Monday, March 28, 2011

Who will get to run Boston, Part 3

A few months ago I posted that changes to the Boston Marathon registration and/or qualification process would be announced some time in early 2011.

On February 19, The BAA announced that effective for the 2013 Boston Marathon, qualifying times would be lowered by 5 minutes in each age-group category. For the 2012 Boston Marathon, qualifying times will remain the same as before, but some changes will be made in the registration process. Those with faster times within each age group category will be able to register sooner, thus making running time and not computer access time the limiting factor in whether one can get in. This graduated registration process will continue in 2013 and beyond.

What does this mean for me? First of all, it means that even if I had just made my sub-4:00 marathon time in October, likely would not have been good enough for a 2012 Boston entry. Unfortunately I do know some people who have qualifying times from fall marathons, but now might not be able to get in for 2012. Although I think the new system is a fair way of adressing the registration overload problems they had this past fall, it seems a bit unfair to those who thought they had qualified under the old rules before February 19. But the BAA never made any promises that those times would be good enough for 2012; people had made assumptions based on what had been done in previous years.

On a practical level for me, the new registration system and qualifying times mean that I will simply have to work harder and run faster in order to try to qualify for 2013 or later. I would need a qualifying time of 3:55, but I might actually need a faster time than that once registration takes place. This will be tough since I have only run three marathons and I have slowed down in each one, despite starting at a pace that was in theory reasonable based on my training and half-marathon pace. I will need more long training runs, more training runs at race pace, and more lactate threshold work in order to achieve this big goal. Is 3:55, or even 3:50 a reasonable marathon goal? I think so, but I can only see how well I progress as I work toward taking time off my half-marathon time first, and then train for the best possible marathon I can do.

I am still thinking about the option of obtaining a Boston Marathon spot with a fundraising organization, but I will think about this after I run my fall marathon.

But for the sake of this blog, the short answer to the question, "Who will get to run Boston?":

I will. Someday.

Race report: Birch Bay 15K, March 26 2011

On Saturday I ran the Birch Bay Road Race in Birch Bay, WA (near Blaine, just across the border from here). This small race is only in its fifth year, and includes 5K, 15K, and 30K distances. I ran the 15K race with the hope of slightly bettering my time of 1:15:19 from my first attempt at this distance back in January. I was hoping for a time around or just under 75 minutes, or an average of 5:00/km. That pace seemed doable based on my recent running.

I started without a warmup and just tried to get into my pace really quickly. This was easy to do with a nice downhill start in the first kilometre, which reminded me of the Sun Run. The course was absolutely beautiful, along the water in Birch Bay for the first 6K. I had been averaging under 5:00/km and hit the 6K mark at 29:24. After that we started a steady climb away from the water for about 3K to the turnaround point for the 15K. The climb made it tough to hold on to the pace, I slowed down just a little bit but knowing I had build up a bit of a cushion. At this point I was pretty happy that I was doing 15K, as the 30K runners kept climbing steadily to their turnaround point (apparently this 30K race is even hillier in the second half than Around the Bay). Before I reached our turnaround point, I started seeing the 15K leaders coming back at me. I started counting the number of women that were ahead of me, and counted what I thought was about 20 women.

I was expecting this downhill part to feel really good after the steady 3K climb upwards, but instead it felt almost as tough. I then realized that the uphill was not as bad as it could have been since we had a tailwind -- of course I did not notice the tailwind as much as the headwind. So I just kept pushing on trying to maintain my pace. I hit the 10K mark at 49:29. I took a short break for water around 12K and then tried to pick it up a bit more down the rest of the hill. Kilometre 14 and the beginning of 15 were flat but the wind was still strong as we came along the water; I was running pretty much alone with two women just ahead of me. I tried to keep them in my sights and hold on to their pace, which worked really well to finish that tough part of the race.

