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Um, we’ll get back to the title of this post in a while.  Yes, this is in fact my race report for the 2012 Sugarloaf Marathon.

After not getting into the 2012 Boston Marathon by a mere 33 seconds (a blessing in disguise in retrospect), I began searching for a marathon that could get me back to Hopkinton in 2013.  With the Fall marathons occurring too late and the Summer marathons simply being to hot, I settled on the Sugarloaf Marathon – a late Spring marathon ranked as one of the 15 fastest marathons in the country.  Perfect!

I began my training a little late, switching from one program (the Pfitzinger 18/55) to another (jumping in on week 5 of the Furman FIRST program).  Training, aside from the last two weeks, was pretty solid, so when I made my way to the starting area with fellow RaceMenu members Jeremy and Tommy, I felt pretty confident that I was going to hit, or at the very least come very close to my BQ.

Team RaceMenu at the Sugarloaf Marathon – Jeremy, Me, Tommy

The three of us were all shooting for sub-3:15, and if there was one thing I learned at Smuttynose a year and a half ago it was that marathons go much better when you have a familiar face running with you.  After snapping a group photo, we made our way to the starting area.  Somebody asked out loud, “I wonder when we’re gonna start?”  Moments later, without warning, the starting gun went off.  We looked at each other – I guess it’s go time!

We had unfortunately not made our way to the front when the gun went off so we had to make our way through the crowd.  We still managed to hit the first mile marker in 7:37.  Our plan was to run the first 8 miles between 7:20 and 7:30 pace, not stress about our pace over the steady uphill climb from mile 8 to 10.5 and then cruise over the last 16 downhill miles to a sub-3:15.  An overall pace of 7:24 per mile would get us in at just under 3:14.  Despite a slow first mile, I wasn’t too worried.  The second mile came and went in an easy 7:22.  I noted that the temperature, though relatively cool at sixty some odd degrees, was still much higher than the online advertised 40° starts.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful – the Western Mountain of Maine, lakes that were so still you could see the reflections of the trees around it as if it were a glass mirror.  The three of us hung together as a loose pod with Tommy leading the way.

Miles 3 and 4 went by in a zippy 7:20 and 7:22 .  This was all within range of our plan.

At around the 5th mile, the rolling hills began to kick in.

I took in a Gu – my plan was to have one every 5 miles.  I started the race with two Gu’s in hand.  The race director had said they would be handing out Gu’s at around mile 9 and at around mile 17.  I would take my Gu at 5, grab one of theirs at 9 and take it at 10, take my last Gu at 15, grab theirs at 17 and take it in at 20.  I wasn’t going to worry about the final 1.2 miles.

As Tommy began to pull away a bit, Jeremy and I felt like we wouldn’t worry too much about our pace going up any hills.  There was still over 20 miles to go, so we didn’t want to kill ourselves simply to keep pace.  There would be plenty of time to make back the time on the final 16 miles.  Mile 5 was a bit slower at 7:35, but we got right back into our range with a 7:29, a 7:23 and a 7:20 over the next three miles.

We were feeling great as we hit the mile 8 marker.  Everything was going according to plan and we had avoided that cardinal marathon sin of going out too fast.

Meanwhile, the temperature was rising.

We looked up to see the “big hill” of the marathon – a steady climb from mile 8 to mile 10.5.  I looked at Jeremy.  “This is it,” I said, “make or break.”  And I truly believed that.  Not having run this race before, I really believed that how we did on the hill would determine how we would finish.  The back 16 was calling to me – just make it over the hill and it’s cake the rest of the way.  All I had to do was to remember to grab a Gu at mile 9.

The sun was rising, so a group of us shifted to the left side of the road to stay in the shade.  We hit the hill with a steady pace, but I refused to attack it.  I wanted to be comfortable and not expend too much energy this early in the race so we ran at what was a comfortable effort.  We manage 8:06, 7:54 and a 3:54 (7:48 pace) over the next 2.5 miles.  Fantastic!!!

As we crested the hill, I looked at Jeremy – this is it.  We. Are. Golden!!!

As we passed the aid station at 10.5, I asked where the Gu’s were.  The volunteers shrugged.  Somehow we had missed the Gu Station – this would be one of my 3 complaints about this particular marathon – if you are going to be handing out Gu’s, you must have your volunteers actively handing them out.  I would find out later that they did in fact have Gu’s around mile 9, but they were on a table in the grass.  That doesn’t work for those of us running for time.

