There’s a lot that can be said about the 117th Boston Marathon but I shall try to focus on a race report. Thank you though for all the kind messages after the incident. I was about 2-3 blocks away when the bombings happened and was thankfully safe that day.
[Week 15 training summary]
Monday: ~6miles easy
Tuesday: ~6.5miles easy
Wednesday: ~6.5miles (inc. [1600m, 1200m, 800m, 400m] @ 10km pace )
Thursday: ~6miles easy
Friday: ~4miles easy jog with my youngest sister in Toronto
Saturday: 25mins (inc. 2minutes @ 5:00/mi pace)
Sunday: 20mins easy jog around Harvard university
Ever since I started running, it was always a dream of mine to qualify and run the Boston Marathon. After running a qualifying time of 3:02:31 in Tokyo 2012, I immediately jumped at the chance to register. Happy to get accepted into the race, I also had my sights on breaking the elusive 3hr barrier. So, starting on Jan 1st of this year, training began with a conventional marathon training approach utilizing elements from legendary coaches such as Philip Maffetone, Pete Pfitzinger and Jack Daniels combined with unconventional changes to my diet (kudos to Harrisson for his input) which resulted in my best marathon buildup ever. I averaged about 75miles (121km) a week, peaked at 105miles (169km) and having achieved a few PBs along the way (5km: 18:17, 10km: 37:50, HM: 1:23:58), legs free of any major injuries, I felt I was in the best running shape I’ve ever been.
After spending a few days in Toronto, I flew up to Boston a day before the race. From the moment I walked into the expo and picked up my number, the atmosphere was amazing! Here’s a brief photo recap:
I’m happy to have made it to Boston.
Desiree Davila and Josh Cox providing some tips on how to run the course.
Ultramarathon runner Dean Karnases giving a humorous talk.
Getting a glimpse of 4x Boston Marathon Winner Bill Rodgers.
Writing down my target time.
Eating my last big meal at 2pm.
Preparing my race gear.
It all starts here after taking the school bus at 6am to Hopkinton.
Hanging out with Bob and Brent. T-3 hours before the race starts.
Start - Mile 6
With a bib number of 4029, I was in wave 1, corral 5 along with hundreds of other runners with roughly the same qualifying time. It took about two minutes after the gun went off at 10am before I crossed the start line. The first 6 miles/10km are mostly downhill and if there’s one tip I got from everyone that gave me advice, it was to take it easy in the first 10km. I went by feel and what felt like a very easy run ended up being 6:48/mi, 6:31, 6:34, 6:29, 6:39, 6:30 pace which was faster than marathon pace. I wisely resisted the urge to break into a sub-40 10km run and ended up with a 10km split time of 41:11.
Mile 6 - Mile 17
The next 11 miles were mostly flat with a few rollers and one significant downhill before the infamous Newton hills. The weather was excellent (hardly any wind, 10-15 degrees celsius) so I was able to run a little bit faster than my marathon pace. I was comfortable with this pace and was trying to maintain a steady effort. I hit the half-way mark at 1:26:50 which was only 10 seconds ahead of my 1:27-1:28 target. There were plenty of fast runners around me gunning for sub 3 so I was able to follow various people during this time. It was around this time that I caught up with Brett. After a few motivational words from him, I set off on my own pace. It turned out he was a few seconds behind me until mile 21. The Wellesley Girls at mile 14 were fun to see but after speeding up too much, I made sure to settle back into a steady pace.
Mile 17 - Mile 21
The infamous Newton hills are a series of four hills from the 28km to the 34km point. While not too difficult, it comes at a time when many people start hitting the “wall” or fading. I saw a few people that had gone out too fast and were walking up the hills. My goal going into the hills were to minimize the amount of time lost. According to my Garmin, miles 17-20 were 6:46, 6:44, 6:44, 6:43 which I was supper happy about. However, although I increased the intensity on the famous Heartbreak hill, I ended up running my slowest mile of the race with a 6:57/mi. But once I reached the top, I was ecstatic the hardest part of the race was finished.
Mile 21 - Finish
My 30km split was 2:03:59 and I got to 35km at 2:25:12. At the top of Heartbreak, I was doing the math in my head. Unless I got injured/cramped, sub-3 is in the bag. If I progressed into a 6:30-6:35 pace and finished with a strong sprint, I might be able to go sub 2:55. After all, the last 5.2miles into Boston is mostly downhill. I hit 6:37 on mile 22 but shortly after, my legs just didnt have it anymore. Though it was mostly down, there were still a few tiny uphills. So much for the sub 2:55. After seeing a glimpse of the Citgo sign which looked like it was really far away, the last 4 miles seemed to take forever in my mind: 6:46, 6:54, 6:51, 6:51. There were also a few brief moments where it felt like my feet were on the edge of cramping. Luckily, relaxing it for a few seconds mitigated the situation. Anyways, hung on and finished with a 2:56:01 (On my Garmin I had a 2:55:56..)
