About a week and a half ago, I participated in my first race of the year. I had set my sights on this race a while back, mainly because of the price. Since it is a smaller race (I think the marathon had about 400 competitors), it was dirt cheap! Also, I had heard that it is a great race to qualify for the Boston Marathon, which is one of my goals.
A few years back, the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) changed/updated the qualifying times for the Boston Marathon. And with these new qualifying times, the application process was also changed. The long and short of it is that, in each age group and gender, preference is given to the faster runners. For example, if you beat your qualifying standard by 20 minutes, you get to register in the first wave. If you beat your qualifying standard by 10 seconds, you will get to submit an application, but may not actually get registered based on how many people ran faster than you. Which is exactly what happened to me when I qualified for the 2011 running of the Boston Marathon. At the time, there was a 59 second buffer added to the qualifying standard (so my official standard was 3:10:59). I finished in 3:10:26, which was fast enough to qualify, but not fast enough to actually get into the race.
When the qualifying standard was changed, my age group was given the new standard of 3:05:00. However, based on the numbers I have been seeing around the interwebs, I feel that a marathon finish time of 3:03:00 would be a fairly safe time that would actually allow someone in my age group to get into the Boston Marathon. So, that has been my goal.
As I have in the past, I have been following the FIRST Run Less Run Faster program. Unfortunately, mainly due to convenience, I did almost all of my training on a treadmill. I have done this is the past and it turned out to be alright, but I wasn't too sure about this one. The other problem with my training was that while I did get most of my runs in, they weren't always as prescribed. For instance, my long runs were rarely done as one long run (due to work obligations), but done as a couple of shorter runs on the same day. Not ideal, but I still got the mileage in. So, off to the race!
I got to the starting line at about 6:30ish a.m. My wife was kind enough to drop me off, instead of me having to leave extra early, go to the finish line, and catch a bus to the start line. When she dropped me off, I immediately started my pre-race routine. Bathroom, check in dry clothes bag, warm up jog, bathroom, stretch, warm up jog, and some light stretching until the gun went off. With it being such a small race, I was only behind the race clock by about 2-3 seconds.
The first few miles were a nice and easy downhill warm up. I actually felt pretty good and was really just trying to hold back and not run too fast. I settled into my pace and held a pretty solid 6:47/mile for the first 14 miles. At mile 15, I started to feel a little mentally tired, but saw this pair of guys up ahead that I set my sights on. I caught them at about mile 16, at which point I just tucked in behind them to draft for a bit and rest. I began talking with them and found out that they were brothers, and the one in front had already qualified for Boston, so he was here to let the other brother draft off him in hopes to lead him to a BQ. Unfortunately for me, their goal time was about 3:08, meaning they were probably running a bit slower than I needed. I hung behind them for 2 miles, at which point I offered to take the lead for a bit, and planned on pushing the pace a little closer to my needed tempo.
When I jumped up front, we quickly dropped the brother that was still hoping to qualify. I offered to slow down to let him catch back up, and the other brother said to just keep going. And so we did! I stayed in the lead until mile 20, at which point I needed another break. I asked Mike to take the lead for a mile or so, and he moved to the front. After about a mile, he just looked back and said, "Sorry man. I'm done." Well crap! I was really looking forward to keeping this teamwork going for the last few miles, as it was allowing us to take turns resting. But, there was nothing else to do but keep going.
I finished up mile 21 and felt ok, until I got to about mile 21.5, at which point I snapped mentally. I decided to walk for one minute. After my minute was up, I decided to revert to my Ironman marathon strategy, and walk for 30 seconds during the aid stations. Well, because I walked twice during mile 22, that mile killed my average as it took me 8:09 to complete that mile. I was able to get somewhat back on pace for the last 4 miles, even with walking, but I couldn't recover time-wise from that long mile.
I reached mile 26 and looked at my watch, noticing that I was at about 3:03:30. I knew that I wouldn't get a good enough time to get into Boston at this point, but I decided to sprint my little butt off to try and still come in under 3:05:00. I rounded the final corner and was giving it all I had left in the tank, until I saw the race clock at the finish line say "3:05:10". At that point, I eased up. Which was actually nice timing because it was right when I ran by my super amazing support crew family (and a special support bonus in The Captain, his wife, and their son). My official finish time ended up being 3:05:23.
So no, I did not complete my goal of qualifying for the Boston Marathon. However, I still had a great race! I set a new marathon PR by over 5 minutes! And, my time was good enough for 9th place overall (8th male), and 2nd in my AG! There's not really a whole lot that I can complain about.
The good news? I have another shot this weekend! The major question is whether or not I have been able to recover enough in 13 days to put forth another all-out effort for 26.2 miles. Only time will tell!