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2009 Boston Marathon

Here's how I trained for the 2009 Boston Marathon.

Here's the scoop on the 2009 Boston Marathon

Nan and I left Honolulu at 12:50 pm Thursday, April 16. I had asked Amanda and Joe Whitford to stay with the kids. Amanda was a star runner on the BYU-Hawaii Cross Country team. They had a great time with the kids, and it was nice to not worry (too much) about what was going on at home. We called the kids often, and they kept asking what we were going to bring them, so they obviously weren't too worried about our being gone.

Anyway, we flew to LA, where we pulled up from landing with about 30 feet to go because, as the pilot later said, "There was some traffic on the runway." So it took us another 25 minutes to circle around and land. We spent a couple of hours in LA, and then took the red-eye to New York City. It was a completely full flight, with loud people and babies, and halfway through there was an announcement asking for a doctor or nurse on board--some kind of medical emergency a few rows behind us. Good times! So we finally made it to JFK, had some authentic New York bagels, and got to Boston.

We got a GPS assistant with the rental car, which was good because Boston is a bit hard to get around in. Of course, the GPS wasn't perfect either, and it took some getting used to. The first day, we missed a turn, and instead of just turning around, it "recalculated" and took us about 4 blocks out of our way. I decided the second day that I wouldn't let it boss me around, and it worked out a bit better after that.

The hotel room wasn't ready when we got there, so we went to a mall and looked around, got some lunch, and finally got to our room. Nan took a nap while I went running 4 miles, just to get the kinks out from the long flight. Later that day we went to the Boston temple and just kind of chilled that evening.

Saturday we slept in, which was great! No children or roosters or any kind of interruption! Then we went into Boston and took a Duck Boat tour. Duck Boats are old World War II vehicles that can go on roads or water. We saw a lot of the sights of Boston that way. Then we went to the Marathon Expo to pick up my stuff. There were lots and lots of people, and lots of exhibits and booths and guest speakers. We looked around just a bit, and I picked up my official number, the time chip (which attaches to your shoe to track your time), participant's T-shirt, program, and a few other goodies. Even though there were thousands of people, it was very well run. There was a big map of the race course, and people were taking pictures of themselves by the course, picking up their numbers, and so on. I could tell there were lots of traditional things people did each time. We left the Sports Expo and went to an early dinner, and then to see Blue Man Group. I had seen them in Las Vegas, and was anxious to see the show again. We enjoyed it, and we can't wait to have the kids see it some day as well. We got back to the hotel and went to bed.

Sunday we slept in again, went to breakfast, checked out of the hotel, and then went to church. We then went to Laurie and Gordon Low's house, where we would sleep the next 2 nights. They were perfect hosts, and great people, and we had a great time with them. Sunday afternoon we went to Walden Pond to look around, and it was peaceful, even though there were some people splashing around in the water. Too cold for us! Sunday night we went for a nice pasta dinner. We were going to go to the official pre-race dinner, but it was too hard to get into downtown and get Nan a ticket, so we went to Olive Garden instead. I got to bed around 9:45, and by this time was a bit excited for the race.

I woke up at about 4:20 and had a light breakfast of Life cereal and orange juice. I stretched a bit and got everything ready. The buses for the race left at 6 am the next morning. Luckily, the Lows have some friends (Clayton Christensen, for those who care) whose younger sister was running her 9th Boston Marathon. They were going to drive right to the start, so I didn't have to take the bus early. We left at 7 am.

Since the race started at 10 am (a bit later than what I'm used to), I was a bit off on my normal routine, so I figured I should probably hydrate and have a snack or something around 8. So I had an Odwalla Superfood bar and a Gatorade. We got to Hopkinton, where the race starts, and started getting ready.

Runners from Hawaii are invited to hang out at the "Hawaii House" before the race, which is a building about 200 yards from the Starting Line. Here's a picture of all the Hawaii runners. I'm in the very back, with a blue hat on.

