Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Boston Marathon Race Recap: DNF and a huge success.

  Most of you who read this certainly know by now I was a DNF in Boston on Monday.  This was disappointing but not nearly as much as you might think or perhaps as it should be.  My focus for a late winter or spring marathon since beginning to work on the upper back and shoulder posture was to see improvement in the coordination problem.  So to me everything else was secondary.  In this frame Monday was a huge success. In my last two marathons, NYC 2008 an the IAAF World Championships in 2009, I lost coordination completely at almost exactly 10k- just before in one and practically on the marker in the other and it was 'threatening' to go before there.  In the 19 miles I made it Monday I never lost coordination and I held goal pace range for more than 20k and reasonable pace for 16 plus miles.   This was HUGE for me.  Everything else is a regular problem I am not afraid of.  The coordination has been an unbeatable unassailable wall for almost a decade and to have concrete success in cracking it feels like a miracle!

  So what went wrong, why did I dnf etc..

  So I'll start with the events of the day and then I'll get into possible causes and that sort of stuff.

  I had no real set pace plan going into the race.  I was fit but I haven't been able to do a ton of specific work or get on the course.  Ruben wanted to go out at around 2:16 pace and there was a group that was going for that.  We figured given the weather that was quick enough to give a shot at sub 2:18, the trials standard and for Ruben the worlds standard, even if the wind was real bad in the second half but not so fast as to be a all eggs in the basket hammer out attack.

  The first mile is very downhill particularly the first K, we were like 3:01 at the K but really relaxed and hit the mile in 5:06 (I'll put all the splits at the end of the blog).   This felt great and Ruben and I were in a nice little group.  I noticed the leaders got out very fast and I noticed that we were already into a head wind which I had hoped not to feel until at least half way.

  I noticed Fernando Cabada had gone out conservatively just in front of us a bit and was already in no mans land.  I really felt for the guy and hoped he would find a group soon.  A 2:11 is much harder to run now than in decade past because so often you have to chose between running 2:05, or faster, pace or running alone.  Going out in 2:09 and holding on is reasonable but going out in 29:35 for 10k is not for most guys.

  I was thrilled how easy the first 5k was and how perfect my shoulders felt and that my leg was barking in the least.  We hit 5k in 16:08.  I know 16:00 are 2:15:00 pace so I figured we were right on.  Already it the wind was quite noticeable and I was trying to stay in the pack but kept finding myself on the outside.  Aerobically I felt incredibly easy and actually was wishing we were running a few seconds per mile faster.

  Sage Canaday was the most aggressive in our pack and did a ton of leading.  Really awesome job by him to run 2:19 in that wind.  No doubt in my mind that was a 2:15 to 2:16 effort  and to come on the heels of a 2:20 in hot weather in LA I really feel for the guy who I'm sure thought he would go to LA and qualify easy and get back to focusing on his Ultra stuff.

  I was super pumped to pass 10k in about 32:21.  I felt easy but to be honest I was VERY stressed as we came up to this point that I would suddenly lose coordination and this whole thing would be a failure.  Rationally I knew that wasn't likely but it has been nearly a decade of failure and so it is easy to lose the rational side.  After 10k I just told myself every step is an improvement and I really felt totally confident I would make 15k as I was not feeling any symptoms what so ever in the leg.   I noticed after 10k the wind getting very tough and it was really hard to run into.  We were running times in the low 5:teens but you knew the effort was 5 to 10 seconds a mile under that even in the pack and a strong head wind was my number one fear for the coordination so this was very tough mentally too.  I rolled by 15k and was not thrilled with the 48:42 as I knew we had slowed a bit but with the wind what could you do.  I felt strong and was thrilled the leg wasn't threatening at all.

  There was a short little hill before 10 miles and suddenly my legs, quads really, were burning like hell and I got dropped off the pack.  I tried to force back on because with the wind running alone was a sure to fail plan.  It was no use my legs were shit.  I was shocked.  I have never had trouble like this in a marathon.  This mile was a 5:22 my slowest so far and all I could think of was that Deek quote about how if you are hurting at 10 miles in a marathon you are in trouble.  This was not good.  Still I hadn't lost coordination and so I focused on running hard and seeing how far I could go without losing coordination.

