Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Reflection on My First Marathon

This past Sunday was the big day. To set the stage, the numbing rain was relentless. My hands were numb so that I couldn't feel my GPS watch vibrate each kilometer. Feet soaked even before the gun was fired, the conditions weren't enough to stop me from being consumed by happy thoughts that the day had finally come.


A) 3:20 (no)
B) 3:39 (no)
C) finish without walking (yes)


I mainly used Matt Fitzgerald's Level 2 plan from 80/20 Running. I modified it here and there to allow for me to hit certain weekly mileage markers that corresponded to the Pfitz 18/55 plan. I tried to get in a tempo run each Tuesday, an interval workout on Thursday, and a long run on Sunday. No marathon pace work was put in on Sundays, this being my first rodeo and all.

I ran into some pretty annoying foot injuries and didn't have an ideal 18 weeks of training. Things to consider next time around:

1) Bring volume way down on recovery weeks (30 or 40km max those weeks with only 4 or 5 days of running as opposed to 6.

2) Try training closer to the Pfitz plan, the differences being: a) a mid-week medium-long run b) most weeks only doing one weekday workout (either tempo or interval, not both) c) incorporating speed into my long runs (except for the week that jumps up in mileage) d) make Saturday half the distance of the long run the following day

3) Staying healthy enough to get strides and plyometric work in more frequently (2-3 times a week for each).

The Race

Out with a bang, I quickly found myself dashing along at around 4:40/km pace. Finding myself with a group and not feeling out of breath, I decided to maintain this pace till the halfway point. My novice mind convinced me that I could then slow down to 4:50 or 4:55 and not ruin my goal time. Boy was I wrong. I was trained for 4:45 or 4:50 and should have stuck to it.

The first half consisted of running through ankle-high puddles (or around them through mud). This had to slow me down and wind me up emotionally. It was easy to stay cold, but hard to stay cool in the metaphorical sense.

At about the 25k mark I felt tightness in my hip flexors. Not an injury, just the early onset of fatigue. The hip flexors were my weakest link. So, I slowed down to 4:50, which quickly turned into 5:00 or 5:10. I maintained that speed until about 34km, at which point I was down around 5:30. The wall finally came at 38km and I was bringing it home at a miserable 6:30 pace. I cried inside when the 3:30 pacer passed me as if I was standing still. My finishing time was 3:38.

After the Race

I was disappointed at first, but thrilled to see my wife and kids waiting for me at the finish line. After sleeping on it, I feel proud of what I did. Changed, in fact.

My new goals are:

1) Improve raw speed this spring. Tuesdays I will do short intervals with full recovery. Thursdays or Fridays I will then do a more traditional short interval set. A new plyometric routine will be done on the workout days, and strides will follow each easy run. I hope to run a mile for time in late May and break 6:00. My weekly mileage won't exceed 70km during this phase.

2) After that, I will work to build my mileage up above 90km over the summer. I will do workouts but stick to Farklek style speed play as much as possible. In the fall, I will begin a Pfitz-style plan (as mentioned above) for a half marathon I plan on entering in early December with a goal of breaking 1:30.

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