Monday, May 17, 2010

After Thoughts and Lessons Learned

At exactly this time, this moment, a week ago I was crossing the finish line of the Colorado Marathon and celebrating a PR and a BQ. Having had 7 days of rest (only one yoga session and one 5 mile run), lots of wine, many calorie laden meals, one massage, and exactly four large dumps (I never said I was regular), I’ve had lots of time to think about how it all played out, what I learned and what I might do differently next time. Here’s me thinking  while I swing like a carefree child:


Let me start by saying – I know that just because I BQ’d, I am not some running guru or speedster. There are hundreds of thousands of 43 year old women faster than me.  I just know what worked for me and helped me to cut 21 minutes off of my previous marathon time of only 17 months ago. This is just my personal success story.

There has been a lot of talk lately about how BQ’ing is “too easy,” especially for women. I guess those real fasties don’t like Boston to get watered down with those of us who are less speedy. However, there may be some truth to these claims, especially because men’s qualifying times are SO much more difficult than women’s. It seems either the men’s times need to get easier or the women’s harder to make it more balanced. In addition, the Boston Marathon is overflowing with people who have qualified and are trying to get in. This could be because there are so many more people running marathons these days, or it could be that it’s “too easy” to get there.  I don’t pretend to know. I’m just a girl trying to get to Bean-town.

I will say that it is an honor and privilege to be a 40-something woman who only started running in 2008 who is on her way to Boston. Maybe someone as inexperienced as I shouldn’t be able to BQ because that shows it’s not hard enough. But, I trained my ass off for this accomplishment, so I’ll take it with pride. I don’t know if I am too slow to run Boston, but I do know that the current standards have allowed me this opportunity. So, thanks B.A.A. for not changing anything…yet.

Things that worked for me this time around:

After running myself into the ground, getting a stress fracture and ending up like this:


(God, I look like a dork). I decided that for me, less really is more.

  • I trained using a mix of the “Run Less, Run Faster” plan plus some of the Runner’s World Smart Coach. I rarely ran more than 3-4 times a week, but each of those runs (speed, tempo and long) were purposeful and difficult.  I did my Yassos to correlate with my hopeful marathon time.
  • I started Bikram (hot) yoga and did this twice weekly during my training
  • I took 1,200 mgs of calcium per day, a multi vitamin and acidophilus. I ate healthily and drank wine very regularly. I didn’t do meth or crack.
  • During the 16 weeks of training I only ran 492 miles. That is a lot less than most of you but it’s still friggin’ 492 miles.  I also incorporated lots of cross training, mostly swimming
  • I never ran more than 20 miles in a training run, and only did that once (because I had the shits on this run and got scared). My other longer runs were 18.5 miles (x2) and 18 miles (I still had the shits and left a present in a tree)
  • With the exception of Ken running with me for parts of my long runs, I did all of them solo. I learned to enjoy my own company and to love the meditative quality of these runs. I was hell bent on keeping a certain pace and knew I would do that best if I ran alone.
  • I got monthly massages. No honeysuckle touching allowed.

I won’t lie. The week before the marathon I added up my miles and psyched myself out with those age old pre-marathon messages – I haven't done enough. I can't keep my marathon pace over 26.2 miles. Will the Depend show through my cheetah running skirt?

What I now know is that my training plan worked like a charm. I was well prepared, mentally and physically. And I wanted it bad. REALLY bad.

Other things that worked:

  • Wearing a pace band during the race. Used THIS ONE. I wasn’t sure if I’d love or hate having this on my wrist, but it saved me and kept me on track
  • Not eating dairy or fiber three days before the race. No GI trouble, no porta potty stops, not even to pee
  • I hydrated very well in the days leading up to the race
  • I learned everything I could about the course and drove most of it. I visualized myself running the race strong, smiling and at marathon pace. I had all of my mental tools ready for when the going got tough.
  • I made my goals public. There were times when I really wished I hadn’t done this because I felt like if I didn’t get there, I’d be a failure. But in the end, I think it made me work harder
  • The week before the race I watched inspirational movies like “The Spirit of the Marathon” and “Race for the Soul.”

