All signs point to a Boston Qualifier

May 1, 2010

The Frederick Marathon is Tomorrow and I feel confident in my fitness.  There were a number of goals I set out for myself before starting my training, which I thought would indicate that I was fit enough for a 3:10 (7:15 min/mile) marathon:

  • Be able to run a half marathon in 1:30:00 or faster
  • Be able to run a 26 mile training run at an 8:15 pace
  • Be able to run 16 miles at 7:15 pace
  • Be able to run 10 1 mile repeats at a 6:15 pace

In the past couple of months, I’ve met all but the last of these goals.  I’ve had a number of amazing runs for myself.  Without further ado, here’s a summary of races and key workouts:

National Half Marathon

I was rather nervous when I started this race.  1:30 was a pretty ambitious time, and I failed to come under it during my last half marathon.  I knew how I performed here could set me up for the rest of the season.  I looked for the 3:00 marathon pace group at the start, but couldn’t find it.  I settled in near the front.  I started out fast and controlled, but had no judgement of my pace, since there were no mile markers for mile 1 or 2.  The first mile marker was #3, where I checked my time: 19:33.  I thought I was setting myself up for a disaster – that was way too fast.

Soon after that, I heard the cheers, “Go Joany!” and soon after I saw her.  The legend herself, Joan Benoit Samuelson.  I knew she was running this race, but did not think I would be running alongside her.  She was, of course, moving right along.  I was more than halfway tempted to see if I could keep with her, but already thinking that I had gone out to fast, I had to ease off.  I felt no shame in letting that 50 year old lady pass me.

Running with the legend, I came in mile 4 at 6:23.  I knew with my first 3 miles coming in at 19:33, I could run the rest of the race at a 7 minute pace and still come in under 1:30.  I also knew I was going too fast.  I didn’t want to face the embarrassment of hitting the wall in a half marathon.  I kept telling myself to slow down.  We hit a turnaround, and I could see the runners behind me… including the 3:00 marathon pace group – I was way ahead of them.  I never though I would see a 3:00 pace group behind me, let alone by that margin.  That was another indicator that I was going too fast.

I told myself to slow down.  Just a 7 minute pace and I’d have this locked up.  6:45.  Ok, a little slower, but still faster than needed, slow down some more.  6:46.  6:59.  Ok, that’s more like it, just settle in there.  6:32.  6:28.  They felt like 7’s.  6:27.  Ok, just 3.1 more to go.  If my inability to slow down were going to punish me, it would have already.  I knew I had this locked up, but I didn’t want to ease up, and of course that’s when the pace didn’t feel as easy.  6:44.  6:49.  I brought it home during the final 1.1, sprinting to the finish, 6:26 pace.  My overall time was a 1:26:32 (6:37 pace).  Needless to say, I shattered my goal, and it was far easier than I could have imagined.

10 x 1 mile

My final track workout was ten 1 mile repeats with a quarter mile jogging recovery.  This is a tough workout that I’ve failed to finish in the past.  Two weeks after the National Half marathon, I felt confident I could run in the mid 6’s.  6:22.  6:23.  6:29.  I was starting to feel it here.  6:40.  Just four miles in, and I was having my doubts.  I might have to ease off, or even cut the workout short.  6:35.  6:31.  This was slower than I was hoping for, but I let myself have it easy, just as long as I started to relax.  6:17.  I relaxed, and it came easy.  6:16.  Still easy.  6:06.  With just one more to go, I wondered if I could come in under 6 while relaxing the way I do.  6:03.  Not quite.  The strangest thing was, as the workout went along and I got faster, I took shorter recovery periods.

I didn’t hit a 6:15 average – it was about 6:22, but I felt great about how the workout went, especially with how easy the last few repeats felt.

26 mile training run

This was my third 26 mile training run, and fifth training run of 20 miles or longer.  My idea here was to eliminate the wall by getting comfortable with running a full 26 mile run.  I wanted to come in near a 3:30, which was again an ambitious goal, considering my best marathon race time was just slightly under that.  In one of my previous 26 mile runs, I started off fast, but hit the all-to-familiar wall at 20 miles.  I started this run out a little slower, a little over 8 minutes a mile.  I even stopped to refill my water bottle at just 6 miles in (I drank nearly half of my water bottle at this point, having drank a lot of it during my warm up). As I approached the halfway point, I started struggling, dropping to nearly an 8:30 pace.  I came in at 1:47:19 halfway, on pace for below a 3:35, which I’d certain take. I picked up the pace, but feared the wall.  Again, I relaxed, sipping water every two miles.  The miles again came easier.  The wall never came.  My second half was a much stronger 1:41:21.  My overall time a 3:28:40, – 8:06 pace.  This was less than a minute off of my marathon PR in a training run!  Again, I shattered my goal, and had run the full marathon distance, save the .2,  only 51 seconds per mile slower.  Most importantly, I didn’t hit the wall.

