Week 19 - Marathon Man!
In case you don’t follow my twitter, I did it! It took me 3 hours and 53 minutes to finish, but I crossed that line on my own two feet. That’s an average of 8:54 a mile, but that definitely doesn’t tell the whole story.
You couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day. The sun was shining, the temps were in the 60s, and the humidity was low. After such a hot summer, I was pretty concerned over what the weather was going to be like. Looks like I needn’t have worried about the weather. The trail, however, was a different story.
I started the race strong, pacing a bit fast at ~8:15min/mile. I kept that pace right up until mile 13. That’s when the trail took a turn for the worse. The first half of the marathon was on streets and paved or cinder trails. As promised in the course description, the trails were mostly cinders, which are fine for those running in Vibram Bikilas, like me. Around the halfway point, the cinders gave way to dirt and rocks. Oh goody, pain. My pace slackened to ~8:40min/mile and my poor left foot started hurting on the ball. You know, where I land, all the time. Despite my best efforts, I would land on rock after rock. My audible curses and flailing limbs of frustration must have been an interesting sight.
Somewhere around mile 18 the trail gave way to a gravel road. Not like a nice gravel road, but cracked asphalt covered with rocks. At this point I actually stopped running and walked for a bit. Not because I was tired, mind you, but because it was too painful to run. Some other runners in regular shoes did the same. The stretch was only a half-mile or so, but it was enough to ruin my mood for a while.
After mile 20, the trails got better and my mood improved somewhat. The longest I had ever run was twenty miles, so each step was the furthest I had ever run. That was a pretty awesome feeling. It was 2:49:31 when I hit 20 miles and it had taken me 2:53:50 when I did that in training. I was ahead of my previous pace, and still feeling pretty OK. Now all I needed to do was to run a 10k. No problem, I do that all the time. I’ve got this thing licked.
At mile 22 I hit the wall.
Honestly, I wasn’t even breathing hard. My feet and my legs just couldn’t keep going. I was trying not to walk except at water stations. But at mile 22, I just started walking for a bit. It was my longest mile by a long shot at 10:27. But it was what I needed to get back on track. I had not hydrated enough or eaten enough gels. I just needed a minute to rest and regroup.
For the remaining 3 miles my time steadily improved and I started feeling better. I had drank double water rations at the last station and eaten an extra gel. My energy level was perking up, and I could feel some strength returning to my muscles. I managed to finish strong with a final mile of about 9:00min/mile.
I’ve heard the run down victory lane is euphoric, but I didn’t feel that way. Honestly, I was exhausted and frustrated with the course, and even though I turned in a respectable time, I feel like I could have done better.
After I crossed the line they handed me a towel and medal. Then someone offered me one of those foil blankets. I am still not sure what those things are for. Maybe warmth or something? I declined. I limped my way to the food table and grabbed a water bottle. In only a few minutes I had polished it off, and went back for a second and a soft pretzel and banana. There was a curb that invited me to sit on it and I obliged. When I went to eat my pretzel, I realized I had blood on my hand. That’s weird. I don’t remember bleeding anywhere. That’s when I looked down and realized.
My nipples were bleeding.
Yep. Just like Andy (the Nard Dogg) Bernard from The Office. My poor nipples had been chafed to the point of bleeding, and I had been so distracted by my other aches and sores I had not even noticed. I began to feel embarassed and self-conscious. Here I was sitting on a curb with bloody nipple stains on my shirt. I did the only logical thing I could think of. I took my shirt off.
That actually helped substantially, and without something rubbing them, the bleeding ceased quickly. I have no idea when it started, or how long it went on. But you can clearly see it in my finishing photos, which I will not share in part because they are not mine to share, and in part because, well, shame.
How do I feel now that the race is done? Physically, my feet are still recovering. Especially my left foot. No idea why that bore the brunt of the punishment, but the ball and outer side of my foot are both bruised. This makes walking a somewhat comical, nay farcical affair. I did get a new blister on my left big toe as well, but that was a simple drain and band-aid job.
Mentally, well, immediately after the race I felt sad. Like almost crying sad. That’s not something I feel a lot, and it took me by surprise. There are several contributing factors there.
First, most of the people who crossed that finish line either did it with someone or had someone waiting. Don’t get me wrong. I am a lone runner. That is my preference. I do not want to run in a pack per se. But seeing all these other people celebrating together made me a little sad. It would have been a huge pain for anyone to drive up and greet me at the finish line, and I didn’t ask anyone to do so. In retrospect, I wish that I had. My wife has promised me that she will be at the finish line of my next race, and really all I had to do was ask.
