Sunday, February 27, 2011

New Qualifying Times in Effect for 2013 Boston Marathon

A couple of months ago I was on the BAA site searching for information about qualifying standards for Boston. The FAQ site contained the answer to my particular situation, with my birthday falling in between two qualifying times. The answer heavily leaned in my favor and I was excitedabout it. I wanted to verify the information a second time, to make sure I understood it correctly. I had read it days before but then, it was taken down. I wondered, "How odd." I knew somethingwas up. The thought came to my mind, "I hope they are not thinking of lowering the qualifying times." Then the unthinkable happened.

On Feb 16,2011 a press release came out:

B.A.A. To Offer Fastest Qualified Runners
Early Acceptance Into 2012 Boston Marathon With New Registration Process.

New Qualifying Times In Effect For 2013 Boston Marathon.

In a nutshell, if you want to run Boston, you have got to run faster. Just how fast you ask? If you already qualified and want to register in 2012, the process has changed in favor of the fastest runners. For example, registration in Day 1 (Sept. 12) , are for those who ran 20 minutes or more faster than their qualifying times. If you fall short of that, then you can try in Day 3 (Sept. 14)of the registration, where your qualifying time might be 10 minutes or better. If that's not you, try Day 5 (Sept. 16), where your time could be 5 minutes better than your qualifying time for your age and gender.

After the first week, if additional space remains, then registration will open to all qualifiers who meet the qualifying standards by any amount of time. According to the press release, "If the field is not filled at the conclusion of the two weeks, then registration will remain open and qualifiers will be accepted on a first come, first served basis until the maximum field size is reached."

The qualifying times for the 2012 Boston Marathon will not change from recent past years since the standards had been previously announced and have been in effect since September 2010.

On top of "rolling admission" and the new performance-based process registration, qualifying times for Boston Marathon 2013 are going to be made more stringent. Five minutes will be dropped across the board for both men and women. The adjusted qualifying times will go into effect on September 24, 2011, and are as follows:

Age Group     MEN WOMEN
18-34            3:05:00 3:35:00 
35-39            3:10:00 3:40:00 
40-44            3:15:00 3:45:00 
45-49            3:25:00 3:55:00 
50-54            3:30:00 4:00:00 
55-59            3:40:00 4:10:00
60-64            3:55:00 4:25:00
65-69            4:10:00 4:40:00 
70-74            4:25:00 4:55:00
75-79            4:40:00 5:10:00 
80 and older  4:55:00 5:25:00

This is the aftermath of the 2011 class, when the qualified field closed in eight hours, three minutes. More than anything, you're competing against the best of the best, Boston is like the Harvard of running. What does this mean to me or any female turning 45 one month after the qualifying month starts in Sept 1011? I was so looking forward to getting 10 more minutes using the old qualifying standards. After Sept. 2011, I only get 5 minutes reprieve. Not only that. If I want to increase my chances of getting in, I have to shoot for 20 minutes or better for my qualifying time. Translation: hit 3:35! I am tired already thinking about it!

8 Miles Done!

At 10 am this morning the weather was a brisk 46 degrees. Shorts, short sleeve tech tee, arm warmers and calves compression socks did the job. I was surprised by how warm I got, considering yesterday a much highly anticipated snow fell in elevations as low as 500 feet on the central coast of California. And yes it was magnificent.

A co-worker took this winter wonderland picture in Paso Robles, CA. Paso is about 30 minutes north of San Luis Obispo.

Today's temperature is close enough to the weather forecast for Napa on March 6th that I thought another dress rehearsal might be due. Napa's forecast calls for a high of 62 and a low of 41--with rain.  I figured I'll be alright with my attire. But with the rain in the mix, then I'll have to switch to long tights or my 3/4 tights.

I was in a pickle this morning trying to decide whether or not I should insert a small tempo run in the middle of my long run. I decided against it.  How quickly do I forget. It was just yesterday that I blogged about the importance of the true taper. I had to remind myself the purpose of this run. It's not to build speed. It's too late for that now.  Today is just supposed to keep the legs peppy.  So I settled with four 30-seconds strides in the last few miles. I wanted my legs to remember what it's like to run fast without tiring myself out.

This week will be tough. I have to stick to my schedule and not try anything risky.  On the bright side, I  will be carbo-loading without any guilt.

Seven days until Napa! Hee-Haw!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Taper Madness - Last Week of Taper for NVM

NVM is a mere 8 days away. So far, in these three weeks of my marathon taper, I've been pretty calm. Probably more so because I've been preoccupied with nursing my nagging injury. A little disappointed too--I've never seen so many blank spaces between my non-running days and running days in my log. I started my training the week before Thanksgiving and my lackluster efforts proved to be so, with a scant 377 miles logged to date. Clearly, not one of my best training efforts, but I need to stop comparing it to the high water mark of NY. I was not injured then and was much more careful.  

Training for Napa this go around, I was over-exuberant and took huge risks. I wanted to push my body to the limit. That's how we progress right? Getting out of your comfort zone?  If 20 miles was good, then 22 must be better. If two 20 milers were good, then 3-4 20 milers is even better. Or if 8:30 pace is good, then 8:20 must be better. If one day of hill work is good, how about 2 days a week?  That's got to be better.  Right? Wrong, wrong, wrong.   I got risky and well, now I am paying the piper. That's my fault. This is a very hard lesson to learn, and guess what? It will stick.

In the final week of the taper, I am not so calm anymore. That familiar nervous feeling of excitement is coming back. To counter whatever feelings I may have (entertaining the thought of one last attempt at a speed workout--No bad Aileen!),  I've been reading a lot about the importance of  recovery in the last weeks of the taper.   The body is supposed to be resting and healing. It takes on a whole new meaning to me considering my piriformis issues. At this point if I add one more speed workout or one more long run, I have nothing to gain and everything to lose.  All the fitness I needed is in the bank three weeks ago and I can only hope that my running base will carry me through.

