Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Surf City Marathon 2009

The BQ attempt.

To qualify for the Boston Marathon is a big deal for a runner. In the United States, anyway. I have no idea if it is outside of this continent. I know a number of Canadian marathons are touted as Boston Qualifiers, but do the Europeans care? The Latin Americans? Anyone else? Somehow I doubt it, but I don't know. Crister? Can you shed any light? Boston? BQ? Mean anything to you and your running friends in Sweden?

Assuming that the entire world doesn't know what a big deal Boston is to us in the US, let me explain: It's a big deal. To runners. You have to qualify to get in, so it's an elitist thing. It's also the oldest annual marathon in the world, so you have an historic event as well. Pros do it. It's televised. Every American runner, in their heart of hearts, would like to be able to say they qualified for Boston once. Big deal.

Well. According to Wikipedia, the world does know about it: Ok, then.

With Basta's very fast Half Marathon at Surf City last year (7:44 pace (4:48k), we thought there was a possibility he could qualify for Boston. He decided he wanted try, along with doing Ironman and a bunch of century rides and plenty of skiing and all of the other things he wants to do. He needs an 8:35 (5:20k) overall pace to qualify in his age group.

I don't know if I clearly communicated that he hasn't run at anything faster than a 9:30 mile (5:54k) in quite some time. His sciatica problem kept him running but slowly. His bursitis or baker's cyst kept him from running at all for a couple of weeks. When all of that was gone he was running, he just wasn't running very fast. It was like his speed had just vanished.

Maybe it was the Ironman training. For that, long steady distance is the key. Not great speed you can't sustain all day long. But maybe he just got tired of running. Or maybe the suffering through running while not at 100% left him with thinking this was his new pace now. I don't know.

I tried to get his speed back through speed work, intervals, and tempo runs, but it didn’t help. He was doing the miles but doing them slowly. He said he just didn't feel like pushing himself to run that fast. He seemed to have lost his interest in qualifying for Boston, too. He'd just run the marathon and have a good time with it.

Then, about a month ago, his speed returned. Out of the blue, he went on a typical training run, and he ran fast! He looked at his pace watch and was amazed to see 8:30 (5:16k) when he was used to seeing 9:30 (5:54k) or higher. Maybe it was that his injuries had finally fully healed.

So hope for Boston surfaced again. A little glimmer of hope, anyway. 8:35 (5:20km) pace over 26.2 miles (42km)? He could run shorter distances at that pace, but a full marathon? He did his last long run prior to the event at 11:30 (7:08k) pace, making it a leisurely jog and stopping often for bathroom breaks and phone calls. I didn't think a BQ time was even in the realm of possibilities, but he thought the excitement of race day would pick up his pace as it always does. For 26.2 miles (42k)? Nah.

During the week before and up to the morning of I was giving him all sorts of sage marathon advice: Run your own race. Don't start out too fast. Don't get swept up in the excitement at the beginning and go out too fast. "Bank it now" is what will enter your mind but it's the worst thing you can do. Save it now or pay for it later. On and on. I told him to save himself in the first half, then let it out in the second. He agreed with all of that. I wrote goal times for the 5, 10, 15, and 20 mile marks on his arm right before we took off for the event.

We rode the bikes down again this year. Nice little warmup, that is. This event has always been well-run and it seems to get a little bit better every year. Backpack check-in was a quick, easy and secure thing. There were almost no lines at the porta-potties . We heard from friends that parking was no big deal, either.

The event started on time. Wave starts, so you can actually start out running and don't have to waste your first mile waiting for clear room to run. Basta was off in the first wave, running with his buddy Robert. Robert is a pretty fast runner and this was his first marathon. He was planning to run an 8:30 pace as long as he could and was hoping for a sub-4 hour marathon, so he and Basta would be able to run together for much of the distance.

But alas, they took off way too fast. Basta said they ran several 7 minute miles and once he glanced at his watch and saw 6:30 (4:02k). Too fast, boys. Way, way too fast. Spend it now and pay dearly later, remember?

They did not remember. Or they did not believe it was true. Basta said he did tell Robert they needed to slow down, several times, but Robert didn’t slow down and Basta stayed with him. So much for my, 'run your own race' advice.

