Archive for March, 2014


I QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON!!!!!!!!!!!!

03.20.2014

What fabulous good news! Anyone who knows me also knows how important a goal this is for me.

I Did Run The Inaugural Boston 5K

I Did Run The Inaugural Boston 5K

Unfortunately, there is equally horrible BAD news. I did it in 1988.  Do you think they would still let me in on that result?     No?       Yeah, didn’t think so.

OK, so what is this idiot babbling about now?

Here’s the scoop. I was fact checking something I was writing in another post that should have gone up before this one. I was trying to put marathon running into context and describing what things were like back in 1988 when I ran my first and, it turned out, best marathon. That was the Vancouver International Marathon, which has now morphed into the BMO Vancouver Marathon, which coincidentally I will be running again in just a few weeks. It will be my fifth time on three distinctly different courses, but I digress.

Boston Qualifying times have changed over the years and from time to time, starting with the fact that there was NO BQ at all until 1970. Well, OK, you had to be male, but other than that……  That’s right, it wasn’t until 1972 that women were invited to run Boston all legitimate like.

By 1988 they had age and gender based qualifying standards. Until a few minutes ago, I never knew exactly what my BQ was when I did that first marathon. I have always known my finish time had to be close. So, today, while looking for numbers of entrants for various major races run in 1988, I also came across the qualifying standards. There it was: M40-44  –  3:25. That is what I did.

Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

I have often said (though I probably didn’t really mean it deep down) that what is most important to me is to be able to say “I qualified for Boston” (vs necessarily running it). Now, I CAN say it.  I qualified for Boston. I qualified for Boston. I ONCE QUALIFIED FOR BOSTON!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I guess that this revelation has come rather late, because in 1988 I was more focused on just doing a marathon. Although a couple of my fellow running club members had gone to and run Boston, it surely wasn’t on my radar. Maybe that was partly because I was busy with work, had a young family and nothing like enough money for such frivolity. So, my one and only BQ just sailed away into the mists of time, unrecognized, unloved, unused.

Later on and even though I’ve tried to find out what the BQ times were back then, I could not confirm one way or the other my possible BQ, although I assumed I probably missed by a few minutes, . Until today. Today I got some kind of runner’s gift in the form of that bit of knowledge. It leaves me amazingly pleased and you might even say spiritually satisfied. We could get into the mystical matter of ‘why now?‘, but I’m just going with the basic fact.

Speaking of facts, I realized as I typed the last sentence that my current BQ is exactly one (1) hour slower than that one in 1988. There is something almost satisfying in that. BQ 1988 = 3:25, BQ 2014 = 4:25. Am I planning on making this whole thing really symmetrical and qualifying again in May? Wouldn’t I love to! However, should it happen I think it will be more an accident than a well executed plan.

I wrote this post partly because I am truly thrilled. In part it is about the fact that I know quite a few going to this most momentous running of the Boston Marathon after the horror of 2013. My mind is very much concentrated on the symbolic importance of it and that makes this unexpected revelation all the more important to me.

I also wrote it because it represents one of those great things about running, once you do something it cannot be taken away from you. A couple of years back I got a ‘new’ PB for 5K in much the same way. It was a result that I had not recorded and had more or less forgotten about. Old friend and fellow Running in the Zone Editor, Steve King put together a list of PB results for Penticton P0under members (which I was at the time). There was my result. I was surprised and went so far as to ask Steve about the accuracy of the course (I remembered thinking it was too fast). He assured me that it was no more or less accurate than any of the other courses we ran in those days and upon checking some other results recorded in close proximity it seemed the number was reasonable. And just like that, 25 years or so after the doing of it, I had a new 5K PB!

This blog (and the book) is slanted toward the interests of ‘seasoned’ athletes. Almost by definition, us seasoned athletes are past the days when we can knock off true PB results. There is always an asterisk. Nothing wrong with qualified triumphs when taken in context, but the pure ones just shine a little brighter. My philosophy has always been to celebrate your achievements and never despair over your loss of ability to repeat or better them. We all reach that point at some time. I know several people who set World single age records virtually every time they lace on a pair of shoes and walk up to a starting line, but while they are amazing and doing amazing things, they generally aren’t running faster – not over a reasonable time period. Race over race? Maybe, but for the most part, not season over season. The PB is well behind even these phenomenal folk. That doesn’t really matter though. I figure as long as we are getting out and doing what we love, we are still winning!

