Over the past 24 hours, I’ve convinced myself that I’m in a running rut, I’ve peaked and this is as fast as I’ll ever go again, to I’m still an awesome runner with a lot of potential. The mind, swinging back and forth has me a bit confused and unsure of how I should proceed. Should I take time off, should I keep working? I just don’t know what’s best. Here’s a basic recap of the past 24 or so hours:
8:50am at the start line of the Team Alex 5 mile run. I swear it felt like there were about 15 of us there. I was worried for a minute that I might actually finish last. I was talking to a few other women who were running and they were commenting on the fact that at least it was a little cooler. Cooler, were they smokin crack? It was 9:00am and already like 72 degrees and humid. I was sweating just standing there. But that’s me – very heat sensitive.
9:00am so we start the race and I run the first mile at an 8:30 pace. Wow, that felt pretty easy, sweet – off to a good start, I want to hold right here. We go into the second mile, Ingomar hill and I finish that mile at a 9:02. Not bad for the “big hill” and my average is right where I want it to be. I was holding around an 8:35 before we headed into the second set of hills. Which, killed me. My breathing got very heavy and my mouth was very dry. That mile ended at an 8:56. I stopped for water, which I never do during a typical 5 mile race, and long story short, the last two miles sucked and it was over. Did I mention I ran this race last year at an 8:23 pace and won my age group?
9:50am I checked my results on the computer – said to myself “wow, that sucked”, 5th place in my age group, grabbed a smiley cookie and was out of there. I really didn’t even care. I certainly wasn’t happy, but I wasn’t upset either. I felt like I got the place that I deserved.
After that I drove to the grocery store, I sat in the parking lot pondering this running situation I’m in. I’ve always liked it because I was a fighter and competitive. The confidence and competitive edge seem to have disappeared, along with my speed. I got on Google and searched “Running Rut”. I found a great article on Compeitior.com that sounded exactly like me.
1. Focus on rest and recovery. I don’t like to rest and recover. Up until the last 1/4 of my marathon training, I wasn’t recovering from my weekend runs properly. That lead to poor or inconsistent performance during the week, until I did it all over again. I also don’t sleep a lot – I try, I really do.
2. Vary your racing. I am so guilty of NOT doing this. I train for marathons. That’s been my thing over the past couple years. but this is so interesting:
“The longer a runner stays in this cycle of running marathon after marathon, the further diminished their VO2 max, speed and anaerobic threshold become. Eventually the inability to improve the entire range of physiological systems prevents a runner from making long-term progress and taking their training to the next level.”
I need to run some shorter distance races, 5Ks and 10Ks. Right away when the marathon was over, I look for all the half marathons on the calendar. I think they mean SHORTER than that. LOL.
3. Press the mental reset button: “sometimes being in a slump is as much mental as it is physical”. Um, yes, I know this is me. Worried I would come in last at the race before I even started. That’s a problem. It’s also hard to get back into gear after a series of disappointments or bad runs. The not being able to breathe is a bit troubling as well and really shakes my confidence. I never know what will bring it on and quite honestly, I’m wondering if my stupid brain is bringing it on. UGH.
1:00pm I’m going to take a break from running. I just need to take a week off and reset. I’ll do other things. No problem, it’ll be relaxing. My mind is made up.
2:00pm Go home and organize my whole linen closet to keep my mind off it.
So, this morning I woke up all ready to start my REST and RESET. No run scheduled. I did some laundry, took everything out of my closet, rearranged it, cleaned out under the master bath vanity, vacuumed, dusted.
Shit, it’s only 11:00.
Check Instagram, Facebook and Daily Mile like 50 times.
I’m going to the gym, I won’t run, just lift.
Okay, I’ll just run 2 easy miles.
I RAN 3.1 miles at 8:30. Yeah, much better inside and a lot better than yesterday. See, I knew I wasn’t really in a rut. I just don’t like the heat. Or can only breathe inside. WTF?
I’m still confused. Not sure about the time off thing. I want to run a 1/2 marathon next Monday but not sure I should. Maybe I should run a 5K somewhere instead. I could probably pick from like 10 billion in the area.
Maybe I should stick strictly to the treadmill. I mean, people do it.
I’m off to organize something, cook something or clean something. There’s a lot of time in the day when you aren’t devoting hours to running, let me tell you.
“The true test of a champion is not whether they triumph,
but whether they can overcome obstacles”
~ Garth Stein
Instead of starting at the beginning of the race like I normally would, today I’ll start my story towards the end. Mile 23 to be exact. Typically when I get to this point in a marathon, it seems like a million miles to the finish. On May 4, I was elated at this point, at the prospect of being so close to the finish. I said to runners around me “We’re almost there, 3 more miles, we’re going to make it, you’re going to make it, just another 5K, we got this”. I was truly overjoyed.
