The Long Road to Boston …

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On November 10, 2015, I received my Confirmation of Acceptance for the 2016 Boston Marathon. This journey hasn’t been a short and easy one by any means. With my first marathon, taking place in 2004, I finished the struggled finishing the race with a time of just under 5 hours in San Diego at the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon.

Let’s rewind to 2012 … I ran half marathon in Santa Barbara as a marathon pace test in November for the 2012 California International Marathon, which I was able to run the half in a time of 1:26:40. At that point I was on cloud nine thinking I finally had my Boston Qualifying time in the bag come December. However, with the high winds (50 mph) and rain, which was ankle deep on the road at one point, my dreams were crushed as I struggled to run the marathon not even close to the time I had hoped which was a sub 3:05.

After that marathon, I found the proper training program, which I was committed to following and training for to get my entry into the 2014 Boston Marathon. With about 14 weeks committed to training for the 2013 LA Marathon, I felt good and confident for the race. Through the race I felt good and solid through out. I was on point at my half marathon time, and knew I just had to run relaxed and focus on running the race that I had logged in over 1,000 miles for. At mile 23, I completely blew up and my shots of running my sub 3:05 were lost … I finished with a 3:11:00, which was a 21 minute personal best for me at the time, this race was felt with mixed emotions as I failed to enjoy my personal best. The biggest lesson I learned at this race was to enjoy the race and crossing the finish each and every time.

With another marathon on my schedule I was locked and ready to train for the California International Marathon in December of 2013. This time I was really excited and knew the weather was in my favor, it was cooler and I always have ran better in colder weather. My splits were even and I ran the race I would need to in order to now run a sub 3:10. The time increase was due to me now trying to qualify for the 2015 Boston Marathon where I would be 35 years old on race day, which meant I would move up an age group. I crossed the finish line at a time of 3:09:25 … boom! I finally earned my Boston Marathon Qualifying time!

When September of 2014 rolled around, I was ready to register for the second week of registration for those who qualified with a time less than 5 minutes of their qualifying mark. With my 35 seconds under my 3:10 time I was ready to register, though not certain I would get in, I was still hopeful.

 

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For 10 days straight I would check my emails, my junk folders and the Boston Athletic Association (BAA) website (baa.org). The excitement of being able to register was building on me and had me anxious to find out if I got in …

Then that excitement I had changed to a whirlwind of emotion when I received the unfortunate news from the BAA that my qualifying time was not fast enough to gain entry into the 2015 Boston Marathon. Those running the Boston Marathon in 2015 would need a time of 62 seconds under their qualifying standard to gain entry and toe the line on April 20, 2015. I was 27 seconds shy of reaching this required time under my standard … perhaps here is the heart breaker … that 27 seconds equates to about 1.03 seconds per mile.

So there I was feeling a bit gutted, finding out that I was one of 1,947 who would receive the news that 2015 wasn’t our year. For a brief moment, I felt down. Then within a couple hours I did like most other crazy marathoner would do who didn’t get into Boston … Yup, I started planning out my training schedule … my target race became the 2014 California International Marathon.

At that very moment I told myself, the goal would be to get a BQ minus 5 minutes, because that seems to be the new standard. Even though I couldn’t toe the line in 2015, there is one thing that this email couldn’t do, it couldn’t take away the fact that on a cold day in December 2013 I went from a marathoner to a Boston Qualifier … Now the next logical step is to go from a Boston Qualifier to a Boston Marathon finisher!

In that email stood out something that would keep me motivated … the portion of the email that stuck in my head read, “the pursuit of running in a future Boston Marathon.”

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I would go back to my “drawing board” and devise a schedule and plan that would get me mentally and physically prepared to go after what I believe to be a pretty lofty goal. However, that goal wasn’t out of reach, I knew somewhere in me that sub 3:05 existed, even a sub 3:00 wasn’t a stretch based on previous training and races.

Along with getting my game plan together, for added measure I printed out that email from the BAA that rejected my qualifying time and pinned next to where I keep my running shoes. So every single day I would lace up, I would see that email and remind myself of what I am working for …

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So the morning of December 7, 2014 came around with an early wake up call to get myself to the finish line area where I would meet my teammates from the Buffalo Chips Running Club where we would take a charted team bus to the start line area.

With a 30 minute ride up to city of Folsom where the start of the 32nd Annual California International Marathon staged, the members of the team shared their individual goals and in fact a group of members all were running a 3:20:00 time in hopes to get some to Boston in 2016.

For me I had sub 3 on my mind, but with waking up and doing a systems check a realistic figure for me that morning was anywhere between 3:03 and 3:07. So as we exited the bus and gave our final good lucks with our fellow teammates and head to the start line with a quick stop by the gear bag check in readily awaiting runners to toss their gear into the trucks near the start line.

