Marathon #2 – Experience #2

After finishing the Chicago Marathon 3 minutes and 54 seconds over 4 hours I was ready to get back on the horse and try it again, convinced that without the hot weather I could easily beat the 4 hour mark.  After race number 2 I am still convinced I can beat it, but it wasn’t meant to be at race number 2!

PREPARATION PITFALLS

In preparation for Chicago I followed Hal Higdon’s marathon training program running some 800 miles before the big day. I think I was actually afraid of not finishing! I used Hal’s Intermediate 2 program (not recommended for 1st time runners) and believe it prepared me well – I felt great physically even though the heat zapped me in the final miles.

Preparation for race #2 wasn’t the same. I tried to follow the same program but the first visit from something called the “IT Band” (IoTibial Band) plagued my training. The IT Band is a tendon that stretches from your buttocks down to your tibia, running along the side of your knee.  When it decides to become tightened it pulls on your knee and creates pain that keeps you from running, even walking is difficult.  However, rolling this tendon on an 8″ foam roller while writhing in pain over several weeks finally put me back on the trails. Until the next visit from shin splints, something I’ve never had before.  I rested them, but they didn’t go way. I spoke with a fellow running (a veteran) and his comment, “they are just annoying” rang in my ears on the morning I wanted to run. So I found some taping methods (using KT tape) and I ran through them and dealt with the pain, and it became more and more nagging every time I did it – annoying!  Make no mistake, shin splints hurt. They loosen up after a 3 or 4 miles, but they are still there and after running more than 150 miles with them I was really annoyed.  I really didn’t want to run this marathon with them.  So, I had my sports doctor use a new laser therapy for several weeks, I had massages, I taped them up – but I ran up to my 20 mile long runs in pain.  Then I decided to would rest for the final 3 weeks before the race, only doing core exercises and biking to stay strong.  I was an prepared as I was going to be, but I didn’t feel prepared. I ran only half the miles I did for Chicago, I could still fee my shins. Not good.

RACE DAY

    It was looking like there would be great weather for this race. I enjoy cool weather and the temps were looking at around 40 degrees perhaps with some light rain – perfect.  However, as the day got close the rain disappeared from the forecast but was replaced by strong winds.  Strong winds = not good!

After a big pasta dinner I found bed early at my parents house in Green Bay, and alas the 5 AM alarm went off.  I arrived at Lambeau before 6 AM and took my time deciding what to wear. Long pants or shorts?  Long sleeves or short?  I went outside on the north side of the stadium and the wind, now blowing up to 30 mph, made it feel like low 30’s. Worse, it was coming directly out of the north and I knew that would be killer for the second half of the race.  The race course wound through the west side of Green Bay and then south to DePere, where it crossed the Fox River and turned directly north along the river. This would become the killer stretch of the run that day.

ON THE COURSE

Despite my preparation challenges I felt pretty good on race day and started off feeling comfortable with about an 8min/mile pace and hanging with the 3:30 pace team for while. I knew by about 6 miles that I should back it off to a pace I thought I could maintain through the race.  I completed the half at an 8:24 pace and logged a new personal best half-marathon of 1:49:19.  Around the 14-15 mile mark we turned into the wind.  My 15 mile pace still clocked in at 8:26. Not too bad so far.  I would run head on into the wind until after mile 22, and at mile 20 my pace now slowed to 8:43 – I was 2 hours and 53 minutes into the race with 6.2 miles to go.

At Mile 19…

It’s hard to explain what must of happened in the 7+ miles of running into the wind, but I muscled my way through it only to find that cramps would emerge and force me to stop and stretch, to walk, stretch, walk, …  The last 4 miles became mentally challenging to keep my body running.  I was force to stop too many times, forced to walk out cramps that are clearly a runners worse fear.  Many runners I know say this IS the second half of the race.  I say that they are right and for anyone that has run a marathon they know it.  When you start the day you envision the strength you’ll have at the end, the final burst of speed to finish with a good time.  I was searching everywhere for something that would keep me running – a serious battle between your mind and your body.  Today it this battle would be a draw.  My mind would be the only thing that takes me to the finish line, while my body would beg for a few moments of walking and resting along the way.

At last, the narrow run uphill through the Lambeau parking lot, perhaps 300 yards and loaded with people.  I wasn’t walking this part.  Then into the tunnel that would emerge into the center of the football field, a change to walk.  But a circle around the inside of the stadium was no place to be walking so I forced my way around running back into the tunnel for one final walk before the last burst to the finish line.  I made it.

After two marathons I am convinced the first thing you say when you finish is simply, I made it. I was happy for this one to be over.  I would not beat 4 hours this day.  I would end up at a respectable 4:03:53.  Yes, exactly 1 second faster than my finish at Chicago Marathon 6 months earlier.

What next?  Recovery!  Hal’s rule of thumb is 1 day for every mile.  My rule, is go away shin splints!  I’ll be sure to enjoy some more races through the summer, but nothing more than a half-marathon for me.  Whether I’ll do another full marathon?  Hmmm, that opportunity to beat 4 hours still exists and an opportunity to beat it by lot is enticing. 🙂

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One Comment on “Marathon #2 – Experience #2

  1. Todd –

    Congrats! Hope you try again. Injuries plagued training for my second marathon, too — slowing me down 13 minutes from my first race, but then I improved my time by 37 minutes within a year. I’m running Des Moines on October 16…training starts the week of June 12!

    Dan

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