Thursday, June 20, 2013

Boston strong

I suppose technically it was the same day, although 6 hours more than the clock was showing had past since I ran the 10K race in the morning, so I decided to go for another run as soon as I got to the hotel. I thought it would be a good way to keep myself awake a few hours longer as well as making me feel tired enough to sleep well once it was (finally) time to sleep.

I decided I would try to get to the famous Heartbreak Hill which is in fact not called that at all except for one day in the year when the Boston Marathon is run. It is famous not so much for its climb or steepness but more for its location, just at the point in the race when your glycogen stores are running out. I had downloaded the Marathon course onto my Garmin GPS watch but, with all the tall buildings around, not to mention the cloudy skies, it took forever to get a good GPS signal. The temperature was perfect for running and a welcome change from the heat back home in Madrid but I was soon to discover how humid it was.

I was surprised how few runners there were and how many of them were women (in fact, nearly all – and it wasn’t because I was only looking at the female runners). The course in reverse takes you along the Back Bay area, which is like a slice of England. I was reminded of a short story I once read by Ray Bradbury, in which a couple of guys travel back in time and one of them accidently steps on a butterfly and finds, on return back to his time, that everything has subtlety changed (in fact, this was the origin of the “Butterfly Effect” later coined by Lorenz). The houses looked so familiar but the street numbers in the 1,000s gave them away, as did the cars parked outside that were bloated as if someone had inflated them by pumping up their exhaust pipes.

The Marathon route was actually quite boring apart from a nice lake that I stumbled upon but which was otherwise not visible from the road. I was starting to get quite tired after 10 kilometers, so I asked a fellow runner if they knew how much further it was to Heartbreak Hill and they told me that it was still about 3 miles so I decided to turn back. It was only later, when I uploaded the route to my Garmin, that I saw that I had got within 1,000 meters of my goal… In the end I ran a total of 30 kilometers that day, so I felt as though I had done a good day’s work and enough to justify a day off the next day.

On the Tuesday, I found a chance to run down to the Vibram USA store to pick up a pair of Vibram Five Fingers Seeyas to replace the pair that was now wearing out, as well as a pair of Spyridons which are less in need of repairing but somewhat cheaper in the States nonetheless and some Injinji "toe socks". With the humidity, I arrived at the shop totally soaking but I suppose that running shops are amongst the few shops for which it is relatively acceptable to turn up like this. I was given some paper towels to dry off with while I made my purchases. I ran back along the River Charles and realized that this was where all the runners run.

Later that evening I did a short interval session on the hotel treadmill, of 4 lots of 1,600 meters at 10 mph (approximately 16 kph). The gym, although small, was one of the best-equipped ones I have seen in a hotel.

I couldn’t really go to Boston without having seen Havard University, so this was my objective for the run I did the next day. It was a very picturesque run alongside the River Charles and there were a lot of other people doing the same thing. Every so often my watch would pick up the heart rate strap of some random person I happened to pass by. After three days of rain storms in the afternoon (to which I attribute the fact that I have now got a head cold) the weather was now sunny but noticeably less humid. I felt as though I was running downhill most of the way there and most of the way back and checked of most of my kilometer splits easily between 3:55 and 4:15. Every so often I had to stop for traffic lights, of course, but at one set a policeman actually held the traffic and waved me across.

Towards the end of my 20 km run, I stopped for some water and to cool down and watched the other runners pass by. I always find it interesting in a nerdy kind of way to critique other people’s running styles. Of course, almost everybody was heel striking and – if not actually braking – at least losing the natural spring of the foot. One guy was running on the ball of his foot but in such a deliberate way that I felt sorry for his calf muscles. There were a couple of runners who seemed to be light on their feet – it so happened they were both girls and both running in minimalist footwear. Minimalist running shoes don’t guarantee good running style and are probably more dangerous to run badly in, but I do think it is easier to learn to run well in them.

Now, off to New York…

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