Archive for April, 2013


THE (MY) NEXT BIG THING!

04.17.2013
Eugene Marathon - Eugene, OR

Eugene Marathon Logo in Boston Colours

Well OK, the next big thing for me, and a few thousand of my friends.

With the horror, disbelief, sadness and emotional turmoil resulting from the Boston Marathon bombing, it seems like almost everyone has been side-tracked the last few days – to put it mildly. And, rightly so. However, and without forgetting any of that, it is time to move on with things. In fact, to some extent, that ‘moving on’ is actually inspired by Boston and not in spite of it.

It is Spring. It is marathon time. The list of large, middling and small marathons through April and May is extensive. My choice for this Spring has been the Eugene Marathon. (And I should point out that the logo to the left has been altered by Eugene organizers to respect and honour the Boston Marathon.)  It is just 10 days away now. In the Forerunners clinic in which I run and lead a pace group we had people go to Boston, a couple or three on their way right now to London and (most) getting ready for the BMO Vancouver Marathon and Half Marathon. Add to that about a dozen of us who will be heading for Track Town USA (aka Eugene). All I’m covering here are events involving our clinic. There are more, many more!

On Monday my personal energy was just sapped by the events. I spent the morning having nothing but fun watching the live stream of the elite runners at Boston (congratulations to Rob Watson who ran bravely and finished 11th) and then turned to tracking friends who weren’t quite up to being covered in the elite races. As we all know, that fun suddenly changed to something quite different. I’ve already talked about that. If you need to know more, just check my previous post. By Tuesday, like many others I donned a race shirt and went for a run to remember those injured and to offer some kind of virtual support along with many others doing the same. Having never run the big show, thus not having a Boston Marathon shirt, I wore my Boston 5k souvenir shirt (inaugural running in 2009). As had also been suggested, I spent the rest of the day in a running shirt. It seemed fitting that it be my brand new, never race-worn, Marathon Maniac shirt.

Today I got back to some of the things I normally do, making permit applications for a run this summer, the 4th Annual Run For Change 5K Fun Run/Walk, and starting to do some hard planning for Eugene.

I can fairly say that at no time did the events in Boston make me feel I didn’t want to bother with another marathon (or any other race distance). Almost from the beginning it did quite the opposite. I vowed that if it is in my capacity to do, I WILL qualify for and run Boston. Eugene is the first step. I have felt that my present BQ is out of reach, but that may not be so. I can’t start trying for the next age group qualifier until the Fall. I don’t think I’m trained to do my present BQ time, but I’m not 100% sure. It isn’t that I can’t run fast enough, more that I don’t truly run smart enough. I can’t count the number of times I’ve started too fast and then faded.  OK, that isn’t really true; I can count the times.  I’ve done 16 marathons to date. About fifteen times I’ve gone out too fast. Some more than others, but except my very first marathon I have gone anywhere from a little too fast to way too fast.

Eugene Marathon 2010

I love the Eugene Marathon for so many reasons. I’ve done well there, coming third in category in 2010 (and yes there were more than three runners – there were 16 of us). I have also done terribly as a result of foolishly running injured. As I already stated in an earlier post I have set a goal to achieve a time and performance that will indicate my potential to achieve the M70-74 BQ sometime after Sept 22. I am inspired to a better performance, but know that despite being well trained and healthy, I did not train to achieve a time fast enough for my current BQ. That said, if I run well and manage my pace carefully, I may be able to do better than expected.

Oh, oh, that sounds like trouble!

Hopefully not. What I have decided to do is run at a ‘slow’ and even pace more in tune with the original plan. At some point, assuming all is going well, I would pick up the pace. What? Are we talking about the mythical “negative split”? Possibly. I almost did it in my last half marathon!  I know how. It is the doing that is the challenge. But, if it is going to become a reality, Eugene is definitely the place to give it a go. The result will set up the racing that will follow. That was discussed a few weeks back. No need to return to that topic.

