Qualifying for Boston

We took a big group of Coach Karen’s athletes over to Louisiana to run the marathon and half marathon. Three of us were trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon – I had qualified (and ran) the Boston marathon back in my 30s but got it in my head three years ago that I wanted to shoot for going under the BQ qualifying standard by more than 15 minutes.

As a grandmaster (51) I needed a sub 4 hour. I came close three times while trying to achieve this target – once at the Eugene Marathon – but a hamstring injury and foolishly going out a little fast (I know better) resulted in a 3:47. A year later in Boston, I ran a 3:50, not bad for Boston, but the warmish weather prevented me from running any faster. So finally I decided to key on the Louisiana Marathon. I had run the half the previous year as a training race in preparation for Boston that spring but also to support one of my athletes, Amy Stoyles who was trying to qualify for Boston for the first time – she did – with a 3:34.

The morning was cool, but a bit humid. I had my usual cinnamon raisin bagel with peanut butter and a banana and coffee. I was relaxed and excited. I had been working really hard on the mental aspects of racing and I had studied the race course – deciding where to take my gels and salt tabs. I had run the last 3 miles of the course so I had a clear picture of where I was and what I had left to run when I was really tired in those final miles of the marathon. Lindsey, one of my athletes, and the Lululemon showroom manager in Destin Florida, was downstairs and looked a little nervous, so I told her we would jog up to the start as our warmup, check out the starting line and then jog back and do our final preparation before heading out to line up.

Once outside, we started jogging slowly warming up in the darkness following the road that ran along the river carefully watching for pot holes on the road…once we saw the actual start line, we felt better – we got excited, but we both relaxed a little more and jogged back to the hotel. The others were there, including Ron Brahnam who was going to run the marathon as well. At the start, I felt good, relaxed and excited. I took a half a pack of my Power Gel chews with some water and lined up with the pacer. My pacer was pretty good. It turned out he was subbing for the original pacer of the 3:45 group who was sick. He didn’t seem all that excited, but he was a good pacer and gave good cues, to relax our shoulders, run the tangents and pay attention to fueling and drinking water as it was a warmish day for a marathon.

I had my usual low point around mile 14-15 when I thought I was feeling worse that I ought to at this point. I remember thinking I have about another 12 miles to go and wondered whether I could hold this pace – legs were a little tired…I remembered how in the marathon you go in and out of feeling bad – a particular bad spot may not last very long – I took my Power gel with 50 mg of caffeine…after about 10 minutes I felt a bit better and we were turning into the neighborhoods. I ran okay until about 18 when I decided to finally listen to a little music…as soon as I out my headphones in, I noticed there was some discussion from our group about our pacer – I looked around and couldn’t see him. I asked another runner what happened, he said that the pacer felt sick and was out. So I looked at another runner, a marine, and told him (he was carrying the pace sign) that if he kept total time and compared it to the mile markers (GPS watches are almost always off), I would stick with him.

We ran through mile 23 and my legs had never felt so good at his point in the marathon. I attributed this to the high volume plan I had followed – getting up to 55 miles per week at times – which is high volume for me. Even with this high volume, my longest run was only 19 miles.

I told him we were going to get it and with about 2 miles left I started to increase my pace to 8:10-8:15. I felt light as a feather. I saw my friends on the side of the road cheering me in. Lindsey ran a personal record 3:28 and easily qualified for Boston. Ron had a good race and went on to qualify for Boston at the Albany Marathon six weeks later with a sub 3:30.

The four things I attribute to my success in this marathon are: 1) the high base I was able to achieve, 2) I ran my easy days easy, 3) I performed my functional strength work 2-3 per week focusing on the hips and hamstrings (my two week areas) and, 4) the kind of quality tempo running I did that made marathon pace feel manageable and plenty of long marathon pace runs…

Next Up Albany! So right after the Louisiana marathon I went on an easy 8 mile run with one of my athletes, Gina Spease.

Gina in 1 1/2 years went from never doing a marathon, to a 4:50 marathon to a 4:20. She decided after her last marathon that she could have run faster – had she not been sick. We talked and decided she should go for another marathon – and we quickly decided that the Albany marathon would be a good one as it gave her enough time to recover off her previous marathon and re-build and taper for Albany. I decided to try something a little different and gave her a bigger base with lots of easy running, but also include longish tempo runs around 8:15-8:25 pace so 9 pace would feel manageable. I also gave her long runs that were close to marathon pace – the fastest ones around 30 seconds slower than MP.

Gina – responded really well to the training – she missed a few long runs that worried me. At one point in her training she wanted to race a 15k. I dropped all her speed/tempo runs for the week and she ran the 15k as a huge PR. Her 15K race pace was practically the pace she ran her first 5k field test with me 1 1/2 years ago! The 15k predicted a 3:50 marathon which cheered me – because race calculators typically overestimate marathon finish times.

Gina did awesome and nailed a 4 hour marathon no problem… with me running by her side only six weeks after Louisiana. Now, I think it’s time for some much deserved rest. J