I've learned a lot in this last year .
The Chicago marathon on 10-10-10 was just 364 days after my first ever marathon.
10/11/09 - Chicago. I didn't have a clue how to train, did many things wrong. In hindsight I'm surprised I stayed healthy. I ran it, scrapped a BQ but completely fell apart over the last 6 miles. I felt I should have done better so immediately started training for CIM 8 weeks later. Got injured (surprise), ran it on limited training. Improved my time to 3.17.47, but faded badly again. Switched to mid-foot running. Trained for my first Boston - I finally used a plan (Pfitz) but likely still did my LR and MLR's too fast and ran too many miles (up to 85 / week), got achilles tendonitis 18 days before, suffered through a painful race in 3.45.
In just over 6 months I'd run 3 marathons - none of which I was happy with.
So this time around - after recovering from the AT injury in June and my hernia surgery, and then the trip to Africa, I started a 12 week plan for Chicago. This time I trained slower on all my LRs and MLRs. I used my HR monitor to guide my pace, not my ego. I backed off the mileage a little.
I saw the results. I only ran 2 races this summer - a 5K and a half. But I killed both of my PRs.
Both of these predicted out to a 3.02 marathon. Despite the improvements, I didn't have the confidence that I could do that. I'd faded badly in my previous runs, so maybe a half was my better distance. Sure - now as a certified RCAA running coach, I knew the physiology of why training slower helped recruit muscle fibres to work aerobically and should help reduce the fade - but I hadn't seen it in practice.
Going into Chicago - I decided my A goal was 3.05. Get a time in that neighborhood, and I'd have the confidence that I could indeed run the faster times. I wasn't ready to try to go sub 3.
Then the forecast. Crap. 82 degrees forecast, humidity. Here in Colorado I ran early to avoid the heat and we have pretty much no humidity. This is terrible.
I seriously thought about bailing. After 2 Pfitz training cycles - I needed something to show for all that work. Denver was the following weekend. I could run my time then.
After much thought I came to Chicago, my mind wasn't really in it, but I wanted to meet everyone and have fun. I'm going to at least start.
Still - I was going to start slowly, and was preparing to bail at the half at the slightest hint of discomfort. Not the ideal mental state to be going into a marathon.
3.05 - 3.10 was now the A goal.
Met my friends from the Runners World forums pre-race, headed down, used the gatorade / trash sack porto potty.
The overnight predictions of 'high 50s' never materialized. This from the WGN news after the race. We started at 67 degrees, and temps quickly went up. They changed the 'threat' level of the race from green to orange and then to red around the 4 hour mark when it was close to 80 degrees.
We were off. My splits are a combination of what I remember, and what I've pieced together from gamin when it wasn't jacked up with the tall buildings and the official splits.
I started slowly. Breathe, relax, keep monitoring your HR, don't get tripped.
Mile 1. 7.25. Nice. It's crowded, but I'm feeling good.
A little faster.
Mile 2. 7.16.
Ok. HR is in the low 150s. That's good. In Boston - for many reasons - it was in the high 170s at this point. Stomach doesn't feel good tho'. I can taste the ultra fuel still there. No gatorade for a while just water.
Mile 3 - moving out of downtown. 7.05. That's a 3.05 pace. Overtake the 'B corral' 3.10 pace team.
5K - 22.34, for a 7.16 avg.
Mile 4. 7.05.
Mile 5. 7.05.
This is actually pretty good. Feeling very easy. Well within myself.
Mile 6. 7.04.
I catch Ashley from the Boston forums. Say a quick hellow. Sounds like she's decided to take it easy today.
Mile 7. 7.05.
Into boys town. Missed the cheerleaders on the stage this year. Someone gives me a bottle of water. Thanks.
Overtake the A corral 3.10 group. Think about staying with them, but decide I'm feeling too good to go 7.15 pace.
Mile 8. 7.05.
Mile 9. 7.05
Mile 10. 7.04
This is clockwork. Time to start thinking about your 'bail' decision. Do you want to stop at the halfway point and do Denver next weekend ? Decide to decide just before I get there.
Mile 11. 7.04
Mile 12. 7.04
Mile 13. 7.00
Ok - decision time. I'm sure I'm going to die in a few miles, but I've come this far. Who's to say I'll be in any better shape next week. Think of Zab's boston mantra. Balls on the table. 13 miles to suck it up baby.
Push in my chips. I'm all in.
Half in 1.33.18
Funny - 18 months ago, that would have been over a 2 minute PR for a half. HR still hovering around 160. Well within my 'range'.
Now we're into the sun and it's getting hot. I saw later from WGN news that miles 13 - 16 were the hottest part of the course. Stomach still feels crappy. I haven't taken a gel yet, and have no interest in one either. No gatorade either. Just water.
Mile 14. 7.05
Thinking 3.05 might be possible. Time to pick it up a little.
Mile 15. 6.57
Mile 16. 6.58
Mile 17. 6.59
Feeling good. Just waiting for that fade though. Damn it's hot.
Mile 18. 7.01
Mile 19. 7.08
Mile 20. 7.14
Not sure what happened there. Still feeling good. Maybe the heat was getting to me more than I realized. See a bank clock saying 78 degrees. Crap.
Could that be CGRITT from the boards up ahead ? Looks like him. Gaining, see the tattoo. Say a quick hello as we hit China town. Still feeling good.
Mile 21. 7.07
Where's the fade ? I was dying last year at this point but now I'm 'that guy' picking off people. Still no gels. Started out with 4, and I've got 4 in my pocket. Too cheap to throw them away. Just water too. Wonder if that'll hurt me - no extra carbs or salt.
Mile 22. 7.22
Uhoh. Starting to think 3.05 isn't going to happen today. Still not feeling bad though.
Mile 23. 7.20. Keeping it together. Just. Starting to feel very light headed. Hoping not to fall over. Just 5K to go though. Picturing the local 5K course and thinking about starting to run it. I'm going to do this.
Mile 24. 7.36. There she goes... still - not a big fade. Also amazed that despite my slowing down - everyone is slowing down too. Not getting passed by people. I'm with runners from the 3 hour pace group - all hurting together. The heat seems to be getting to everyone here.
Mile 25. 7.49. Hold it together for one more mile. F**k it's hot.
Mile 26. 7.38. Where's that stupid turn off Michigan avenue onto the Mount Roosevelt ? What ? All the way in the distance ?
Finally the turn. Try to hold it together up the hill, feeble attempt at a sprint. Look at watch. You can get under 3.09 if you sprint faster. Sprint faster.
And I'm done. 3.08.56. Wow. That's almost a 9 minute PR. In less than ideal conditions, with a poor mind set going in, without taking a gel or gatorade all race.
What I learned:
- Most importantly. I now have the confidence that I CAN run faster. Until the end, I was cruising around the 7.05 pace for a 3.05. In cooler conditions, I'm pretty sure I could have gone faster. And the fade at the end, really wasn't as bad as I've had before, and can easily be attributed to the heat, and no carb intake during the race.
- Training slow to race faster absolutely worked. Thank you everyone for finally getting that into my stubborn head.
- Pre-race ultra fuel loading works, but I need to be smarter. I drank too much too close to the start. Fortunately the late Boston start should help next time.
- I'm no longer going to be afraid of less than ideal conditions. It's not the end of the world. Starting slower and aiming for a time just a little slower than I would have in cooler conditions helped me keep things together.
Finally - I ran a marathon that I'm happy with.
Then it was time to party with my friends. Good times.