Do you have a bucket list of dreams to accomplish before turning a certain age or leaving this world behind? Maybe it’s to circumnavigate the world, jump out of an airplane or even run (and complete) a marathon.
Whether there is a bucket list at your fingertips or not, you’ll enjoy reading this next post about a challenge. My friend, Brandon, guest blogs today about his new foray and a recap on setting a new personal marathon best.
Guest Blogger: Brandon Boucher
As of April of this year I was lucky enough to be employed by Pacers Running Store in Alexandria, VA. During the process of fitting a woman for shoes she was telling me that she was running 30 races before she turned 30 years old. So I wish I could claim credit for this idea, but I am not that original. So here is my plan: starting with this past weekend’s 37th Marine Corps Marathon and finishing with the 38th Marine Corps Marathon in October 2013, I will be running 30 races over the course of the next year. Thirty weekends out of the next 52 you will find me at a start line somewhere, with a little bit of a buffer to accommodate life.
Now, enough of the technical mumbo-jumbo, here’s a little about me. My name is Brandon and I have been racing, whether a triathlon, cycling or running, since my senior year of high school back in 2002. I have lived in Alexandria, VA since 2008. My personal bests are as follows: 5K – 20:22, 10K – 45:00, 10 Mile – 1:11:36, Half – 1:37:48, Marathon – 3:46:36. My goals include getting my 5K time under 20 minutes and 10 mile less than 70 minutes. For my marathon time, I would like to run a sub-3:30:00.
On to my first race of “30 before 30”—the 37th Marine Corps Marathon. The week before the race, I was watching the weather, as we all were, about Hurricane Sandy. So all week at the store, the majority of the questions I received were about the weather. My usual response was, “SHHHHHH, don’t talk about the storm, we are going to will this thing into existence the more we talk about it.” About then I would attempt to sell a nice running rain jacket. At one point I posted on my Facebook page, “the first rule of Frankenstorm, is you don’t talk about Frankenstorm, the second rule of Frankenstorm is YOU DO NOT TALK ABOUT Frankenstorm.” I really, really did not want to run 26.2 miles in a driving rain.
Back in 2008, before I joined the military, I was at a small triathlon—the Spring Fling Triathlon—back home in New Mexico. It was one of the last triathlons that I have done. I usually helped the race director organize these races because we are good friends. The race started around 7:30 am and we were out early at 5 am setting up the race course. The morning was cloudy with a light sprinkle here and there. At 7:30, I lined up for the run and off we went. The race was a quick 5K run followed by a 30K bike and a 500M swim. As we rounded the last corner of the run, with a mile to go, it started to sprinkle, and as I transitioned on to the bike it began to pour. It poured for the 30K on the bike, every last meter of it. I was soaked and one can imagine how cold the freezing driving rain was in April. As I was transitioning to the swim, I peeled off 15lbs of soaked clothes and made my way to the pool. My legs were frozen and my nice slow jog turned into more of a waddle. The pool felt like bath water and was super warm. It was a race that I survived, and not something I wanted to repeat.
So back to the marathon. I picked up my packet last Thursday afternoon, made my way thru the expo and headed home. Friday morning before work I went for a short easy 3 mile run, just to get the legs moving. There were still more questions about the race and what Sandy would do. We were all looking at the weather as two of my coworkers were running the race as well. We looked at weather.com, weatherunderground.com and weatherbug.com, as well as the local news stations. Every one of the forecasts was different. Not one of them was the same. My responses were generally along the lines of, “If there is any danger to the participants they will have to cancel the race, that being said the storm doesn’t look like it will be on top of us until late Sunday or Monday. I’m expecting to race Sunday morning in a light rain or overcast conditions.” Saturday came, and again I ran a nice slow three miles and headed into work. We have a dry erase sandwich board sign that we put in front of the store. One side had a marathon checklist, the other side had my quote, The first rule of Frankenstorm is you do not talk about Frankenstorm, second rule of Frankenstorm is come in and buy a wind and rain shell @ Pacers.” After work I headed into town for a friend’s birthday dinner at Buca Di Beppo, carb loaded on pasta and headed home.
I never sleep well before big races. Days before I set everything out that I think I might need for the race. This was difficult due to the uncertainty of the weather. If there was any consistency of the weather reports it was the temperature, which was going to be around 50 degrees at race start, with a wind to cool things down a bit. So I had two piles of clothes, one for rain and colder temps, and one for slightly warmer and dry conditions. After I woke up the first thing to do was to check the weather: windy, cloudy, 50’s, but no rain. Score! I dress in shorts, a short sleeve shirt and long sleeve over top. Grab my race belt with race bib and snacks already packed, change out my sunglasses for lightly tinted lenses, and throw extra items into my backpack. My backpack has everything that I might need, the rain gear, rain jacket, change of clothes and so on for after the race.
