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Posts Tagged ‘BQ’

My eyes are welling with tears as I write this post. You see, today marks five years to the day since I started running and tracking my progress on MapMyRun. You can see my first entry here:

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Does a three-mile-per-hour pace count as a run? You bet it does when you’re pushing a 2.5-year-old in a jogging stroller over 180 feet in elevation gain for your first run in five years! I’m just as proud of that first mile in 20:23 as the mile I raced in 6:34 a few years later! I had made a decision that I wanted to be “fit at 40” after having the last of my three children. I was on the higher end of a healthy weight and I felt I could stand to lose about 10 pounds. So I got out there for nine runs that first March and logged a total of 24.9 miles.

I quickly got hooked on running and the sense of accomplishment that comes with every workout. My confidence grew over the summer and I added biking and swimming into the mix. Eight months after that first run, I took on my first sprint triathlon at SheROX San Diego in November 2011. And heck, that went so well, I took on an Olympic distance triathlon at HITS Palm Springs the next month! Fast forward through my first half marathon at the OC Half Marathon in May 2012 to my first full marathon at the Santa Barbara International Marathon in November 2012. Somehow in just 18 months I’d gone from 1.67 miles at a 20:23 pace to 26.2 miles at a 9:16 pace (4:02:39.5 for those trying to do the math). And that was at age 41 no less. Proof that you’re never too old to start running or challenging yourself with big goals. Five marathons later if you ask me which is my favorite marathon, I’ll say Santa Barbara, not because it was the easiest course (it wasn’t — my goodness I still remember that hill at mile 23) but because I ran that whole race with such joy and appreciation for what my body could do.

The next several races I chased a Boston Qualifying time, a sub-3:45 for Women 40-44.

Mountains2Beach Marathon, May 2013, age 41, 3:58:29 (race recap)

Long Beach Marathon, October 2013 age 42, 3:52:42 (race recap)

and finally my first BQ at Santa Rosa, August 2014, age 42, 3:44:26 (race recap). Then came the crushing news that a BQ minus 34 seconds was actually not fast enough to meet the registration cutoff for Boston 2015. So I set my sights on the Phoenix Marathon in February 2015 and came in at my current PR time of 3:36:58 (race recap), a BQ minus 8:02 at age 43 for Boston 2016. I tried to top that time at REVEL Canyon City in November 2015 and came in a little slower at 3:39:08 at age 44 on what I now consider a difficult downhill course (race recap). Fortunately there’s a benefit to the Boston Marathon qualifying math, and at age 44 I had bumped up to the 45-49 age group for Boston 2017 with a 3:55 qualifying standard, so that time was a BQ minus 15:52.

Now with just six weeks to go until my first Boston Marathon race on April 18, 2016, I’m savoring the opportunity to race on such hallowed ground. I’m training hard so that I have a good race, but I’m in this one for the experience, not the time on the clock. So I’ve been reading everything I can get my hands on about this historic race. On my bookshelf right now:

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I’m loving Marathon Woman by Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run Boston with an official bib and a major player in the push to get the women’s marathon into the Olympics in 1984. (Such a #runnerd, I’m tearing up again thinking about it!) Let’s all just take a moment, man or woman, to thank those before us who have helped advance the sport of running. And of course, one of those people is Boston Marathon director Dave McGillivray, author of The Last Pick. I’ve listened to him speak on a few podcasts and found his stories to be very inspiring, so I can hardly wait to read his book.

The next two on the list are The Boston Marathon: A Century of Blood, Sweat, and Cheers and 26.2 Miles to Boston: A Journey Into The Heart Of The Boston Marathon.

Any other books you suggest as recommended reading about the Boston Marathon? Have you run the race before? Tell me about it! And feel free to link to any blog posts or race recaps of yours or anyone else’s that you think we all might enjoy reading.

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I ran the REVEL Canyon City Marathon this morning and while I didn’t PR in the full, I clocked a PR in the half if you count my chip time at the 13.1 mark (which I don’t, but for the record it was 1:37:19 compared to my actual half marathon PR at the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon last year — 1:41:58). I took a gamble on letting my legs fly on the 4,000 feet of elevation loss in the first half, and it didn’t pay off. On my 20-mile training run on the course I didn’t get sore muscles when I ran at a 9:00 pace, but when I ran the first half of the race at a 7:25 I could feel it in my calves. My quads were fine, but my calves started feeling sore by the half marathon point and got more and more sore as the race progressed. I also developed a quarter-sized blister on the ball of my left foot. That’s never happened to me before in these shoes and socks, so I was surprised, but in retrospect I think the downhill running contributed to that and I wish I’d used some Glide on the bottom of my feet.

