Monday, 22 October 2012

I still suck at marathons

Mistake #1 - went shopping the day before the race. I didn't feel fatigued but 4-5 hours of walking must've had some effect. 

Mistake #2 - Hubby and I were away 2 nights. Friday night, we went to this lovely old fashioned Italian restaurant for dinner. I had a small glass of wine, a giant green salad and spaghetti with seafood and marinara sauce. Saturday night (the night before the race) we went to Margaritaville, where I had a really strong mixed drink, ate some of hubby's nachos and a plate of soft fish tacos with rice. Followed by several more glasses of wine. Flip the 2 night's dinners and I probably would have been much better off. 

Things that I couldn't control but probably were a factor: 

1) race started at 10 am, but we were required to take a bus to the start, across the border in the US at 7:30 am. We got to the start line (Albright-Knox Art Gallery) around 8. 2 hours of sitting around doing nothing. Those who know me well know that I am completely useless between 1-3 pm, but the late start meant that I would be finishing up around 2-3 pm, while still having to get up pretty early (5:30) to catch the bus. 

2) Woke up today with a snotty nose, congestion and a wicked headache. I probably wasn't 100% yesterday, even though physically I felt ok. 

Drank a bit of Gatorade and ate some candy before the start and peed in a bush 10 minutes beforehand but spent the first 10K thinking about the bathroom, but finally found a tree and stopped to go. I was on pace for a 4:15...didn't feel great but not awful either. Started feeling tired but crossed halfway in 2:07, I thought, hey if I can negative split, I'm good to go! 

Except that I wasn't. I was really really tired. I can't look at my splits for the 2nd half, I don't think there was a single km where I didn't walk. I walked through every water station and then more and more. At times I was over 1:30 slower than my planned marathon pace. At times there was a headwind, and it was annoying, but my fatigue was much worse. The course was beautiful, very scenic along the Niagara River, but pretty much zero people cheering except at the water stations. I wasn't ever alone on the course, and I was running amidst people who looked to be in as much pain as I was but still walking less. 

In the week leading up to the race, I read as much as I could on sports psychology, more specifically about staying mentally tough in the late stages of a race. Pretty much every article talked about visualization. I couldn't do it. I couldn't think about anything except how much I hurt, how tired I was..I was completely off my time goal and I thought about DNF but at least I still remembered that only serious injury or death would be good reasons to DNF. I also thought about a dear friend, who has been recovering from alcoholism for the past 10 months and if he is strong enough to deal with that, then I could suck it up and run a @#$#@ marathon. But no, km after km, I'd run a bit and then stop to walk. Sniffled throughout, whether it was tears or wind or the start of the cold, it's hard to tell. 

Finally, at 40K, someone said "downhill to the finish!" and it WAS. Just a LITTLE too late, but I found my legs and ran those last 2 kms as strong as the start. As I passed by the Horseshoe Falls, there was a giant rainbow in the mist and it was beautiful, a rare moment of beauty in what was a really ugly race. 

Official chip time: 4:28:19 
Field Placement: 558 / 1058 (52.7%) 
Age group: 30 – 34 
Group Placement: 39 / 87 (44.8%) 
Gender Placement: 210 / 476 (44.1%) 

Monday, 7 May 2012

2012 Goodlife Fitness Toronto Marathon race report

Watching the forecast all week, I knew it would be all systems go for a PR attempt, unlike last fall in Chicago. I carb loaded very carefully, although maybe a bit under-hydrated. 

Race morning, my parents dropped me off, a bit far from the start and I was momentarily panicked because I barely saw any runners around with 15 min to race start! This was the same marathon I ran in 2010 with RW Challenge, I certainly missed having the private bathrooms and indoor area to await the start. 

I found the 4:15 continuous pace bunny easily (sometimes they are hard to find) and lined up behind him. His pace should have been 6:03/km but the splits for the first 5K were: 6:01, 5:45, 5:32, 5:18, 5:40. OK, it was downhill, but I was very very worried about burning out. So I asked if he was planning on even splits and he said, "just follow me and everything will be fine." All right then. 

I stayed ahead of the pace bunny for a LONG time, I was a bit faster than my original planned race pace of 5:57/km but not as much as the opening 5K. I felt a pain start in my right arch, I probably should have stopped to retie my shoe but I ran through it, as sometimes this kind of thing dissipates. It didn't. Around 11K, I also got the feeling of a phantom pebble in my shoe, I stopped to run my finger around but couldn't find anything. 

Passed the half in 2:05 gun time and 35K (~22 miles) in 3:30, so I was still on pace for at LEAST a sub 4:15 that late in the game. 

Then I got complacent. "Oh, one little walk break won't hurt." "I need to stretch out my calf and arch." My pace had slowed a bit - the fastest km between 30-39 was 5:59 and the slowest was 6:30 (walk break). 

The course this year was a slightly different route than 2010, this year, the last stretch was out and back. Runners had to go 7K past the finish line (where all the HM people were finishing) before turning around. I don't even like to run 100m past my parked car so this was very difficult mentally! Secondly, there's a hill that we ran down on the same out-and-back leg, I knew we'd have to run back up it, but I had no idea it was at 40K. It's not the biggest hill, but even a 2% incline feels like Everest at that point. Took another walk break just before that hill, even though I had promised myself no more walk breaks after 36K. 

The final km, Mr. 4:15 pace bunny caught up to me, and he was BOOKING IT, about 5:35/km, so much for the even splits. Of course I was already picking it up a bit to finish strong. My calculations according to my Garmin pegged me at a ~4:13 finish, very little room for error. Right as we made the final turn, the bunny turned around and yelled, "GO!" to everyone following, everyone launched into their finishing kicks. My Garmin showed 4:14 and I thought I had achieved my stretch goal. 

But I had forgotten about the stops I made to stretch and to dig at the phantom rock, I have my Garmin set to auto-resume. Plus, despite running the tangents pretty well, my Garmin (and many others) showed the course being quite a bit long, 42.56 kms. 

I am happy with the 9 minute PR, but SO ANNOYED that I missed sub 4:15 by 12 seconds due to a long course. Obviously, I also need some sports psyching tips to keep me from getting complacent in the later stages! I'll have to wait until the fall to try again. 

Official chip time: 4:15:11 
Field Placement: 1046 / 2130 (49.1%) 
Age group: 30 – 34 
Group Placement: 55 / 116 (47.4%) 
Gender Placement: 287 / 665 (43.2%) 
Weather: 10° C, Sunny 
Statistics: VO2 Max: 35.2