I knew we needed to take it easy over the steep initial half mile, but gravity pulled us along at 7:00 pace and it felt like we were hardly working.  The realization that I would have to take my last Gu at 10 and wait until after 17 to take another weighed on my mind.  Psychologically I let it get to me.

As I looked out at the road ahead of us, I noticed something was missing – shade.

Jeremy started to fall back a little, but he was still within shouting distance.  I forged ahead comfortably, images of me fist-pumping as I crossed the finish line with a BQ-time running through my head.  The next 6 miles were a steady downhill and my pace reflected that – miles 12 through 17 went in 7:06, 7:21, 7:12, 7:16, 7:11 and 7:15.  The plan was working flawlessly.  But there were couple of things I hadn’t accounted for with this plan.  One was the Gu issue, the other was the heat.  As we made our way through Carrabassett Valley, the temperature began to soar right into the upper 70’s.  With no shade to protect us, it felt like we were running in 80-plus degree heat.

Still feeling good somewhere around mile 15 I think.

As I reached the water station after 17, I looked back for Jeremy.  He had dropped back significantly, falling victim to cramping in his calves and thighs – unfortunately, he would have to drop out at mile 25.  I had to push on – I could taste my BQ.  Going through the aid station, I grabbed a Gatorade and a Gu, and I tried to grab a water and another Gu, but the volunteer, for whatever reason, did not let go of the cup or the Gu.

I tried not to get upset, but as I took in what would now be my last Gu 2 1/2 miles after I had planned and with no extra to take at mile 20, doubt started to creep in.  As the heat continued to beat down on me, I could feel fatigue setting in.  I didn’t want to slow down because I knew my BQ was within reach.  I was on target with just over 9 miles to go.

As I passed miles 18 and 19 I looked at my watch – 7:33 and 7:37.  I was slowing down and I knew I was working harder than I had over the previous 6 miles.

That would be the last time I saw a 7-handled split.

Going into mile 20 the wheels simply came off of the bus – I covered the mile in 8:36, nearly a minute slower than the previous mile – it’s cliché isn’t it?  I hit a wall, I knew it, and there was nothing I could do about it.  The combination of the psychological and physiological effect of not taking in a Gu at 15 (as I had trained for) and the heat overwhelmed me.

At that point I knew my BQ was out the window but I still had a shot at a PR.  Up until mile 20 I had been on target to hit sub-3:15.  Now I just needed to hold on to beat 3:19:19 to score a PR. If I could just get back into the mid to high 7’s I’d be okay.

Approaching the next water station my legs overrode my brain and stopped running.  Suddenly I was walking.  I shook my head, half in anger, half in despair.  I sucked down the watered down Gatorade (why the HELL to they water it down???) and poured some water on my head and back.  10 yards out from the water station I was trying to run again.

This would be my pattern for the rest of the race – walking through the water stations, trying my best to run between them.  The next 6 miles would go 8:08, 8:04, 8:34, 8:21, 8:37 and 8:22.  The last four miles were absolute misery.  By the time I hit mile 23 I knew my chances of a PR were out the window and once again, I adjusted my goal – now I simply want to beat my second best time (2011 New York City Marathon – 3:26).  I desperately had to fight to keep my pace under 9.  As I made the final turn for the finish, I was overcome with a sense of resignation.  I would not be running Boston in 2013.  I would not be toeing the line in Hopkinton next April – and to a degree I was at peace.  I knew I only had one more marathon on the calendar this year, and New York City 2012 was not going to be run as a qualifier.

As I crossed the finish line, I hit stop on my watch – it read 3:22:56.

a few feet from the finish line

Officially my time would be 3:23:00 (my last complaint about the marathon was that there was no starting mat – time was based solely on guntime, so if you started in the back of the pack, you lost nearly 30 – 40 seconds.  Tommy actually covered the distance from the starting line to the finish line in 3:15:30, but because we had started in the middle, his official time was 3:16.  I can’t imagine how I would feel if I had missed qualifying for Boston by mere seconds because I didn’t start at the very front).

I would finish 68th of 574 total finishers (I heard that there were over 700 registrants), 60th out of 313 men, and 15th out of 59 men aged 40 – 44. Not bad for a guy who really didn’t get back into regular training until February.

3:23:00 is my second fastest marathon ever, but it was still 8 minutes off my goal of a 3:15 BQ, which brings me to the title of this post.