Now you’re probably thinking, what is up with this girl? her goal was a 3:55 – she’s over 4 hours at this point with 3.2 miles to go? Why, why is she so happy? I was happy because starting at mile 8, I was convinced I wasn’t going to finish. I was going to take a DFN (did not finish) for the first time ever.
Back to the beginning. I was prepared for this race physically and mentally. I was confident and even had in my head that I could possibly run better than a 3:55. I was right where I wanted to be. I had no hiccups on race morning, parked, got where I needed to be and felt calm. I gathered my GU, water, checked my gear and walked to corral B. When we started I was feeling good. I planned on a conservative, slower start. I went out a touch faster than planned, but not by much. I had a pace band and used it as a loose guide for my mile by mile pace. By mile 7, I was right on pace practically to the second. I came out of the West End and headed into the Southside. I always hated that hill into the Southside but knew that after the hill, the next few miles were flat to slightly downhill so I wasn’t worried.
As I started to work to get up and over that small hill, I started to have a hard time breathing. It was the same asthma like symptoms I was having randomly during training. I hadn’t had problems for weeks and this was something I never considered would be a factor when I went to the start line. I slowed down thinking that would help. I figured one bad mile at this point wasn’t going to hurt my race as a whole. The breathing never got better. Mile 9 was bad and mile 10 was no better. At this point I pretty much knew my Boston 2016 potential was already gone.
Mile 11 came with little relief and it was getting warmer, which doesn’t seem to help. At this point, I was considering taking the left and just finishing the half. I knew Madison and Rich were waiting for me at mile 14, so I decided I would at least get to them then stop at the 15 mile relay point. I could probably get a shuttle back to the finish from there. I saw my family and told them I was really struggling. Rich said, “don’t worry about the clock, just have fun, that’s why you do this”. I kept going and as mile 15 was approaching and my opportunity to stop struggling was close, I started thinking, if you don’t finish, you don’t get a medal. I ran 500+ miles to prepare for this race, I am at the very least going to have something to show for it.
So, with a sense of resolve, I passed up the relay stop and ran mile-by-mile from that point forward. It was only 11.2 more miles right? I’ve done that a million times, no problem. I ran most of the miles slow but when I had to exert myself a little harder, like up a hill, I struggled. Miles 19 and 20 were the worst. It literally felt like something was blocking my airway so I slowed to a walk and thankfully, it passed after a few miles. I DID NOT want to pass out or end up in the ICU! It continued that way until I crested the hill coming out of Bloomfield. Like I said, I was elated at this point, because I didn’t give up and I was going to make it.
I crossed the line and was so happy. Relieved it was over and proud I didn’t give up! I saw my family at the end of the finisher’s area and they were expecting me to be depressed, down, crying even. I was just the opposite, and they were proud of my positive attitude.
It really wasn’t until hours, days later that it really sunk in. I would walk around shaking my head thinking it must have been a bad dream, that couldn’t have happened. The soreness in my legs confirmed it had. In an earlier post, I talked about the uniqueness of marathon running. You don’t get many chances a year to do this. Bad days happen, hot weather happens, trouble…. breathing……happens. You have to take what race day gives you and make the best of it. In a sense this marathon was harder than when I broke 4 hours last year. I didn’t feel well, I didn’t finish strong, every step was hard but I stuck with it. The easier thing to do would have been to give up. That is my positive I take away from this race, my ability to overcome obstacles the best way I could.
Everyone keeps asking me when the next marathon is and for the first time, I really don’t know. I honestly think I need a break. I’ve been training like this straight since December 2012. Cycle after cycle of tough physical work. And to be honest, my body can probably be up for another round come July, but it’s the mental grind I’m not sure I want to endure again, at least not right now. Marathon training is grueling, hard work. And this time around, I wasn’t completely able to enjoy the fruits of my labor and it’s a hard thing to deal with.
I plan on racing a few half marathons coming up and look forward to a different kind of challenge. I’ve been in the mental mindset of marathon training for so long that I think in the process I’ve lost some of my speed. I want to get back to “racing” again and work towards PRing some shorter distances. At least that’s how I feel now.
I truly love the marathon distance. Wineglass, Columbus, Erie, and Philadelphia dangle in front of me for fall. I’m just not sure I’m gonna take the bait this time.
I love writing this post. It’s such a great opportunity for me to work through the course in my head. I’m getting so excited and this also gives me something to focus my energy on. The descriptions below takes into account the changes made to the course for 2015. I hope this post finds all you marathon runners feeling fantastic and ready to go on Sunday. Stay off your feet as much as possible tomorrow and drink plenty of water. See you at the start line, and best of luck to you!
