Road to BQ: Marathon Training Weeks 1-4

The short and simple answer to the often asked question of "so what's next now that Ironman Lake Placid is over?" is ... BQ!  BQ is shorthand for a Boston Qualifying time, which is used to describe a marathon finish time that qualifies a person for entry to the Boston Marathon, which is like the Superbowl of marathons.  

If you're not familiar with the Boston Marathon or its significance, I'll give you a little primer (from Wikipedia)

The Boston Marathon is an annual marathon hosted by several cities in Greater Boston in eastern Massachusetts. It is always held on Patriots' Day, the third Monday of April. Begun in 1897, inspired by the success of the first modern-day marathon competition in the 1896 Summer Olympics, the Boston Marathon is the world's oldest annual marathon and ranks as one of the world's best-known road racing events.  Amateur and professional runners from all over the world compete in the Boston Marathon each year, braving the hilly New England terrain and varying weather to take part in the race.  Though starting with 18 participants in 1897, the event now attracts an average of about 30,000 registered participants each year, with 26,839 people entering in 2013.  The Boston Marathon is open to runners 18 or older from any nation, but they must meet certain qualifying standards. To qualify, a runner must first complete a standard, certified marathon course within a certain period of time before the date of the desired Boston Marathon (usually within approximately 18 months prior) (an exception to the qualification times is for runners who receive entries from partners. About one-fifth of the marathon's spots are reserved each year for charities, sponsors, vendors, licensees, consultants, municipal officials, local running clubs, and marketers).  For many marathoners to qualify for Boston (to "BQ") is a goal and achievement in itself.

The bolded sentence above is what it's all about for me.  It's not so much about being able to actually run in the Boston Marathon (but that is absolutely something I want to do); it's more about finishing a marathon in a time that is a BQ time.  For me, that is a 3:45 marathon.  That's 9 minutes off of my current marathon PR (from the 2013 Philly marathon).  It's an aggressive goal, but I am in the best shape of my life, I love running, I have the drive, and if Ironman taught me anything, it's that nothing is impossible if you work hard enough and want it badly enough.  

So let's BQ!!  I chose the Steamtown Marathon in Scranton, PA, which is on Sunday October 12 (Steamtown is supposedly a very fast course where a large percentage of participants are able to BQ.  Sounded good to me).  I had about 10 weeks between IMLP and Steamtown.  Oh boy.  

I knew I couldn't (and shouldn't) try to tackle this goal solo, especially in the weeks of recovery after Ironman.  So I talked to my coach about it and decided to extend my time working with him through the marathon.  I didn't want to push too hard too fast (that's what she said) and I also wanted to train as efficiently and effectively as I could.  

Jason warned me: I'd be doing a lot of deep water running (aqua jogging whatever).  He said even if I hadn't injured my foot, aqua jogging was a big part of training for the first couple of weeks. Great.  I decked out my aqua jogger belt with an m-dot sticker.  Not even kidding.

On that note, I saw this sticker on a car a few weeks ago and it made me laugh out loud. 

Onto the workouts!  I've been lazy with blogging and life lately (or as "lazy" as I allow myself to be), so I haven't really gotten around to posting much here on the blog, including training recaps.  Here's a recap of my first four weeks of training.  After this one, I'll get back to regular, weekly training recaps.  You will probably start to hate the words BQ and that unicorn as much as you hated IMLP and the Ironman logo. BQ! Unicorn!  Yeah!

I took the entire first week after IMLP off.  My first workout was a week after IMLP and was a 30 minute easy run. Note: my workouts are only runs, but Jason says I can swim and bike as long as I keep things easy.  I'll be doing a lot more swimming than biking both because I like it better and because I'm already at the pool doing my aqua jogs.  And because I like what swimming does for my shoulders :)

Week 1: 5:40:29 hours

Swam:  31:53 minutes (1,640 yards)
Biked:  2:37:12 hours (41.4 miles)
Ran:  2:31:24 hours (17.1 miles)


Monday: 30 minute run
Tuesday:  40 minute aqua jog
Wednesday:  40 minute run
Thursday:  40 minute aqua jog
Friday: 30 minute run
Saturday:  Rest Day! Easy bike
Sunday:  50 minute run; Easy swim

Week 1 started off pretty slowly and pretty easily with all endurance runs between 30-50 minutes long and some active recovery workouts where I biked and swam.  I crossed off the aqua jogs because I didn't make it to the pool those days: I was swamped at work on Tuesday and the weather did not cooperate on Thursday.