Dear B.A.A.,

I am wondering if you would be too upset if we pretended that I was two years older than I actually am.  Although my birth certificate indicates that I will be 43 come April 2013, I am willing to tell people that I will be 45 if you are willing to look the other way – I sometimes like to think of myself as an old soul anyway.  If you are willing to believe that I will be 45 next Patriot’s Day, my 3:23:00 will allow me to register during the second week of registration, and I’m pretty sure that as long as there aren’t a whole lot of people asking to do the exact same thing as me, that the time should be good enough to get in as a BQ-2.

Sincerely,
Luau

Whaddaya think?  You think the B.A.A. will go for it?

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[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

I have a friend.   I have only met him in the real world once.  He was a large part of why I was able to qualify for Boston back in October of last year – we carried each other for 15 miles.  On that day he missed qualifying for Boston by seconds.  As joyful as my day was, it was devastating to see him just miss his goal.

Instead of folding up his tent and going home, my friend doubled-down and trained even harder for his next marathon, which took place in May in Pittsburgh.  His training was epic to say the least.  To put it in perspective, I just passed 1200 running miles for 2011  last night.  As of 9 days ago, my friend had logged nearly 1800 miles.

1800 miles!!!

He was a man possessed, and when he crossed the finish line in May, he WAS a Boston Qualifier.

I know the feeling – the joy, the wave of emotion, the satisfaction…the “what now?”

Huh?

That’s right.   I recently read in his final post on dailymile that he was “taking a break” from the social network to find his passion for running again.  Boy, do I know that feeling.   I was fortunate enough to have the New York City Marathon line up just 5 weeks after my BQ and then Boston 2011 5 months after that to keep me focused on my training, but after Boston I simply lost “it”.

I was rudderless.  I tried to re-focus my energy by signing up for another marathon, but in the end, I just didn’t have the same drive I had had when I was focused on qualifying for Boston.

Truth be told, I am still wandering, attempting to kick start myself again and again, but I do see signs of my focus coming back.  It’s taken my 4 months, but it’s starting to come together again.

I hope my friend doesn’t stay away too long.

His departure will send ripples throughout the dailymile community and will be felt by all.  He always had an inspirational word for his friends and his workouts were worth emulating.

***

I hope you find your passion again Brendan.  You are an inspiration to many and proof that hard work pays off.  You motivated people not by your words but by your actions.  Enjoy your break – I hope to see you on the ‘mile in October when we both start training again for Boston 2012.

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[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

A few years ago I heard of a race called Last Chance for Boston.  It takes place in Dublin, Ohio and used to be billed as a marathoner’s last chance to qualify for Boston.  It seemed like a miserable endeavor to me – 26 laps around a 1 mile loop of an office park, just outside Columbus, Ohio, outside, in the dead of winter.  Yikes.

As any marathoner knows, the landscape has changed.  Registration closed in just hours last year.  The B.A.A. made some adjustments for 2012 that should stretch the process out a week or two, but the likelihood is that registration will be closed within a week.  If you are looking to run Boston 2012, you must have run a qualifying time by September 19th just to have a shot at registering.

If you are like me, barely qualifying by the skin of your teeth, you may be looking for a chance to improve upon your registration slot.

Whichever the case may be, there is a new marathon that is currently being put together that, pending approval, will give you one last shot at either qualifying or improving your registration position.

Details are still few and far between, but the current particulars are this:

Date: September 11th
Format: Time TrialI’ve seen that in bike races, never at a marathon.
Size: The term “Exclusivity” is being used with the idea of a “very small field”
Towns Involved: Concord, Lincoln, Bedford and Lexington (MA)

Again, the race is still pending some approvals, but if that happens this marathon WILL be a certified Boston Qualifier.

So, who’s interested?

*I will update this post as more details come out, but in the meantime, ask around, see what you hear.

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Getting here just got a lot harder

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

So, I guess in our heart of hearts we all knew this was coming.  Today, February 16th, the BAA announced that it was revising the registration process for the 2012 Boston Marathon and lowering the qualifying times for the race in 2013.

I have to admit, I have mixed feelings about the BAA’s decision.  I do think that there is something poetic about allowing the fastest runners a better shot at getting into the big race.  I have a hard time arguing against that.  By the same token, I feel for those that have worked for years and years, slowly chipping away at their marathon times to finally squeak in.  Although I did not have to wait years and year, I did essentially get in by the skin of my teeth.  Last October I qualified for Boston by a mere 1:40.  If you go back to look at my race report, you can see the pure joy on my face; the feeling of accomplishment.  I knew I was in.  I knew where I was going to be when registration opened.  That feeling didn’t go away for a very long time.

But what happens now to that runner who does what I did?  Sure, he BQ’s, but what does that mean now, really?  If he or she has just squeaked by the qualifying times, then in all likelihood, that person is NOT going to get to run Boston. 

