The Road to Boston, 2016 Edition

Road to Boston

Marathons are tough!!! Seems like I’ve said that before. And I suppose that is not always true, but lately I’ve been running toward another BQ, so maybe that is the issue. Let’s revise my statement to be:

Running a BQ is tough!!!

As you may remember, my first BQ occurred last year. I was a “squeaker” and beat my qualifying standard by less than a minute. I was excited to submit my registration for Boston 2015 and did so early on Monday morning of Week 2. And then I waited anxiously to find out if I would be accepted. After weeks (not really) of anticipation, I found out that the cutoff time was 1:02. Meaning that I would NOT be running in 2015.

I decided that was OK, and that I would simply wait until 2016 to make my Boston début.

I ran several marathons in the last three months of 2014, but didn’t really follow a training plan. First up was the beautiful, challenging MDI Marathon in my home state of Maine, followed by the equally beautiful, pristine Antarctic Ice Marathon on Union Glacier in Antarctica. A few weeks later I ran the scenic, fairly fast Tucson Marathon, but didn’t push too hard. I closed out the year with the SF28.2, then started seriously planning for the next BQ.

The goal race was Mountains 2 Beach from Day 1. I set a PR there in 2012 and again in 2013 (when I almost BQed without even realizing it). 2014 was a slow year, but it was also a week after I ran the Great Wall Marathon, so that was to be expected. I know the course well and it has a lot of downhill miles. The temperature is generally close to perfect. It gets hot in Ojai where the race starts, but by the half way point you’re well on your way to Ventura, which is on the coast and much cooler. Much of the first part of the course is shady which helps as well.

In January, Coach Val and I worked out a plan to have me BQ ready by May. I was impatient and we wound up adding in two marathons along the way. I think that in both of those first two marathons some aspects of my training were not complete, but each was a good learning experience and a way to measure progress.

I ran the Napa Valley Marathon about 8 weeks in. I was logging around 50 miles/week at that point. My base was pretty solid and I had run some very consistent tempo runs so I was able to get the green light from Coach Val to go for the BQ if I was feeling good. I wound up having some weird stomach issues the day before and morning of the race, so I was definitely NOT feeling good. I started the race fairly strong, but ended up slowing down a lot. Napa is a beautiful race, but the rolling hills have always been tough for me. Around mile 15, I decided to back off and save it for another day. Finish time: 3 hours, 46 minutes.

I took a week completely off, then jumped back into training. I wanted another opportunity to test things out before Mountains 2 Beach so I assumed the role of “pushy client” and signed up for the Modesto Marathon, which was 4 weeks after Napa. That basically gave me time to recover, then taper. My fitness level was probably about the same going into Modesto as it was for Napa, but there were no stomach issues and the course was pancake flat. Unfortunately it was also super hot with no shade at all. The course was essentially an out and back with the sun behind you for the first part, then in your face for the final miles. I ran a pretty strong, consistent race for the first 16 miles, then started to gradually fade. The sun was a factor, but my mental game was also not quite ready. Finish time: 3 hours, 27 minutes.

With 8 weeks to go until Mountains 2 Beach, we had plenty of time to fine tune my training. We added more running on tired legs and more speed work at the end of long runs. However, I also had some mental fatigue to work through. I had been running 6 days/week for months and making training a huge priority. I had some bad runs and some bad weeks in the final stretch and I wound up taking time off. Coach Val helped me through those tough weeks and made sure that I was ready for race day both physically and mentally this time.

A few days before the race I received the perfect pre-race note from Coach Val. It said, among other things:

You have worked so hard, you have learned a lot, you have grown as a person and as a runner, you are ready! Believe in yourself as much as I believe in you, as much as everyone around you believes in you. You can do it! Give it your all, tears, blood and guts.

I was calm the entire week before the race. There were no stomach issues and the weather was pretty much perfect. But the most important thing was that I was mentally ready.

I ran a good, solid race. I started out a little slow, then picked up the pace for the bulk of the race, then slowed down a lot at the end. Wait, scratch that. Slowing down a lot was NOT part of the plan. But it did happen. The last 5 miles were tough and I had to really push to keep my pace under 8:00 miles. I missed my “A” goal of a sub 3:20, but stayed mentally tough, pushed through, and hit my “B” goal of a solid BQ. Finish time: 3 hours, 22 minutes.

I just want to wrap up by giving a HUGE thank you to Coach Val. There’s no way that I could have done this without your guidance, your encouragement, and your belief in me. In addition to Coach Val I also have an amazing support crew. Thanks for being there and supporting me through this crazy process.

boston_jacket boston_shoes


Cue the goofy grin…

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