Soaked up the exciting atmosphere at the finish line with other sub3 marathoners before slowly walking back to grab my clothes from the bag drop. Went on a bit of an eating spree grabbing whatever foods/drinks they were handing out along the way. Hung around the area a bit longer before wandering into a shopping mall about 2-3 blocks away. I was eating lunch and my mind was quite out of it when the bombs went off so I didn’t hear anything. I didnt even noticed anything was unusual until I walked out of the mall and saw a squadron of police cars driving downtown. A short time later, I finally found out what was going on. With nothing else to do, I spend the rest of that afternoon gathering information and slowly walking back to Cambridge where I was staying. That evening, even though the city seemed to be on lockdown, I had a pleasant dinner with Bob, Anna, Brett and a few Japanese runners.
Now that I’ve done Boston, I don’t think I’ll ever find another marathon experience that has the same mystique and awe. It’s tragic what transpired at 2:50pm that day but I have no doubt that it will come back bigger and better than ever. Boston Marathon 2014?? (I guess I already qualified..=P)
64 miles (~103km)/~7:23 (32miles @MP)
The end is neigh!
It’s day 97 of this marathon training cycle and with about a week to go until Boston Marathon, I’m ready.
Over the next 6-7days, I’ll still be running about 30-45mins a day but I’ll run without a watch and pace myself by feel. The emphasis though will be on rest, slightly increasing my carb intake and getting my legs finely tuned up.
As for my Boston Marathon plan, I will stick with 6:45/mile (4:12/km) which I know I can sustain for at least 20 miles. If all goes well, this will give me a 2:57 time. There’s a good chance I could go even faster if I stick with my strategy:
1) Start - 8miles
> Gel#1 at the start
> Take it really easy during the downhill
> Gel#2 at 8mi
2) 8miles - 16miles
> Get to the half way point between 1:27-1:28
> Gel#3 at 12mi
> Run comfortably hard at MP
> Gel #4 at 16mi
3) 16miles - 21miles
> Run the hills at a pace I would run over the Ome course
> Do whatever it takes to get my pace under 6:55/mi
4) 21miles - Finish
> At the top of Heartbreak Hill, progressively pick up the pace on the downhill
> Use up all remaining energy in the last 3 miles
20hr Intermittent Fasting (IF) until 17:30
16hr IF until 12:30
Speed (8mi/0:46:52) 1km x2 (w/Namban), random intervals (400m-1200m)
16hr IF until 12:30
The Namban workout was 1km x 6. I tend to overdo these workouts and but having done no VO2max workouts in a long time, I decided to do my own workout after running two sets of sub 3:15/km. No way my legs would not hurt the next day had I continue with that kind of unnecessary pace.
20hr IF until 17:30
One last run along Inokashira/Kandagawa. Like last week’s midweek run, had a lot of excess energy so kept a nice comfortable pace throughout.
16hr IF until 13:00
Medium (7mi/0:50:06) (1.6k@MP, 1.2k@HMP, 800mx2@10km, 400m@5km)
Tempo Intervals (7mi/0:45:13) (3mi@~6:36, 2mi@~6:24, 1mi@~5:54)
Last sustained strong tempo effort. Legs were a bit tired in the evening even though I ate quite a lot after my fast. Hopefully, I didnt overdo it on the miles.
Nice easy run. Went by heart rate monitor which averaged 140bpm.
Medium Long Run (13mi/1:29:37) Alternating MP
Last medium long run. Joined a group run (10 runners + guest runner) organized by Bob (who is also running Boston) at Hanakoganei along the bicycle path to/from Tama-ko lake. Alternated MP(6:45/mi)/easy(7:15/mi) with Juergen going out with a strong tailwind. There was a lovely (steep-ish) hill half-way in the run that went on for almost a mile. Was able to run up the hill at marathon pace and it felt comfortably hard so was quite pleased with that. Anyways, a nice run followed by a good soak in the nearby famous onsen.
~78 miles (~125.5km)/~9:23 (~31miles @MP)
What taper? Felt like a normal week even though I cut the mileage by about 25%. Highlight of the week would be running a 10km on Wednesday and going sub 38 for the first time with a 37:50.
2 miles @MP in the morning and two more mies @MP in the evening.
