Boston Marathon Preparation and Race Report

This morning I ran the Boston Marathon for the first time, it was such an incredible and fun experience! There were 30k participants and 1 million spectators cheering along the course, there was so much positive energy!

I ran an 11 minute PR in a time of 2:44:15. Here is a little post about it.  The first part is about my marathon preparation, the second part dives into the race specifics.

Race bib Boston Marathon

PREPARATION

There are a lot of different advanced marathon training programs out there. Many of these programs include aerobic runs + 3 to 4 times a week intervals, hill repeats and speed-work, every week.

I approached my marathon preparation different than this. I’m a huge fan of Heart Rate Monitor training with lots of aerobic (low heart rate) miles, inspired by Dr. Phil Maffetone. I approached this marathon by training mostly (94% of my total running time) at a lower heart rate (138-148 bpm or sometimes lower).  Occasionally I added intervals or speed-work at higher heart rate (6% total running time). I choose this 138-148 bpm HR zone by using  the 180 formula and by doing a blood lactate test. For the intervals I’d run 8 x 800’s, mostly on the track, occasionally on hills since Boston is hilly. A few times times I added some speed-work to simulated running on tired legs, by running a 20 miler and increasing the pace to marathon pace or faster the last 5 miles.

Here is a breakdown of my weekly miles:

Week of Total miles Total time Anaerobic runs Anaerobic miles Anaerobic time
Jan 5 – 11 54.9 6h 38 min 1 3 17 minutes
Jan 12 – 18 57.6 7h 46 min 2 9.5 42 minutes
Jan 19 – 25 66 8h 7 min 2 9 54 minutes
jan 26 – Feb 1 50.5 6h 20 min 2 8.5 72 minutes
Feb 2 – 8 43.8 5h 59 min 0 0 0
Feb 9 – 15 67.3 8h 40 min 0 0 0
Feb 16 – 22 75.2 9h 21 min 0 0 0
Feb 23 – Mar 1 64.1 9h 3 min 1 4.2 25 minutes
Mar 2 – 8 81.5 12h 0 min 14 miles 2 82 minutes
Mar 9 – 15 52.5 6h 55 min 0 0 0
Mar 16 – 22 80.5 10h 0 min 1 5 31 minutes
Mar 23 – 29 81.6 11h 20 min 1 8 50 minutes
Mar 30 – Apr 5 30.2 4h 10 min 1 2.5 17 minutes
Apri 6 – 12 37.4 6h 0 min 2 8 52 minutes
Apr 13 – 19 16.9 2h 31 min 0 0 0
Total 860 114h 50 min 13 59.7 7h 22 min

A lot of people train at a heart rate and pace that’s much too high and fast for them, this causes a lot of stress on their body along with higher chances of injuries which slows down improvements. Although there is something to be said about getting familiar with a fast pace and race pace, you don’t need to kill yourself with a bunch of intervals, hill repeats and speed-work to become a faster runner. In my opinion slowing down your pace on most of your runs will make your runs more enjoyable and injury free, then over time you’ll become a faster runner.

A few other things I did:

Weekly miles

From my previous running experience, I knew that 75 – 80 miles per week was the maximum amount of miles that my body could handle. I didn’t want to spend more time away from work and family. Also, more than 80 miles per week would cut into my sleep, so it would have minimal return for me with an increased injury risk.

Double runs and 2 hour runs max

A few months ago I started running doubles and really liked it, because it is much less taxing on your body than running higher miles at once. A few times a week I’d run 5 miles in the morning and 11 miles at night. The short morning runs kickstart your metabolism and give you alertness during the day. The evening runs felt easier because my legs and body were already feeling warmed up.

When I trained for my 100 mile run from Long Beach to San Diego, I ran many long training runs of 3, 5 or even 7+ hours. For these ultra training runs it was more important to have time on my feet than speed. I aimed to run the Boston marathon under 3 hours, my goal was sub 2:45. After interviewing Phil Maffetone, he advised to keep your longest marathon training runs at 2 to 2 1/2 hours max. Running longer than this significantly increases your chances of injuries, with minimal improvements. My longest training run was 20 miles in 2 hours and 14 minutes.

