FIRST: Remember to enter to win a free race entry into any 2014 Spartan Race! Right now, your chances of winning are pretty darn high! Winner is announced tomorrow.
There is some sort of general theory suggesting that no matter how painful pregnancy and/or childbirth might be, and no matter how much someone might swear that she will never (ever, so help you God) subject herself to this torture again in the moment, most women look back 1-2 years later and remember 36 hours of labor as “bad, but not THAT bad,” and many (most?) decide to do it all over again. Multiple times.
(I am obviously at the life stage where 75% of my facebook friends are either pregnant or have a child in the newborn/toddler range).
While I have yet to bring myself to the whole childbirth thing, I think that this general theory also applies to marathons.
While there is nothing like the pride I experienced crossing the finish line at Chicago, my body HURT so very bad in ways I didn’t think possible starting at about mile 22, I was violently sick to my stomach all day, and I couldn’t walk like a normal person for about a week. Stepping up from the street to the sidewalk? Forget about it.
I thought, “wow, that was a great accomplishment, but this distance isn’t for me, or even humans in general.” Yet, despite all this, I registered for Boston the next day.
The whole cycle did a repeat 4 months later. Except, when I crossed my second 26.2 finish line, I knew that I would do another one in the (far off) future when I could forget about blisters and chaffing.
I didn’t apply to get into Boston this year. I could have used my Chicago qualifier again, but I decided in September that a trip to Boston in April wasn’t in the cards. Closing on our house probably had something to do with this.
Turns out, it wouldn’t have mattered. My qualifier wasn’t fast enough to get me in. Truthfully, it was a blow to the ego. I had never thought of my time, 1 minute and 5 seconds under, to be a “squeaker,” but in the end, it wasn’t even that. It was just plain insufficient.
So, it was with renewed enthusiasm that I made a commitment to not only run another marathon, but also attempt another BQ and run a time that would, without any shadow of a doubt, get me into Boston 2015.
And perfect timing really, because all of that pain that I described above (soreness, sickness, blisters, chaffing, fatigue, aching feet, etc.) is now a very abstract memory. Like, I don’t even remember what it feels like to seriously contemplate whether it would be less painful to just chop your feet off than run another step on them.
However, I suppose saying that I’m going to run a 3:27 marathon (that’s my goal, which is a big fat YIKES) is the easy part. Training for it is much harder. But before I can even begin to train, I need something to train for.
STEP 1: Choosing The Marathon
For me, choosing the right marathon felt similar (if not more intense) to figuring out what we wanted in a first house. For both, we had a list of non-negotiables along with a list of things we could compromise. Except, with a house, we could fix almost anything with enough time and money. I can’t exactly remodel a marathon course to fit my needs.
So, what was I looking for?:
1) Held in June, July, or August: Since I’m going for a BQ, I need the race to be prior to September’s registration, which essentially eliminates all of the big fall races. Add on 4 months of training, plus about 2 months of base-building, and I’ve crossed off all late winter/spring races off the list too.
2) Mild Summer Weather: Since I’m looking at a summer race, it needed to be in an area that has at least some chance of not being ridiculously hot or humid. This really limited us to the Coastal West part of the country, or the far Northeast.
3) Needs to compliment our strengths: That means a relatively flat course without a huge elevation gain and something at sea level to take full advantage of our training in the mountains. Mentally, I’d prefer a course that wasn’t 2 loops of a half course, and a substantial marathon field (1000+) because I do well when I have the energy (and competition) of other runners off which to feed.
4) Within close-ish proximity to New Mexico: to keep travel costs down. We’re talking second tier on the Southwest Airlines sale scale.
There were slim pickings after all of the elimination. Slim pickings.
It came down to Eugene, OR and Santa Rosa, CA.
These marathons were ridiculously similar. Both are designed as “Boston Qualifier” fast and flat courses, both are held in smaller towns, both run on bike paths and scenic nature routes, both appear to be well-organized with lots of positive reviews from fast runners, and both offer post-race pancakes which is actually sounding really good right about now…
But neither offer substantial spectator support throughout the entire 26.2 miles (unlike Boston or Chicago), and both have courses that do a bit of back-tracking. And, considering my first two marathons were World Majors, these two are pretty small without the bells and whistles you get from having Shalane Flanagan somewhere ahead of you.
While Santa Rosa’s course seems a bit harder (runs on a slight uphill during the last few miles, and portions run on gravel) and the the field is considerably smaller (capped somewhere around 1600), in the end, the fact that that Eugene moved it’s date from mid-April to July this year (meaning potential hiccups), and the 2 hour drive from the Portland airport helped us in our resolve to choose Santa Rosa. Eugene is also the weekend before my sister’s wedding, so Santa Rosa fit better into bridesmaid duties.
With a bottle of wine and a jacket (and rumors of a Lululemon bag!) included in the $125 registration fee, Santa Rosa also appears to offers more bang for the buck. Plus, the fact that it is only 1 hour from San Francisco adds about 10 points. I’m not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it (HA), but I’m obsessive over San Francisco. And wine.
So, I will be attempting a Boston qualifying time at the Santa Rosa Marathon at the end of August (and hoping to meet some of you California folks!).
I am beyond myself excited (27 weeks and 1 day). Training will officially start at the end of April, and I am looking forward to every 800 repeat in 90 degree temperatures and every 20 mile long run that I have coming up. What pain? What torture? All I remember is the amazing feeling of looking down at my Garmin, and knowing. I hope to have that feeling again.
The rest of our 2014 racing schedule looks pretty dismal, especially compared to all of the fun we’ve had over the last 2 and a half years. But I do need to get back into the racing groove with at least a couple of half+ distances because it isn’t second nature to me anymore. What do I eat for breakfast? How many trips to the porta-potty do I need to make before lining up? These are answers I don’t think I have anymore.
1) Albuquerque Half Marathon: I really don’t like this race. But, with the uninspired course, the heat, the smell of farm, and the small race size, it should help build up some mental toughness.
2) Shiprock Half Marathon: This is a HUGE maybe. Initially, I was thinking that the full version might be my goal race, but I don’t think the course lends itself to not-quite squeakers like me. I do want to run it eventually because it is one of the best races in the state. Plus, I’d get to see 50-states Dan in action as he crosses New Mexico off his almost complete list. BUT, it is on the same weekend as…
3) Run for the Zoo Half: I love Run for the Zoo. I ran my first ever 5-K here in 2010, and I haven’t missed a year since. It really feels like everyone in Albuquerque is involved in some way, and I love all of the high fives you get from friends, co-workers, family, etc. as you turn into the last stretch.
So, there we have it. One big race with the sole goal of qualifying (and wine), and some small local races. And with any luck, the 2015 schedule will include a bus ride to Hopkington, a battle with Heartbreak, and a left on Boylston.
So, who wants to come join me in some running and wine drinking in Santa Rosa?
The expo is held at a winery, a bottle of wine is included with entry fee, and you actually run through a barrel room. GOOD TIMES!
Hope you have a wonderful three day weekend! Remember to spread some LOVE and eat lots of chocolate!’
*Also, thanks to the Santa Rosa Marathon facebook page for supplying most of the photos!