Hawaii runners in the 2009 Boston Marathon

A guy with Hawaii ties owns the place, and it was great to just hang out in there, use private bathrooms (instead of porta-potties), and keep out of the cold. And it was cold. The wind was blowing a bit, it was foggy, and it was about 40 degrees. With 26,000 people getting to the starting line, there was a potential for mass chaos, but I was very impressed with how they had everything set up. We were given big yellow bags to put our stuff in at the starting line, and they'd bus those bags to the finish line for us. I put in my iPod (listening to good pre-race tunes to get in the running mood), my sweatpants, and a shirt in the bag.

The starting line is well organized. You go to your "corral" to start, which is an area separated by thousands, according to your race number. Your race number is determined by your qualifying time, so it made sense to start the race that way. My number was 3271, so I went to Corral 3. They had volunteers there checking numbers so people didn't try to jump forward. So, there were "only" 2999 people in front of me. The start gun went off, and it only took about 1 minute to get to the starting line. I had on my long-sleeved Nike running shirt, shorts, a knit cap that said NYPD on it, and some gloves. (The gloves were a last-minute addition. I decided the day before that maybe I'd need them, so we went looking around. All the stores had their summer clothes out already, but Nan said we should check the gardening section, and I found a fetching pair of green garden gloves that fit perfectly!) I also had 3 gel packs with me. These gel packs are, well, little packets of gel. You use them to get a bit of energy. Mostly they're just carbohydrates. I had a gel at miles 7, 14, and 20.

Everyone has their advice for running marathons, and especially Boston. But the one consistent thing I heard was "Go slow," or "go for a negative split" (which means to run the second half of the race faster than the first half). The first few miles are quite downhill, and the hills don't come until later in the race, so the idea is to save some energy for later in the race. I decided to take my Garmin watch, which has GPS, so I could tell what my pace was during the whole race. Usually, I either run with just a watch, or nothing, but I wanted to keep close track of my pace this time.

My qualifying time was 3:03, my previous best, and I wanted to break 3 hours for sure for this marathon. Most people say you shouldn't try for your personal best at Boston, because it's a tough course, but I felt pretty confident I would. With the weather being so cold (for me, anyway--I talked to a guy at the starting line from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and he said it felt like summer to him) I was a bit worried about what I'd do.

I figured I'd keep about a pace of 6:50 per mile for the first half, and then see what I could do the second half. It was VERY hard to keep it slow the first few miles. It was easy downhill, everyone was going fast, and people were passing me. Sometimes I'd look at my pace and I'd be at 6:40, or 6:30, even 6:15 now and then. But I decided to discipline myself and take it easy. The beginning of the race is on relatively narrow roads, and it was wall to wall runners now and then. I couldn't believe the number of runners in front of me, and once I turned around going down hill to look back, and it was amazing. I figured if I had to stop, or tripped, the crowd would carry me to the finish line anyway.

The other hard part was not letting the crowd make me run faster. I couldn't believe it--there were people along the whole 26 miles of the course. The papers say there are usually 500,000 spectators for the race, and I believe it. Little kids, old people, all kinds of people. People had big parties at their house and would watch the runners go by. Some would hand out orange slices, water, bananas, and even one party house was handing out small cups of free beer to people! I could tell there was lots of tradition for the spectators. It was amazing, and they yelled for everyone. Some runners had their names on their shirts, or written on their legs, or hats, etc., and so the people would yell, "Go Mike!" and so on. Later on in the race, when the running crowd had filled out and people could see me better, people were yelling and cheering for me "Go NYPD!" they'd yell. I'd smile and wave. I got a little warm around Mile 6, but I decided to keep the hat and gloves on, because entering Boston the wind usually kicks up and it gets a bit colder. I'm glad I did, because I definitely noticed the chill later on! A lot of people say it's great running weather when it's that cold, but I must've lived in Hawaii for too long. To me, perfect running weather is a nice sunny day, 70 degrees with about 70% humidity and little wind!

Right before Mile 12, the runners heard quite a commotion up ahead. I soon found out why--we were approaching Wellesley College and the famous "Scream Tunnel." Wellesley is an all-girls school, and there were thousands of girls standing on the sidelines screaming. It was amazing. They had signs like "Stop here for kisses!" and it was a madhouse. We felt like rock stars. It was hard to keep from running real fast, sucking in my chest, and trying to look studly. It was amazing.

