Tag Archives: qualifying for Boston

How I Got My BQ

Sorry for being completely MIA this weekend and not posting my comparisons between my first and second marathon. I was totally hit out of nowhere with either a bad stomach bug or a slight case of food poisoning. I was completely out of commission starting Saturday afternoon through today. Hence there won’t be any food pics, since I barely ate anything this weekend. Ugh!

But what I can do is finally give my comparison between how I trained for my first marathon vs. my second marathon in order to obtain the coveted BQ. So here are the main areas where I changed things up a bit and I think it helped: 

Work on Speed: For my first marathon, I didn’t really focus on speedwork at all. I was solely concentrated on logging the necessary mileage. For the Pocono Marathon,  I started incorporating some speedwork into my shorter runs. It wasn’t as formal as other runners, but I would consciously push my speed during certain runs and see if I could run the next mile at a fast pace or I’d pick landmarks and do short bursts of speed. I think I probably could have gotten a bigger benefit out of going a more formal route – running 400’s, 800’s, etc. at a specific pace. But I wanted to ease into speed a bit.

Get a Garmin: For my first marathon I trained using a regular sports watch and mapped out all my long runs on mapmyrun.com. I could guestimate what my average pace was based on the total time it took me to run it and the distance, but I never knew how my speed was broken down. I received a Garmin for Christmas last year and definitely put it to good use during my training for the Pocono Marathon. I was surprised to see how fast I was actually running sometimes. I think using my Garmin gave me better control over my speed and my pace. It helped me learn how to really kick it in at the end of races as well. I know Garmins are expensive and sometimes people think runners become too attached to them. But I think if you are trying to BQ they are almost a must.  

Increase Your Mileage: For my first marathon, I based my training plan off of Hal Higdon’s Novice plan. At the end of it all, I had run 383 miles in training (including the marathon). I was running 4 days a week. For my second marathon, I upped it to 5 days a week and increased my total mileage to 540 total miles (including the marathon). I based my second marathon training plan on Hal Higdon’s Intermediate I Training Plan. I did not stick to Hal’s plan exactly – I moved some of my running days around a bit. But I think that increasing my mileage that much really helped me. Others may not need to run that much or run 5 days a week, but I needed to train my body to run harder more often.

Choose Better Food/Fuel: I didn’t really pay too much attention to what I ate while I trained for my first marathon. I started my blog last October and started training for the Pocono Marathon in January 2010. At that point, my focus on healthy eating and my plan for better eating during this training was pretty solid. I ate soo much healthier this time around. I incorporated new grains like barley, couscous and quinoa into my diet, and upped my intake of fresh fruits and veggies. I made the switch from light Yoplait yogurt to Greek yogurt (generally Chobani) and found that my foods were keeping me full longer. I fully admit that I ate whatever I wanted during the first training – candy, desserts, junk food – all that. I thought that because I was burning so many calories, I was entitled to eat as much of everything I wanted. Wrong! And this leads to my next point.  

Find the Right Weight: I weighed between 113-114 pounds during my first marathon. I weighed about 108-109 pounds for my second. I know this doesn’t sound like a big difference, but I’m 5’1 and have a petite frame, so an extra 5 pounds on me does make quite a difference. I actually gained weight while training for my first marathon. I chalked it up to “gaining muscle” and it’s probably true that I did. But I also think I gained a little more weight than was necessary for me. Going into training for the second marathon, I had lost a little bit of the weight from the first marathon. But as I started training for the second AND continued to eat right, the rest of it just kind of melted off. I wasn’t trying to lose weight – but I think it came off naturally because 108-109 is actually around the ideal running weight for me.

Use Races: I kind of went through a racing slump for a few years. I would run 1-2 races each year, but that was it. As I began training for this second marathon, I decided that I needed to incorporate some more races into my plan to get myself used to maintaining a race pace. If you check out my Race History page, you can see exactly what I races I ran from January – May.  I ran five races of varying lengths – ranging from 5 miles to a half marathon. I actually made some of these race days my long run days. So I would run the race and then tack on some additional mileage to reach my long run day total. This worked out great for most runs – but my last long run was pretty torturous.