Long Tempo Run

Long tempo runs have become a key fixture in my running.  I feel they’re a great way to get used to running fast over a long distance.  I felt that running 16 miles at race pace in a training run would indicate that I may be able to run that for a full marathon.  I had attempted to run a 16 mile tempo run after building up for it back in ’08, but came well short of my goal of 1:56.  More recently, I had been struggling with early morning runs, and since I do my long tempo runs mid-week, I had to get up exceptionally early to get in this run.  I started off aggressively, running the first mile in 7:08, and the second in 6:39.  I settled into a grove at 7 minutes a mile.  I came in halfway at 56:59, on pace for a 1:54.  I had some time “in the bank” and knew I’d have to spend it on the way back.  11 miles in my 7 min pace gave way to 7:20’s.  I continued to fade in the last three miles, running the 14th in 7:46, the 15th in 7:54.  I had to put together a finishing kick in the last mile (6:26) to finish in 1:55:42.  I did it, but it was by no means easy.

10k Race – Fairfax Five and Dime

I like doing some shorter races leading up to a marathon to “stay sharp” and get some faster miles in.  I signed up for this race in particular because it was in Fairfax, where I grew up, and it was small.  I knew I had a realistic shot of winning the race, but that of course depends on who shows up.

The race started, and I positioned myself behind a fit-looking guy in Newtons – I figured if he was serious enough about running to pay $150 on shoes, he’d be near the front of this race too.  We made an early turn, following a kid on a bike wearing a bright neon vest.  I thought we were going the wrong way.  Maybe I misread the map.  Obviously, the kid knows the route.  Some local high school cross country kids caught up to us.  That was fine by me.  I just wanted to stay in the lead pack and make a move later in the race.  A police officer on a motorcycle pulled in front of us.  A police escort?  Sweet.

“You guys weren’t supposed to make that first turn.  Follow Me”

I was right after all.  Now I didn’t know what was going to happen.  Maybe the officer was going to route us back on the course and we’d end up running a rather random distance, maybe more, maybe less, than a 10k.  Maybe we were just going to start the race over.  I was starting to loose ground on the cross country runners.  I didn’t know whether it would be worth the effort to keep up with them.  We soon came back toward the start, where we were told immediately to stop.

There was hysteria and confusion, no one sure who to blame for what happened.  The lead runners – myself included, for not following the instructions?  The kid on the bike for taking us out on the wrong course?  The police officer, who was stopping traffic at that first turn, but seemed to be pointing us to turn?  It didn’t matter.  It happened, and we were all there, ready to start again.  This time we promised to go straight unless we saw a chalk arrow pointing us to turn.  The police officer was also kind enough to escort us through the course this time.

The race started completely differently this time.  The guy with the Newtons suddenly couldn’t keep up.  Two of the cross country kids shot out of the gate and took the lead.  This time, there was no lead pack – it was every man for himself.  I worked my way up to the 2nd place runner, using an aggressive downhill acceleration to pass him.  I had my sights on the first place runner.  There was a margin, and I struggled to close in.  I figure I’d be able to pass him in the second lap if I stayed close in the first lap.

As we came up on the road that lead to the finish of the first lap, I still had the lead runner in my sights, but barely.  That’s when I saw him turn into the finish – he was just doing the 5k.  I suddenly found myself in the lead of a race, midway through it – the first time I’d ever been in the lead that far into any race.  I had no idea how far back my nearest competitor was.  I kept trying to push the pace, since I did not want to relinquish the lead and I wanted to run a good time.  I could sense my motivation dropping when I didn’t have anyone around to compete with.  Again I came up on that same road with the finish line in sight.  I sprinted to the finish, and broke the tape for the first time in a race ever.  I had blown away the field.

The victory was bittersweet, however, as my finishing time was 40:13, far slower than I was expecting.  I figured I’d at least be under 40 minutes, and was more optimistically hoping something in the 37 minute range.  Oh well, I’d still take the trophy anyway 😉

So there you have it.  In the past couple of months, I’ve run a half marathon at a 2:53 marathon pace, I’ve run 16 miles at the pace I desire to run my marathon in, I’ve run a full marathon (save the .2) training run nearly as fast as my previous past marathon race time, I’m able to crank out miles in the mid 6’s at will, and I even won a small local race.  So why wouldn’t I be able run a Boston Qualifier Tomorrow?

If you want to see how I do, my time will be tweeted on my brand new twitter account: http://twitter.com/runningsoules

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