I started this training cycle without knowing what to expect due to a bad case of Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome after completing the Goofy Challenge in January. I was unable to run consistently for 12 weeks and unable to run at all for the last 6 weeks. I finally started running again in April and my initial goal was to simply re-build my endurance. Starting out, I was reminded of how I felt when I was a new runner. I felt like I had lost everything. By the time my 18 week training program started, I had been able to slowly increase my weekly mileage up to 77K (47.5 miles) running 6 days per week. Thankfully, my training went extremely well with only minor issues and one missed workout due to illness.
Total mileage: 1752K (1088.6 miles)
Average weekly mileage: 97K (60.3 miles)
Highest week: 122K (75.8 miles)
Highest month: (October) 512K (318.1 miles)
Average weekly mileage in “Sharpening” Phase (final 7 weeks): 115K (71.5 miles)
Longest training run: 42.2K
Number of 30K (18.6mi)+ runs: 10
Since this would be only my second attempt at “racing” a marathon (the first being last year’s DNF), I am still experimenting with carbo-loading, tapering and fuelling while running. I decided on a very minor 2 week taper, dropping to about 80% of “Sharpening” phase mileage in the first week and 70% (excluding long run) in the final week, with my last long run being 32K (20 miles) 2 weeks out. I feel this worked well for me and felt amazing on race day in both body and mind.
With respect to carbo-loading, I changed my diet to 70% carbs on Thursday and Friday and 75% carbs on Saturday. I also removed as much fibre from my diet as possible on Saturday. I made sure that I was drinking plenty of water to help with digestion. On race day I got up early to eat a bowl of pasta with tomato sauce to replenish liver stores, and ate a Clif Bar about two hours before the start. During the race I took 3 gels plus 1 pack of Sport Beans.
I went into this race without a specific time goal. I wanted to finish in one piece without crashing at the end. I had an idea that I would be finishing around 3:20 if everything went according to plan.
I normally pace myself but made a last minute decision to run with the 3:20 pace group to start. I found that this helped me a great deal mentally and was surprised at how much some people seemed to be struggling already at 10K (a confidence-booster for me). The only issue I had running with the pace group came at the water stations. Since we were a large group of about 15 people and the water stations were quite small, it became very crowded. At the second station, I missed out on fluid completely.
I was feeling really good early on and was tempted to pick up the pace, but vowed to stay conservative and stick with the pacer until at least half way. I knew I would be seeing my red “M” at 12K so I moved to the side of the road. I made sure that I let her know I was feeling great so she would not be worried about me finishing the race. It was really nice to see her again at 16K on the way back.
On this out-and-back portion and we could see the faster runners coming back ahead of us, many people were commenting that they wish they could run that fast. This quickly came into perspective when we found ourselves heading back on the opposite side of the road and heard similar comments from slower runners. It’s all relative.
The long stretch of downhill that ended my marathon last year starts at 21K and I started getting nervous as we got closer. I had decided to run this race because it falls later in the season, giving me more time to train, in spite of my reservations about the downhill. Soon we were cruising downhill and I decided that it would be better to maintain my exertion, thereby increasing my pace, since I felt it was too hard on my body holding back on the steep downhill. Within half a KM my left calf acted up and I decided there and then that I will never run this marathon again. I wished for the hill to end every step of the way as it continually made my calf worse. I just hoped it wouldn’t bring me down.
The one benefit of this downhill stretch was the natural drop in my pace. My splits were in the 4:30/KM range with some in the 4:20’s. I recorded KM 27 at 3:53/km, which must have been short. (I don’t use GPS in races, but stick with the stop-watch function and lap manually at KM markers.)
The downhill finally ends around 32K, where I found the transition from downhill to flat very difficult. I got to see Marlene here and tried to let her know that I was doing good (even though I was tiring). I took note of how much better I felt than I did last year at this point and knew I was still in good shape.
Since the course was now flat, I had to slow down in order to maintain my exertion. It was starting to become a mental game. My energy and cardio felt great, but my body and mind were quickly tiring. Looking back, I believe that I broke down mentally since I didn’t have a specific goal to encourage me to keep pushing hard. My calf was still hurting but fortunately not getting any worse so I did my best to block it out.
The last 1K and a bit was a real struggle. We had to run right past the finish line for an additional loop on loose stone trail. It was painful, to say the least. Running away from the finish line at that point was brutal and the trail was extremely difficult to run on. According to my splits, I lost a lot of time here.
Finally, I rounded the final bend toward the finish line. I kept my eyes peeled for Marlene so I could smile for a decent finish pic. What a relief to be finished.
Marlene came and found me immediately and bundled me up since I was freezing cold. She thought I looked pale and frail and immediately walked me over to a picnic table to set down and put some warm clothes on. I felt extremely sick to my stomach and out of sorts, like nothing I have experienced before.
Looking back, I know I could have pushed a lot harder in the last 10K. This is something I need to work on because I always seem to breakdown mentally in races before I physically can’t push any more.
All in all, it was an excellent learning experience and a very good building block for my ultimate goal. I have learned where my weaknesses are and what I need to work on moving forward. This race was just one small step in a greater 3-year running plan.
For my next cycle, I’m planning to increase my mileage and maintain for 10 weeks instead of 7, along with several other tweaks. I believe my fuelling and hydration could use some improvement as well. (Marlene thinks I need more salt – something I will consider as well.) Most importantly, I will ensure that I start my next marathon with a concrete time goal in mind.