Motivation “By the time I hit the half, it was becoming evident that...

“By the time I hit the half, it was becoming evident that this running of the Boston Marathon was going to turn into a torture festival.”

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Dr. Lowell Greib is the president of The Sports Lab, a sport therapy and sport nutrition clinic outside of Toronto. His wife is Dr. Katherine Ahokas, a sports nutritionist at Sport Lab with a degree in biochemistry. Together, they love running and racing, even getting hitched a day after the Victoria Marathon. Yesterday, the two ran the Boston Marathon, an event which saw Geoffrey Kirui and Edna Kiplagat, both of Kenya, come away with the win. (Our own Rachel Hannah placed 23rd and she’ll later share her story). For now, Dr. Greib and Dr. Ahokas share their recollections about grit, smiles and ice cubes at the world’s most famous race. 

 

He says: 

With birds chirping and clear skies in the forecast, Katherine and I, along with our team mates from the Muskoka Algonquin Runners made our way at 5:45 a.m. toward Boston Commons to catch our school bus for the journey to athletes village in Hopkinton. The journey was smooth and surprisingly quick and upon arrival the team found a shaded area amongst the thousands of runners. After a couple hours of just hanging out, watching the excited runners arrive, and working through pre-race rituals and fuelling strategies, our corals were called. Off we ventured  to the start of the 121st Boston Marathon. It was a spectacular sunny, 15 degree morning that seemingly was almost perfect for running. There was even a tail wind predicted—something Boston runners rarely experience. Both Katherine and I were ready to get out there and put the last four months of training and conditioning to the test.

She says:

Rise and grind! 4:30 a.m. came too quickly, and I definitely didn’t need an alarm. A crappy sleep before a marathon is good luck, right? I certainly felt like I needed a little luck for the race.

While the journey to Hopkinton was very smooth and the weather was beautiful, my last five weeks of training prior to the Boston Marathon had been anything but smooth. Thank you Lowell for suggesting I was “ready,” but illness and a busier than anticipated schedule definitely left me feeling a little ill prepared.

My plan? To keep smiling, especially when the going got tough!

He says:

My early plan was to head out on a pace where my Yasso 800’s put me several weeks ago. My training block was solid and my fitness was definitely there. With the first 20K being primarily downhill, it was a time that I could use to fall into a good rhythm and be comfortable attacking the Newton hills. The first couple kilometres were slower than anticipated as I was caught up in my coral trying to find a smooth pace, but after this, I found my stride, cruising at what would be my PR at 2:55.  After 4 or 5K, I realized that I dripping sweat like I was in a sauna and that the beautiful clear skies also held a scorching sun that was acting like a laser beam frying all of the runners on course. And that breezy tailwind didn’t seem to exist. 10K in I was on pace and felt good. Legs were sharp and had found a space in the crowd where I could run my own race.

She says: 

Similar to Lowell’s plan, I too was going out for a 2:55 to match my PR. Based upon my training, I knew I had to “put a little time in the bank,” which is very atypical of my racing strategy and a potentially devastating plan. I was willing to take the risk and see how long I could “hold on.” The struggle began much earlier than anticipated, at about 10K my legs were already screaming at me. Yikes, this was going to be tough, but I kept smiling.

He says:

Wham! An invisible brick wall was placed in he middle of the road at 15 kilometres. Evidently the blazing sun was having its effects early. Pace dropped about 10 seconds-per-kilometer almost instantaneously and I couldn’t find another gear to to kick into. Aid stations were used for a gulp of water and bathing stations to get water on me to allow for more evaporative cooling.

She says: 

Yup, by 15K, my pace dropped from a 4:07 min/km to 4:12min/km, even on the downhills. Not good. I thought to myself “use the energy of the crowds,” which helped, but only slightly. The sun and heat continued to intensify and if I wanted to finish upright, I knew I had to keep up with my fueling, hydrating and cooling as best I could. I was taking water and fuel every mile. I ran through two “spray stations,” the second being directly from a fire hydrant, which was one of my favourite moments on course for a couple of reasons: a) it was SO cold and refreshing; b) I had just learned how to “operate” a fire hydrant in my volunteer fire training last weekend. Ahhh…the things you think about during a marathon. And I kept smiling. 

He says:

By the time I hit the half, it was becoming evident that this running of the Boston Marathon (only my second) was going to turn into a torture festival. Every mile was taking a greater toll on me. Humidity was relatively low and from aid station to aid station, my singlets and shorts were dry even after dousing with water.

She says: 

It was hot, I was slowing, but I kept smiling.

He says:

You may ask why someone trained in sport medicine would dump water on himself when sweating subsequent evaporation would be the most efficient means of cooling. The presumption in this equation is that you are sweating! By mile 16, sweat production was really coming to a halt. NOT a good sign! Seemingly as my sweat rate dropped, so did my pace.

She says: 

If it feels good do it. The science (and Lowell) may say otherwise, but the mind is more powerful than you think. I attempted a new cooling strategy—ice cubes in my bra and shorts—while it may not have physiologically affected my cooling rate, it most certainly distracted me from the pain…and kept me smiling.

He says: 

From this point onward it was about surviving the race. Periods of walking were necessary to regroup both physically and mentally to make it to Boylston Street. It became all about getting to the blue and yellow line at Copley Square! The sufferfest continued and at mile 23 I came to the side of the course when I saw a fellow club runner spectating and tried to have him talk me into quitting. He would have nothing of it and encouraged me to suck up the last 5km.

She says: 

The crowds became more and more influential racing down Beacon St, onto Hereford Street, and of course down Boylston Street. While I knew my PR was out of the question, I was thrilled to have stuck it out, despite the struggles. I was most certainly still smiling.

He says:

After what seemed like an eternity, I turned onto Boylston and could see the blue and yellow arch marking the end of suffering. Even though I ‘ran’ that section of the course my running data would beg to differ. The sense of accomplishment and relief in crossing the finish line was overwhelming! Not exactly how I had planned the race, but I did learn a lot more about taking a greater perspective when it comes to racing.

1) The marathon can chew you up and spit you out at any time she chooses.

2) The human body is a spectacular machine that can endure extraordinary physical and psychological stresses.

3) If you are a conditioned athlete who is well prepared and your wheels fall off, there are likely many others experiencing the same thing.

She says:

That was a challenging race. Despite being way off my goal time, I was proud to finish with a respectable time. Crossing the Boston Marathon is always a spectacular feeling, no matter the race outcome. Even better when you smile!

He says: 

It is these type of epic adventures which help build tenacity and resilience in those who enjoy competing. Although the 121st running of the Boston Marathon will not be one I brag about a result, it will be one that I will talk about for the rest of my athletic life. Likely the most gruelling race I have ever done.

She says:

Reflecting on this race I have learned a few things to focus on as I move forward in my running and racing:

  1. The mind needs to be trained, just as much as the body.
  2. Training (and racing) rarely goes as planned. Try not to let it get to you, adapt and overcome, and push on.
  3. Just keep running (and smiling).

 

1 COMMENT

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience as I will not likely ever run this race, but your perspectives help me to better understand the challenges and what you are experiencing as you take this opportunity to push yourself to your limits. Congratulations on finishing!

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