Speed (10km time trial/0:37:50)
Felt comfortable in the first 5km. I was manually taking splits every 400m and in the first 5km, it wasn’t too difficult to get my splits at 1:30/lap. Was really glad to have a few fellow Nambanners that were running sub 19. 5km splits was around 18:52 and in the latter 5km, I was starting to struggle a bit (1:31-1:33/lap). Hung on and was able to get one last kick in the last 800m in about 2:53 to bring me under sub 38.
I had a lot of excess energy from last night’s PB run. Felt great from the start so I picked up the pace. Ran the last 5 miles @ MP.
Tempo Intervals (7mi/1:21:39) WU, 20mins @ ~6:10mi pace, 10mins @ ~6:00mi pace, 5mins @ ~ 5:50mi pace, CD
Strapped on the HR monitor (avg. 134bpm) in the morning and had one last scenic sakura run. Good solid workout in the evening. Probably my last hard tempo workout.
Three laps of palace running/conversing with a triathlete friend. Nice run and legs felt great afterwards.
Woke up at 4:30 and ate breakfast. Could hear that it was raining so went back to bed, woke up at 9:00, drank coffee, took a gel and then ran just before 10:00. The plan today was to alternate between MP and easy/moderate pace. Ran 10 miles in Yoyogi (1mi@MP + 1mi@~7:12) x 5. Yoyogi started to get a bit crowded and I was a bit bored so ran the next 4 miles @ MP back at the track followed by another 3.38miles at an easier pace to finish my 2hr run. Average pace throughout just around 3hr marathon pace.
Monthly Progress Report:
Jan: ~311 miles (~501km)/42 runs
Feb: ~277 miles (~446km)/32 runs
Feb: ~380 miles (~612km)/41 runs
15 days until Boston and my legs feel alright. Looking ahead to next week, I’ll be cutting the mileage further by another 15% or so. But, I anticipate it’ll be a challenging week (mentally and physically). I’ll be a bit busy at work towards the end of the week, I’ll be going very low carb for the next 10 days and I’ll most likely suffer from taper madness (phantom pains, mood swings, etc..).
105 miles(169 km)/~12:35 (MP miles=~ 41 miles)
The hay is in the barn!
Started off my peak mileage week on tired legs and it stayed that way for most of the weekday. My highest mileage training week ever but after today’s easy 10 miler, my legs feel surprisingly quite well. However, including the 22 miler long run from last week, I’ve ran just over 200km over the last 8 days. So, I’m taking a day off from running on Monday before starting my last three weeks of training aka the dreaded taper.
My goal during this last phase is to decrease the mileage, maintain the same intensity and stay healthy. At the moment, here’s my taper plan along with key workout sessions:
Week 3: 75 miles (10km time trial on Wednesday, 15mile long run on Sunday with 8miles @ MP)
Week 2: 60 miles (Namban workout @ VO2max, 6mile tempo run on Friday @ MP, HMP, 10km pace)
Week 1: 40 miles (Mile repeats @MP on Wednesday)
Delayed onset muscle soreness from the long run up Mt. Mitake the previous day. Ran a bit too fast in the evening so my legs were thrashed afterwards.
Mile Repeats (7mi/0:46:15) 1mi x 5@MP
Legs still tight at the start of the morning run. It’s the middle of the cherry blossom season and I’ve been getting a bit tired of running the same route on a daily basis so decided to try a different route. Felt quite nice.
Ran in Yoyogi park for about a hour before running back to Komaba track to finish my medium long run of the week. Ok-ish run but couldn’t really pick up the pace until the 6th mile. Other than that, it was another beautiful morning to view cherry blossom.
Speed (5mi/0:29:01) Speed (.25mi hard/@1:30-1:20 + .1mi med) x 14
Slight modification to Tuesday’s running route in the morning. I quite like it so I think I’ll add it to my running repertoire.
Evening intervals was quite fun. 14 x ~160m ramp-up run followed by a hard 400m run and then a short rest to catch my breath. Felt nice running some shorter intervals.
Mile Repeats (7mi/0:44:55) 1mi x 5@MP + random strides/sprints
Another cherry blossom run all along Meguro river. I was hesitant all week to put on the heart rate monitor since I’m pretty sure I’m slightly overtrained. Stuck with a heart rate of 135bpm and my legs felt great afterwards. My evening run was supposed to be 2mi x 3 but in the afternoon, I decided I would do a long run the next day, I changed it to easy mile repeats.
Long Run (20mi/2:19:47)
Ran along the Tamagawa river. Started in an easy jog with two other Nambanners and ramped up to MP after 3 miles. The goal was to run about 10 miles at MP and ended up running 11 miles at a comfortable 6:40-6:44 pace. Felt really good throughout but had to make one bathroom stop along the way. I probably could have ran the last 3-4 miles harder but decided to soak in the nice cherry blossom around Marukobashi.
