I ran a marathon this past weekend that I didn’t train for. Ok, YES, I know, I’ve been running a crap-ton all summer. So you’re probably wondering, how could this be defined as NOT training. Yes, I’ve been training, I trained all summer for the Grizzly 50k, but I did not train for this marathon. Same thing/close enough/ etc? Right? Perhaps, and I wondered going in if the two might be close enough. After all, I’ve been working my tail off to get in pretty good shape this summer, and I think I AM in pretty good shape, in many ways, the best shape of my life. So I thought an experiment was in order, I ran my PB (Personal-Best) marathon last fall, after training really hard for that marathon, and doing all the typical runs and volume building that a typical marathon training plan has in it. I ended up having the flu on race day, I woke up with a fever, popped some drugs and ran the race anyway. I felt pretty horrible during the race, but I survived, and ended with a pretty damn good time, one that I would have been happy with on a healthy day. So this fall after the Grizzly 50k, I wondered to myself, could I run a marathon as fast, could I run faster? I feel stronger, I know I’m stronger, but how will that translate in a race? So what better to do than to put myself to the test, right? Right… (Note: it was a very painful test, next time I’m finding someone else to actually RUN the test 😉 )
Hubby and I had a trip planned to California this past week, for what was originally going to be a marathon for him. He missed some training due to injury and sickness and decided that he wasn’t up for a marathon. After the Grizzly 50k I recovered as best as I could, and did some last minute road running long runs to try to figure out how my body might react to a long road race. I also watched the Ventura forecast carefully. Lori and I had run Windermere in the spring in the horrible heat, and I was not about to run another hot marathon! Things were falling into place nicely, and less than a week before race day I bit the bullet and registered! I also booked us a hotel in Ventura since we had been staying about 90 minutes away in wine country for the rest of our trip.
The first half of our trip was full of fun, a run with some amazing athletes, Michelle Barton, and Tawnee Prazack. Michelle is a badass pro ultra runner, and Tawnee is the host of the podcast Endurance Planet. Yes I was totally out of my league.
Michelle and I headed down to InknBurn next, which was totally awesome. If you’re ever in the neighborhood (Costa Mesa, CA), I totally recommend stopping by!
The next few days were spent with my hubby, staying at a guesthouse at a winery. It was truly rough, 😉 , but we enjoyed it! We mostly took it easy, but did one short hike near Santa Barbara. I loved Santa Barbara, with the mountains and the ocean, it was really beautiful.
Next up was the race. On Saturday we drove out to Ventura, I picked up my race package, and we checked into our hotel. We walked over to the waterfront, and got an idea of where the race was starting from. It was just 800 m’s from the hotel, so an easy walk the next morning. The race started at 7am on Sunday morning. The forecast had been improving all week with a high in the mid 60’s F or around 19C, the low overnight was in the low 50’s F. Things were shaping up nicely!
Race morning I got up, ate some breakfast in the hotel room (bread with PB, yogurt, and hotel coffee). I got dressed and was ready to go in lots of time. Once I was organized I headed over to the start. The sun was just coming up, it was pretty, but quite cool outside, I was wishing I had a throwaway to wear until start time.
Km’s 1-10 (5:14, 5:18, 5:11, 5:17, 5:18, 5:13, 5:15, 5:14, 5:11, 5:15) 52:26 total.
Just before 7:00, right on time, we lined up for the marathon start, it was a super small field, so it just took a minute to seed ourselves, and we were off. My plan was to not start out too fast, but try to start at a pace fast enough to get a 3:40 or better (that’s a 5:14/km pace). I started just behind the 3:40 pacer, and let him get ahead of me from the start. My legs didn’t feel super bouncy, but I hoped that they’d feel better as I went. They did start to feel a bit better, and my pace dropped right to where I wanted it to be. The course went out 5 miles, or 8k, along the water for the most part, most of it on a bike path, with a bit on the shoulder of the road. There weren’t any hills to speak of, but things did undulate a bit up and down. I took my first gel at 8k. I was carrying my small handheld water bottle, so drank water from it as I needed, and kept filling it at the aid stations. The nice thing, at least for someone competitive like me, about these out and back courses is that you can see exactly where you stand. I counted the women ahead of me at the 8k point, and I think I was around 8th place. I kept this in my head.
Km’s 11-20 (5:12, 5:18, 5:20, 5:15, 5:16, 5:08, 5:15, 5:08, 5:18, 5:10) 52:20 total.
We were heading back towards the start for this section, and by km 15 we were almost at the start line again. The pathway was starting to get a bit more congested as we headed towards the pier. If I had any complaint, it would be the congested pathway. There were people out just walking, plus half marathoners, 10k and 5k racers all sharing the path. By the time we got back near the central area of the race, the shorter races were finishing, and the paths were getting busy. We passed the start line and headed out on a second out and back. It was a short section about 5k total, I knew it would be a hard section mentally on the second time around. I had my second gel at 16k.
