Post-marathon debrief

I'm really glad I took the time to write a recap and do some reflecting immediately after the marathon, because right after the race I switched gears and haven't really thought much about running or racing at all (except to wonder, "What's next?") 

All of my spare time I used to spend running was filled right away with suddenly very urgent-seeming house and wedding tasks we'd been putting off, plus some long evenings spent working. So, I better go ahead an debrief before Tobacco Road recedes in my memory, along with all of the lessons I learned, because if that happens the suffering I experienced on race day will have all been for naught!


The main thing, that is now extremely obvious to me, is that I was not in good enough shape to run a 3:35 race. In other words: No matter how "smart" I raced, it could not have happened.

Logic proof time! My assumptions going into race day were:

  1. I am in 3:35 shape;
  2. I will run a smart race (slight negative splits, no disasters);
  3. If 1 & 2 are true, I will meet my goal.

Well, I know #2 was true because I have my splits right here. And I know #3 is false, because I did not meet my goal. So therefore, #1 could not have been true. In other words, I must have overestimated my fitness.

Averaging just above pace through the half: Straight from the Smart Racing textbook.

Averaging just above pace through the half: Straight from the Smart Racing textbook.

Cue sad music.

Someone in 3:35 shape should not have bonked so early, with splits that look as nice and chill as mine do in the first 13 miles. The endurance just wasn't there. 

I really don't think Run Less, Run Faster is to blame. When I imputed my City of Oaks half marathon PR (which I got on a hilly course with low mileage interrupted by a funky hamstring pain that put me on the sidelines for a few weeks, and after a summer off of running), RLRF offered a goal marathon time of 3:50. Considering my PR is 3:45, I thought I would just aim for 3:35 anyway. For each long run, I gave myself two paces: the pace prescribed by my 3:50-predicting plan, and the pace prescribed in the "BQ plan" that comes in the book. Midway through training my long runs started to resemble those in the BQ plan more than my own 3:50 plan, which made me feel fantastic. I'm ready, I thought. I just went with it.

Was that a mistake? That's the million-dollar question, right?

^^In a marathon, there is just SO MUCH RUNNING.^^

Mid-race, while I was bonking, I was kicking myself because I knew if I had just started out in the 8:20 range I would have (1) not bonked; (2) run a perfectly comfortable 3:40ish marathon; and (3) probably felt fine the whole time. All of that sounds pretty awesome in hindsight. So maybe I would have been wise to have checked my ego and saved the sub-3:35 goal for a later race.

But the truth is,  I wanted it, I thought my training might be enough to get there, and I was in the mood to run fast without worrying too much about burning up.

I found the vulnerability that came with admitting I had a time goal to be both very uncomfortable and wildly liberating. It was more ambitious than I'm comfortable with; there was a high possibility of failure. I was never, at any point in training, confident in my ability to BQ. I realized I didn't have to know before I tried whether or not I could succeed. I could find out the answer by just trying. Deciding to just TRY felt beautiful to me, like getting out of my own way. 

When I realized I was bonking, I was at first horrified, then humiliated, then enraged, then crushed. And then, I felt peaceful and I gave in to my fate. I alternating running and walking. I did as much as  I was able. I tried to salvage it as best I could by downing tons of water and the rest of my fuel. Quite a few people from the 3:35 group had also fallen off pace, so as I passed them (or they passed me) we chatted and shared our disappointments. Kind of like every other lousy thing in life, it was horrible, but also fine. The world didn't end. 

After I crossed the finish line, I cried. I didn't feel like I'd accomplished anything; it seemed like an enormous waste of time. But now nearly a month out, I think failing was good for me. I am humbled (BOY, am I humbled!) by the marathon distance; the idea of tackling another one seems enormous, but also less scary than it's ever seemed, if that makes sense. I guess I'm saying that I really appreciate how much work it will take for me to actually qualify, and also, that I don't feel so afraid of trying something & failing at it, because it's just running, after all.

The reasons I started running are so different than the reasons I run now, and surely it's affected my running quite a bit. Maybe this deserves a post of its own, but I'm not angry like I used to be, or needing to use running to help fuel a total life change. I have really appreciated having the time and space away from training lately, though I hope the urge to run hard and break my personal records returns this summer, because I have a loooong list of races I'd like to run. Recovery-wise, I ran only one time, about a week ago, and my knees began hurting pretty badly about a mile in. Instead, I've been spending more time on my bike (bike commuting, mostly) and going for long walks.

Despite what this long post suggests, running is one of the furthest things on my mind these days -- I feel like I'm settling into a quiet, contemplative space in preparing to get married in a few weeks. I do have my eye on a half marathon in June, but it seems wise to wait and see how I feel over the next month or so before registering for anything!