Elevation gains are marked in red and losses in green. I hope you find this useful on race day and it helps you earn your Runner of Steel title.
Mile 0-1 Liberty Avenue between 10th and Garrison (elevation gain 14 feet elevation loss -5 feet) Total net elevation gain +9 feet
Mile 1-2 Liberty Ave, 30th Street, Penn Ave (elevation gain 2 feet and elevation loss -7 feet) Total net elevation loss -5 feet
Details: The energy at the start line is fantastic in Pittsburgh. The wave start is helpful in keeping groups separated and the longer corrals this year should make it even better. However, with this many runners the first couple of miles are considerably congested. Use this to your advantage by not sprinting off the start mat. I’ve made the mistake of weaving in and out of runners to reach a specified pace quickly, but advise against it. It adds distance to your run and uses way too much energy. Make sure to watch other runners here! People will not be paying attention to you and will jump in front of you. I’ve seen people get knocked over and some cases – it’s game over for them. There will be plenty of time to pick a spot when the first hill emerges in mile 2-3
Mile 2-3 Penn Avenue, 16th Street Bridge (elevation gain 34 feet and elevation loss 0 feet) Total net elevation gain +34 feet
Details: You will hit your first water stop here (mile 2) which is always CRAZY busy. At every water stop, It’s always best to go to the end of the water line and avoid the crowd at the front. Look for volunteers with only ½ a cup of water to avoid spilling it all over yourself. It’s going to be relatively warm Sunday so drink early, and often! When you get to the bridge, the turn gets tight and congested, watch your footing and other runners around you. Without cutting people off, try to take this turn as snuggly to the bridge as possible. This is good tangent management and will also keep your overall distance as close to 26.2 as possible. So, the best thing to do is plan ahead, start getting over ahead of time.
Mile 3-4 16th Street Bridge, Chestnut Street, Ohio Street, Cedar Avenue, Anderson (elevation gain 6 feet and elevation loss -46 feet) Total net elevation loss -40 feet
Mile 4-5 Anderson, Carson Bridge, Warhol Bridge, Sandusky, Robinson, Federal (elevation gain 40 feet and elevation loss -8 feet ) Total net elevation gain +32 feet
Mile 5-6 E/N/W Commons, Ridge Avenue, Ohio, Brighton, Lincoln (elevation gain 27 feet and elevation loss -9 feet ) Net elevation gain +18 feet
Details: Yes, within the first 6 miles of the race you will cross 3 bridges. The crowds are great here and this back and forth across the bridge is the first point where you can start hitting your race pace or close to. Around the Commons through miles 5 and 6 have a lot of turns. Again, watch your footing and other runners. Take the turns as snugly as possible, planning ahead and running in a direct point to point style. This is also typically the first “re-fueling” point for me (5 miles). I always try to time the finish of my GU with the water station so I can wash it down. Water station is at mile 6.1. Keep in mind there is a relay exchange at mile 5.5. They are well marked but there’s always a little of congestion through this area.
Mile 6-7 Lincoln, Galveston, Western Avenue, West End Bridge (elevation gain 14 feet and elevation loss -18 feet ) Total net elevation loss -4 feet
Mile 7-8 Steubenville St, Alexander Street, S. Main Street, W. Carson Street (elevation gain 4 feet and elevation loss -24 feet) Total net elevation loss -20 feet
Details: Mile 6 ends with a climb up the West End Bridge. This really isn’t bad at all and after you crest you begin your decent into the West End. Slower runners may get in your way heading up the bridge so try to pick your line and avoid weaving in and out of people again. Take it easy heading down this hill. Stay in control and get ready for a great crowd in this area! Right before you make the turn onto Carson Street, I believe there is a photographer – smile!
Mile 8-9 West Carson Street (elevation gain 18 feet and elevation loss -21 feet) Total net elevation loss -3 feet
Mile 9-10 East Carson Street (elevation gain 25 feet and elevation loss -24 feet) Total net elevation gain +1
Mile 10-11 East Carson Street, Birmingham Bridge (elevation gain 12 feet and elevation loss -9 feet) Total net elevation gain +3 feet
Mile 11-12 Birmingham Bridge, Forbes Avenue (elevation gain 89 feet and elevation loss -5 feet) Total net elevation gain +84 feet
Details: The long stretch of Carson Street seems to go on forever. But there are lots of people cheering you on along the way as you head into the Southside. Towards the end of Carson street, you’ll wave goodbye to your half marathon friends as 13.1 runners bear left and 26.2 runners keep right. This is clearly marked so no need to worry about getting confused. The crowd thins dramatically after this point and it becomes much easier to navigate the rest of the course without congestion. Mile 11 brings with it the first major hill in the marathon as you make your ascent into Oakland. Get your bearings on the far side of the Birmingham Bridge and prepare to climb. The best advice I ever got is to take this hill slow and steady – don’t kill it. You may lose a few seconds off your average pace, but there is plenty of time to make it up. The relief at the top is visible in every runner. But don’t be fooled – the hard part and elevation gains aren’t over yet. Mile 10 is also my second refueling area.