By the next checkpoint at mile 23.1 my time was 3:09:00, still on track to beat my PR of 3:36:58 from the Phoenix Marathon if I kept up the 9:10 pace I had run for those previous 10 miles. But my pace dropped to 9:43 for the last 5K of the race and I finished in 3:39:08. The good news? That is a Boston Qualifying time for me for Boston 2017 by 15 minutes and 52 seconds! While I am 44 years old today, I will be 45 for Boston 2017 and that puts my qualifying time standard at 3:55. So I’m thrilled overall!

By the numbers:

Chip time: 3:39:08
Pace: 8:21
Overall place: 293rd of 1199 finishers (top 25%)
Overall female: 85th of 536 finishers (16%)
Females 40-44 age group: 12th of 109 (11%)

I’ll be back later with a more comprehensive race recap. Right now I’m busy icing my calves and contemplating pizza for dinner!

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When I started running four years ago, I followed a fairly natural progression. At first I trained for a sprint triathlon. I enjoyed all three disciplines of swimming, biking, and running. While I continued to train for triathlons, I also ran a stand-alone 5K, an 8K, a 10K and a half marathon over the course of the next year. Once I had trained up for the half marathon and liked it, I figured if I was ever going to run a marathon, that would be the time to do it. Five months later I ran my first marathon and was hooked. And so began three solid years of marathon training:

4:02:39 at the Santa Barbara International Marathon – Fall 2012
3:57:29 at the Mountains2Beach Marathon – Spring 2013
3:52:42 at the Long Beach Marathon – Fall 2013
3:44:26 at the Santa Rosa Marathon – Summer 2014 (BQ minus 34 seconds)
3:36:58 at the Phoenix Marathon – Winter 2015 (BQ minus 8:02)

Those last two races took a tremendous amount of physical and mental energy as I raced to qualify for Boston. When my qualifying time at Santa Rosa did not meet the cutoff to register for Boston 2015, I felt a huge sense of disappointment. I dedicated myself to training for the Phoenix Marathon six months later. It took an incredible amount of focus and commitment to finish that race strong and not give up on qualifying with several minutes to spare. I accomplished that goal, and yet I felt an odd sense of letdown. I think I burned out on training 10-11 hours a week with three runs (a 4-5 mile speed workout, an 8-mile tempo run, and a long run) and two bike rides (20-30 miles each) and strength training (40-60 minutes per week). The training worked, but it left me ready to take an extended break from regimented training.

So, I took the month of March off formal training. I went skiing with my family at Whistler (where I still took advantage of the trails to get a few runs in) and I engaged in marathon housecleaning sessions rather than marathon training sessions.

Rest is great, and there’s lots of research that says muscle memory and endurance make it easier for you to get fit again after a break than it was the first time you got fit. However, I have to say that it took me a good two months of regular training before I felt back on track again, so to speak. I held off signing up for my next race because I just wasn’t sure it was worth putting myself out there. Finally I decided I was just being chicken and I signed up for the Downtown Anaheim 5K a week from tomorrow.

After that, I will start training for my sixth full marathon, the REVEL Canyon City Full Marathon on November 7, 2015. I had such a fantastic run at the REVEL Canyon City Half Marathon in 2014 that I couldn’t resist putting the full on my calendar this year. The challenge now is to train for the net -5,134 feet of downhill on the full marathon course. I take that very seriously and I plan to do at least a couple of long runs on the course to make sure I can handle the pounding on my quads on race day.

What’s up next for you? Have you ever taken a break from running? Do you like to have a training plan in place or do you enjoy the flexibility of some time off from formal training?

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Trust me when I say that I’m not sitting here feeling sorry for myself, but you better believe I feel tremendously disappointed that my Boston qualifying time of 3:44:26 did not gain me entry into the 2015 Boston Marathon. That honor belongs to people who qualified by the qualifying standard minus 1:02 or faster, not people like me who qualified by -0:34. I had an inkling this would happen, but I had no idea how disappointed I would feel when I didn’t gain entry. Let’s just say I’ve shed a few tears and leave it at that. I had hopes that the BAA would be generous in light of the success of the race last year with such a large field, and it would expand the field to let all qualifiers in this year. No such luck. I am one of the 1,947 time qualifiers who won’t gain entry based on marathon performance.