I had been warned about the steep climb from the beach just before the finish, but man, this was brutal!! About 150 metres straight up, it seemed, and my legs were burning. But then around the bend it flattened out and I could see the finish area, and then the chute. I pushed on when I saw 1:14:xx on the clock and passed through at around 1:14:30 (official time was 1:14:28).

My time was good enough for 3rd out of 31 in the F40-44 age group. One of the women that I was chasing in kilometres 13 and 14 was in my age group, so I was also just behind number two by about 17 seconds. I will have to work a little harder for it next year. However, the next age group category is even more competitive--my time would have only been good enough for 7th in that next age group. I turn 45 in May, so I really better get working. :) I will definitely be back for this beautiful spring race.

Official results:

1:14:28 for 15K (4:58/km, 8:00/mile)
35/232 overall finishers
17/167 women
3/31 F40-44

Splits:

4:51 (downhill start)
4:52
4:56
4:54
4:55
5:05 (beginning of hill)
5:10
4:51
4:59 (downhill, but headwind!!)
4:55
4:56
5:07
5:01
4:57 (uphill but then a good finishing kick)


I am very happy with this result. Lately my running has taken a back seat to the other issues in my life and I have not been able to stick to a regular workout schedule. I had to miss the First Half half-marathon in February and have had to rearrange some other plans, so I decided to do this race only a week ago. I am happy that I have been able to maintain and even improve my speed with consistent although unstructured running. And although I did not feel like I was holding back on the course, I did feel like I could have gone a couple more kilometres at that pace and did not feel totally spent at the end. Maybe this is because of my inexperience at pacing this in-between distance, or simply having the discipline to keep the 5:00/km pace, or maybe because of my lack of speed-work lately. It does not really matter, though, because the next real goal is to hold that pace for another 6k in the half-marathon.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Vegan recipe of the week: White Bean, Spinach, and Barley Stew

I made this last night and it was amazing. I found the recipe on line at Allrecipes.com but modified it a bit to my liking. So here it is:

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked pearl barley
3 cups water
2 small onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 vegetable bullion cube (natural, no MSG)
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp dill
2 small or one yellow, orange, or red bell pepper
1 19-ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 28-ounce can Italian-style Roma tomatoes, including liquid
2 cups fresh spinach
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

1. Bring the barley and water to a boil in a large pot. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 30 minutes.
2. Add more water if needed, about 1 cup. Add onions, garlic, soy sauce, and spices right into the pot. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
3. Add pepper, beans, and tomatoes. Chop tomatoes in the pot, and stir; simmer another 15-20 minutes. Add more water if needed.
4. Add spinach and salt and pepper. Continue cooking 10 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.

Makes about six 2-cup servings.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 30

I can hardly believe it has been 30 days since my mom's stroke. I am happy to say that not only has she made it to this important milestone, but that she is also showing amazing progress toward recovery. There have been ups and downs, but the past couple days she has made some great strides. She is recognizing us more, seems to understand lot of what we are saying, and communicating to us through smiles, facial expressions, and small movements. Our hope and patience has been well worth it. She will soon be moving to a rehab centre in Massachusetts and will start working toward what we hope will be full recovery. She still has a long road ahead to recover her physical and mental strength, but there is no sign of permanent damage now. She will be surrounded by family and friends as she goes through the rehab process. I am planning periodic trips to Massachusetts to see her during this time, and to be near my sister and dad.

The thoughts and prayers from family and friends over the past weeks have given us that extra strength we needed to make it through this difficult first month. I am so happy that we can now look forward with even more hope and strength. I have had to be away a lot from my family in Canada and I thank them for their endless support. While in Florida I been able to reconnect with my aunt and her family in Florida, a wonderful blessing that came out of this difficult time. As I left Florida yesterday, I told them that I will not wait for another family illness to return.

And through it all I have kept up my running. Running has helped to keep me mentally and physically strong, and I know mom will be happy to know that I was able to run almost every day while in Florida. And I am still hopeful that she and my dad will be able to come with me to New York as planned in November when I will be running the marathon. Either way, that marathon will be for her.