Trail running in the Santa Monica Mountains

Walking barefoot

Since I started getting into running 2 years ago, I’ve been injury free, however I’ve experienced tight ankles and calves. I took a step back and realized that the muscles, ligaments and tendons in my feet and ankles were underdeveloped, even though I run 8 – 12 hours a week. Having strong feet and ankles is part of a strong foundation.

For the past 2 months I decided to walk around barefoot as much as possible. I work from home, so most of my days I’m not wearing shoes or socks, until I go running or leave the house. After just a few weeks I started feeling a positive difference. It helped reengage the weak muscles and improved mobility, stability and strength in my feet and ankles.

Rest and recovery

It might sound backwards, but we get more of our training benefits from the recovery phase than from actually training. If we don’t get that recovery, we aren’t going to allow our body to naturally progress. Even in peak running weeks of 80 miles per week, I’d still take 1 day a week off from running. If I’d feel very tired or not motived to run, I’d take 1 or 2 days off. It’s amazing to feel completely recharged again after a short break and after getting enough sleep.

Nutrition

I haven’t changed much nutrition wise these past months. I’ve continued to avoid eating processed food and refined sugars, with occasional exceptions for things like sushi, ramen, pizza and beer! 🙂 I blend a lot of veggies in my Vitamix blender for daily veggie shakes.

Vitamix Blender to make epic vegetable shakes

MAF tests results + Blood Lactate Test results

Every month I track my running progress with a MAF test, you warm up 2 miles, then run 5 miles at your Max Aerobic Heart Rate (for me 148 bpm) and check your mile lap time:

Date 5 miles average pace at max aerobic HR
5/13/13 8:21 min / mile
8/20/13 7:21 min / mile
4/27/14 6:54 min / mile
1/30/15 6:31 min / mile
3/19/15 6:17 min / mile
4/3/15 6:12 min / mile

During my taper I took a Blood Lactate Test for running and it confirmed the heart rate zone I wanted to target during my marathon, in particular the 157-162 zone:

LT (Lactate Threshold) 151 – 156 bpm 8.5 – 8.9 mph
AC (Advanced Conditioning) 157 – 162 bpm 9.0 – 9.6 mph
SST (Steady State Threshold) 163 – 165 bpm 9.7 – 9.8 mph

BLOOD LACTATE TEST FOR RUNNING

Once I go over 162 bpm (even just a few beats) I’ve noticed that my breathing gets heavier and I’m not able to maintain this HR and pace for a longer period of time.

My strategy going into the Boston Marathon

My last 2 races I started too fast and suffered a lot at the end, this was in both my 100 miler and my 1/2 marathon in Amsterdam. For race day, the temperatures were going to be mid forties with a 12mph headwind at the start that picked up to a 21 mph wind at the finish, with high changes of rain. That’s 26.2 miles running against hard wind, definitely tough race conditions.

Here is the race strategy for the Boston marathon I wrote down beforehand:

My plan is to hold back the first 1/2 of the race at 6:15-6:20 min / miles and not go over 156-159HR. I’ll still run the downhills pretty fast because my HR should be pretty low downhill. Then mile 13 – 21 I’ll not go over 160 HR (occasionally up to 165HR on the hills), this will hopefully leave me with enough energy left to finish the last 5 miles strong, with a HR in the 160-170 zone.

RACE RECAP

I qualified for the Boston marathon with a 2:55:05 and was in wave 1, corral 3, the start time was 10am. Here is how it all went down:

I prepared for a crowded start, this was indeed the case, not much I could do about this.

  • Mile 1 = 6:21 min / miles (warm up + people in the way, didn’t want to lose energy on zigzagging)
  • Mile 2 – 13 = had to hold myself back here, averaged about 6:10 min / mile. I ran on effort, not letting my HR go over 160 to keep energy in the tank for later. There was a lot of headwind, so I tried to stick to a pack of runners and never ran on my own in the open. This made a huge difference of 20-30 seconds / mile effort-wise.
  • Mile 13.1 = I ran the first 1/2 marathon in 1:20:59 and was feeling great.
  • Mile 13 – 16 = So many people in the crowd, this helped keep the stoke levels high!
  • Mile 16 = The Boston Hills, this is where the hard work started. I knew there were 4 hills in the next 5 miles, at mile 16, 17.5, 19 and 20. I slowed down the pace up the hills but not more than needed, my Heart Rate monitor was very helpful here so I wouldn’t go over 165 beats per minute. Although my pace slowed down to 6:47 min / mile at mile 21 (Heart Break Hill), it was ok because I had energy left to go fast the following miles.
  • Mile 22 – 25 I had energy left to pick up the pace to around 6:00 – 6:10. My legs started to feel so heavy and I started running out of energy.
  • Mile 25 – finish. My heart rate started to rise to 170+ and I knew I was in the red zone. Early on in mile 25 I started to see stars and bonking was near. I gave it one last push to cross the finish line and my legs pretty much gave out for a few seconds. A medic gave me an arm and walked with me for a bit. I checked my watch and it showed 2:44:15, I was so hyped!