After the legs loosen up in the first two miles, legs felt pretty good. Ended up with a few miles at MP so happy with that. Also, another scenic run along Meguro river.
75 miles(120.7 km) (MP miles=~ 17miles)
Recovery Week. OK-ish week but left shoulders and left toe bone were sore for most of the week. Wasn’t able to run too fast during my speed workout and was a bit short on MP miles (was targeting about 25miles). Oh well.. I did get plenty of rest which is much needed for next week’s last hard week of training before tapering.
Hill training (5mi/0:38:27) 0.5mi: uphill x3 =~6:10, downhill x3 =~6:05
Dunno if it was the socks I wore but on the last downhill set, my left toe bone was hurting. It was a painful slow jog back home.
Switching from my Adizero RK feather shoes (fairly tight toebox) to my Newtons until things get better.
Left toe was only sore when I tried to speed up or on the small hills near Yoyogi.
Feeling better and kept a steady pace throughout.
Speed (3mi/0:16:38) 800m x4 = ~2:57/set, 400m x4 = ~1:20/set
First speed work session this month. As expected, top speed was just not there. Left toe is ok again.
Tempo Intervals (8mi/0:33:26) 3mi, 2mi, 1mi @ ~6:25
Ran around Yoyogi. Wanted to run at 10km pace but couldn’t maintain it so did them at HMP instead.
Long run (22mi/3:12:21) 9mi (~7:20/mi), Mt. Mitake (5mi = ~1:10), 8mi (~7:03/mi)
Long run in the Ome area with a guest runner from Finland also doing Boston. Started a bit too fast so by the time we got to the bottom of Mitake so didnt have much energy on the uphill. The quads got a very good workout on the up/downhill. Got about 3 miles of MP miles on the way back to Kabe (mostly downhill) so satisfied with that.
100 miles(160.9 km)/~12:07 (MP miles=~ 28miles)
High mileage. I didn’t intend to do this much mileage but taking advantage of some excellent weather during the weekday and good health, I decided go for this small milestone (first time ever hitting 100 miles within a 7-day period) towards the end of the week. Tacked on a few more runs on Friday and Saturday and made it a 22 mile long run to close exactly at 100 miles. Over a 8-day period, I’ve ran about 118 miles(190km) so I’m looking towards next week where I’m forcing myself to take a day off running and reducing my weekly mileage by 25% or so. If the legs feel good, I’ll try to increase the number of marathon paced (MP) miles (6:45/mi;4:12/km or faster).
Legs felt recovered from the previous day HM.
Hill training (6mi/0:45:06) 0.5mi: uphill x3 =~6:11, downhill x3 =~6:08
These 11 aerobic milers are truly my “meat and potatoes” workouts. These are starting to feel quite effortless so I ran the last two miles at MP.
Legs were a bit tight in the evening which led to some slower downhill times.
Starting to become more accustomed to those extra 4 miles. Average heart rate was 145bpm and average cadence was 89spm. Both improvements from previous 15 milers. I’ll try to up the speed a bit.
Hill training (6mi/0:44:11) 0.5mi: uphill x3 =~6:11, downhill x3 =~5:56
Virtually the same workouts as Tuesday and almost identical paces. Legs surprisingly ok.
Tempo Intervals (6mi/0:37:59) 2mi x 3: ~6:20
No food due to my fast so a very slow workout in the morning. Tough workout in the evening. Finished the 20hr fast at around 6pm. Ate a banana, some soba and other miscellaneous quick carbs for energy and then started the workout after 8:30pm. Survived..
MP mile repeats (5mi/0:33:26) 1mi x 5: ~6:41
I usually run mile repeats at sub 6:30 pace but decided to slow it around MP and to focus on a low heart rate. All sets were done with an average HR under 145bpm (average 143bpm). After each repeat I rested until the HR was under 100bpm which took about a minute. Good workout and felt quite relaxed.
Long run (22mi/2:37:05)
Blah! Conditions were horrible. It was quite warm (over 15 degrees?) but the wind and yellowish hazy fog (dust? pollen? pollution from China?) was not very pleasant. 14 miles into the run, there was a nice onsen at the top of a hill 0.5 miles from Okutama station so I decided to make that my turn around point. Also, I rested there for a few minutes to take my emergency gel and to hydrate myself properly. The last 8 miles were at MP but it was mostly downhill and there were a few times I needed to stop on a number occasions to get dust out of my eyes. Decent run but too many stops and I didnt really challenge myself enought on the uphills. I may do one more 22 miler in two weeks and if I do, I’ll try to get some MP miles going uphill.