What I’ve been working on lately: Project BQ

Motivation on my fridge.  The Boston Marathon magnet was a gift from my friend Lindsay, who also got me the rubber bracelet I reference in the post. The postcard was designed the wife of my friend and local race director Chris Lauber.

Motivation on my fridge. The Boston Marathon magnet was a gift from my friend Lindsay, who also got me the rubber bracelet I reference in the post. The postcard was designed by Rya Lauber, the wife of my friend and local race director Chris Lauber.

Several years ago, when Brian and I were about to graduate from college, we were at an awards banquet where he was being honored for having a GPA of, like, eight million or something, and they asked all of the honorees to say a few words about their goals when they were recognized. Brian got up and accepted his certificate, and then said, “I have two goals in life: to qualify for Boston, and to be useful.”

I liked that. I still like it. In fact, I like it so much I ended up stealing those goals for myself.  And even though we’re only about a sixth of the way through 2015, this year has so far been the year where I have made real progress towards both goals.  I’ve been donating time, money and even my blood to help other people out, which I like doing because I have been blessed with so much in my life that it feels selfish not to look for ways to be of service to others.

But really, the goal of “being useful” is an ongoing goal, one that doesn’t really have an end point, not the way the other goal does. That’s the goal I’m going to write about in this blog post, specifically how I’m just a little over two weeks away from trying to qualify for the Boston Marathon for the first time.

Qualifying for Boston seemed like an incredibly far-off goal – like the Pluto of goals – until the winter of 2012, when I ran two half-marathons in 1:43. When that happened, I suddenly had to recalibrate my mental shit so I could take this whole new universe of running ability into consideration when setting goals.  And that was the first time Boston seemed like a real possibility.

There was a problem, though!  At the time, my marathon PR was 4:49, while my BQ was 3:35. That’s a huge gap! We figured it would be foolish to try to make that kind of leap in one race, so instead we focused on chipping time off with each marathon I ran.  That’s exactly what I did: 4:18 at Big Sur, 4:08 at Bahamas, 3:54 at Clearwater.  And now, on March 7, I’m hoping to run a 3:37 at the Albany Marathon in Georgia. (My BQ is now 3:40 because I got older, but I still want to come in well below it because so many people qualify these days that it’s not enough to come in just below the standard.)

So once we set my target race, I started training my ass off.  (Not literally, of course.) This time I’m using the Run Less, Run Faster* program, which I know is controversial because you only run three times a week, but dudes, I have gotten so much faster since I started running this program. Check it out: I ran three half-marathons in three months and I PRed in all of them.

The last PR came earlier this month at the Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor, when I cut three minutes off my PR and went sub-1:40 for the first time ever.  And here’s the sick thing: it was totally manageable.  I never once felt like I was out of my depth.  I ticked off mile after mile at 7:30-ish and felt perfectly fine the whole time.  And I had the most remarkable set of contrasting feelings the entire time, where I felt this quiet confidence in my abilities as well as utter disbelief that I had just run a 1:39 half-marathon.  And then, just because I wasn’t feeling weird enough as is, I also knew that I could probably run even faster.

age-group

Hugging my friend and teammate Corrie on the podium at the Best Damn Race in Safety Harbor.

You know how I wrote above that I had to suddenly recalibrate my mental shit?  I’ve been doing that a lot lately.  Forget the fact that I was a total bookworm as a kid, or that I only played sports in high school because coaches saw I was tall and were like, “You, get over here,” or that I was a smoker for nearly ten years.  When I first started running, I looked at women who ran races like that as if they were not even part of the same species as me.  And then over the years, I’ve watched as my times dropped and my age-group rankings rose, and then one day I realized I was running alongside some of the women I used to admire from afar.

But even with all of these confidence-boosting races and training runs, I still have some apprehension.  A marathon is a totally different beast from a half-marathon.  There’s something about those last six miles and that utter emotional desolation that sets in when you realize you’ve already been running for hours and you still have so far to go… Nothing – not even a twenty-miler – can prepare you for that.

And speaking of twenty-milers, this past weekend I finally got my first-ever (non-ultra) twenty-mile training run in, and it was crushing.  From the very beginning my legs felt sluggish, and then I spent the last five miles running straight into a headwind. I still managed to hit my paces and finished my training run in 2:57, but man, I came into my house feeling like I had been thoroughly whipped.  So I know it’s not going to be easy, and I don’t expect it to be. Like Tom Hanks said in A League of Their Own, “The hard is what makes it great.”

I’m so ready to see if I can do this.  I believe I can, and now I am anxious for the opportunity to prove it to myself.

