Wayne on Boston Qualifying
Friday, October 29, 2010
Some Thoughts on Qualifying (or Not) for Boston, by F4 Athlete Wayne Itano
Some Thoughts on Qualifying (or Not) for Boston, by F4 Athlete Wayne Itano
Warning: This is a very long posting and is not likely to be of
interest to those who (1) can easily qualify for the Boston Marathon
or (2) have no interest in qualifying for Boston. That leaves those,
like me, who have aspirations of qualifying, but for whom it
represents a challenge.
I should have said in my Chicago Marathon race report that I had
qualified for the 2012 Boston Marathon ONLY IF the qualification rules
are not changed. It is quite likely that the rules WILL be changed.
Since I barely qualified under the old rules, this means that I might
no longer be qualified. The need to change the qualification rules
arises because registration for the 2011 Boston Marathon opened on
Monday, October 18 and filled up in 8 hours! A few years ago, I think
it was possible to register almost up until race day, which is in
April. Last year, registration opened in September and filled up in
November. Many runners who were qualified did not register in time
because they did not expect it to fill up so fast. As a result,
everyone who had qualified and wanted to run Boston this year tried to
register the first day. There are just too many people qualified and
who want to run for the size of the race. If nothing changes, next
year everyone will be trying to register in the first minute. No one
really wants this, so there will almost certainly be changes, even
though the 18 month window for qualifying for the 2012 race has
Anyone who is running a marathon in the next few months (Marine Corps,
New York, Tucson, Disney World, Phoenix) needs to know that they are
already locked out of the 2011 Boston Marathon and that standards for
2012 will likely be changed, in order to reduce the number of
qualifiers. The BAA will probably take its time about making a
decision. This means that for the next several months at least, we
won’t know what the new qualifying standards are. Even the qualifying
window could be changed. If the window were reduced to 12 months,
someone running a marathon between now and April would be unable to
qualify for ANY Boston Marathon, since registration for 2011 is
closed, and it would be more than 12 months before the 2012 Boston
The alternatives to tightening the standards are (1) to increase the
field, maybe by adding more waves or (2) to have some kind of lottery.
Increasing the field is difficult because of all kinds of logistical
problems. Besides, it takes away from the exclusivity of Boston,
which is its main attraction. I don’t think the organizers want to
establish a precedent that they will keep increasing the size of the
race to accommodate everyone who wants to run. A lottery would also
be unpopular, since getting into Boston is supposed to be a matter of
merit rather than luck. Getting rid of charity runners to make room
for qualified runners is out of the question since they bring in
millions of dollars.
The simplest adjustment would be to decrease the qualifying times by 5
or 10 minutes across the board, for men and women at all ages. If it
changes by only 5 minutes, that would mean that I would have to run
about 10 seconds per mile faster. In that case I might give it a try
next fall. If it changes by 10 minutes, I think I’ll focus on some
A few days ago, when I thought I had qualified, I felt relieved that I
no longer had to pick marathons solely for speed. That had been
limiting me to ones that were flat, fast, and at sea level. It would
be nice to be able to run marathons closer to home, like Boulder or
Denver, or which are particularly scenic, like Big Sur, without having
to worry so much about my time. When I first realized that I was
probably no longer qualified, I was disappointed, but I still felt
good that I had achieved the goal, in terms of time, that I had set
for myself a year ago.
Yesterday, the woman giving me a haircut asked me what the allure of
the Boston Marathon was, when there were so many other marathons. I
told her that it was partly history, since it is the oldest annual
marathon, but more, that it was the only one that you had to qualify
for, other than the Olympic Trials. Just finishing a marathon isn’t
that high of a goal, and the Olympic Trials are totally out of reach,
so qualifying for Boston winds up being the only recognized, hard but
achievable goal for the average, hard-working runner. In other words,
it is a surmountable obstacle. Nonrunners are impressed that you can
finish a marathon. The problem is that they are just as impressed by
a 7 hour time as by 3 hours. However, if you say that you qualified
for Boston, they know that you are much better than average.
But goals don’t have to be about impressing other people. Whether or
not my effort at Chicago ends up qualifying me for Boston, I’ll still
remember that race as the time I ran a nearly perfect marathon, under
conditions that were not ideal (80 degree heat at the end), beating my
goal by 21 seconds, running the second half in only two and a half
minutes more than the first half, pushing through the pain in the
last few miles when it would have been so easy to give up, and
crossing the finish line at 5-K pace, leaving nothing in the tank.
Boston doesn’t seem so important anymore. On the other hand, if I
just need to get 5 minutes better to qualify next time, ....