That leaves me thinking about what to do next. I feel lost without a race on the calendar. I’m not that excited about racing again but I know it does me good to have a goal on the horizon. I might run the half at Canyon City in November and/or the full at Surf City in February or LA in March. But this idea of chasing a Boston qualifying time has lost most of its luster. I’ve worked a full two years toward that goal. To qualify and then not get in feels like someone told me I could have a cookie if I ate my peas, and I ate my peas but I didn’t get the cookie.

Have you run Surf City or LA? Any recommendations?

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Have you been following the news? I don’t mean the ISIS crisis or whether Scotland will vote for independence. I mean The Boston Marathon registration news.

The latest from the Boston Athletic Association (BAA):

Registration for qualifiers has closed…. Due to the amount of submissions received during this period from all time qualifiers, registration will remain closed and will not reopen on a later date. All of these individuals who submitted an application for entry will receive notification by the middle of next week.

That means that the BAA received at least 8,000 applications in this final week of registration and it is possible that some qualifiers will not get in. Last year the cutoff was qualifying time minus one minute 38 seconds. It is hard to make predictions for this year because of the exceptionally high interest last year and the larger overall field that year, but it is clear that my -0:34 is cutting it extremely close either way. I have a slight bit of hope that the BAA will be generous and end up letting everyone in (in light of the success of the race last year with an even larger field). Really there is no use in speculating. I just need to keep my fingers and toes crossed and I’ll know for sure by Wednesday, September 24!

In the meantime I’m distracting myself with a little 200-mile relay race this weekend with the Ragnaritas!

Design by teammate Sara Aroz and photo stolen from teammate Renee Christensen!

Design by teammate Sara Aroz and photo stolen from teammate Renee Christensen!

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This morning I submitted my application for acceptance into the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Boston Marathon application

As you might know, priority is given to the runners who qualified with the most time to spare: those who met the qualifying standard by age and gender by 20 minutes or more, then 10 minutes or more, then 5 minutes or more. The Boston Athletic Association posted an update this morning after registration closed for those fastest qualifiers last week:

Approximately 16,000 application submissions from the fastest among all qualifiers were submitted during the first week of registration (September 8-13). At the conclusion of the next phase of registration, the B.A.A. will accept up to 8,000 additional qualifiers.

So today the field opened up for 8,000 additional qualifiers from the group of runners like me who met the qualifying standard by age and gender by less than five minutes. However, these entries are not accepted on a first-come, first-served basis; priority is given among these entries for those who qualified by the largest margin (meaning that someone who qualified with 35 seconds to spare gets priority over me and my 34 precious seconds). Registration remains open for this group through Wednesday September 17 at 5 p.m. ET. (and then re-opens later to all qualifiers if spots still remain.)

Now the waiting begins. The email confirmation of my application stated that acceptances for this latest group of entries will be sent out in October, although I suspect we might hear sooner than that. I think chances are good that all of us “squeakers” will get accepted, but I’m not considering it a done deal by any means.

In the meantime I am taking time to celebrate my marathon finish time, 3:44:26, whether or not it is fast enough to get me accepted into the 2015 Boston Marathon. I realized that in my stupor in the days after the race I didn’t even acknowledge the fact that 3:44:26 is a personal record for me by 8 minutes and 16 seconds! That is pretty significant, even if it only boils down to 18-19 seconds faster per mile over the 26.2 miles. For someone like me who did not start running until she was staring down 40 years of age, and was 4 days shy of 43 years of age on race day, it’s a big deal to run 26.2 miles at 7 miles per hour. Even now, after having gone the distance at that pace, I can hardly even imagine setting the treadmill for 7.0 and running for 3 hours and 44 minutes and change. You know, the other day I was talking to a friend who is training for his first full marathon coming up this October in Long Beach. He said he finally understood the appeal of marathon running: the amazing sense of satisfaction you can achieve by challenging yourself to do something you couldn’t have done a year ago or even a month ago. It’s definitely worth celebrating.

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“To B(Q) or not to B(Q)?” That is the question. If you’ve been reading along you already know the answer. If you’re playing catch-up with my Santa Rosa Marathon recap, here is Part 1 – Race Morning and Part 2 – the First Half.

