Hi all! I know I’ve been out of it for the past several weeks on this blog, but I’ve been moving to Boulder, starting a new job, buying a house, doing all kinds of home improvement and decorating activities, etc. etc. I haven’t been running a ton, but I did do the classic Boulder Skyline Traverse a few weekends ago (mostly hiking, admittedly!), swept a portion of the Never Summer 100K, and have done some cool hiking in the Indian Peaks Wilderness. Photos and other updates available on Instagram. Now that I’m fairly settled in Boulder, I’m finally getting focused back on races! MOST IMPORTANTLY…
I spent years working toward my goal of running a Boston qualifying marathon time. Recently, it all came together for me at my 21st marathon, the Phoenix Marathon, where I ran a 3:28:56, over six minutes faster than the BQ application cutoff for my age. This race was obviously a PR for me, but I was shocked with how much I was able to improve over my three most recent races culminating at Phoenix.
First, I PR’d at Chicago with a 3:42. I credited a fast course, good weather, improved training (mainly Orangetheory and running hills at altitude), and a stronger mental game. (My previous PR of 3:44:46 was achieved way back in 2012; for my thoughts on what went on in the five intervening years, check out my slowdown story and my thoughts about getting back on the BQ wagon.) Two months later, I PR’d again at Kiawah with a 3:37, an unexpected five-minute improvement. Again, I credited a fast course, good weather, new mental strategies, and my altitude training. But I also ran negative splits for the first time in a long time, and I felt like that made a huge difference compared to Chicago. Then less than three months after that, after training back at sea level, I PR’d and BQ’d at Phoenix with 3:28:56, a whopping eight minute improvement over Kiawah, and a 13 minute improvement over Chicago in less than five months.
As someone who thought that Chicago might be as good as it gets in terms of race conditions, that 13-minute improvement was unfathomable — especially without significant changes to my training. (During the buildup, I frequently Googled “What is a reasonable marathon time improvement?” and “How long does it take to BQ?” Here’s my answer!) So what made the difference?
The ultrarunning world has its own lingo, its own customs, its own podcasts, its own “major” races, its own stars, its own running clubs. It also has its own website: ultrasignup.com.
For the past few months, I’ve secretly held an account on Ultrasignup, lurking in the background without actually having run or signed up for an ultra race on the site. In other words, even though I’ve run a good bunch of trails, and even though I’ve fallen and gotten “best blood” on a run or two, and even though I took an official rite-of-passage full immersion dunk in the swimming hole with a crew of badass trail runners this past summer in Southwest Virginia, and even though I ran in Colorado in the dark and in the snow for the last few months of 2016, I am not an ultrarunner. I’m a wannabe, a noob, an interloper, a poser. But that’s going to change…
Location: Kiawah Island, South Carolina, about 40 minutes from the Charleston Airport, at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort
Size: About 1000 marathoners, plus about 2800 half marathoners
Time of Year and Weather: Saturday in early December. Race day was sunny, breezy at times, with temperatures in the 40s. Perfect running weather. This course has the potential to get windy, but I lucked out and it wasn’t bothersome.
I believe that “diet” is a bad word. I believe that there’s a lot of evil happening at the hands of the diet industry and their co-conspirators (looking at you, women’s mags). I believe that our society has done a shamefully good job of teaching girls and women that they should always be “trying to lose weight” and should never be happy with their bodies. I believe that men need to speak about women differently. I believe that women need to speak about themselves and each other differently. I believe that girls need to be raised differently — including but not limited to changes to shape of their toys and the appearance of their Disney characters. I hope my kids never go on diets, and I don’t plan to use that word in front of them.
I set this all up to say — I’m going on a diet. A real one. With rules. And Excel charts. It’s not touchy-feely. It’s not “eating by intuition.” It’s actually the opposite of how I’ve been peacefully but unsuccessfully “trying to lose weight” for the past several years. Which is exactly why I chose it.
Next month I’ll be running the Kiawah Island Marathon, which will be my 20th marathon in my 15th state! (Nice round numbers.) I’m hoping to keep the momentum going after Chicago and come home with another PR as I inch my way towards that coveted BQ… Here’s my training plan, plus what I did this past week — my first week of real training.
I’ve previously documented my struggle (mental and physical) to qualify for the Boston Marathon. The closest I got was 3:45:47, about 10 minutes slower than the Boston application cutoff (but more like 15 minutes from what I’d actually need to get in). I’m several years older and wiser… although unfortunately still in the same age bracket for BQ qualifying times. And in the intervening years, I backed off the pressure, refocused my goals (hello, 50 states!), gained some weight, lost some weight, explored new workouts,changed jobs, gotten married, bought a home, and ultimately ended up with my marathon times back in the same range as they were in 2011.
So naturally, my mind wanders back to the BQ. Am I finally ready to tackle this challenge? At 30 years old, healthy, and childless, is this potentially my last, best chance? Or would I just be setting myself up for frustration and disappointment, and worst of all, would I be taking the joy out of running? So I have a plan.