This is one of a handful of race/run reports that I wrote before I started this blog.
Raced Santa Rosa Marathon this past weekend, here's the scoop if you'd care to read:
Some of you might remember this post about my experience at LA Marathon this year, and my goal of a sub 3 hour marathon, so if you care to read, that will preface the first portion of this year in my running life.
27, Male, 6'1", 180 lb.
After the LA Marathon and the disappointing result due to unforseen stomach cramps, I was pretty amped to get back on the horse and add more fitness. Tried to get an easy 3 in the Wednesday after the race, but my left glute (specifically what I think is the piriformis?) felt really sore, so they weren't the easiest miles I've ever run. Took another week off and tried for Wednesday the following week with similar results. I was on my bike putting in mileage and that felt good, so I left running at 1 run per week for the month after the race, and just hit significant bike miles until 2 weeks before a Half-Iron that I race every year. Took 1 whole week off of everything, then eased into the race and felt good, so I knew I could get back into it.
There were a lot of great suggestions for things that I could do to improve my fitness in the comments of my last race report and one of the most common was: more mileage. The thought was that peaking at a 62 mile week wasn't enough to hit sub 3. I took this to heart, looked around, and decided that I wanted to use Pfitzinger's 18 week/70 mile plan. Off the bat, however, I had to hack out 2 weeks because I didn't have 18 weeks. Additionally, my summer schedule of traveling was hectic to say the least, so I knew I wasn't going to be able to be as regimented as I was for LA, but this fit well with my attitude about my next cycle of training.
Before LA, I gave up everything, pretty much. Almost no partying, few missed runs, no biking...essentially I was a ghost to a lot of my buddies because I was sacrificing my normal social life for my running goals.
After LA, and the uncharacteristic elevated heart rate I exhibited, I tried to think of reasons that I would have been psyched out and over-amped about the race. One of the conclusions that I came to is that I was training too much 'by the book'. 'The Book' (mileage, long run tempo, speed work, etc.) is the gospel, but it's gotta be tailored to the individual, so I resolved to continue riding and give up less social events, but also retain consistency and diligence on the run-mileage and quality front.
The major changes I made to my training from the LA Marathon plan were as such: I rode by bike at least once a week for hard interval sets or long epics, not because I am a big fan of cross training or thought that I'd get injured, but because I love hammering on my bike, chasing breaks, Tour de France, blah blah most of you don't care. Despite the unconventional workout or two during the week, I kept my long run, and at least 1 tempo type run of medium distance (10-12). My favorite Pfitz workouts were the Lactate Threshold workouts such as '12 miles with 6 miles tempo'. I chose LT as my major focus, because keeping speed for 26.2 was the goal. The second major change was that, I added hills to my long runs, and more hill repeats in general. The idea here was to give me some more muscle strength to deal with inclines so that I would not burn as much of my tank on any hills or accelerations. The final major change was my long run pace. Several commenters in the LA report suggested that my long runs were too slow. I agreed, and decided to start my long runs around 8 min/mile (where I trained for LA), but end around 7 min/mile, or close to race pace. This helped simulate back end fatigue and holding pace through it (which would come in handy later).
Taper and Race
Nutrition during the week of race was pretty standard. Good balance of carbs, protein and fat. Pretty much staying healthy and working to keep the stomach healthy and muscle glycogen topped off. Race taper was not as standard. One of the suggestions from the LA Marathon report comments was that my taper was too long. I agreed with this as well, because I was feeling ancy going into the race. I feel like I should feel calm and rested, but not ancy, like I want to get more miles. I spend 9 days total in my taper, which included a 7 mile race pace run 8 days out, an 8 mile easy run 6 days out, a 4 mile run with 3x100m strides 5 days out, 5 miles with 2 at race pace, a rest day, 3 miles easy, and a rest day before the race. Lots of flexibility work, in there, but no stretching for the 2 days before the race in order to let the muscles heal fully (another lesson from LA: I felt like I had no 'pop', and I think it's because I stretched some/at all before the race, which has been shown to decrease performance).
Race day went off pretty well. Got up, ate 2 hours before the gun, got ready, drove to the venue with my buddy, warmed up, dropped a great pre-game deuce and cruised to the starting line with about 10 minutes to spare. It's a 1000 person race, and the park where everything was located was adjacent to the starting line, so it was easy to literally just step in with the faster runners at the line. Turns out the 3:00 group was the first group anyway.
When the gun went off, I hopped in with the 3-hour group and started clicking off miles. The pace felt fast, but I kept with it because I felt fresh, but when we hit mile 1 at 6:37, I decided to back it off to mid 6:40s. The 3-hour group moved up a bit, and I settled in pace next to another guy, who also was wearing a GPS watch, and we cruised along until the halfway point together. Joining us over miles 2-5 or so were several people, and we ended up in a group of about 5-7 people pacing for around the 3 hour mark.