I hope my exciting little experience today and my story about it, will move others to discover something from their ‘good old days’ or just reflect on the fact that they actually HAVE those ‘good old days’.

PLAN OR HABIT, AND IS THERE A DIFFERENCE?

03.13.2014
Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

Vancouver Marathon 1988 (near finish)

A friend sent me a note regarding an upcoming long run and the event for which it was a training run. He was wondering about my pre-event preparation and pondering. It stimulated some interesting thoughts and this little essay.  It all started out innocently enough regarding rituals before runs and particularly races, then he tacked on some other suggested perspectives. All that got me wondering if I had really changed much over the many years I’ve been running and racing.

One of the first things that crossed my mind was that I really don’t have any MUSTS before a race (you know, things that must be done lest the sky fall or the earth open and swallow me). I never really have. However there are a bunch of things I like to have under control and to do before a race. I can’t recall heading to a race of any distance where I was knowingly gunning for a PR say. I plan to run all races to the best of my current ability – PR’s happen when they happen. I do go to races from time to time where I know my condition or preparation will NOT produce a great result and therefore take care not to anticipate the impossible or imprudent.

Lately, I suppose I have gone to the start with plans for either a recent PB, or age graded performance. A year or two back I decided I missed having actual (vs age graded) PB’s and the only way to get one would be to run a distance I’ve never done. Of course that is just a kind of a fun thing more than a serious racing goal. I must admit that running my first and so far ONLY 50K ultra may have caused a few pre-race jitters, but then I reminded myself I had a lot of marathons in the bag and 50K is just 7.8km, a mere 4.8372093 miles farther (but who is counting?).

One thing I certainly do now and have done for as long as it has been possible with all our modern on-line tools, is to PLAN my attack. By that I mean I study route maps (especially for new events). I pay particular attention to the profile maps, sometimes even cross-checking them with Google

Winthrop Marathon - Profile

Earth. Pacing is everything. I don’t have the reserves anymore to ‘pull something out’ late in a race. The most successful I’ve been at this recently was the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Half Marathon in October 2012. This is a course for which I could probably draw out the route by memory, including the elevation profile, but I still study and plan. Planning or not, I often fail to execute, mostly by going out too fast. Long story short, just to illustrate what I mean, in 2012 I was able to manage my pace such that every split was plus or minus about 1-2%, except for two and they were the going down and coming back up of a particularly significant hill. As I hit the ‘Mile to Go’ marker it was getting tough, but I pushed on. It felt like I was running in mud and was sure I was rapidly falling off pace. In addition to the planning I always do a large amount of post-race analysis. (Nobody gets their money’s worth from a race more than me!) The analysis revealed the even splits and more amazingly, the fact that the last mile was about 5 seconds faster than the first!  I just missed the mythical negative split by mere seconds! Oh, and I beat my goal time by at least a minute. I consider it one of the best races I’ve ever run, not because of the absolute time, but rather because of overall race management.

NYCM Expo 2007

NYCM Expo 2007

If I am going to a race where there is an Expo (I love race expos – the energy and all) my ‘rule is to do it on Friday for a Sunday race, if at all possible.  I tend to hang around just too much when it comes to racing the next day. If I just can’t get that extra day in, then I do try to show some discipline and not spend too much time at the Expo. I definitely avoid tourism the day before if it involves walking about or me being in charge of making it happen.

For longer races I try to suck back a reasonable amount of electrolyte the day before/morning of the event. However, if it is just water I have no feelings of dread. Some races just seem to ‘demand’ a pre-race pasta party, often with friends or family or both. For me, that is less about true carbo-loading and more about tradition. Except for the Reggae Marathon, my ‘pasta party’ will likely be more of a private affair and relatively small (say 2 to 20 participants). For the most part it is social and traditional rather than tactical. I try to load up for a couple of days prior to the actual race with the last big meal actually being lunch the day before the race.

I always like to be up and ready, way ahead of the start. Sometimes you are given no choice by race logistics, but even when you could walk out the door to the start (often the case in Victoria where there are lots of hotels near the start) I will still be up a couple of hours before race time. Since we are all runners here, there is one primary reason having to do with not needing a major porta-potty stop mid-race. Sometimes the magic works! For a Half, I generally won’t eat much (maybe a banana) but for a marathon or ultra I try to eat a bagel with that banana, maybe with honey or such, or possibly a bowl of oatmeal porridge with sweetener or fruit. This must be a couple of hours pre-race.