Run Hills: Ahh the dreaded hills. Knowing that my second marathon might be a bit hilly, I tried to incorporate hills into every run I could. Central Park has some pretty decent hills, but when I would run from my parent’s house in Upstate NY, I would add some really terrifying hills to my routes. My parents and friends would ask me why I was torturing myself by adding all these hills and my answer was: to be overly prepared. Plus, the general benefits of hill training have been touted everywhere!  Training on hills improves leg-muscle strength, quickens your stride, develops your cardiovascular system and can even protect your leg muscles against soreness. Basically, it can help make you a stronger, faster and healthier runner. You know the saying – what doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger!

Set the Goal: As scary as it may seem, I think it’s important to set your BQ goal and tell people about it. Recognizing that your goal for this race is different will help you get into the right mindset. My goal for my first marathon was simply to just finish! A goal like that puts you in a different frame of mind than knowing you’re trying to qualify for Boston. Setting a specific time goal can be scary, but it also keeps you well-grounded during the race. Plus, once you’ve said that goal outloud or shared it with…umm the entire blog world – it makes you push that much harder to achieve your goal. I can honestly say that I thought about all the people who commented on my blog and gave me great BQ advice. I didn’t want to let you guys down after you’d listened to me drone on and on about wanting a BQ! I wanted to make you all proud! 

And lastly – believe you can do it!! Visualize yourself running that perfect race and finishing in the time you want. There is no better motivation than knowing you’ve put in the training and hard work that is necessary to obtain your BQ. And although the actual race may be far from perfect (mine certainly was), it will be that belief in yourself that will ultimately take you to the finish.

If you haven’t read my second marathon Race Recap, feel free to check it out – that can give some insight into what a non-perfect race can feel like. And thanks again to all who gave me advice on how to achieve my BQ.

What was the best BQ advice anyone ever gave you?!

Now I’ve got to rehydrate and get 100% better so I can do my first post-race run! I’m starting to go through withdrawal. Have a great Monday all.

Pocono Run for the Red Marathon Recap

Happy Monday – I have the day off today! And boy do I need it after the race yesterday. I am extremely happy that I qualified for the Boston Marathon, but it was not an easy race by any means.

Saturday

We headed up to the host hotel on Saturday afternoon and got in around 3:00. We checked in and then hit up the expo to pick up my racing bib, etc. The expo was small, but it was helpful. One of the race coordinators was giving an in-depth overview of the course and what we could expect the next day. He reiterated what I’d already read online – the course has a lot of downhill in the beginning, so remember to pace yourself. He also briefed us on a few uphills on the second part of the course, which I was dreading.

After the expo we went to a local outlet we passed as we arrived for a bit and then stopped at CVS for water, gatorade, snacks and contact solution stuff I forgot. Once we got back to the hotel it was just about time for dinner. We spent a few minutes enjoying the view from our balcony. It was a gorgeous setting. There was actually a wedding happening at the host hotel that night as well, so we watched as the bridal party took some photos.

Gorgeous view…

The pasta party started at 5:30 p.m. and was what was to be expected: salad, bread, penne pasta and spaghetti sauce, as well as dessert. It wasn’t spectacular, but it was free for me and only $7 for Hubby, so understandably generic. We piled our plates and settled at a table. A few minutes later a brother and sister running pair joined our table and we started talking BQ-plans and dreams. We strategized, talked about our previous marathons and then wished each other good luck a little while later as we all headed to our rooms to try to get some sleep.

I laid out all my gear the night before, as well as my morning food and drinks. Around 9:00 p.m. I headed to bed. Hubby decided to head down to the hotel bar to give me some time to get to sleep and to have a few brews to help him get to sleep. After he left, I proceeded to lay in bed wide awake. I’ve never experienced such nerves or had such a hard time sleeping before a race – even my first marathon! I tried counting, I tried switching positions, covers on and covers off, but nothing worked. When Hubby got back to our room at midnight I was wide awake and told him so. He proceeded to hop into bed and fall asleep within 10 minutes. I tossed and turned and think I may have finally dozed off around 12:45 – 1:00 a.m. Not good!