The main thing is that as a result of the happenings of this week in Boston I am just that much more determined to try first to qualify for and then to actually run the Boston Marathon. Seems like I’m not the only one. If the bombs actually had anything to do with the marathon per se, as anything other than an opportunity to strike, the purpose was not achieved. I can’t tell you how many people I have heard/seen, saying that while they had been and done Boston before, they now feel that they MUST return to show that the spirit of the marathoner will not bow to terror. I particularly liked the statement I saw that said: “If you are trying to defeat the human spirit, marathoners are the wrong group to target!”

It has been an interesting few days for me personally. I was not in Boston and do not pretend to have been impacted by those events in the same way as the people who ran or attended as supporters. I am not just talking about those injured or killed, or who were relatively close, but lucky to escape without physical harm. I think many of those people may still wake up some morning sooner or later and be hit with the immensity of it all. I am not one of those people. I know that. Much is yet to be determined regarding who did it and why, and to bring the person or persons to justice. In the meantime, most people are returning to normal lives and activities, in some cases a new normal, perhaps.

My new normal is something I am feeling quite tangibly as I count down the days to April 28, look at routes and drive time and check weather forecasts in order to plan wardrobe and even hydration strategy. I sure don’t intend to repeat my Winthrop Marathon brain cramp when I just let that totally get away from me! This is a feeling of determination that I have not felt in some years. And yet, I also have a sense of calm in my resolve to do better and perform to a higher standard. Again, I think I’m not the only person feeling this. I hear people setting goals of higher achievement as a way to honour this Boston 2013 tragedy.   What will actually happen with me in Eugene is, as with all marathons, going to be a function of the day and circumstances, but I do know that with regard to whatever may be within my control, I am prepared to run and pumped to exceed my expectations!

May all of us do the same.

 

Running in the Zone: A Handbook For Seasoned Athletes is now available in e-Book format from Trafford Publishing.

I WANT TO RUN BOSTON! – UPDATED

04.11.2013

APRIL 16, 2013 – Updated comment.

I decided to update rather than create a new post following the horrible event yesterday at the finish line of the Boston Marathon. The sentiments expressed in the original piece mesh closely with what I believe will be the perspective of many, most of whom weren’t even in Boston this time.

I spent most of the morning of April 15 watching the elites on streaming video and then following friends on the athlete tracker. Once I was fairly sure most of those I knew had finished, I set off to do some domestic chores. It was only then that news started coming of the horror unfolding in downtown Boston. Much of the rest of the day was spent trying to learn what had actually happened and in a kind of profound sadness.

Many are stunned, angered, saddened by what has been done to the spirit of this iconic event. Many such people, like me, weren’t even there physically, but are always there in our hearts. As the ‘fog’ lifted this morning I began to process things a bit more clearly, at least for myself. The first reaction tended to be related to the race, the Boston Marathon and naturally the people running. There is no doubt harm was done to some runners and the event itself is now permanently marred. Those physically harmed by this cowardly act deserve every thought, prayer and sympathy being sent their way, along with their families. What I feel is less obvious is the harm done to all those who should have had a wonderful triumphant experience and fabulous life-lasting memories of a great day in Boston. I heard one fellow comment on how his medal no longer represented that ‘victory’ but now something rather different and awful. But then, this is what terrorist acts are about regardless of the perpetrator(s).

Then, I got thinking about who most of the victims really were. They are our loved ones who so often stand in less than perfect conditions to cheer us runners on in our personal pursuit of excellence. The partners, parents, children, relatives and friends that are there to make our ‘victories’ special and important. Those were the people targeted by the cowards who perpetrated this act of terror. It seems (and like most everyone else, I am only going by what has been reported) the bombs were placed to harm spectators first and for the most part. Not that any such thing can make sense but for me, this just makes it all the more offensive.

Late yesterday I had heard through one form of communication or another that everyone I knew personally who was in Boston, was physically unharmed. I say physically, because it was also clear that everyone had been impacted. Some friends had actually been quite near in time and space when the bombs exploded. Some of those were family/spectators who had accompanied loved ones to cheer and celebrate.

I was personally moved by the number of people who know how much I love running and how much I WANT to do Boston, that contacted me to see a) if I was in Boston and b) if I was OK. One of those was literally on the other side of the world, in Perth, Australia! Pretty sure I’m not unique. The same thing was happening everywhere. That is one of the positives, if there can be such a thing – we have suddenly and sharply learned how many care about us and how much we care for others.