***A quick rundown of the new procedure from Boston.com***

2012 rolling registration dates

– Day 1 (Sept. 12) – Qualifiers who have met their age and gender qualifying standard (3 hours, 10 minutes for men aged 18-34 and 3 hours, 40 minutes for women 18-34) by a margin of 20 minutes or faster may apply for the marathon.

– Day 3 (Sept. 14) – Qualifiers who have met the standard set for their age/gender by a margin of 10 minutes or faster may apply.

– Day 5 (Sept. 16) – Qualifiers who have met their age/gender qualifying time by a margin of 5 minutes or faster may apply.

– Day 8 (Sept. 19) – Open to all qualifiers to register.

– Day 12 (Sept. 23) – Registration closes for qualified applicants. Registered qualifiers will be notified of their acceptance by Sept. 28.

For 2013, there are new qualifying times

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+ 4:55:00 5:25:00

The rolling registration also applies to 2013 and beyond.

Essentially, the BAA has lowered the qualifying times for 2012 by 10 – 20 minutes and 15 – 25 minutes for 2013 and beyond.

So what does that mean for me?  It means that for the next 3 years, I have to run a 3:00 marathon before this September and a 2:55 marathon before September 2012 if I want to have any hope of registering on the first day.  If I am going to be optimistic, it means a 3:10 this year and a 3:05 next year if I want to believe there will be space available on the 3rd day of registration.  If I am lucky enough to take 5 minutes off of my PR and run what is essentially a 3:15 (3:10 for 2013 and beyond), I’ll have the privilege of being allowed to join the registration fun on the 5th day.

I wonder what is the likelihood of spots still being available on the 5th day.

Not.

Bloody.

Likely.

***

Now, I could sit here and bitch.  I could sit here and moan.  I could sit here and cry.

Instead, I am going to count my lucky stars and be thankful that I get to run this year, as a qualifier.  I am half way through my training program.  There are 60 days left between now and April 18th.  I am going to stick my plan and shoot for a 3:15.  2012 looks unlikely for me at this point, as I am unlikely to run a 3:10 at Boston, and I don’t think I will be ready to run another marathon until after registration opens.  Sure, I am BQ’d for 2012, but based on my time from this past October, I am in the last group that gets the opportunity to register, if there are any spots left.  That’s a big “if” even if I do manage a 3:15 this coming April.

So 2012 is likely lost to me, but 2013 is not.  Sometime between this coming September and the following one, I will run another marathon.  I will have a new challenge.  3:15 may be what the qualifying times are for a man of my age, but because of the rolling registration, they have essentially lowered it to 3:05 starting in 2013.

Fine.

I am up for a challenge.  BAA, you want to make me run a 3:05 so I can run your race? Fine.  Bring it.

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy Boston 2011.

60 days ’til race day!

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I think that BOS marathon registration just BQ’d…8h is a reasonable time for a 114 year old, right?

-Tweet by @petfxr

Only if the marathon is female.  It’s 7 1/2 [hours] for 114 yr old male

-Tweet by @LuckyRunner40

But age on race day is 115

-Tweet by @petfxr

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

Last night…no, check that, yesterday afternoon registration for the 115th Boston Marathon closed – 8 hours after it had opened.  This was, by far, faster than last year’s record of several weeks, which had in turn shattered the previous record set the year before of a couple of months.  Yup, if you had managed to BQ in the last 12 month months, but didn’t have phone or internet access yesterday, you are out of luck.  True, you can run for a charity or get lucky like I did last year by having an Invitational Entry handed to you, but if you simply wanted to register, and you went to do it after work yesterday, it’s “Sorry Charlie.”

I was lucky.  I got through on the computer at around lunch time.  Next year, who knows if that will be early enough.

8 hours.

8 FRAKKING HOURS!!!

As excited as I am, I am now a little nervous.  Another Twitter friend (@edschober) had the wisdom to point out, “[I] Bet the qualifying times for 2012 #bostonmarathon will be adjusted down…or they’ll triple the entry fee.”  My sudden fear now is that after BQ’ing for 2011 and 2012, I may get UBQ’s (UnBostonQualified) for 2012.  I understand the reasoning.  Although Boston isn’t the sole reason people run marathons in the Fall, there is a large contingent of runners who work all Summer to run a marathon in the Fall with the hopes of qualifying for Boston in the Spring.  Boston closing in 8 hours eliminated many of the Fall marathons, including the biggest one, New York City, from that equation.