Lessons Learned:

  • Turn off the auto pause on my Garmin
  • Cut the toenail on my god awful Morton’s toe
  • The things you worry about almost never happen (but, the really freaky things you don’t worry about, like your dog losing an eye, might)
  • Even when things fall apart, it doesn't mean everything's going to hell. Always have hope
  • NEVER lose sight of your goals. Keep the faith. If you don’t get them this time, try again. They’re yours for the taking.
  • Don’t ingest pizza, chicken wings and beer the night before a long run. Ever.
  • Stop worrying about what other people think. Do what’s right for you. Have confidence.
  • Be kind to yourself. A time at the finish line is only hours and minutes. It doesn’t define you. You are not “good” because your time is “fast,” and you are not “bad” if you run at the back of the pack.

Thanks for reading and sharing this journey. Now a little anecdote from today:

Picking up my son (12) from school this afternoon, I noticed a girl who he’s known since kindergarten. I said (impulsively), “Wow, she’s really blossomed. In the chest area.” Sam said, “Hah! You jealous??”

Yes, my son, I am.

PS: Check out Tara’s giveaway for Silver Maple Jewelry!


  1. You are going to Boston based on the current criteria and dammit, you earned it.

  2. YOu certainly earned Boston! I couldnt do it! I am a SLOW runner! Maybe one day, but, no, props to you!

  3. Are you jealous? That is hilarious - nice comeback from your son!

    I think you did a fabulous job. Whether Boston qualifying times are too slow or right on, they're too fast for me as is. So kudos to anyone who can get there.

    Well done!

  4. congrats on Boston, regardless of what other people think, you worked your butt off and you BQ'ed and that's awesome!!!!

  5. awesome awesome awesome post!!!
    honeysuckle hahaha!
    That is too funny about your son! Did ya sock him in the arm for being cheeky?? I would have since my son would spout that stuff off to me too hahaha!

  6. i love the last lesson....something i need to work on...

  7. Whats "Race for the soul"? I have Spirit of the marathon. Have trio of inspirational movies, Spirit of the marathon, Saint Ralph and Run, Fatboy, Run.

  8. I will have to remember to come back to this post pre-Chicago Marathon for the pace band that you used.

    Thanks for sharing all your tips. They will be handy when training for my first full.

  9. you totally earned your bq! awesome tips & thanks for sharing :)

    and too funny about your son's comment haha!!

  10. I think Run fast, Run less is such a key book. I only ran 30 miles/week for my first marathon and I BQed. You trained smart, you took care of yourself, and you deserve to go to Boston. Just make sure you register as soon as they open registration. I'll do the same:)

  11. you totally earned your boston and i am so excited for you!

    i cant wait to experience my BQ race so i can go through your giddyness!!!

    love the kiddo story- thanks for the laugh!

  12. what a great post!! i love that you put the mental preparation into it. so many people rely just on running. the mental aspect of pushing hard for 26.2 miles is HUGE.

    and i don't care what anyone says, qualifying is NOT easy.

  13. Great lessons! Especially regarding the Morton's Toe...

  14. your posts are awesome.

    Love the photos.

    I used "run less/run faster" too. It's a great book. Today was my first Yasso - thanks to you I know what the hell that means. I'm hoping. OK praying. Ok pleading . . fine maybe dreaming of a 3:23 in July. Doesn't hurt to try right?! ;)

  15. You know what also helps in the final week leading up to the marathon? Reading blogs from people who have run their races a couple of weeks before yours. You learn some very helpful tips. Thanks. :)

  16. Congrats on BQing :) That is soo exciting! I definitely am no where near Boston but thats okay for me.. for the time being.. maybe?! I think its awesome that you qualified and that you have such a positive outlook on running! I love reading your posts they are so motivating!! Keep up the great work!! :)

  17. You go girl! Be proud of that BQ! You worked hard. One day I hope to make it too. Hopefully this fall at Marine Corps! Great post!

  18. SO much great info. in this post and, yet, all I can ask is, what is your honeysuckle? Er..em...the tulip?

  19. Thank you for sharing your journey with us!! It's been funny, inspiring, funny, gut wrenching at times, funny, motivating, funny, sincere, funny and I, for one, have learned alot from you and your escapades. I'll still be around next year when you write the race report for your awesome run at Bean-town. Cheers!

  20. I really, really hear your "lessons learned" . . . and, o.m.g! my toe has a name? signifying royalty?! AND Neandertals!?! This explains so much!

