The Long Road to The Boston Marathon

By Tanya

Well, it's been quite a while since you've heard from me. My last post was almost a year ago when I fulfilled my dream of getting a BQ (Boston Marathon Qualifying time) at the Vernonia Marathon last April.

I felt really good about my race and some "signs" had pointed to me getting in this year such as seeing Shalane Flanagan on my first marathon training run as well as at an author talk for her new book Run Fast. Eat Slow. She autographed my book and wrote "Hope to see you in Boston." (So cool! I'm a total fan!) 

I qualified with a time three minutes and forty-five seconds faster than what I needed for my age group, but it still put me in the last qualifying lottery registration group.  I was left hanging as to whether I would actually get in or not because marathon officials have been reducing the qualifying times each year due to increasing interest in the race and the amount of people qualifying.

Well, let me tell you if you haven't experienced the Boston Marathon qualifying lottery wait, it's pretty intense! You obsess and agonize to qualify only to obsess and agonize to see if you'll get in! 

More than five months later on the 28th of September 2016 it was announced that that qualifiers who were two minutes, nine seconds faster than their qualifying times would be accepted into the 2017 Boston Marathon.  Talk about getting in by the skin of my teeth!! That was only thirty-six seconds to spare! But yes! Hallelujah, my next marathon would be the 2017 Boston Marathon!

I talked to many friends who have run Boston before and all of them told me not try and re-qualify for Boston at my first Boston Marathon.  Their advice? Just go and enjoy the experience. So that is what I intend to do. However, some of my friends who did not qualify last year are going for BQ's this year and I'd really love to join them in 2018. So I made it my plan to use Boston as a training run and run the Green River Marathon six weeks after Boston to try and re-qualify. For me that means a lot of running! 

I feel like I found a training and fueling plan that worked well for me, so I plan to do the same this year. I started building a good running base in November and by New Year's 2017 I was ready to jump into the hard work of officially starting my training plan. It was fifteen weeks out from the Boston Marathon.

I have been running again this year with my friends Paul and Lynnette.  We all ran the Vernonia Marathon together last year. Paul and Lynnette are trying to BQ this year and their marathons are around the same time as mine so we are able to train together again.

Paul's specialty is running fast and he has a unique strategy that works well for him. Paul and I both have strong, heavier muscles than most runners and we don't "look" like we could run as fast as we do. But Paul and I have found ways to use our muscles to our advantage. In fact in the last year Paul has shattered many expectations by placing in numerous races. He is my speed guru.

Lynnette is a petite, speedy and determined runner who is trying to find the right strategies to get her to Boston. She definitely has the ability and will to get here there. Lynnette and I are well matched in our cadence. 

All three of us glean wisdom, encouragement and support from each other just as it is with my beloved Sole Sisters Jodi and Carissa. That is what is so great about the running community!

With my training now in full swing, I recently took a full body measurement test and found that I am almost identical to the same weight and body mass as I was last year after fully training for and running the Vernonia Marathon. It's a pretty good place to start. I also feel stronger and faster than I was at this point last year. 

My stronger and faster theory was recently put to the test when I went back to race the Scio Roaring Run half marathon again this year. Last year at Scio, it was my goal to run my marathon pace for the entire race. I executed this plan perfectly, however I remember feeling disappointed that it didn't feel quite as easy as I'd hoped it would. This year I was ready to take on the course again and see what I could do.

Jodi and Carissa both decided not to run Scio again, however it worked well for Paul and Lynnette so they decided to use it as their half marathon training race as well.

On the way to Scio Paul and Lynnette and I shared our goals for the race and strategized about how to achieve them. Lynnette wanted to race similar to how I had last year, maintaining her race pace the whole time.  Her main goal was to not get injured and risk her chance at a BQ. Paul, in true Paul style, wanted to go out strong and maximize on the first downhill portion of the race setting a quick pace and base for the remainder of the race. He hoped to not get injured but also be a top finisher. My goal was to run this race in a sub eight minute average pace. Paul and Lynnette were confident that I could do it. Based on the course layout, my training, and the fact that I had already qualified for Boston, I decided to use Paul's nontraditional strategy to just go all out and see what I could do. 

