Monday, October 5, 2015

Prince Edward County Marathon 2015 Race Report

So, it's time to try and recap my third marathon so that I can remember what all of this felt like before, during, and afterward and hopefully use this information to learn and improve for future races.

The first thing to note is that I am somewhat disappointed in my execution of the race, not necessarily the result itself. Yes, I am very happy that I was able to set a Personal Best by over 33 minutes, but I am not happy with the fact that I was unable to manage the race better while I was running it. I clearly have a lot to learn about "going for it" when doing so may not be the wise choice. It is my personality to do so I guess and with that I have to grapple. I also have a few things to take away that will inform my future training as well, and that is a very good thing.

So, the lead up to the race: it was a tough Saturday in the sense that I knew we wouldn't get out of town early due to some other family commitments and also that the highway was shut down in both directions due to a massive overnight accident. We managed to get through the family commitments and then waited out the highway blockage for a bit before hitting the road shortly before 2pm for the 2.5hr drive to Picton and the Race Expo. The drive wasn't too bad and I was a passenger the entire time thanks to my wife doing all the driving (thanks!). We arrived at the Expo a bit before 5pm and I was able to get in and out pretty quickly picking up two bibs for friends as well as my own. We then drove to the cottage and had dinner. By this point I was feeling a bit tired, but at least I was settled in for the night.

Having slept ok, but just ok, I woke up at 5:30am and slowly got ready by eating a bagel and a Clif Bar, washing these down with some water and a cup of black coffee. We left at 6:15am and on the way I drank more water to ensure I was hydrated. Arriving at the race staging area, which was mercifully indoors, at 7:15am I met my friends and passed on their bibs. I then used the washroom (twice) and had a eLoad gel along with some more water about fifteen minutes before the 8am start.

The day before had been a bad day weather wise with cold temperatures and a howling wind from the East. Given that the race was a point to point course heading East this was not good at all and had me worried. On the morning of the race the winds seemed to have died down a bit, but it was certainly not what I would call calm. However, I tried to put that out of my mind and attempted to focus on the task at hand.

When the start happened I was ready to go and set off with the rest of the small contingent of 167 marathoners. I immediately paid attention to my Garmin and tried to lock in on my dream goal pace of 4:35/km. This I managed to do well right away and, as a result, I was a bit concerned that this pace didn't feel as easy early on as I though it should have.

However, I just kept on running and kept telling myself to "glide" through the first 32k. The race is all about the last 10k and I wanted to make it through the first three quarters feeling as fresh as I could. Unfortunately, this would prove impossible on the day as I started to feel that the dream goal would slip away right around the time that my right quad up near the hip began to bark at the 16k mark. I think running on the edge of the road was too much to take and my right leg took the brunt of the impact on the sloped road surface. With a sigh I resigned myself to simply finishing the race on the run as best as I could while managing the pain.

I made it through the half marathon mark in 1:37.48, good for a 4:38/km average pace, and faced the second half of the run with the wind really starting to howl near the water. And boy did it howl! Right in my face or just slightly from the right. I had to really fight through it and it definitely messed up my rhythm. It also chilled me to the core at times, but I kept on plugging away as I watched my pace slow down kilometre by kilometres.

It was at this time that I began to wonder if I'd be able to break 3h20m for the race, and then at about the 28k mark I did the math in my head and felt that this goal was also too aggressive, but that breaking 3h25m was in the bag. Boy was I wrong!!! As I came to the 30k water station I walked through for the first time and my calves both twinged with that hint of a cramp that I dreaded all along. I made the decision to run between water stations, which were every two kilometres, and walk through for both a break and to get water into me. I had been sucking down eLoad gels since about the 5k mark of the race and by this time I was onto my sixth one. I had carried 12 with me knowing I would need a lot of calories, but I simply could not ingest them fast enough and my stomach was not accepting them any faster. This is one of the many things I still have yet to learn about marathoning...

In any case, I made it to the 32k water stop and walked through. This time I slowed before walking and that helped the calves for sure. I ran to the 34k water stop as well, but it was really, really tough going at this point. I also ran to the 36k stop, and then the fun really started. At the 37k mark my left hamstring twinged enough that I had to walk a few steps to ensure it wouldn't completely cramp up. A short time later, as I was mostly done the decent incline that comes up between 37k and 38k , my hamstring cramped and I had to stop for a short stretch. I walked a bit after the stretch and ran to the 38k water stop. After that I think I ran most of the way to the 40k water stop, but I did have to stop once to stretch quickly so it wasn't ideal.

Once I made it through the 40k water stop I knew it was simply a matter to keeping going and not allowing my legs to stop me down the main stretch to the Finish in front of all the spectators. I hobbled along from 40-41k and then in the last kilometre I tried my best to pick up my pace while keeping my legs from cramping. I was also cramping a bit in the right biceps for some reason and had to keep an eye on that as well.

In the last kilometre I saw my family (who had also come to see me at that crucial 32k mark and were a big boost) and they were a big help in getting me through to the end. I was really not looking good by this point I'm sure, but I focused on the finish line visible in the distance and just kept telling myself that I was almost there. I also glanced at my watch now and then and knew I would have to fight to get under 3h25m, and so I fought.

Ultimately, I managed the second half of the race in 1:46:49 (a 9 minute positive split, so not horrible, but not ideal either) and finished with a huge Personal Best of 3h24m35.6s. I came in 18th overall and 5th in my age category, so not bad on that end as well.

After the race I stopped off at the massage tent and waited for a couple of minutes before pulling the chute on the idea due to the long line up, opting for a shower instead. The walk to the shower facilities, which one had to access through a freezing hockey rink!, was tough as both of my calves up near the knee felt about as flexible and rocks. The shower itself was totally ghetto and took forever to warm up, but I was glad to have the option anyway. Then we hit the road to get my son to his baseball team get-together that I initially thought we'd have to miss. Last note is that in my rush to get on the highway I totally did not manage to take advantage of the complimentary beer that they were serving to all finishers! Oh well...

And I suppose I should also be pleased knowing that this was not my best performance and that I still have lots of room for improvement. I am now 10 minutes away from qualifying for Boston, though likely 12-13 minutes from actually being able to register. I am a bit disappointed that the Hanson's Marathon Method, which I followed to a T for 18 weeks didn't result in the stronger finish I was hoping for irrespective of the time, but I have to also note that I started the plan on June 1st with what I can only call a minimum amount of mileage in my legs so perhaps this was the reason and not the plan itself. My initial assessment is that the plan was sound, but I would tweak it in two ways: 1. I think I need more than the 10 day taper (perhaps stretch it to two weeks), and 2. I think I need to practice marathon pace at the end of the longest of the long runs to ensure my legs are ready to run at goal pace when they are totally trashed.

Things are moving in the right direction! Now I am taking two weeks off from running and will think about next goals and races after that.

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