The second thing I pin mostly on adrenaline, and coming off the runner’s high. It’s definitely a crash, and I suspect the more exhausted you are at the end, the bigger the subsequent crash.
The third point is the disappointment that comes when you complete a massive undertaking. I am no stranger to this. When I graduated from college and grad school, I felt the same thing. At first it’s a relief that this extraordinarily difficult task is finally over and you are now free to pursue whatever suits your fancy. But there’s also that nagging feeling of loss; a loss of purpose and drive. That can be a real bummer.
So all those things made for a cocktail of sadness immediately following my triumph. Now that’s it’s been a few days, I don’t feel that way anymore. Memory has already started its skew, and I am recalling the whole thing more fondly by the minute. The marathon was good, and my time was good. But it could be better. It will be better. Next time.
Speaking of next time, I’ve analyzed where I went wrong and I think I can improve a lot with a few simple tweaks. Here they are:
- Carry more water with me - I totally ran out and the water stations are unreliable in their frequency and distribution
- Know the trails better - the rocks and gravel took me by surprise, next time I’ll be prepared
- Eat more often - I was worried about running out of gels, when I should have been worried about running out of fuel
- Start slower - it’s tempting to run ahead of the pack, but I should know better
- More strength training - My glutes, calves, and quads really started getting tired at the end, I need more muscle to do less working individually
With those simple tweaks, I think I can shave 20 minutes off my time easily. I doubt I’ll ever run a 3 hour marathon, but I would feel great running a 3:33. That’s all for next fall though.
Coming up this Spring? PHLYTRI! I’ll be blogging that one too, and trying to keep up with the week to week. If you’ve been following me, then I thank you. I hope my posts have helped or impacted you in some way. This has been a great experience, and I am excited to do it again!
Week 17-18/18 - Marathon Training
This is it! I am posting this the day before the marathon. Here’s some stats:
Week 17 stats:
- Tuesday: 5.54 mi in 44m:28s at 8:01 min/mile
- Wednesday: 8.09 mi in 1h:05m:44s at 8:07 min/mile
- Friday: 4.37 mi in 33m:49s at 12.3 at 7:45 min/mile
- Sunday: 12.36mi in 1h:38m:56s at 8:00 min/mile
- Total: 30.36 mi at 8:00 min/mile
Week 18 stats:
- Wednesday: 4.02 mi in 30m:30s at 7:36 min/mile
- Thursday: 6.02 mi in 47m:57s at 7:58 min/mile
- Friday: 3.03 mi in 23m:16s at 7:41 min/mile
- Sunday: 8.04mi in 1h:04m:20s at 8:00 min/mile
- Total: 21.10 mi at 7:52 min/mile
I am going to skip week 19 stats since they will include the marathon. The last two weeks have been good for me. While tapering off I have found more speed and energy for my runs. The only real problem I ran into were the big freakin’ cuts on my instep!
Let me back up. My current shoes are the Vibram Bikila LS, that’s the speed lace version of the Bikala that traditionally has a strap. This will become important information shortly. The shoes stink, and by that I mean they smell terrible. Apparently this is pretty common amongst Five Finger wearers, so much so that it is known as the Five Finger Funk. There are whole message boards dedicated to removing the stink from Vibram shoes. I’ve seen people recommend vinegar soaks, Nature’s Miracle, Oxi-clean, and a bunch of other ideas. The primary issue is that most people wear their Vibrams sans socks, so all that sweaty goodness gets released into the fabric of the shoe. Add to that the warm foot and dark space, and you’ve got quite the breeding ground for delightfully noxious bacteria.
My shoes had reached a point where they we getting too stinky to keep indoors, and the tread on the bottom had almost worn away in places. It seemed like an opportune time to replace them, you know, two weeks before I attempt a marathon. That should have set sirens off in my head. Why would you try to make a major change two weeks before you attempt to run the farthest you ever have? Cause you’re an idiot.
Naturally, I went out and bought new shoes. But why stick to the same tried and true model? Vibram has a new model out called the Seeya, and it is designed specifically for road runners. It is lighter and thinner that the Bikila. Sounds great! I bought a pair and decided to run my long run of the week in them. It’s definitely a good idea to run 12 miles in a new pair of shoes, right? No. It is not. Seeya’s have a strap, not laces. And the guy at the shoe store mentioned that the place where the strap is sewn into the shoe might give me a slight blister until I got used to it. After three miles I felt the irritation. Six miles in it started to really hurt. Somewhere around nine miles it stopped hurting, and that was the most disconcerting thing of all. When I finally finished and took off my shoes, I saw that the inner wall of both was soaked in blood.