Thursday, October 21, 2010
Ben's Marathon Experience
Ben at Long Beach
First of all, congratulations to everyone on your races and, more important, on the hard work you did to get there!
My own marathon experience began last Christmas while visiting my family back in Syracuse, NY. My youngest brother, Rob, had just run the Sacramento Marathon and my other brother, Andy (also younger than me, but older than Rob), asked him about it and said he might like to do one too. They asked me, and I said yes. I ran track in high school and my first year of college, but had not run a race in quite a while. In fact, almost as much time (18 years) had passed SINCE I ran my last race than had passed between me being and running my last race (19 years).
So when I got back to Boulder I started running and thinking about the marathon, wondering how well I could do. I won't stretch this out with that whole story, but suffice it to say that this year was all about realizing that I am not 18 anymore. Nonetheless, I thought I would have a strong race. When I hurt my leg in July, I was less sure about how strong it would be, but I also realized that I would finish no matter what and that I would be proud of that.
After the long run down in Denver a few weeks back I was unsure of how well I would do. I was lost for a bit of the run, and though I know that speed is not the issue at hand for such workouts, I had run so slow due to all of the stops and head-scratching that I did not have a good sense of where I was at physically. The next weekend I decided to do another hard workout (I was off schedule because of my injury anyway and had missed several of the longer, harder runs). I ran 15 miles at what I hoped would be my race pace and wound up averaging a bit better than 7:30/mile. I hoped that I could do the rest of the marathon at that pace. As Andy would tell me, “Just think, only 11 miles to go and you're done!” Of course, I was counting on the Boulder advantage (altitude) and the fact that the Long Beach Marathon is just about flat.
I finished up training and had a nice taper. I was pretty calm about the whole “losing fitness” thing I hear many people feel before their first marathon. I trusted the training with F4 and what I had done up to June. Instead, I used the opportunity to reflect on the process that led me to this point. My last run before leaving for California was short and was more or less a repetition of the first course I had run in Boulder back in January, when I first began my training. Then I had run about 3.5 miles at an 8:40 pace. My heart rate for that run was well over 160 and I recall feeling pretty bad after it. This last run was about the same distance, but now I ran about 7:45/mile (I know, I can't control myself) and my heart rate was around 150. It was quite stunning to see that progress.
In any case, I had been eating well all week—nothing spicey, nothing creamy, no dessert, no beer (!!!), nothing new or unusual, lots of carbs, etc. I was ready, and strangely calm about the whole thing. On one hand, I had spent so long and so much mental energy preparing for the race that I think I had put it to rest. I KNEW I could not be in better shape (short of not being hurt, but it is what it is and I think the injury was a blessing in disguise: I would have been much crazier if I did not have to temper my expectations). I boarded the plane to Long Beach (where Rob lives) Friday morning feeling pretty good. Somehow I even had a really good sleep Thursday night—I NEVER sleep well before traveling. My brothers and I (and the wives) had a nice mini-reunion. I recalled that the last time I had seen any of them I had not taken my first step towards this goal.
After eating at my Rob's restaurant Saturday evening, I settled into bed, watched a little tv and ACTUALLY FELL ASLEEP. Crazy, because I did not even sleep the night be fore the 21-miler in Denver. But sleep I did, and fairly well. I was up at 4:50 am, ate two pop tarts and an English muffin slathered in Honey Stinger (I had to bring Boulder products, including Mix 1s for recovery and cookies from Spruce Confections for treats afterward). I pulled on my shorts, F4 shirt, shoes, heart rate monitor, compression sleeves, visor, and race belt. (I had decided to carry all of my own nutrition: two packs of Clif Shot Blocks, four plain GUs, and salt tabs. The race was not going to provide anything but water until mile ten and I did not want to wait that long.)
Lori and I got in the car at 5:30 and were at Rob's by 5:50. One last pit stop (I hoped—more on this later) and we were at the race course by 6:20 for the 7:05 start. I ran for five minutes and did my dynamics (it's really strange to do them in front of so many people by yourself!). The weather called for a high of 65 with complete cloud cover. It was a bit humid, but otherwise perfect for racing.
I was ready.
Well, Rob, Andy, and I made our way towards the start. The first of only two issues I had that morning was that we were not moving early enough and could not get closer to the start that the fourth wave, which was marked for people doing 4.5 – 5 hours. I was a bit upset by this turn of events, but realized that it would not really matter in the end. The three of us were separated by the crowd as we pushed forward. I decided to hang out at the back end of wave three rather than expend energy fighting people to move up a few feet. Wave three got underway at 7:15 am. The gun went off and within 20 seconds I was over the line and off. I suppressed the urge to channel Homer Simpson, who, three steps into the Springfield marathon, yelled, “I can't believe it! I'm actually running a marathon! Woo hoo!”
