Background: I was not going to do a marathon this fall. I wanted to steer my focus away to something else and had started dabbling in ultras so I signed up for the JFK 50 miler. My training was ultra specific, doing double long runs on the weekends and pretty much running 10 miles most other days. Almost everything was at recovery pace both because of not being used to the heat/humidity in Virginia and because I was building mileage. I started somewhere around the 50s and was planning to step up the mileage by 10 miles each month. I was planning on getting back to the 80s and holding that until the race. 10 weeks out from MCM, my friend Phil (Demo Guy on RWOL) offered his bib up (Thanks Phil! I still owe you one…) and having been torn about not doing a marathon I jumped on it. It was local, I already had the mileage, I have been injury free all year (except for the sprained ankle in the spring which I still ran on) and I had enough time to speed things up a bit.
Training: I followed the Pfitz 12/85 mileage template adding some when I felt like it and would either do the workout prescribed or throw in some Hudson inspired workouts either when I felt good or when the Pfitz workout didn’t work out. I kept the quality to once a week, twice if I threw some into my long run. During the cycle, I was never able to get in the MP long runs either because I had a race scheduled, or the run had to be scrapped because of how miserable it was outside. I have literally been training for sub 3 for the past three seasons and having nailed the workouts before I wasn’t too concerned. I’d run a 1:24 half the spring of 2010 and a 1:03 10 miler this past spring (equivalent performances) so I knew the fitness was there. The only question was whether I had enough sharpening to pull off the last 10k this go round. My last four marathons were shot either because of injury from my hamstring (last fall piriformis because of hamstring) or because of GI issues. After severe GI issues that started to affect life outside of training I went to the GI doc and walked away with a diagnosis but no treatment plan other than to stop running. The problems was chronic ischemic colitis…running hard caused the blood vessels to constrict and cut off blood supply to my bowels. The result was inflammation, colitis, severe cramping, and all kinds of nasty GI pain and related symtoms. The hamstring issues popped up for the first time this year in my tune up half marathon and blisters on my left foot ultimately shot that race. With three weeks to go I went all in and started an aggressive physical therapy regimen for the hamstring and a gluten free diet for the GI issues. I had a weird issue with my ankle with one week to go, but luckily the PT doc knew how to fix it and it was short lived.
Since I really didn’t have an exact guage on where my fitness was I had to guess. I supposed that I was still close to sub 3 shape, but I could go one or two minutes either way. I could go out for a 3:02 and probably nail it, but if I did I would wonder if I could have gone under 3. I figured if I did fade at the end, I could still get under a 3:05 and a PR. The course had a couple of hills near the start and one around mile 8. I’m a big believer in starting out slower than goal pace and picking it up. It keeps the heart rate from spiking early and helps you settle in. The plan was to run the first couple of miles slower than goal, run the uphills a bit slower still, the downhills no faster than MP – 10 secs and always keep the pace above 6:40 to stay away from my lactate threshold pace, which is around 6:20-6:30. The day before the race, I did a short 4 mile run, immediately drank a serving of ultra fuel (100g carbs), ate a big meal at noon consisting of rice, plain chicken, and a baked sweet potato. I would eat two more small peanut butter and banana sandwhiches and eat nothing else after 6pm. I had been on a gluten free diet for the three weeks leading up to the race as I had read about individuals with ulcerative colitis reducing symptoms with a controlled diet. I took Zantac the night before and the morning of the race to reduce stomach acid and immodium the morning of the race. I told Stevi “Start looking at 2:59…I will be there before 3:05″.
Stevi and I got a hotel room the night before the race. Even though the race was local,logistically it still would have been a pain to get there. The temps were in the low 30s with a wind of around 11mph. For me this was ideal. I got up at 4am to drown myself in 48 oz of Ultra Fuel which translated roughly to a little over 225 grams of carbs. After choking that all down I didn’t take in anything else except for a few sips of water just before the start. Stevi went with me freezing her butt off while we tried to find the start line which was elusively hidden from the runners village. I made use of the porta johns every 5 minutes because I had drank so much stuff that morning I didn’t want to have to go but I was apparently pretty cleared out. After the pre-race festivities I make my way up to the line and we are off. I realize as I take my first steps off the start line that I now have to go to the bathroom.