At the halfway point, I was right around 6:49, and was feeling pretty good. I decided to not worry about the pace too much, but just to make sure I was under 6:50, and see what I could do. I knew that after the hills the race would go pretty quickly. In fact, most often for the elite runners they say the race doesn't start until Boston College, which is about Mile 21.

The other phenomenon was the number of runners who'd have to stop for pit stops along the side of the road. There aren't too many porta-potties along the course, so if there's a free bush or a relatively sparsely crowded section, you'd see some guys running in and out of the bushes. Unfortunately, I must've hydrated more than usual, because I could tell by Mile 6 or so that I needed to go to the bathroom. I usually never have that happen to me--in fact, that's never happened to me--but by Mile 14 I was looking around pretty desperately for a bush with my name on it. I think it might have been because it was so cold, and I wasn't sweating nearly as much as I normally do. By this time, the crowd was pretty thick. But there was one section where the road turned a bit, and there was a little kind of side street, with not too many people. I saw a runner go running over to "see a man about a wallaby" so I followed him. Time never seemed to crawl so slow as that 74 seconds I was standing there (yes, I timed myself). I also could see my average pace crawling up from 6:48 to 6:52 just by standing still for that long. I finished up and ran back on the course, feeling better physically but mad at my bladder.

The hills started at about Mile 16. I had trained on many hills, so I wasn't too worried. I decided at this point that I needed to kick it up a bit. Because of my unscheduled stop, my average pace was a bit slower than I wanted, and it's always kind of a rush to attack on the hills, and pass runners that have passed you. I was feeling fine, comfortable, and motivated, and so I started moving ahead--even passing people I was running with before I had to stop.

Heartbreak Hill is the famous hill just before Mile 21. It rises in elevation about 100 feet in about 1/4 of a mile. I knew Nan would be waiting for me there. The people we stayed with knew exactly what to do. The told me they'd be on the left side of the road, holding 4 purple balloons. That was easy to look for, and I spotted them right away--which is a good thing, because otherwise, with so many spectators, who knew if I'd see them. Unfortunately, I wasn't holding balloons, so they didn't see me until I was about 50 feet away from them. I saw Nan trying to get the camera ready as I passed by, so I turned to wave. The picture actually turned out pretty great.

Heartbreak Hill
Running up Heartbreak Hill. Nice gardening gloves!

About this time I started passing soldiers who were in full pack walking the course. They obviously had started a lot earlier than we did, but it was impressive to see them lugging along all that gear for 26.2 miles. I patted many of them on the back, and said thanks.

The race had some cool technology. You could sign up for alerts to your mobile phone when the runner you were tracking passed the 10k, halfway point, and 30k marks, as well as the finish. So Nan was able to tell how I was doing. Also, the Web site showed each 5k split. I was pleasantly surprised by how many people were tracking me. I knew some of them were wondering why I was suddenly a minute slower than what I was otherwise doing.

After Heartbreak Hill, there were some good downhill parts, and not too many hills after that. I knew we only had 6 miles to go, so I decided to go for it. It felt great--sometimes my pace was even under 6-minute miles now and then. I don't think anyone passed my the last 5 miles of the race. What was even greater was the number of spectators as we got closer. It was absolutely amazing. The last mile of the race, the crowds were easily 10 deep on either side of the road. Usually, by this time I don't have much gas left, but I was amazed at how great I felt. I was able to sometimes yell at the crowd to say thanks when they yelled "NYPD!" and I'd encourage runners who were slowing down or even stopping close to the finish line.

It's funny--the people we were staying with asked me if I ever got emotional during a race--sometimes they see people crying along the course. That had never happened to me. But that last mile, with thousands of people screaming for me, I got a bit choked up. It was absolutely amazing. Along that last mile, and especially toward the finish line, I'd sometimes pump my fist in the air, and the yells would get even louder. Way cool.