Back in January I was hoping to run around 3:10 – 3:15. My super-unrealistic goal was 3:05 and my will-not-do-it goal was to break 3:00. After Bolder Boulder I knew I would not come near 3:00, so I decided to shoot for 3:15 when I found out that that was my Boston qualifying mark. After I hurt my leg (I wound up missing about a month of training in July and August I readjusted my goal to 3:30 and just having a strong race. Those seemed to me to be very worthwhile in any case, so I was happy with them. After my very good 15 mile workout, I was hoping again for 3:15 and began telling people who had started to ask that my goal was to run 7:30/mile and finish in about 3:15 (which is actually slightly faster than 7:30/mile).
My strategy was to go out slightly slow, which I realized would happen regardless because of the crowd at the starting line. My heart rate always settles in better when I take the first bit of a long run slower than my intended average pace. I would take Shot Blocks at mile 5 and 10, GUs at 15 and 20, and salt at 8 and 16. I would pee if I had to (after Scott's advice on this point) and try to imagine the whole race as a 20 mile warm up for a 10k. I had been thinking something like that, but when Scott phrased it as such the idea really sunk in. Other than that, I was hoping to run a negative split, but in the end I really did not know what to expect except that doing it would be unlike anything else. People always ask, after I finish a long run, how it was. I always answer, “It was exactly like running 20 miles.” Point being: there is nothing else really like it.
Sure enough, despite the fact that I drank almost nothing all morning, and then only Gatorade, I had to pee almost immediately. I skipped the first couple of port-a-john areas because of lines and made it the fourth one somewhere in the fifth mile. There were only two people in line (although someone snuck in) and I think my time there was about one minute. “Better to be as comfortable as possible,” thought I.
The first three miles flew by. I barely registered that I had done them. In mile 6 the course looped back by the start and I saw my wife, Lori, and sister-in-law, Mya, cheering me on. That helped, especially since I knew I was still well within my comfort zone. At mile 5 I had my Shot Blocks, my salt at 8, and more Blocks at 10. Everything was going well and I had begun to pick up the pace. My heart rate had been in the low to mid 160s, which I thought was high, but since I had been running for well over an hour, and my wind was fine, I decided not to worry about it.
At about 12 miles, wouldn't you know it, but I had to pee AGAIN. Again I stopped, this time in a regular bathroom in a park where there was no line. It cost me maybe 20 – 30 seconds. Oh well, thought I.
At mile 15 I was still feeling quite good and I was beginning to believe. I had always believed that I COULD do it, but now the feeling that was sinking in was that I actually was doing it, that it WOULD be done and soon. It was really hard to think about because perhaps nothing I have ever done has required so much focus and so much effort for such a prolonged and yet concentrated period of time. I was feeling a bit emotional at the thought, so I concentrated on my form and the crazy coincidence that Europe's “The Final Countdown” started on my iPod EXACTLY at mile 20. That was pretty awesome.
As Europe played I passed someone and shouted, “We're all warmed up and let's kill the 10k.” He clearly did not have Scott for a coach as he looked at me with an expression I can't relate here, this being a family site and all. I picked up my pace a bit more. I had been running in the 7:10 – 7:20 range for a while and I was trying to get down into the 7:00 – 7:10 for the last 10k. I did NOT eat another GU, as I had planned, as I was feeling good and I could not take the thought of getting another one down. I should have eaten it anyway, but I don't think it was that big a deal.
In any case, I was in uncharted territory and I started to really feel it in mile 23. I had felt great, and knew I would break 3:20. I was just hoping to get under the Boston mark. I knew that I would have to finish mile 15 by about 1:52, which I had, and finish 24 by about 3:00, which I had. My thinking was that I would be able to do the last 2+ miles at 7:10/mile or so and just sneak under my goal. Well, I was able to keep up a decent pace (~7:32/mile), but I could not go faster to save my life. I'm not sure I could have done anything BUT that pace at that point: no faster, no slower. It's like my legs were on autopilot, some kind of cruel muscle-memory torture. My feet were on fire and every part of my legs hurt with every step. Naturally, my upper body was fine, except my mind which was getting tired. I started counting down mileage and time, which I NEVER like to do. “Oh, this is just like one of your short runs!” “The total distance left is like the distance from Baseline back to the house!” It wasn't really working, for obvious reasons.