At this point, my mind was clouded with doubt. So much shit can happen on the back stretch of a marathon (and at my experience level, I don't know enough to extrapolate my leg feeling in the beginning to what is going to happen at the end) that every little bit of fatigue I felt in the first 13.1 worried me. I was questioning how much of a suffer-fest it was going to be and thinking back to 8 miles of shitstorm at the end of LA (haha, I'm referencing LA Marathon a lot...can you tell I've only run 2 marathons?). Surprisingly enough, though, the first of two 13.1 mile laps was uneventful, other than I dropped the last 2 of my 4 salt tablets somewhere when I pulled out a Gu (buffered salt tabs: part of my stomach cramp mitigation plan). Luckily it was 55 degrees and cloudy for literally the whole race...awesome! While I'm on the stomach cramp mitigation plan topoic: the other plan was to drink an adequate amount of water. LA Race Report comments determined that I was probably dehydrated a bit and that I was not consuming enough water for sufficient gastric emptying, which cause my stomach lockup. I agreed with this diagnosis, so I planned in some H20 for the course. At mile 11 I grabbed a half bottle of Gu Rocktane drink from my friend. This is about 135 calories of electrolytes and carbs, so little more than 1 Gu, but in a more easily digested format. This was key.
I came through the first lap in the mid 1:29 range. This was slightly slower than I wanted, but still decent, and sub 3 was still in reach. At the halfway mark, I knew the guy I was with was trying to negative split to 2:55, so I let him go and started following my own pace. I dunno if a Gu kicked in or what, but miles 13.1 - 17 were CAKE. Felt super smooth and easy. I had never raced past 18 miles without a problem (in my extensive catalog of 1 marathon previous), so I was wary of my legs and stomach, but was feeling pretty decent. Hit the 18 mile marker and felt good, but was starting to feel a bit fatigued, so I decided to back it off a bit to mid 6:50s in hopes that I would prevent a blow-up and then have enough for a kick to make up the few seconds that I would give back. 18 and 19 were great: I ate another half Gu (started eating Gu by half packets and running with the other half to let it settle) and felt the energy kick in a few minutes later. At mile 20 I started feeling my legs talking back a bit and telling me that they were getting tired. This was to be expected, so I cashed another half Gu and went into pace lock in the 6:50s. At mile 22, I knew shit was about to hit the fan, but 4.2 miles is a suffer-fest, not an impossibility, and this was exactly to race plan.
The last 4.2 were indeed a blur of suffering and pain, but in the best way, as many of you endurance athletes know. My MO for the 10k distance is: start at race pace, finish at race pace, if I'm not in immense pain, I probably didn't run fast enough. I don't mean like, 'Ow, my achilles tendon hurts' pain, but like 'Fuck this. This sucks. All I want to do is stop' pain. So I knew I could hang for 4.2. Mile 23 was a bitch. More pain. Mile 24 also sucked, as did mile 25. These miles were an exercise of focusing only on not dropping pace, not stopping, and keeping the mind in a motivated, angry place, which is where I like to be at the end of a race. My friend decided to run with me for a couple miles, from the 22 marker to the 24.5 or so point, but she's not really a 6:50 runner, and after I told her to stop talking a couple times, she was happy to just cruise along with and then send me on my way while she headed to the finish line. When I hit mile 25, I knew it was time to kick, but a 'kick' at this point was digging deep not to fall apart. I felt like I was killing it at about 6:20 pace, but in actuality, it was about 7 min pace, haha. I hammered hard home, crossed the finish line (passed a dude with about 5 meters to go in the finishing chute) and proceeded to lie down like a snow-angel to re-align myself with reality. Best feeling: finishing after 4 miles of suffer-filled hammering and the legs no longer having to move. Final time ended up being a 3:00:36. 36 seconds off of sub 3. I averaged 6:54 miles and needed 6:52 miles...haha. I can't be disappointed though, because I went all out and executed the plan well, so I guess it's just gonna come down to next race. Boston registration is in 3 weeks, so I'll try to register for that and maybe break 3 at Boston? What better of a place to do it!
Not much to say about technical stuff post race, really. I felt good. Took a shower, drank wine and beer with an older runner named Steve who was cool as shit, and then went home and ate a burger and milkshake. Today I'm sore, but otherwise feel awesome.
Actually, I do have a few things to say about my training. Though I went pretty 'unstructured' this time around, and it seems to have paid off, I think a little more structure to the unstructuredness would have helped. I never really knew where I was and didn't have any benchmarking to gauge my progress, so I wasn't as confident going into the race as I could have been.
- Half Bottle of Gu Rocktane Lemon/Lime
- 3 Gu Vanilla Bean
- 1 Gu Rocktane 'Red' (whatever flavor that is)
- 1 Sleeve Tropical Punch Clif Bloks at the starting line
- Lots of water
- 2 Salt Stick Tablets
2 loops on a pretty much flat 13.1 mile out and back. A few annoying hard 180 degree turns to go under bridges or up ramps, but otherwise pretty beautiful fields, vineyards and a creek the whole way.