Further Reflection and Thoughts About the Markers

on Tuesday, May 12, 2015 at 9:05 PM

I've had some time to reflect on the race two weekends ago and I suppose I'm okay with the time. If I had asked my pre-race self would I be happy to be within 5 seconds of my goal time, but have a calf issue similar to what I had in new york for more than half the race in one leg, a blister on the foot of the other leg, and my HR spiking for the entire race starting from the 8 minute mark, I probably would have said great job.

I'm fairly certain most of the course was mismarked.  Starting with the infamous 2km marker which had me (according to it) doing sub 4 min/km pace from the start.  Thanks to this Youtube video, I grabbed a screen cap of the location of the 2km sign.

"2km" marker on marathon course

What's interesting to note is that normally, they have a spray painted line on the road which indicates the location of where the marker should be.  Notice that there's no paint line underneath the sign?  The reason for this is that this is nowhere near the actual 2 km point of the race.  In fact, if you start to walk down the street, you eventually come across this innocuous spray painting in the middle of an intersection that is the actual location of the 2km mark.

Actual Location of the where 2k sign should have been.

This is almost 300 m after the actual placement of the 2km marker according to google maps.

So my 2km split time of 7:55 was actually a 1.71 km split time which would have given me an average pace of 4:38 min/km from the start which isn't too far off from the 4:35 I was initially aiming for.  Unfortunately, this 300m error for the placement of the markers carried on for most of the race. 

For example, at the 21km half sign, I manually hit the lap button on my GPS which reported my position as being here on King St.
21km Sign location
 We then head south and then turn west onto Eastern Ave. I didn't push the lap button when I crossed the half, but my chip time at the half was 1:36:32 and according to my GPS my position when I was at 1:36:30 was in the following location. 

Approximate position of the half marathon timing mat.
In theory, the 21 km marker and the half marker should only be separated by 100m. But in fact, the two points were separated by 430m according to google maps.

It took me 1:58 to pass from the 21 km marker to the half mark which if we assume is 430m averages out to 4:34min/km pace which again is not far off from the 4:35 pace I was aiming for.  So again, the marker sign was earlier by at least 300m.  As far as I can tell from my splits, the actual distance between the signs was about right, they were just positioned at least 300m earlier then they should have been.  I guess the timing mat guys were responsible for setting up the half marker and actually looked for the line painting that indicated the half mark whereas the rest of the markers were setup by someone who didn't bother looking for the line painting on the ground.

The other issue is the difference at the turnaround point between last year and this year which added what I guess was about 200m.  As far as I can tell, the start line and finish line were the same as last year and the route looks to be the same so either this year the course was long by 200m or last year the course was short by 200m. 

After doing a bit more sleuthing around, I think I figured out what happened. I started to wonder how it would be possible for someone to precisely place the markers in the wrong place by exactly the same amount. The answer to this is because they had a list of places or possibly GPS locations to put the marker signs, but the list was actually not for this years route, but for the route in 2013.  In 2013, the course ran a bit further north (about 300m) from the start line then this year and so the markers would have been positioned earlier by about 300m compared to this year. The turnaround position in 2013 was much different and presumably 300m shorter to make up for it. As a result, this year, the markers were positioned 300m earlier then they should have been.  This is a major FU if you ask me. 

This got me thinking as to whether I would have actually run the race differently if the markers had been correctly placed. As for the first half, going in, I thought with the net downhill, I would have banked at least a minute by the half mark and in actuality I had only banked about 21seconds.  Remembering that my calf was giving me issues and my HR was elevated, I probably would have backed off on the effort level a bit and probably ended up running the first half pretty much the same.  I ran most of the the first half thinking that I had 90 second banked which allowed me to run with very little sense of urgency or pressure which I suppose is good.

As for the second half, I think I started to drift off from goal pace starting at 29/30km as this was when I pulled off 4 km at slower than 4:35 min/km pace.  At the time, I was sitting on what I thought was 90 seconds of banked time so the odd slow km didn't phase me. If the markers were correctly placed, I would have realized I had dropped behind my goal time much sooner than the 37 km marker which would have allowed me to adjust accordingly.

How much faster I would have run?  At the very least, if I had run km 28-32 on pace, I wouldn't have given back the 26 second I lost during these 4 km so i so suppose 26 second or about 21 seconds faster than my goal time or about 96 seconds under my BQ time would have been possible, but again  this is all in theory.  Lots of stuff could have still gone wrong.

Anyhow, I've spent some time looking at whether my 70 seconds under my BQ time would be sufficient to get me in for 2016.  In 2013, it was 98 which I thought it would be the maximum since that was the year right after the bombings. With this years, being 62, I thought the number would just get smaller. What I hadn't factored in was that in 2013, Boston actually expanded the field quite significantly and even then the cutoff was still 98 seconds.  When they returned to the normal size field this year, it was 62 seconds, but this doesn't consider that 2013 Boston was a warm day and the percentage of re-qualifiers from Boston was down.  This year, Boston was relatively cool and the percentage of re-qualifiers was much higher which means the pool of BQ's for next year will be higher than it was this year so more competition.

Someone in the Runner's World forum is trying to predict the BQ magic number based on qualifiers from marathons so far in the year and as of now, they are predicting a cutoff of 84 seconds which puts my qualification out of reach and this doesn't consider any of the early fall marathons that still have to come. There are some flaws in the methodology being used, but I suppose it won't be too far off.  I've been toying with the idea of trying to run one of these early fall marathons myself to try and go for a faster time, but I would basically have to start the heavy marathon training again right away which I don't really want to do. Plus my left calf is still giving me some issues and it feels similar to what it was leading up to NY and don't want to make it worse so that I have to take months off like last time. So Boston 2016 is looking less likely and I suppose I will just have to come to terms with that.


Robin said...

So frustrating not knowing what the cut-off will be. I think it's anyone's guess. The Runner's World threads are always interesting. I hope that the 70 seconds is enough. My fingers are crossed for you!

Arcane said...

My fingers are crossed too. It's a long time to wait though...