  21. Awesome, Beth! I have been laid up for three weeks now due to overtraining. So depressed I couldn't even blog about it. Look for an update in the next day or so, but otherwise, I am so thrilled for you! Training is a journey and you rode that horse to the end. Congrats! I, too have learned a few lessons.....

  22. What? No meth? It's such a proven technique!

    You totally worked your butt off for the race and earned your spot. You'll love the experience. And I will point out that you didn't just slip in, you did it with a big cushion. So even if they did change the standards (which they won't anytime soon) you would still qualify.

  23. What a great post. Only recently joined the blogging world, and thus only caught the last few weeks of your training, but your journey has certainly been compelling. Crossing that finish line and reaching your goals is about so much more than just running, and you've captured it beautifully with humor and honesty.

  24. I love this... can you be my virtual coach?

  25. What a great post, and lessons - thanks for sharing!

  26. hahaha...LOVE your son's comment! Too funny. :)

    Love all of your advice. I think I shall add monthly massages to my training plan. :)

  27. congrats!! i love this post and all your advice. I too think I shall add monthly massages!! congrats and you should wear that BQ with pride!!

  28. i have one hell of a Morton' toe as well...but hey did you know the Statue of Liberty has one too =)

  29. Ok, your son is funny as hell, too. So is the thought of someone running 8 minute miles being considered "less speedy." From us 11-12 minute gals we solute you and say you earned Boston - enjoy it for all that it is!

    Winks & Smiles,

  30. Thanks for sharing all really did an awesome job! ...and your son is hilarious :)

  31. Thank you for sharing these lessons you learned the hard way so the rest of us can learn them the easy way. There are so many things I am going to take away from this post and remember as I continue on my running journey.

  32. BQ or not I think you got a whole lot more out of your journey to a Boston Qualifying time than most people do. Great lessons.

    Don't be jealous. It's all the red meat with hormones and junk food that the kids eat nowadays. ;-)

  33. This just goes to prove the more isn't always better. Quality over quantity.

    Bask in your BQ glory - you earned it. If they change the qualifing times - so be it - but at this point - the 40 something runner from CO is heading to Boston. Awesome!!!

  34. I love this post! I will definitely keep it in mind when I start training for my marathon!

    Your son's comment was hilarious! Ha ha!

  35. Wait, when I had a stress fracture, I could have drove one of those cart deals in target!!?!?!?!?!? I missed out. totally.missed.out.

    Hope the puppy is feeling better

  36. Thanks for sharing what you've learned! Very interesting stuff!

  37. B,
    YOU DESERVE TO RUN BOSTON - *#%$ what the haters say. And great post by the way. Your “Run Less, Run Faster” training plan looks similar to the one that I have implemented for myself this year (minus the presents in the trees)…and your results certainly offer hope for me and my quest for a BQ this fall. Again congratulations and thanks for the great post!

  38. Congrats on your BQ! Always good to read the lessons learned!

  39. Congrats on your Boston qualifying time. I guess it's hit or miss whether you get in or not even if your time is good. Also, the runners don't set off until after 10:30... I can't stand late races.

    It really would be a wonderful race to run due to the prestige and historical nature of the race.
    I heard there is no big celebration party following the run. That's a disappointment but then, maybe people who just finish running 26.2 miles over the roads of Mass. don't feel much like a party?
    Great going and loved reading your meditative thoughts.

  40. I love this post. Hopefully I can pull something like this together this week. Thanks for sharing some of your lessons and experiences.

    For the record, I DON'T believe it's too "easy" for women to qualify for Boston. Hopefully they won't change things before I get my shot. ;)

  41. You earned it no matter what!!!

    IMHO...I do think with the amount of people running marathons these days, the bar could be raised. That said, I am unsure if my opinion matters given I will never run at Boston.

  42. I like these're a smart chica

  43. I love all the advice and I've loved following your journey. If I ever run a marathon (which I'm sure will happen eventually) then I'm sure this advice will come in handy. Thanks and congrats again on your achievement!

  44. Thanks Beth for the great and humerous advice! I will look back at this I'm sure plenty during my marathon training...starting in June, and right before the race.
    You did awesome, and kept your humor the whole way! AWESOME!

