The BQ(Q) – Julian N

I admire (and am a bit jealous!) of people like Julian who BQ’ed in there first marathon.  Lots of great stuff in here, including specific speedwork suggestions, thanks for taking part, Julian!

Name: Julian N @ronin688 ronin-is-running

Sex: Male

Age (at the time of first BQ): 37

Height: 5’7

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 140 pounds

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.

Auckland Marathon New Zealand 2013 (my first marathon). Time was 2:54. I had been a half marathon specialist until finally taking the plunge to run a full marathon. I had begun to increase my weekly mileage to try and get used to the longer distance of the marathon. I thought that I was ready to run well. My goal was to run under 3 hours in my debut marathon. The benefit was that this was a home race and I knew the route very well. It was a perfect day and I was in good condition. I tried to go conservatively for the first half, but after about 5 miles, I got impatient and took off… I got through to half way fine and on track, but then my body started to tire badly. Not used to racing longer than a half, everything from here was pushing beyond my comfort zone. I struggled on, but every 3 miles, I could see that my pace was dropping off.

By the time I reached the 30K mark where my family were waiting to cheer me on, I just wanted to stop and go home! Still I soldiered on, and fought harder still whilst my pace continued to deteriorate. The final 5 miles seemed to go on forever, and I was cramping badly in my legs. I also had a massive blister in my left foot arch forming which made my foot feel like it was on fire… Eventually I made it to the final straight to the finish line and somehow managed to drag myself over the line. When I crossed, I was so tired I literally did not know what to do- sit, stand, get a drink… then I inadvertently walked right in between the elite women’s winner being interviewed by a commentator! Eventually I recovered enough to find my family and supporters and take in the pride of running my first ever marathon, and managing a sub- 3 hour time! I didn’t think about entering to race Boston until mid-way through 2014, and by then I had already trained for and raced my second marathon at the Gold Coast Marathon Australia in July 2014 (faster course) on the advice of my coach. Hence I was able to use this faster time for my BQ which was 2:49:34.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?

3 years. At high school I did mainly sports such as soccer and rugby. But I enjoyed track athletics (sprints) as well- never a long distance runner though.

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

4,000 miles

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?

1,800 miles

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

Each year I would race approximately once a month at least. The Auckland Marathon is in November, so I would have run at least 10 races prior that year. I remember my last ‘warm up’ race before this first marathon well. I had to do a 22 mile Sunday long run, so to keep it interesting, I ran 5 miles from home to the start line of a race, entered the race and ran 5th in a half marathon, then ran the 5 miles back home afterwards!

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

I have a coach that gave me a relatively consistent program to follow. Generally it consisted of the following: Easy 5 miles on Monday; Intervals on Tuesday (12 X 400m or 6 X 800m or 5 X 1km repeats); 45 mins on Wed (6-7 miles); 60 mins steady on Thu (8 miles); Rest day on Fridays; Tempo Run/ Time Trials on Saturdays which built up to running 7 miles (quarter marathon) at race pace to simulate the  actual race; Sunday long runs which slowly built up to approx 24 miles, but the focus was getting used to the time running on your legs. So the longest was close to the 3 hours target that I had set for the marathon.

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?

I trained entirely on my own, but utilizing the program written by my coach. I also had regular phone catch ups with him to review my program. This is definitely the best way to prepare for a marathon and to target a BQ time. Having someone that holds you to account and also supports you with getting an understanding of how your training is going, dealing with motivation issues/ injuries etc. Also, it’s great if your coach has been there, done that, so that they can draw on their experience to help you get to the start line and achieve your race goals.

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

Not much. I am not much of a swimmer. I have a road bike, but I decided that I’d rather not risk getting run over by a car whilst training for a marathon! Also, I don’t really like the gym…

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Yes, as per my program listed in Q7. Speed work is fantastic as firstly it gives you variety from the longer runs. Also, to me it’s more of an indicator of how your running is improving over time. Tuesday morning is my speed work session, and I always look forward to checking my interval splits to see where my fitness is at.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