They got to the 5-mile mark and cheered that they were 7 minutes ahead of the goal time I'd written on Basta's arm. Any seasoned marathoner could tell them that wasn't cause for cheer. That was practically a guarantee of a meltdown around mile 20 (32km).

Meanwhile, I was toddling along, doing my own run. The course looped around here and there so you could see people at various points. I saw Robert around what would have been his mile 21 or so. Ahead of him I caught a glimpse of what could have been Basta, running at a much faster pace. If that were indeed Basta, they had just separated, and Basta was still running well.

I looked at my elapsed time watch and did some calculations. He had 5-6 miles to go and about 45 minutes to do it in. His started in a different wave than me so my elapsed time was a bit different, so maybe he had a few less minutes. But maybe that was actually mile 22 or 23 where I saw him, not mile 20. Maybe he'd taken off from Robert in a sprint and was going to blow himself out with just a few miles to go. Maybe he was still strong and was going to nail this. Maybe he was going to come close and miss it by a few minutes. Would he try again soon if that was the case? Oh wait -- that guy could be Basta -- if so then he has no chance of BQ'ing. Oh, nope, that's not him. Good.

So many what-ifs to ponder while trotting along, trying to ignore the growing discomfort in the hips and thighs.

I finished my run, then found Basta and Robert in the crowd not long after. They were both hobbling a bit and looked tired. "How'd you do?" I asked.

Robert responded with a frown and a down-thumb sign. "I tanked at mile 20." Shockingly enough.

"And you?" I said, looking at Basta. He held out his watch for me to see. 3:41:37. He'd BQ'd with 4 minutes to spare!

Joy and celebration! We headed off to the beer garden and had our first taste of adult beverages in a month. Others in the beer garden heard us talking of his BQ and came over to congratulate him. He was very happy. I was very proud.

We rode the bikes home after a few beers. Everyone was amazed that he could ride at all after completing a marathon, in BQ time at that. But he was thinking, 'oh piffle. I'm an Ironman. This is nothing.'

In analyzing his splits afterwards, though, I have to say -- I'm amazed he managed to do this. He ran a foolish marathon. He started out way too hot and held that for far too long. He did fade considerably in the last 6 miles but held on to enough pace to make it to the end in time.

He said those last miles few miles hurt but he gutted it out. He does have an amazing capacity to continue on when a normal person would say enough.

Now I'm thinking . . . If I could somehow get him to run a strategically sound marathon, what time could he achieve? I don’t think a 3:30 marathon is unrealistic for him. Or, if he's not interested in that goal, at least he can finish in a BQ time but with much less pain. Maybe I can get him to run with a pace group next time.


Anonymous said...

My congratulations to Basta - to the time and the BQ achieved!-
Boston M in Sweden? I think among runners - respected. Among one timers - NY has more attention. I myself have a sad link to Boston. There was a guy who had done Kalmar Ironman, Humphrey Seesage. I talked to him now and when as we met doing longdistances on bicycles. I met him in the swimming pool once and he told me - my swimming was enough good for Kalmar. After that statement I planned for Kalmar despite the fact that I had achilles problems. Anyhow back to this guy, born in the Netherlands, he had dreams - the real Ironman on Hawaii and Boston. He went to Hawaii for a wild card but was not accepted. He went to Boston and was accepted but did not respect doctors advise on heart rate and did not use the heart rate monitor. He colllapsed and died during his race. I donot know whether it was his dream to die like this but for his friends it was a very sad thing. When I croessed the finish line in Kalmar I was approached by the speaker and I told that my memories were with Seesage as he had given me confidence to try and I was very sad that he was not present but ofcourse glad that I made it.- By the way - I didnot get it - did you run a half or not?

Ana said...

Oh, my. That is a sad connection. I'm sorry for your friend and his family. His memory must have been motivating for you throughout your Kalmar event. How sad.

I did the Half Marathon plus 4. I wanted to do at least a half that day. I started ou on the Marathon course and ran 4 miles, then joined up with the Halfers and finished their course for a total of just over 17 miles (28km). Good training run.

Anonymous said...

Hej Ana!
Congratulations to your half plus the extra miles! You are still young and have many years in front of you - steady steady and you will achieve the full!

Anonymous said...

Congradulation to both of you. Well done!!!!!