Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Continuing Story of Bungalow Bill

One year ago today, I tore my hamstring on an easy training run in the woods. The accident happened the day after watching a thrilling Boston Marathon and (by no small coincidence) the day after my quickest tempo run ever. It’s been a long, difficult road to recovery since that fateful day and when given an opportunity to run this year’s race I quickly jumped at it.  Because running Boston (at least in my own twisted mind) was my little way of saying - I’m back!

Unfortunately, the weather gods had other plans.

Throughout the course of my 15 years in this sport I’ve had the “pleasure” of running 18 marathons. This was the first time I ever hit the wall at Mile 4 and “death marched” the final 22.2. So, as a way to take my mind off the suffering, I tried to measure this race not in minutes per mile (mpm), but in goose bump moments (gbm).  Of course, the key word is “tried”. It was 85 degrees out there, after all! Anyway, below is my 2012 Boston Race Report broken down into bite size pieces – with accompanying (relevant) Beatles song links. Partially for my own amusement and partially because this month marks the 50th anniversary of the formation of the group. So, with a little help from John, Paul, George and Ringo, off we go ...

Once I found out that I’d be able to run Boston this year, the first person I called was Dan Dugan. Dan coordinates the GCS Boston Bus and he hooked me up with (by far) the best way to get to & from the race. It’s a nice, easy ride down to Hopkinton, followed by a cool place to chill (and relieve yourself) while hanging out with other Striders. Not at the same time of course! After that I connected with fellow Mine Falls Miler Greg Hallerman for a walk down to the start that included a quick pit stop at his friends house which was a mere stone’s throw from Hopkinton Green. I hadn't run a step yet and I was already sweating!

Start to Mile 4 - "Good Day Sunshine"
Greg and I had previously done a 16 mile training run in his hometown of Hollis and we seemed to be in similar shape. Based on that we decided to run together for as long as possible - at around 7:30 minutes per mile pace. Or, about 30 seconds per mile slower than our pre-heat wave projections. Of course, that plan went out the window right after the pounding of the downhill start forced me to pull off the course to manually dehydrate myself, if you know what I mean. Anyway, after two, too-quick miles to catch back up we were back in stride - but not for long!
Splits: 7:52 (pee break), 7:10, 7:17 & 7:29 - (7:27 mpm)
1 GBM: Helicopters hovering overhead while crossing the start line.

Mile 5 to Mile 8 - "Hello Goodbye"
Just after the 4 mile marker, the road (and the runners) split around a long median strip. Greg went right, I went left and when we got to the end of the split he had about 10 yards on me. I tried to get back with him again but I was working too hard at that point in the race for my liking and I slowed down - considerably. Now that the down hills were out of the way, my comfortable marathon pace was settling into the 8 minute range. A 3½ hour marathon? In this heat? I can live with that. Unfortunately, I found out that my body could not! Greg ended up holding onto that break-neck pace a little longer before he ultimately succumbed. He did, however, finish with a very respectable 3:37. More than a half-hour ahead of me!
Splits: 7:39, 7:51, 8:06 & 8:07 - (7:55 mpm)
1 GBM: Garage band playing the Rocky theme.

Mile 9 to Mile 12 - “Helter Skelter”
The broiling sun and slight upgrade really got to me during this stretch. The air temps along the course were in the 80’s but the surface temperature of the road felt much, much hotter. During the 11th mile I tried to stretch out a tight quad and my hamstring promptly seized up. Not pretty. I jogged it out and was soon passed by Karen Pattelena. We ran together for a few miles before she had to walk off a quad issue of her own. She would end up finishing a full hour behind me after a check-in at one of the increasingly crowded medical tents. This was getting ugly, fast! And, we still had more than 14 miles to go!
Splits: 8:40, 8:35, 9:36 & 8:46 - (8:55 mpm)
2 GBM: Passing the Hoyts & hearing the Wellesley girls.

Mile 13 to Mile 16 - “Mean Mr. Mustard”
Part of the mental game of surviving a difficult Boston is to not give into the hate. With so many people (runners and spectators alike) it’s natural to get annoyed at someone at one point or another during your time on the course. Whether it be the drunk frat guys smoking cigars, laughing at you and telling you there’s just a couple miles left when you know full well there’s 6.2. Or, the jerk that plows into you as he weaves in and out of the shufflers - like a slalom skier. Or, the idiot runners with some sort of gimmick: costumed, barefooted, running backwards, etc. and who are still faster than you! More than once during this stretch I had to restrain myself from stiff-arming the “juggler guy". Stupid juggler! Oh, and I started walking at Mile 15. Good times!
Splits: 8:51, 8:49, 9:56 & 9:24 - (9:15 mpm)
2 GBM: Reading a passage from Psalms 40 & seeing my family.

