Monday, September 22, 2014

Beat the Blerch Marathon Part 2

The full cake shirt and medal.

So I ran a marathon. This was number 8. I knew I'd run this race as a training run but I followed the training plan (Runner Academy Advanced Marathon Plan) like this was my goal race. I did do that 10k two weeks before (off plan) but have otherwise been tapering for this after a solid 9 weeks of higher mileage and feeling great.

Taper sucked. Of course. As usual the week before the marathon, I was super stiff verging on sore, quite grumpy and those easy short runs where I should've been needing to really slow myself
down? I could barely get any faster than a recovery pace. I tried not to worry about that because after all, that's how i always feel before a marathon. I kept the same foam roller routine in and did some easy yoga here and there which did help. I ate well but mindfully bring a broader range of snacks to work which had higher protein and fat (nuts, pb) and days before the marathon I started adding in more carbs (juice, milk - less fiber...).  I felt lean and strong really.

I finally decided on my goals for this event. I would focus on staying relaxed and practicing positive mental talk. I knew my feet would hurt on that gravel trail and that was going to be ok. Typically i feel sort of awful somewhere around mile 12 -15 and that would be ok too. I'd run at an easy pace 9:45-10:00 paying strict attention to nutrition. A gel every 4 miles or about 40 minutes should work. Nutella sandwiches were featured as aid station fodder and I thought that would be an excellent supplement. I did bring an electrolyte capsules and had one at 1 hour. overall I had 7 gels and 3/4 of a nutella sandwich plus lots of water.

I would walk through the aid stations from the beginning but otherwise would not walk. The aid stations were well spaced at 1.5, 4.3, 7.5, 10.3, 12, 15, 18, 20, 23 and because this was an out and back course, I'd see my friends manning the aid station C at 10.3 and mile 20. K was coming out to support and I saw him first at mile 6 then he went onto the aid station and ended up helping out there when it got really busy.

My last goal was to speed up my pace for 90 seconds at the start of each mile starting at mile 17. I'd aim for goal marathon pace (around 8:40-8:45) figuring that if I planned to actually run a marathon at that pace i should be able to do this for just a minute towards the end. 

I hitched a ride with some friends to the start and ended up getting a great parking spot very close to the start. Here we could also spot other friends running. It was fun to chat and before I knew it, it was time to strip off my extra layer and head to the start. It was foggy and pleasant out. It felt cooler but not really that cool as it was 55-60 degrees. it was pleasant for running but I knew I'd be happier if it was colder and the sun stayed away. 

RPD out on course.
Mr Oatmeal spoke a few worlds before the race. It really was amazing that all that craziness was a direct result of a comic! He'd been doing his own endurance event at packet pick up the day before (10 am to 7 pm signing books and chatting with fans) and then would run an event each day as well as stay to sign books again after each race. Phew! Good thing he is a distance runner!

Splits: 9:45, 9:36, 9:42, 9:48, 10:07, 9:53
We were off right on time and I was excited to finally be running. The miles ticked off pretty quickly. The marathon course had two shorter out and back sections before starting the main out and back section. It was nice to get these shorter sections out of the way early. I did well at keeping pace to goal for the first 10k even with teh slight downhill in mile 2 and 3. I did walk briefly for those first two aid stations and saw K for the first time at 5.75. He could switch out my small handheld water bottle and he'd brought a different pair of shoes for me as a "just in case." I chose to wear my normal trainer shoes but if the gravel really bothered me I could switch to my trail shoes if needed. It was a very nice pick me up to see him.

Splits 9:48, 10:23, 9:52, 9:53, 10:34, 9:55
Motivational signs.
At mile 6, the trail following the old railroad line begins a very gradual grade. It's just enough that maybe you'll feel it if running hard. I expected to slow just a bit through here but I kept it even and enjoyed steadily passing the slower run/walkers of the half event which had started 30 minutes later. The first large aid station at 7.5 had a couch and people dressed up as Blerches. I was shocked and delighted to realize I knew the gal who was dressed up so stood in line just a bit to take a photo! I also saw LMA and RPD running towards me as they were running the half. Of course I stopped to take a photo! It was great to see them.  K was at the 10 mile water stop and very busy along with all the other volunteers. I knew it would be quieter as I came back through the second time at mile 20.

Splits 10:27, 10:07, 10:01, 10:38
Just past this busy section of the trail, the half marathoners turned around and suddenly it was very peaceful with just a few other marathoners around. Sometimes this can be challenging but I enjoyed the quiet on a very pretty day with foggy views every once in a while. It was peaceful for only a short bit though as we pass what seems like very close to a shooting range. It was startling how loud and how frequent gun fire was. As I expected, I started to feel pretty awful around mile 12 or 13. At this point I did take a gel early instead of waiting until 12. My feet were really hurting in through here. I think the incline was subtly more here plus it was a little deeper gravel which required stricter attention to avoid landing on larger chunks. I was delighted to see the turn around point at mile 16 and refilled my water bottle and looked forward to heading back down to the finish.

splits: 9:59, 9:43, 9:53, 9:47, 10:45
The first short 90 second burst of speed at mile 17 went well and I was encouraged. I have done a couple long runs like this before and knew that just this short bit of speeding up would drop my overall pace just a bit. I wanted to maintain this all the way through to the finish but felt it was more important to take that promised mental break at aid stations if the aid stations showed up during the pick up. Before I knew it I was back at the 20 mile aid station where i knew a few other runners who were volunteering and of cousre K was there. I'd taken a gel early again around mile 17 and enjoyed a quarter of a nutella sandwich plus water at the aid station. K grabbed my inhaler for me which I used. I felt like my lungs were getting tight although I think some of that is just muscles surrounding my chest and lungs feeling tired. Anyway the inhaler helped. I handed off my water bottle as I was tired of carrying it at that point. I knew I could get enough water at the aid stations. The trail was mostly shaded but it was getting warmer.
Finisher with banana and nutella prize.

Splits 11:28, 12:01, 13:04, 13:58, 13:20
And then I was done. My running devolved to the dreaded shuffling slog and there was nothing I could do to speed up. I tried changing my gait but didn't have any success. I wasn't alone. I was seeing people walking quite a bit in here. I did keep my goals and kept running just very slowly except for one demoralizing straight and hot section which looked uphill right around mile 23.5. I got tired of the pity party though and started running again. As I crossed the road around mile 24, a runner who'd run the 10k (different colored bib) said "you are almost there!" I tried not to snarl too much as I scoffed at him "I am NOT!" He seemed surprised by my response but if you've run a marathon you know you are almost done when you can see the finish and not anytime sooner!

I did make sure to jump and try to make interesting photo opportunities with the last photographers on course. I hope they turn out!

Finish Time: 4:38 - 10:37 overall pace
4th in AG in 10 year increments
70th of 190 finishers, 20th female of 88. 

So much for maintaining a long run pace or being able to run any part of a marathon at a goal marathon pace. I'm disappointed and a bit befuddled about what I could do differently. I certainly could not have raced a marathon this weekend. The day after, I'm overall stiff and sore as expected but nothing is hurting. I'm sure if I tried running, I'd really notice my hip flexors and hamstrings plus my feet would yell about pounding. I'll take the recovery and then build to the next event in early November as planned.

I did execute my race plan including keeping up the mental spirits during the last miles when I was not feeling so hot. I really enjoyed the marathon plan I was using. It was challenging yet doable and did give me confidence that I can handle a more aggressive training plan in general. These are valuable lessons! And this was really a fantastic event overall and I'm pleased to say that yes, I did beat the Blerch!

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