How NOT to Prepare for a race – Boston Race Report

In late 2010 I decided that I would try to qualify for Boston at what would be my second ever marathon, in March of 2012.  To make a long story short – I was successful in my quest, but it required me to focus all of my hard work on running.  As a triathlete, that meant my bike and swim training suffered over the winter and I found myself struggling to get my bike fitness back at the beginning of tri season, and my swim was not in good shape to begin with… 


This year as I laid out my plan for Boston, I had to ask myself – how much bike and swim training do I want to sacrifice for a good race?  What is my goal for Boston, and what did that equate to training wise.  I decided that I wanted to do well at Boston, but that realistically, I was running Boston just to run Boston…  So I decided on a hybrid plan – while my run training would be similar to what I did the year prior, and running would be my main focus, that I would reduce the bike volume from my ironman training, but not the intensity, and that for swimming, again, I would reduce the volume – but that my intensity would actually increase.  This would allow me to accomplish my run workouts, but also set me up to succeed at short course tri events early in the season before building back up bike and swim volume for long course later in the summer.


About 6-8 weeks prior to Boston, I found myself getting bored on my long runs.  I was running well, but I was no longer looking forward to them like I used to, I was stuck with the same routes I had been running for months, and was sick of running by myself….  I missed the long bike rides and really started some negative thoughts about Boston.  I just wasn’t excited about it like so many pure runners I knew.  To me I was running the race, just to check a box.  As the race got closer, this feeling just intensified.  10 days out, I started looking at the weather forecast and it looked like it was going to be a warm day.  The week prior – projections were for race day to hit the 80s.  No big deal I thought – Louisville and Kona were both hotter than that and I survived – besides, I’m just running this to run it….  That’s when things really started getting bad.


I’m normally one of those anal retentive people who have “make a list” on my “to-do list.”  I start packing several days in advance, check and re-check.  Plan where and what I’m going to eat and drink the day prior to the race etc…  Not this time.  The night before I left (I was taking the 5:30 am train the next morning) I found myself at my son’s baseball practice telling a friend that I hadn’t even started packing….


By the time I got to Boston on Saturday afternoon, race day projections were for temps to reach 88 degrees…  Still I wasn’t phased – oh I’ll just walk it!  The day before the race, I went for a 3 mile run to loosen up, then walked around town for about 2 hours (probably walked another 3-4 miles).  I usually take a nap, drink water all day and at least one electrolyte drink and of course eat pasta – did I do any of that? No….  in fact I probably drank less water than normal that day.


Race morning I got up got dressed and headed out to find a ride to the busses at Boston Common.  I got out to Hopkington and realized – I didn’t even bring sunscreen!!!!  I sat there for about 2 hours in the sun because there was only enough shade for about a tenth of the people there.  Waited in line on my feet for the porta-potties for over a half an hour – waited in line to drop my morning bag for another half an hour – and finally walked the ¾ mile to the starting corrals.  I was already dripping with sweat and realized this was really going to be tough.  Then we were off, I started out as planned running around 8:20 pace, until the first water stop at mile 2…  well there went 30 seconds just waiting to get a cup of water….   Mile 3 stop was no better.  So while my running pace was fine – the stops were killing me because they were just too jammed.  By mile 5 I already felt like I was getting a cramp.  I never got cramps in training, and then started to realize – ok its hot… I really didn’t do a good job of preparing for this.  To add to that, 30,000 runners all fighting for warm Gatorade and water at every stop, no ice or sponges to be had unless you were lucky enough to grab a piece here and there from a spectator who was handing some out, and I realized one other thing I had in Louisville and Kona, that I did not have here – salt tabs…  bringing those hadn’t even crossed my mind!  So as you can imagine, the day for me started off downhill and kept on going.  When it was said and done I crossed the line a complete wreck, and almost an hour slower than my qualifying time.  In fact – I only beat my Louisville marathon time by 4 minutes!


Lessons learned – whether an A race or a C race – you need to respect the race and take your preparations seriously.  I ignored all of my normal preparations for a major race and that turned what would have been a tough day into absolute misery – and I deserved what I got!