As you can tell by previous posts, or if you are a friend, you know I have been pretty focused on Boston Qualification (BQ) for some time now (almost 3 years). I started seriously training the spring of 2010 to run my first post-fatty marathon at White Rock last year. That was a great experience and in hindsight was a pretty good race considering my fitness level there (I ran a 3:23 and hit the wall hard around mile 22). That said, I failed to qualify there, at Big D, and at Chicago. To make matters worse, the BQ qualification times dropped 5 minutes last year making my new time 3:15. I was starting to believe it was just not in the cards. However, all my running friends and coach Chris kept encouraging me to keep training hard and keep trying and my race would eventually come to me.
After Chicago, I came back with a vengeance and really started focusing on a lot of tempo and LT training. Chris only had me doing a few Long runs going into WR. I think I only had one 20 miler and a couple 16-18s. What we agreed on is that my weakness was just hitting the wall and Chris changed the focus to LT training to push the wall out. I was nervous about this because conventional wisdom says that my aerobic capacity was weak and typically you attack that with big miles and long runs.
Chris really threw some doozy workouts my way. One day we did 2 wu, 1 @ 5k, 4 tempo, 1 @ 5k and 2 cd. Another was 2 wu, 3 tempo, rest, 3 tempo, rest, 3 tempo, 2 cd. Not only are these pretty long workouts, but it is a lot of quality and I really had to dig on some of them.
My friend Jayna had just run what I consider my perfect marathon. She went out with steady 7:25s and then hammered a big negative split with a bunch of sub 7s to get her first sub 3:10. When I asked her about it, she said that it was not even hard. The last miles were strong and she felt fresh to the finish. I just could not believe this was true or possible, but if it was, I WANTED IT REALLY BAD.
I ran the DRC ½ at a 1:29:37 in hot conditions about a month before White Rock as a fitness test. This gave me a VDOT score for the marathon that showed that a 3:15 was definitely doable and in good conditions a 3:10 was possible.
I also did a 19:07 5K PR 10 days before White Rock at the turkey trot in College Station and got a 1st AG further boosting my confidence.
Lining up with the "elites' in College Station.
Also, to set things up even better, Edgar Martinez (THE HONEY BADGER) asked me if I wanted a pacer for White Rock. I could not believe it. Edgar knows me well and knows I don’t have much pace control. At Chicago, I imploded at 22 because I had wild pacing all day. Mile 16 was a 6:21 and my first 3 miles were sub 7s. Edgar knew that I needed steady and conservative pacing the first 20 miles and then I would be set up to BQ. When my friend Carolyn found out Edgar was pacing me, she decided to join the fun and target a 3:15 as well. NOW THIS WAS GETTING SERIOUS!!! It was fun training hard with Carolyn the month before the race. I think we went form good acquaintances to brother/sister mode during this process. That’s what happens when you run hundreds of miles with someone and hold their hair back when they puke. (sorry Carolyn)
Anyhow, enough about training and backstory, let’s fast forward to White Rock Marathon 2011. The week of the race was good. I had no injuries and over the week progressively felt more and more fresh. On Saturday, we did a 4 mile shakeout and Nick and I did a ½ mile at mile 2 at 5K pace. He says this is the Aussi carb loading and it opens up receptors to accept carbs all day. We had pancakes after the run and then, taking Nick’s advice, I drank about 70% of my carbs that day. Endurox, Accelleraid, Gatoraid were the “table steaks” and I finished off the day with a bowl of rice and tomatoes and the roof of the gingerbread house.
I woke up on Sunday feeling great, ate a cup of oatmeal and brown sugar, took a really good poop and was ready to roll. My only concern was the weather. It was 41 and raining. The rain was shifting from drizzle to downpour and I was worried it would be a huge factor. I changed clothes about 5 times trying to decide what to wear. I settled on a short sleeve shirt with my windproof vest and put a throw away sweatshirt on top. Edgar, Carolyn and I left from my house and Carolyn’s dad took us to the start. Luckily, the rain stopped until after the start. The best thing about White Rock is that you can hang out inside before and after the race so you do not get too chilled.
Edgar, Me, Scott, and Carolyn at the start in our Little Black Dresses
We lined up in Coral A-2 pretty much right behind the elites. Scot Manis found us and ran the first 5 miles with us (he was doing a relay/full combo). I also saw a nervous Jen Smith who was about to embark on her successful sub 3 attempt. Most of the rest of my friends were in the elite start for the ½ including Shaheen, Chris, Steve H, and Natmer and all of them ran amazing races and were on TV!
The start was uneventful and off we went. We were actually slow the first mile at 7:45 and I got nervous. I did not want to run too fast, but did not like the idea of being 17 seconds in the hole after mile 1. Then mile 2 through downtown and downhill flew by at 7:08 and I got more nervous about us overpacing and repeating Chicago! Edgar’s calm demeanor reassured me and we then settled into a long series of 7:2X up the gentle grade to mile 9. The rain really started pouring on Beverly. Beverly is around mile 7 and is a big uphill. The only point in the race I got worried was here. Would it keep raining this hard? Would I get so soaked that I went hypothermic? Then the rain backed off and we were on the downhill stretch to the lake.