Mile 12-13 Forbes Ave, Schenley Dr, Forbes Avenue (elevation gain 75 feet and elevation loss -6 feet) Total net elevation gain +69 feet
Mile 13-14 Forbes Ave, S. Craig St, Fifth Avenue (elevation gain 49 feet and elevation loss -19 feet ) Total net elevation gain +30 feet
Details: You’ll continue your climb through Oakland (mile 12-13), home of the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon campuses. Once you pass the Cathedral of Learning (you can’t miss it), they take your picture. Take this hill at a slower pace, just slow enough to not exhaust yourself but fast enough not to kill your time. There’s another climb up Fifth Avenue (mile 13-14) so shake your shoulders and arms out to prepare for the next couple miles. For some reason, this climb is hard for me, but I know that on the other side, I will have some relief.
Mile 14-15 Fifth Avenue, S. Aiken Ave, Walnut St, S. Highland Ave (elevation gain 43 feet and elevation loss -39 feet) Total net elevation gain +4 feet
Details: There are some “hidden” climbs through this area in Shadyside, but they aren’t long. If you took it easy going up Fifth Avenue, you should be fine through these rollers. If it’s a hot day, you will have some shade and relief through here. A little over half way through – salt tablet.
Mile 15-16 S. Highland Avenue, Fifth Avenue, Penn Avenue (elevation gain 30 feet and elevation loss -1 foot) Total net elevation gain +29 feet
Mile 16-17 Penn Ave, Brushton Ave, Meade St, N. Braddock Ave (elevation gain 4 feet and elevation loss -61 feet) Total Net elevation loss -57 feet
Mile 17-18 N. Braddock Ave, Frankstown Ave (elevation gain 9 feet and elevation loss -39 feet) Total Net elevation loss -30 feet
Details: After you leave Shadyside, return to Fifth Ave and turn onto Penn, it gets pretty quiet through here. I happen to really like miles 16 – 17. They are a gentle down hill (barely perceivable) but enough to give you some momentum. However, these are tough miles. Concentrate on the mile you’re in. People who haven’t run a smart race up to this point, or skimped on training, will start to unravel here. If you’ve run a smart race, this is where you can start making your move by increasing your pace slightly. If you do that, you’ll most likely start passing people who are struggling. At this point your only focus should be making it to mile 18. Mile 15 – more GU.
Mile 18-19 Frankstown Ave, E. Liberty Blvd (elevation gain 29 feet and elevation loss -36 feet) Total net elevation loss -7 feet
Mile 19-20 E. Liberty Ave, N. Highland Ave (elevation gain 85 feet and elevation loss -7 feet) Total net elevation gain +78 feet
Details: Everyone always focuses on the hill into Oakland and never talks about this. It’s not as long as the hill into Oakland, but it comes at a difficult time in the race. So, that makes this a HUGE climb. Repeat your mantras, occupy your mind, talk to the person running next to. This is the LAST hard part, just focus on that, and run on guts and determination! You just need to make it through this mile one step at a time.
Mile 20-21 N. Highland Ave, Bryant St, N. Negley Ave (elevation gain 8 feet and elevation loss -48 feet) Total net elevation loss – 40 feet
Details: I remember when I ran this marathon for the first time in 2011. A good friend told me that if I can make it to mile 20 feeling strong, you have the marathon in the bag. This is where you make your turn BACK to downtown. Try to push here and see how your body feels. Increase pace by 5-10 seconds and try to hold on. Refuel at mile 20.
Mile 21-22 N. Negley Ave, Baum Blvd (elevation gain 27 feet and elevation loss -35 feet) Total net elevation -8 loss
Miles 22-23 Baum Blvd, Liberty Ave (elevation gain 23 feet and elevation loss -60 feet) Total net elevation loss -37 feet
Details: This part of the course can get boring BEFORE you hit Bloomfield. The climb into Bloomfield will also feel like a mountain. I concentrated on not letting my avg pace drop too low here. I just kept telling myself to hand on, because the downhill is coming. Set your sights on a spot on the hill, get there then pick another spot. Small segments at a time.