When I reached the half marathon mark, I did a quick assessment. On track according to the pace band? Check. Body feeling okay? Check. My left hamstring had been mildly complaining at me for miles 1-10 but it miraculously loosened up and it felt good by the half. Breathing okay? Check. While it was definitely getting harder to maintain the 8:25-ish pace, I felt good overall, better than I had at the halfway mark at Mountains2Beach or Long Beach. I was really relieved that the mild cold I had caught from my kids the week before didn’t seem to be bothering my lungs at all. I had a bit of a runny nose but don’t we all while running?

At every mile mark throughout the race I did a check on my posture and running form. When I start to get tired, I’m terribly prone to hunching my shoulders, clenching my fists, and jutting out my chin. I made sure to relax my shoulders back and down, release my fists by pretending I was lightly holding a potato chip under each thumb, and draw in my chin (“shutting the drawer” as Coach Stephanie would say). I also made sure I was utilizing my core, tightening those muscles to help power my legs. This training cycle I really worked a lot on core strength and I could tell it made a difference. In the Long Beach Marathon, right around mile 17, there was a female spectator who was obviously an experienced marathoner. As I struggled on the relatively minor hills through the Cal State Long Beach campus, she called encouragement to me to use my core and run strong. That had stuck with me this whole time, nearly a year later!

Miles 14 to 16 (8:25, 8:28, 8:24)

As I ran mile 14, I started giving myself a pep talk. The mental game definitely began at that point. I knew I was on target to BQ if I could stick to my race plan. I told myself to prove each mile that I could do it. Just run 8:25 for the next mile. Prove it. Each mile felt like a huge success. At the same time, I started to break down the race into pie pieces. You’re halfway done. You’re two-thirds done. You’re three-quarters of the way. Don’t give it up now!

Somewhere around mile 15 I passed the 3:45 pacer, who still had a crowd of 10-15 runners clustered around him. Remember, I was targeting an 8:25 pace at this point and he was probably running a more even 8:30-8:35 throughout the race. So while I’d always had him in my sights, I finally passed him at that point. That gave me a boost of confidence and I knew as long as I stayed ahead of him I had a nice cushion on that 3:45 time (foreshadowing, much?)

Miles 17 to 19 (8:28, 8:24, 8:32)

There were times when I believed I could do it — I could maintain pace and BQ — and times when I did not know how I was going to keep up that pace. It got harder and harder each mile, especially during the ones that I stopped to walk through an aid station to gulp down some Gatorade and then I had to pick up the pace again to bring my average back down to 8:25. I knew though that if I didn’t keep up my fuel intake I would bonk at mile 18, 19 or 20 as I had in other races. I was super happy to see that 8:24 pace on mile 18, because it meant I hadn’t hit the wall and I could still run strong.

What surprised me is that my quadriceps started getting sore. Not cramping up or anything, but definitely getting sore, which is unusual for me during a run. Sure I get sore after, but during? Clearly I was putting in a lot of effort to maintain pace. That’s when I really had to dig deep. I started drawing on all the good wishes from friends near and far:

Your legs are more than ready. Your heart will do the rest. (Andrea)

You’ve put in all the hard work, now you get to enjoy the race! (Jen – Running Moves Me)

You have worked hard and … you will get to see your hard work pay off! (Kim – Day with KT)

Sending cheers and cowbells down the coast. (Geli – Run Oregon Blog)

I know you can do it! Sending you energy and good vibes! (Angie – Maybe Marathoner)

I know you have it in you. Stay strong and push through! (Sandy – Boston Bound Brunette)

It sounds cheesy to say so but I thought about all the people who believed in me, perhaps even more than I believed in myself! They boosted me up and motivated me to run as hard as I could. I knew my family and friends would be tracking me using the RaceTec Live Tracker (finally, a live tracker that actually worked!) and I wanted to reassure them that I was hitting my time goals and I was where I was supposed to be at miles 8.23, 13.1, 20.2 and the finish. I know I ended up worrying people a bit because the tracker showed gun time and not chip time (which was about 1:03 faster), so the closer I got to the finish, the less clear it was that I was going to make it. Either way it was going to be a “squeaker” for sure. Who knew the sport of marathon racing could be so exciting?!

Miles 20 to 22 (8:27, 8:33, 8:44)

I had told myself before the race that if I got to mile 20 and was feeling good, I should try to pick up the pace. My legs were quite sore by that point and they certainly did not want any part of picking up the pace! My calves started threatening to tighten up too. I concentrated on staying loose with a quick foot turnover, as fast as my mind could force my legs to go! I developed a new mantra, one that convinced me to keep running my hardest no matter how improbable a 3:45 seemed at that point:

It wouldn’t be Boston if it were easy.

