Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Who will get to run Boston?

Yesterday the 2011 Boston Marathon opened for registration at 9:00 am and was closed in just over eight hours when the limit of 21,000 applicants was reached. It has never filled up this quickly-- even last year, which was the fastest ever sell-out up to that point, took about two months to fill up.

Boston is the only marathon in North America other than Olympic qualifying marathons that requires runners in general registration to meet qualifying standards. (There are also spots open for charity fund-raising groups, corporate sponsors, and some community-based entries.) Historically the qualifying times were simply about limiting the field, but they have come to mean more than that to people. Qualifying for Boston has become the benchmark of amateur marathon excellence for many people, and many work hard in running and training for a chance to run in this historic marathon. And with the prestige attached to the qualifying times themselves, more and more people have wanted to run it and more and more have qualified. Over the past years as interest in the race increased, the Boston Athletic Association (or BAA, the organization that puts on the Marathon) has opened the race to more runners by starting the race earlier, introducing a two-tiered start, and increasing registration numbers to what some people say is near-limit capacity.

Last year was surprising enough when the 2010 Boston Marathon filled in November 2009, just seven weeks after registration opened. In previous years it had not filled till January or February before the April race. When it filled last year in November, many people who had qualified were surprised and had not had a chance to register. Still others were hoping to qualify in late 2009 or early 2010 races. People who ran qualifying races after September 2009 were eligible to register for 2011., Therefore, a lot of these people were ready early when registration opened yesterday, as were those anxious runners who qualified in races later in 2010 (up to this past Sunday).

The very fast fill-up means that many runners who had hoped for a 2011 spot were shut out, either because they had trouble registering on-line (a computer glitch caused many problems for people early in the day), because they didn't actually believe it would fill up that fast, or because they haven't even run their qualifying race yet.

Although I was not able to register for 2011 (I would have needed a 3:50 marathon time, and my best so far is 4:06), I was keenly interested in watching how the day unfolded yesterday. Most people did expect the race to fill up quickly, yet it is still somewhat shocking how quick it really was. In the months leading into the registration date, there was already a lot of talk about how Boston would have to change the registration process in order to make it more fair for qualified runners.

As quoted in an article in the Boston Globe, Guy Morse, the BAA's executive director said yesterday: "The challenge for the BAA is to find the right mix of field size and qualifying times to allow as many as possible to run. I’m not convinced tightening up the qualifying times alone is the answer. I would like to find a way to allow more qualifiers to enter. That would speak to the field size question, but we don't want to increase the field and reduce the quality of the event in the process. In the way we’ve approached it and the way we’ve set it up, this event remains about quality, not quantity."

I believe that an adjustment of the qualifying standards is inevitable, and we will likely see this happening within the next year. Some people have guessed that when the BAA does adjust the standards, they will set the changes for a future marathon such that those already training for the existing times would not be short-changed. We really don't know what they will do, although I am personally prepared for the possibility that the qualifying time for the F45-49 age group will be harder than the 4:00:59 time I thought I needed for a 2012 entry. We shall see. BlogBooster-The most productive way for mobile blogging. BlogBooster is a multi-service blog editor for iPhone, Android, WebOs and your desktop

Monday, October 18, 2010

Moving forward

It has been a week since the marathon; the disappointment is still there but not so heavy anymore. Although I did not achieve the goal I had worked so hard for, I did finish the training without injury and I feel stronger than ever now. I have thought about what went wrong in the training and in the race, and will be ready to make those changes next for time. I am not ready to commit to when I will try another marathon, but I am starting to think about what next year's racing will look like. But this year is not over yet, and I am looking forward to a few more events in the next couple months.