It is now two weeks later and the wounds are still healing. Up until yesterday I was still wearing band-aids on both feet to keep my socks from getting stained. I have been constantly applying anti-bacterial ointment, because I can’t imagine running with infected wounds on my feet. It was a bad idea to change shoes this close to the race. It was a worse idea to change shoe styles. And it was colossally stupid to attempt a 12 mile run in them without first trying a shorter run. Needless to say, I haven’t worn the shoes since, and I’m not sure that I ever will. If I hadn’t bled all over them, I would try to return them.
The most frustrating part is that I had my fastest 12 mile run ever in those shoes. Maybe the pain was a motivating factor, or maybe it was the lighter and thinner shoes. I was really hoping to wear them for tomorrow’s big race, but it looks like I’ll be wearing my super-stinky, old faithfuls. Hopefully no one behind me is knocked unconscious, though it might be good motivation for them to pass me.
I was going to talk about the race and how I am feeling. But right now I am feeling tired and anxious. What I really need is a good nights sleep, and to get to the starting line. I know once I get a mile or two in, all the worry and anxiety will melt away and I will be able to lose myself in the rhythm of the race. You can be sure that there will be a big post later about the race and how it all went. If you happen to be in Easton and want to cheer me on, go for it!
See you at the finish line!
Week 5/18 - Marathon Training
Week four, get ready for some more!
- Monday: 3.39 mi in 25m:44s at 7:35 min/mile
- Tuesday: 4.01 mi in 30m:21s at 7:34 min/mile
- Wednesday: 3.38 mi in 25m:45s at 7:37 min/mile
- Friday: 9.27mi in 1h:15m:04s at 8:06 min/mile
- Total: 20.05 mi at 7:50 min/mile
I was a little nervous bumping things all the way up to 9 miles on Friday, but it worked out pretty well. In the past I would just weave up and down the side streets of my neighborhood for both short and long runs. Lately, I have grown bored with the same old streets, and instead I have branched out. Big loops around the surrounding neighborhoods are getting bigger and bigger, and I am enjoying the novelty of running places I have only ever driven. If the impulse grabs me, I can cut down a side street and check out the sites, or stay on the main thoroughfare and go further and further. As the runs get longer, it will be fun to see how big the loops are going to get, and what towns I end up in.
One thing that I have found as I expand my runs is that there is a distinct lack of sidewalks, or at the very least sidewalks begin and end randomly on main streets. I don’t mind too much when there is a shoulder to fall back on, but sometimes there’s barely even that. Naturally, I run against traffic so I can see if someone doesn’t see me, but I would rather that were not necessary. Most annoying is when there is a sidewalk and it stops for a few houses and then picks up again. I realize that for people who don’t use sidewalks often this may not be much of a priority, but would it kill you to keep the pavement going? My other pet peeve is letting trees and shrubbery overgrow your sidewalk. But that is a rant for another post.
It’s no secret that I don’t like running on a treadmill. There’s nothing that makes me miserable and bored quite so quickly, except maybe the dentist. This was a visceral feeling, and I didn’t necessarily have a cogent line of reasoning to back up my feeling. Thank goodness Science! has come to my rescue. Here’s the relevant portion from the abstract:
”Compared with exercising indoors, exercising in natural environments was associated with greater feelings of revitalization and positive engagement, decreases in tension, confusion, anger, and depression, and increased energy. However, the results suggested that feelings of calmness may be decreased following outdoor exercise. Participants reported greater enjoyment and satisfaction with outdoor activity and declared a greater intent to repeat the activity at a later date.”
The theory behind this is based on two things. The first is that running outside triggers your flight or fight response and dumps adrenaline into your system. The other is that the constantly changing environment keeps your mind engaged and interested. I’ve always felt that was the case, and now science backs me up. The study was not exhaustive by any means, and I would be curious to see what a larger, long-term study would discover. For me, though, the jury is in. Running on a treadmill is a life-sucking, disheartening experience. Running outside is invigorating and relaxing.
In other awesome science news, it turns out that beer is a better re-hydration liquid than water after a workout. The article does come with some caveats, but I like to airbrush over all that and note the main takeaway. A pint after a workout sounds awesome to me! Especially since I will be running in the 1/2 Sauer 1/2 Kraut 1/2 Marathon on June 16. At the conclusion of the race they promise to give you some beer and brats as you enjoy the tunes of UberHans. Sounds better than Gatorade and gels to me!