If the BAA (Boston Athletic Association) doesn’t lower the times, you can bet that early fall marathons like  Bay State and Smuttynose will continue to grow in popularity, possibly driving up prices across the board.  I don’t know what the answer is.  It probably makes more sense for the BAA to lower the time rather than raise the fees (though who knows, maybe they’ll do both).

One final thought – let’s stop bashing the charity runners for this.  They only make up 5% of the field AND they do a lot of good.  Quite honestly, Boston would have closed yesterday regardless of whether there were charity slots or not.

Bottom line is that in all likelihood, I am going to have to get faster…or older faster, and I think I’m okay with that…I just hope that if the BAA lowers the times, they keep it within striking distance.

UPDATED: One last “last thought” – if runners are going to get angry at other runners for Boston filling up so quickly, they should be looking at runners like me.  Last year I was lucky enough to land an Invitational Entry and this year I was fortunate to qualify by a mere 1:40.  Please leave the charity runners out of it.

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The are runners, there are marathoners and then there are Boston Qualifiers

-Spirit of the Marathon

“Uh oh!”

-Me at about 24.5 miles

[tweetmeme source=”luau” only_single=false http://www.URL.com]

All week I had been uncharacteristically unnervous. It may have been the fact that this was going to be my 4th marathon in less than 12 months or maybe it was the focused training schedule I had been following. Either way, all week I had walked around with a sense of calm. That is, until I put the car in reverse to pull out of the garage and head up to Hampton Beach early Sunday morning. As soon as the car began to move, my stomach started to do back flips. I cranked up the music, but the whole way up, the butterflies in my stomach continued to get bigger and bigger.  As I listened to Stevie Wonder, Survivor, Queen, AC/DC among others, I started to visualize the race.  I tried to see myself crossing the finish line.  Earlier in the week, Brendan, my dailymile brother, had predicted a 3:19:22 finish for me.  The more I thought about it, the more overwhelmed I became.

Upon finally arriving in Hampton, I promptly made my way to the check-in tent.  A large group of dailymilers had agreed to meet at 7:30 to hang out, warm up and meet.  As I made my way to the tent  I heard someone say, “there’s a dailymile shirt”.  I turned to find a group of people, among them was Doug, from Lex’s Run, my buddy Pete, who had been the first cyber-runner to ever reach out to me, and Brendan, my brother who I was going to run this marathon with.  I had met Pete before and had run several races with Doug, but this was the first time I was meeting Brendan.  The funny part is that we knew each other.  Through dailymile and Twitter we have become good friends.  There was no awkward moment, it was just two friends getting together.

Pete, Brendan and me

Most of the dailymile/Twitter Smuttynose party - pre-race

After a bit of chatting it was time to head to the start.

Before heading to the corral, we had to get a picture of Team Kinvara:

Team Saucony Kinvara - Brendan, Pete and Me

Yes, I know, those aren’t Vibrams.  They aren’t my funny toe shoes.  Yes I do still run in them (my Vibrams), but no, I didn’t run in them for this race.  It’s probably the topic of another post, but suffice it to say that it was a game time decision that I went with the Kinvaras, and I don’t regret it one bit.  They are an amazing shoe!  If you aren’t ready for Vibrams, but you want a natural shoe that is unbelievably light and performs incredibly, go out and get a pair.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog post.

In the swirl of the crowd, we had lost Pete.  It was probably for the best.  Although we had talked about running together, as we got into the last week, Pete’s confidence had grown and he had decided that he was going to go for 3:15 (the required time to BQ* for a young kid like him).   Brendan and I made our way to the starting area. Doug, who was running the half, found us and said, “you’ve put in all the work.  You’ve already done it.  Now it’s time to take your victory lap. Go get it.”  Inspiring words.

Brendan and I shook hands, gave each other a hug and waited for the starting gun.  Suddenly the crowd started moving.  We hadn’t heard the gun, but no matter.  It took us nearly a minute to get to the actual starting line and when we crossed it, you could hear our watches beep in unison.

:38 / 1:16 / 1:54 / 2:32 / 3:10  – these numbers, like the numbers from LOST,  were swirling around my head all week leading up to the race.  They were the 5 mile splits I knew I needed to maintain a relatively steady pace throughout.  I knew that if I hit mile 25 with a 3:10, I would be close, with a little room to spare.  It meant that I would be able to  run 9:09 minutes per mile for the last 1.2 and still cross the finish line with a 3:20:59.  I didn’t want it to be that close though.  I knew I had to have at least a couple of minutes in the bank.  I remembered the difficulty of finishing the last 3 miles at both Boston and Providence.  No, I didn’t want it to be that close.  Still, I knew that if I could maintain 38 minute per 5 mile splits, I would in all likelihood be okay.

