I want to thank everyone for participating in my Toenails Poll and leaving comments over the last several weeks. I can no longer say that I only know of a few instances of toenails falling off. Of the 24 votes on the poll, nine people said that they have lost toenails, 3 said they have had toes turn black but remain intact, and 12 people said that it had never happened to them before. This doesn't count the few comments that were made without voting on the poll. So, I guess it happens about as often as it doesn't. I did a little internet search in hopes of finding more scientific results as to the frequency of occurrence in the general population, but couldn't find anything. However, all the sites I looked at suggested that the cause is improper-fitting shoes. They recommend shoes that are a half-size too big as a means of prevention. The Running Doc at Runner's World also recommends keeping your nails clipped, and wearing synthetic, moisture-wicking socks. Maybe I can attribute my healthy, normal-looking toenails to already following these recommendations, but I'm sure there are many of you who also do and still get blackened toenails. At least it's not an injury that will sideline you longer than a day or two.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

I'm getting excited!

From the Runner's World website.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Expecting benefits

One of my wife's passions (in addition to her new-found love of running) is pregnancy and childbirth. She's often reading or researching something related to making pregnancy and childbirth better for mothers. She even has a blog devoted to this passion. Her latest post combines her interests in pregnancy and exercise. She lists some of the many benefits of exercising throughout pregnancy. So, if you or someone you know is expecting, this might be some interesting reading. Feel free to check it out.

Friday, April 4, 2008


I'm not talking about math, although I've always been pretty good at math. In fact, my wife's always impressed at how quickly I can do calculations in my head. Right now I'm talking about stats. Training stats. Lately, Lani's been catching me just looking at my training log. I'm liking what I see. I've never been a really intense runner, at least in the sense of putting in mega miles each week. I'm a believer in the less-is-more training approach. Quality over quantity. Looking at my numbers for March, the quantity of my quality has taken a significant jump. And that is pretty sweet.

March was the very first month in which I have run over 100 miles. I ended up with 114.9. The last time I ran over 30 miles in a single week was in October 2006, the week of my last marathon. During March, I also logged not only one, but two consecutive weeks of 30+ miles. I guess this is a milestone for me, not that these are mega miles or anything. I'm feeling pretty special. Not because I reached any magic number, but because I am feeling really good. I've had some really great runs lately. A lot of confidence boosters for Boston. Just over two weeks to go, and I'll to have some more numbers (not to mention the experience) to be proud of.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

I Rock!

After I finished my run this morning, I couldn't help but quote Nancy. (Speaking of Nancy, check out her latest exploits in virtual race directing)

Two weeks ago I posted about my attempt to break the 6-minute-mile barrier in a tempo run. Well, today I had another go at it. I did my scheduled 5 mile tempo run this morning, and it felt awesome. Check out the splits:

Mile 1 - 6:38 (not bad for mile 1)
Mile 2 - 6:33 (that's more like it)
Mile 3 - 6:41 (whoa)
Mile 4 - 6:37 (it's go time)
Mile 5 - 5:41 (I Rock!)

I looked at my time for the first half of that last mile, and I was right on pace for a 6 minute mile. I just kept going, knowing it was going to be close. To my surprise, it turns out it actually wasn't that close. I destroyed that 6-minute-mile barrier. Back in September, I ran one mile all out (just to see what I could do) in 5:36. I think I've come a long way. I wonder what I could do one mile in now without 4 tempo miles before it?? Perhaps we shall see.