True to my strategy I start out slow. I am immediately engulfed in people zig-zagging everywhere getting passed in a huge wave. I settle into a comfortable pace and try to warm up. I really had to fight the urge to pull over like a bunch of the other guys to take care of business. I figured if I kept moving eventually the urge to would pass.
1 – 7:06
We hit the two hills early on in the race that stretch through mile 2. I left my Garmin on auto-lap because I am terrible at paying attention during marathons and I just tried to recalibrate laps when I was mindful. Overall the length was about 26.5, so the paces given below are what I have as time between mile markers.
2 – 7:20
Taking advantage of the downhill I picked it up a bit. I found myself caught up with the 3:05 pace group. I followed them for the next couple of miles. There is a huge wheelchair pileup, apparently there was an accident. I had a few of the wheelchair racers passing and/or being passed by me throughout the race. A lot of encouraging words were spoken back and forth.
3 – 6:41
I kept the pace up and decided it was time to move in front of the pace group and settle into goal pace.
4 – 6:42 (this is actually 1.04 miles on my garmin, the pace for the first mile was 6:27 and 16 seconds for the .04 calibration…I think this is where I shot myself in the foot. Too fast.)
5 – 6:51
I started running with a gal who is from the NAVY team somewhere around here. We actually ran together for the and next 8 miles or so taking turns drafting. We had picked up a second girl who didn’t want to get passed by NAVY and now I am running with two girls. Chasing ponytails. I took my first honey stinger here.
6 – 6:40
7 – 7:06
Up to this point I had been taking water from every stop and planned to until toward the end. I would remember having to use the bathroom every time I grabbed water.
8 – 6:45
9 – 6:43
I took my second honey stinger here but missed the water stop. The last guy gave the person in front of me water and I just had to keep going.
10 – 6:44 (6:32 for 1 mile with 11 seconds for .03 calibration – again too fast)
In the middle of mile 10 I heard a very loud scream coming from the crowd we were passing through. I turned to the right and saw Stevi and a friend of ours yelling for me. I smiled and waved and was feeling great.
11 – 6:39 (also too fast)
12 – 6:41
I’m starting to feel intestinal cramps and am afraid it is over. We ran past a set of three porta johns and I wanted to stop. I was afraid this was going to get worse and I was done. I decided to keep moving to the next stop and if I still had cramps then I would do what I had to. Luckily about a half mile later the cramping stopped.
13 – 6:47
I hit the half in 1:29:42. I saw the clock and wasn’t happy. I was planning to pass through the half after 1:30 but made up time too fast. I was pretty sure the last 10k was going to hurt.
14 – 6:50
I’m losing a bit of confidence and the pace isn’t feeling easy anymore. The remnants of the blister that popped up in the half four weeks ago is now starting to get hot and I am wiggling my foot around trying to shift the sock or something. I had the urge a few times to stop and adjust my shoe but I knew if I stopped now it wouldn’t be the only time. I was running behind two guys that were chatting about their recent race times. One of the guys said he just ran a 1:25 half and the other said he just ran his half marathon PR in this race. I decided to let them go.
15 – 7:01
My pace is dropping but I didn’t want to panic. I used to freak out if I started to get off of pace and would surge eventually wearing myself out. I took another honey stinger and figured I would get another wind if I just kept moving.
16 – 6:48
17 – 6:50
Down this stretch a guy in front of me blew a snot rocket and the wind blew some mist from it directly in my face. Thoughts of pummeling the guy to deathjumped into my mind, but I decided to just tell him to watch it instead. I saw NAVY again here still running with the other gal. I also saw someone walking for the first time. I grabbed water from the water station on one side of the road and NAVY had gone to the other side. I slipped ahead and never saw her again.
