Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Austin to Boston.

The official results are in and my chip time was 3:40:00 at the Austin Marathon on 02/17/2013. I DID Qualify! I hit my Boston Qualifier on the nose!
Running Boston has been at the back of my mind since running my first marathon in 1998. And I just left it there. It was brought to the forefront when I’d here friends talk about it, but I’d tell myself, “I don’t NEED to do that.”
About four years ago I tried to qualify anyway. My good friend John said he’d pace me and we’d get it done. I failed. 3:30:00 was the time to beat back then and I ran a 3:46:something. It hurt too. physically and mentally. Back then I told myself again, “I don’t need to do that.” But it was still there, in  the back of my mind.
Last fall it was brought back to the front by my friend Lalo. He told me about the Hanson’s marathon training method. I got excited. “It will get us to Boston!” he said. Again, those words came back. I half heartedly agreed (didn’t tell him that) to train with Lalo for a Boston qualifier.  What the heck, disciplined training will do me good. Soon we were texting each other after completing our scheduled training runs. This did not stop. Almost daily I texted him details of my accomplishment for the day. And I knew I had to complete most of the training runs so that I can text him with pride. This kept me honest and motivated.
Lalo became my coach. He is a great runner, motivator, and friend. During our training he was stern when he had to be, yet compassionate when he needed to be. Every thing was going good.
Then I broke my toe 10 weeks before the marathon. I lost three weeks of training. I did get on the bike, walked, and lifted weights but I could not run. Maybe this was good because I rested and it took only about 10 days after resuming my running again to be back to where I left off. I took a spill and banged my knee a few weeks later but thank God it was not too serious.
Going into the Austin Marathon I was feeling better than at the start of any other marathon I’d run. Still, I wasn’t sure how I’d do. For the first time in a very long while I had butterflies in my stomach. Lalo was so excited and trying to pump me up. I didn’t want to let him or myself down by not giving it my best. I thought about just cruising it but then again, why not give it a shot? I’m prepared. Maybe I was afraid to fail again.
At the start, Lalo’s wife Amanda and I shared stories of past marathons we’ve run and we shared techniques on running economy. Just as the race was to begin, she said, “Stefan says to run relaxed.”
I was to play those words in my mind several times this day.
The course was one I really enjoyed. We run down hill for the first 3 or so miles crossing over the Colorado River. From mile 3 to 6 there is an incline of about 200 feet. Many people lined the course cheering on the runners. I thought about carrying a water bottle but with water stations almost every 2 miles it was not necessary. I took in water at every station. At mile 9 the course got real hilly. By this time I was taking in Hammer gel from a flask I carried. To my surprise, I was attacking the hills well.  Twice though, I paused to take two or three walking steps after cresting a hill. From mile 9 to mile 14 there were about 5 short but steep inclines. I planned to run with the 3:30 pace group but soon I saw the 3:25 pace group ahead. I’m running too fast, I thought. But it felt so good I kept it up and hoped I could hang on. At about mile 17 the course flattens out and went through a real pretty residential area. Wood framed modest homes with porches surrounded by mature trees. People were sitting on lawn chairs sipping coffee and cheering us on. Our names were on our race bibs so many called out our names. Nice touch. Neighbors gathered together in their front yards and offered fruit and drink. Musicians lined the course too. Some bands, String trios, and guitar soloist.  But somehow the flat road gets to me. I hate it. Must be a mental thing. Give me a hill!
As I reached the 22 mile maker the 3:30 pace group catches me and drops me quickly. I am starting to fatigue. Good thing the course is now downhill. I passed a man working in his street side garden who seemed oblivious  to what was happening around him. Then up ahead a runner slows, heads for the curb and goes down softly on his knees. I go to him and ask if he’s OK. He nods his head as he slowly rises and begins to walk forward. “We’re almost there buddy, we’re almost there.” I say.
With a little over two miles to go I am tired. I was afraid I’d pushed too hard and this was it. The thought of walking  to the end crossed my mind. I walked through a water station taking three cups of Gatorade and water. Then I thought,  I have to keep moving. The 3:40 pace group is still behind me. I got in a comfortable stride and thought about a term we use to tease each other in our group. Especially Larry. “Dig Deep!”
I walked through one more water station before the finish. With about a quarter mile to go the course turns left to reveal two hills in succession! I guess it’s better to see them both at once than to think you’re done then see another. But why put them here? I told myself, “You’ve got to run.” At this point I see the 3:40 pacers right next to me! OH NO! I turned it up a notch. Then I thought, “If I don’t make it I won’t be happy, but I’ll be content with my effort. I ran my best this day”
The last 10th of a mile is down hill with a turn about 50 yards from the finish. At this last turn I caught sight of the clock. It’s scary, but it was just as I played it in my mind several times in the week leading up to the race. The clock read 3:40:50. I knew I had at least a minute to spare because that’s the time (more or less) after the gun went off that I crossed the starting mat. I ran as fast as I could. When I stopped my watch it read 3:40:04. ”Maybe, Maybe I got it”, I thought.
I later met up with Lalo and Amanda. We congratulated each other, then I told them I am pretty sure I missed my 3:40:00 Boston qualifying time.  Lalo scanned the barcode on my bib and it read 3:41:02. What stood out was the :02. We moaned in unison. “OH NO!” I missed it by two seconds. But I was OK with it. The next day final results were published on the web and it showed me finishing at 3:40:00.
I Got in to Boston by the hairs on my chinny chin chin!
What a great experience.


Lalo said...

It was an awesome experience made even better when the official results came out yesterday! Great job Hermano! You deserve it! There is more great training and races to come in the near future!

Tony Maldonado said...

Thanks Brother. I couldn't have and wouldn't have done it without you. And congratulations on YOUR awesome qualifying time! you smoked it at 3:09.