Finish of Boston Marathon

Medal Boston Marathon

Plans moving forward

Back to the trails!! I haven’t run many trails lately and definitely missed that a lot. Running fast on road is a lot of fun, but nothing beats a sunrise run with friends on a remote steep trail like the Santa Monica mountains, San Gabriel mountains or El Morro. In June I’m running up and down Mt Whitney with a few friends.

I’m also going to finish writing my first e-book “how to run a sub 3 hour marathon”.

Learn much more about RUNNING FASTER WITH LESS EFFORT! Many exciting articles in the works, be the first to hear about new posts, giveaways and exclusive content.  

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Related Posts:
• Running a sub 3 hour marathon with a Go Pro
• How I trained to run a sub 3 hour marathon
• How I trained for my first 100 mile run from Long Beach to San Diego

How I trained to run a sub 3 hour marathon

A few years ago I ran my first marathon in 4:11:08 (9:34 / mile pace). On Sunday I ran my second marathon in 2:55:05 (6:40 / mile pace) more than 76 minutes faster. This post is a summary of a few things I’ve learned to become a faster runner from May 2013 to October 2013.

Long Beach Marathon Start Number

NUTRITION BEFORE MAY 2013
Nutrition is really the foundation for performance and recovery. Until May 2013 I had never paid much attention to what I ate or drank. On an average day I’d eat 8 slices of bread, pasta, pizza, rice, potatoes, hamburgers and little bit of veggies. I would also drink coffee, milk, orange juice and beer. My energy levels during the day were all over the place, so I’d drink coffee to get energy and often had some beers at night. I felt tired, fatigue, had low energy and frequent headaches.

NUTRITION AFTER MAY 2013
In May I decided to eat a lot healthier, inspired by Dr Phil Maffetone, Rich Roll and Tim Ferriss. I cut out all refined carbohydrates, no more bread, pasta, pizza, chips. etc. After this I also cut out milk, coffee, alcohol, soda, fruit juices, most fruits, sweets, potatoes and rice.

The reason for me to do this was to change my body metabolism to burn fat instead of glycogen. When you eat refined carbs, your body produces a hormone called insulin, which slows down fat burning. As soon as you get rid of refined carbs, it takes your body 2 meals before it shifts into a high fat burning metabolism. My energy levels increased, I slept much better and didn’t have fatigue headaches anymore, so this happens very quickly.

Nowadays my meals consist of: veggies like spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots etc, salads, tuna, salmon, bacon, chicken, beef, burrito bowls, guacamole, avocados, egg whites, beans, lentils, bananas, nuts, chia seeds, almond milk, coco nut milk, green tea and a lot of water.

Do yourself a favor and take 1-hour to listen to this great Trail Runner Nation Podcast about fat burning and nutrition.

TRAINING
In May 2013 I joined a running coaching and training program in LA called The Coyotes, by Jimmy Dean Freeman and Kate Martini Freeman, both very talented ultra runners. It motivated me a lot to run with a fun group of people and learn from everyone’s experiences. Finding others to run with makes it so much easier to get up at 5am and put your running shoes on. Twice a week I’d run with the Coyotes, then 2 to 3 times a week I’d run with local friends or alone in Long Beach. Here are the miles I ran in the last 5 months: May 160 miles, June 185 miles, July 184 miles, August 228 miles, Sept 297 miles, Oct taper 40 miles. A total of about 1100 miles in 5 months. See more specific run details on my Strava Account. The Nike Run Viking Contest (win a trip to Iceland ) helped push me to run many miles in September.