Mile 17 to Mile 20 – “I’m So Tired”
It was at this point that my mantra for the day became was “Whatever It Takes”. If I have to slow to a glorified crawl, if I have to walk every hill, if I have to let every runner I know go by without response. Whatever it takes to get me to the finish line in one piece and get that medal with the "unicorn" on it that I promised my 5-year old daughter earlier that morning. Stupid unicorn! As a way to cope with my distress I kept telling myself that I was just working on my ultra training for the 50 miler I'm planning on doing later this year. And that I needed to know what 10+ min pace felt like. Well, based on this experience, I can tell you that it felt pretty bad!
Splits: 9:58, 10:36, 10:47 & 11:47  - (10:47 mpm)
2 GBM: Fire station turn & the drummers on Heartbreak.

Mile 21 to Mile 24 - "The Fool on the Hill"
Once I crested Heartbreak, I determined that in order for me to break 4 hours I simply had to run 10 minute miles the rest of the way - which on any other day would have been a walk in the park. However this was a day unlike any other, and once I got down to Cleveland Circle (after back to back 9:20 & 10:01 miles) my brain went fuzzy & my ears started ringing. So, I wisely scraped that plan. Later, I became concerned because my vision was growing increasingly more cloudy. I slowed even more (if that's possible) and it came as great relief to find that my blurred vision was due to the fact that my sun glasses were dirty. Stupid glasses!
Splits: 13:12, 9:20, 10:01 & 13:17 - (11:27 mpm)
2 GBM: Crowd at Cleveland Circle & seeing the Citgo sign.

Mile 25 to Finish - "Let it Be"
After passing the 24 mile mark (and having just a little more than 2 miles of suffering remaining) I realized that I was going to finish - and probably not die! This knowledge was remarkably uplifting and allowed me to enjoy myself once again. I shuffled up and over the highway, cruised through Kenmore and promptly started bawling when I saw the sign for Hereford Street. Stupid sign! Boylston was a complete and blurry blubber-fest and I gratefully crossed the finish line. Completely spent. On every level.
Splits: 13:01, 10:54, & 1:56 (11:45 mpm)
3 GBM:  Right on Hereford, left on Boylston & getting my Unicorn.

Finish Area to Team Hotel - "Across the Universe"
Anyone who runs Boston will tell you that one of the most difficult tasks of their day is actually getting through the finish area. Finishers are required to negotiate a never-ending maze of staggering & bewildered fellow runners to retrieve their water, heat blanket, medal, recovery drinks, banana, lunch sack & finally gear bag. And, the only thing anyone really wants to do is lie down. But, experience tells you that you must keep moving. Because once you stop the chances of you starting again are significantly reduced. So, I dutifully trudged through the gauntlet of anxious family members expectantly awaiting their exhausted runners, clawed my way out the other side into the light and hobbled back to the team hotel for that oh-so-sweet post race shower!
Results: Finishing time - 4:09:10 (9:30 mpm) & Total GBM’s - 13

Looking back, my Boston Marathon race pace was like the Dow Jones Index in a bullish market. It just went up and up and up. The line in the sand that marked “comfortable marathon pace” kept getting washed away by wave after wave of heat, cramps and nausea. Serves me right for running a race I didn’t train for - inside the belly of a blast furnace! In retrospect, I was completely unprepared for the ridiculous race conditions this year and suffered dearly for it. I feel fortunate for having survived the ordeal and perhaps I’ll be wiser for the experience. But, knowing me, I wouldn’t count on it.

For better or worse, trying to change the way I approach running would be like trying to take the “bee” out of the honeybee or the “potamus” out of the hippopotamus. It's just my nature. I'm too impatient to accept slow but steady improvement. I'm constantly over reaching and getting burned because of it. Pushing myself to the edge (and sometimes off of it) is the only way I know how to improve. Hopefully someday I'll be wise enough to understand that I shouldn't keep putting my hand in the fire. Just not yet!

Stupid runner!

Post Script: Special thanks to CPTE (Physical Therapy) of Nashua, Carlos Perez (DC) of Merrimack, Deb Lussier (LMT) of Hollis, Bill Newsham of Brookline & the rest of my Gate City Strider teammates for getting me to the starting line. And, to my family for getting me to the finish!


  1. Michael,

    Way to hang tough. You and I were actually in lock step with each other for much of the race. I too took my first walking steps at mile 4. Very humbling. I thought I was well trained, but not for 85 degrees and higher temp's. I came oh so close to jumping in the lake in Natick. The open fire hydrant just after Rte 128 was a huge relief.

    Just finishing is a huge accomplishment. And I've done 27 of these stupid boston marathons.

    Good luck with your 50M race later this year. I hope you have a much cooler day.

    1. I might have jumped in too if the water didn't smell so rank and the dock didn't look so sketchy.

  2. BTW I ended up running/walking a 3:56:16. Humble pie served up nice and hot

    1. Well done! Congrats on continuing "The Streak"! BTW, Humble Pie was a different band. :)