The first mile involved Brendan and I weaving our way in and out of the crowd.  It was a little frustrating, but there was no sense in trying to sprint through.

Brendan (#2334) and I working our way through the crowd at the start - I know, heel striking that early is NOT a good sign - photo courtest of JiminMaine

We didn’t hit the first mile marker until nearly 8:00, way too slow for our goal.  Fortunately, by the time we hit the second mile marker the crowds had thinned a bit and we were able to get on pace.  Mile 2 arrived in 7:36.  As we made the first big turn into the town of Hampton I was unable to resist the urge to get away from the crowds behind us.  Without really thinking about it, I picked up the pace.  We hit mile 3 in a too quick 7:21.  Now some of you non-runners may be asking yourself, what the heck’s the difference between a 7:40 mile and a 7:20 mile?  Does it really make a difference?  Well, it’s not necessarily what it does to you right then, but more how it affects you 10 – 15 miles down the line.  Anyway, despite initially being worried about it, I realized that we were back on pace for my 5 mile splits of 38 minutes.  The next two miles were fairly uneventful and we hit the 5 mile marker in 37:54.  Right on target.  The first 5 miles went by almost too easily.

3 miles later we made our way to the coast.  The wind was still relatively calm.  In the distance I was surprised to see someone strip off his camelback hydration system and throw it into the grass.  I yelled, “Nice toss!” and he waved an arm.  A few minutes later Brendan and I caught up to him.  A bit of chit-chat and we discovered that Ralph was making an attempt at a BQ of 3:20 as well.  This was Ralph’s first timed marathon.  He had run the distance once during his training.  We invited him to run along with us, which he was more than happy to do.  After a relatively slow mile 6 and 7 (7:46 and 7:43 respectively) we had picked up the next 2 miles at sub-7:30 pace.  As we passed through small pockets of spectators, I reached out to high-fived the kids.  I was yapping away, talking about my first marathon experience and the awful pace-setter I followed in that race.  Before we knew it, we passed mile marker 10 – 1:15:49.  Again, right on target.

For some reason, I felt like I needed to take on the role of cheerleader for our little pod, so I just kept talking…and talking…and talking (in retrospect, it explains why I had a sore throat for the next few days).

The Smuttynose Marathon is a double-loop.  Starting at about mile 3, you get to see the mile markers for the second half of the marathon, so as you’re passing the mile markers for 8, 9 and 10, you are also passing the ones for 21, 22, and 23.  Psychologically it was a little tough to realize that we were going to have to do this all over again.  In the meantime, I realized that Brendan had been falling back a bit – not too far, maybe only a few seconds per mile, but it was enough to make me a little nervous.  I would occasionally turn around to check on him and make sure he was still with me.  Every time, he would nod in the affirmative, and I would turn back around.  We had made an agreement earlier in the week that if someone faltered, the other was NOT to risk his own race for the sake of the other, however, I also didn’t want to lose my partner in crime.

At the 11.5 mile mark, those that were running the half-marathon peeled off.  As was the case when I ran Manchester almost a year ago, it was a discouraging moment.  I had been running for quite some time with this loose pod of people and suddenly we went from a crowd  to a string.  I tried convincing a few of the runners that were a mile and a half from their finish to come join us.  A young lady looked at me, smiled and said, “been there, done that.” I was tempted to say something back to her, but I bit my tongue.  As we peeled away, directed by a volunteer to go in a different direction, I pointed at the finish and said, “but the finish line is over there!”  He laughed but told me I had to go the other way anyway.

Mile 12 arrived at a 6:08 pace.  Yeah, no, really.  That’s what my watch said.  Everybody around me looked at their watches confused.  Obviously there had been an error in placement.  When mile 13 arrived 7:40 later, I realized that somewhere later down the line, we were going to have to make up a minute and a half.

Just after 12 I saw the leader coming the other way. He was all alone.  I couldn’t help but admire his being able to run at that pace all alone.  I glanced back at Brendan.  He was still on my tail.  He nodded, so I kept the pace.  Ralph had fallen off (I would late find out he ran a 3:35).  At about the halfway point however, Brendan began to fade just a little more.  Truth is, it was probably more my picking up the pace a little and Brendan holding steady.  I noticed that my splits were closer to 7:30 than 7:40.  I kept looking back, but the gap was growing.