I crossed the finish line, happy with my time, and then went through the post-race maze. First, we got heat blankets (kind of like big sheets of aluminum foil) to try to regulate our body heat. I knew that I'd be freezing--usually after a long run in Hawaii I'd get cold and shivering. We got our chips taken off our shoes and got our finisher's medal. We were handed water bottles, a bag full of things like a bagel, chips, a Power Bar, and a banana. I went to find a Porta-Potty again (a post-race tradition of mine), and then went to the bus to pick up my bag I left at the starting line.

Here's the official word from the Boston Marathon Web site. There were 26,000 registered, and 22849 finishers:

3271: Schlag, Kevin
Pace: 6:49

Overall Place--1142

(If I hadn't stopped, I'd have been around 800 overall, but who's counting?)

The wind was picking up, and the sky was getting cloudy. I could feel the temperature dropping. By this time, I was shivering pretty bad, and my teeth were chattering like crazy. There were lots of medical people just kind of walking around observing runners, and one lady came over to me to check. She gave me a big hug (she was a big lady) and rubbed my arms and back. We talked a little bit (between my teeth chattering) and I found out she had a son named Kevin and that I was from Hawaii. "No wonder you're cold!" she scolded. She had someone go get my bag from the bus, and then helped me put on my sweat pants. She hovered over me for a bit, and told me that if I didn't warm up soon I should go to the Medical tent. I told her my wife would soon be bringing me some fresh clothes, but I'd certainly watch it.

After all this, there's a whole block with big signs of letters of the alphabet--the family meeting area. It was already crazy with people--I'm glad I didn't finish in the 10 thousands! I walked and walked until I found the S sign, thinking to myself, "Sheesh! Why couldn't my last name start with A!" and then realizing that no one was checking IDs, and Nan and I should have met at K instead. So I waited for what seemed like hours. Nan was working her way toward me. She took the subway from near Heartbreak Hill to downtown, with thousands of her closest friends. She eventually found me, and once again I found myself getting a bit emotional. She gave me a big hug (even though I smelled like I had just run for almost 3 hours).

We eventually made our way out of the zoo that was downtown, and took the subway to the North End so we could have a yummy post-race celebration dinner. It was fun to see all the runners with their yellow bags and finisher's medals walking around. We even got free subway rides! We had made reservations, but were 90 minutes early and the restaurant was closed between lunch and dinner. So we found another restaurant close by and ordered. I went to the bathroom to wash up a bit and change my clothes. We had a great dinner with authentic Italian music in the background. I posed for a post-race contemplative moment.

Posing for the camera

We then walked around to sightsee just a bit. The wind was really biting, but it was nice to see the old North Church of "one-if-by-land-two-if-by-sea" fame, and then we stopped at a pastry shop to get a little dessert. I could tell I hadn't really gone overboard with the race, because my legs weren't killing me--I actually felt pretty good.

We finally made our way back to the Lows where I took a very hot, very welcome shower. We then went out for ice cream (I hadn't had any sweets to eat for about 3 weeks before the race, so I indulged some) and got back home around 8 or so. We did a load of laundry (good thing--imagine traveling with running clothes!) and went to bed a bit early.

We woke up at 4:30 the next morning to get to the airport on time for our 6:45 am flight. I was decked out in my marathon finisher's shirt, and my official 2009 Boston Marathon jacket, along with about half the crowd at the airport, it looked like. We flew from Boston to Salt Lake City, then from Salt Lake City to Honolulu, and got in about 3 pm Hawaii time. Luckily, we had exit row seats the whole way back, because my legs were sure antsy during the trip. I got up a bit to walk around and stretch, with several other of my running friends.

And that's it. An amazing experience! I highly recommend it to everyone. I don't know if I'll ever do Boston again, but I'll definitely keep running. There's a 56-mile race I'm eyeing, but I just have to convince Nan..........

