Monday, November 24, 2008

11/25/08: Philadelphia Marathon Race Report

The 2008 Philadelphia Marathon started out COLD. It was about 25 degrees when we woke up and probably still hadn’t gotten above 30 when the race started.

We had quite a crew running that day. My dad came in to run the half marathon. Jen ran the 8K. Our college friend, Roz, and her two roommates also ran the marathon. So we all froze our butts off together waiting for the race to finally start.

My game place was roughly to run 6:40s in the first half, which would put me around 1:27. This would give me some cushion for the slowdown that I now know will happen after mile 20. I also felt like this was a pace that would be a bit challenging but wouldn’t totally kill me.

The gun went off, and I took started at a pretty comfortable pace. I’ve done enough marathons now to avoid the tendency to get excited and start too fast. I didn’t see the first mile marker, so I had to just hope I was running the right pace. I came through 2 miles in 13:00, which was a little bit faster than I expected but not by too much.

Then I basically started churning out a bunch of miles between 6:10 and 6:30. It was faster than I had planned for, but I really was feeling surprisingly good and relaxed. I ran into a guy from the DC RoadRunners, Kevin, who I train with pretty frequently around mile 4. He typically finishes in the low to mid 2:50s, so I knew I was moving pretty fast to have caught him. I ran with him until about mile 9, and it was nice to have the company.

My only low point came somewhere in mile 9. Kevin was quickly pulling away, so I was worried that I was slowing down. I just didn’t feel comfortable pushing the pace anymore though, so I let him charge ahead (he went on to finish in 2:49 – amazing!). I must have also missed a mile marker, which made me even more nervous that I might be slowing down.

Around this time I got a weird cramp in my side too. It was definitely too early for that to be happening. I was pretty worried, but figured all I could do was keeping running and hope it would get better. Well, luckily it did. When I came to the next mile marker I discovered I actually rant the last 2 miles in 6:25s. Game on.

Mile 9 has the biggest hill on the course. The nice thing about running ultras in the mountains is that hills just don’t seem so scary anymore. This hill was like a bump in the road compared to Agony Hill or Suicide Six in Vermont.

I came through 10 miles in 6:27 pace and the half at about 6:30, which put me just under 1:25. My legs were definitely starting to get tired, but I was pretty I sure I could manage faster than 1:35 in the second half.

I kept charging hard for the next 4 or 5 miles and managed to stay in the 6:40s. But I started to really hurt between 17 and 18. I was struggling to stay on pace and keep focused. Mile 19 to 20 was another low point. This is right before your turn around at mile 20, so you’re really tired at this point and still running away from the finish, which is very mentally difficult.

I finally turned around at mile 20 and between heading back to the finish and the boom box blaring the Rocky Soundtrack, I had nice boost that carried my through the next mile (hearts on fire, baby). My legs were screaming by mile 21, though. I was fighting with all I had to hold on. I was still managing to hold 6:55 to 7:00, but I was fading fast. I was also starting to feel like I was going to throw up.

By Mile 23 I had the stop drinking at aid station to keep from vomiting. My legs were also hurting badly. It was worse than I had felt in previous marathons, and similar only the pain towards the end of the 100. I think my ultra training really paid off though, because I was able to push through the pain much better than in previous marathons. I don’t think I ever went slower than 7:20.

I keep charging with all I had towards the finish. I went by Roz and her friend somewhere around this point as they headed in the other direction. They both looked great and shouted encouragement for me. I was unable to speak at the time and managed only a vague point/wave. They both went on to great finishes, so congratulations to them! Roz's other roommate, Stacy, also went on to finish her first marathon. Welcome to the club, and congrats Stacy!

By 24 I knew I was going to make it under 3 hours, but I really wanted it to be over. As much as I hurt and as delirious as I was getting, I was able to feel excited that I was finally going to do it.

I hit the 25 mile marker and tried to push with all I had to get to the finish line. I was struggling mightily and on the limit of how much I could handle. After the 26 mile marker I had something vaguely resembling a kick and pushed it over the finish line in 2:55:43.

I could barely stand up let alone walk, but I was thrilled. I made it! After training so hard and so long, I finally went under 3 hours (and with room to spare). I teetered over to Jen and Dad who were right there to congratulate me and take care of me. I also forgot to grab a finisher’s medal, but luckily they reminded me to grab one.

Dad had ended up with a great half marathon finish. My parents are moving soon, so he’s been running around like crazy. It wasn’t his fastest half marathon, but it was still a great time, particularly given how tired he was going into it. Jen also had fun running the 8K despite a brief battle with frostbite 2 miles in. She is the only person I know to have stopped in the middle of a race to massage feeling back into her feet.

Well it was definitely emotional to have achieved a goal I worked so long towards. I was elated and totally spent. It took me 45 minutes to slowly hobble to the car that was only a few blocks away. After a short nap, I actually felt a lot better. The day after I felt surprisingly good too. I seem to be able to recover much more quickly from marathons now.

This was a memorable experience and a big milestone for me. That being said, I’m already excited about what’s next. I’d love hear plans that any of you have as well. Hopefully I can join you all for some races. Keep on running, keep on making it happen.

11/22/08: Pre-marathon musings

Breaking 3 hours in the marathon was one of the first goals I set in running. I start running about 5.5 years ago, and began training for my first marathon 4.5 years ago. I started my marathon training without much of a time goal, but somewhere along the way started to talk myself into thinking I was capable of going under 3 hours.