I hit mile 15 at 1:52:22.  2 minutes in the bank, I thought, but then I realized that at some point the “make up” for the short mile 12 had to becoming.  Still, an extra minute and a half  put me at about 1:53:52.  Definitely on target.

At Mile 16, we rejoined the part of the course we had already run.  I looked over my shoulder looking for Brendan.  He was now maybe 30 yards back.  I decided I had to press on.  I ran the next five miles (miles 16 – 21) 11 seconds faster than I had run them (miles 3 – 8 ) earlier.  When I hit mile 20 at 2:30:09 (2:31:39 with the adjustment), I knew I had a shot.  As my friend Rick Reilly has said to me on several occasions, it was all coming down to the final 10K.  The marathon, he would tell me, is actually 2 different races: it’s the first 20 miles and the last 10K.  The final 10K had been what killed me in Manchester, had knocked me down at Boston, and had taken the fight out of me at Providence.

When I hit mile 20, I began to do a lot of arithmetic in head. 

6.2 miles, just under 50 minutes to go, 6 times 8 is 48, 8 times 60 is 480, 48 plus 48 is 96, 96 is 1:36, 48 plus 1:36 is 49:36, which puts me at 3:21:05 – Shit!  Start over – if I run a 7:50 for the next 6.2 miles…

When I hit mile 21 in 7:32, I re-calibrated everything again. I was doing okay.  But I still knew the adjustment for mile 12 was coming, and at mile 22 it came.  There had been a small part of me that had hoped and prayed that by some miraculous twist in space-time that we had all, in fact, run 6 minute miles at mile 12, but as my watch passed 8:00, then 8:30, I realized the time to pay the debt had come.  I kept looking for the mile marker.   – tick tick tick – 8:40, 8:45, 8:50.  I finally saw the mile marker and passed it at 9:07.  My watch now read 2:46:49 and I had 4.2 miles to go.

I again began to do the math in my head. 

4.2 miles, 34 minutes 10 seconds left before the cut off. 8 minute miles means 2 minutes and 10 seconds to run 0.2 miles, if I multiply 2 minutes 10 seconds by 5 I got 10 minutes 50 seconds, what? That can’t be right, oh, wait a minute, it is, 96 seconds is less than 130 seconds!!!

If I could just maintain 8 minute miles I was going to be okay.  Buoyed by this thought, I ran mile 23 in 7:31.  I looked over my shoulder for Brendan, but I had now lost sight of him.

Now I just needed to fight off the last 5K. Mile 24 came and went in 7:41.  Part of me dared to think that I had this in the bag.  I was cruising.  I had this.

Or so I thought.

24.5 arrived with my legs turning to jello.  One moment I’m running steady, the next my legs are wobbling underneath me.  I remember literally saying to myself, “uh-oh!” Fortunately I had 24.5 miles of momentum behind me, but I found myself slowing.  I looked at my watch. 3:06:00.  I had four minutes to get to mile 25.  14:59 to get to the finish, 1.7 miles away.

On any given day, if I need to, I know I can run 1.7 miles in less than 10 minutes.  No problem.  I might be in a lot of pain at the end of those 10 minutes, but I know I can do it.  At that moment, looking at 1.7 miles felt like I was looking at another 5.  My legs wobbled again.

For a split second I thought, “I’m not gonna make it. This is where I am going to hit the wall.  This is where my assault on a BQ ends.”

Then I heard my friend Sheila.  Now mind you, I have never met Sheila, nor have I ever heard her voice.  I know her through this blog, the wife’s blog and through Twitter.  I imagine her voice to be strong and authoritative, but nurturing.  An iron voice wrapped in a velvet scarf.  But I heard her shouting at me:

“Run like your hair is on fire. Run Luau, RUN!”

I put my hand on my heart where I was wearing an Autism Speaks pin.  Strength flowed from my burning hair down to my legs.  “This is nothing compared to what my little Brooke goes through” I thought, “this pain is temporary”.  I was running through molasses, but I was running.  I ran by the 25 mile marker – 3:09:50.

OK! 11:09 to cover 1.2 miles.  The molasses was getting thicker.  The wind had picked up AND there were people just milling about along the course.  I weaved around a few groups of walkers.  A runner in blue was 70 or so yards ahead of me.  I focused on him, mentally trying to reel him in.  Slowly he got bigger and bigger.  I was reeling him in, but I could feel myself fading.

“HAIR ON FIRE!!!” Sheila yelled.

At this point I was running on fumes.  I didn’t think there was anything left in the tank nor did I think I had any gears left.

Mile 26. 3:17:47.

That last mile had taken nearly 8 minutes.  Frak!  No, no, no, no, no!!! I was slowing down!