It wouldn’t be Boston if it were easy.

It wouldn’t be Boston if it were easy.

Meaning, I shouldn’t get discouraged if I was struggling to qualify for the Boston Marathon. Of course I was struggling! If I weren’t struggling it would mean that I wasn’t putting in my absolute best effort. So I just kept repeating:

It wouldn’t be Boston if it were easy. Leave it all out on the course! Don’t give it away now!

By that point in the race the full marathon course had joined back up with the half marathon course on the greenway. Frankly, that was a little frustrating and discouraging. I do not mean to criticize this race or the half marathoners at all — this happens at a lot of races where the two courses converge at the end. Personally, I find it very hard to face the wall of half and full marathoners, many of whom are struggling at that point in the race (just like I have in other races). There were lots of walkers and slower runners. They weren’t blocking the path, but they messed with my perception of how fast I was going. I thought I was booking it (and it certainly felt like I was putting out a tremendous effort) when my pace did not always reflect that. I had to fight for every second, and remind myself to go by my watch, run my own race, and not key into anyone else’s pace (more foreshadowing).

Miles 23 to 25 (8:40, 8:48, 8:22?)

There was one person’s pace I needed to key into though: the 3:45 pacer, who snuck up behind me at mile 23. The sight of him really put the fear into me! I might not make it! By then, he did not have a single runner keeping pace with him. All those runners who had hung tight with him in the early miles had faded away, and I despaired as I watched him pull away from me, too. I literally gritted my teeth and determined to keep him in my sights. I went back to my old mantra: Prove it. Each mile, prove that you can hang in behind him. Don’t let go! I knew that I had a little bit of a cushion because he’d crossed the starting line before me, but I also knew that it was only a matter of seconds, not minutes. Precious seconds.

At some point during every race, usually in the last mile or so, I realize I’m not actually going to collapse and die right there on the course and I can afford to put on a kick with every last bit of reserves I have in me. I don’t know if that 8:22 split is accurate for mile 25 or not, because I kept hitting the wrong button on my new Garmin — hitting “stop” when I wanted to switch to the next screen to see the TIME/DISTANCE readout rather than my usual PACE/DISTANCE readout. Once that happened a second time I told myself to stop messing around and JUST RUN! At that point I was either going to make it or I wasn’t and I just needed to run as absolutely fast as I could without looking at my watch anymore.

Mile 26 and the last 0.2 — well, 0.36 by my Garmin (9:04, 8:23)

The course hit the streets of Santa Rosa again and I knew I was getting close to the end. I told myself what I always tell myself at that point in a race:

The faster you run, the faster it will all be over.

I was never so happy to see the finish line before in my life! Except the finish line gun time clock also came into focus, and I saw it said 3:45:XX! I knew then that I would have to run my heart out and hope for the best. I heard the finish line announcer call my name and that gave me one last surge of energy to cross the timing mat. I crossed it, and I didn’t even smile. No arms up in the air in victory like I had pictured when I envisioned getting a Boston Qualifying time. No sobbing of happy tears. I was completely and utterly spent, like a big balloon that had started the day all inflated and happy and had slowly leaked air until it lay like an empty, limp shell on the ground. I must have looked stunned because the guy handing out medals asked me if I was okay. I nodded numbly, accepted my medal, and glanced down to check my Garmin. 3:44:25. I had done it. I had qualified for Boston. My official chip time was 3:44:26. I had 34 seconds to spare. Precious seconds.

Looking back, I realize that at the time I didn’t quite believe that I had pulled it off, that I had really gotten the BQ I had been training for ever since I ran my first marathon in 4:02 nearly two years before that. I felt like someone would come up and tell me it was a mistake, that I hadn’t really qualified, and they’d take it away. Partly too it was that I knew that if I let myself believe it, I really might start to sob right there at the finish line. Slowly throughout the rest of that day, I let it start to sink in, and eventually I wanted to tell anyone and everyone who asked: “I qualified for Boston! Finally! Fourth full marathon, first BQ!”

So now you know all the crazy thoughts that go through my head before, during and after a race. When you run 26.2 miles, you spend a lot of time in your head and it’s always interesting to see what thoughts go through it and what you end up taking away from the experience. This time I took away a sincere gratitude for all the encouragement and support I had received during training and during the race.

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