I also like quiet time -always have. I am only competing with myself, but most of the time I am very serious about that and expect nothing but the best of myself according to my state of preparedness. The exception to this expectation was the last running season when I was chasing two star Marathon Maniac status. I had to run a lot of marathons in a relatively short time, so I necessarily needed to adjust to that reality. One of the big ones was being able to accept times of five hours and more as part of the greater plan. At the time it seemed OK. Apparently, I was able to manage expectations in a positive way. Now that I’ve decided two stars is plenty, my race expectation is again going to be ‘the best I can do’. I am certainly hopeful that my best is still sub-five. So, before I run I like to get inside my own head and just try to prepare well for the day as it is being presented.  No matter how well you train or prepare, the circumstances on the day will dictate absolute performance. Let’s face it, a person (not me) could win the race and still have a relatively poor time if the weather was extreme. We have to make the best of the situation and that is where the quiet time pre-race helps. During that time you reset to accommodate conditions and adjust your basic race plan, especially your attitude. That is so important for me. When I can’t/don’t do it I usually pay the price. The Winthrop Marathon course profile above, is a good example. It kind of looks like if you tripped at the start, you could just roll all the way to the finish! If you are good with downhill running, it should be a good one. What wasn’t obvious is how hot it got after about half way and how unprotected from the direct sun the course is from about half way. It is a great event, well organized and just plain fun, but the weather factor made a huge difference to the outcome. So, the best laid plans and all that…………………….

My friend asked if things had changed over the years – polite way of asking if anything is different for an old guy (‘seasoned’ we like to say here). One BIG difference is the absolute time expectation. It would be just plain stupid for me to think I could run a marathon as fast as my PB done back in 1988. So yes, in that respect I certainly have made a change, as we all must eventually. For me, and many others, it is why age grading is of value. Age grading lets me see if I am holding my own, or even improving. I did actually go through a period of maybe 18 months when I was steadily improving in real time based on recent performances. On the basis of age-graded performance (grading all races), my second best marathon was run when I was 65 and was the fourth in a sequence of races that saw me chip away a few seconds here, a minute there and so on.

I have always run for pleasure. At times, some of the pleasure came from running relatively fast (for me). Still, training or racing, my attitude has never been too intense. Maybe that’s why I’ve never been able to lay claim to any really amazing results, even ‘relatively amazing’. Naturally, the older I get the more amazing it becomes to walk up to the start with every intention of getting to the finish on my own steam. Of course there are truly fantastic octogenarians out there that make my present age/achievements seem modest, and who serve to keep me humble.  That said, I have never had

Half Way to a DFL - Frosty Mountain

Half Way to a DFL – Frosty Mountain

a DNF (maybe should have) and only one DNS. I did score one DFL but I also won my age group (M60-69) in that race! So, my approach is only tempered by what is relatively reasonable. Writing this reminds me that I have done the Reggae Marathon weekend three times. Twice, I did not do the event for which I originally registered. The first time I registered for the marathon but due to a ‘planes, trains and automobiles’ situation never made the start line until over two hours after the start. With RD permission  I switched to the 10K. Last year I signed up again to do the marathon, partly because of my Marathon Maniac goal. But, when I learned I had misunderstood the criteria for my ‘two star’ goal and had already achieved it without doing the Reggae Marathon, I opted for the Half and partying with my many friends rather than sweating under the tropical sun for too many hours. Maybe that is a sign of creeping maturity! There was a time that if I said it, I would have had to do it. The one problem with having bailed twice on the full marathon is that my Reggae Marathon medal collection is still short one component.

Running is very much a pleasure for me. Racing is too, but to put that in perspective I must go back to a reflection I did some years back.  I really want to qualify to run Boston. I have physical issues which make that a difficult goal to achieve, though under truly optimal circumstances, maybe not completely impossible. I asked myself a sort of rhetorical/philosophical question: If the gods of running would grant me a BQ (and the race itself, of course), but after that I would have to stop running, would I take the deal? The answer was quick and easy: NO. Whether or not I can race for much longer, I want to be able to run for my own pleasure for a good long time yet.

I do have one critical race to plan. That will be one with our grandson. Charlie is going to be eight come the summer. He already races in short running events and kid’s triathlons. What we need now is a 3K or something like that where I can run with him. I don’t think anyone will let me run in the kids’ races he now does, even if some might think I AM in my second childhood.  I’ve raced with all our family members at some time or other: wife, all three kids and two sons-in-law. Surely, there will be a race for me and the grand-boy!