I was dodging and weaving between people coming in from the half-marathon course and I finally saw the line. I managed to pass a few last people and crossed, and then spent several minutes wondering how the heck I would find everyone. I had not really considered that part. Lucky for me they had, and were waiting when I exited the runner's area. I had my Mix 1 and all was right with the world. Well, except for my legs.
I finished in 3:16:25 (official; net). My watch said I had run an extra .4 miles or so, but who knows. In any case, the two bathroom breaks cost me the Boston time. Nonetheless, even though it's a “so close yet so far away” kind of thing, I don't care at all. I probably would not have run Boston anyway and I am extraordinarily happy with my time. I averaged right about 7:30/mile and ran the second half of the race faster than the first. I ran all but one mile (weirdly, mile 5—according to my watch) under 8 minutes. While I knew I COULD do that, I also knew that a lot has to come together one race day to make your best possible outcome actually come about. Given the weather, the fact that I did not hurt myself during the race (my calf actually started hurting early but eventually worked itself out), and the fact that starting in wave four really was not an issue, I just can't get worked up over 26 seconds and two bathroom breaks. I also realize how much worse it could have been. I saw one gut in the last mile collapsed on the road with people trying to revive him (I think he only passed out as they were using smelling salts and not CPR) and Lori saw a woman fall over as she exited the runner's area. Rob had to pull out after mile 2 because of a knee injury he sustained a few weeks back. Andy pulled his hamstring in mile 21 when had to dodge a volunteer who jumped out in front of him. He had to walk to the finish line, but he did finish. In any case, I knew that my race had gone just about perfectly so a few slight problems were not going to get me down.
Thanks to everyone who kept reading and congratulations on your own races. No one can take away your accomplishments, which are so much greater than a single day of running.
Coach Mike’s Marathon Lessons from Down Under
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Coach Mike's Marathon Lessons from Down Under
Hello my fellow F4 mates! As most of you know, I recently ran the Sydney Australia Marathon and wanted to share my thoughts regarding the race. My "comfort zone" distance is the half marathon and I'm still trying to better understand and prepare for the rigors of a 26.2 mile endeavor. As we trained for this season, I did follow the walk/run methodology and this was my second race that I've used the interval running plan. I must admit that it's taking some time to get used to but I'm still a believer that if done correctly, can yield very positive results. Anyway, I wanted to pass along some observations and thoughts from my race. In no particular order, they are:
1) I quickly found out that you need to be thinking about "where" you'll be taking your walk intervals. Early in the race the course is packed with people, and you can't or shouldn't just stop in the middle of the road to walk. I found myself needing to work towards the side of the road to ensure I wasn't stopping in front of other runners.
2) I found it mentally difficult early in the race to stop and walk as the competitive side of me wanted to keep pace with the people around me. But, you have to trust our training and race methods, and hopefully you’ll be passing the same people at mile 23.
3) Not knowing the course well in Sydney, I found myself just finishing a walk break and one minute later coming upon a water station where many others were walking and drinking. I did find this frustrating a few times as it would have been easier just to incorporate my walk break with the water station. I would study the Denver course and have a good idea of where the water stations are positioned. Also, don’t get too worried if you need to adjust your interval times to coincide with the water/nutrition stations.
4) For a good part of the race, I had been running with the 4:00 pace group, but at mile 21 I started to really get fatigued. I found it a bit disheartening to hit my interval walk break and to slowly see my pace group pulling away from me. However, I’m pretty sure they would have left me much earlier, if I hadn’t been using our interval method. Ultimately I finished in 4:07, not my goal, but I enjoyed the race experience.
5) I did find that the walk breaks were refreshing and allowed me to keep a good pace without feeling like I was running out of energy. I do believe the walk/run intervals work and had nothing to do with my fatigue and cramping towards the end of the race.
6) I did notice that taking water and nutrition on my walk breaks was easier and I had far less of an upset stomach than in past races.
Some general advice for the more novice runners:
1) Fight the urge to go out too fast. We all know you'll feel great the first 10-15 miles.
2) I know it's sounds silly, but the statement that has been the most accurate for me is "the halfway point in a marathon is at mile 20." I've found the last 6.2 miles to be as difficult as the first 20.
3) You're going to question yourself several times throughout the race and wonder what you've gotten yourself into. I would try and find a mantra to repeat such as "I'm a fighter, I won't give up." I know it sounds silly, but it can really help when you're mentally struggling.
4) Know the difference between pain caused by fatigue verses a potential injury. At mile 23, the outside of my knees were aching, the top of my left foot felt bruised and things just hurt in general. For many of us, that's normal. It's generally a mental challenge/game to deal with these aches and pains the last 5 miles.