This morning social media is starting show people moving to the next phase. From sadness, attitudes seem to be moving to strength and defiance. People are not prepared to be intimidated. There is a global movement to wear a run shirt today, to do some kind of run in a virtual event. Of course we are all still thinking about and praying for those directly impacted. Some had their lives ended and a good many had them altered forever. Nobody has moved on to forget any of them, but the spirit of determination and resilience in the global running community is strong and will prevail.

My own personal determination to qualify for Boston (part of the reason for making this an update rather than a new piece) is well documented and undiminished. If anything, it is perhaps stronger now than before. I am inspired by the spirit of all those in Boston who selflessly rushed to help and by those who have picked themselves up already. I am inspired by global actions of solidarity. And, if that wasn’t enough for me on a personal basis, my friend who texted me from Perth as soon as he heard what had happened, has said if I qualify to run – he will come to Boston to cheer! My response: “Start saving your money, old chap!”

It is this sort of thing that will make this cowardly act futile in the greater scheme of things and that will ultimately raise all our spirits.

Run On!

Cheer On!

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Begin original post.

Well, OK, for regular readers that title is hardly breaking news. So, what’s the point?

Firstly, I am not alone. Secondly, this is the time of year when those of us still holding the unfulfilled aspiration are reminded repeatedly that a) the Boston Marathon is happening just days from now, and b) that we are NOT qualified. Non-runner friends generally have a somewhat quizzical look on their faces when I share this thought, to the point that I mostly do not share this thought with non-running friends. Marathon’s a marathon, right? You’ve done a bunch, right?  Uuh, yeah, yeah, OK.

This being a blog for ‘seasoned athletes’, many of whom are marathoners, I will skip the explanations I usually give to the uninitiated. But, when you get right down to it, why do we want to run Boston?

While I’ve never run Boston, I have been there to cheer on our daughter. If I didn’t already aspire to qualify and run, I surely would have after that. I know all kinds of people who have run this legendary event. That adds to it, too. Once again, there are a bunch of friends who will run in 2013 and I will be avidly following their progress.

I guess one of the reasons so many want to run Boston is the same reason people want to climb big mountains like Everest. Because it is there. If you are a runner and marathoner, particularly from North America, Boston is just something you must do (if you can). And, there is another of the big reasons – the ‘if you can part’. If I ever do qualify and can actually gain an entry under the new registration system, I will go and run if it is in any way possible. That said, almost as important as the doing is the qualifying. It is a standard of relative excellence that brings certain bragging rights. In a way it is like running your first marathon. Once you cross the finish line, you ARE a marathoner. If you never run another one, you will still be a marathoner for ever and ever. More than bragging rights though (because that is really for others to appreciate), there is the personal satisfaction and affirmation. I figure being ‘Boston Qualified’ is a high and worthy standard for any serious marathoner.

Going back to the 2009 experience of accompanying my daughter, the atmosphere and energy of Boston is like no other. I have done small events with only about 100 participants and I have done the New York City Marathon. I’ve done marathons near to home and as far away as Jamaica and Hawaii. They are all wonderful and have a marathon vibe that keeps me wanting to do marathons as long as my rapidly aging body will allow. While in Boston for the 2009 edition, I could (sadly) stand back and just observe. In my opinion, the difference seemed to be that while there are veterans and first-timers, they all had to meet a standard to be picking up a bib and chip. I love the feel of any marathon because it is a relatively momentous thing for any runner, but particularly the Boston newbies. Boston Marathoners are not running their first marathon, maybe first Boston, but not their first ever. They have run at least one just to qualify. The energy each is bringing to this event is different. Expectations are different. While many are there to do a kind of victory lap of celebration, most openly or secretly want to do well – probably as well as they did to qualify.

The thing is, everyone also knows that Boston itself is NOT an event you would choose to attempt a qualifying time for this very same event. Some will tell you that the route itself is reasonably favourable to a good run, the Boston Marathon is not. It is a hard race to run, especially the first time. Too many people are just too excited. Too many people are too eager to do well. The first almost half of the race is downhill. Wait, how can that last part be a problem? Well, combined with the first two, it seduces many into starting just waaaaay too fast, for which one almost inevitably pays the price later.

