Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Race That Wasn't: Richmond

My best laid plans seemingly, were not laid well enough.  I went into the Richmond Marathon with what I thought were solidly prepared legs.  Those "solidly prepared legs" yielded a time not even worth mentioning.  I'll give a story of the unraveling below....

After some trouble finding parking (according to the website, there was plenty of it), bag was checked, bowels were taken care of, and I was standing at the start line 7 minutes before the start with nearly perfect weather for running in the low 40s.

The gun went off, and we were off.  I had taken a spot right at the front, and was actually ahead of the lead group of elite women (6-7 in a tight pack with a bicycle leading them).  I would eventually yield to them, knowing they were running just a hair faster and had no intention of getting mixed up with that.  My plan early was simple, stay on 6:20 and ignore what everyone else was doing.

On my final two runs before the race, I had a problem with cramping in my mid section, cramping I haven't had all year.  But, it picked a hell of a time to come back.  Right from the start it was bothering me, but I ignored it and within 7 miles it went away.

I was pleased with my early splits...
Mile 1: 6:23
Mile 2: 6:25
Mile 3: 6:16
Mile 4: 6:16
Mile 5: 6:24
Mile 6: 6:29

The course was somewhat hilly, and a couple of times I got "locked in" trying to chase people ahead of me but made sure to stay largely in control.  I was taking water from each stop and even through mile 6 had consumed some of the honey stinger chews I carry with me.  It took some coaxing on my part to keep my stomach from rejecting them.

Mile 8 took us over a bridge to the part of the course that was not in the city itself.  It was lonely out there but I didn't mind.  I still decent to this point.

Mile 7: 6:20
Mile 8: 6:14
Mile 9: 6:30
Mile 10: 6:20
Mile 11: 6:29

I kept going, starting to notice that my body was overall very displeased with me.  I never felt right from the get go but figured if I just kept going with it, I would be fine.  After all, I was sticking to the plan.

I was trading places with various people as some dropped back, others went ahead, while I stayed as steady as I could.  I was hoping, just hoping my body would cooperate with me if I just kept going.

Mile 12: 6:36
Mile 13: 6:34

I came through the 13.1 mark at almost exactly 2:48 pace.  It was not a PR, but at that moment, despite slowing kept telling myself it was fine.  I'd take a sub-2:50, I just wanted something to go right for once.

The number of people passing me began to increase as we headed for another bridge to return to the city itself.

Mile 14: 6:42
Mile 15: 6:49
Mile 16: 7:00

And then "it" happened.  It was like deja vu to the NCR Trail Marathon last year all over again.  Somehow, somewhere a switch in my body flipped, and I couldn't run marathon pace anymore, and could barely run easy pace in the aftermath.

I won't report the rest of my miles, but after 18 it was just a march of despair to the finish line.  I'm so sick of dropping out of marathons that I forced myself to finish, regardless of how long it took.  It certainly took a freaking long time... 3:19.  You can do the math for what kind of positive split it takes to be at 2:48 at the half.

So here I am at the end of another marathon with more questions and fewer answers.  I thought I did everything right, perhaps could have run more marathon paced miles, maybe a few more miles overall, but more importantly, was not over trained.  I knew that's why I failed in 2011, and even if it wasn't hot in Boston, why I may have failed in spring 2012.

I can't point to any specific cause, but the best words of wisdom I heard all weekend were that even if you do everything right, things may still not come together on race day.

As for the future, there will be no "take 2" fall marathon.  I'm taking a week off to clear the slate and will focus on shorter stuff for the rest of the year including:

My hometown 4 mile turkey trot
 USATF cross country club nationals; 10K in Kentucky with a fast FRR crew
Celtic Solstice 5 Miler

I am not going to race a marathon this spring.  I've trained for one every spring and fall since 2008 and have had it.  I can really only take so much stuff going bad!!  I'm planning on focusing my running at distances of 13.1 miles and under for the spring.  I've got a 10 mile PR that I think I can crush.  I also really, really like lactic threshold paced running so it's about time I do what I really want to do.

On the bike front, I'm going to start riding again.  In fact, half marathon and under training is probably more conducive to bike riding anyway, easier to get in miles for both disciplines.  I will still pace the Kentucky Derby Marathon for 3:10 in April.  A small handful of easy 20 milers should have me more than prepared for that one.

I plan on revisiting the marathon in Fall of next year.

Outside of my horrible running experience, I would highly recommend the Richmond Marathon to anyone!  Great well put on race in a pretty cool city.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Richmond Marathon: 7 days

At long last, I have reached the final week before the Richmond Marathon.  This race distance and I have had our differences since I ran my sub-2:45 nearly two years ago.  However, a lot is going right for me this time around.  My new measured, lower mileage, less frequent racing approach has paid off quite well.  I've run a string of really good races and notched another PR this season.  I've avoided major injury.  I've steered clear of burnout.

Now all that's left is to race!  I never exceeded 65 miles of running in any given week, kept my racing to about 2 a month, sometimes less than that, made sure to take it easy leading up to races and immediately after, and took days off when I needed them.  If my bike and I hadn't become so acquainted with the pavement this Summer, I really only would have missed about 3-4 days total since late May.  I've nailed all my workouts and long runs, save 1 which is quite the high batting average.

Now my legs are fresh, and dare I say, I'm fully confident going into this race.  Last year, in early 2011, I never got my chance to run Boston, giving myself a stress fracture.  In late 2011, going into Philly, I was physically and mentally exhausted, running myself into the ground before race day.  In my "take 2" attempt at the NCR Trail marathon, I felt so good that I got way too eager way too early, and paid for it.  Going into Boston 2012, I was also over trained, coming down with the start of a stress fracture, and then melted into a pool of despair somewhere between Framingham and mile marker 17.

But, that 1.5 years of marathon failure taught me a lot more than my rise from a 3:29 to a 2:45 marathoner over the course of its own 1.5 years.  So now I'm entering race week with fresh legs, confidence, and high hopes of a PR.  I have no lofty, and perhaps unattainable goal that could trap me into going too fast.  I have no massive pace or race plan.  I'm not treating this marathon any different than any other race I've done the last few months.

The plan is to go out relaxed and controlled.  Hopefully that means 6:20 pace, but it doesn't have to.  It can be slower, but it won't be faster.  I crushed the Baltimore 10 Miler this year because I was smart, I PR'ed at Race for Our Kids 10K because I took what the course gave me, and I once ran a 2:45 marathon because I went out relaxed and dropped the hammer in the second half, when it really matters.

As long as I'm not an idiot, trust in the process that got me here, and have fun, next Saturday will go really well.  I'm in the same exact shape I essentially have been over the last 1.5 years, but it has been accomplished on a more sustainable level of training, and with a body in much more sound shape.

My previous two weeks of training...highly summarized:

Week of the RM Classic...65 miles total with the 16:13 5K and a 17.6 miler on the NCR Trail at 6:33 pace with the last ~8 or so at 6:24 pace or better.  Worked down to 6:10 pace by the end

This week....Hurricane Sandy threw me a bit for a whirl, but I haven't missed any miles...50 miles pending a 6 miler on Sunday.  Monday became an off day to avoid the worst of the storm, though my afternoon/evening was just as good if not better than running anyway.  Tuesday brought one last 5 mile tempo run averaged at 5:46 pace in the cold, dreary aftermath of the storm.  It felt really, really good.  Today, was an easy 12 miler.

Leading up to the race I'm running Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, around 20 miles total.

Then, it will be go time!  I am looking forward to a race that no matter what, will have cooler temperatures than Boston.