  I had a couple bad steps in the 11th mile where the leg felt like it was threatening but I realized I had let my shoulder/upper back position slip and I refocused on that and the leg quickly felt much better.  I hit 20k in 65:43 which was just awful.  I knew back in February running through snow and worst wind than we had out there today I had run 20k of alternations in 66:23 so to only be 40 seconds up on that was awful.  That said I also knew that was fast enough to be right in my trouble pace for the coordination and I was still running strong.

  It was a weird space to be in.  Aerobically I felt great and I had full control of my leg which was awesome but my legs were completely dead just weak and hurting.  I kept hoping as the aerobic effort was so easy things would get better but they just kept getting worse.

  I tried to make the best of an unpleasant situation  high fiving spectators including the Wellesely girls, so many of them my arm hurt after, and pushing on.  Mostly running in the 5:30's  Then mile 15 I ran something in the 5:50's and knew I was in deep crap.  Still I had control of the leg so I tried to soldier on.  16 has a screamer of a downhill before you face the Newton Hills.  I managed another mile in the 5:30's and told myself if I couldn't keep it under 6 mins I would drop out at 17.  I ran 6:02 but by the time I got there I had figured out that if I ran about 6:00 to the finish I could manage a 2:26 or so which is pretty bad compared to what I wanted but not embarrassing and I decided 6:02 on one of the slowest miles wasn't that bad.  Mile 18 was worse, 6:15. But I thought I could rally on the flat 19 mile but I was feeling very weird by this point.  It was raining and I was very uncomfortable and my thought process wasn't too clear.

  I started getting caught by folks from behind me and I was feeling very poor at this point and realizing I was looking at a very slow finish time.  I also was realizing that though I hadn't lost coordination running at over 6:00 pace is not much stress on the system and wasn't telling me much if anything about the coordination issues.

  As I said I was not all that clear headed at this point so exactly why I chose to stop just after the 19 mile mark.  I think I was thinking I might drop out and I might just collect myself.  As I stopped a group went by and I was surprised by them and sort of turned as I stopped and went woozy.  As I stepped to the side of the road I blacked out for just a second and was caught by some of the very nice water stop folks.  I realized my day was over.  One of the volunteers walked me to the med tent. The pic below is me heading towards the med tent.

Photo by Chris Spinney

  In the med tent I was evaluated by a doctor and was a bit hypothermic, my heart rate was low considering I had just stopped running, 50, but my blood pressure was also low again considering I had just stopped running hard at 108 over 60.  I was realizing how cold I was.  They gave me some hot broth and a blanket and then I took the tour of sag wagon busses back to the finish area.

  In the med bus I was a hurting unit but I was also actually quite excited because I felt the enormous weight of the coordination issue being lifted off my shoulders.  I felt guilty getting all this support when I was not dejected or in need of serious medical care.  I mean don't get me wrong I wanted a hot bath and dry cloths like a man in the desert wants water but it still felt wrong to be happy in the dnf van.

  Post race I felt really bad for not finishing for all the people who supported me and I felt badly for all the press I had received in the build up to Boston.  I have had mixed feelings about the press from the beginning. Obviously by putting out this blog I had invited it and I wanted enough to get some shoe support and I got that.  I however have from the beginning figured this was a long road back and knew there was a good chance there would be serious bumps in the road.  On top of that all the press started to really happen just as I was hitting one of those bumps and it was an uncomfortable place to be.  I always try to be as honest as I can with press people, with most everyone really, but in the end you can't control what is written and so a lot of times the public information out there isn't a fair assessment.