The Newton Hills, and particularly the infamous ‘Heartbreak Hill’, are still ahead after you pass the half-way point. In and of themselves, while not to be diminished, the Newton Hills are not insurmountable. They are to be respected, no doubt. However, if a person has run too aggressively in the beginning, he/she will learn just why Heartbreak Hill is so famous in running lore. Since this is about why someone would be so eager to run Boston, I guess it is fair to say that among other things we maybe all secretly want to prove that Heartbreak Hill will not break our hearts.

Inaugural Boston 5K - 2009

When I was in Boston in 2009 I got to run the inaugural 5K race held the day previous to the main event. They kindly let us borrow the marathon finish on Boyleston. Even though I was pretty aware of what was really happening, just for maybe an instant I had the epic feel of passing over that permanent finish strip painted onto the street. That, in addition to the whole feel of the event, was another reason I just have a drive to try to get back with a qualified time and do it for real.

I suppose everyone has personal perspectives and reasons for wanting to ‘do Boston’. I don’t claim to speak for everyone, but hope maybe I am hitting on some of the magic of the thing.

There are other ways to get to the start line and I do not denigrate those people (well, other than the ‘pirates’ or as we call them around here, ‘turkeys’), but most serious runners just need to qualify in order to feel right and then claim that personal victory.

I know some have been upset with the change to the qualifying standards and then the registration process that makes it even harder to actually get into the race. I was probably hit harder than most since my old standard was still out of reach and now the new one is essentially 6 minutes faster. When you add in the ‘fastest first’ registration policy my goal is that much more testing.  After consideration, I am OK with that. It is the same for everyone. If I qualify but don’t get in, I will surely be disappointed, but as I said earlier, the first level of achievement is meeting the standard. Should I do it, nobody can take that away. I see this as a major part of the charm and magic. Getting there is my first goal. Doing so in light of my personal challenges (already well documented on this blog) would already be a big personal victory. Earlier I described the BQ time as a “standard of relative excellence”. What the heck does that mean? Well, it means that there isn’t just one standard, but rather a whole bunch based on age and gender.  That said, each and every one of those individual qualifying times is just about as hard for everyone trying to achieve them. In other words the BQ is demanding, but doable if you are a decent and dedicated runner. You will never get it as an attendance prize!

I do not presume to speak for anyone but myself. However, having talked to a lot of people who aspire to, and who have achieved first the BQ time and then run the big event, I think this covers some of the key points. For sure, some make it a life goal, or the now popular ‘bucket list’ goal, but except for the difficulty of actually getting to that start line, I’m not sure it rises above other similar ‘life’ type personal achievements. While I cannot realistically hope to achieve my current BQ, within a few months I may have hope of hitting the time for my next age grouping. In the next couple of weeks, courtesy of the Eugene Marathon, I will test my ability to realistically aspire to meeting my Qualifying time later this year. I have already talked about that so won’t go there again right now.

For the moment, I will just close this post with a heartfelt wish that all those heading, as I write, for Boston and the Grandaddy of all marathons will realize their every hope, dream and expectation. Just two things: if it is sunny, don’t forget the sun-block and take it easy on that start!

 

Running in the Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is now available as an e-Book at Trafford Publishing.

WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO?

04.01.2013

?????????????????

Here I sit looking down the road of 2013 with just two races scheduled. Well, one of those is kind of three races in one, but most people will just say you should count it as one. That event is the Hood to Coast Relay. The other one is the Eugene Marathon. Other than those two events, I got nothin’.

I decided to write this because I seem to have encountered quite a few fellow runners saying something similar about their as yet unclarified 2013 competition plan. OR, maybe it is really just like when you buy a new car that you feel is a bit unique and then realize it seems every second car you see on the road is the same – because I am feeling like this, I am sensitive to others feeling the same way.  Anyway, here is my story.

I will happily admit that I would maybe like to go back to  Negril, Jamaica in December for the Reggae Marathon, Half Marathon & 10K and finish the challenge there (there are three events and I have done the 10K and Half Marathon) but it has been five years since I did a full marathon in a tropical climate. I’m not sure.

