Monday, September 15, 2014

And That My Friends Was The Marathon (In the Zone) - Maritime Race Weekend

So this weekend was D Day. Maritime Race Weekend in Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia. A pirate themed extravaganza. A double race under the setting and rising sun. And my marathon debut.

So this whole summer I stopped racing and set about building my training from earlier in the season to be able to tackle my first marathon. And it seems like forever, though it was really just 12 weeks.

As I previously blogged my training schedule, I won't really go over it much, but suffice it to say I stuck to my plan pretty well over the summer. I limited my weekly mileage, I upped my weekly strength and "prehab" training, and focused on staying as healthy as possible. I didn't just want to complete a marathon, I wanted to see what I had in me at this time, without going over board. I am sure with addition time and more training and no life I could have eked out even more, but that wasn't the point. I wanted to have some fun this summer.

So the weekend started with a 5 km Sunset race. I wasn't completely sold on the idea of running a hard 5 km run the night before my marathon, but I figured I would use it as a bit of a shake down to keep my legs loose. I lined up early by the under 20 min pace sign and made no effort to stop those that felt the need to squeeze in front of me prior to the start. I was after all going to take it easy on this run.

I took off with the pack and we held a decent pace for the first kilometer. I was passed by a few people but held my line and pace and slowly moved ahead of them. I didn't need to surge at all. My legs felt great and free. Eventually I moved into the lead by the 1.5 km mark and held that for quite some time before being passed before the turn around. Still, there were some fast people behind me that were not running the full the next day and I fully expected them to eventually surge past me.

We passed the 3 km sign and I was still holding second place, with 1st pulling away. I had plenty of speed left, but decided to just hold what I was doing. I had no idea what that pace was but it felt good (the glare of the setting sun made it too hard to check my Garmin).

As we approached the final 180 turn to the finish I dared a glance back and saw Ray was not too far behind and with only a few hundred meters to go, I decided to push a bit and claimed second place overall, with an easy for me 18:06. I highly look forward to see what I might be able to pull off on a stand alone 5 km later on this season. Looks like my distance work didn't kill off my speed work, one check for my training.

Quickly to home and to bed for me. And oddly enough I slept rather well. Good thing, as I was back up at 5 am to get my food into me and into the car. For the last 6 weeks I have eaten the same food before every long run, 2 slices of homemade bread, toasted with 1 banana and all natural peanut butter. This is washed down with a blended drink of 1 half a beet, 1/2 cup orange juice and 1/2 cup water. Stick to what you know.

Skipping ahead and it is race time as we all line up by the pace we are running the various races (5, 10, 1/2 and full all start together). I lined up at the border of the sub 3 hour and 3 hour marathon. My plan was to ease into the first half and see how I felt after that. The weather was perfect, sunny, with a bit of chill in the air and slight breeze.

And then we were off. I started easy and carefully thread my way through the first few turns of the run, trying to not get involved with any 10k or 5k runners. Then as we hit the open road I started to slowly pick up my pace until I hit a good speed. My Garmin was showing Pace, Heart Rate, Time and AVG Pace. The goal was to keep my heart rate below 160 at all times, to keep my avg pace below 4:20, and to take a gel at 1 hour intervals.

We hit the first hill around 4 km in, I slowed slightly to keep my heart rate down, then picked up the pace again at the top. At this point the 10 km runners and 5 km runners had left us, and it was just full and half marathoners.

At each water stop I grabbed a glass of Gatorade, took a good mouthful and carried on. At all times I was checking posture  and heart rate, knowing full well that the first half could be run very fast, but I needed to add another half after that. Slowly the leaders pulled away but I was still hanging out with a group. That thinned a bit more as we approached the split and suddenly it was myself, one guy behind and 2 guys a bit further up.  I hit the half way mark at 1:30, on target for a 3 hour full, though I knew that ultimately the time I ran would depend on a few other factors. Still I was happy and felt strong.

Oddly enough, I expected the next 6-7 kilometers to feel easy, as it was a crusher dust trail that is relatively flat, exactly what I do a lot of training on. But for some reason I has issues keeping my speed up and felt like I really had to push through. Some levity soon approached though, as every full marathon runner had a custom sign made to cheer them on. Mine asked what Zone I was in. "Three" I yelled.

Eventually back to the road we were, and my legs picked right back up all springy and light. Whew. But within 4 km at about the 33 km mark, I hit a decent hill that again sapped my life. In order to keep my heart rate low, I slowed right down to a 5 min/ km pace. But I knew this brief rest would be worth it in the long run. Life came back again as I crested the hill, though I would have to watch my heart rate on a few other hills as well.

Though I was obviously getting tired at about the 35 km mark, I was happy to notice my posture was still feeling great. I had no specific aches or pains, other than a bit of a blister on one toe (I knew that was coming but it didn't affect my gait). All that prehab I did was surely very helpful in taking care of my weak spots, so I am very glad I spent the time with my Physiotherapist earlier in the year.  And as we approached about 37-38 km in I actually passed another marathoner who had passed me quite a long time before but was now looking decidedly bent over.

And now the hardest part of the race, the big Caldwell downhill. What I didn't need at this point was a controlled decent, but alas it was there. I survived and the final few kilometers were mine to bask in.

It was essentially downhill but only slightly. I was tired and just accepting the pace in my legs at this point, though again, not hurting in anyway. I crossed the finish line at 3:02:09 and was perfectly happy with that result. Sure it wasn't a "3 hour marathon" but it was darn close, it was my first, and I walked away from it feeling physically good. And while it is a Boston Qualifying result, I won't be exercising that option. I was 8th overall and 1st out of 14 in my age group.

And I won jam, twice. Age group winners get jam. I got it for the 5 km and the marathon.

This marathon experiment was a good one with a good result. My training plan turned out to be what I needed to get to the end healthy and happy. Oh and my average heart rate was 157, only 2 beats out of Zone 2, so just perfect. Big thanks to Jeff Zahavich and Kinesic Sport Lab for that.

Now some rest, some cycling and back at it. But now with more speed.
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