5) If you plan to run with someone, talk about what may happen before you begin the race. Most of the time, your running partner may run ahead or fall behind. Run your own pace... if you're running too fast and trying to keep up with someone, you may burn out far before you finish.
My last words of advice are these... Have confidence that you've done the work and you're ready to run. Enjoy the moment, wave at spectators and soak in the experience and SMILE. A positive attitude is key to a successful run. And no matter how tough things get late in the race, each of you will find a way to get through it… Enjoy the journey.
F4 Coach Kylee cracks 3-hours in her first marathon!
F4 Coach Kylee cracks 3-hours in her first marathon!
I remember my first race like it was yesterday. It was the Great Race in Pittsburgh. I was 11 years old and had no idea what I was doing and just went out there and ran and won my age group. Fast forward ahead 13 years on 10/10/10---my first marathon. In a way, I felt like I was 11 again, and it was a day I will never forget.
This was my first time in Chicago, and thankfully, I was lucky enough to have a good friend and training partner of mine, Emma Keenan, who is originally from Chicago, with me. We arrived on Thursday because we wanted to make this trip memorable and kind of like a mini-vacation. On Thursday, we just relaxed and checked out the Whole Foods in the area, which is the biggest one I have ever seen in my life! We took a day off from running on Thursday because of the early wake up and travel.
Before I knew it, Friday came and it was expo day! We went for a 35 minute run in the local forest preserve in the Northside of Chicago (which is where Emma's family is located) and it was gorgeous with all of the reds, oranges, and golds of the leaves. I noticed that it was very warm by the time we finished our run at 1030 AM, but I tried to ignore it. I decided that I better start hydrating a lot now, rather than waiting until the last minute and started downing the electrolytes. In the afternoon, Emma and I headed down to the expo at the McCormick Center in downtown Chicago. It was by far, the coolest expo I have ever been to! It was huge, with every kind of vendor you can imagine. We literally walked around for 3 hours, getting as many freebies as we could. We both decided to splurge on a Nike 1/2 zip jacket, afterall, this was our first one! After the expo, we headed to a great pasta dinner at Maggianos, where I had some cheese ravioli, salad, and of course, water!
Saturday, Emma and I slept in, since it was the most important night of sleep. We went for a 20 minute shake out run through Niles, IL, where I proceeded to fall in the last 5 minutes of our run and scraped up my knee and hands. For those of you that know my running style, you know that this is not uncommon, so I didnt let it bother me! We went to pick up our #1 fans, aka our boyfriends, at the Midway Airport around 1PM and then stopped by Trader Joe's. I stocked up there on some granola and fruit leather, man, I miss that place! We at a good dinner of pasta (I put extra salt on mine) at Emma's grandma's house, where we would be staying (closer to the city). After a little bit of movie watching and race day preparation, we headed to bed.
Everyone always says that it is very hard to sleep before a race, but I slept like a rock. My alarm went off at 4:33, and I jumped out of bed, ready to go. I got dressed, had a bagel with peanut butter and some gatorade. Emma, the guys, and I were ready to roll around 530AM and Emma's mom drove us down to the start area. We hopped out of the car around 6 AM, Emma and I entered the athlete area and the boys went their own way. I walked with Emma to the Elite Development tent, wished her 'Good luck', and sadly walked away by myself to find the Seeded Corral Gear check and some bathrooms. After I checked my gear, I began what was one of the most stressful parts of the pre-race, waiting in line for a bathroom. I knew that the lines would be long, but I had no idea they would be as long as they were. If I had one complaint about the Chicago Marathon, it was the bathroom situation. The Port-O-Johns were spread out all over the place, and all of the lines were at least 20 people deep. I got in line around 630 and waited for 20 minutes, only to have moved about 5 steps. I began to get nervous and frustrated with the situation. I decided to leave the line and wander around....I found a woman and her husband in a garden area and we decided to block each other as we went to the bathroom in the bushes. There was no way I would have made the start if I would have waited in line. After losing my dignity, I went to Corral B, and waded through the sea of participants. I got slightly claustrophobic and hated being in there with so many people. I tried to elbow my way to the front of this corral because I knew I shouldn't have been in that one. The problem was, I hadn't run a half marathon in two years and my time was only fast enough to get me in the B corral. After much frustration, I just stayed put and waited in anticipation.
