After many sleepless nights and after giving it much thought, I finally have a "Plan B".
I figured that at the very least, I would set a PR in Arizona, because my training had been so much more intense than it was for my 3:51. So even if I didn't BQ, my PR would "tide me over" until the next marathon attempt. But now I feel like I am in the best shape of my life, with no marathon PR to confirm it.
My first thought was to run the Shamrock Marathon on March 22, where I set the PR last year. But then I realized that it was too soon to fit in a solid training cycle, but too far to simply rely on what I've built up over the past seven months.
So, after much research, I discovered a marathon just outside of Columbus Ohio on February 15: The "Last Chance For Boston" Marathon. Ironically, the Boston marathon is now full and registration is closed. But the original intent of this marathon was to give runners one "last chance" to qualify, if their fall marathon didn't go as they had planned.
Even if I had BQed in Arizona, I still would not have been able to run Boston 2009. I have a whole year to BQ, so I am not necessarily trying to do that on February 15. Really, all I want is to shave some time off of my PR and salvage some of the intense training I've been doing for the seven months leading up to Arizona.
The "Last Chance For Boston" Marathon will likely be very cold. February 15 in Ohio with an 8:00am start time should be in the upper 20's or lower 30's. But it could be much colder, and there is always the possibility of a snow storm or freezing rain. I've decided to drive to the race (actually, Brent is going to drive!) so if the weather is really unfavorable, I won't lose money on air fare. After that cold, windy 4-mile race on New Year's Eve, I am confident about running in the teen's, but single digits would probably be a deal-breaker for me. As would any kind of winter precipitation.
One more thing to note about the course. It's only one-mile long. I'll run this loop 26.2 times for a full marathon. The race is chip-timed, and every time you cross the timing mat, someone tells you how many miles you have completed. There are many advantages to this. First, the course has a 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 mile marker. This should make pacing a lot easier, considering I don't use a Garmin. Secondly, it's flat, so there are no hills to contend with. Finally, it makes it easy to layer up and throw away clothing, because you come to the same point each mile. I know that this will be "boring" and very mentally challenging, but since I am used to doing lon runs on the treadmill, I think I can easily handle to monotony of a 1-mile loop.
Thankfully, the marathon is run counter-clockwise, so faster runners can pass on the inside of the loop and run the tangent. During the the 4-mile race, which was run clockwise, I had to pass runners on the outer edge of the loop, lengthening my course.
February 15: Last Chance for Boston Marathon
March 22: Shamrock Half Marathon
April 5: Cherry Blossom 10-Miler
May 3: New Jersey Marathon
It's more races than is really ideal to train optimally for a marathon, but I really enjoy the Shamrock and the Cherry Blossom, so I am sacrificing an ideal training schedule to do some races that I really want to participate. And if I miss my BQ in New Jersey because of this, I can always try for it in the fall.