Sunday – Race Day

I woke up Sunday morning exactly one minute before my alarm was set to go off. Anxious much?! I got up and started my pre-race routine. I don’t particularly enjoy getting ready for a race in a hotel room. I’m not usually comfortable or feeling my normal self, and especially not after such little sleep.

At 6:30 a.m. I headed downstairs to wait for the bus to the start. I ran into the brother and sister team from the night before and they shared with me their get-sleep tip: they split a Benadryl pill and slept soundly. Genius! Mental note to give that one a try if I face sleep issues again. We all hopped on the bus and began to head to the start when Louie (the brother) realized he didn’t have his timing chip! As he ran off the bus, two other girls realized they didn’t have theirs either and they went sprinting to find them. So after a slightly delayed start we were off.

We got to the Clear Run Elementary School and I headed straight to the bathroom. Then I grabbed a race-provided trash bag to put my long-sleeved shirt in for transport to the finish. Finally,  I hit the ladies room one more time before heading outside. The temps were a little chilly for standing still, but perfect for running. We all lined up at the start and I could kind of hear the National Anthem and then all of a sudden we were off!

From the course overview the previous day, I knew the race wasn’t completely downhill from the start. From about mile 1 – 8 we ran through rolling minor hills. Around mile 4 there was a loop where the leading runners ran by. Then we moved up a slight hill. I was moving at a pretty good clip, but was nervous to hold back too much. I knew this wasn’t the “downhill” section by any means, so I tried to maintain a comfortable pace that was still pretty strong.

Mile 1 – 7:53
Mile 2 – 7:55
Mile 3 – 7:49
Mile 4 – 8:03
Mile 5 – 8:05
Mile 6 – 7:56
Mile 7 – 8:02
Mile 8 – 8:09

Starting at mile 4 or so, I took water or Gatorade at every stop, which was just about every two miles. As we hit mile 8, one of the spectators or course managers said: “Ok guys, it’s downhill from here for a while. Just settle in and cruise.”

And then the downhill began and this guy was not kidding. It was all down hill for quite a few miles. I tried to use it as much as possible, but kept telling myself to “use it, but don’t lose it.” I didn’t want to go crazy and really kill my legs on the downhill by just letting completely loose. From after mile 8 – 13 we went all downhill all the time.

Mile 9 – 7:44
Mile 10 – 8:02
Mile 11 – 8:09
Mile 12 – 8:04
Mile 13 – 8:06

My pace for mile 9 was a little too fast, so I decided to scale back a bit. I also took a Gu between mile 11 and 12. When I crossed the halfway mark I was pretty floored to see that my half marathon time was a PR! The clock said around 1:45:30 I think. This made me a little nervous – I knew I was going really fast.

A few minutes later I was very glad I took that Gu because miles 14 and 15 were rolling hills and my pace slowed a bit.

Mile 14 – 8:11
Mile 15 – 8:13

As I got past mile 15, my adrenaline began to pump because I knew that Hubby was likely going to be at mile 16. That was the only spot that I was able to give him directions for. My pace picked up and I started looking around as we neared the spectator spot.

I heard Hubby cheering me on before  I even saw him and started grinning like a fool. (me in the blue tank top)

And then I started waving…

Doesn’t the guy with the number 664 bib kind of look like an older Steve Carrell?

Sorry – sidetracked. Anyway – I saw Hubby and was all giddy and he told me he was on the phone with my best friend and she was cheering me on. YAY! I was so excited I sped up a bit. So I checked my Garmin…

Mile 16 – 8:00

I was feeling good, but that was short-lived. My next mile was my first taste of the dead legs that were to come.

Mile 17 – 8:28

And then there was a lovely and much-appreciated downhill.

Mile 18 – 7:47

But that little spurt was just a tease because then came the hills. They weren’t huge hills, but they were hills just the same and they were tough. I didn’t walk at all, but I was moving slower and I watched helplessly as my split times crept up.