Here's what my last week of taper looks like: 
Sunday: 8 miles easy (zone 1-2 HR)
Monday: REST
Tuesday: 4 mi w/ strides
Wednesday: 3 mi w/strides
Thursday: 2 mi
Friday: REST
Saturday: 2 mi easy (zone 1-2 HR)
Sunday: RACE DAY!

One would think that by now, I should know the drill. I mean this is my 19th taper. But no matter, how many times I've done a marathon, the taper gets me each time. It's not as simple as one would think. The general rule of thumb is reducing the weekly mileage by a certain percentage. Experts say don't do anything new. Not so easily done since, now that running isn't my focus, I can easily engage in other forms of exercise, whence before I didn't have the time. Now that I have time, "hello weight room", or "hello yoga/pilates".  But no, I won't fall prey to this temptation.  I will heed the expert advice and stay out of the new routines.  Don't get me wrong, it's probably okay if you were already incorporating it before as cross-training with your weekly runs. But to start now during the taper, is asking for trouble.  So I am going to stick to my light schedule above and stay away from anything that might tempt me to do otherwise.

The second round of acupuncture turned out great.  The nagging lower back pain-piriformis-sciatica-sacroiliac joint-psoas-problems (who knows what problems I have? The pain are all in the same region so they have got to be inter-connected somehow) has dissipated.   The pinching pain I felt before while bending over to tie my shoes, sitting down on the thrown, or getting out of the car have gone away. All good signs. The true test will be tomorrow on my last long 8 mile run. If the pain comes back, well...I'll cross that bridge when I get there...

Happy running. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

So Not--Worth the Hurt

I guess you can say I have a very high tolerance for pain. When I had my daughter, the doctors missed my epidural window and was forced to go through it the rough way.  That became my barometer.  It seems like any other aches and pain that may have come along the way did not measure up to that kind of pain. So in my fifteen years of running, when I hurt I quite readily dismiss it as temporary--in due time, "it will go away"--four words my chiropractor is scared of the most. 

My pain had been building up gradually for about two years. I failed to recognize it in my over-exuberance of running as I managed to blur the distinction between pain and soreness. It was easy to do and here's how I did it.  Running simply hurts. There is no way around that. Parts of your body will become sore after you run.  The soreness is due to the demands you put your body through such as minute muscle tears. The muscle breaks down and proper resting builds it back up, allowing you to become stronger and able to move on to the next round of harder workouts.  Each recovery builds you up to the next level. I understood that. Day in and day out, through marathon training cycles month after month, I was on this cycle of training and recovery. Somehow, I misread my body's cue that pain is not the normal sore that comes after a run. Somewhere along, I became impatient and couldn't wait to get back out to feel the cold air against my face. Sore or not, I was ready to move and failed to realize that I needed more than the occasional day or two of rest and recovery that I allowed myself.

It used to be that pain would accompany me near the end of  my run or after the run. In a span of several months, the pain progressed to hitting me in the middle of my long runs. The pain was more noticeable the day after the run. For example, getting out of bed, getting out of the car, bending over to tie my shoes, or simply shifting my weight from one foot to the other, I felt dull, sometimes sharp pain in the lower back region. It was getting harder to pinpoint the source because it seemed to have moved.  Then this year, fresh from a new PR in New York City Marathon and armed with a new year's resolution, I upped the ante and ran more hills and added more running days to my weekly mileage.  The return on my investment was negative. The pain got worse and came with the first step of every run.  Worried, I would take 3-4 days rest between each run to see if the pain would go away, only to realize that it was very much still there by the first step I took.  It was demoralizing. With Napa coming up around the corner, it had my full attention. What if this pain does not go away and end my running? I can't even remember the last time I ran freely, not taking inventory of what's hurting every step of the way. This isn't fun anymore. I searched my running log for answers. What could have I possibly done? My log revealed the downward trend in black and white. There were some red flags early in the year. I hadn't realized it then, but I had the pain at every run. It wasn't imagined, it was written in ink.  Every entry indicated lower back/leg pain.  If it weren't for my log, I believe that I would probably kept on running through it--probably kept hope that it would go away.  But the pain I felt in the first step was a huge wake up call. It was real and it was not going away any time soon. 

Alarmed by how long I've been able to tolerate this kind of uncomfortable pain in my running, I decided to go see a Chiropractor. I haven't seen one in seven years.  My chiropractor was great.  He educated me on sublexation and the body's function in general.  He readjusted my body's alignment and I was grateful for that. However, after two visits, he required me to return to the office for 3 more visits so that he can give me the treatment, each visit lasting no more than 15 minutes.  Given my terrible health benefits, high co-pay and high deductible, at $40 bucks an office visit quickly takes its toll. Don't get me wrong, I am not putting a price on my health, but I was also growing impatient with my progress or lack thereof.  I was not expecting a miracle to get me healthy again, but at the same token, I want the chiropractor to focus on where the source of my pain is.  He was focused on my lower back, which I know is not the ultimate problem. I decided to drop the chiropractor. I was willing to take drastic measures and not run until the day of the marathon, March 6th.  I figured what I needed was complete rest and recovery from running. This has to help somehow. After all, I will be toeing the line at Napa focused on damage control rather than peaked in training. It will be better to go to it under trained rather than hurt. I am willing to take that chance, until a dear running buddy suggested Chinese Acupuncture. I've never had that done before, I thought what have I got to lose?  I made the appointment for Wednesday. I do have high hopes and am keeping my fingers crossed. Will keep you posted. 

Run Happy!