Looking back before racing ahead

It had been a while since I was that nervous for a sporting event. I mean, I never really reached any significant level in minor sports but the 2012 Legs for Literacy marathon was a special event personally – a Bucket List moment which I delighted in sharing with my family for a weekend getaway in Moncton.

That was last October and while I was so happy I finished in 4:13:13, I never truly evaluated my performance, other than feeling fantastic about finishing and understanding there was a lot of room for improvement.

So before I get too far into the 2013 Marathon training, I needed to review my result in Moncton.

BEWARE – Number crunching ahead!

My optimism levels were reasonably good for that first marathon, considering I had a 38:02 clocking in the Hampton five miler about five weeks before. I had a tough time in the half at the Marathon By the Sea (August, 1:52:53), dealing with hills, no taper and high humidity but I was thrilled with a 1:42:53 in the Fredericton half marathon in May. It was this result which gave me the confidence to go ahead and give the 42.2k a try. Looking back, that time provided a little too much confidence during the dog days of summer training and I think caused me to believe I could always maintain that speed with basic maintenance running in the summer (i.e. no tempos or hills). One of many lessons learned along the way.

For Moncton, I used the Hal Higdon Intermediate 2 plan, which called for long runs on Sunday that grew in distance each time out. There were also two weekly medium long runs that progressed in length throughout the journey as well. Things were completed with small maintenance runs that assisted in boosting mileage. I tried to run throughout each of the runs, not deploying the 10-1 philosophy some suggest. Mileage peaked at approximately 45 miles per week.

Generally, my pace for the shorter runs was at 5:45 per kilometre and the long runs clocked at 6:00-6:05 per kilometre. A massive challenge was discipline, particularly with eating, diligently completing those medium runs. At times, I struggled in longer runs with stomach issues.

Using past performance as a guide and the great unknown as a reality check, I figured I might fall anywhere between 3:50 and 4:30.

Prior to the Moncton, we arrived the day before, enjoyed the carbo loading meal and took in Crystal Palace with the girls before calling it a night.

The next morning, I was up early and because the hotel’s entrance was adjacent to the start line – I was one of the first ones there! There were some anxious pre-race moments as my battery for my MP3 player went dead and at 6:30 a.m., it was hard to find another. Thankfully, I got one from a generous hotel clerk, who had a supply on hand!

After a warm up and seeing some friends near the start line, the horn sounded and we were off. It was hard to hold back from the surging pull of the rabbits in the early stages but I tried to keep in mind that a 5:41/k pace would get me near 4 hours at the end. As it turned out, I went out a little too fast, held on for about 32 k and then hit the dreaded wall. That is not a smack, slamming feeling but one of sheer and utter exhaustion. Next time, I hope to avoid that stage.

Anyway, here are the splits with a few comments: For nutrition, I ate a chocolate gel every seven KM and drank a few sips of water every 2.5 k.

First 10k (55:35) – 5:41, 5:39, 5:30, 5:29, 5:21, 5:27, 5:38, 5:34, 5:36, 5:36. (Felt too good at 4-6 km, was high fiving volunteers, low fiving others, thumbs up to all, not conserving energy)

Second 10k (1:51:40) – 5:34, 5:39, 5:29, 5:46, 5:35, 5:36, 5:35, 5:33, 5:36, 5:38 (pretty consistent but 3-11 seconds per km faster than desired pace, not  a big deal I thought. Wrong).

Halfway 1:57:13 (the turnoff toward the finish for the half marathoners took place at about 18-19 k, so midway through, there were very few of us on the full course, alone with our thoughts in the middle of a nice flat trail).

Third 10 k (2:50:00) 5:32, 5:34, 5:36, 5:52, 5:25; 5:40, 5:45, 6:04; 6:28; 6:18 (still felt pretty good until I encountered the gentle rolling hills in Dieppe. Stopped a couple of times in 28th, 29th and 30th kilometres but always got back at it and felt I could deal with it, which was evidenced early in next segment. I also thought since I had banked some time earlier, that as long as I resumed, I’d be OK to finish steady…of note, banking time in a marathon is not a good idea).

Fourth 10 k (3:55:05) 5:49, 5:37, 6:39, 6:49, 6:42, 6:41, 6:40, 6:10, 6:45, 7:07 (at 31-32k I thought I had recovered from the worst. But the continuing rolling hills in Dieppe and my earlier enthusiasm got to me. From 33-37k, it was a lot of 2 minutes run, 30 seconds walk, or 1 minute run, 1 minute walk – in other words, slow going; I recovered slightly for 38th kilometre and then fatigue really hit. I had a hard time lifting my legs in 39th and 40th kilometres. People were passing me with ease. The finish seemed light years away. Honestly, it was quite a fight at this point.

Moncton run 053web

The final stage (4:13.13) 7:43, 7:15, 3:11 (My Garmin measured 42.52k which from what I understand is normal. I read prior to the event that apparently Garmins can be off one per cent, which accounts for the difference from the official distance. But the 41st and 42nd  kilometres were torture, really. The pace bunny for 4 hours had come back to help, encouraging me to the finish. Finally, the last turn came and the final stretch run of about 400 metres was down Main Street in front of the crowd that remained. When my daughters joined me, I mustered up whatever bit of energy I had and pointed toward for home. It was a special moment, with them along for the ride. Prior to the race, the girls and Kathy each gave me a stone with an inspirational message on it that I did hold at various times in the race.

When I finished, I could barely walk and was surprised how instantly cold I got. I was elated to finish, caught off guard on emotions and thankful the girls were there. I got a massage but it was awful as I cramped the entire time.

I chugged 4-5 chocolate milks, warmed up and that was that! My friend April snapped some great shots and at Christmas time, Kathy gave me a framed print of one of the photos along with the stones and a small plaque with my time engraved. Very special.

Start 8:15 a.m. finish 12:28 p.m.

Average pace 5:57; calories burned 3,797 (that is the equiv of two of those massive bags of nibs – trust me, I know).

Looking back, it was an accomplishment I took more and more pride in during the winter. Reviewing it with an eye on improving, my long runs in training were too fast, and for various reasons, I had to stop on many of them, even briefly. Also, on race day I went out way too fast (55:35 for first 10k) in the big race and I paid the price. I probably should have paid a bit more attention to my diet (damn Party Mix!).

All lessons learned.

All in all, a wonderful experience and when looking back when I weighed 235 pounds in 2006, it was something I never envisioned taking place.

Now for the second one!