The gun went off at 730 AM and it took me about 2 minutes to cross the chip mat (Note: it was already 70 degrees). There were people elbowing and fighting to gain position at the start, but I just remained calm and worked my way around people at about a 730 pace. I think I went through the first mile at about 745 pace---way too slow, but honestly, I didnt have much choice. I just kept steadily passing people and tried to stay with the Nike 3:00 Pace Group. I saw Dan around Mile 1.5 screaming his head off with Emma's boyfriend, Nate, and it made me smile. Things didnt really start to break up until Mile 3, but since it was so hot out, I decided I would be taking water and Gatorade at every stop. If there was one thing my dad told me, it was to hydrate early. I literally double fisted Gatorade and water at every stop and would continue this process throughout the whole marathon. In the end, I think this is what saved me from dehydration.
I continued to stay with the 3:00 Pace Group for a while, and then decided that I felt good and wanted to go a bit faster. It is amazing the people that you meet while running a marathon. For a while, I clung to a group of four Brooks ID guys that were aiming for a sub-3 hr marathon and chatted with them for a bit and then moved on. I took my first gel around an hour. It was a GU Orange Vanilla Roctane, man I hate the taste of those things, but I am convinced they really work! I went through the half marathon around 1:27 and felt great, despite the temperature climb. I knew that once I passed the half marathon mark, I would need to keep my mind occupied or I would start to mentally break down. That is one thing that I have learned throughout this whole experience, playing mind games with yourself is a good way to help you be successful in the marathon. I focused on the neighborhoods we were going through, the people around me, and all of the people that I was running this marathon for. The previous night, I had made a list of 26.2 people that I would be running a mile each for, and honestly, it helped at some points during the race.
Surprisingly, the miles flew by with all of the water stops and fans along the way. I remember, it was around Mile 18, where I began to feel my legs and feet starting to hurt, but it was not an unfamiliar hurt. It was a tired hurt that I had felt many times before in college and when climbing 14,000 foot mountains out here in Colorado, it was nothing I couldn't handle. I heard familiar voices of Garrett Graham and Jon Molz around Mile 19 and got so energized by them! The heat kept creeping up, and I began to feel it a bit around Mile 20, but kept dumping water on my head....once I remember the cups being mixed up and I poured Gatorade on myself. My pace slowed a bit from Miles 19-24, I think mainly from losing focus and the tiredness that was overcoming me. The Nike Power Song that the marathon had at Mile 24 was perfectly placed. They were playing Metallica, and I thought of my dad and how he would always play this to get me pumped up for meets and hockey games when I was younger. I began to refocus and tell myself that this was just like a second run in college. I was tired but I would make it. It was Mile 25 that I remember the most. I saw Dan standing along the left side of the road cheering for me, he yelled to me "This is the mile you dedicated to me, do it for me." That was all I needed to take off running, it is amazing what you will do for the people that you love most. Most people in the race were dragging by this point, the heat had stopped them in their tracks or they had drastically slowed their pace, but not me. I was running free and passing people right and left. I kept tabs on my watch and knew that I didnt have much time to make it under 3 hours, but knew, that if I didnt make it, Id be disappointed in myself. I dont know where it came from, but I literally sprinted the last 1.2 miles of that marathon, and crossed the line with my arms up in the air. I had done it, finished my first marathon and had done it in under 3 hours. I found Emma, who had done a 2:56 and we hugged in celebration. Meanwhile, people were passed out left and right from the heat and ambulances were sirening about every 5 minutes---the temperature at the finish-85 degrees. It made me sad, seeing and hearing such a sight, knowing how much people train for these things, only to have the weather ruin their big day.
After cooling down with some ice and heading over to the Elite Development tent, we reunited with Dan, Nate, and Emma's family, and later I met up with Garrett, Molz, and Charlie Ban (fellow Richmond alums). I felt tired after the race, but not as tired as I thought I would. When I finally checked my cell phone, I had been flooded with calls, texts, and messages. I read every single one of them, and it almost made me tear up. Im not joking when I say that I got over 75 congratulations messages since I finished, from friends and family all over the USA. All of them meant the world to me, and honestly I couldnt believe it. People I havent talked to since sophomore year of high school, tracked me online. I can not express in words how this made me feel...All my life all I have wanted to do for people is inspire them to chase their own dreams, and after this weekend, it seems as though I may have done so.
I had a friend tell me before the race that her first marathon changed her life. Now, I wouldn't say that it changed my life, but rather, it gave me an experience and a perspective on things that can never be replicated. It is something I will surely remember for the rest of my life.