  The point is I get, and appreciate, a ton of support from so many people out there and though I was happy with this race as I accomplished my process goal which was most important to me, I realized that I had fallen way short of any and all outcome goals and for people watching from the world around me that was a pretty big failure.  As a fan myself I know what it is like to root for someone and have them fall short and fail and it hurts.  It feels like you failed too.  Or at least like you have suffered a loss.  So I came up with a great idea to post an apology on Facebook.  That was stupid.  A few hours later I get back online to discover that the whole running world thinks I'm practically suicidal and they are saying some really nice things which made me feel all the more guilty.  Oh well…


 First to tell you that I know for sure 100% what was the problem would be a lie.  I have my theories and I'll address them but I could be wrong and only time will tell.  I will list every thing that I think could have been the issue.  I'm guessing that a few things together were the problem.  I will list them in order of how likely I think it is each was the issue or a major issue in my failure from the things I'm sure were at least part of the problem down to some things that I very much doubt were an issue but heck it could have been.

1.  My last good specific workout was February 18th.  Two months before the race.  I had hoped that with a couple close to specific workouts, 15k around mp and a 16 miler at about 85 to 90% of mp would be enough of a bridge to carry that specific work fitness to the day.  But the reality is I hadn't even been able to run long runs during this period and by the time I was 100% healthy it was time to taper.  I was able to train in non-marathon specific ways which meant that I am VERY fit but not ready for a marathon.  I never even made it to where I ran out of glycogen because my muscles were so unready they quit first.  I think if I had been doing regular 20 to 22 milers I would have at least been able to go 20 or so before running out of glycogen and then struggling.

2. conditions.  I doubt very much these were the only issue I had but at the same time had the wind been at our backs I would have been running the same splits but with even less effort and I have no doubt I would have gone 16 miles, I was going to say 15 but the downhill 16th is a very easy mile to run, without any issues then I would have fought through the hills and really been hurting at 21 but running downhill with the wind at my back and salvaged a 2:20 or so.  I did end up hypothermic.  I tend to think it was a symptom of slowing down and struggling but it may have been something that was causing my body to work harder than it should and caused some of my struggles.

3. lack of long runs over the last 5 plus years.  As a symptom of the coordination problem I have not been able to do much running over 10 miles since 2010 or so.  I can do it now but I need to get a lot more in and that will help with muscular endurance.  I started in that direction but with the hiccups the last couple months not having those in my background became a much bigger problem.

4. Food.  I am eating a plant based diet now and I don't eat enough.  I don't think I ate enough the morning of the race.  I was STARVING after I dnf'd.  I'll have to address this and may add some animal products back into my diet.  If I had fallen apart at 18 to 20 miles I would think this was a bigger part of the problem I have a hard time believing I was struggling at 10 because of a poor breakfast though I have little doubt the poor breakfast played a big part in me passing out when I stopped.

5. Toughness.  I may not be as tough as I once was.  I was in a worse way in Berlin in 2009 and I didn't stop.  I wasn't really that bad off in NYC but still I lost coordination at 10k and I finished.  Now I dnf.  Try to remember I had powerful reasons to finish both those races.  At NYC I had a small by their standards but huge by my financial standards at the time appearance fee and I only got paid half if I didn't finish.  I'd post the amount but I think there was a non-discloser clause and thought I doubt very much they would sue me or anything I really like the NYRR and would like to do their events again and have no desire to piss them off.  At the world championships I was representing my country.  I was going to finish that race if I had to crawl to the line.  I am at my core a mediocre nobody from a nowhere town with little talent who trained hard for 10 years with no real prospects of success and suddenly I am wearing the Team USA kit, hardest national team in the world to make, on the second highest stage available.  There was no way under the sun I was going to drop out as long as I had anything I could do to prevent it.  For Boston I was there to test the coordination first and if things were going well try to run an OT qualifier.  Honestly I would have been happy in those conditions to run anything in the low 2:20's but that wasn't happening and I felt no strong need to fight a war just for the sake of finishing.  DNF or 2:30 something for a time look about the same to me at this time.

 Finally I'd like to respond to a couple of comments that I thought were fair and probably represented what a lot of others were thinking but maybe not writing.

