Wieringa Wins 70-74 Age Group at Boston

04/28/2017 - 11:40

top photo.jpg(Editor’s note: Albert Wieringa of St. Petersburg, FL, began running at age 56. This was his 23rd marathon and his sixth Boston Marathon. He also plans to run the New York City Marathon. Of more than 100 Tampa Bay runners at Boston, he and Joe Burgasser were the oldest. We asked Wieringa, an endurance coach, for a report on his race.)

By Albert Wieringa

Turning 70 last year I decided to give the Boston marathon one more shot. Being the baby in the new age group I could try to place in the top 3 of the ‘Dinosaur-Division.’ I followed the same strategy as five years ago, when — at age 65 — I was also the baby in the group and finished first.

To qualify for 2017, I ran the 2016 Illinois marathon in Champaign. It was cold, windy and rainy. Finished in 3:16:57 and was accepted (qualifying time for 70/74 at Boston is 4:20:00)

Training started in mid-December and I averaged 79 miles per week, with two top-weeks of 100+ miles, to build up a big ‘Running engine’ like a big V8 in a car. Also did a lot of races. Since I’m a lousy guy at tempo runs I usually ‘race’ myself into shape. Four 5k’s three 10k’s one 15k and two half marathons later I thought I was ready.

The Million Dollar question, however, was at which pace I should run. Getting older means, unfortunately, getting slower. Also, since it’s a tough, hilly and crowded course, I added about 4 or 5 minutes to my ‘normal’ marathon time. Averaged 3:22 at a Yasso-800 track time-trial, so depending on the weather anything between 3:23 and 3:26 might be the possible target.

Boston is a very well organized marathon. They have everything under control. Everything except one thing: the WEATHER. It can be anything that time of the year, from super cold to super-hot. Two days before the race weather forecast was 62 degrees and a huge 17-mile-per-hour tailwind from the NW. Perfect conditions to run a super fast race! Time for my fastest shoes that I had raced in before at a 10k. One day before the marathon predicted temperatures had gone up to 68F but still that fierce tailwind. Being from Florida and more heat-proof I decided to stick with the fast shoes and see how things would go, which turned out to be a big mistake (the shoes).

Race-morning temps in the shade had gone up to 70 degrees. But Boston has no shade. Trees are still bald and the sun is beaming merciless from start to finish on your right side. I was wearing a temperature sensor on my left shoe and it measured 77.4 degrees Fahrenheit average!

The fierce tailwind turned out to be just a calm little breeze and there was not a cloud in the sky. I decided to do the same thing as 2012 (80 at start and 86 at finish) and throw water over my head and shoulders and keep drinking Gatorade as much as possible. It worked well until mile 24, when my left leg started cramping up. Calves were screaming and I could not lift my legs very well anymore. Even stumbled and almost fell a few times. Also, leaning more and more forward, which made things worse.

12042017SP01.jpgStopped a couple of times to stretch hamstrings and jog backwards in order to release the tension at the back of my legs (caused by the wrong shoes, that are perfect for a fast 7-minute pace but wrong for 7:40 pace). Lost a total of about 5, maybe 6, minutes in the last 2.5 miles because of the walking breaks. “There goes my plan to be in the top 3” went through my head.

During the last miles and after the finish line I saw many many casualties -- passed out runners lying on the road, on stretchers, vomiting, also runners slowly zigzagging. I had never seen that before.

Glad I made it just under 3:30 at 7:59 pace. Could not believe my eyes when I switched on my cell phone and found out I had won the 70-74 age group (138 finishers).

Together with Coach Joe Burgasser (78), also from St. Petersburg, we were the two oldest runners from the Tampa Bay (total of 112 went to Boston) but certainly not the slowest. Joe, finished sixth in the 75-79 division (39 runners) in 4:19:51.

Top photo: Albert Wieringa won the 70-74 age group at Boston.

Bottom photo: Albert Wieringa (left) and Joe Burgasser were oldest runners from Tampa Bay.

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