I have a dream – a dream to run 100 miles and qualify for the Boston Marathon before my 40th birthday on November 2nd. So far this year, I’ve achieved half of my dream by running the Buffalo Run 100 miler on March 23rd. This Saturday, I have a chance to achieve the second part of my goal – to qualify for the Boston Marathon. It won’t be easy. I need to run a 3:45:00 or faster to “BQ.” My last marathon in May was a 3:48:33. Close, but not close enough.
Today I ran from my house down towards Lucky Peak Lake. The first mile is fairly flat and I took it easy, warming up, relaxing my muscles and allowing them to warm up good (which I believe will be key on race day as well – either by walking or gently jogging a mile before the race or by taking it a bit easier on the first mile in the marathon. I haven’t decided which yet.) The second mile is a crazy steep downhill with about 230 feet of loss! It’s a rush!!! I’m a good downhiller and practicing one more time, nice and easy on this hill is excellent practice for what awaits me on the Pocatello Marathon course where there is a loss of elevation in the first half of the race of 1,400 feet!!!! I’m nervous and excited to see how I race on such a course since I’ve only done fairly flat marathons in the past. I’ve read plenty of race reports about Pocatello and some say they ran out so fast and hard in the first half that their quads were thrashed by the second half. In the mountains, when running trails, I’ve often heard others say similar things when they run long stretches of downhill. In my experience, I usually have felt really strong even after running miles downhill at a pretty quick clip, but…. this is a marathon. It’s different! Can I do a fast pace downhill for several miles and still have what it takes to bring home a Boston Qualifying time in the last half? That’s the big question!
I ran that second mile today in 7:37, feeling like I was gently gliding downhill, taking it easy, letting gravity pull me along and never fighting it. (This, I have often believed is the secret to successful downhill running – relaxing and leaning slightly forward, staying fairly perpendicular to the road, never braking or locking the quads, not pushing the pace at all – just riding the “wave” down, letting gravity do the work, while you catch your breath and enjoy the breeze blowing past while the Garmin rewards you with a faster pace than you can normally comfortably hold on the flat!)
Once I was off the highway and onto the Boise Greenbelt, I turned towards Lucky Peak Dam and found a strong headwind. I settled into a pace I felt I could manage until the turnaround and just enjoyed the views of the black, jagged canyons jutting high into the air on either side of me, high atop hills of golden grasses and sagebrush and scree – the crazy piles of broken rock fragments at the bases of these mighty hillsides – a trail runner’s Russian Roulette for a sprained ankle (or bragging rights!)
The jagged canyons on my right reflected in the Boise River, which is fairly still past the dam – like a pool of dark amber glass -still, motionless, lovely. The day was warm, nearing 80 degrees, sunny, not a cloud in the sky, though the sight and smell of burning forest fires hung like a wet blanket over the city of Boise, preventing fresh air from coming or going. The stagnant air was oppressive, heavy. I longed for a breath of crisp, clean, fresh air but it was not to be. I was sweating more than usual and regretted not bringing any water.
I ran the two miles out to Sandy Pointe Park, stopped the Garmin for a few seconds and turned on the water faucet in the picnic section and drank a few gulps of lukewarm water. As I turned on the Garmin again, I swallowed and the taste of licking an old metal pipe was strong in my mouth. Ugh! Next time I bring my own water!
I turned at 4 miles and headed back, the wind still in my face. This happens every time I run down in the canyons. It seems coming or going the wind is in my face! It had a slightly cooling effect, but made getting my pace up more difficult. At about this point the song, “Top Of the World” by the Carpenters came on my Ipod. It made me smile and these two lines stood out to me:
Something in the wind has learned my name
And it’s telling me that things are not the same
In the leaves on the trees and the touch of the breeze
There’s a pleasing sense of happiness for me
As I stand on the cusp of my race with some solid training under my belt, I hope I can carry that sense of happiness and joy into my race on Saturday. Sometimes when I have a big goal, I can get carried away with the “whatifs” and worry myself silly – so much so that I’ve sabotaged my own races at times by not being able to sleep for days before or having my inner critic at the ready whispering, “You can’t do this!” over and over during the race. I’m committed to NOT allowing that to happen this time! I’m going to eat well, rest, stretch and mentally get into my “happy place” before the race this time. When the gun goes off, I’m going to run by feel – not by fanatically obsessing over my Garmin’s pace or distance. I believe that if my body is ready and trained well enough that it will all work out on race day.
My last marathon wasn’t supposed to go so well. It was a benchmark marathon. I had been to the chiropractor three times that week with IT band problems and I had 2 fifty milers on the horizon that were my “key races.” In fact, the first mile I ran with friends and chatted and told them all, “I feel like I’m showing up to a final exam on a class I didn’t attend even by BEING at this marathon!” since I’d been running trails and racing ultras for the previous year and a half and assumed I would have lost what little road speed I had previously — when my best marathon had been a 4:20:59. My only long-shot hope was to break 4 hours and I’d written in my log book that morning, “Breaking 4 is unlikely since I’m not trained for this. I’m expecting a 4:10 or so.” I ran by feel, racing smart, holding back, eating more frequently and drinking more often than I had done in my previous 3 marathons. And, it worked! Relaxing, running steady, eating, drinking, staying mentally happy brought me a 32 minute PR! I was stunned! I felt like I hadn’t even “tried” and yet – maybe that’s the point! Running long distances in the mountains seems to have strengthened my legs and my resolve. I can go for hours and hours and suffer many discomforts and never, ever want to quit. And, by contrast, not having to worry so much about spraining an ankle or doing a face-plant on a sweet, technical downhill meant I could relax in a new way, and the pace was much faster than I can manage on mountainous, rocky terrain, so it felt good. Maybe it was a fluke!!! Maybe that 3:48:33 was the best race I’ll ever run! I don’t know yet. I’ll find out soon if I have it in me to earn that sub 3:45 and the coveted BQ to reach my dreams before that 40th birthday sneaks up on me in a couple of months.
Wish me luck!!!!
My splits today:
Mile 1: (warm up) 9:20
Mile 2: (downhill) 7:37
Mile 3: (greenbelt) 8:15
Mile 4: (greenbelt) 8:42
Mile 5: (greenbelt) 8:38
Mile 6: (greenbelt) 8:44
Mile 7: (uphill – 233 feet gain against heavy traffic) – 10:24
Mile 8: (hooray – flat reached the top) 8:50
Total: 8.01 miles. Time: 1;10:40. Pace: 8:49. Elevation Gain: 315 feet. Felt: Controlled, Good. Ready to BQ on Saturday or die trying!!!!!!!!!!!!!