Time Chart

  5k 10k 15k 20k Half    (21.1k) 25k 30k 35k 40k Finish (42.2k)
Overall Time 21:14 42:47 1:04:05 1:25:24 1:30:07 1:47:17 2:08:20 2:29:20 2:50:01 2:58:29
5k Time 21:14 21:33 21:18 21:19 -- 21:53 21:03 21:00 20:41 --
Pace per mile 6:51 6:54 6:53 6:55 6:53 6:55 6:54 6:53 6:51 6:49
Projected Finish 2:59:28 3:00:47 3:00:16 3:01:02 3:00:20 3:01:02 3:00:46 3:00:20 2:59:28 2:58:29

(The column in yellow is when I had to stop for a potty break)

A couple of things grabbed my attention from this chart. I was pretty consistent up until the halfway point. What's most amazing, though, is that I shaved 2 seconds off my pace per mile in the last 2k, as well as dropping my projected finish by 1 minute. That means I was going pretty fast the last little bit.

An article about me in the community paper.


Note: The decimal places are seconds, not hundredths of minutes. So, for example, if you see 20.50, that means 20 minutes and 50 seconds, and not 20 minutes and 30 seconds.

Date Description Time Notes
30-Jul Handball 21-15, 21-13
11-Aug 5 35.50
13-Aug 5 34.14
16-Aug 7.2 70.42 Malaekahana Falls turnoff
25-Aug 4 29.14
27-Aug 4 28.03
29-Aug 4 28.40
30-Aug 7.2 68.20 Laie Falls 26.03, 38.43
1-Sep 5 36.33
2-Sep 4 28.15
3-Sep 4 27.28
4-Sep 4 27.31
5-Sep Handball 7-21, 21-17
6-Sep 7.2 66.43 Laie Falls 25.03, 37.36
8-Sep 4 27.27
9-Sep 6.2 43.13
9-Sep Handball 21-18, 21-16
10-Sep 4 27.59
12-Sep 4 27.32
17-Sep 4 26.49
17-Sep Handball 4-21, 21-3, 21-8
18-Sep 6.2 42.23
19-Sep 4 27.26
20-Sep 10 69.24
22-Sep 4 27.44
23-Sep 6.2 44.36
24-Sep 4 26.51
25-Sep 6.2 41.16
26-Sep 4 28.02
27-Sep 12 81.51
29-Sep 5 37.00
30-Sep 7 49.24
1-Oct 5 34.44
2-Oct 7 48.13
2-Oct 3 Helped run a relay marathon for elementary school
4-Oct 14 97.33
6-Oct 5 34.45
6-Oct Handball 9-21, 13-21
7-Oct 7 47.50
8-Oct 5 33.03
9-Oct 7 47.16
10-Oct 5 34.45
10-Oct Golf 54
11-Oct 10.82 121.47 Laie Fall Summit (25.34, 37.54, 67.25)
13-Oct 5 33.13
14-Oct 7 48.17
14-Oct Handball 21-15, 21-19
15-Oct 5 35.07
18-Oct 3.3 19.18 Vi's Adventure Trek
20-Oct 5 33.32
20-Oct Handball 21-16, 21-15, 21-16
21-Oct 7 47.57
22-Oct 5 35.22
23-Oct 7 49.25
24-Oct 5 34.36
24-Oct Golf
25-Oct 16 110.48
27-Oct 5 33.37
29-Oct 5 32.47 Orlando Treadmill
30-Oct 7.25 50.07 Orlando
31-Oct 5 34.33 Orlando
1-Nov 19 131.35
3-Nov 6.2 41.45
4-Nov 8 54.17
4-Nov Handball 21-17, 21-7, 21-3
5-Nov 6.2 42.25
6-Nov 8 53.19
7-Nov 6.2 42.24
8-Nov 20 141.56
10-Nov 4.5 36.00 20 x :60 (:30 rest)
11-Nov 9 64.11
12-Nov 7 48.14
13-Nov 9 62.17
14-Nov 7 47.51
15-Nov 23 165.42
17-Nov 7.07 48.14
18-Nov 10 68.31
19-Nov 7 46.01
20-Nov 10 70.33