My fiancée was running the 10K and we both head out the door at 5:45 and head down to Pentagon City Mall to park. We used metro to get to Rosslyn and started looking for the Pacers tent to drop off bags. (Last year before the marathon, we stopped off at the Pentagon and were about to leave the platform when the people sitting behind us forgot their bananas on their seat. Being the nice guy that I am, I went back on to the train and retrieved them, as the metros doors closed and the train accelerated out of the platform. Doh! A quick train change at Rosslyn and I’m back to the pentagon in about 20 Min. I handed off their bananas, they were very grateful as that was their morning nutrition before their marathon.) Back to this year, we find the Pacers tent and drop off our bags and I walk my fiancée back to the metro. I see her off with a quick good luck kiss and then start my warm up and double-check everything. I decided to lose my t-shirt and run with a long sleeve Brooks technical shirt. At this point I am a little cold so I decide to wear my Brooks running jacket and a hat. I started to make my way to the start line and on the way a retired Marine stops me and said that he likes my race number, which was #4444. We chat for a bit on the walk down and I thank him for his service and we part ways.
I make my way to the start and line up in my corral with my expected finish time. I was shooting for 3:30 and would be happy with 10 min either side of my goal time. At 7:40 the wheelchair and hand cycle athletes start and there is a massive applause from the crowd. 15 minutes till our start. I start going over everything, double checking my laces on my shoes, how tight my race belt is, making sure it doesn’t bounce. I’m still wearing my jacket and hat, dang it. I was comfortable wearing the jacket and hat standing round but running I was going to be too hot, oh well not much to do with it now.
7:55, BOOM!! The cannon goes off. Race number one, my second marathon is underway. I cross the start line, start my GPS watch and away I go. I get about a mile in and I am already stripping off my jacket and hat, it’s too hot and humid for that stuff. My Brooks jacket stuffs into its pocket and I take off my hat. I figure I can hold onto it in case I get cold or it starts raining. My race plan was to take it easy for the first 4 miles because of the hills within that distance. I kept my pace around 8:45 and take it easy. At mile 3 I see some friends and people I work with and decide I don’t want to carry my jacket and hat as dead weight for 26.2 miles. So I dump it off with them and carry on. At mile 4, I am running next to a guy completely dressed as a Viking. He is lost and looking for his boat. I tell him we burned it for sacrifice. He chuckles. At mile 6, I pass a guy wearing an EOD UK t-shirt. Many, many jokes go through my head, “What is the EOD guy running from? I am doing good right? Out running the EOD guy?” And so on…I say nothing. Figure I don’t want to make an enemy of an EOD guy. Per my plan at mile 5, I eat my first pack of Sports Beans. Yummy. Mile ten comes and goes. I look at my watch and it reads 1:21. Dang it. I ran the Army Ten Miler the week before and I am 10 minutes slower. I calculate in my head that I’m on track for a 3:30 or so finish, disappointment subsides and I keep running.
At the half way point I come across at 1:45, still not as fast as my personal best, but I am still on track for a 3:30ish finish. Mile 14 to 18 are pretty uneventful, I remember last year’s marathon, I was walking a lot and was having hamstring problems, but not this year. I am a lot stronger and 10lbs lighter than the previous year’s marathon. Up until mile 19 I was holding an average pace of 8:07 Miles. Wam!! I started to hit a wall at 19, I hadn’t drunk enough Gatorade at the last station. My nutrition was fine, switched from Sports beans to Kona punch power bar gel. I could feel myself slowing down. I have to stop and stretch my calves on the bridge, I take the time to break out some beans and eat up. Just the dog leg into Crystal City then home free, I laugh at that statement. Last year the “dog leg into Crystal City” almost wiped me out. On the course map, it looks small— a mile into Crystal City and a mile out of Crystal City. This year wasn’t too bad. The buildings cause a wind tunnel and I was chilled just a bit. I ran through and see my fiancée cheering me on. I give her a quick kiss and she hands me some water and away I go. Mile 25, we run past the Pentagon 9-11 Memorial. Running pains subside, breathing easier, I remember that day well. Last mile, I look at my watch, 3:32, dang it. Goal time passed, I press on. Last 2 tenths of the mile are the dreaded hill. For me the hill feels better than the flats. I cross the line at 3:46:49. Woot! I start the long walk through the finisher corrals, grab a photo in front of the Marine Corps memorial, grab my finishers jacket, and food and drink. I beat my previous marathon time by 15 minutes.
I meet up with my fiancée at the Pacers tent and start to walk to the metro. I am surprised how much easier the second marathon is. Don’t get me wrong, I am really sore and walking up stairs is still something I will avoid. But I remember walking a slight incline and wanting to cry last year. Not so bad this year. So thus starts my “30 before 30”, off to a good start. Next race is the 5K Race to Fill the Shoes on Saturday, November 3rd.
Stay tuned for more of Brandon’s adventures on his “30 Before 30” Challenge