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Here Comes the Rain

May 14, 2018

Here’s where I make excuses for why a Boston Marathon post has taken me a month to write… After Boston Marie, Louis and I went to Halifax to visit Marie’s family. With baby #2 on the way that was the last week Marie should fly. Once we got back I started to catch up on the chores I put off before Boston. We bought a mini-van (and, if you’re in the market, we’re selling our 2014 Jetta) and are getting ready for the new arrival.

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It seemed as though there were two prevailing fears in terms of clothing choices heading into the Boston Marathon. On one hand you didn’t want to wear too much clothing and be weighed down with wet gear. On the other hand you wanted to wear enough layers (or the proper ones) that you would’t get too cold. The forecast was calling for rain and depending on how much rain fell in the race you could easily over-dress or underdress, there’s a fine line.

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A temperature of 5C for a marathon is pretty good. But with a stiff headwind and driving rain it would mean 5C would feel a LOT colder. I don’t think any of the other elites had raced a marathon in such conditions before.

As I was doing a light jog to warm-up in Hopkinton before the race the rain wasn’t too bad. That was until the gun went off for the women’s race (about 30 minutes before the men and masses). The rain got heavier and heavier throughout the morning.

The race organizers handed out extra numbers to all the elite competitors to give us the opportunity to wear a jacket and if we wanted to take if off mid-race we’d still have numbers on our gear. I chose to put my extra number on a lightweight jacket. Beneath it I was wearing two singlets and for shorts I had a pair of half tights and a base layer half tight underneath. I put lots of vaseline on my exposed quads, knees, hammys and calves and wore a hat to keep rain out of my eyes.

I really didn’t care that the weather was brutal because I wasn’t chasing a time, only place and I figured training in the Canadian winter would have prepared me better than many of the other guys. It added another dimension to the race and in my opinion made it more interesting. Not that the Boston course needs anything else to help shake it up. The hills are enough to make it more interesting than a time-trial type race.

Right off the bat Yuki Kawauchi went to the front and pressed the pace. He gapped everyone and very early on I was sitting in the top 5. By 1km I was in a big pack and already soaked. A few km later the big pack (with Yuki still ahead of everyone by a bit) split into two. I was near the back and as I looked to see who was forming this pack I decided to stay put. There were two guys who have run 2:08 (Lusapho and Gabius) and another 2:10 guy (Vail) plus three americans in the 2:11-2:13 range (Elkanah, Scott Smith, Bumbalough). There were about 15 guys in the first pack that slowly moved away from us.

2018 Boston Marathon

Soaked and cold. Photorun.net

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Elkanah was doing at least 90% of the leading in our group. I went to the front a few times to help push the pace along. The wind was stiff which made leading hard but the other thing I really noticed was that it made me much colder. My pulls at the front would only last a minute or two and then I’d tuck back in and feel much more comfortable. I felt bad for not helping out much but there were guys in the pack doing less than me and I wasn’t concerned with time.

Our 10k split of 30:40 surprised me because with the wind and my effort I wasn’t expecting to be under 31:00. However the course is primarily downhill for the first bit.

Our pace kept getting slower and slower and we kept losing guys from our pack. Ryan Vail told me that his hands were too cold to pick up his bottles and that he was screwed. A few km later he drifted off the pack. By 25km there was Elkanah, Bumbalough, Scott Smith and myself left in our group. Not too long after Typer Pennel and Tim Ritchie caught our group and pushed the pace. I fell off a bit and then pushed to get back on the back. This happened again but the third time I lost contact I never got back on.

Once I was running alone I felt the wind a lot more and the uphills were coming one after the other. I was getting cold and it was miserable to have lost the momentum of that pack. My stride was choppy because my muscles were sore and my pace was getting much slower. I kept expecting people to start passing me.

Instead I started to pass other guys. First I passed back Tim Ritchie and then not too long after I passed Abdi Abdirahman up heartbreak hill. I kept slowing down and slowing down and I was getting colder and colder. I knew the fastest way to get back to my hotel room was to finish the race. Also, I had the feeling I was getting into the top 15 as I passed a couple more runners.

I never took my jacket off throughout the whole race and towards the end I thought maybe I had to show my bib with my last name across the line so I unzipped it a bit but quickly zipped it back up to retain as much heat as possible. I also threw my hat off with a few hundred metres to go, I’m not sure why.

