3rd Time’s a Charm

The Houston Marathon will be my 3rd Full Marathon and I have high hopes of walking (or being carried) away from it with a nice little PR and, as important, a sense of accomplishment for finally achieving my goal for a marathon. I can’t say that marathon #1 and #2 were all bad, because I learned A TON and on #2 I was very happy with the outcome (i.e. my time). But I still did not meet my goal.

Let me recap:

Marathon #1 – 2009 Community Health Network Indianapolis Marathon: 4:23:35

I went into the training without a great base. I had completed my 4th half marathon about 2 months before starting the training, but didn’t maintain that distance and I definitely remember the first 8-mile run being pretty tough. I used the Run Less, Run Faster novice plan and was diligent with it. I stuck to the plan, doing all of the speed workouts, tempos and long runs. But what I know now is that I was ALL OVER THE PLACE in terms of pace.

The key to RLRF is that every workout is a focused run, designed around your marathon goal pace. I didn’t really know what my goal pace was and therefore I didn’t really target smart paces. I did the majority of the long runs with my friend Amy (who is fast!) and while she was training for a marathon with her dad and not so focused on pace either, I felt like I never wanted to hold her back, so I just ran at the paces I thought I should be able to maintain for all of the long runs. This left me finishing every single long run absolutely dragging. Every single time I upped the mileage, I remember feeling overwhelmed and not knowing if I could do it. And every time I would feel like I was dying in the last 2 miles.

I did learn some things about fueling and hydrating and experimented with Gu and other nutrition, but don’t think I ever really nailed that down either.

So come race day, I set out with a goal to finish between 3:45 – 3:50 and targeted about an 8:40 – 8:45 pace. I still really don’t know what happened. Maybe I didn’t fuel well for the actual race, maybe I didn’t hydrate well after flying the previous day, but it was rough. I already felt tired at mile 9ish and at 13, I seriously contemplated following the 1/2 marathon group to the finish. I probably would have if my now brother-in-law, Drew, hadn’t said to me the night before, you will always regret it if you quit at the half. By mile 16, I was struggling bad.

I slowed my pace significantly and by mile 19, my calves were cramping and I was done. I hit mile 20 around 2:55 and then proceeded to take almost 90 minutes to complete the last 6.2 miles. It was brutal, cold, miserable and I walked across the finish line. I was super disappointed in the outcome, but certainly happy I finished.

A bunch of Brad’s family (bro, sis-in-laws) raced the full or did the relay!

Reflecting back, I realized that 4:23 was definitely not a finishing time to be ashamed of, but I would been much more proud of it if I maintained steady 10ish minute miles to achieve it than going out fast and bonking.

It took me nearly a year before I was ready to try again, which brings us to:

Marathon #2: 2010 Kiawah Island Marathon: 3:46:00

After my first summer of triathlons and maintaining decent mileage, I went into the Kiawah Marathon training with a much better base. I was using RLRF again, but was using the Advanced plan and had several things going for me. The most important thing I had on my side for this training cycle was my dear friend, Char. We trained together and unless one of us (read: me) was out of town, we did every single run together. We would meet dark and early and knock out the tempos and speed work before work in the mornings and we did all the long runs on Saturdays. Char had qualified for Boston (3:40) the previous year at the Albany, GA Snickers Marathon but in the midst of training for the Goofy Challenge, she did not get registered in time for the 2010 race. So she was after re-qualifying for Boston, and after dropping my time in my recent 1/2 marathons, so was I.

Yes, those are tattoos with our goal time on them 🙂

So this time around I had a goal time and pace and we made sure every run was targeted at those paces. I had a little more confidence in that I knew I could do the distances this time, but in the back of my mind, I think I always doubted if I could actually keep that 8:23/mile pace for 26.2 miles. This was confirmed when our last 20-miler turned into a disaster for me. I traveled back from a work trip the night before, subbed combos and beef jerky for dinner in the airport, and having just moved into a new house, stayed up late unpacking. This was clearly not good 20-miler prep and the run felt like my 1st marathon all over again! I died at mile 10, hung on for 4 more but then ran/walked a majority of the last 6 miles.

With some encouragement (and a little lecturing about my preparation habits) from Char, I decided that I wouldn’t abandon the goal altogether. So I still went for it and I am very glad I did.

Race day was crappy, cold, rainy weather, but we fought it out and for the first 22 miles, I maintained the goal pace.

At mile 23, I couldn’t keep that pace any more, so I let Char go ahead. I wasn’t disappointed or upset because I think all along I knew that it wasn’t meant to be for me. I knew I was still going to finish with great time and while I dropped my pace by more than a minute per mile in the last 4 miles, I ran the entire time and still finished pretty strong.

I learned alot about fueling and nutrition in training for this race. I learned that it is important to fuel my body before every. single. run. and not just on marathon day. I also learned that I hadn’t been taking in nearly enough calories per hour in previous training cycles and that I needed to be fueling better during the run as well.

So this brings us to Marathon #3: Chevron Houston Marathon! After a serious summer of triathloning and training for Augusta 70.3, I am going into marathon training in the best endurance condition I have ever been in. In addition, triathlons have taught me even more about nutrition and fueling and I am confident that I have a fueling plan that works for me. I am also going to experiment with salt tabs (more on that later) during training in an attempt to eliminate the calf cramping that plagues me. And finally, I am confident that with a good (and injury-free) training cycle, I can run a 3:40 marathon!

While this is not my Boston qualifying time anymore (and I definitely did contemplate trying to go after that new BQ time of 3:35) I feel great about my decision to tackle the 3:40 and attempt to drop the other 5 minutes in a later race.

Finally, I am SUPER excited to give myself a little test at Savannah 1/2 Marathon! I have always said I wanted to see how fast I could do a flat, fast half when I am solid training condition. And now, I will. And I am hoping for a BIG PR on November 5th!! Plus I am going with 2 friends who are newbie runners completing their 1ST HALF MARATHON! And that is exciting!!

I am ready to go after the next 14 weeks of training and prove to myself what I can do!

5 weeks to Savannah and 14 to Houston! The countdown is on!

About Corey

I am a 30-something swim, bike, run addict married to my best friend and in love with my two schnoodle doggies.
This entry was posted in Goals, Races, running, training. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 3rd Time’s a Charm

  1. can’t wait to meet you in houston!! I will be trailing a ways behind you speedy, but i know what you mean about this being the race for a PR…I want it!

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