Running in Canada

HEART RATE MONITOR TRAINING
Want Speed? Slow Down! was another inspiring article for me during my marathon training. I always thought I had to train at a faster pace to become a faster runner. This article mentions the importance of developing the aerobic base first, before attempting hard work. You get faster without the wear, tear and injury using a heart rate monitor as biofeedback device.

In May I purchased a HR Monitor and Garmin 310 XT watch and started training at my maximum aerobic heart rate of 150. To find your max aerobic HR click here. In May I realized to run at this 150 HR, I had to slow down a lot to 8:30 min / miles on the road, and often a pace of 10 to 11 min / miles on trails with hills. It felt much slower than I was used to but I wanted to build a solid aerobic base. In July, after 2 months of running slower, I ran 7:30 min / mile at 150HR. In August, this pace dropped to 7:00 / mile and early October before I ran my marathon this was 6:40 / mile.

The use of a heart rate monitor takes the guess work out of training and helped increase my aerobic speed significantly. In May, June, July and August I only did 1 anaerobic speed work out per week. In September I did 2 anaerobic speed work outs a week.

It was good to know early October going into this marathon that I would be running borderline aerobic, just slightly anaerobic. So I could mostly burn my unlimited supply of body fat vs burning stored glycogen with higher potential of bonking.

Here is an amazing Trail Runner Nation podcast about HR Monitor training that changed my approach to running a lot.

ACCELERATE RECOVERY TIME
Things that helped accelerate my recovery time, relieved muscle pain and soreness, improved muscle strength and increased endurance:

Drinking a lot of water during and directly after long runs

Eating within 30 minutes after finishing a run

Salt and electrolyte pills on 16-20 mile runs during hot summer months

* Ice baths as soon as possible after long runs. Ice baths suppress inflammation and help to flush harmful metabolic debris out of your muscles.

Epsom salt baths to relax your muscles and decrease inflammation

muscle roller to get knots out, to improve circulation and prep muscles for stretching

* Sleeping 7-8 hours a night since most recovery happens in the 7th and 8th hour of sleep. This was the hardest part and didn’t happen much since our daughter was born in March.

THE MARATHON DAY
My trainers Jimmy and Kate told me there are going to be things on race day that are out of your control, and not to let this mess with your head. I felt well prepared going into the race.

My Heart Rate monitor broke the moment I turned it on at the start line and the race was 25 minutes delayed because the course wasn’t ready. I guess those were the things Jimmy and Kate were talking about.

My race plan was simple, run 6:40 min / miles until mile 20, then meet my running buddy and pacer Damien and keep this pace or adjust it if needed. Take a gel every 25 minutes and a salt & electrolyte pill every 50 minutes. The gun went off and after half a mile I looked at my watch and saw 6:28 pace, it felt like I was doing 9:00 due to race excitement. I slowed down and it was pretty easy to keep a consistent pace of 6:38-6:40 until I met my pacer at mile 20. This reason this felt easy was that my heart rate was very low. Even though my HR monitor didn’t work, I estimate it to be 150 to 158.

Long Beach Marathon mile 25

I was stoked to see my pacer at mile 20 and started talking for a bit, he told me to shut up and run to save my energy, good call. At mile 22 I took a gel and salt pill and the pill got stuck in my throat, I coughed and nearly barfed while maintaining a 6:40 pace. At mile 24 my quads started to feel heavier and I made the decision to slow the pace down slightly to avoid possible cramping (and losing 5 minutes in the last 2 miles). I only lost 7 seconds in mile 24 and 11 seconds in mile 25, see detailed Strava breakdown below:

Strava Floris Gierman

At mile 25 another Coyote running buddy Jack totally surprised us and he ran with Damien and I to the finish line at a 6:31 pace. It was an epic feeling running fast with the 3 of us and finishing at an official time of 2:55:05, only 5 seconds off from my projected finish time. Happy to see my wifey and kid around the finish line.

Long Beach Marathon

Long Beach Marathon 2013 medal

Ice bath after running to speed up recovery

I took a 20 minute ice bath after the run and my legs felt totally fine. Next on my horizon is the Avalon 50 mile race on January 11th, 2014. My training plan for the next 3 months will include more trail and hill runs at aerobic pace.
** updated – see my Avalon 50 mile race report here.

Learn much more about RUNNING FASTER WITH LESS EFFORT! Many exciting articles in the works, be the first to hear about new posts, giveaways and exclusive content.  

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