Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Boston Registration

Although I wasn't involved this year in the spectacle which has become the registration for the Boston Marathon, it definitely got me to thinking.  Boston has always been the crown jewel of marathons because it was the only one that you had to earn a spot in; no lottery, no luck involved.  If you were good enough to qualify you were in.  Now that has changed.  By selling out in a day we are now presented with a situation in which a person could spend years training to achieve a BQ only to find themselves shut out on registration day.  Suddenly it is no longer good enough to be good enough to run; luck, and a high-speed internet connection, has entered into the mix.

B.A.A. Executive Director Guy Morse released a statement about the recent registration process in which he not-so-subtly hints that qualifying times will be getting tighter. Bad news for those of us who have had a specific time on our radar.  Are there other ways to make changes though?  Many people bemoan the inclusion of charity runners but as far as I can tell they are only a small portion of the field, maybe 3000 or so.  Some of those numbers could be taken back for qualifiers but I don't see that happening.  The other complaint I hear a lot is that the qualifying times for men and women are radically different and that it is much easier for women to qualify.  This makes sense since there is a 30 minute difference between qualifying times in the age groups, but is it really much easier for women to qualify?

There were 468,000 marathon finishing times recorded in the USA in 2009; here is a breakdown of the numbers (click to expand).
You can see that the difference in average times and qualifying times is pretty consistent.  The total average percent difference for men and women is only different by about .6% which is amazingly close.  This means that across all age groups both men and womens' qualifying times are an average 23% faster than the national average times for all runners.

If we drill into this more and break it down by age group we can get some further info.
Let's focus on the 35-39 age group.  There is a difference of 28:25 in the average times for male and female as opposed to the BQ spread of a half hour.  That one minute 35 seconds represents a 5.57% difference in allowed and actual times which seems to be a sizable discrepancy.  But if we then look solely at the differences between average times and BQ times we see that the difference shrinks to only 2.97%; showing that the assigned BQ times are very close to being the same percentage of the avg times for both men and women.  Statistically there is very little difference between the male and female numbers and so I could probably conclude that it actually isn't easier for women to qualify.

These numbers don't necessarily tell the whole story though.  For instance, the avg times include the nearly 42,000 people who finished over 6 hours.  Further breakdown would be needed in order to determine what age group these runners fall in to.  Obviously if a large portion of them fall into one age range this would skew the avg time much more than an age group with very few 6+ hour finishers.

Seeing the numbers it would appear that women do not have a statistical advantage over men in qualifying so there is no need to tighten the requirements on the women alone.  It will be interesting to see what he BAA does to try and mitigate the rush of registrations we saw this Monday.  Was it a self-perpetuating fluke fueled by unfounded rumor?  Or is this indicative of the marathons future?  Only time will tell but if this continues I fear it may become a harsh reality for those of us who may be good enough to qualify today to see our chances of qualifying become increasingly out of reach.

BayState II

Another BayState Marathon has come and gone.  Luckily this year the weather was significantly more pleasant than the cold rain we experienced last year.  I wasn't completely sure I was going to be able to run this time being that I had been out for so long.  Once I began training again it was a short 8 weeks until the marathon.  This was an aggressive training by any standard but especially so coming from considering that I would be starting with no base mileage at all.  Hell, even the Couch to 5K program takes 9 weeks.  The week before the race I finished my first and only 20-miler and it felt good so I was determined to run the full marathon.

And I'm glad I did because I had fun doing it.  Once again the lines at the bathrooms were crazy before the race so I spent a long time waiting there until I had to abandon that venture and rush to the start.  Because of the delay I had lost the rest of the group and I was on my own.  I tucked into the start somewhere in the middle and waited for the start.  Finally we were off and I figured I would run a bit faster than planned and try to catch up with everyone, assuming that they were actually in front of me.

The miles ticked off until around mile 5 I caught up with Michael and Tricia G.  I said hi to them but honestly, that pace was way to slow for me so I left them and was determined to catch Melissa and Tricia whom I was told were ahead.  Off I went, feeling great and having a good time until 6 miles later I found Melissa.  We ran together for a bit with me doing most of the talking until the bridge where I left her to catch up to Tricia who had been about 100 yards ahead of us.  Again, we ran together for a couple of miles but I could tell that she was struggling to keep pace so I did what any good teammate would do, I took off at a faster pace and left her behind.  Hey, it's a race!