Ah, the folly of youth (I say at the ripe old age of 25). I ran the New York City marathon 4 years ago and was definitely humbled by the distance. Or perhaps more accurately, I got my ass handed to me.

I ran the first half in 1:30, right on pace. Most people hit “the wall” in a marathon at mile 20. I, however, hit the wall pretty soon after the halfway mark. Not good. I slowed down some and struggled to get to mile 20. After that I basically jogged it in with quite a bit of walking along the way. At one point, medical volunteers ran out onto the course to make sure I was ok. You’ve got to look pretty bad at the end of a marathon for that to happen.

I finished New York in 3:24, pretty far from the 3:00 I had deliriously hoped for. All in all, I still loved every minute of it and was still decently happy with my virgin marathon effort.

It took me a while to recover from New York and 1.5 years to talk myself into doing another marathon. I signed up for the Nashville Marathon and ran it with none other than Dylan Fitz, the outstanding runner and free-style walker with the best fashion sense you could ever find. Let’s just say the ladies loved his marathon outfit.

I had a lot of fun, but the race ended up going even worse than New York. I dropped somewhere around mile 14 and took the shuttle of shame to the finish. Dylan is a man among men and graciously stayed with me to cheer me up. I don’t know if it was me foolishly giving blood the week before or something else, but I just didn’t have it that day.

Well now I was REALLY fired up to kick ass in my next marathon. I quickly signed up for the Philadelphia marathon the following November. I knew it was a fast course that usually had good weather, so I planned to at least qualify for Boston and hopefully break 3 as well.

I trained like an animal. Throughout the DC summer heat, I ran 70 – 85 miles a week and crushed myself with tons of insane workouts. I toed the start line very overtrained and with some nagging pain in my right calf that happened when I ran the Marine Corps marathon as a training run right after an 85 mile week, my highest mileage week every at the time. I was determined though.

I gave it all I had. I again ran the first half right on pace, just under 1:30. I stayed on 3 hour pace until mile 20 this time, but the inevitable slowdown happened again. I held it together much better, though, and still managed to average somewhere around 7:40s in the last 10K to finish in 3:04. Still didn’t hit 3 hours, but I was ecstatic about qualifying for Boston.

I did pay a steep price for the overtraining, though. My calf was in rough shape after the marathon. I took a few months off to give it time to heal, but it wasn’t getting any better. I finally went to an orthopedist and was diagnosed with tendonitis. The good news is that a stiffer pair of insoles was all I needed to do the trick. My doctor told me I also needed to take it easy and not train quite so hard. Naturally I immediately signed up for the JFK 50 miler and started ramping up for that (my orthopedist hates me and actually yells at me when I come in there with some injury from some crazy thing I’ve done recently).

Having finally gotten a time I was pretty happy with in the marathon, I turned my attention towards ultras. It was only when I missed signing up for the JFK 50 before it filled that I thought to run Philly. It had been 2 years since my last marathon, and I’d lost a lot of speed in my ultra training. I also had only a few months to train before the race with a big break for the wedding and honeymoon right in the middle, but I figured why not? I hoped to finally break 3 and figured I’d have a good time even if I didn’t.

This time around I trained smarter and made sure to overtrain/injure myself. I cut back to only do 2 workouts a week, which I did with the DC Road Runners most of the time. Workouts are definitely more fun with company. I was also more flexible with my training and made sure to take days off when I was feeling too sore and tired.

As a result, I felt really good when I started Philly this time around. In my next post I’ll give a much too detailed account of how everything went.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

11/7/08: Weekly training log

  • Saturday: 17 w/ 12 @ 6:45
  • Sunday: 18 mile trail run (Bull Run)
  • Monday: 10 miles easy
  • Tuesday: 9 miles easy
  • Wednesday: 8 miles w/ 4 @ 6:30
  • Thursday: 8 miles easy
  • Friday: 8 miles easy
  • Total: 78 miles

This was the last big week of training before the Philadelphia Marathon. I am definitely in need of a taper now. On Saturday, I ran with the DC road runners and felt pretty good. Most of the run was closer to 7:00 miles, and then I really pushed the pace at the end (sub 6:30). I finished strong and was feeling pretty good.

I love the Bull Run trail, but Sunday was a pretty tough run. Between tired legs from the day before and staying out too late partying on Saturday night, it was pretty painful. My legs were tired for pretty much the rest of the week. I was also traveling for work on Wednesday and Thursday and had to run on a treadmill, which I really don’t like.

I’m pretty excited for Philly and looking forward to resting up and letting my body recover from all the hard training.

Monday, November 3, 2008

10/31/08: Halloween Week Training Update

  • Sunday: Off (trashed legs)
  • Monday: 24 @ 7:05
  • Tuesday: 8 easy
  • Wednesday: 10 easy
  • Thursday: 12 w/ 4 x 1mi @ 5:43
  • Friday: 7 easy
  • Total: 71

This was one of the best weeks of marathon training I’ve had. Sunday’s long run was fantastic. I was hoping at best to hit 7:20s for the 24 miles, but I ended up running 7:05 pace. I felt really smooth the whole way and had a lot in the tank at the end. It was perfect weather, and this was one of those days were you feel you can just run fast forever. Hopefully I’ll feel that way when I toe the line at Philly.

Wednesdays track workout was also a really great run. My legs were still a bit tired from Sundays long run, but I went in hoping for 5:50 mile repeats. I managed to run 4 repeats in 5:43 and felt great the whole way.

I’m really starting to get my speed back and think things could go really well in Philly.