  One poster asked something like what happened to you guys?  I assume referring to both Ruben and I.  Given the conditions I thought Ruben ran well.  He was a bit banged up as well and wasn't able to do great specific workouts but was able to do some pretty solid long runs.  He ran 2:21.  I feel looking at the top finishers the course was probably 4 to 5 minutes slower than a Dubia or Berlin or Boston with Tailwind.  Given that Ruben ran 2:16 to 2:17 type effort which is very good.  For me I think I have addressed what I think happened.

  Another poster put up a nice well thought out thing on why not quit teaching.  It kinda pissed Melissa off but I thought it was a good post.  He pointed out that working with kids you give them a lot of energy even if you don't realize it.  Believe me I realize it.  I don't work a very long day.  I'm at work from about 7:45 to about 3:15, some days I have to stay until 5 or later but not often.  I leave TIRED.  I don't sit except at lunch and emotionally you put a lot in.  There are just no breaks.  So why not quit and focus a 100% on a sub 2:12 like the poster suggested.

  Well some reasons are financial.  My best year I made about $18k from just running income.  If I ran a 2:11 right now I would guess I would struggle to get a shoe contract for much more than 10K.  I made those sacrifices but I don't want to set myself, and my family, for financial hardship or even just more difficulty down the line just to chase a PR.  I spent a number of years doing that and paid my dues and paid my financial price.  I have a nice life now and I don't want to sell my house and put Melissa through all that for a second run.

  Would it make it easier to run fast?  sure.  But this is the real world and that isn't an option for me in my current life.  If I do run very fast while teaching and the chance to run full time and make a real living doing it arrises I would consider it.  I have also considered trying to find a less stressful job but frankly I like my work and every job has its advantages and disadvantages.

  I want to run fast but I am living a normal life now and I like my life.  I'm not in a place where I want to gamble our home or financial future on a time chase that would be purely about personal satisfaction.  In the current state of international running for a guy my age quitting my job to try and run 2:11 or even 2:09 is like a man quitting his job to run 2:30.  You can do it if it really means that much to you but if you are doing for YOU and your own personal satisfaction.  I'm not satisfied with my running but it is a rare night I wake up NEEDING to run 2:10.  I can live with the few nights it happens because my family and our security is worth more to me.

Splits from Boston
2-5:14.92 (10:21.86)
3-5:12.40 (15:34.26)
4-5:12.65 (20:46.91)
5-5:16.88 (26:03.79)
6-5:10.22 (31:14.01)
7-5:15.16 (36:29.17)
8-5:13.15 (41:42.32)
9-5:18.06 (47:00.38)
10-5:22.54 (52:22.92)
11-5:23.45 (57:46.37)
12-5:31.07 (1:03:17)
13-5:31.19 (1:08:48)
Halfway 1:09:27
14- 5:37.32 (1:14:25)
15- 5:52.31 (1:20:18)
16- 5:33.77 (1:25:52)
17-6:02.83 (1:31.54)
18-6:15.13 (1:38:09)
19-6:10.64 (1:44:20)

 Some photos I snagged off Facebook that show me running upright! (this is key for me to hold coordination)

Photo by Caitlyn Germain

Photo by Danielle Brideau Lussier

Photo by Jeff Thelen


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear co-ordination was not a factor. I agree that number #3 was a major problem. You only had 3 continuous long runs over 15 miles in the last 12 weeks, that isn't going to cut it for a marathon even if you are doing everything else well. JM

Anonymous said...

nice update nate. I'm glad you had no cordination issues. Also, glad that you'll keep working and not sacrifice the family financial situation. Yea it would be awesome to run a 2:10 or 2:09, but whatever makes you happy and keeps the family afloat is all that counts.

What's next for you? half marathon qualifier so you can run in the trials?


Fellow Canova Fan Teacher said...

I think it was good to go out and compete in the marathon, even if you felt you were under trained and not 100% prepared. I think it'd be too tough to go out and run 2:17 right out of the gate, so this race was good to expose some holes you may/may not realize you had and to work on correcting them in the future.

Why not try the half at Grandmas and chase it again at Chicago?

Jeff Goupil said...

