The Road to Boston – Part 3

Hello Everyone – Happy Sunday to you!

Where I am we had two of the most beautiful days we’ve had in a long time. It was warm enough to walk around without a big bulky jacket, the sun was shining and life was just looking and feeling pretty great! You can just tell that everyone is so thrilled the weather is turning nice, I saw more runners outside this weekend then I have in so long, people walking their dogs, taking their kids to the park, biking…spring is definitely in the air!!

I’ve tweaked a muscle in my hamstring during my post-half marathon recovery this week, so I’m kind of nursing that, but I did get in a 5.3km run outside today just to keep my legs moving. My plan is to do a big 25km training run next weekend in preparation for Around the Bay the following week. But I’m trying to forget about that for now.

Today I want to revisit our determined, young Matt, who sporting his mohawk, a new found respect for the 42.2km beast that we call a marathon, and the work ethic of a champion (inspired by Lance Armstrong) was gearing up for his second “real” Boston Marathon qualifying attempt at the Manitoba Marathon in June of 2005.

In case you missed them, you can catch the rest of the Road to Boston series here:

Part 1

Part 2

In his last marathon, Matt had flirted with the dehydration demon, and the main focus of his training plan for his third full marathon was to embody the principle of “hydrate or die”. Before every medium and long run that he went out on, he would first drive out and place water and Gatorade at spaced distances to replicate the water stations he would come across at a race. Feeling that the actual running training he had done before Toronto was enough, he mirrored that training log. As long as everything went as planned, he felt that the Boston Marathon qualifying time was well within his grasp.

The Manitoba Marathon is an early summer race, always held on Father’s day. The timing of the race is kind of funny in that it’s hard to predict exactly what the weather will be like. There is always the risk that it could be the first heat wave of the year. Matt watched the forecast carefully, and the weather network was calling for very warm weather all weekend. His attitude was fairly easy breezy, he wouldn’t worry about it until race day, there was no need to waste energy being concerned with a ‘maybe’. Plus the weatherman is always wrong, right? 😉

At the race expo the University of Manitoba approached Matt and asked him if he would be willing to participate in a test study that they were doing to better understand the effect of marathons on different people’s bodies. Basically, before the race Matt would have to be weighed, have blood taken, and breathe into a tube to take all of his vitals down. He would have to repeat this process after the race and then one hour after that to look at the variance in his vitals, and assess what the marathon had done to his body. Matt agreed right away, and thought that it was a pretty cool opportunity to take a look inside of his body during the most intense physical challenge he had ever encountered.

As race morning dawned, Matt was up early to style his hair into his awesome mohawk. The whole time he was getting ready, he was listening to the song “Its my Life” by Bon Jovi at max volume and getting pumped up for the race. He had made a bet with his dad, who was running his first full marathon. Matt bet $50 that he would beat his dad by at least 30 minutes. His dad (thinking that he would teach this kid a lesson) was eager to take that bet.

With his mohawk in place, it was time to hurry to the starting corrals where the University Study would take place. He finished his pre-race tests with just enough time to get to the start and make his way near the start. With all the excitement he didn’t realize it was over 30 degrees, and he was starting to sweat before the gun went off. Before he could get too worried about the heat, BANG, the gun went off and the runners were off. It was time only to worry about pace, breathing and ‘hydrate or die’.

Matt’s uncle had flown in to see the marathon, as his brother (Matt’s dad) was doing his first marathon. At 10km Matt was on pace and saw his uncle for the first time. Having the support of your friends and family members at a race is like free energy. I know from my own personal experience that when you see somebody you know and they’re cheering for you and smiling and waving, it just gives you that little boost that you so desperately need to keep on going when everything hurts and sitting down on the curb seems like the best idea you’ve heard in a long time. Not long after he had seen his uncle, he saw his mother and little brothers. More free energy. Before he knew it, he was at the half way point of the marathon and still on pace to qualify for Boston.

By this time the 30+ degree heat was starting to get to Matt. As he went through water stops, he remembered all of his training. He would get 2 water cups and one Gatorade cup. The first water cup, he dumped on his head. The second he drank from and then dumped the rest on his legs. He then drank the full cup of Gatorade. It was so hot that as he dumped the water on his head it was uncomfortably hot from his body temperature by the time it reached his shoulders.

Some point after halfway point, he saw his uncle again who reassured him that he was close to pace and to pick it up and keep going. Unfortunately, by this point Matt was starting to slow and people were starting to pass him. After a couple of people passed him, a mean, awful voice in his head reminded him of his previous “failure” in Toronto and that stopping or even walking for that matter was not an option. The next runner that passed Matt, he grabbed onto mentally. He promised himself that under no circumstances was he going to fall more than 5ft behind that guy. Matt never let him go, staying in his shadow for more then 10 kilometres to the finish line. He knew at this point that the qualifying goal time had slipped by, and so he stopped looking at his watch. The new goal was to stay with this guy all the way to the finish line and finish strong.

As they got closer and closer to the finish he could hear the crowd inside the stadium at the University of Manitoba. The roar of the stadium filled Matt up with energy. He was no longer trailing behind his new found friend, he was side by side.

When they hit the track for the final lap of the race, Matt took off. He flew by his friend and raced to the finish to see the clock show 3:20. He finished, never walked and shaved about 40 minutes off of his personal best. The one regret from the day…..was that it turns out that Matt’s father Roy is actually a pretty awesome marathon runner as well, and finished with a time of just over 3:30. Matt lost his bet 😛 When I asked him, he said that he can’t remember if he ever did square up that $50 with his dad. But he said not to post that part, in case his dad ever does read this. Sorry Matt. 😛

After Matt collected himself he searched out the guy that brought him to the finish. He shook his hand and thanked him from the bottom of his heart. Matt’s line was “couldn’t have done it without you, you’re my hero”. He then had to race off to do the post -race study tests.

Matt learned that he had lost 10 pounds over the course of the race, which for him is a large portion of his body weight. Although most of the weight was water, he was totally shocked. To lose 10 pounds over the course of 3 hours was completely unheard of. (Anybody else out there thinking of signing up to run a marathon to drop 10 pounds in 3 hours??????) An hour later, while still drinking water the entire time, Matt had lost even MORE weight. This really just goes to show hot it was that day, and how incredibly critical proper hydration is during a marathon.

In case you’re “sciency”, Matt was actually able to dig up the official pre/post race results for his vital signs at the Manitoba Marathon in 2005. If you take a look at the vitals below, the first number on each line is the “pre” race score, the second is the “post” race score, and the last number is a “normal” score. Some pretty massive variances, it’s quite unbelievable how much his body went through over the span of 3 hours.

Manitoba Marathon Study Results – Matthew Sidders

At this point in Matt’s journey, he was gearing up to go off to University at Lakehead in Thunder Bay. The Boston qualifying dream would have to wait for a the immediate term. He emailed the Lakehead Thunderwolves Track coach and asked if he could run with the track team to keep working towards his goal. Little did he know the impact that his university track days would have on his goal to qualify for Boston, and everything he would learn over the course of the next 2 years. There are more exciting twists and turns still yet to come in the Road to Boston Part 4…..

Have a great week everyone!!

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