So where do I go from here? Well, I accomplished my goal of a 3 hour first marathon, on training that was not even very organized. From here, I plan on getting Coach Steve Jones to coach me and that I can train with the Boulder Express Running Team. I plan on picking a Winter Half Marathon and Spring Marathon and going for the Olympic Trials Qualifying time of 2:46 in whichever marathon I run. I have always had this as my dream, and until I get there I will never stop trying.
I hope that through this, I have inspired you all to follow your own dreams and make them come true. Looking back on my Chicago marathon experience, I didnt have the most organized training schedule or even a ton of people to train with. But what I did have, was a support system all over the USA and a determination that was rock solid. And with that combination, I think that anyone can be a winner. Houston 2012, here I come.
Wayne Qualifies for Boston
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Wayne Qualifies for Boston!
My Chicago Marathon report
A few days ago, October 10, 2010 (10-10-10), I finished the Chicago Marathon in 4:00:38 (a 3-minute PR) and qualified for Boston. This report is divided into three parts: (1) some details on how one qualifies for Boston, (2) my training during the preceding year, and (3) a description of the race itself.
How to Qualify for Boston
Most runners know that one has to have finished a previous marathon within a certain maximum time in order to qualify for the Boston Marathon. They may also know that the qualifying time depends on both age and gender. However, some of the finer details are not so well known. These are a few of those details.
(1) For purposes of qualifying, the chip time (net time) is used. This is extremely helpful, as it usually takes several minutes to reach the starting line. At Chicago, it took me about 5 minutes.
(2) The age which is used is the age on the date of the Boston Marathon one will be running, not the age when running the qualifier. That means that one might be 59 when running the qualifier, but still be able to use the 60-year-old qualifying time as long as he is 60 on the date on the Boston Marathon.
(3) There is a time window of about 18 months preceding a given Boston Marathon during which one can qualify.
(4) An extra 59 seconds is allowed. That means that the qualifying time for 60-64-year-old men is really 4:00:59, not 4:00:00.
I ran marathons in 2007 and 2008, hoping to qualify at 3:45, which is the qualifying time for 55-59-year-old men, but never did better than 4:03. However, I had figured out, back in Spring 2007, that Fall 2010 would be a good time to try to qualify, since I would get a 15-minute advantage. The reason I know this is that I found a note I wrote in the back of one of my running books saying “First Boston Marathon at 60+ will be 4/2012. Can qualify 10/2010, 3 1/2 years from now.”
My birthday is June 1, so the first Boston Marathon at which I will be at least 60 and can use the 4:00 (actually 4:00:59) qualifying time will be April 16, 2012. Counting back 18 months, I could qualify with this time after late September of this year. I was considering the California International Marathon in December until my younger daughter decided to get married on October 17. This meant that I had to run the qualifier on the last weekend of September or on one of the first 2 weekends of October, in order not to have my training interrupted.
I decided to try to qualify at the 2010 Chicago Marathon, which was on the second weekend of October. It is flat and fast and is near sea level. The only major disadvantage is that it can sometimes be hot. It fills up quickly, so I registered as soon as I could, back in February. The Chicago Marathon has seeded corrals, somewhat like the qualifying waves at the Bolder Boulder. I was able to qualify for the C Corral with a 1:45 recent half marathon time. That way I wouldn’t start off surrounded by slower runners at the start. In some previous marathons, it has taken a mile or more to break free of the crowd. This way I could start off at my own pace.
Training for the Chicago Marathon
Wanting to leave as little as possible to chance, I emailed Scott in September 2009, asking for a personal goal coach who would tailor a training program for me in order to help me reach my goal of a 4:00 marathon in Fall 2010. I requested a “numbers person,” since I like using quantitative data. Scott suggested Adam St. Pierre, an exercise physiologist at the Boulder Center for Sports Medicine and a Fast Forward coach. He has now been giving me training schedules and feedback for a whole year. During that year, I have had no interruptions in training of more than a couple of days. I have had to do some juggling, but I don’t think I have actually missed a scheduled workout since last November. During much of that time, I have been away, in New Zealand, Texas, or California. Luckily, I have been able to avoid spending time time at sea level since July. I have found that, after a week at sea level, running at Boulder altitude feels harder than normal for about three weeks. During the last few months, I have been able to do some workouts with Fast Forward. Mostly, though, I have trained alone, since the Fast Forward workouts did not fit into my plan. During the year, my weekly mileage increased from about 30 to 60. I did 8 long runs of from 3 to 4 1/2 hours, with a maximum distance of 25 miles. I sometimes ran 6 days a week and occasionally ran twice in a day. I ran some races, including two half-marathons and two 10-Ks, but these were not goal races, and I didn’t taper much for them. In spite of the increased mileage, I had no injuries.