When I crossed the line I was happy to be done and get warm. Derek Myke from John Hancock elite team helped me out and told me that Krista had finished 3rd. My response was “third master?” and he said, “no, third overall.” Krista was aiming to do well in the masters division and wasn’t even really talking about top 10, third place is amazing! I also had no clue about my place but judging from my finish time I figured I couldn’t have improved much other than the few guys I passed in the last 15k.

I got to the hotel pretty quickly and got into some dry clothes and was drinking hot chicken broth when I finally saw some results that Dan Lilot handed me. I was shocked to see that I had finished 9th and that the guys I had been running with finished 4th, 5th, 6th and 8th. Our second pack, that was occupying places 16-22 past halfway, ended up with 5 in the top 9!

Many guys dropped out on the course and headed directly into a medical tent for warmth, hence why I didn’t pass them on the course. I was ranked 17th going in and was aiming for a top 10 finish. In the end I don’t care that I ‘only’ ran 2:25:02 because place was my primary goal.

It seemed some athletes froze and couldn’t continue on and others weren’t as bothered by the conditions. Then there were athletes like myself who fell in between. I froze out there and was reduced to a shuffle but it came on late enough in the race that I was able to get to the finish line.

All-in-all an incredible experience from the great hospitality and organization of the Boston Marathon and John Hancock Elite Team to the battle we had to wage against the weather.

I really thought that after Boston I would have an idea of what kind of marathon shape I was in and what to focus on this fall. However I was not able to test my marathon fitness in the last 12km as it was the elements that I had to battle. I could have been in worse shape and dressed better for the race and placed just as well.

I was really sore for two days after the race. Usually when I get really sore it’s my calves or my quads or my hips. This time it was every muscle in my legs. The downhill nature of the course most likely had something to do with it but I think the main culprit was the cold rain. It was as though I was running hard on muscles that weren’t properly warmed-up. After a week off I started to run lightly and one month since race day I’m feeling pretty good.

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Award ceremony

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In the next few months I’m going to focus on 10k races and see what kind of shape I can get in. I’m also going to race more and use local races to help my training. Next up is the MEC Burlington 10k on May 19th.

If you’re in the Hamilton area come out to Lower City Runners group run on May 22. We’re meeting at City Hall at 7pm. There will be easy 3k and 6k runs ending at Merit Brewery where the first beer is on the house. Free run and good company.

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2018 Boston Marathon Results

1 Kawauchi, Yuki 2:15:58 JPN
2 Kirui, Geoffrey 2:18:23 KEN
3 Biwott, Shadrack 2:18:35 USA
4 Pennel, Tyler 2:18:57 USA
5 Bumbalough, Andrew 2:19:52 USA
6 Smith, Scott 2:21:47 USA
7 Nageeye, Abdi 2:23:16 NED
8 Kibet, Elkanah 2:23:37 USA
9 Coolsaet, Reid 2:25:02 CAN
10 Vassallo, Daniel 2:27:50 USA
11 Daly, Daniel 2:27:54 USA
12 Herzig, Matthew 2:27:55 USA
13 Zywicki, Benjamin 2:28:02 USA
14 Sambu, Stephen 2:28:07 KEN
15 Abdirahman, Abdi 2:28:18 USA

 

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60% of the John Hancock Elites dropped out of the race and yet 95% of the rest of the field finished. It’s a big discrepancy but there is good reason.

Yes, many elites underdressed for fear of being weighed down by wet clothes and many of the elites are very thin and probably get affected by cold rain more severely. But the real factor is the motivation.

Elite athletes aren’t looking simply for a finish. They are looking for a good result and to get paid. It’s not as though the elites have gone out and bought a Boston Marathon jacket that they would not want to wear around if they had dropped out. The masses came to Boston to run well, yes, but finishing is higher up their list than most elites once a slow time is inevitable.

Many of the elite contracts say something along the lines of “if you don’t break 2:15 then your appearance money gets cut in half.” Financially speaking, not making a time cut-off and dropping out nets you the same amount of appearance money. Once you know you’re not going to finish under your pre-determined time cut-off, and you’re not in the prize money, and you’re going to have a slow time beside your name. Then you might as well save yourself for another day.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 14, 2018 4:00 pm

    Interesting, I had no idea that the appearance fee was cut in half if you didn’t make a time cut-off.

  2. May 15, 2018 10:06 am

    Thanks for sharing.

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