Wednesday, August 3, 2016

What Happened at My Last Marathon?

I ran the Jack and Jill Downhill trail marathon this past weekend in North Bend, WA. I was trying to qualify for Boston. I needed a sub-3:30 finish, but finished with a time of 4:00:56 (200th out of 572 finishers). What the hell happened?

My half-marathon split time was 1:42. Faster than I needed and I felt good. The wheels came off around 16-17 miles. My legs were dead. I was still mentally fine, but had no leg power. That's when my pace really slowed and I was jog/walking. It was bad and it never got better (until one mile to go and I tried to break 4:00 barrier). Anyway, it was a terrible marathon finish (one of my slowest)--what the hell happened?

Here are my thoughts on what happened and why I slowed down so much. They are in order of importance, but I think they all played a role:

1. The continuous downhill course beat the hell out of my legs. Central Illinois doesn't have many hills, so my training was on flat or slightly rolling trails and roads. I'm not acclimated to downhill running and my legs gave out around 16-17 miles.

2. I went out too fast for the first 13 miles. My first half-split time was an average pace of 7:48. Too many 7:30-7:45 miles at the beginning. Maybe this beat up my legs...and burned through my glucose. Too much carb-burning rather than fat-burning.

3. I got dehydrated. There were too few aid stations and I didn't drink enough at each one. I think this caused me to fall behind on my hydration...and likely calories too. The one time I peed, around mile 18, it was very dark urine (and very little volume).

4. I hit the wall. My fast pace, combined with too few fluids and calories, caused me to burn through carbs too quickly and I hit the wall. Without carbs, my legs were running on slow-burning fat reserves.

5. Too much activity the day before the race. I arrived on Saturday afternoon (central Illinois to Seattle) and my brother immediately took me to a late lunch. Then out to race packet pick-up and a look at the course at four spots (start, finish, 16 mile, 21 mile) along the point to point course. Then late dinner and finally back to his home to unpack and get to sleep around 11pm. I was tired. Sunday morning was an early wake-up call and longish drive to the start.

By mile 18-19, I felt like I had run 100 miles. I almost dropped at 21 miles. This is where the course becomes flat for the last 5 miles. I thought things would get better so I kept going. Nope, same tired and dead legs. Even slower pace.

Overall, it was still a good experience. I'd run this race again. The downhill course makes it fast...if you train correctly. I'd need more long runs on hilly trails. And strength training for the legs. I'd take in more calories (maybe even carry a small water bottle). I would start at goal pace, not faster, and try to maintain it to mile 21, then push harder on the 5-mile flat section to the finish. And...I'd fly in earlier and relax before race day.

No time to get depressed about the failed Boston attempt...I have an 8-hour ultra in 10 days. It's Howl at the Moon time.

Special thank you to my brother and his wife--they were a great support crew for the marathon!

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