Km’s 21-30 (5:17, 5:10, 5:15, 5:12, 5:20, 5:24, 5:15, 5:20, 5:26, 5:38) 53:17 total.
I passed the half marathon mark at around 1:51, I knew, or had a good idea, at this point that I wasn’t going to be getting a 3:40. My legs hadn’t felt very peppy yet, and I knew it wasn’t going to get better. I am stubborn though and decided to keep pushing on. I kept telling myself, ‘It’s just pain, there’s nothing actually wrong’. Which was true, I was evenly sore, and tired. I didn’t have any injuries, or bad pain. Gel 3 was at km 25 (I forgot to take it at 24). It was in the second half of this section that things got tough. I was on my way back to the first turnaround for the second time, there were a few slightly uphill sections, and I was tiring, mentally as much as physically. Its been a long time since I’ve run a steady pace for a long time, with trail running there is a lot of run, then hike, then run fast down a hill, etc. I find the breaks or change in pace nice mentally. I allowed myself a 10 second walk at km 29/30 when I turned around, and put in my music, better keep moving! I tried to count woman marathoners ahead of me at this point again. It was harder to know for sure though because there were other racers on the course. I knew that I had passed at least 1 woman, and counted at least 4 ahead of me.
Km’s 31-40 (5:22, 5:22, 5:40, 5:15, 5:20, 5:21, 5:22, 5:28, 5:19, 5:22) 53:51 total.
The brief walk break and the music got me going again. I was on my way back to the start and felt like I was getting close to the home stretch. I had one last moment of weakness at km 33, I took my last gel, and there was a slight hill as we climbed over an overpass, I took another 10 second walk break and ate my gel, then that was it. No more whining, suck it up and get your arse in gear Terry. I knew that I was in the top 10 women at this point, which was very good motivation. I passed one woman during this section, and told myself I needed to keep moving so that I would not be passed. I ran towards the start, and as I passed it, I ditched my handheld, I hoped I’d be able to retrieve it after the race, but didn’t care, I needed to simplify and just run. I ran out into the final out and back, saw the hubby around 37k and told him I’d be back soon!
Km’s 41-42.2 (5:24, 5:03, 4:34 pace for last 200m’s).
Just as I was rounding the corner to come to the last couple k, I had a moment of doubt and couldn’t see where the pathway went, or where we should run on the pathway. I had tired-running-brain, which renders the most intelligent person stupid, unable to think sensibly or do simple math. It cost me a few seconds as I turned the wrong way, turned back and then got on the right path. Luckily it only cost me a few seconds in km 41 and I carried on. I didn’t have much left but I gathered everything I could to have a strong finish. There was another marathon racer running home at this point, and I used him as my pacer, and kept as close to him as I could. I gave it as fast as I could at this point and ran it in. I could definitely tell that my ultra training, and increased endurance was helping me here. I don’t think I’ve ever had that kind of a kick in the last km of a marathon, usually I’m struggling just to move forward.
I crossed the finish in 3:43:18. It was almost 30 seconds shy of my PB from last fall, and a BQ.
Official stats: 3:43:18, 27/140 (19%) Overall, 6/57 Women (10 %), 2/11 AG (18 %)
Post Race Thoughts
I’m super happy with how I executed this race, I really don’t think I could have run it much faster. I had a slight fade over the second half, and maybe if I’d run the first half slightly slower, I wouldn’t have faded? I think the fade was more due to mental energy than physical though, so that may have come either way. I ran this race at max effort, harder than I’ve raced in a long time. It hurt in the moment, but I really needed a race where I went out and pushed myself to the brink.
As far as training, I can feel that I’ve lost speed, or perhaps my legs weren’t 100% recovered from the 50k. Either way, I didn’t have the speed that I had in the spring. What I did have though was endurance. Even at the end, if I had slowed my pace to a 5:30-5:40 pace, I felt like I could have kept going. I’ve never felt like that at the end of a marathon before. I can definitely see how pushing yourself past the marathon distance can get your body ready, but only if you can recover and race well.
What’s next? I’m going to take a month to recover. What does that mean? It means one week off running, and then 3 easy weeks with nothing above zone 1/2 or MAF. After that month, I think I want to do a month of speed, I’ll probably take a speed block from the McMillan book and do that with some long runs. My winter will be spent building base, keeping things fun and easy, with some speed or tempo built in to try to start the spring with a bit of the speed that I feel like I’ve lost.
As for races, the only race I’ve registered in for next year is the Powderface Marathon in July. I am fairly certain that I’ll run the Calgary Marathon, and after that I’m leaning towards a longer ultra (longer being more than 50k). Time will tell! 🙂