First: recovery. I have been feeling really good since the race, and think I might have actually gotten this recovery thing right for once. I have felt better this time than I did after my last two half-marathons this year, likely because my mileage leading into those was a lot lower. Last week I took Monday and Tuesday completely off, and was planning on going to the gym for an easy spin on Wednesday. But my legs just wanted to run. I met my friend Mike downtown for our usual Wednesday lunchtime run, and it was great. I did about 6.5K with him at an easy pace. The next day I went to the gym for an easy 3K on the treadmill, followed by lots of stretching and foam-roller work on the back of the legs. I took Friday off, and then went for an easy jog on Saturday on my normal neighborhood loop. It was pretty slow (6:45/km) and by the end my legs felt a bit dead. On Sunday I felt the zip back in my legs and ran at a quicker clip, 10K at about 5:45/km. And today I did 4 miles on the treadmill in 36 minutes, which translates to about 5:30/km.

Next up will be a few short races, as I hope to capitalize a bit on the fitness gains from marathon-training. I will probably do a 10K race on October 31 (well, it's actually 9.5K, but more on that later). On November 6 I will be participating in what has become an annual tradition since 2005: the Haney to Harrison 100K relay. We have a team for this 8-stage event, and my stage is about 13K. I have done the same stage each year, so the race itself has become a bit of a fitness benchmark for me; more importantly it always proves to be a really fun day.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Victoria Marathon Race Report 10-10-10

I had a great race in Victoria on Sunday. It was not the sub-4:00 BQ that I was looking for, but I thoroughly enjoyed it and I am happy to have finished my third marathon. My time of 4:07:13 was within a minute of this same race in 2008 in what would turn out to be a very similar race experience for me.

How did it all happen? The first 30K proceeded as planned, with my split times pretty even throughout. I quickly settled into a nice and relaxed pace of 5:35-5:40/km, a pace that I hoped I would see as an average for the race. For most of first half of the marathon I felt great, maybe just a bit harder than a long training run. There were a few hills on the course, but nothing long enough to get me out of my desired heart rate zone for very long. I enjoyed the running, talking to a few people along the way that had similar goal times to mine, but ended up holding my own pace for most of it. At the half-way point I was still right on pace at 1:59:xx.

I did start to feel like the pace got harder after the half-way point, but I didn't worry too much; after all, it is supposed to feel tougher than a training run, right? But I wasn't sure. Would I be able to hold this? Just after the turnaround between 23 and 24K, I saw my friend Cheryl who was doing her first marathon. She looked strong and fluid, and I knew she was having a good race. She would pass me around 25K, just as I started to get some nasty calf-cramping. OW! I said out loud at one point? “Are you OK?” asked another runner. “Oh, I'm fine, I said. I'm just getting some calf-cramping.” “Change your pace,” he suggested. I tried to change it a bit, and that seemed to help, but I didn't want to fall off my 5:35-ish average on my watch. I kept thinking, just hold this as long as you can. “As long as I can” turned out to be about 35K, although I was already slowing a bit between 30 and 35K, hitting the splits at closer to 5:45-5:55 each time. My friend Rob passed me at one point and was looking great. He tried to pull me along mentally, but I was falling back in pace and energy.

By around the 37K mark I knew I was losing too much time that I would not be able to get back. The calf-cramping had subsided, but my body was not cooperating as I tried to regain my pace and stride. The wheels just simply fell off. It was the wall again, just as I had experienced it the last time on this course. It was very hard to keep pushing on at that point, but I did-- the course goes beautifully along the water here and there were still lots of spectators. One woman was cheering loudly and then said, "Wow, look at the smiles!" when I passed. Yes, I was still smiling- enjoying the experience, pain and all. I was enjoying participating in a great race and pushing my body to the limit, even if that limit had come earlier than I expected.

The last 5K brought us along a gorgeous stretch of waterfront and then right by our hotel along the point at around 40K. All I could manage was a painful run/walk shuffle, and I was jokingly thinking that it was a good thing I didn't have my hotel key card. In reality with less than a kilometre to go I knew I would jog it in over the finish line. My husband was there to cheer me in; my kids had missed me as they had walked back a bit, but saw me after the finishing chute. The clock said 4:08:04, and chip time was 4:07:13, so just a little slower than an almost identical race in 2008.