Mile 23-24 Liberty Avenue (elevation gain 0 feet and elevation loss -146 feet) Total net elevation loss -146 feet
Details: This is GO TIME! Get the legs moving and make up time lost from the climbs behind you. Take advantage of this downhill to pick up your cadence. There is absolutely no reason to hold back now.
Mile 24-25 Liberty Avenue (elevation gain 5 feet and elevation loss 0 feet) Total net elevation gain +5 feet
Details: This is the part where you may feel like you’re in hell, literally. If it’s a hot day, it will feel hottest right here. It’s “no-man’s land” and runners lose it here. I remember seeing runners on the ground left and right through this mile. Runners will be walking all around you. But this mile can make or break you if you’re going for a specific time goal. You have to remain mentally tough and dig deep for anything you have left. Trust your training, and remember pain is temporary.
Mile 25 – 26 Liberty Avenue, Smithfield Street (elevation gain 12 feet and elevation loss -3 feet) Total net elevation gain +9 feet
Mile 26 – 26.2 Smithfield St, Blvd of the Allies, Finish Near Wood St (elevation gain 0 feet and elevation loss -8 feet) Total net elevation loss -8 feet
Details: Hopefully you feel another surge of adrenaline here – the finish line is so close. The last .2 feels so damn long, but he crowds are loud and the thought of having the pain end is enough to get it done as fast as possible.
Distance running is such a unique sport. It’s not like being a golfer or a baseball player, where you have the opportunity once a week or more to go out and “play” your sport. Running a marathon comes once, maybe twice a year for most. You have one day to get it right. I think that adds to the excitement of the sport, but also adds stress. There’s a lot riding on that one day and all you really have to depend on is the 16 weeks you’ve worked to prepare. You truly have to take a leap of faith and “trust the process”.
I spent a good deal of this 16 weeks overcoming “issues”. The season started with knee tendinitis, I had a minor setback in miles due to a ski trip, I was fatigued from, well, life and training, and I also was diagnosed with “Exercise Induced Asthma”. Although I’m not completely committed to that diagnosis. I’ve worked through all this continuing on my path, completing the miles, and readjusting as necessary. In some ways I feel like I worked harder this cycle than others that went smoother. I also broke a very bad habit of frequently stopping during my runs. I’ve really turned that around. Peak week was critical for me, a week to really give my confidence a boost. I passed with flying colors, finally feeling stronger and more like where I should feel 3 weeks before a marathon. My taper has gone well and I feel strong and confident as a result.
With one week to go, you’d think it would just be a matter of sitting around and waiting for the gun to go off. There’s still a lot I can do to make it to the start line in top shape. I have NO more miles to run. I’m done. Maybe a mile or two to stay loose. But proper rest, nutrition and mental preparation will still keep me busy. Remember, I get one shot at this.
Proper Rest: This is always a hard one for me. I’m tired when I should be awake and awake when It’s time for bed. And to make matters worse, my mind races when I hit the pillow. Literally. I will run the Pittsburgh Marathon in my head at least 10 times before Sunday. I imagine myself running through each section of the course, feeling strong. Of course, I eventually end up falling asleep right around Baum boulevard, so I don’t really know how it ends. LOL. Proper rest is critical to good race performance and I always, always make a real effort to sleep well on Thursday and Friday nights, about 8-9 hours. Then pretty much lay around all day Saturday, like my dog. I know I won’t sleep much Saturday but it’s okay if I have a couple nights in the bank.
Dietary Changes: I don’t really do too much here but I do follow a couple of simple rules days before the marathon. I eat one extra helping of carbs, a cup of rice, a bagel, etc. starting tomorrow. Carbs allow the cells to hold water and I want as much water in my body as possible, not to mention boost glycogen stores. And, I limit my fiber intake. This will ensure I don’t have any digestive disasters come race day. Other than that the only other thing I do is NOT eat any strange food. You can read more specifics HERE.
Outfit Planning: I kind of already know what I’m wearing on Sunday. It looks like it’s going to actually be warm, FOR THE FIRST TIME THIS SPRING. Cruel joke mother nature, and of course we’ll all be like “WTF!” since we’ve been running in winter like temperatures up until, like, last weekend. Yeah, but I can’t do anything about the temperatures except dress accordingly. It will still be relatively cool in the morning for the start so a throw away shirt may be required and maybe, maybe gloves. I want to have that all nailed down right now and not have to scramble this weekend to pull all this together. I also have the shorts, tank, socks, and of course shoes all lined up. I think I’m going to me matchy, matchy. It’s a little early for “flat Kim”, but here it is.
Gear Check: Fuel belt, water bottle, buff (for wiping off my hot face), GU enough for every 5 miles and 2 back ups, and of course my watch. If you use a Garmin and you’ve been training with it all winter, it’s a good time to clear the data. My absolute nightmare would be to get to the start line, turn on my watch and have it tell me the memory was full.