Glad to see you back out there and chasing it! I enjoy following your blog and seeing the high level of work you put into your training. Thankfully I've had the privilege of hearing you speak about training up in Keene and seeing some races. Good luck in your upcoming races and training

danny said...

The next best thing to saying something intelligent is quoting someone who is. That being said and acknowledged,
I'll quote the man that you, Nate, introduced me to.

"Be a well- rounded, sensitive, literate human being. It's not the job of athletics to produce people who know or care for nothing except for athletics. Keep it in its place, behind you family."

Joe Vigil

You have all those qualities Nate. I'll add honest and courageous to.

I'm 50 with a wife, kids and a business. The relationships I have with them is my greatest accomplishment. I love to run and win. But I'm pretty sure when I'm 90 sitting on a porch staring at a beautiful sunset with my wife , I won't wish I did more long runs or spent more time chasing running achievements.

family first, running second. Except when it comes to your blog. You better not stop it. Put us first cause we need you. :)

Tyler Andrews said...

Hey Nate - I've been following your journey since I was a high schooler way back at the '07 olympic trials. I'm very excited to see you've got your coordination issue under control (knock, knock). One of my teammates in college had a similar problem and I cannot even imagine how frustrating it must have been.

It's also great to see that you're able to take what many would have seen as a disappointing result and find the useful information in it - looking at it objectively. That's very admirable and it takes a lot of maturity.

Anyway - best of luck in your recovery and next steps. I hope you consider running at Grandma's marathon - we should have a solid group of guys there if you want to hop on the train :)

Good luck!
Tyler said...

Thank you all for the nice comments. In response to the questions.

What is next? A week or two of full recovery, a couple more light weeks. Then a bit of speed with some quality long runs. In terms of races I have a few local ones and I need to step on the track for a 5k to keep up my streak of sub 15 5k's. I am planning a fall marathon and will look into a half or two along the way. More on that later.

Grandma's half (aka garry bjorkland half) this is a great option I love the course and the event. There is a lot going for it. However for work and personal reasons it is a nightmare weekend for me and I am probably not going to do it. I would love to find another quick course with some folks to push with in the late May into June range but I haven't seen one. I may decide to take a crack at Bjorkland but again it sucks for me life wise.

Chicago- no way no how. Not this year not ever. Long story not going to get into it. There are so many marathons I really want to run. I'll do one of those. It won't be chicago. But yes I will be planning for a fall marathon and perhaps a half in the build up.


SJ said...

Glad to read this positive blog Nate. While I would have enjoyed reading your splits down to an A standard time, reading your positive outlook on a tough day is inspiring. On teaching-Our future depends on people like you, I hope you can continue (financially and otherwise) to pursue such a noble profession. Congrats on all of it.

Edward said...

That was a gutsy run; one that's made me a bigger fan. Your courage and honesty make you an athlete to admire. Best of luck to you for the future.

Unknown said...

Your blog is usually the first thing discussed in several of running groups when we meet biweekly. You are a good teacher and would make a great running coach if you ever wanted to move in that direction.
Thanks for sharing your heartfelt journey and your training log. I don't know or have met anyone who can put their finger on the exact spot that mends and heals the thoughts of your followers the way your writing does. You have a pleasant way of sharing a thought a couple of different ways so we all can understand your concepts.
Regarding Boston; which is a notorious quad-killer I think Bob Larsen said it best, "The race in Boston starts a mile 16 if you feel good at that point consider it the midpoint of the race. If your legs are slowing or tired at that point back off and save it for another day".
We all were very happy to hear you ran well through 30K and we knew your post would parrot our thoughts.

A centime for our collective - more long runs, several at 26 with 18 miles a mp pace all non-stop for a sub 2:18 fall.

I saw you at 18ish and worried that your color seemed pale. I'll send M a few pictures.
Good luck in the fall.
DC said...

First Tyler- totally spaced on last response! GREAT job smashing your treadmill wr! That was a pretty awesome run. You have to be pretty pumped about that!

