Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Boston 2016, I'm Doing It!

I never planned on doing Boston again. It was amazing to do it once, but I've still got 22 states left to get done on a finite income and with limited vacation time, and Boston is not cheap and takes an extra day of vacation because it's held on a Monday. While I had thought I probably had another BQ in me -- especially since I move up to a new age group with five more minutes of cushion next year -- I did not think it was imminent. I knew Pocatello was a fast course and I knew I was in pretty good shape, but I was not as skinny as I was when I qualified in 2010, and I had never had a long run at BQ pace.

Pocatello went surprisingly well. Not looking at my watch the whole race, and then looking at it when I had the finish line in sight and seeing the beautiful numbers 3:33 on my Garmin (when I needed 3:40 to qualify) was an amazing feeling, one of the best in all my years of marathons, something I will remember again and again and privately rejoice over every time I think of it. But even when I finished Pocatello, I did not think I would be going to Boston next year, for the reasons I mentioned above.

I got home and started googling Boston registration, and found that my registration window opened up two weeks after Pocatello. Wow, the whole process has changed since 2010. In 2010, it was still a given that if you qualified for Boston, you could register. The online buzz that year was that it was expected to fill up fast and that you shouldn't delay in registering. But no one suspected it would fill up as fast as it did -- eight hours. I remember my single-minded determination that day in 2010 --NOTHING was going to stop me from registering, not if I had to sit at my computer all morning and try again and again. My registration was smooth and by the end of the day I had my confirmation email and a lot of people were bitterly disappointed because they were shut out. Following that day, registration procedures were changed and qualifying times were dropped by five minutes for every age group. There now exists a Facebook group called "Team Squeaker Strong Run for Boston One!" It is for "squeakers", those who beat their BQ time by five minutes or less.

Here is how the registration works now. On Monday, September 14, everyone who beat their qualifying times by 20 minutes or more was able to register. All of these people got in. On Wednesday, September 16, it opened for people who beat their time by ten minutes or more. All of those people got in. On Friday, September 18, it opened for people who beat their time by five minutes or more. All of those people got in. Then, on Monday, September 21, it opened for the masses -- people who had beat their time by less than five minutes. Registration opened at 10:00 a.m. and I submitted mine at 10:01 even though it is no longer a race to see who can Internet the fastest. For this last, biggest group, everyone can submit during the same time period -- September 21 through September 23 -- and then the race organizers were going to sort through the thousands of entries, order them by time, and establish the official cutoff (which depends on race capacity and number of people wanting to register).

There was endless, rampant Internet speculation on what the cutoff time was going to be. In the Squeaker group, you are identified by the minutes and seconds by which you are under your cutoff time. For me it was -4:33, a pretty good squeaker time. The people who were less than -1:00 know they were not going to get in; the people over -2:30 pretty much thought they would, but the people between -1:01 and -2:30 had to sweat it out for the last week, waiting for today when the announcement went out. Even though I was relatively safe with a -4:33, I have been sweating too and wishing I didn't have to wait. This morning the announcement came, no doubt hurried along by my obsessive checking and rechecking Facebook and the BAA home page every few minutes, practically every time I came to a down curb while I was working a dog. At 11:15 my name wasn't on the entrant list, and at 11:16 it was, and at 11:20 I had an email confirmation.

The cutoff time this year was -2:28, the toughest it's ever been. I don't think anyone was anticipating that. There were an awful lot of disappointed people out there, and a couple real heartbreakers with times of -2:27 and -2:25. Ouch! To think you were well under the cutoff and were surely going to get in, and then to get shut out... wow. But if that had happened to me, I think I would've been okay with it. Boston is supposed to be competitive, and getting in is supposed to mean something. It's really about how you measure up to all other runners finishing marathons during the qualifying window. Every year besides this one and 2010, I have not measured up. This year and 2010, I did. Next year I probably won't. Either way is fine with me.

So why did I sign up for it after all, when it's expensive and complicated and won't help me finish 50 states? Well, because... it's Boston. It's epic and iconic and thrilling. I am going to do better this year than I did in 2011; I am going to bring a sleeping bag to the start line and curl up inside it until 15 minutes to gun time as opposed to shivering away all my energy sitting outside in the cold for three hours, and I am going to train on hills and I am NOT going to get a layer of Michigan winter fat and I am going to carry salt with me. I can actually wear my Boston Marathon jacket and shirt from 2011, which I hardly ever wear because I've always been afraid I would wear them out and there would never be a chance to replace them. Sure, I should be able to qualify again but there are absolutely no guarantees, ever for people like me when it comes to BQ'ing. I could never be that fast again; I could get a running-ending injury; I could have a car accident or get some disease and never be able to run again at all. Some things you just have to do when you get the chance, and Boston 2016 is one of those things.

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