While many of my friends are well launched into a busy 2013 racing year with lots of plans for more, as I already said, I know several who are like me with a couple of specific races scheduled, but otherwise a pretty blank dance card. While most of my blog subjects are relatively personal, I do try to present things that have a broader appeal as well.  Although the following is obviously pretty specific and personal, it does have a broader context for anyone thinking about the same sorts of things.

In looking at my personal situation I think the issue is that I feel like I may be at a cross-roads. That happens to everbody sooner or later and in many cases, more than just once. Let me tell you why I can’t pull the trigger on my race plan for 2013. Maybe you will help me figure it all out just by indulging me in the writing and reading of this piece.  I will be very glad to hear comments from anyone who has something to say on the subject.

Hood to Coast has actually been on the schedule since well before I realized I had little in the way of a plan for 2013. I mean, when you have to apply for entry back in October of the year before, that’s how it has to be.  And, don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to be organizing another team for “The Mother of All Relays“. This will be number eight for me.

The one race that amounts to a conscious decision to do something specific in  2013 (Eugene Marathon) has become a bit of a pivot point it seems.  My last two marathons have been relative disasters. I feel that I really need one decent one to let me quit, if I must, feeling good about the end of my marathon career.  I have done 16, spanning 25 years. That SHOULD tell me I AM a marathoner. It also presented several examples of which I should be pretty proud – the first and best marathon (Vancouver – 1988 – 3:25), the first after coming back from a ruptured disc and 12 years of almost no racing (Victoria – 2000) and among others, my recent PB, third best raw and second best age-graded (Eugene – 2010). After that, why would anybody NEED to do another marathon? OK, if you had to ask that you should probably just stop reading now. This isn’t really about logic.

The problem is, in 2011 I signed up for Eugene with an original plan to pursue a BQ. At the time, I was only about eleven minutes off the soon to change standard, but 11 minutes is no small undertaking and with the change looming, it seemed like it was ‘now or never’. Well, anyone who reads this blog regularly has to know that I injured my left knee while training, limped to the start line and then had a pretty awful run, electing to finish rather than quit (which I should have done) and then being injured or in recovery for the rest of 2011.

In 2012, I carefully built myself up and went off to the Winthrop Marathon where I figured to record a decent time and get myself back on track. I wasn’t looking for the BQ as they had just moved the goal-posts 6 minutes farther away, but I was hoping to get myself a reasonable time in anticipation of something to come in the future.  Again, it is not a new story on these pages, but in a nutshell I really blew my hydration and wound up cramped up badly and with a very slow time. Even though it was my legs that cramped, that was a problem with my head more than any other body part. Just BAD planning and management – no injury and no long-term impact. The rest of 2012 went pretty well and as the year went along I recorded some times at shorter distances, of which I was rather pleased. I raced in some 14 events over the year. As the year drew to a close, my age-graded % Performance values had returned to the same levels as those I was recording in 2010 – a good year for me.

So here I am with a registration for the 2013 Eugene Marathon, a hotel registration in Eugene, and well into a great training program. The goal is to record a reasonable time that is expected to tell me what happens next. The last two marathons have gone over 5 hours. Those times were a function of both physical and mental issues. I know that in both cases once I passed a certain point, I only cared about getting to the finish. Could I have done either/both faster? Probably.  The times would still have been well off my personal standard. The first goal at Eugene will be to run a well managed marathon and bring home a time that is significantly under 5 hours. I had a good time for the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon in 2012, but was more thrilled with how I managed a very even and steady pace from start to finish. That is what I am looking for in Eugene.

The next goal, which can only be fully determined once our training clinic is done and race day arrives, is to maybe achieve a time that says I CAN hope to set a BQ goal for when I am 70. The way it works with the Boston rules and my date of birth, I can start trying for the Qualifier this Fall. On the right day with good training, Eugene is a great place to test my readiness.  Before I run on April 28th, I will have a final quiet word with myself and put some numbers on my actual goal for the day. At the moment, I think the magic time is 4:30 – 4:35. The BQ is 4:25.  It does me no good to shoot for that in April because in April my Boston time is still 4:10!  Nope, this is a ‘systems test’. They tell me the good runners often do that sort of thing while preparing for a key race.

