On Sunday I ran the Tucson Marathon.* Since I finished before noon, I can legitimately say it was morning. The marathon started at 7 a.m. But I was up at 4 a.m. and got on the bus from the hotel to the start before 5. The drive up took about 45 minutes. Luckily we were allowed to stay on the buses as long as we wanted, which was good because it was cold out! Not bitterly cold like at home, or in other parts of the country where marathons were cancelled due to snow and ice, but it certainly felt cold. I heard later that it was around 40 degrees up at the start, but there was a cold wind that certainly brought the "feels like" temperature much lower.
Which leads me to my primary topics--"What Went Well" and "What Could Have Been Better"!
What Went Well
I dressed appropriately for conditions. This was not as easy to accomplish as you would think. Even when I left home I was unsure how the weather would turn out. At one time they were projecting freezing at starting time and upper 50s by the end. As it turned out, it was probably in the lower 40s throughout. I went with capris, a sleeveless NuuMuu dress (with sunblock on my arms in case I got down to that layer), a light half zip over that (which I bought at the Expo, even though I had one with), a zip-up hoody which was supposed to be a throwaway layer, a running cap, gloves, and a warmer fleece jacket which I left in my drop bag. I started with the hood over my hat (the wind was cold) but was fine when the hood blew off after a couple miles. I took my gloves off for an early bathroom stop and carried them the rest of the way. My throwaway stayed on--comfortably--for 23 miles! At that point I took it off and tied it around my waist to save for future use. I pinned my bib on my fuel belt to accommodate changes of layers. My bare arms were never exposed.
My easy pace was good in the early miles. The beginning miles had downhills which I know helped my speed, but it also had some rollers. I was feeling strong then, though, and it didn't hold me back. I don't feel like I went out too fast. Miles 1-10 were all where I wanted them to be, except for mile 4 with a bathroom break, and one might say mile 6 was too fast but it felt okay, and I was catching the 4:30 pacer (a somewhat temporary endeavor). See--9:53, 10:04, 9:51, 12:23, 9:49, 9:12, 9:46, 10:02, 10:14, 10:18 (BTW, 10:18 is the pace for a 4:30 marathon.
Miles 11-17 were acceptable, given some hilly sections of the course and my "banked time" from the early miles. (Although I suppose you could say I had already used up the banked time with the bathroom stop.) Miles 11, 12, and 13 were out and back on Biosphere Road. Out was largely uphill. This was where the 4:30 pacer passed me, on the out. Although he was ahead of pace because I passed 13.1 at under 2:15, yet never caught up (while running, anyway). 10:44, 10:45, 10:24, 10:33, 10:29, 13:20 (another bathroom stop, ugh), 10:33. By the way, I saw the 4:30 pacer for the final time at that 15-mile bathroom stop--he was coming out of the porta potty I went into. Obviously he was off pace at that point. But I assume he is a naturally fast runner and would make up the time and catch up with his group, who were presumably staying dutifully on pace in his absence.
You could say miles 18-19 weren't bad, compared to what happened after that. 10:48 and 10:49. These miles had my first walk breaks, and I still stayed under 11 minutes. At that point.
I used walk breaks pretty well, and didn't get sucked into long walking spells. Which can totally happen. As in Honolulu. (Although in Honolulu at least I only had one, quick, bathroom stop.) Starting in Mile 18, through 24, I allowed myself one 30 or 60 second walk after the mile marker. Obviously I should have stuck with 30, but I succumbed to a little weakness. I also walked briefly in 2-3 aid stations while getting water. Once I combined this with my other walk, but there were a couple supplemental. The walking did slow me down. I honestly don't know what my splits would have been if I'd plugged through without walking. Miles 20-24 - 11:17, 11:09, 11:32, 12:19, 11:19. Miles 23-26.2 was a deviated course due to road work, and there were some evil hills as well as some hills that would have been easy if it wasn't the end of the marathon! I stopped walking after my break at the beginning of 24 but honestly you can't see the difference. Mile 25 was 11:20 and mile 26 was 10:47 (a bit of attempt to finish strong). I did finish strong in the final .42 mile at a 10:14 pace (back to goal pace, haha).
I used a podcast to get through the deadly middle miles from 15-ish to almost 22. I wasn't going to do this because I do think that I run slightly slower with audio than music, but the distraction value was worth the potential few seconds different. Plus, it made music seem fresh and uplifting when I went back to it at mile 22. I listened to The Marathon Show's latest episode, an interview with Gary Allen and Reno Stirrat, both of whom have run many sub-3 marathons. NOT like me. Gary Allen is also the founder of MDI Marathon.
I fueled...okay. I had a Gu around mile 8-9 and another around 13-14. In the upper miles I started to feel nauseous and didn't want Gu. I did have some Gatorade (just a few sips though). Somewhere after mile 20 I dug out another Gu and ate about half over a couple miles. Then I threw it away. I never felt like I hit the wall but obviously I did slow down.
What Could Have Been Better
Bathroom management. Obviously. I don't want to go into TMI details about what didn't happen before the start and what did in the lengthy stops, but although it was necessary at the time it clearly added several minutes to my time. I only went to the porta potty once before the start--I like to go three times. It was just too cold to spend an hour standing in lines. I stayed on the bus as much as I could. In an almost ideal marathon I would have one bathroom stop of about 90 seconds. I calculate these two totaled about five minutes.
Not fading after mile 18 (or 17). Although I slowed after mile 10, things didn't really get semi-ugly until near mile 20. Not unheard of. But I need to work on that. Especially if I plan to have a goal pace next year that's faster than 10:18, or 10:00, or 9:45....
Not walking. Although the walking was not a bad thing, I've run many marathons without walking at all. Why I have I succumbed to the walk?
Fueling better. An ongoing problem for me. Although, I will say that in my faster marathons I don't think I fueled any more than this one. I may have made it through three Gu's once or twice...maybe. Never the four I plan for.
Running through discomfort. Not bathroom discomfort, although there is a line there too between when to hold it and when not to. What I am really talking about is making myself hold on when running feels hard. It's great that mikes 1-10 felt easy at goal pace. Goal pace should feel at least sort of easy for as long as possible. But at some point, it's not going to. Somehow, I've got to get better at sucking it up.
What I'm Not Saying Is the Answer
Just running faster. Obviously that would be nice, but I trained for a 4:30 marathon at 10:18 pace (that would be the pace without bathroom stops), and the important thing is maintaining the range of that pace, not trying to run faster. When it's time to run faster I need to train for that.
In the end, I think it went well (enough).
My fastest marathon this year was NODM at 4:28, and my other two were much slower. Kauai was 5:09 and MDI was 4:53. This one? 4:44:05. This was supposed to be an easier course (and overall it was), with a lot of downhill (and it did have, although much was very gradual), but it was NOT easy and with the changes in the last three miles it was quite challenging. So I'm okay with finishing my last marathon of 2013 as my second fastest of the year.
I've tried to find some significance in the numbers--4:44-- but I can't. OH WAIT! (Honestly this just occurred to me.) This was my 4th marathon of the year, on the 4th anniversary of my first marathon, and I'm in my 49th year, which if you add the number together numerology style to get a single digit, it is 4. Yes, I had to stretch on that one. The first two came easily. So clearly, I was destined to run 4:44 today.
*Yes, I know I haven't blogged since October 8 (two months!). So many unfinished blog posts. Maybe someday I'll finish writing about Kauai, Mount Desert Island, Honolulu 2012....