  45. SUCH a great post and all of these are so true. what works for one person may not work for another, and its all about figuring out what works best for you. you did that! congrats woman, can't wait to meet you in boston next year :)

  46. I have to admit it has bothered me that when I qualified for Boston, I had to run 2:50 and now that accomplishment seems watered down by their lowering their standards. That said, I don't want to take anything away from your accomplishment; you worked hard and earned the result. And you managed to make people learn and laugh on your blog while you did it!

    4 dumps in a week? I did 5 in 2 miles during my race Saturday! Hah. Still competing, if only intestinally. ;)

  47. WOW!! Thanks for the information. One day I will get there!

  48. That was an awesome post.
    And, I have to say, I had the SAME thoughts as you after I qualified and looked at the criteria. Is it too easy? Too hard? Maybe, maybe not. But I do know that I qualified under the standards, and believe it or not, NOT many people do! But you did, and you deserve it! You worked hard, you learned a lot during your training and you are a better runner for it :) There are some interesting stats when it comes to Boston runners, less than about 5% of the running population ever makes it to Boston, so pat yourself on the back!
    Can't wait to hang with you in Bean town!!!

  49. That is awesome! And the words of experience are what I hope to write one day also. of course, I have not come close to BQing and my Run Less, Run Faster translated into running less. And I am not yet over my stress fracture. And no, it isn't too easy, it is what they want to provide the mix they want.

  50. I think the hardest one for me to do is to stop worrying about what other people think. Training plans are not one-size-fits-all...I definitely learned that I do not do well doing what my former running buddy does in races...What works for her DOES NOT work for me. I was newer to running and insecure about what to do and my own abilities. Trying to do what someone else does, usually just backfires and I end up hurt or overtraining. I am still coming back very slowly from a series of injuries over a period of 6 months. Will I ever get to where I was before? I'm not sure. I have doubts...but I can only do what I can do. I'm tired of being ashamed of that. I'm ready to start being thankful for each and every success.

  51. You definitely earned it girl!! Oh, and don't forget that ONE 18-miler you ran with ME!! ;)

    Congrats again, girl. Book your hotel room NOW; and make sure you get one near all the marathon hoopla, it's so worth the extra cost!!

  52. Congratulations on your BQ! Someday I'll be there! I'll wave as you pass me, then I'll compliment your legs!

  53. ummmm you earned Boston! You should have nothing but pride and I know your proud! Your son cracks me up it awesome to see such a good relationship between a mother and son :)

  54. I wonder if they will change the Boston requirements. I agree that it is too hard for me! You earned your spot though.

    Thanks for sharing your advice! I think visualizing yourself on the course is a great idea. I also only run 3-4 days a week. My body just can't handle any more! I wish it could ;)

  55. Hey woman! Just trying to catch up on all of your posts; I took the last week off from blogging, etc. I loved your race report, so inspirational. The only thing that I beg to differ on is that I didn't just drop a nugget in that porta potty.

    I love how you have sat back thought about what worked for you on this marathon. Liz put those exact words on my schedule: "figure out what worked for you and what didn't" Yea.....still haven't thought about it, still haven't written a race report either! Just enjoying the aftermath!

    I'm proud of you and can't wait to watch you in Boston next year! They damn well better not change those standards yet, this slow 30 something year old wants to qualify!

  56. What?! people are saying qualifying is easy. Mother fucker. NO way. And for all the feminists out there - men and women are NOT equal. It doesn't take a genious to notice that.

    Great insight. I never understood why people use auto pause. I recently learend that there are a ton of people that use it so now I never belive anyones stats. Pizza is my pre race meal :) and I love what you say about your time not definiing you....athough it's hard to belive sometimes.

    Congrats again girl. You totally earned that trip!

  57. You earned it. Qualifying is NOT easy. Your training was NOT easy (remember the ice baths?).

    This is totally your major accomplishment. You've earned the right to be proud!!

  58. The whole post rocked, but what really struck me was this:
    Be kind to yourself. A time at the finish line is only hours and minutes. It doesn’t define you. You are not “good” because your time is “fast,” and you are not “bad” if you run at the back of the pack.
    That was a really nice thing to write that strikes home with many of us I'm sure!

  59. I thoroughly enjoyed this from start to finish. It's amazing that you only started running in 2008 and now running BQ marathons! Gives me hope, I'm shooting to run my first marathon before my 30th birthday which gives me about two and a half years. I thought maybe that wasn't enough time, but now I can see it's not impossible. Looking forward to following you on your training for BOSTON!!!!