Feeling good around mile 5. You can tell it is starting to rain hard.
I was just in cruise control from here to mile 16. I took a couple GUs, but nowhere near as many as I planned and was just barely drinking at the water stations because I knew I was not losing hardly any water to sweat. In fact, around mile 13 my temperature really stabilized and I realized that the rainy cold weather was going to be a net benefit and I really had no excuse not to make BQ. At a couple points, I started pulling away from Edgar and Carolyn and then thought better of it as it was too early to start pressing so we rolled into mile 16 together where I saw Sheri, loaded up on GU and did a big checkpoint. I remember thinking – I feel great, no pain, no energy issues, and good friends by my side and looking ahead about 100 yards, I started to fixate on the 3:15 pace group.
Carolyn, Edgar and I on cruise control around mile 14
It was here that I decided I was going to start pressing and I almost imperceptibly picked up the pace. Within about 10 minutes, I caught the 3:15 group near Stone Tables. The leader was totally obnoxious, telling stories of his running glory (irony), and after a couple minutes of that I decided to press on. Around mile 18, I started to take the governor off a bit to see where my body was and 7:1Xs were still coming easy. I decided to just hang there and see how the Dolly Parton hills went, remembering last year how those hills just knocked me completely down. I went by the Hooter’s station at 20 confident and still a bit conservative and then tackled the hills. Those two miles going into Lakewood were 7:30s and my legs stayed fresh. I run Lakewood all the time and know exactly where the apex point is on Lakewood drive. From there it is all downhill to the finish and the second I got there, I completely took the reins off. The next mile was a 6:54. I could not believe it. I was doing what I did not believe possible and it was easy. I was not even pushing that hard. Mostly I was just not holding back. When I hit Swiss, I ran by a bunch of Sheri’s students yelling “Go Mr. Bordelon” that gave me even more drive and I was able to stay right at that sub 7 pace. It felt absolutely amazing. I know it sounds impossible, but mile 24 felt like I was at the end of a ½ marathon, not a full, and I was not even breathing hard.
Carolyn and Edgar around mile 19 on their way to a strong sub 3:15. Still really wet!
I turned onto Haskel and could now see the mile 25 marker and more importantly Fair Park. I looked at my watch, ran the math and realized I was going to crush my 3:15 goal. I was overcome with emotion. All of those 4 AM runs, the hard track workouts, the tempo till you puke, the 65+ mile weeks, the failed BQ attempts. It all hit me and I was literally crying like a baby as I was flying at a sub 7 pace down Haskel toward impending glory!
As I turned that final corner into the finish lane, all my running friends were there screaming my name. I have never felt so amazing in my life as I crossed the line at 3:12:19. Most of those guys saw me go down hard at the Big D finish and on this day saw me roll in at a sub 6 pace pumping my arm and yelling. Honestly, if I died right now, that is how I want to be remembered – It was pure joy!
I rolled through the finish still pumping my fist as you can see in the photo. This photo does a pretty good job capturing how I felt and so I did what I said I would never do and paid the outrageous fee for the pictures.
I am writing this two weeks out from the race and have had time to reflect on what it means. Of course I am proud of finally BQing. I am also proud of running such a smart and strong race (with a little help from friends). But you know what? The best part of all of it has been the journey. I ran 2200 miles this year. Most of that was with great friends. We have all had successes and failures and we have done it together.
I loved training for El Scorcho with DRP on hot summer nights and my intro to trail runs with Nick at Grapevine, and hauling ass with Edgar at track and chasing Jen down Katy trail and running hills with Dalton and getting up at 3:45 to go easy with Shaheen and Mark and running all the way to oak cliff with Caty and Dave and taking off too fast on long runs with NatMer and watching in awe as Steve H sets PR after PR and getting amazing advice from Dan and seeing Steve P set the standard for pain threshold and running through the hood with Carolyn and going to Chicago with Craig and Tami and my first sub 8 loop of the lake with Scott S and running my first post-fatty ½ with Pedro and seeing Dawn go pro and getting awesome upgrades from Andrew and watching Elizabeth come back to finish her first full and watching Kevin, Scott, Ken and Cliff build to the ½ and seeing Blake win AG in the ½ and Bob and Carolyn’s marathon wedding and seeing Jayna finally run her perfect race and eating banana pancakes with Manis and slipping on ice in February and Joe’s perfect pacing and talking with Chris Strait on the front porch on Sundays about the plans for the week and race strategy.
I almost feel like this race was a bit poetic for me. We are turning the page now as we are moving to Houston and I am going to be jumping into the next chapter with family, work, friends, and fitness. I hope I can find a circle of running friends in Houston like my running family in Dallas. I am going to focus on shorter races in 2012 and see how fast I can get under the continued training from Chris Strait. Who knows, a 1:26 ½ Marathon may be possible. In September, I will be sitting nervously at my PC hoping beyond hope that my White Rock time is fast enough to make the Boston cutoff. Then the Boston training starts. With the right coaching, support, focus and weather, I am hoping Boston will be as magical as White Rock was this year.