Running a BQ was not originally a running goal for me. Stepping up to running a marathon was merely a curiosity as I had run so many halfs, I wondered what it would be like. Though the thought of being out there running for so long was not an appealing idea either. So I vowed that if I was ever going to run a marathon, I wanted it to be snappy (under 3 hours)! Hence that was my motivation. The irony is that to run a good marathon, you need to be very patient (at least 4-5 months training, slowly building up your distances and strength, and in the race you really need to save yourself until the last 5 miles otherwise you aren’t going to finish strong). So for a BQ, I think that the same rules apply- firstly you need to be mentally strong enough to set that goal and be determined that YOU WILL one day achieve a BQ. Then you need to go out and do the work, and stay focused on getting to that goal. But my advice is to definitely get yourself a coach that you trust to help you along your journey…

The BQ(Q) – Rich A (@bqchat)

Rich ran cross-country and track in high school and was approached with a college scholarship opportunity but walked away from it. From a family of non-runners, he ran races in grade school & was heavily invested in running through high school. His BQ experience was the driver behind the development of (Twitter-based) #BqChat.

Rich has been a big support of the Boston Qualifier Questionnaire project. Thanks so much for taking part, Rich!

Name: Rich A @bqchat

Sex: Male

Age (at the time of first BQ): 40

Height: 5’9″

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 130 – 135 lbs.

 

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race.

The Maine Coast Marathon (3:11). It was my second 26.2. I understood that every second below BQ translated into improved odds of getting into Boston. I wore two wrist pace bands. A 3:15 “minimum” BQ band on my right (for Age Group 40–44) and a 3:10 “optimistic” band on my left. I ran optimistically as long as I could that day.

It’s hard for a former cross-country guy to NOT go like hell the whole race. It’s exactly what I did at my first 26.2 and my poor showing reflected it. My new mantra was to have the courage to go out slow. When the gun went off I fell right into marathon pace (and was promptly smoked by a group of runners). I seethed. A runner still nearby got my attention and said, “You’re gonna have fun picking them off later in the race.” That helped me relax. And he was right. It was fun.

Note: This is a Mother’s Day race. I felt selfish registering for it. Like I had taken Mother’s Day away from both my mom and my wife (mother of our two kids). Their response? Attending the race with cowbells and BQ cheer signs. I still get emotional about it. Their support on that day pushed my level of determination out of bounds.

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?

I did a lot of running in my youth. Always yearning for that runner’s high (although I wasn’t familiar with the term “endorphins”). I just knew running made me feel good. I didn’t excel at every sport. But I could run.

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

Unknown. Unfortunately, my dedication to running in my youth didn’t carry into adulthood. I consider this a personal example of not living life to the fullest. As age 40 approached I finally decided I wasn’t ready to close the book on my run. More recently, I average 1,000 miles annually. Which I acknowledge isn’t a lot compared to my BQ peers. But between family, work and staying healthy, it’s what works for me.

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?

500.

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

Two 13.1s & one 26.2. I love 13.1s and notched my PR in the event that year: 1:26.

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

I haven’t come across a canned program that’s aware of the day-to-day status of my left knee. But it’s important to be aware of proper training methods. For a good knowledge base I recommend completing the Road Runner’s Club of America (RRCA) Coaching Certification course. Overall, the key for me is balance. Listening to your health, evolving physical ability and years of running experience goes hand-in-hand with the canned programs.

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?

Balancing a young family, work and living in a remote area isn’t very conducive to club running or being coached.

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?

My cross training consists of crunches and foam rolling on my non-run days. Crunches make me feel leaner. Faster. And rolling preserves my hamstrings. Also, I live on 3.5 acres in the Granite State. There’s always a rock wall that needs work.

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Hills and fartleks are the keys to my run. I’m surrounded by hills and I’m thankful for them. When I feel like punishing myself I practice marathon pacing in those hills. “Run over hills, not just to the top.” –Greg McMillan.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of us working towards a BQ?

Qualifying for Boston is a lifetime goal. (After all, nearly anyone that runs Boston considers it a life event.) Acknowledge it can take years. Study your past 26.2 experiences. Vividly recall injuries and how you got there. Proper nutrition as you age is vital. Anyone that says “I’ll just have to get older” in order to BQ isn’t considering the effects of aging on the human body. Practice running on an empty stomach to burn fat (carefully). Recognize there’s a special place in heaven for the spouses of BQ chasers. Finally, maintain a healthy mental perspective and try not to overwhelm yourself with qualifying for Boston.

I wasn’t always very good at that last part and it’s easily debatable that I went completely overboard. #BqChat

“PROOF” I ran the 2015 Boston Marathon.

“PROOF” I ran the 2015 Boston Marathon.