The rest of the year and maybe my remaining running career, OK racing career, could depend on that outcome.  I am pretty sure that I can go sub-5:00 and get that off my back. The question is, all things being equal, can I get near the future BQ? If I can, then I must start looking at opportunities coming after September 22, 2013.  Who knows, should Eugene go super well and I accidently go under 4:25 in April, well then it gets kind of obvious where I’ll be come April 2014! Otherwise, I have to start searching for good candidates for the qualifier race I need. All suggestions are happily accepted!

If I don’t get close to that 4:30-4:35 range with no good reason why (waaay hot or cold or whatever), then the next question is whether to quit marathons completely or take a different direction. I really do love the whole feel of the marathon, especially a destination event. I learned not so long ago that I already (just barely) qualify as a Marathon Maniac. I decided to apply for recognition/acceptance because ‘official’ or not I AM a Marathon Maniac according to their standards.  And, assuming that nothing nasty has happened in Eugene, I actually have several nearly immediate options to do what most Maniacs do – let your last race be the long training run for your next one.  Using that approach, I could ‘easily’ (logistically speaking, that is) hit 20 marathons pretty smartly. I have to admit that unless there is some kind of running disaster in Oregon in April, twenty seems like a nice round number to achieve as a career goal.

Oh yes, and over the last few years many of my running friends have launched into ultras, mostly on the trails. I’ve never done an ultra, but hey, 50km isn’t all that much more than 42.2km!  It would give me a brand new PB!  Didn’t say it would be fast, but if you’ve never done the distance before, then it would have to be a PB. I mean, I’ve done pretty much every distance from the mile to the marathon. I’ve run trails, which always seem to involve loping over mountains (and falling down). I’ve even raced naked – you’ve got nothing on me Bart Yasso! New challenges are getting more and more difficult to find, so why not something that qualifies as an ultra? (Now, can someone suggest a road 50K or even a ‘flat’ trail race without too many rocks or roots?)

So you see, everything kind of hinges on what happens in about 4 weeks. Most of my running is taken up with the training plan set out by coach Carey Nelson in the Forerunners clinic. I am being pretty faithful to the plan and intend to continue to do so until Eugene. That precludes me running several races in the Lower Mainland Road Race Series, even if I am Chair of the Series Committee.  Sorry guys.  Back soon, unless I’m off in some far off exotic land running a destination race. I know I can pop in any number of relatively local races from 5K to Half Marathon over the rest of the year. There is a very slim possibility that I will never run another marathon after April 28.  That just opens the possibility of various half marathons and shorter runs I will have to get after. Notwithstanding anything I said previously, my schedule will be filled out sooner or later, the question is ‘with what’.  I should add that above all, whether I race or not, I do want to continue to run just because it is such a fine and pleasurable thing to do.

I love the destination event and despite the fact that I have run in over 20 countries, to my own amazement, I’ve only officially raced in four. A lot of the destination foreign races are based on the marathon, but now have at least a half marathon on offer. That seems like a fun goal for someone who likes to travel and run.

I am relatively pleased that I am taking my time with all of this, notwithstanding that I am also just the teensiest bit antsy to get things going. I am sure that I am not the only person ever to face this decision point. Obviously, not the exact same one I am specifically considering, but some kind of important fork in the road (or trail).  It could be similar to mine: aging and seeing personal standards no longer achievable (possibly). It could be someone at a much younger age deciding to retire from serious elite running, including elite regional or local fields.  There comes a time for everyone when no matter how hard you run, you just aren’t fast enough to take home the hardware from your chosen events. Then, you must decide what you want from the sport.  I am a very positive person, but one who likes challenges and goals. When I must, I will change those goals to something challenging but potentially achievable. And, I will be happy. So, there is where I sit today. Big decisions coming, especially if I want to keep enjoying my running, and I DO want to keep enjoying it. This turned out to be pretty personal on one level, but hopefully it hit a familiar tone with a few readers who are maybe going through their own decision process. Maybe if one or two are going through a similar thought process, this might have helped with the thinking – a decidedly personal matter. May we all find an answer that keeps the fun in the run.

I mean, when you get right down to it, it is the thrill of the chase that counts!

 

Running In The Zone: A Handbook for Seasoned Athletes is now available as an e-book.