Tuesday, October 13, 2009

BQ Baby ! (with some mixed emotions)

So I did it. I qualified for Boston at my first attempt. I'm happy and proud about that. It was a goal I'd set early in the year, long before I'd even run 10K. It was the driving force behind all of my training runs. To set down a goal, work hard, and achieve it was a great accomplishment. But in the back of my mind I'm still a little disappointed. I thought - and expected - that I'd have run faster than I did.

As I'd feared, I slept badly. I was up early and left the hotel by 6am. It was bloody freezing. Literally. The temperature was 31F at that point. I'd decided not to check clothes (a decision I'd later regret) so was wearing a large trash sack over my tech shirt, shorts, arm panties and gloves. I was exhausted, but the adrenaline rush of the day was keeping me going. This solidified my decision to take the conservative approach and run with the 3.20 pace group. Just get the time I need for Boston and worry about a faster time another day. Inside I still harbored thoughts of pushing the pace a little bit more.

I was in the corral at 7am and basically hung out there, warming up, stretching - using my personal 'porto potty' (trash sack and gatorade bottle - naturally with a really wide neck). Just before 7:30 I took off the sack, left the bottle at the side of the road - with others that looked like they'd been used for the same purpose - and we were off.

It was crazy. 45,000 people running a marathon. With my garmin and the pace group I was able to hold back and not run with the hares. Even if I'd wanted to go much faster it would have been tough those first few miles with the volume of runners in the city streets. The crowds were huge, I felt good - I was finally running the marathon that I'd been promising (threatening) myself for 20+ years.

After about 4 miles as we headed out of downtown up towards the zoo I started to pick up the pace. Nothing dramatic, but enough that I left the 3.20 pace group behind. I hit the 10K in 46.22 - a 7.27 pace, so already over a minute ahead of the group. I later read that the verizon tracker was predicting a 3.15 finish. Given I was running 7.20 - 7.25 pace, I was myself thinking I was going to be 3.14 or faster. I kept it up, through Boys Town with the cheerleaders, and back downtown. I hit the half in 1.38, and 30K at 2.19. Both predicting out at 3.16. I was feeling good and in my mind was trying to decide when I'd pick up the pace - was the 20 mile mark too soon. Should I wait until 22 or 23 ? When I checked my 19th mile split I saw I'd slowed. For the first time a mile was below the 3.20 pace (7.38 min/miles). I didn't pay too much attention, but then when the 20th mile was even slower I realized I was in trouble.

Those last 6 miles were not fun. I knew I was bonking, I knew I had about 4 minutes in hand, and each mile was calculating how much I could afford to give up and still make my BQ. At mile 24 the 3.20 pace group went by. Not good. By that stage I was giving up 30 seconds / mile. I tried to force myself to hang with them, which I did for a while, and then they started pulling away. I can remember thinking about all the miles of training and pain I'd gone through and how I needed to grit it out for just 15 more minutes and it would be worth it. I stayed in touch with the group, and when I hit 25.2 I worked out I needed to be inside 8.30 for that final mile to make it. At that point I think I realized I was just going to do it. I was starting to cramp, every step was painful, but with just 8 minutes of suffering left I gritted it out and ended with a 7.50 mile, getting in 41 seconds under my BQ time.

Official time, 3.20.18.

After I crossed the line I cramped up, and was literally looking to hurl. My biggest fear as a volunteer cut off my timing chip from the shoe was that I might be sick on him ! I drank some water and that subsided, but then the cold hit. It was still in the 30s and now in just my running gear I was freezing. That's when my decision to skip the gear checked really hurt.

I hobbled towards the hotel and fortunately managed to get a lift with a bicycle taxi. He let me go up to the room to get the cash. Without that, I likely would have ended up in the medical tent.

So why the disappointment ? I'd run a 3.22 in training 5 weeks before the race, on my own, in Colorado on a hilly course, carrying my gatorade. I figured that with the race day atmosphere, the extra oxygen, the water stations etc - I should be able to knock more than 2 minutes off. I'd harbored serious thoughts of sub 3.10 (Yasso predicted 2.55 !!!), and even with my decision to go with the 3.20 pace group had felt I should run at least a 3.15.

With that said, I later heard from other members of the runners world boards who'd expected to achieve similar goals, who'd run into even worse issues and finished in far slower times. While I'm pretty sure I can run faster than that - I'm starting to realize that there are many factors that go into it. The lack of sleep, likely the very cold temps, the fact that it was my first race and I wasn't really sure of the pace / strategy I should use, all played into how things worked out. I'm proud of the way I gritted it out over the last few miles. I can only imagine how disappointed I'd have been if I finished just 42 seconds slower.

I'm going to take a few days to recover and then get out and jog a little. I've pretty much ruled out running Denver this weekend. I was clearly naive to think I could do that. I signed up for Boston today so that I could lock it in and give myself the next goal to aim for, although I may try to do another marathon before then to get the time that I feel I can do. Still - a major achievement. A BQ at the first attempt. A year ago I could barely run a mile at any sort of pace. I'm sure the disappointment will fade. It's already started to.

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