Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Scorching 2012 Boston Marathon

Last Monday, I joined 22,535 die hard runners for the 116th Boston Marathon, which will go down in history as the hottest Boston on record. The temperature gauge hovered just below 90 degrees for most of the day, but thanks to awesome support from local spectators and a volunteer team more than ready for the tough conditions, we all had a great time. Now we can say "we were there in '12 for the hot one!".

This was part two in my two-race-two-coast-in-two-day extravaganza, having jumped on a flight immediately after a 3rd place finish at the Presidio 10-Mile in San Francisco, CA, to arrive just in time for the Patriot Day celebration in Boston, MA. I just can't get enough of this race (this is #8!), in particular meeting all the first-time Boston runners decked out in head-to-toe shwag. Great stories of triumph abound when you ask about their qualifying races.

The weather made for more nervous runners this year, but only a few hundred took up the Race Directors on the offer to defer to 2013. I hoped my race number (#911) wasn't a premonition on my race! I hovered with the other runners in the unusually hot Athlete's Village at the start, as everyone helped each other apply sunscreen and anti-chafing cream. I got my usual pre-race massage (still the best kept secret at the race start), and spent most of the next hour handing out over 30 little bags of S!Caps electrolytes and sharing ultrarunner tips on dealing with the heat. The conversation usually went like this:
  1. Put away the watch. This is not a PR day. It's not macho to DNF with heat stroke when it's 80 degrees at the's just stupid. Just enjoy the experience and listen to your body. There's always another race to go fast!
  2. Bring some sunscreen. That's great you have it on, so bring some more for the halfway mark to reapply to your nose, ears, neck, and shoulders. There are free 1-2oz tubes at the Village. Nothing makes you feel overheated like a sunburn kicking in around mile 18, so nip that in the bud.
  3. Drink at every opportunity, and stay on your electrolytes. If you miss a water stop, don't just wait for the next one. Let the spectators help with their water and ice. If you feel overheated, slow down and find a hose. And stay on your electrolytes - Gatorade or plain salt is not enough. And keep moving!
  4. Have fun! If you find the right pace, there's no reason you can't finish this. You've done the work. Be a part of one of the epic Bostons!
(Getting warm at the start)
(Derek Bolyard checks his shades, while Derek Schultz checks his 'stache)
(...and we're off!!!)
By the time I got up the first corral, the temp was already hitting 80 degrees, and I didn't even bother setting my chrono. So different than shivering together in garbage bags to avoid hypothermia like most years! I ran into ultrarunner Derek Schultz, who is donning a cool 70's era mustache these days, and we counted off the last few seconds before heading out of Hopkinton. It's ON!

(Here we come! Photo courtesy of Damien Strohmeyer)
(One of the many bands crankin' out tunes along the way)
(Mark Lantz passes me by)
As the masses spread out a bit, you could see the snake of runners going from one patch of shade to the next. It's important to get that 1000-watt heater off you anytime you can! The spectator support was phenomenal, with many locals armed with hoses, ice, water guns, and Otter Pops. It was a fantastic show of support! We made our way through Ashland (mile 4) and Framingham (mile 7), using the cheering crowds to pull us through the treeless sections.

(The hoses feel goooood...)
(Crazy Jason Reed)
I ran along with Elizabeth Hiser from Ohio, and we talked about how a warm Midwest Spring had inadvertently helped her acclimate, while my week vacation in Hawaii had done the same for me. As long as we grabbed ice and tossed the occasional water on the head, it was manageable. The many hoses and HazMat spray tents definitely helped too. We approached Wellesley (mile 13, 1:29:00) where I slowed for my obligatory smooches, and Elizabeth felt good enough to kick up her pace (she would finish in an outstanding 3:02!).

(Getting some elbow room)
(Running w/Elizabeth)
(Boston families brought out the big guns)
(Getting some love from the Wellesley girls)
(Plenty of happy faces at the Scream Tunnel)
I soon found a nice rhythm for cooling myself, which was to grab ice where I could and let it melt in my hand until I could throw it in a cup of water, shake it up, and have a nice little cold shower. That and grabbing every popsicle and Otter Pop I could find! They haven't tasted this good since those slow hot summers in Oregon as a kid. Thank you, Boston families!

(Miss you, Rocky!)
(Santa dons his short sleeves this year)
(Aid station carnage)
My new Nikon CoolPix AW100 was getting a full test of its waterproofness, and seemed to be holding up well. The new CoolPix is a few oz lighter than the last waterproof one I've tried, which is nice, but it's too bulky for a pocket so it gets full exposure to those hoses.

(The heat takes its toll on one of 2,100+ needing medical attention)
(Boston College)
(Doin' it the hard way)
(Some would rather watch...)
I got a cup of beer from the Hash House Harriers at the bottom of Heartbreak Hill, which was more than enough boost to get through to Boston College (mile 21). The carnage of walking/stopping runners was everywhere at this point, forming a line on both sides of the road. Hang in there, guys! The medical tents were stacked full as well, and I would later learn that 2,181 runners needed medical help this year (as opposed to ~700 in a normal year). No way around it - 2012 is a tough one.

(Lots of walkin' in the final miles)
(The finish!)
(Remus Medley finds a clever way to avoid leg cramps and finishes on his hands)
Before I knew it, we were heading down Boylston St. and I crossed the finish in 3:07:24 for 861st place. How about that? I wasn't paying attention to the time and somehow clocked my fastest Boston yet. It looked like everyone added a few minutes to their expected time, including winner Wesley Korir (2:12:40) who surged late to a decisive win, and Women's winner Sharon Cherop (2:31:50) who made sure she was ready for the final kick this year.

(Kenya's Wesley Korir wins!)

I got a post-race massage, meeting SF-area Ironman champion Kyle Welch, and commenting that "my new definition of an angel is a 5-year-old with a popsicle". I thought my race schedule was tough - Kyle has ITU Worlds, 70.3 Worlds, and Ironman Hawaii coming up. Nice!

(A congratulatory hug from one of the great volunteers)
The good people of Boston really are the stars today, and my thanks to everyone who came out to make our day a little easier. Until next year!

- SD


  1. Great recap of your #8 Boston! i think it's so cool you shared "S" caps w/road runners! i ran in 2007 - the NorEastern storm :-) and surprising that 19,000 finished that year! Congratulations on your pr. i think i know your secret to running in the heat [you've run and survived The Canyons @ WS ! :)] Happy trails!

  2. Do you really need to re-apply sunscreen during a marathon? On Saturday I put on sunscreen around 4am for Brazen's Diablo Trails 50K, which I took a 21 minute PW 9:14 to finish (meaning I finished over 13 hours after I put on the sunscreen). I burn pretty easily, but I had no issues yesterday in very hot (for April) weather, without re-applying. Maybe you just need better subscreen...

    1. I didn't reapply in Boston and my face definitely was more pink than anything else. I assume from all the water dumping and sponge wiping etc...thankfully only a minor burn!

  3. Great race report and pics!

  4. Nicely put Scott. You sure had fun there under the hot sun :)

  5. Cool to see familiar/local faces in that crowd! Great job for taking it easy in that heat, yet clocking your best Boston out of 8! See you around,

  6. Congrats on the Boston Best and thanks for sharing a few miles with me!

  7. Did you see that Tamalpan Christine Kennedy ran a 3:00:42. She's 57!


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