To finish a marathon in 4 hours, one has to run at an average pace of 9:09 per mile. My race plan was to try to run at a steady 9:00 pace, which would allow for a couple of minutes for toilet breaks, water stops, and so on. I would carry 4 gels and take one every 50 minutes, the same as on my long runs. I would watch my heart rate and effort level in case I had to slow down, but not try to go any faster than planned, until the last few miles, no matter how good I felt.
I wore a Nike watch, to manually keep track of the mile splits and a Polar RS200SD combination heartrate monitor and speed-and-distance monitor. I spent some time during the week before the race, calibrating the footpod accelerometer speed-and distance sensor. I think the footpod gives a steadier pace indication than a GPS.
Here is a table of my mile split times, with average heart rates:
1 8:59 140
2 9:04 147
3 8:55 149
4 8:49 149
5 8:53 149
6 9:10 149
7 8:50 148
8 8:57 148
9 9:01 147
10 9:03 145
11 8:58 144
12 9:05 145
13 10:17 143 (Includes a 1-minute toilet stop)
14 9:02 147
15 8:56 148
16 9:05 149
17 9:15 148
18 9:16 149
19 9:05 150
20 9:15 153
21 9:18 153
22 9:33 153
23 9:38 154
24 9:43 157
25 9:34 159
26 9:12 163
26.2 1:46 165 (Heartrate 168 at end. Average pace for last 0.2 mile: 8:50 . Pace crossing finish line: 7:18)
Time for first 13.1 miles: 1:59: 01. Time for second 13.1 miles: 2:01:37. Positive split of 2:36.
According to the Polar footpod, the distance was 26.53 miles. This is an error of only about 1%.
My wife Chris and I stayed at the Sheraton, which is a short walk from the race start. I got to my corral in plenty of time. There were lots of people who were late in getting to the seeded corrals, and they were jumping over the fence to get in, which looked kind of dangerous. During the first half of the race, the pace felt very easy, and I ignored all the people around me trying to go faster than me. By the end of the race, most people were slowing down, and I passed a lot of people. I just tried to keep at my planned pace. It started to get tougher after mile 15 or so, but all the way up to mile 20, I could have gone faster if I had wanted. I took one toilet break around mile 13. There was no line. My daughter Michelle was following my progress on a website and calling Chris with updates. Michelle got concerned when she saw me slow down because of the toilet stop, because she didn’t know what was going on, but was relieved when she saw me get back on pace. The website got updated every time I ran over one of the electronic sensors. These were placed every 5 kilometers and at the half-way point (13.1 miles).
I took all 4 gels at the times I had planned. I brought my own ones (Clif Shots), since I didn’t much like the Accel Gels that they were giving out, and besides, there was only one place where they gave them out, at around mile 17. I took 2 gels with caffeine and 2 without. I drank at every aid station, except the last few, and I managed to jog through, rather than walk, so as not to lose more time than necessary. They also handed out wet sponges to help us cool off. The last 5 miles were really hard. It was also getting hot, and there was no shade, unlike in the earlier part of the race. The temperature started out in the high 60s, but was probably around 80 by the time I finished. I slowed down a bit around mile 22, because I was afraid that my legs might cramp. I have gotten leg cramps in the later part of previous marathons and I then had to slow way down, walk, or even stop. This time, it was kind of a balancing act, trying to run as fast as I could without cramping. However, after slowing down for a few miles, I recovered enough that I could pick up the pace for the last mile. I kept mentally calculating whether I could finish in 4 hours. About 6 miles out, I figured there would be no problem if I could keep the same pace. About 3 miles out, I figured I would need the extra 59 seconds, but I could still make it if I could keep the pace at around 9:30 or so. About one mile out, I knew I could make it if I could pick up the pace a bit. Those last few miles were the hardest running I have ever done. I kept thinking about the entire year that I had spent preparing for this moment. I didn’t want to have to start over and do another continuous year of training like the previous one. I said to myself “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.” But it was tough, really tough. I even found myself trying to tell myself that it was OK if I didn’t make it, because it was so hot.
As I crossed the finish line, I looked at my watch, and I knew that I had made it under the Boston qualifying time by about 20 seconds (but I had needed those extra 59 seconds). Michelle and Chris didn’t know about the extra 59 seconds, so they thought I had just missed qualifying, but they had figured it out by the time that I got though the finishing area and found Chris. It all had worked out, and I had made my goal, but there was not much margin for error. I’ll run the 2012 Boston Marathon, but I don’t yet have a goal time for that race. My next goal is to do sub-1:45 for a half-marathon.