Course Planning: As if I didn’t review the course enough the day it took me 3 hours to pick my pace plan. Now, I’m splitting hairs and thinking about what miles I may lose some time and where I can get it back. I’m mentally preparing for the bad miles and thinking about how I’ll talk myself through them; one step at a time. I’m preparing for the inevitable pain that will come in the later miles and how I can manage it.
My Mental State: I feel great. I don’t remember ever feeling this confident and comfortable before a race. That’s all I can really say. Anything can happen on race day, but I have a good mindset. I have my goals and I’m ready to roll.
I’m hoping to re-post my Pittsburgh Marathon mile by mile with some additional notes Friday, so it you’d like some more insight about the course, stay tuned.
QUESTION: HOW IS EVERYONE FEELING??????? IT’S ALMOST TIME!
Picking a marathon pace plan may seem really simple and straightforward on the surface. You have a goal time and a goal pace. What’s so hard about running that pace every single mile until you get to the finish? For anyone who’s run a marathon, any marathon, that strategy, is quite difficult. There are elevation changes to consider, congestion at the start line and the fatigue of 20 miles behind you in the last 10K. You also have to think of personal race style and comfort level. There are really endless variations to get you to the finish and I exhausted ALL of them. Picture this – race plans with scribbles, notes, past race splits, the course map, the elevation map, my hair all disheveled, my eyes wild from looking at a bazillion numbers and pace options. Yeah.This process literally gave me a headache. I needed a nap after this one. Way too much thinking.
Back when I started my training, I picked a race goal to work towards. I built my training plan around executing that goal. I’m much more in the habit of picking several goals now, so if I do have a bad day, or I fall behind, I still have something to work for. Here are 4 goals that I have for May 3rd, in order.
Goal A: Qualify for Boston, and actually get an entry into the race. Not everyone who runs a qualifying time gets to go. This year, for example, you had to run at least 62 seconds below your qualifying time to actually get a bib. Growing popularity in distance racing is to blame for this one, and the competition to get in has grown with it. A comfortable goal time for me, taking this into consideration would be a 3:53:30.
Goal B: Qualify for Boston. Plain and simple, just secure that qualifying time and at least have the opportunity to register for the race. This time is a 3:55 or below.
Goal C: PR. If I’m at mile 22 and I don’t think I’m going to hit either of these, I can’t just give up (been there, done that) so I’ve implemented a third goal to keep me motivated. This would be a sub 3:58 which beats my time from last year. A very respectable accomplishment.
Goal D: Finish in under 4 hours.
I started this process very simply, I went to MyMarathonPace.com and purchased the marathon pace plan spreadsheet that INCLUDES the elevation changes of the Pittsburgh course. I put in my goal race time and click enter. The paces magically appear. Simple right? Not quite. NOW, I have to take into account MY racing style because the spreadsheet actually gives you some options to tweak the paces just a little. Do I want an even effort, do I tend to fade a bit towards the end, and how aggressive of a negative split do I want to run?
With all my options selected, I’m done right? Except I need to account for
The dreaded .2!!!!
The Pittsburgh course “runs” 26.4 miles. Anyone who’s run this course, or any course for that matter will watch the miles on the clock slowly get out of sync with what your watch says. This gets so painful when your watch clicks mile 25 (only 1.2 to go) and the freakin mile marker for 25 is ahead in the distance – WAAAAAY ahead. WTH? It’s a mental killer if you aren’t ready for it. Since I know better, I’m taking this into consideration and building a time buffer. Yes the course is a certified 26.2 course, but it’s virtually impossible to run the course exactly as they measure it. Even the runners with the best success at managing the tangents will tell you this. What does it mean? It’s only another .2 right? That extra distance, when you’re trying to qualify by the skin of your teeth, like I am, and probably thousands of other runners, is HUGE. It’s another lap around the track, it seconds that add up to potentially another 2 MINUTES! So the initial time I put in of 3:53:30 turns into a 3:55:30.
Back to the drawing board.
Lets give 3:51:30 a shot and see what the paces look like. That allows for an additional two minutes and gets me into Boston. The paces come up and I look like a deer in the headlights. This seems too aggressive. These paces on the front are too fast – too many paces under 8:20 on the back, no, this isn’t going to work. Here’s the thing. I may very well be able to run the paces outlined on the 3:51:30 sheet, but I am not going to the start line confident that I can do it. And confidence is KEY!
Back it down to 3:53:00.
