Monday, April 22, 2013

Boston Marathon: Still Awesome. My Race: Not so much.

I spent last week simultaneously reeling from the impact of the horrific attack on the Boston Marathon and feeling proud and humbled by the overwhelming response to my article about it. Over 30,000 people read the post, and dozens of them contacted me personally to let me know what they thought. I haven't been sent a negative response yet (although there are a few out there -- see the comments on this post). I'm glad at least something good came out of the awfulness that scarred a beautiful day.

But as I've reconnected with my local running friends, after they heard my story of what happened to me during the bombings (answer: I finished 50 minutes before the attack; I was over a mile away when it happened and I didn't see or hear the bombs, but when I found out about the attack, like everyone else, I spent the rest of the day glued to the TV), the next thing they inevitably asked was "But how was your race?"

The first thing I told them all was: it was awesome -- the crowds lining the streets, my fellow runners, the race organization; all of it was unlike anything I had ever seen.

My performance in the race, on the other hand, ranks as one of my worst. Of the seven marathons I've raced, I've only run three slower, and they were all on substantially more difficult courses (I also ran Thunder Road slower, but that was a pacing / training run; I wasn't racing). I even did better at Rocket City on a difficult, muggy day.

Why did I do so poorly? Let's compare my last six training weeks for this marathon with my training leading up to Richmond, where I qualified for Boston:

In weeks leading up to Richmond, I ran 276 miles, compared to just 200 in the leadup to Boston. Four and six weeks out, I had high-quality long runs, and sandwiched in between them, I ran a half-marathon PR at the Bridges Half Marathon.

In the weeks prior to Boston, I didn't have a single high-quality long run. The 38.64-mile run was a pacing effort in which I averaged 15:47 per mile. That's some good time-on-feet, but not exactly a marathon-prep effort. My 18- and 15-mile long runs both involved major bonks and weren't really long enough to prepare me for a marathon.

Perhaps even more important was the lack of speed work -- just one 4X8 tempo run leading up to Boston, compared to 6 speed workouts (counting my half-marathon PR) leading up to Richmond.

There were good reasons for all of this, of course: I had a busy travel schedule and I was sick for three weeks, starting 4 weeks out. It just didn't make sense to try to run hard if it was only going to make things worse.

My friend Bryan Massingale had a similar bout with flu about 4 weeks out from his most recent marathon, and like me, he ran 20+ minutes slower than he had been hoping. I'm just not sure it's possible to recover from an illness that's more significant than a minor cold  in that amount of time, especially when the illness comes just as you should be peaking in your workout cycle.

Lesson learned: I'm going to get a flu shot this week, and another one in the fall when the new flu vaccine comes out. I paid the price for neglecting my flu shot this past year, and I don't want that to happen again.

In case you want the blow-by-blow of my race, here are my splits (remember, I didn't have a Garmin, so all I got were 5K splits from the race website):

The plan had been to run as close as possible to a 7:30 pace. I'd take it easy during the downhill first 4 miles, then pick it up as the course leveled off. As you can see, the first 5K was just about spot-on. The second 5K was too. But then after that I slowed bit by bit every 5K (the 8:21 for the half split is over just 0.7 miles including the "scream tunnel" so it should be disregarded). By 35K, just after I finished the Newton Hills, I was toast. I didn't ever stop to walk, but I shuffled in at a 10:15 pace from there on out, despite a mostly-downhill course.

Not ideal at all. 15 minutes off a re-qualifying effort, and nearly 25 minutes slower than planned. But at least I know why it happened, and I have some thoughts about how to prevent it from happening again.

For now I'm going to focus on shorter races. I'll still run some marathons for "fun," but I'll stick to challenging courses where the point is simply to finish rather than to race for a particular time. Grandfather Mountain, coming up next, is one such race. Check out the elevation profile:

Click for larger image

I can't wait!

No comments:

Post a Comment