Mile 19 – 8:56
Mile 20 – 8:43
Mile 21 – 9:00

And then after mile 21 things went bad pretty quickly. Call it the wall if you want, I called it the end. The end of my BQ hopes. As I watched my splits get slower I began to prepare myself for the fact that I probably wasn’t going to qualify. I was just moving too slow. There was no way. And then I told myself that this was probably good. I didn’t want to run another marathon anyway – I completely forgot how awful I feel after mile 21. This was a good reminder and was reinforcing the fact that I am not cut out for a BQ. I decided I just didn’t have it in me.

So after this little non-pep-talk, I decided that it would be good enough if I could just finish the race and try to finish without walking.  Although at the worst moments I wondered how bad it would really feel to not finish (I decided it would feel really bad), but thankfully I pushed on.

With my non-BQ pace acceptance, I struggled to just put one foot in front of the other. I decided once I got to mile 24, things wouldn’t be so bad.

Mile 22 – 9:25
Mile 23 – 9:29
Mile 24 – 9:32

As I hit mile 24 and saw that 9:32, I also looked at my pace band on my wrist and saw that I was actually a little bit ahead of the pace for a BQ. I didn’t quite understand how this could be, given my sluggish times, but I figured my surprising speed during the first half must have really built a cushion for me.

So this is when I decided that maybe, just maybe, I had a little something left in me. I started trying to push a little harder. As I’m working to build back up some speed, who do I spot and hear cheering for me just before mile 25? Hubby!! He was along Main Street cheering like crazy and I definitely needed it. I start to push a little harder.

Mile 25 – 9:04

I hit mile 25 and knew there was 0nly 1.2 miles left and that I can certainly finish, but if I maintained my speed, a BQ might still be in sight. I push on and on, for what feels like forever and finally I see a school up ahead. I know that this finish is around a school track. Pushing hard, I finally hit mile 26…

Mile 26 – 9:01

And then there is .2 to go. We had to run around the track and I could see the finish, but there was still more to go. Miraculously, my Garmin says I just hit 3:38 and there is a slim chance that I could sneak in under 3:40! I start sprinting – or at least try. It feels more like a slow-motion sprint, but I give it a shot nonetheless. I push and I push and I push and finally I cross the line:

3:39:35!! (official chip time)

I did it! I qualified for Boston. I cut things pretty close, but I finished under 3:40.

In all honesty, this is not how I pictured running this race or qualifying for Boston. I wanted a nice even 8:10-8:15 pace the entire way, but this marathon was not built like that, in my opinion. I think it’s inevitable that you will run this race much faster in the first half. This was a hard race – it was fast – but it was really hard. Compared to my first marathon, I think I gave more of myself and exerted a lot more energy.

I’m still shocked that I actually qualified based on my splits. I was fully prepared to accept that I wasn’t going to get my BQ. But I am beyond thrilled that I did it and that I’m heading to Boston next April. I hope to maybe even meet up with some of the amazing running bloggers I read regularly. And now I have to cheer on my best friend Lauren as she tries to get her BQ in October at the Bay State Marathon!!

Thank you to everyone who supported me, encouraged me and made me believe I could do it! And thanks again to my husband for coming to the Poconos with me and cheering me on. I did it!!!

The Marathon Is Over…

And I qualified!!! I cut this one pretty darn close. My Garmin says my finishing time was 3:39:36, and as I crossed the line, I think the clock said 3:39:50, so I know for sure that I definitely qualified – just not sure on my official time yet. The Website still does not have the marathon results posted. But qualifying is qualifying in my book, no matter how close you slice it!

Anyway – my full recap and details are coming tomorrow on my day off! That’s right, a well-deserved rest day for me! But I wanted to share my exciting news now. And I want to publicly thank my Hubby for being such a great supporter today. We were out in an area I didn’t know, where we didn’t know anyone and I was running all alone, so it was really wonderful to see him at both mile 16 and mile 25 (where I really needed some help). He was amazing – he was giving my parents and my best friend updates about my progress and keeping lots of people in the loop. Thanks Bill for the amazing support – LOVE YOU!!

Now I need to go shower!!