I learned some valuable lessons in yesterday's marathon. Ultimately I dropped out at the Newton Fire Station (17.5 mi) due to severe cramping.
Here's what I did wrong: 1) Insufficient training, especially in hot weather. This led to 2) dehydration causing severe cramping. 3) Other minor factors were the Passover holiday over the weekend where we hosted and I had a significant change in diet.
The hardest part about Boston is not the hills - it's training through the Boston winter. I go insane after more than an hour on a treadmill or elliptical machine. While I can endure 120 laps on an indoor track a few times per training season, I don't have the ability to make it a regular part of my regimen. So I'm left with taking long runs outdoors irrespective of the weather conditions. This year, I simply didn't do enough long runs. Consequently, I didn't manage my intakes well past the second hour.
Last year when I successfully completed the marathon, I walked in the last two miles since my quads locked up. In discussing what happened with more experienced friends, and subsequently confirming this during long (6 hr+ ) bike rides, I needed to take electrolyte supplements during warmer days, especially when out for more than 2 hours. So in this year's marathon, I was well equipped for the warm weather with electrolytes.
I made sure to drink at every water station. However, in my run induced haze, I badly miscalculated the amount of water I was taking in. During my long training runs, I would carry a water bottle and know quite precisely my fluid intake. Along the marathon route, with the small, sloshing cups given out by the excellent volunteer crew, I was taking in maybe 2-3 oz per station. So after 3 hrs, I had maybe drank 20-30 oz, instead of the 60+ plus oz I would have drank on a long bike ride or a training run. That was exacerbated by the extra electrolytes I was taking in so as to not repeat last year's walk in. Since I hadn't done enough training runs in warm weather I didn't notice the clear warning signs, first at foremost that I had stopped sweating even though the temperature was rising.
Just before mile 15 at the Marathon Sports / Whole Foods location in Wellesley, I popped another electrolyte pill, thinking that a water station was in sight. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a non-official station created by bystanders which we had been warned to avoid. All the salt was already absorbed in my mouth by the time I got to the real station 0.5 mi down the route. My lips and mouth started to swell and tingle. And I still didn't drink enough at this station.
Soon afterwards, near the end of mile 15, just before the Wellesley-Newton line is the biggest descent of the course. It's one of the more technical areas, so I ran it at least 10 times in training to improve my downhills. Halfway down the hill at a decent clip, my left hamstring cramped up, I grunted in pain and barely limped to the side. I walked it out and it seemed to get better. Immediately afterwards is the first of the Newton climbs, from the Charles River to Route 128. By the top of the climb, I had bad cramping everywhere - left and right hamstring, quad, calf. I knew the Dana Farber tent was a short distance ahead. By the time I got into the tent, I was light headed, nauseous and felt like I was going to pass out. They sat me down and I started to recover. Incredibly I was actually worried about hyponatremia rather than dehydration so I refused the water they offered me. I didn't train enough to read the signs.
When I was capable again, I walked 0.5 mi more to the medical tent at the Fire Station. I felt so lousy by then that continuing was out of the question. I called home to let them know I hadn't died on the course. I had blown my estimated time badly. Still feeling cramped and light headed, I lay down on a cot, sipped a bit of water, and was covered in a mylar blanket by the attentive First Aid crew. Eventually, the other wounded and I were bussed to the finish line.
- Toe blister
- Some sunburn, chaffing
- Bruised ego
I will not be running Boston in 2009 because it is around the same time as my daughter's Bat Mitzvah, so I won't have the training time. Perhaps I'll do another, easier marathon. In 2010, I expect to run Boston again, with much better training and preparation. It's certainly a challenging course. The event is really special both for the runners, a valuable charity cause, and the thousands of terrific spectators along the route.
My thanks to Dana Farber for an excellent organization, and especially to my family for permitting me to take the time to train for this valuable experience.
"I'll be back."