Training Totals for the Week Ending 9.27.2015

 

Run Miles for the week: 43 in 7:07:44
Run Miles for the year: 1140.9
Projected total run miles for the year: 1536.6
Weekly/Daily Average to reach 2k miles 65.1/9.3
Run Streak: 0
Did I hit every session of 18/55? N
What did I miss? 1 easy run
Runs that were one stupid mile: 0
Days until I beat my old run streak: n/a
Prospect Park loops for the week: 7
Prospect Park loops for the year: 91
Bike Miles for the Week: 0
Bike Miles for the Year: 457.9
Projected total bike miles for the year: 616.7
Weekly/Daily average to reach 2k bike miles: 116/16.6
Swim Meters for the Week 1750
Swim Meters for the Year 8200
Body Weight Work: 0
Total Exercise Time: ~7:00:00
Average Weight: 175
Books Finished: 0
Books by Women: 0
Total Books for the Year: 41
Total Books by Women: 20
Percentage of total books by women: 48.78
Books per week to reach 52 ~.76

 

 

Notes: Another solid week of running. Feeling pretty good about this training cycle. If I can stay healthy through the next six weeks, this should (hopefully!) go well.  

BQ(Q) – Heather I

I’ve posted well over a hundred Boston Qualifer Questionnaire and I think this is the first one where the runner BQ’ed and then went straight to the hospital. This is one of the most interesting BQ stories we’ve seen yet, and well written to boot!

Thanks for the inspirational story, Heather! Be careful out there runners!

Name: Heather I, @hlirvine

Sex: F

Age (at the time of first BQ): 27

Height: 5’2

Weight (at the time of first BQ): 115 lbs

At which marathon did you get your first BQ? What was your finishing time? Tell us a little about the race. 
Chicago Marathon, 2014. My goal time was a BQ (faster than 3:35, but I was targeting 3:30 to get enough cushion for entry…still awaiting 2016 confirmation!). I crossed in 3:31:42. This was my fourth marathon (2 Bostons – through a charity – and one NYC). My first true attempt at a BQ. As in I trained specifically for a 3:30, using Hanson’s, which meant the longest run I’d do was 16 miles. And only 10 miles at marathon pace. About a week before the race I was terrified I wouldn’t be able to maintain 8 mm for 26.2. But I told that voice to shut up and reassured myself that the work was done and my training went according to plan. That was affirmed as I PRed in smaller races along the way, much faster than BQ-needed splits.

Race weekend was perfect. I flew in from NYC and spent the weekend with a college friend and my husband. The weather was gorgeous. The pasta, plentiful. Race day was perfect. I could not have asked for better weather (OK, maybe 7-10 degrees cooler!) but low 50s at the start… can’t get much better than that. I felt fresh. I felt excited. I felt a BQ.

I went out with the 3:30 pace group. Focused on the pacer’s neon yellow hat. Sadly, I couldn’t take in the Chicago crowds as I may have liked. But the focus was sticking with that pace group.

Around mile 16 I started to fall behind. Not by much but enough to rattle my confidence. By mile 20 I knew the wall (which I’d been fortunate enough to have not yet encountered) was inevitable. But I skirted it. Somehow. Miles 22-24 seem to have disappeared from my memory. I wasn’t feeling too hot. I knew if I missed a BQ it would be by seconds. I couldn’t let that happen.

At mile 25 I needed to push like I’ve never pushed before. The pictures are ugly. I was running on empty. Not even fumes.
It took everything in me to make that final turn to the finish line. My vision was blurred (I later found out that was due to dehydration and not my contacts moving around). Nothing and everything hurt. I knew I was going to collapse at the end. I knew I was going down. I crossed. Hit my watch. Collapsed. I didn’t black out, despite what the medics told me, but I was down for the count. They carried me to the med tent. I was writhing. I couldn’t talk. I started cramping. They tested my lactic acid levels. Through the roof. They hooked me up to not one, but two IVs. I had four doctors at one point massaging out my cramps, in my legs and feet. I don’t remember them drawing blood, but the blood stains on my bib showed they had.

Then I started crying. Tears of joy. I qualified for Boston. I did it. Eventually they called an ambulance – I was in too poor health even for the med tent. As they were wheeling me into the ambulance I asked for my medal. They said they weren’t able to get it for me but I could ask it to be sent. I started crying. I wanted my medal. As the doors were closing, the most amazing volunteer literally JUMPED into the ambulance and said, “I got you your medal.” I started crying again. And then put it around my neck.