From then forward there isn't much to report.  I set my pace and I maintained the pace.  Besides a couple of minor cramps at 19 and 25.7 (so close to the finish!) I had no difficulty finishing.  Sure I was tired but I kept expecting to hit the wall and it never came.  Besides the cramp, I felt as strong the last 5 miles as I did the middle 5 miles.  Furthermore, my foot was never an issue (although it has ached since) so this was a good test of how it was healing.  I used this marathon as an indicator of where I stand and what needs work and I am pleased with the results.  I still need to keep an eye on the foot for it is still clearly not 100% and I definitely need to work on strengthening my legs more but that will come in time.  Overall I am very happy with my 3:42:28 time, even though it is my slowest marathon, and was happy that I decided to run.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Taper Week

Here we are with less than a week to go before BayState, seems like a good place to start a taper.  Saturday I did a 20-miler that went well.  I got up nice and early and headed out the door and into the dark.  It was the first time in awhile that I have run in the cold, around 40 degrees, and it was a bit strange having a long sleeved shirt and gloves on.  The sky was clear and dark and I was all alone, the world around me existed only to the edge of where my headlamp would illuminate.

I reached the start of the woods that my route took me through and the trees closed in around me.  Falling acorns and branches seemed to become louder as they crashed to the ground and I found myself trying to peer into the dark forest surrounding me a bit too often.  Perhaps choosing to listen to a scary Doctor Who audiobook about a troll under a bridge was not my wisest choice for this run.  Then I thought about the possibility of running into some coyotes; that got me to quicken my pace a bit even though I dismissed the thought.  (Note: a pack of them ran by my house last night so this actually could have been a real scenario).

Soon the forest opened up to an open expanse and I had to stop at the bridge over the Charles.  The sun was rising over the conservation land and the clouds were alight with fiery colors.  Reds and oranges streaked across the sky, heralding the start of a new dawn.  A fine mist hung over the water and plants.  A crane took its first flight of the day.  It was quiet as I stood there by myself, taking it all in.  I switched off my headlamp; the dark forest had opened up onto a rich tableau of color and light.  It's moments like this that make it all worth it; scenes which can never be adequately described but will remain with me until the next time.  With a last look I turned and quietly resumed running.  It was already a good morning.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Marking Time

It's been awhile since I last posted; so what have I been up to?  Not much.  In mid-September I decided that it was time to test out the legs so I ran the CVS Downtown 5K.  This was the seventh year I have run this 5K so there was also a bit of nostalgic reasons for picking that race.  For the seventh year in a row the weather was fantastic and it was a great day all around.  I finished somewhere in the mid-20 minute range which is just what I expected.  But it wasn't easy, it took everything I had at the end to hold on so that means I need to do a lot more speed work to get beck to any type of race shape.

Other than that I have just been cruising along, literally and figuratively.  The highlights of my weeks have been the long runs on the weekend which have been going pretty well. Two weeks ago I went out with Jeff W. and we did 18.4 around Ponkapoag which was a great change of scenery.  Unfortunately this was followed up the next week with 2 hours 45 minutes on my treadmill due to torrential downpours.  Nothing quite so unsettling as stepping off of a treadmill after hours of running and feeling the room rush by you; I hate that feeling.

I have had virtually no interest in racing as of late.  BayState is two weeks away and the most excitement I can muster for it is an occasional "meh".  I'm three to four weeks off of what would be considered a normal marathon training schedule and 15 pounds overweight which shows just how serious I have approached this.  But it's not only the marathon that has me ambivalent, I haven't signed up a single race and wouldn't even be doing BayState if it hadn't been paid for months ago.  Nor have I even looked at a schedule of races to see if there is any I would consider doing; and the freakin' race calendar is literally 12 inches in front of my face hanging on the wall in front of me as I type this!  That should tell me something.

The one race I was actually looking forward to doing was the Halloween duathlon in Wrentham.  Two months  ago I paid for a new bike and have yet to receive it.  First it was supposed to arrive in early September.  Then it was delayed, then it shipped out last Monday, then on Friday it was on backorder, and etc.  It could be at the bottom of the ocean as far as I know right now.  Long story short, I won't be doing that race.

Where do I go from here?  I have no plan. I have no endgame. For now I am just running because that's what I do.  Damn, this post turned out more depressing then I intended.  Schade.