22-Nov 17.2 139.35 Laie Falls 25.04, 36.54
24-Nov 8.7 60.43
25-Nov 11 78.32
26-Nov 8 55.18
27-Nov 11 82.30
28-Nov 8 63.44 Truman wrecked on his bike
29-Nov 15 118.42
1-Dec 8 54.11
2-Dec 12 82.59
3-Dec 9 59.31
4-Dec 12 81.35
5-Dec 8 55.10
6-Dec 22 158.44
8-Dec 9 62.15
9-Dec 12 80.14
10-Dec 10 69.00
12-Dec 9 62.24
13-Dec 26.2 188.29
15-Dec 7.2 68.04 Laie Falls 25.23, 37.24
16-Dec 13 92.14
17-Dec 7.2 71.14 Laie Falls NO REST 26.35, 39.37
18-Dec 13 88.20
19-Dec 7.2 71.00 Laie Falls NO REST 26.49, 39.30
20-Dec 20 141.29
23-Dec 3 17.50
24-Dec 6.5 48.05 Went with kids
26-Dec 10 69.05
29-Dec 10 68.50
30-Dec 14 97.28
31-Dec 10 70.35
1-Jan 14 96.48
2-Jan 10 70.42
3-Jan 26.2 196.05
5-Jan 10 71.06
5-Jan Handball 15-21, 21-7
6-Jan 15 106.30
7-Jan 10 68.46
8-Jan 15 104.59
8-Jan Handball 21-12, 21-10, 5-1
9-Jan 7 47.46
10-Jan 20 139.22
12-Jan 10 65.00
13-Jan 6 38.38
13-Jan 9 60.19
14-Jan 10 64.57
15-Jan Handball 17-21, 21-14-4, 12-21-5
16-Jan 10 69.21
17-Jan 30 204.00
19-Jan 10 64.48
20-Jan 15 105.00
22-Jan 6.2 40.22 Utah treadmill
22-Jan 9 59.59 Utah treadmill
23-Jan 7 48.53 Utah
23-Jan 3.1 19.58 Utah treadmill
26-Jan 9 55.41 3: 17.37, 7: 43.51
27-Jan 15 102.01   7: 47.02
28-Jan 9 59.28
30-Jan 5 31.30
31-Jan 6 38.53
31-Jan 20 136.00
2-Feb 8 53.18
4-Feb 6 40.52 Water tower
6-Feb 8 51.37
7-Feb 19 129.57
9-Feb 8 50.42
11-Feb 7.2 67.19 Laie Falls NO REST 25.00 37.31
12-Feb 8 51.17
16-Feb 8.15 47.31 Great Aloha Run
17-Feb 9 60.27
19-Feb 13.1 90.11
21-Feb 19 127.25
23-Feb 10 68.36 10 miles at <6 min per mile, rest in between
24-Feb 15 106.19
25-Feb 10 67.31
26-Feb 15 104.31
27-Feb 10 69.14
27-Feb Handball 6-21, 10-21, 14-21
28-Feb 24 176.12 Pupukea
2-Mar 7.2 65.25 Laie Falls no rest
3-Mar 15 106.30
4-Mar 10 68.50 10 miles at <6 min per mile, rest in between
5-Mar 15 106.07
5-Mar Handball 3-21, 10-21, 16-21
6-Mar 10 72.53
7-Mar 26 195.00
10-Mar 15 104.22
11-Mar 6 41.00
11-Mar 4 25.40
12-Mar 15 107.00
14-Mar 16.7 120.52 Pupukea
16-Mar 7 48.30 7 miles at <6 min/mile, rest
17-Mar 15 98.10
18-Mar 10 67.00
19-Mar 15 102.43
21-Mar 31 225.44
25-Mar 7.3 49.19 Anaheim
26-Mar 15 103.55 Pupukea
27-Mar 10 69.33
28-Mar 18.8 131.15
30-Mar 10 68.42 10 miles at <6 min per mile, rest in between
30-Mar Handball 7-21, 12-21, 17-21
31-Mar 15 107.52 Ran last 2 miles with Ayanna/Jonah
1-Apr 10 69.38 Water tower
2-Apr 15 104.32
3-Apr 10 70.32
3-Apr Golf   75
4-Apr 14 97.00
4-Apr 12 85.21
8-Apr 10 68.32
9-Apr 15 108.30 Pupukea
10-Apr 7 47.57
11-Apr 19 129.28
13-Apr 5 32.03
15-Apr 5 31.15
16-Apr 7 45.15
17-Apr 4 27.42 Boston



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