I spent the day in the ER. IVs, blood work, heart tests. I didn’t get my free beer. I didn’t get to lounge in the park with my teammates. But I qualified for Boston. I did what Pre said to do. I gave it my best. Because anything less, would be to sacrifice the gift.

And that night, I sang “Born to Run” at karaoke. Because they didn’t have “Love that Dirty Water.”

How long had you been running when you ran your first BQ? Did you run in college or high school?

I started running in middle school and took a break in college to play ultimate Frisbee. I picked it back up after graduation (2009). So I’d been running and racing regularly, all told, for 15 years.

What was your approximate lifetime mileage at the time of your first BQ?

Ooof. Races alone were 434 miles (thanks, Athlinks!). So let’s say ~2,000? I trained for five marathons (NYC 2012 was canceled), about 5 half marathons.. let’s say 2,000.

How many miles did you run in the year before your first BQ?

~600 miles

Approximately how many races did you run in that year?

17

Did you follow a canned program? If so, which one? If not, can you give us an idea of what your training philosophy was?

For my BQ race (Chicago 2014) I followed Hanson’s. I swapped out two easy run days for a rest and a bike day.

Did you run with a running club or utilize a coach?

I run with North Brooklyn Runners but I followed Hanson’s plan so did not join my teammates when the workouts differed.

Did cross training play a role in your training? If so, how?  

I did 1x week spin class and occasional swim days during this training cycle. I think it really helped because I was injured in 2012 from overuse. It helped break up the running with something active. I think it saved me. Mentally and physically.

Did speed work play a role or specific workouts play a role in your training? If so, how?

Hanson’s does two segments of speed work: speed (3 miles on the track, 5K paces) and strength (6 miles on the road, 10K-half paces). I think these really helped since it was the first time I focused on speed work for a marathon. The cumulative fatigue also helped get my body ready to run tired.

Any other thoughts you would like to share with those of working towards a BQ?

In the words of Pre (again), “the only good race is suicide pace, and today looks like a good day to die.” I took that a little too literally on race day!

In terms of “tips.” Don’t be a hero. Choose a race that lends itself to a BQ. I chose Chicago because it’s flat and the weather is generally nice and cool. I have friends who say they want to do it “the hard way” i.e. on the NYC course or something similar. Good for them. A BQ is a BQ. It’s already extremely hard and the registration website doesn’t care how hard the course was. Sometimes these comments make me feel guilty, less than. But then I remind myself, you qualified for the Boston Marathon by 3 minutes, 18 seconds. That’s all that matters. (And I ran a 3:47 NYC victory lap on a bum ankle 3 weeks later. #notsohumblebrag)

Choose a plan that comes vetted either by teammates or coaches or the marathon community. Tweak it to what fits YOU best as a runner. I knew running 6 days would kill me. So I modified it.

Rest. I have a friend who “tries” to BQ at every marathon. But then he’ll go run a 50K and wonder why he’s not getting any faster. You need to choose a race, make that your goal, plan everything else around it (don’t do that overnight relay 3 weeks before; don’t do that strength train day when you’re scheduled to rest).

Listen to your body (especially re: rest). I got really sick 5 weeks before Chicago. I was laid up in bed for 5 days. No running. No nothing. I dropped out of my time trial half marathon. I slept 14 hours a day. And the following week I got cleared by the doctor, ran a different half in 1:39. Your body needs to rest. And that often pays dividends later on.

Recognize that the mental game is real and it’s powerful. It’s amazing what you can do when you put your mind to it. My mantras? “Good girl. Good job, baby girl.” Laugh, but it works.

I’ve attached a photo that shows the happiest someone can be in a hospital bed…without a newborn baby. 😉

I say that my BQ day was the best day ever, second only to my wedding day. But off the record, it may even trump that 😉

