My goal was Sub3 and a BQ (Boston Qualifier). I was way off my goal, moving backwards and not performing anywhere near my capability.
I have finished 15 iron distance events. If I remove the 2 Challenge events and 2 Kona, I had 11 chances to qualify. I qualified 3 times. Therefore, I have a 27% success rate in the biggest achievement in triathlon of which is ever only attained by 5% of triathletes.
For marathons, I have completed 44 marathons. 15 were during Ironmans, 4 were 50K/50mile Ultras, 2 were on a treadmill, and I did Boston twice with the first time racing for charity. Out of 22 possibilites, I qualified with a 3:08 and also went 3:06 and 3:03 but I didn’t apply so its not official that these times would have been good enough to register. Standards were also reduced 5 minutes so I may only really have had 1 success. So MAYBE 2 successful attempts is a 9% success rate.
I therefore conclude that for me, it is 3X harder to qualify for the most prestigious marathon in the world than it is for me to qualify for the ultimate dream of many triathletes.
This seems impossible but in 2018 there were 1.3Million marathon finishers. With around 25,000 Boston spots, that means you needed to be in roughly the top 1.9%. For Ironman, there would have been maybe 2,000 qualified athletes in Kona from maybe 40,000 Ironman finishers which is the top 5%. It’s clear the difficulty of Boston vs Kona. For me, it makes sense: giant legs, 180 pounds, good swimmer, strong aerobic engine. A good runner, just not a great runner.
Ok now to it.
After qualifying for the 70.3 World Championship in Tempe, Arizona 7 weeks prior to the race, i stopped all swimming and cycling and focused on the run, ramping up run miles to 54 miles 2 weeks before the race. This was the biggest volume week in 7 weeks when I hit 57.3 miles run. The 54mile week culminated with a 14mile run at 7:19/mile which was my 3rd best run of that distance the whole year and longest since running 14miles plus an 8.6miler between Lee Vining and Yosemite at the end of the 57mile week, 8 weeks earlier. The 14miler, 6 days before the race really aggrivated my plantar fasciitis so I took ibuprofen the entire week, used the strassburg sock each night with Voltaren, skipped interval and tempo work and just got in the miles of 6, 2.5, 5.5, 5, and 4 for Mon-Fri. I carbo-loaded Thurs/Fri and got really good sleep. I had the moderna booster Wed night which gave me a headache Thurs and a sore arm but felt good, ready, and motivated. I really felt like I was going to do it.
Race Day – We woke up at 4:45am staying at the Fairfield Inn free from points. I had a 450cal muffin, 100 cal banana, 120 cal medium redbull, and 1 immodium. I drove 30min to Oracle and got to the bus in the 45F cold and 5,000′ altitude. We drove to the start and I hit the loo 2X. I took another immodium and ate a 200 cal Cliff shot blok 30min before the race. The gun went off and I was near the front. The first mile drops 300′ and half way in the 3:10pacer was on my hip. I thought “no fucking way” and picked up the pace to a 6:35 opening mile. I never saw him again so dont know if I missed him or he fell off. I was ready for the opening 5 miles where the first set of inclines were and knew I would then settle into pace around the 6:40’s. I finally got there at mile 6-9 with a 6:43, 6:38, 6:43, 6:48. HR was stuffed up in recording but felt well in control. My cooling hat and barely nothing singlet and tri shorts all kept me cool. I had 1 100cal gel at 5miles and gatorade from all the aid stations. I felt very fat and it took me an hour for me to feel lighter through dehydration and my stomach breaking down the 1500cal pizza from lunch the day before. I defintely felt the extra 5-7pounds I was up the last month from too much drinking and eating shit. I do not want to do this again. I will also avoid the carbo loading next time: Mesa Marathon Feb’22.
What doesnt come across in my post race analysis is my mental component. It was probably mile 3 where my legs already felt like they were in vicegrips. So for the rest of the 3 hours all I really thought about was the pain in my quads, the need to continue to push, to not give up, to finish what you started. When I had to pee I thought my body will just dehydrate itself so I was able to hold off stopping. I walked through many of the aid stations hoping that the pain in the quads would go away but I knew it wouldnt till I finished, and that still wasnt true because its 2 days later and I still struggle sitting on a toilet or going up/down stairs. During mile 13-19 my pace of 7:19, 7:33, 7:21, 7:33, 7:19, 7:33, 7:27, which were all really 10-20sec faster per mile if not for walking and stretching at the aid stations, were on easy running HR of 127-131 unable to work harder due to the leg pain. This shows me that I really am close to Sub3. I couldnt understand why my legs felt worse than a 50mile ultra but now its clear: volume, quality work, and too short a ramp up. While one could think its something elsez the leg pain really can only be attributed to non-recovery; it takes 10 days to recover from a quality workout, not 5 days.
The highlight would be running the last 2 miles which go uphill for a fair part. Using the half marathoners, I was picking them off, 25′-100′ increments of motivation and then to get to my wife on the final turn who did marathon goal pace for her half at 7:59/mile, all while my legs were saying no.
Coming in 20min off my goal, 7min slower than 3 years ago, dissapointment was high. Analyzing my ramp up, its clear why I failed. In the end, my approach was never to taper because Fiona and I are both truly targeting Mesa. The greatest part of endurance events is their difficulty. Thats why I just keep coming back for more; if it was easy, everyone would be doing it, but its difficulty that makes it fun and the most rewarding. It also teaches you to stay humble and never expect anything. Just put in the work, be smart, and great things will come.
This was one of the hardest races I have ever done. It ranks with the Old Pueblo 50miler (52.5mile over 11 hours) and the Sandia Crest marathon (3:17, start at 10,000′ descend finisbing at 5,000′ Abq, NM). Oddly enough during this Tucson and Sandia Credt races I ran to within 1 second over 26.2 miles, 3 years of separation, Crazy.