Monday, July 2, 2012

Marathon Mistakes and the Redemption to 26.2 Glorious Miles

A few months ago I tackled my first marathon. I decided to run the GO! St. Louis Marathon in April, relying on my half marathon training for my base fitness. I followed a 12 week program by Runner's World's Smart Coach and was logging about 60-70 miles per week. 

My weekly training consisted of Monday, Wednesday, Sunday runs of 8-12 miles. Tuesdays were speedwork days, (mostly done on the treadmill with 1.0 incline so I would be held accountable to the pace) and Fridays were long run days. I ended up completing 3 20 mile runs, 3 16 mile runs, and 3 half marathons in my training cycle. On race day I was confident that I was ready for the challenge. None of my long runs ever felt too labored, I completed my last 20 mile run with an average of 8:22 pace, and I was in the best shape of my life. 

The number 3:35 resonated in my head for months. I may have been overambitious on my goal of BQ'ing in my first marathon, but I honestly thought my half marathon PR of 1:41 indicated that I was ready to take on the challenge. That, and I thought I had the mental toughness to run through the mile 20 wall and grind out the last few miles at around a 8:12 pace. Reality check. The marathon is NO JOKE, and quite humbling.

That 3:35 turned into a 3:56, 21 minutes off schedule. I ran with a pacer, keeping up until about mile 18. Then I just could not do it anymore. My right hip felt like it was caving in on itself and my stomach was so confused. That mental toughness I had been proud of carrying me through a rough 12 week training cycle quickly faded away. The last 8 miles felt like a march to my death. If it weren't for my friends waiting for me at the finish line and the fact that my splits were being posted to my facebook account, I don't know if I would have finished. Well, I finished, but it was not pretty. I stopped to go to the bathroom and walked more than I ran. At the finish line, I proclaimed in tears lying on the pavement that I'd never run 26.2 again.

A few days later, I reflected upon my performance and quickly had a change of heart. I went from not being able to run ONE MILE to a marathoner in one year. That alone is something to be proud of. Additionally, as a first time marathoner I was able to run a sub 4 hour marathon. I have so much room to grow and so many more races to run. NOTE: I do credit my relatively fast race PR's (for a new runner) to my natural ability as I've been blessed with long legs and a slender body.

I knew I had made critical mistakes leading up to the race. Here they are. Plain and simple. You'd think that with all the research and running magazines I read that I would have avoided these basic rules. Nope. I guess I was in denial and rendered myself invincible. 

1. I never really practiced taking in adequate nutrition/hydration during training runs. Sometimes I would drink water and slurp down a Gu, but more often than not, I would run 20 miles without putting anything in my body. I thought that by training on "low energy" I would be even faster and better come race day with the added boost of hydration and glycogen. WRONG. On race day, I ate a Gu at mile 7 and 14, and drank water at every aid station, which was about every 2 miles or so. This left me EXTREMELY bloated and uncomfortable by mile 18.

2. I did not taper. at all. I had good intentions to taper for a good 2 weeks. However, the week before the marathon I walked into a local running store to buy compression shorts for a lingering hip pain. The lady at the counter asked me if I was ready for next week, taking me by surprise. Apparently I had written down the wrong date from the start... causing me to run my final 20 mile long run a week before the race. How tragically embarrassing. I think that if I had rested longer, the lingering hip pain would not have surfaced at mile 18.

3. I ate an entire 12 inch pizza the night before.. so I was still full the next morning. I still ate my pre-race oatmeal with peanut butter. For the first few miles of the race I was still digesting food in my stomach. Not fun.

4. I went out too fast. This is one of the downfalls of running with a pacer. Pacers maintain a constant pace throughout the race. I would have benefited from studying the course elevation and running strategic splits with the uphills and downhills. 

Lessons learned.

I'm ready for redemption. July 29th. Four weeks. Bring it, San Francisco.