Heather in the aftermath of her BQ

Heather in the aftermath of her BQ

Totals for the Week Ending 8.30.2015

Run Miles for the week: 42.4 in 7:12:40
Run Miles for the year: 995.6
Projected total run miles for the year: 1495.4
Weekly/Daily Average to reach 2k miles 58.5/8.4
Run Streak: 0
Did I hit every session of 18/55? N
What did I miss? One easy recovery run
Runs that were one stupid mile: 0
Days until I beat my old run streak: n/a
Prospect Park loops for the week: 6
Prospect Park loops for the year: 72
Bike Miles for the Week: 0
Bike Miles for the Year: 440.7
Projected total bike miles for the year: 662
Weekly/Daily average to reach 2k bike miles: 90.3/12.9
Swim Meters for the Week 1750
Swim Meters for the Year 8200
Body Weight Work: 0
Total Exercise Time: ~7:12:00
Average Weight: 175
Books Finished: 2 (The Argonauts, Maggie Nelson; Vegan Before Six, Mark Bitmann)
Books by Women: 1
Total Books for the Year: 37
Total Books by Women: 16
Percentage of total books by women: 43.24
Books per week to reach 52 ~.8

Notes: I missed a number of these, which sucks. But here were are. About 8 weeks out from New York and feeling pretty good, all things considered. Did a hard workout on Saturday 16 miles, 10 at marathon pace, which left with me a bit of heat exhaustion and/or dehydration. Either way, I was wrecked. This week is a scheduled cut back week. I intend to do some more easy cycling and finally once again work in a bit of body weight work. After this easy week, it’s the height of marathon training. Excited.

Totals for the week ending 7-5-2015

 

Run Miles for the week: 28.3 in 4:36:48
Run Miles for the year: 761
Projected total run miles for the year: 1485.4
Weekly/Daily Average to reach 2k miles 7/49.3
Run Streak: 0
Did I hit every session of 18/55? N
What did I miss? A 4 mile recovery run
Runs that were one stupid mile: 0
Days until I beat my old run streak: n/a
Prospect Park loops for the week: 3
Prospect Park loops for the year: 47
Bike Miles for the Week: 25
Bike Miles for the Year: 384.7
Projected total bike miles for the year: 750.9
Weekly/Daily average to reach 2k bike miles: 9.2/64.1
Swim Meters for the Week 0
Swim Meters for the Year 4700
Body Weight Work: 0
Total Exercise Time: ~6:30:00
Average Weight: 181
Books Finished: 0
Books by Women: 0
Total Books for the Year: 27
Total Books by Women: 12
Percentage of total books by women: 44
Books per week to reach 52 1

Notes: Holiday fun got in the way of one run, but I still feel ok about this first week of marathon training – I got in a solid speed session and completed a totally painful long run on almost no sleep and bad nutrition.

 

Two weeks out from the New York Triathlon. I’m not giving it a heck of a lot of thought. I hope to get a short open water swim in this weekend, mainly just to see if my wetsuit still works. Lets hope it does, cause its pretty late in the game to rent one!

Onward!

18 Weeks Out

So here I am, 18 weeks out from the New York City Marathon (NYCM) and its time to make a decision regarding my training. Will I shoot for the moon again, or take a more earth bound course? Mega miles, or miles and speed? The eternal debate in Sean’s world of running, and one I want to resolve, at least for this training cycle, today.

 

Here’s the state of play: Generally, I feel good. My body feels recovered from the Vermont shit show. I’ve gotten in some ok mileage. Not everything I hoped for, but not abysmal, either. I’m coming into this cycle in ok shape and uninjured, which is better than I can say for any other training cycle.

 

Now it’s decision time.

 

When I initially started roughing out my training plan for New York, I was hoping to use the Pftizinger 55-70 plan. But as time got closer, it has become apparent that running that kind of mileage just wasn’t realistic based on both my base fitness and overbooked life. So, reluctantly, I’ve decided to scale things back to the more reasonable, but still ambitious, up to 55 Pfitzinger plan. That plan starts this week. Some might say this is still too much (SMT?) but if Vermont taught me anything, its that I need more miles to run the type of marathon I want to run. Going with the up to 55 program should, hopefully, allow me to have enough recovery time to some some real speed work without risking injury.

 

Of course, NYCM isn’t my only event of the year. In between now and then I have the New York City Triathlon, and the Presidential Traverse, both of which are pretty daunting events of their own. Yet both are certainly open acts to the main event – a sub four hour marathon come November. I’ll be working in some specific work outs for those events as well, including biking, swimming and interminable stair climbing, but NYC is the goal, and running is the name of the game.

 

Curious to see how this works out? I will of course be tracking it all in the weekly totals posts. Stay tuned for updates on how many miles I’ve run and how many books I’ve read. You’ll be riveted, I’m sure.