Week 2: 4:51:38 hours

Swam:  19:21 minutes (1,039 yards)
Biked:  0 hours (0.0 miles)
Ran:  4:32:17 hours (22.3 miles plus additional mileage done in a pool deep water run {aka aqua jog})


Monday: 30 minute run
Tuesday:  speedwork at track
Wednesday: 40 minute aqua jog; easy recovery swim
Thursday:  40 minute run
Friday:  30 minute run
Saturday:  40 minute aqua jog
Sunday:  long run: 11 miles (with 5 miles race pace; rest endurance)

Week 2 was more of the same, though it included a long run of 11 miles.  This long run was very tough.  I did it with Amy and we went out in the late afternoon.  It was hot and humid and pretty miserable.  Plus, it was the first time we'd run that far without the walk intervals that we got in IMLP training.  I was scheduled to do 5 miles at endurance pace and then 5 at race pace (8:20/mile).  I think I did 2 miles at that pace and after that it was not happening.  I suspected a lot of that had to do with the heat and humidity and time of day.  So I didn't let it get me down.  I had to skip the speedwork at the track this week, too.  I couldn't get there.

Funny that I think in the handful of weeks I've done marathon training, I have missed more workouts than I missed in the preceding 8 months of Ironman training.

Week 3: 5:28:21 hours

Swam:  22:05 minutes (875 yards)
Biked:  0 hours (0.0 miles)
Ran:  5:06:16 hours (30.3 miles plus additional mileage done in a pool deep water run {aka aqua jog})


Monday: 30 minute run
Tuesday: 30 minute run
Wednesday: 40 minute aqua jog + easy recovery swim
Thursday: speedwork at track
Friday:  40 minute aqua jog 
Saturday:  30 minute run: 5K race!
Sunday:  long run: 15 miles (with 4 miles of race pace)

Week 3 was a great week in every way.  My runs all felt good.  My speedwork was hard - it was 10 minutes endurance pace with 3x1 mile at 7:30-7:45 pace with a 2 minute endurance pace recovery then 10 minutes endurance recovery at the end.  I ended up running my fast miles way too fast - like 7:15/7:20mile and had to walk the recoveries.  My recovery swim on Wednesday was super short.  It's getting darker earlier (nooooo) and while I wanted to do 1000 yards, I knew I was on borrowed time in the pool. So I just did 20 minutes.  On Saturday, I got to run a really fun 5K with my friend Heather, and my Sunday long run was terrific!

I skipped my Friday aqua jog because I was heading to the shore to do the Chickie's and Pete's Boardwalk 5K in Atlantic City on Saturday.  My friend Heather told me about it and I was all in: free beer at finish! free crab fries at finish! run with friend of 30+ years!  It was a blast -- I was trying to pace Heather to hit a PR but I failed miserably and went out too fast.  Agh ... but we still had fun and even at 9 am, crab fries and beer are so delicious.

I don't like mascots.  But I rallied for this photo.  

My Sunday long run was really so great.  It was a huge boost to my confidence to be able to run 15 miles without stopping and to hit my 4 miles at 8:20/mile pace.  This picture may not show it, but I was all "YEAH!!" when I finished the run.

Week 4: 6:59:14 hours

Swam:  25:13 minutes (1,094 yards)
Biked:  0 hours (0.0 miles)
Ran:  6:34:01 hours (33.6 miles plus additional mileage done in a pool deep water run {aka aqua jog})


Monday: 30 minute run
Tuesday:  35 minute run
Wednesday:  40 minute aqua jog
Thursday:  speedwork at track
Friday: 35 minute run
Saturday:  40 minute aqua jog + easy recovery swim
Sunday:  long run: 17.5 miles (all endurance pace)

This was another good week that ended on a tough note.  Early in the week, everything went smoothly. My easy, short runs were feeling really good.  I was much more disciplined at the track on Thursday.  I had the same workout as the week before but this time, I stayed on pace and hit those fast miles at 7:30, 7:30 and 7:42.  And because of this, I was able to run my recoveries!  Much better.  Here I am after conquering the track.

Aqua jogs were fine.  On Wednesday a little kid asked me why I was wearing a bubble. That was pretty awesome.  Saturday it was overcast and not very nice and the pool was freezing. I was literally the only person in the pool.  The lifeguard was like ...

Long run Sunday.  Oy.  OK.  It was 17.5 miles at endurance pace.  I know my coach wants me to get used to running long again.  The weather was muggy and humid and soupy - awful.  About 2 miles in, I realized this was going to be a bit of a suffer fest because it felt like I was swimming, and not running. My paces were a good :30 slower than normal.  Rather than freak, I knew that it was the weather.  Once it cools off, I'll be faster.  Amy met me at one point and we ran about 9 miles together, which was great.  I had to walk a couple of the hills (it was so hard to breathe!) and we stopped at one point to refill our water and get some to drink.  This was not my best long run.  But I did it.  It may look like I ran through a sprinkler or jumped in a pool in my post-run picture, but this was sweat.  Grossest day ever.  Even my legs were sweating. Legs!

OK wow!  That was a long recap of four weeks of training.  More to come, I promise!  

See you swoon,

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