18 – 7:01
19 – 6:45
I believe it was around here that I saw Stevi again. I heard her and our friend Matt yelling but I didn’t look over. I was losing steam fast. One of the guys I was running with yelled that there was only 12k to go. Sure…it will only take at least another 40 minutes… I passed the two guys I was running behind at the half. I am passing people left and right. A few guys I am running with I see stop and walk. Then later they catch up and pass me. Then I see them do it again. I’m starting to get annoyed by it.
20 – 7:04
Right around here running down a long stretch I heard someone yell my name and I looked back to see Cris (Darkwave on RWOL) on the side. I waved at her and it gave me a bit of a boost. I took my last honey stinger.
21 – 7:00
My right hamstring is starting to cramp. The bunion on my left foot is throbbing and the blister is getting worse.
22 – 7:15
I saw my pace dropping but I was ok with it. I knew if I just held in the 7′s it would still be a PR.
23 – 7:10
I’m toast. I am out of honey stingers and I never grabbed a clif shot from the course which I usually do “Just in case”. I know what will happen if I take Gatorade but I decide to chance it since there is only three miles left. I took a swig and then chased it with water. Then I prayed.
24 – 7:22
No good. It didn’t help and now I am belching uncontrollably. Around here I can faster runners coming back the other direction and I have a turn around up ahead. It seems like forever until I finally get there.
25 – 7:32
I hit the turn around and coming up to the mile marker I hear an announcement about the 3:05 pace group. I figured they were close behind. I can’t pick my feet up. I am tripping on the ground. The blister hurts. Cramping starts in the intestines. I want to vomit. Having only been able to race one marathon before, I forgot what the last 10k felt like.
26 – 7:30
I hit the 26 mile marker and Stevi is right there. I want to stop. I pointed at my stomach and couldn’t even tell her what was wrong. She yelled at me to keep going, I am right there. It is just up this small hill, so I give it everything I have.
.2 – 8:20 pace
Except I don’t have anything. This is a short, steep hill, but I can’t get up it. I feel like I am running up an escalator. I am trying to power up it, swinging my arms, looking at the ground. I can hear people yelling all around me to move. I remember reading a blog from a girl who was training for MCM and she said that she didn’t want to walk that last hill. I wanted to walk that last hill. I felt like I WAS walking. I eventually got up it and even though it was a short sprint to the finish I was completely drained. I hit the timing mat and remember telling myself “Thank God.” I was slightly disappointed when I saw the time on the clock, but relieved at the same time. You bargain with yourself during the marathon. Thankfully I didn’t have to bargain much this time.
(Note: Because my actual running distance was over 26.2 there are some extra seconds here and there. I need to get better at lapping during a marathon correclty).
I suppose this would normally be a failure to go out for something you are capable of and come up short. I have to admit that I am a bit disappointed about the fade, but there are so many positives to take away from this race that I can’t be down about it. During the last two years marathon training I always had something come up during the race that I could not control. This past spring I had a stellar training plan. I nailed every workout, my tune-up races and heart rates indicated I was getting faster, and I was more ready to race than I had ever been. I raced the Flying Pig and GI cramping completely stopped me in my tracks just after the halfway point. After that, I said I wasn’t going to do another one this year. I didn’t want to fail again.
I put myself in a few shorter races over the summer with similar results. GI problems in a 4 miler that I was doing very well in. A 20k that despite having no injuries was the worst race I had ever run. Again and again things always went badly. After that I stopped racing. I was giving up. When I realized that I had become scared of racing, I faced it head on. I signed up for a 5k and ran a personal best by a few seconds without any specific training. I had gotten sick before my half marathon tune-up and ran it anyway.
I figured out that things didn’t always have to go my way and I can still pull out a good race. For MCM, I wasn’t scared anymore. Even though things started to go downhill, I didn’t panic and trusted myself. In the end, I ran my best marathon time by almost 5 minutes and requalified for Boston.
I don’t think I will be signing up for a marathon in the spring because I want to dedicate a training cycle to shorter distances. Not because I don’t want to run a marathon, but because I think it will help me grow as a runner. I spent this year working on the mental aspect. Now I need to get the physical part back in line. That is, if I survive JFK in two weeks…