So the sub-4:00 Boston qualifier remains elusive, the goal is still there when I am ready to try this all again. I am not sure when that will be, but I will be planning and reassessing as I let my body recover in the next couple weeks. I will admit to some being somewhat disappointed, but not about the race itself; only that I overestimated my fitness improvement and misjudged how much more training I will need to break through the wall after the 30K mark.

Thanks again to everyone for their endless support and encouragement. There are too many of you to list here, but I was so impressed with the outpouring of comments here, on Facebook and elsewhere in the days before and after the race. Thanks especially to Pat, my coach and friend, and to my good friend Greg who has been with me on my journey since before my first marathon. I know you all will be with me as I continue to move forward.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Victoria Marathon- Brief Update

Today I finished my third marathon in Victoria, BC. I was trying for a time of 4:00 for a BQ, but it was not to be; I finished in a time of 4:07, so just over the time of my second marathon. In short, I had some bad calf cramping issues starting at around 25k, but was still able to hold onto my pace till about 35k-- and then the wheels fell off.

I can't say I'm not disappointed, but I'm still very happy to have finished. Any day I can finish 42.2k is a good day. I really enjoyed the whole experience; I talked to some great people out there on the course, and learned a lot about myself.

I will write a full report and post it Tuesday. Thanks to all my good friends, family, and new on-line friends for your endless support and encouragement. I can't begin to tell you how much it means to me.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The "Inner Game" (from Chris Russell)

One of the podcasts I enjoy is RunRunLive by Chris Russell. Chris is a great writer and runner, and often he is able to articulate my feelings about running better than I ever could.

This week Chris talked about the "inner game" in racing. I thought I would share some of his words here:

"I know lots of you have big events coming up. I’m not going to lecture on Taper-Madness or tell you what equipment to lay out the night before your race. As is my want, I am going to ask you to think about your inner game.

If you have made it this far you have done your training. Whether that training was good and sufficient is no longer important. You have what you have. The last couple weeks before an event, if you have trained well just relax; if you haven’t, it’s too late so relax.

There are no special foods, no special potions, no special clothes that are going to make any difference now. Just avoid any kind of cramming activity. Don’t swill fluids and eat pasta to excess. There is very little you can control there, but you can control your inner game.

Many of you first-timers and those of you who have trained these many long weeks will have a huge emotional investment in this event. I’m going to ask you to set that aside. I’m going to ask you to practice emotional detachment. You need to save your emotional energy for the race and not burn it all up in the taper.

Repeat after me:
'I have done my training. There is nothing else I can do to prepare for this race except relax my body and soul in preparation of a glorious effort.'
'I have prepared. I am committed to show up at the start and perform to the best of my ability on race day when the gun goes off. So, now I give myself permission to relax.'
'I will sleep deeply in the strength of my training feeling like a coiled spring. I am sanguine, calm, untroubled, comfortable, stress-free, unperturbed, peaceful, undisturbed and tranquil.'

Now go forth and own that race."

You can download the podcast (Episode 140) from iTunes. Read more about Chris's RunRunLive community and podcast on his website at www.runrunlive.com.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Race day is almost here

There are only a few days till the Victoria Marathon on 10-10-10, and I am definitely ready. My training is done; only a few more short taper runs and I will be ready to go on Sunday. I am nervous and excited to do this and to see what race day brings me. I am not fretting about the weather or the conditions, and I am not even worried about my pace. I know I can do this.

My plan is to stick to the 5:30-5:35/km pace as closely as possible for my sub-4:00 goal time, which I know I can do for at least the first 30K as I did in my last marathon. If my training has worked, I will be able to keep going without hitting the wall. Simple, isn't it? Yes, but I am not so delusional to think the last 12K will be easy.

You can actually follow my splits in real time on the raceheadquarters.com website. This is a first for Victoria Marathon; they will be updating from timing mats on the course at the 10K, 21.1K, 30K, and finish line marks. My bib number is 2577 if you care to follow me. Or watch this space for a quick update and full race report later on.