I’ve had two days to mull over what went wrong at the marathon last Sunday. I ran a 4:08, a number I should be (and am) very proud of. But if I ran the race a little smarter, I could have smashed the 4 hour barrier. So without further adieu, here are the biggest mistakes I made during the White Rock Lake Marathon. (By the way, click here to see a MotionBased analysis of my marathon based on my Garmin 305).
1) Misjudged my talent: I ran four runs that were 20 miles or longer during training. The fastest overall pace in any of the runs was an 8:24 pace I kept for a 22-miler on Nov. 22, three weeks and a day before the marathon. The pace of my other 20-milers ranged from 8:28 to 8:42. During the first half of the marathon, I should have run every mile no faster than 8:30 because that’s where my training was.
But what did I do? During the first half of the marathon, every mile after Mile 1 was faster than 8:30, including 8 faster than 8:20. I hit the first half in 1:49. I had never run the first 13.1 miles this fast in any of my long training runs.
And why did I think I could be so fast? Five days after my last 20-miler, I ran a 5K pr of 19:25, then followed that up 40 minutes later with a 10k pr of 44:25. During seven of my last nine runs before the marathon, my average pace for those runs was lows 8s or better. It was so effortless to run a sub 8-minute mile.
But I should have realized that the fast 5k and 10k times only meant I that I had the potential to clock some really fast marathon times. Potential. To reach that potential, I probably needed to average 55 miles or more a week during my 16 weeks of training. I averaged 41 miles a week, and hit 55 miles just once.
… Which leads me to my second deadly sin on marathon day.
2) Didn’t readjust my pace to the weather. It felt so easy to run because it was so cold during my training runs. Two of my last three long runs were done with temperatures in the 40s. My 12-miler two weeks before the marathon and my 9-miler one week later came with temps in the 30s. So when I toed the line in Sunday’s high 60s degree weather, my body was out of its element _ despite the fact that the first three months of training came in the steamy hot summer and fall Texas weather.
The thing is, I knew early in the week that the marathon would be hot and windy. And I knew by Friday that the winds would be in the 20mph hour range, and that miles 14 to 18 would be right into the wind. In optimal weather, with my training, as I stated in reason No. 1, I should have started the first half of the race no faster than 8:30 miles. With the heat, I should have backed that off to 8:35 to 8:40, and with the wind on the back side of the lake, Miles 14 to 18 should have been closer to 9:45 to even 10:00 minute miles.
But what did I do? Well, you already know that I ran my first half too fast. During the miles where the wind was right in my face, I tried to run through it, “man-up” so to speak. Miles 14, 15, and 16, I ran a minute per mile faster than I had any business running and by the end of 16 I felt the first cramp coming on. Many people get tired, or winded and can’t keep pace. I cramp. That’s how I hit the wall. And by Mile 20, because I’d used up so much energy, I was face to face with the wall.
3) Didn’t pack enough nutrients. I packed four GUs and 9 ecaps in my fanny pack on marathon morning. I figured I’d have a Gu every five miles and two ecaps every hour. I thought this would be plenty of fuel for what I thought would be a 3:30 to 3:40 race. But because I misjudged what I would need in these weather conditions, I was damn near out of fuel by Mile 19. I remember that I had just three ecaps left at Mile 19. In training and up until this point in the race, I was taking two at a time with two cups of water. I decided to take all three just before getting to the Hooters girls aide station. In my race report post, I said I was able to run sub 10-minute miles during Miles 22 and 23 because I changed my stance. But as my memory gets clearer about the day, I was actually able to do some decent running because by the end of Mile 21, those ecaps started kicking in. But because I didn’t have any more left, the cramps came back at Mile 24 and stayed with me, unfortunately, for the rest of the race. Nothing else after that would help. Not gatorade. Not pretzels. Not more water.
4) I panicked and forgot to replicate what I did in training. During my training runs, I stopped at every aide station, stretched any achy quad or groin muscle, and continued. I never got a cramp during my training runs. During the marathon, I lost my mind. I was so worried about keeping a good time that I walked fast through the aide stations, making it tough to drink water. (I managed two cups at every station, just like in training). What the heck was I thinking? And I didn’t stop to stretch until Mile 16. By then, my quads and hamstrings were just about in knots. Near the end of the race, especially the last three miles, I couldnt think straight (and my co-worker who I wrote about earlier giving my the drill sergeant routine didnt make things any easier). There were some stretches I could have done for my quads, which would have bought me an extra quarter to half mile here and there, but I forgot all about those stretches. I panicked. Plain and simple. You know how they tell you to stop, drop, and roll if you are on fire. I should have stopped, dropped, and stretched, but during the final three miles, I kept run/walking and I was still on fire.
5) I tapered too much. Three weeks is a long time between your last long run and your marathon. At least it is for me it seems. My last long training run, 22 miles, was Nov. 22. By Thanksgiving Day, I had already recovered enough to run the 5k and 10k prs. On Dec. 6, I ran 9.2 miles in 1:14 (8:06 pace) and it was the easiest nine miles I’d ever run in my entire life. Again, the temperature was 30 degrees cooler than it would be during the marathon, but still, I feel like I was at my peak fitness level then. And yet, there was still one more week to go before the marathon. And what did I do? Lots of celebratory drinking, lots of short 3- to 4-mile runs. They all felt easy, but I could just feel the fitness oozing out of me. My body went on vacation one week before it was supposed to.
I think for my next marathon, I am going to run my last long run (maybe only an 18-miler) two weeks before the marathon instead of three weeks.