This gives me my qualifying time of 3:55 with the additional 2 minute buffer, the paces look attainable and if I feel really good, I can push them a little on race day. I even played with this further because the negative split was more aggressive than I was comfortable with. Looking at last year’s race, I was at a 9:01 pace at mile 20, and although I didn’t gain any time beyond that point, I was able to maintain the 9:01 pace to the finish. So, I was a little conservative on the front, picked it up after the halfway point to 20, and then just hung on for the last 6 miles (6.4 to be exact). With that said, I accounted for a conservative start, a manageable negative split with a “slight” fade. This seems to be the sweet spot for me.
Wow, see, now I’m tired. A lot of thought goes into this. I may be a little more overboard than most runners, I’m not sure. And to be honest, I’ll print this pace band and slap it on my wrist and it will serve as a guide. Anything can happen on race day. I may have a few really slow miles and lose some time or I may feel absolutely fantastic at mile 20 and be able to make up time. I really don’t know.
I gave my plan the final once over and I did see a few “fast” miles in there, so after this planning session I ran a great 5 miles, implementing some of the paces that will be demanded of me on race day. It made me feel better, and when I’m in those miles during the marathon I can say to myself “you’ve run this pace, you can hit this mile no problem”.
Question: Do you carefully map out your marathon strategy? do you follow it on race day?
For most people training for Pittsburgh, last week marked the last really hard week of training…the peak mileage week. I haven’t talked about my training week to week as I normally would because I spent a lot of this training cycle discouraged. I’ve had to overcome some pretty rough weeks so I knew I had to make last week count.
Let me back up a bit. I had a couple of lower mileage weeks in February due to a vacation so when I came back was determined to make up the miles. It’s a lot easier said than done. With the added miles stacking up I was getting fatigued. But really the biggest problem I was having was with my breathing. On most of my runs, for about 3 weeks, I was gasping for air through most of them. Having a hard time getting oxygen was really having a negative impact on my speed and over performance each and every week. Muscles don’t respond well to a lack of oxygen. It got so bad that I decided to see a doctor. I had a chest x-ray to rule out anything serious and did a full allergy work up. Everything came back clear. Since the doctor couldn’t find anything visible, she diagnosed me with Exercise Induced Asthma! Say what? Seriously? I got an inhaler and felt defeated. I mean, how can I be a distance runner with this affliction? This problem cost me several good marathon pace runs and forced me to quit a 20 mile run at mile 12. I was devastated.
Since I am so conscience of diet and how it impacts the body, I decided to look at my diet and figure out what I had been doing differently and the only thing I could pinpoint was a huge increase in dairy. Cheese on my salads, Greek yogurt every day for breakfast and snacking on cheese when I felt like it. This coming from a girl who completely eliminated dairy for 2 years. So I decided to do an experiment. I have been without dairy for over two weeks and guess what? No problems at all! Dairy is known to cause a lot of excess inflammation in the body and could have been the problem. It will take more time to see if this was really the culprit, but it seems pretty conclusive. I should tell my doctor – thanks for the inhaler, I’ll hang on to it in case I want some pizza.
Two Sundays ago I ran my first 20 (it should have been my forth) and I was able to finish, but I was disappointed with my overall pace of 9:50. These long runs are so important to me because they are what I build my confidence on. If I can feel good after 20 miles, I know I will be fine on race day. This past weekend was my second a final chance to get it right. I approached Sunday’s run as if it was a race. I stopped drinking alcohol 2 weeks ago, so I didn’t have to worry about not drinking. I ate exactly what I would normally eat the night before a race – Ravioli (Arugula and Portabella mushroom – no cheese) and I was sure to get a solid night’s sleep. I woke up and ate my pre-race meal – an english muffin (or bagel) bagel with peanut butter and a banana.On my way to North Park, I snacked on some saltines.
I packed 4 GUs and ate them at 5, 10 and 15 with one spare in case I needed it AND I was sure to drink enough. The weekend before I really shorted myself on water and I think it really slowed me down towards the end. Dehydration is no joke and will ruin your training run or race. What works for me is about 8 ounces every 5 miles. I have my Nathan quick shot bottle that I carry and I finished one with each loop. I felt way better than I did last week. They key is to figure out what works for you as far as water consumption, but as a general rule during the race – I would drink at every mile. If you feel light headed, dizzy, fatigued, have muscle cramps or feel “hungry”, you may need more water. I also take one salt tablet with me that I typically take 1/2 way through the marathon. This seems to have helped my random nausea I used to get on longer runs.