*Once I finish my race, I plan to write a post comparing and contrasting Run Less, Run Faster with the Hansons Marathon Method.  I just want to see how it works out come race day before I do so.

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15 responses to “What I’ve been working on lately: Project BQ

  1. Good luck! You got this. I would love to hear how Run Less, Run Faster compares with Hanson’s, and what sort of strength work and cross-training you’ve been doing to complement the actual running. (I hear many triathletes especially have success with RLRF.)

    • Thank you! The reason why I started doing the plan is because my racing team (which mostly consists of triathletes) was structuring our run workouts around it, so I just decided to commit to the program and see where it went. I’ll make sure to write up something comparing the two once I’m done with my race. I’m also putting together a post that goes more into my training (as well as all of the other non-running training I’ve done).

  2. Fantastic! I’m a big fan of the Run Less, Run Faster philosophy. I also want to BQ this (need the same time standard as you) so I’ll be following your posts and progress eagerly.

    • Oh good, I’m glad to hear that. Hearing from people who are fans of it helps me feel better and more confident in all of this. There are a lot of people out there who aren’t such fans and while I’m open to hearing what they have to say, I really don’t think ten days out from a marathon is the time to really explore that, you know?

  3. First of all, I’m really excited for you and all the progress you’ve made as a runner (and triathlete and ultra!). I can’t wait to see how your upcoming marathon goes for you! 🙂 I, too, have a hope to BQ someday, but have only recently had the courage to allow myself to dream out loud recently since my 2 marathon attempts went like this: 5:08, 4:47. My post about that is still in the drafts folder but I think it’s time to put it out there so I can start believing and holding myself accountable.

    I’m really interested to hear how this program has worked better for you! Your half progression times is also what I dream of. 🙂 I am not too familiar with either methods that you tried, but I think I’ve found my recent progression success by frequent running (5-7 days a week). I love how different programs / styles work for different people and I think being open minded and trying new things is the best way to find out an approach that allows you to train consistently. I’m not an expert by any means, but I think the one common denominator for steady progress has been the fact exact I was able to train all year round last year.

  4. First of all, I’m really excited for you and all the progress you’ve made as a runner (and triathlete and ultra!). I can’t wait to see how your upcoming marathon goes for you! 🙂 I, too, have a hope to BQ someday, but have only recently had the courage to allow myself to dream out loud recently since my 2 marathon attempts went like this: 5:08, 4:47. My post about that is still in the drafts folder but I think it’s time to put it out there so I can start believing and holding myself accountable.

    I’m really interested to hear how this program has worked better for you! Your half progression times is also what I dream of. 🙂 I am not too familiar with either methods that you tried, but I think I’ve found my recent progression success by frequent running (5-7 days a week). I love how different programs / styles work for different people and I think being open minded and trying new things is the best way to find out an approach that allows you to train consistently. I’m not an expert by any means, but I think the one common denominator for steady progress has been the fact exact I was able to train all year round last year.

    • Hi Alison! Thank you so much!

      I think you hit it with your last point, which is that consistency is really important. A lot of things had to change for me before I got faster but one of the big ones is being consistent with my training. I’ve also tried plans where I ran 5 times a week and that was a little too much for me, but 4 times a week was just fine. Fortunately there are a lot of different training programs out there so if one doesn’t work, something else very well could.

      Regarding your goals of getting faster, I think it seems totally doable. I mean, you cut nearly 20 minutes off your time from one marathon to the next! That’s HUGE. If you can do that a couple more times you’ll be within striking distance. So for what it’s worth, I believe you can do it. 🙂

  5. I know the answer is much simpler than the question here… but if you’ve never been a runner, the answer would seem to be to just get out there and start moving your feet… but see, it’s not that simple for all of us, my feet don’t have great arches – they fall in the middles and finding great running shoes has been something of a massive problem. I want to be running alongside people like you, and like those you admire because I feel the very same way, but it’s been difficult. I don’t suppose I might have missed a post about running shoes by any chance?

    • Hey Danielle, I’m sorry to hear about the issues you’ve been having with your feet. I haven’t written much about running shoes because I don’t consider myself particularly knowledgeable about them, beyond having my own opinions as for what works for me. I take it you’ve talked to people at specialty running shops and looked at orthotics and all that?

  6. Damn am I impressed! My body mechanics are too messed up to aspire to such feats, and it seems I’m always recovering from one stupid injury after another, but it sure makes me want to figure out what the heck I CAN get better at and start making more serious efforts.

    Good luck!!!

    • Thanks, dude! I’ve been lucky to never have been derailed by any serious injuries. I can’t imagine how frustrating that must be, especially for someone like you who is really into moving around and being active. 😦

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