It was do or die time.  I yelled out loud at the top of my lungs, “Come ON!!!  Run! Dammit!!! RUN!!!”

I think I scared a few of the walkers on the course, but it worked.  I found and hit that last gear.  My speed started to pick up.  45 seconds later I passed the 13 mile mark for the half marathoners.  0.1 to go.  The guy in blue was firmly in my sites.  I put it into overdrive, lengthened my stride and went into full sprint mode.

Someone yelled at the guy in blue, “he’s coming!  he’s gonna catch you!!!”

Too late, buddy!  I flew past him.

I heard my buddy Adam, who had paced a friend through the half, yelling, “Luau! Luau! Luau!”  I pumped my fist!

I looked up and saw the clock, it read 3:20:something.  I knew I had it.    I KNEW I HAD IT!!!

Official Time - 3:19:19 - photo courtesy of Doug (@reallynotarunnr)

The euphoria of qualifying for Boston was (IS!) unbelievable.  I didn’t know if this day was ever coming.  Friends have told me that they knew, but the truth is, you never know what the next day is going to bring.  I could wake up tomorrow and be unable to run for whatever reason, but now…now, I can call myself a Boston Qualifier.

After shooting through the finish, I found my buddy Pete.  He told me that he too had qualified for Boston, running a 3:15:24.  We hugged in celebration knowing that we would be able to toe the line together in Hopkinton this coming April.  Our attention quickly turned back to the finish line.  3 of us had started that day in pursuit of a BQ, and Brendan was still out there.  Although the clock had clicked over to 3:21, we knew that because Brendan and I had started as far back in the crowd as we had, he still had some wiggle room.  Unfortunately, Brendan ended up missing a BQ by 32 seconds.  The fact that he had PR’d by 5 minutes did not alleviate the frustration and disappointment.

After some pizza and ice cream, part of the Smuttynose dailymile/Twitter crew convened in the beer tent.

Mmmm, beer... - photo courtesy of Adamm9

Pete (from Runblogger.com) and I celebrate our BQ's.

After one or two, we went out to cheer our friends Alett and Sandra in.  We walk a few hundred feet down from the finish line with the intent of running Alett in.  As she approached, we tried to break into a jog.  It wasn’t happening.  Alett flew right by us.  We had left it all out there on the course.  With Alett and Sandra’s arrival it was back to the beer tent for one more.

The Smuttynose dailymile/Twitter crew, post-race

Finally it was time to go.  I told Pete I would see him in Boston.  As I walked back to my car with Doug and Brendan, I tried to come up with something encouraging.  Brendan has been a huge inspiration, not just to me, but to countless others on dailymile.  His BQ is coming, I am sure of it.

I am sure that I will run this race again someday.  It is sure to become a popular race for those trying to achieve their own BQ.  The nice thing is that with this race not only do I qualify for 2011, but I also qualify for 2012 as well.  I know where I’ll be in April.  For next fall there’s talk about trying out the Vermont 50.  We’ll see if there’s still interest next Spring.

In the meantime, I can now turn my eyes toward New York.  Having qualified for Boston, I can now approach New York as a celebration, as a fun run.  I intend to find as many friends in the crowd as I can and take pictures with each and every one of them.  So if you are going to be in New York for the marathon, let me know where you’ll be – I’ll come find you!

You can find Pete’s Race Report —>HERE<—

You can follow Adam’s running blog —>HERE<—

You can find Doug, his wife Lex and Lex’s Run —>HERE<—

and finally, you can follow Brendan’s inspiring training on dailymile —>HERE<— (honestly though, I wish he wrote a blog!)

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*BQ stands for Boston Qualifier – a dream for many runners.  In order run the Boston Marathon, a person is required (unless running for a charity or having the luck I had last year of stumbling across an invitational application) to run a previous marathon within a certain amount of time.  For me, that time is 3:20:59.  For my buddy Pete, that time is 3:15:59.

***

I need YOUR contributions to a project that I’m working on. Interested?

All you need to do is send me a paragraph or two telling me why you run and/ or why you think others should run. E-mail it to me at “runluaurun at gmail dot com” (written out so the bots don’t start sending me spam).

If you can, please include a picture of your favorite running shoes and tell me what kind of shoes they are. Also, please let me know how you would like to be referenced (real name, nickname, pseudonym, etc) just in case this project actually ever sees the light of day.

The more responses I get, the sooner I can put it all together, so please don’t be shy about forwarding this to your running friends and spreading the word.

Thanks!

Luau

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