Monday, March 15, 2010

A Cold, Wet & Tantalizing Preview

Readers of this blog know that your intrepid author has been focused on a little race held each Patriot's Day, starting in Hopkinton, traveling through a total of 8 towns (including Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton & Brookline) and ending in the self-proclaimed Hub of the Universe, a.k.a. Boston, Massachusetts.  As a relative local, I joked about running Boston long before I was a runner, and have dedicated a lot of time and energy to qualifying for the oldest continuously-run marathon in the world.  On April 19, 2010, I get to stake my tiny claim to being part of running history.

Thanks to the generosity of my running buddy Keith, I got to preview the first 20 miles of the course last Saturday.  While there were plenty of runners (heading in both directions), it was a very low-key experience.  The start area seemed far too small to accommodate 25,000 runners, not to mention marathon personnel, spectators, media and the like.  But the veterans with whom I chatted along the way said that the atmosphere for almost the entire route is positively electric, and I did my best to imagine the crowds and the energy of the day - 5 weeks hence - while chugging along MA-Route 135 on a sleepy Saturday in the midst of a late winter downpour.

With the exception of needing a pit stop at around Mile 13, the run was fantastic.  I met up with virtual running friends from San Diego (online monikers HikerGirl & Runner in Paradise from RWOL) and took them to meet the group for an organized, supported training run, courtesy of Keith's running club.  Hardy volunteers braved the elements to provide hydration and snacks to about 30 runners who covered varying distances at various paces.  Keith took off hard and did 22 miles at a sub-7:30 pace.  HikerGirl probably ran at an 8:45-ish per mile pace, while RiP and I stayed together the whole time.  Our running time (meaning I stopped my watch for drink/pit stops) averaged out to about 8:15 per mile.  My HR stayed low and my fastest 3 miles were the final three, which included the first three of the four famed (or notorious) "Newton Hills".  We stopped short of "Heartbreak Hill", which will remain a mystery to me for another 5 weeks.

My impressions of the course are as follows:
  • The early miles are very much downhill, so the warnings about not "over-running" those miles is worth taking seriously
  • It's not a particularly scenic route . . . at least not on a miserably windy, cold and rainy day; introducing Race Day fanfare into the mix will change everything, though
  • One needs to be very careful about conserving energy when going through Wellesley, as it falls about half-way into the race.  I suspect many a runner's overexuberance  at the "Wall of Sound" has cost him (or her) dearly later in the race
  • The first three Newton Hills were not a big deal at all, neither too steep nor too long; I'm sure that I may feel differently after pounding out 18+ miles at marathon pace, but I was able to accelerate in the hills with no problem
  • The last 10K could be the best or worst running experience of a runner's life; I'm banking on that stretch being the highlight of my running life to date
So, with some muscle memory of the first 20 miles (also known in marathon parlance as the "first half of the race") burned into my legs, I focus on the last 5 weeks of training.

Last week's cutback came out like this:
  • Monday - 7.5M, with 8x19+ secs hill sprints
  • Tuesday - 8+M
  • Wednesday 10.6M total, with 4x1200m @ 10K pace, and 4x200 at sub-5:00/mile pace
  • Thursday - 6M
  • Friday - 6M; first trail run of the year (and it was a mess)
  • Saturday -20.2M on the Boston course
  • Sunday - 6+M, again on the trails, in a cold rain
Week's total was about 64 miles, which last year would have been a heavy week.  This week, I'll shoot for 82 miles, with two decent workouts (hills on Tuesday and  threshold on Friday).  Next week, we visit the in-laws in Florida, so I've prepared my beloved wife for the fact that I will be running peak mileage while we're on vacation.  She's theoretically okay with it.

Finally, please consider supporting the Boston to Big Sur run by  going to and giving what you can. Thanks!

Best, ESG/Ron

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