The weather was a huge plus on my side this past weekend. When I started it was about 39 degrees and sunny. It was chilly and I started off wearing a jacket. Knowing it was going to warm up fast, I dressed in layers that I could drop off at the car with each loop. I took the jacket off at mile 10 and just had on a light long sleeve shirt which was perfect for the rest of the run. In the shade it was still chilly. It was great not to have to wear gloves and a hat and a million layers. So much easier to move. I even pulled out the new Lululemon Pace Pusher crops. The park was crowded which is to be expected on a nice spring sunny day and there were tons of runners out. I saw many regulars as well, people I see week and week out.
My pace plan was carefully mapped out – 9:40 for the first 5, 9:30 for the second 5 and 9:20 for the third and so on. I ended with more of a 9:38, 9:28, 9:18 which was fine. After 15 miles I felt really good. I hit a couple of 9:10, 9:11 paces and then I started to slow. It was around the 17 mile mark. I don’t want to get too discouraged with this because my overall pace was still good. I also have to keep in mind that I had 24 miles right in front of this run and 18 of them were at marathon pace. The legs were tired and the whole purpose of the long run is TIME ON THE FEET. The toe next to my big toe on my right foot also started to hurt. I had on new shoes but the same ones I’ve been wearing for a couple of years and different socks. The shoes may need broken in just a bit and then should be fine. My feet always kind of hurt after 20 miles, so it’s not a completely new problem.
Truth is, I was supposed to run 22 miles and when I slowed at mile 17, I made up my mind that a solid 20 would be good enough. I could have compromised and gone to 21 – just another half mile past my car, turn around and come back. But I didn’t do it. At the end of the day, the extra mile isn’t going to make my race better – but pushing through that additional mile would have been more confidence on my side. It’s done now and I can’t change it but it’s a lesson learned. I also had a very minimal amount of stops on this run. Stopping to pick up water or a GU was about it.
Not stopping during my runs has been the biggest improvement in my running this year, and I use the continuous effort as another confidence builder. My final long run last April before the marathon was 18 miles. It was supposed to be 20, but I couldn’t make it. Top top it off, I stopped 38 times during that run. I’m still blown away when I look back at these runs and the amount of breaks I took. It’s really pretty amazing that I showed up on race day and did as well as I did. I’m a year smarter and miles stronger than I was in 2014. I have 62 more miles before race day. I’m feeling how I should and starting to get anxious. 19 days!
Yeah, I’m thinking of changing the name of the blog to This Runner’s MAD if the weather doesn’t turn around soon. I am done with it, all of it. It’s freakin’ March and I ran in weather today that was unseasonable for January. Seriously. I wouldn’t be so aggravated if this wasn’t the same old story every weekend. This morning I ran 10 “marathon pace” miles in freezing temps. Garmin said it was 19 degrees with a real feel of 11. However Weather Bug said it was 16 with a real feel of 1. Either way, it sucks. The OutSider App that analyzes how the weather will impact your run said this morning’s conditions were a 1, a 1 out of 10. You get the point.
Every…single…weekend during this training cycle has sucked big time! If it wasn’t 4-6 inches of snow, it was icy rain, below freezing temperatures or wind that could blow me over. Freakin ridiculous. I mean, we can’t catch a break. I’m sick of the million layers I have to put on every single time I want to go outside to run. I mean, here is what I put on this morning:
- Jog bra, base layer tank, Level 2 Under Armour, Under Armour base layer, another layer for the hell of it, and a wind breaker. Underwear, Base layer thin pants, cold gear pants, wool socks, a hat, gloves, and hand warmers. And of course my shoes.
I had 14 things on. 14. when the sun came out, for the total of 4 minutes today, I felt warm, but as soon as it went in and the wind blew, I got chilled. The hand warmers did nothing. But of course, even in these temps, I sweat. So, these things get wet, and heavy. I actually came home and tried to weigh the pile. Then I got mad because my stupid bathroom scale won’t pick up that small of a weight, I needed a food scale or something. But trust me, the crap was heavy.
Trying to eat GU in this weather is like trying to swallow a golf ball. I gets really hard and thick and makes you gag. I attempt to hold it for a mile before I ingest it in my freezing cold hands to try and warm it up and make it more “liquid”. If you carry a water bottle, the water freezes and doesn’t help the cold factor when you have to carry around a block of ice.
I can’t breathe in this weather. The dry cold air cuts through my lungs, but I’ll save that for another post.
Here’s the thing, this is Pittsburgh and you know what happens here. It doesn’t gradually get warm. All of a sudden one day we’re going to wake up to run and it will be 78 and humid. Everyone will dehydrate because no one will know how much to drink, we’ll all be over dressed and then keel over because our bodies over heat, as soon as we open the GU, it’ll squirt out all over the place because it will be melted and we’ll all have to acclimate to the weather again.
Then we’ll all be complaing about the stinking heat.
Welcome to season round marathon training.
A cup of warm tea, that’s what I need. Ahhh.