SJ- Finacially teaching is great! In MA you need a Masters to teach so the pay is pretty good, even in my district which is below the communities around us. No Cadillacs or what have you in the teachers lot but really it is a pretty good set up. In terms of training teaching is emotionally exhausting and there is always something left to do but I'm only contacted to be in the building most days from around 8 to just after 3 so I have flexibility with all the other stuff and finding the time to run is pretty doable. Now at times our place is a disaster because Melissa works a lot and we both run a lot and the left over time is spent on Facebook and blogs and for Melissa with her half dozen other hobbies/talents.
Edward- thanks! said...

Donald- thanks for all that. I hadn't heard that quote from Bob Larson. He is a coach who really knows his stuff so that carries a lot of weight. In addition to Meb he also coached Ed Mendoza who is still one of the 10 fastest Americans at Boston with a 2:10:04 and I would argue Ed was his third best marathoner.

Anyway thanks for the nice comment and the thoughts and thank you in advance for the photos.
-Nate said...

Tough day Nate, cursed New England weather. Seko called the marathon his "mistress" and a cruel one sometimes especially Boston.
Good to see that you will be getting back on your horse and trying again.
Shalom, Bob.

Mike said...

Right on Bob, and you and Seko both slapped her. Jenkins soon too, he's no Saint. I love it.

Anonymous said...

Dude, you hit the hills. You should have kept running. (I did) Next time!!!

mike said...

To anonymous, We the running community find you guilty of "running heresy". Making that kind of statement to our 2:14 marathoner on his site shall not be tolerated. As you approach the starting line of next year's Boston, you shall be fit with a very fancy monkey suit.You will then be forced to chariot 1000 bananas,that being of your preferred brand all the way to the "Dude, you hit the hills.

Anonymous said...

I thought Nate's interview on C259 was very inspirational. Just the motivational kick in the pants I needed at 6 weeks out to run more MP in training... Then I saw a few pics of Nate on the Internet & I knew that this guy was gonna run an OTQ around the time pigs start flying. Nate didn't have a bad race at all. He ran for an hour at national class marathon pace on a downhill course and dropped. OMG what happened? Dude that's how it goes when you're in waaaaaaaaaaay over your head. 2:30 something & DNF may look the same to Nate but I've only raced the guy once and my record is a 100% undefeated 1-0. Run Boston 2016 dude I've got plenty more where that came from. You can go out easy, suicidal, whatever you want, but until you wrap your head around your rec runner status I'm gonna come storming by in that last 10k every goddamn time. You can grab a quad, hide in the medical tent, bring a note from your doctor, write a 10,000 word blog post on the metaphysical epistemology of your race, whatever helps you deal with it, mang! What are you like 175 lbs.? 185? You ain't running no 2:30 unless you get your pacing exactly right, in perfect conditions, on the best day of your life. What does Nate teach anyhow? Guy can't even even spell Dubai.

Matt said...

Yo "anonymous"- what is with the extreme trolling/hating on here? Take it to letsrun man, or make your own blog. Nate- congrats on a solid effort and I'm looking forward to following your path in qualifying for and returning to the Olympic Trials

Jason said...

Nate, solid effort man! Even Boston Billy knew when to call it a day and save something for the next race. Based on your performance, I think you've got a killer half ahead of you. Stay strong.

Dennis said...

I've been eating a plant based diet for a few years and its done nothing but help my hobbyjogging running.. By giving up animal products youre giving up a dense source of calories (fat). You can replace that with other dense plant sources such as avocado, nuts, hemp seed, chia seed, flax, nut butters, nut milks, olives.if youre mostly eating carbs without replacing the fat then youll have to double up on portions. Clif bars are excellent for a man on the go and also carrying around liquid calories like full 64oz containers of juice or loaves of bread are some odd things that have kept me fueled. By keeping it plant based youll recover faster and be doing wonderful things for the animals and environment. The best plant based fast food can be found at chipotles. Usually ask for a massive portion of rice with corn salsa beans and sometimes with their tofu and guacamole oh and also lettuce. Yum! I am a fan and glad you are able to finally race longer.