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Race Result

Racer: Alex Rochette
Race: Boston Marathon
Date: Monday, April 19, 2004
Location: Boston, MA
Race Type: Run - Marathon
Age Group: Male 30 - 34
Time: 3:09:08
Overall Place: 650 / 20
Age Group Place: 449 / 4
Comment: Hot. Period.

Race Report:

Well. I guess it’s about time I post my Boston Marathon race report! :)


I ran Boston 2004. It was blistering hot: 83-87 F. It was not my fastest marathon (although I managed to qualify for next year’s edition in 3:09), but it was arguably my best race (I finished 650th in a competitive field).

First and foremost, I would like to thank and recognize Terrel Hale, my massage therapist, my friend, and in many ways my mentor. He helped me take my training to the next level: I certainly wouldn’t have been able to increase my mileage by 40% in this last training cycle (that is without adverse consequences) if it was not for his help. There is no doubt in my mind that I was able to remain injury free thanks to Terrel’s deep tissue massages, but his help went well beyond that: he also helped me rethink my approach to training and moreover to set for myself more ambitious goals.

One Year Training
Boston 2004 was the result of a year-long grueling training. About one year ago, after reading about Boston 2003, I decided that I was going to run Boston 2004. This meant that I had to qualify first. It took me four attempts (a calf injury, a lack of recovery, a bad day didn’t help… but quite honestly, in all those cases, I was simply not fit enough yet) to finally qualify. Hence, Boston was my 5th marathon in 6 months. For all intends and purposes, I started pretty much from scratch (in April of last year I ran a 21:30 5k…) and ramped up progressively my weekly mileage to almost 70 miles (5 weeks before the big race).

Runner Expo
The exposition was amazing. You would think that this was an IT symposium of some sort - flat screens, high speed cameras for gait analysis, PC and PDA training software galore – except for the food. Every stand has a freebie for you: my friend was just pilling the stuff in a bag… maybe 5 pounds total!

Boston 2004
It already has been said a hundred times on this message board… it was a hot day (the second hottest Boston Marathon according to the media). The race starts at noon… and merely waiting in the corrals, I was already sweating (Gee! 83 F already!). My goal for the day was to run in 2:58 (this was what I felt my training/fitness was worth). But discussing with more experienced runners… I realized that I was overly optimistic: some were saying that the high temperature was warranting an extra 15-20 minutes on anybody’s goal. Oh, well.

Start. I was in “corral 3” (the runners have been seeded by qualifying time and I was bib number 3903… close to 4,000 people were actually faster than me in this crowd!) and it took me and my fellow corral mates about 1:30 to pass the start line. Here we go, 20,000 bipeds herding from Hopkinton to downtown Boston under the supervision of the course marshals.

The crowd was so dense that it had difficulties to actually “choose” a pace. After a few unfruitful and wasteful attempts at zigzagging between runners, I just settled in what was everybody else’s pace around me: about 7:00 per mile for the first two miles. I ran the first ten miles between 6:45 and 7:00 per mile, going with the flow. I was pretty happy with how I was feeling… only I was about 1 minute slow, and, more alarming, my heart rate was averaging 177 bpm (at this pace, I should have been around 165 bpm).

At this point, I made the conscious decision to go easier... or for that matter to just maintain my current pace. My heart rate went down to 170, with a few spikes at 175, which I decided was alright given the circumstances (did I already mention that it was hot?). I had to hang in there. Mile after mile. Fluid station after fluid station. Drink a glass of Gatorade. Pour a glass of cold water on your face. (And stay lucid enough not to do the opposite.)

The half way point. I passed it in 1:32:30, which was nice, only problem: the hills were still to come. The Wellesley Ladies. I guess they must have thought that I was a rock star… because, as I was approaching, they started to scream like groupies. Anyhow. The crowd support is really awesome in Boston.

Mile 16. Here were the hills. My pace slowed down by an extra 30-40 secondes. At this point, my goal had changed from running a sub-3:00 marathon to making it to the finish line under 3:10 (and qualify for next year).

Heart Break Hill. I have finally reached the top of Heart Break Hill (about mile 21). I felt about alright, and funny thing, I met a former roommate of mines. I was quite surprised as he is a faster runner than I am. This had to be a good sign.

Five miles to go (including three miles downhill)! Alright. I knew I had enough juice to finish strong. I slightly picked up the pace at this point (about 6:50 per mile) and just let it go. It seemed almost easy: 35 minutes before the finish line! I was not paying much attention to my surroundings at that point… but thinking about it now, there were not as many people anymore.

Finish line. I must have passed about 100 people in those last 5 miles… which is a very nice feeling. My heart rate for the last three miles was in the mid-180s (adrenaline must have been pumping) and after the last “sprint” it even reached 190. Am I glad it was only 26.2 and not 26.3? ;) Chip time: 3:09:08.

It felt good when it stops. Water. Food. Sit on the curve. Aaah. My friend and I found each other after a little while and I hobbled home. By that time, the emergency personnel were running around with wheelchairs and IV pouches. I felt lucky.

Later that night, I looked up the results on the internet. 650th. Huh? Must be my age group result… oh, wait: this is actually the overall result. This is silly, but it made me feel good: I actually passed close to 3,300 (potentially faster) runners. Another thing… the 650th runner during the Boston 2002 finished in 2:53: hopefully I can better my time next year!

My training very much followed the 12-week program found in Pfitzinger and Douglas’ Advance Marathoning training plan: in essence, a long run (17-23 miles), a medium long run (11-15 miles), a speed work out (intervals or tempo run) sprinkled with recovery/general aerobic runs. That training only calls for 20 mile runs, but I went up to 23 miles (I felt that I was lacking juice in the final miles of my fall/winter 2003 marathons). It was for me an unprecedented high mileage as I went from a 50 mile peak week to a near 70 mile peak week (thank you again, Terrel!).

Thank You
I’d like to thank Terrel and the runners/triathletes in the VA/MD/DC area for sharing their advice (you know who you are). I’d like to thank Sheila for her patience and her help during this trip to Boston. And, last but not least, I’d like to thank Dita and Eric (the “Pure of Hearts”!) for their hospitality.