As I headed to the start line I found the 3:05 pace sign and lined myself up in that area. My race strategy / plan for this race wasn’t to run mile for mile with the pace sign but rather to run my own race but having the pacer and group as a reference point at any given time during the race. I know that when I train, I have some miles that are faster than others, while other miles are shorter than other. As long as I could keep the sign in front of me I knew I was in good shape, when the sign fell behind me all I did was listened for the crowds yell and cheer, “GO 3:05 group”. At any given time if I could hear this cheer from the supporters lining the route from Folsom to Downtown Sacramento, I was in good shape.

With the National Anthem finishing up, runners took their place and I gave my watch on last look to make sure it was on. This CIM being my 8th of my 25 marathons, I knew this course very well and as a result, I knew a mile by mile goal or assessment wouldn’t help me, so I kept in mind my goals of chunking the race into pieces.

The first chunk of the race would be the first 10k. This portion of the course would have me running on Oak Avenue which is a straight roadway taking runners from Folsom to Orangevale. The route would have a steady downhill with some mixed in rolling parts in the road. I was feeling pretty good at the start and ready to get through the 5k marker, but then had to take a quick stop around mile 3 or so where a row of port-o-potties were lined for runners near the fueling stations. I was in and out of the port and back running. Before hitting the potty, I had the pace group behind me and as I excited the potty I saw the 3:05 sign moving in front of me now. Rather than jumping right into catching the sign right away, I stuck to my plan of keeping the sign within view, which wasn’t too far ahead of me.

Shortly after the turn from Oak Avenue onto Fair Oaks Blvd. I quickly caught up to the pace group and was feeling good as we reached the 10k marker. I crossed the 10k mark with a time of 43:40, right around the time I wanted to be at for the marker.

Now the second part of the race was making sure I stayed consistent and felt good getting to the half marathon point. Though this wasn’t a concern to getting to that point, I knew in past marathons I had seen drastic drops from the first half splits to the finishing line time.

This portion of the course would take runners through the cities of Citrus Heights, Fair Oaks and Carmichael. There would be plenty of rolling roads on this portion as Fair Oaks Blvd, would provide us the longest single stretch of road on the marathon course. With previous knowledge of this course, I knew there would be some challenging short climbs but I would be able to make it up on the very giving downs the route offered during this stretch. The biggest challenge of the course would come just after mile 10, known as the “San Juan Hills”, as it is located near San Juan Road, the hill could cost you some decent time if you took to them too slow, or even went to them too aggressively. For me, the idea was to keep even effort up the hill knowing that I would be able to close up the course moving into the half marathon mark. At this point I was just ahead of the 3:05 group, as I could hear the large crowds gathered near the 13.1 marker cheering them on.

I would cross the 13.1 mark with a time of 1:31:26, keeping myself under the 1:32:30 time would have me on pace to go sub 3:05, but most importantly for me I was feel very fresh at this point in the race. Where during other races, I might have started to hope I could keep things moving for another 13.1 miles.

For my race day plan, I wanted to get out of Carmichael and in Sacramento feeling good. As we continued on Fair Oaks Blvd, I kept myself in front of the pace group but knew that they were not too far away as I could keep hearing crowds cheering “GO 3:05”.

As I passed through the Watt & Fair Oaks intersection on the course around mile 19, I knew I was in good shape, keeping in mind that mile 20 was just steps away. Before hitting the mile 20 mark, this is where I started to feel a little bit of fatigue but nothing to serious. It was just hey I’m 20 miles into a race running a decent pace type of thing. I knew if I could get to 20, I could do a systems check and reevaluate my finishing goal.

I crossed the 20-mile timing mat with a time of 2:19:34. I was happy keeping my time under my 2:20 goal at mile 20.

With 10k left, I was feeling pretty good outside of a little fatigue but nothing to hold me back from dropping the hammer. As I ran in Sacramento at this point, I knew there would be one part of the course that had cost me some time in the previous years, including making me walk with my fatigue that kicked in. So here it was the “H Street Bridge”, a bridge that I decided to incorporate on many of my marathon pace and interval runs to break that mental barrier which it had caused me the previous 7 times at CIM. At mile 22 the bridge came and left, not even realizing I had conquered it because it was gone after a few steps.

Now the route would go onto L Street counting down the numbers all the way to 8th Street. Once I got to 24th Street, the roads would play out perfect for me. Over the last 2 weeks, I would run this portion of the course several times with my 9RUN6 friends visualizing the finish on marathon Sunday.

Around mile 25, the 3:05 pacer was just behind me so we started to chat, I asked him what his ETA to the finish was and he said about 30 seconds under. Along with about 4 other runners who were with and round the 3:05 pacer decided to kick with one another to the finish line. With a final couple left hand turns onto 8th and then onto Capitol Mall the finish line would be ours to cross.

I crossed the finish line with an official time of 3:04:06.

FINALLY I BROKE 3:05, running a new personal best, which I had set just 5 weeks, prior with a time of 3:09:01 at the TCS NYC Marathon.  Along with a new personal best I knew that a BQ -6 would be good enough for me to get to Boston in 2016! After crossing that finish line with this time, I knew it I finally got to chase and catch the unicorn. I now officially have a race on my 2016 calendar.

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