Everything that I could control in my training was on point and I thought I was capable of hitting or even exceeding my goal. However, as all runners know, there are many other non-controllable elements that go into a race and we had a big one against us: the weather!

We have had one of the worst winters on record in Oregon this year and the day before the race we woke up to howling wind and sheets of ice covering the streets. Fortunately the ice melted away by mid-afternoon by buckets of rain. Unfortunately, the rain and the wind continued on through race day. 

As luck would have it the park where we start was quite sheltered from the wind and the rain also miraculously stopped right before the start. When the announcer said "go" I went out like a shot! My brain of course told me to slow down and don't be so naive to think this race start adrenaline could last but I felt just fine. I remember looking at my Garmin after the first mile and it said I had run a 7:30 pace. Wow! Well, I thought, I'm just going to keep going strong. 

The next five miles I was flying and felt fantastic! A light misty rain had started but it actually felt refreshing. The first six miles have some rolling hills but the overall elevation is a loss. I kept playing leap frog with a guy ahead of me. I would pass him on the uphill and he would pass on the downhills. Here are my splits from the first six miles:

At this point in the race I knew to expect long straight stretches and a net elevation gain on all the rest of the miles, especially mile 12-13. But I was feeling good and going up hills is my specialty! 

When we reached mile 6.25 and rounded the corner onto the main road I was met full on with 20 mph headwinds. I pushed through this long straight away, but when we turned again to the left, the wind continued to push me on my right side. 

I was pushing to keep up the pace but starting to feeling extra fatigued from the resistance of the wind. It was at mile 8 when I looked up and saw the guy I'd been leap frogging pulling way ahead in the distance. I looked down at my Garmin and noticed my nice 7:30 average pace continually going up.

The elevation gain continued and with each mile and each corner I thought I'd get a reprieve from the wind, but no such luck. The wind was always pushing straight on or on my right. By mile 10 my mind started to play tricks on me. My legs felt really heavy and I got flashbacks of my lactic acid build up and hitting the wall at mile 20 of my first marathon. I wanted so badly to start walking. Lord knows I was feeling super slow at this point anyway but I knew walking would only prolong the torture so I closed my eyes (Yes, I do this. I know it's not the most safe way to run! I do peek up at times) and willed my legs to pick up the pace in short sprints. 

This torture continued on through miles 11 and 12. I remembered Paul saying that he has a mind trick he plays in a half marathon where he only thinks about running through mile 12 because after that he is energized by trying to pass as many people as possible to the finish. I kind of laughed as I thought this because in the past five miles I hadn't seen many runners. I had either passed them at the beginning or those who were up ahead were experiencing the same agony I was and attempting to not lose too much of their average pace. I also knew that mile 12-13 was had the greatest elevation gain. I looked down again in dismay at my average pace holding at 7:52. When I looked up, I saw my leap frog guy up ahead walking! I knew if I gave it all I had for the last mile I would at least accomplish my goal of a sub 8 average pace. So that's just what I did. I smiled as I passed leap frog guy and heard him say "Good job!"

As I ran into the park and saw Paul, he was saying "Go, go, go! You've got this!" I sprinted in for a 1:43:09 finish and a 7:52 pace per the race results. Lynnette joined us at the finish just a few minutes later with a pace a few seconds faster than she had planned!

My second half Garmin splits were:
Paul and Lynnette both finished with great times as well 1:35:03 and 1:49:27 respectively, with both of them winning age group awards! 

You never know what is going to be thrown your way, but what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Persistence pays off and I know that all three of us will soon be Boston bound.

1 comment:

  1. Super fun !! so Glad you having solid winter/ sprint training runs