Okay, time to exorcise this race and move on.
I feel humbled.
Everything started out great. Met up with Ian, Chem Steve, English Mike and Yoshiko and took the bus up to Boston. Weather was cool and cloudy, so much so that I left my sunglasses in the gear bag and sent them back. Because of this, the sun broke through the clouds just before the gun went off.
True to my intentions, I took the first mile slow, hitting a 6:46 and then the second at 6 flat. Mile 3 went by in 6:14 and the mile splits fluctuated in the lowish 6's until about mile 6, when Matt Palumbaro comes running by me. We run together until mile 9 and he keeps me on goal pace as I come to realize that there is no way I'm going to be able to hold this pace for another 17 miles. It never felt comfortable from the start, and now, at 15k, I was less than a minute off goal pace but I felt like I was on the Newton Hills already.
So as Matt motored away I bargained my pace down to a 6:15, then a 6:30, and still couldn't see myself hanging on to this pace. As I was figuring all this out, the crowds in Framingham and Natick were as big as I'd ever seen them, and Wellesley was the usual screamfest. But the more I wasn't feeling it the more self-absorbed I got. And as I slowed there was a relentless stream of people running past me. This added an element of self pity.
Nonetheless, by the halfway point my split time was 1:22:47, still leaving some hope for a decent finishing time. But I was still fading. By mile 15 I was hitting mile splits in the 7 minute range and I stopped recording them on my watch. Mile 16 started up the Newton Hills, and there was still a steady stream of people passing. One of them was Jeff Bundy, a former Evil Killer Bunny of Death. He looked strong; I told him it wasn't my day and reminded him to save something for the upcoming hills.
The low point of the race was about here. My legs were shredded, my toes were hitting up against the front of my shoes, and I felt a blister start up under the base of my big toe. My pace hadn't bottomed out, and I wondered if I'd make it to the finish. Worse than that, I didn't know if I wanted to finish. And the turnoff to Commonwealth Ave (by the firehouse) hadn't even come up yet.
I don't check splits now, I just count down how many miles are left and wonder how long it would take to walk the rest of the way. I take water at the water stops and pop a Gu. I put my head down and trudged up the hills - first Braeburn, then the unnamed one, and finally Heartbreak. Between the last two I found a little something and speed up a bit. But it doesn't last. It takes me 24:13 to go from 25km to 30km, and 24:19 from 30km to 35km (7:51 pace). Somewhere along the former interval Lance passes me by, or so Reba tells me. I never saw him pass. My last goal is shattered. Chem Steve also passes me. I tell him it isn't my day and wonder if I'd finish before seeing Ian, who's running at a 4-hour clip with Amby Burfoot as Amby commemorates the 40th anniversary of his winning this race.
Mile 21 and I crest Heartbreak and start the descent along Boston College. My blister is now large enough to make this painful, and I'm telling myself this is all a long Sunday run. The crowds are great but sound hollow. All those damn runners continue to pass. One mile passes more slowly than the last. I start checking splits again and notice they have migrated into the low 8 minute rage. I give up hope of finishing under 3 hours. The last thing left is my resolve not to walk it in.
And I do hang on to that, crossing the line in 3:05:48. My slowest of 4 Bostons. Upon finishing, I see Jeff again, who was hampered by IT band problems and hung on to finish about 10 seconds ahead of me. Then all starts to go white around the edges. We get to the mylar blanket handouts and I wonder if I'm going to pass out. I sit down for a bit, hobble down to get my chip removed, and have to sit down again. Jeff stuck with me here, and I owe him big. After an endless shuffle to get the gear back its an even longer endless shuffle to get back to the hotel.
Reba got me a massage at the hotel and I follow this up with a long sit in the hot tub. I feel a bit better but still feel more beat up than I remember after any marathon. I run into Kevin Matthews by the pool, and we talk for a bit. He has opened up a running store a few weeks ago in Downingtown. He is the perfect person to open such a store and I hope he does well.
And all that is left now is to get some meaning out of my meltdown. First time this has happened to me in a marathon. No clear reason why. Today just wasn't meant to be. If I fell apart at, say, Heartbreak, I could put it down to something or other in my training. But this one just wasn't meant to be. I've run Sunday 20-milers better than I did today's race, and just couldn't do any better. So I'm inclined to write it off and move on. Just a shitty race. Obviously disappointed, but I feel okay.