2015 Phoenix Marathon Review
|Typical Winter form, bending a little too much at the waist|
Saturday, February 28, 2015
Official Time: 3:11:18 (BQ, and 39 seconds off PR)
Place: 108th/1,854 Overall, 12th/145 45-49 AG
Calories Burned: 3,621
Pre-Race Health: Good, no issues
Post-Race Health: Hips soreness, but no issues
Course: Slight downhill, flat & fast
Elevation Gain: 246 ft
Elevation Loss: 1,109 ft
Total Distance Ran: 26.21
Start Temperature: 50 degrees
Ending Temperature: 58 degrees
Sky Conditions: Cloudy & overcast
Wind: 7 mph SE
From a training standpoint, I had a really good cycle. Even though the East Coast had one of their worst Winters in history, the Midwestern Winter was a little milder than usual until the last few weeks before the race, which forced me inside to the treadmill much more than I would have liked. But other than that I went into this race in really good shape, although I probably should have stretched myself out at the faster paces on the long runs a little more because I kind of fought the pace from 22-26. But walking through every water stop in the race really seemed to help me regroup, especially in the last few miles. I missed a PR by 39 seconds, but overall I was really pleased with the performance.
|2015 Phoenix Marathon course elevation|
Despite being sicker than I've ever been in my life around Christmas time, and losing a week of training, I was really pretty happy with the mileage I put in, and the shape I got myself into. I lost quite a bit of conditioning, and gained quite a bit of weight last Fall after the Pocatello Marathon, so this cycle was really more about getting back into shape, slowly and with no health issues.
As far as overall body strength, I'm focusing this year on being in better "full body" shape, instead of strong legs and nothing else. The problem is this requires more time and energy. But with this in mind, I can honestly say that my core has ever been stronger. I did a ton of work in our new home gym and my core is pretty solid right now. My upper body still needs some work though, so I'll hit shoulders, chest, and arms a little more throughout the year.
Also, my legs were fairly strong, but not nearly as strong as I need them. I didn't write much about it leading up to the race, but my left knee bothered more than usual while training for this race. And it was 100% related to weakness in the gracilis and semitendinosus areas (the back inside of the groin area, basically a "rear adductor"). So this summer, I'll focus more on leg strengthening.
Another thing I'll work on more this summer is consistently doing to upper two tempo workouts mid-week, as opposed to one, which I did this training cycle. I really slowed down a lot of my runs this cycle as I got myself back into shape. It was only toward the end of the cycle that I started to pick up the pace more and more. I'll probably add back my track or hill workout on Thursdays, and keep my typical Tempo workouts on Tuesdays, but begin stretching them to 13-14 miles at Tempo pace. Also, I'll probably do considerably more work at my Fall marathon pace during long runs and the p.m. workouts. One of the problems late in the race is I wasn't completely prepped for that specific pace for almost 20 miles. I handled it okay for 13-15'ish, but need to get myself in the kind of shape that doesn't tail off at the end of a race. But for this race, my main priority was building a strong base for the year with a lot of miles at slightly slower paces. Here are the weekly mileages and long runs leading up to the race.
Week of ...
Dec 1 - 39 miles total, long run of 11
Dec 7 - 62 miles total, long run of 20
Dec 14 - 55 miles total, long run of 18 (got sick on Saturday night)
Dec 21 - 23 miles total, long run of 13 (sick in bed most of the week)
Dec 28 - 60 miles total, long run of 20
Jan 4 - 63 miles total, long run of 22
Jan 11 - 71 miles total, long run of 19
Jan 18 - 71 miles total, long run of 20
Jan 25 - 76 miles total, long run of 22
Feb 1 - 80 miles total, long run of 18
Feb 8 - 58 miles total, long run of 15 (hurt my Trapezius muscle and really backed off mileage)
Feb 15 - 37 miles total, long run of 9
Feb 22 - 8 miles total, marathon on Saturday
The toughest thing about getting in so many weekly miles is only running 5 days per week. This basically requires several double runs (morning and night), which is fine, because I'm a firm believer that training on tired legs helps with endurance. Plus, I've really found that taking two days off from running during the week over the past few years has really helped me stay a little healthier. Winter weather forced me inside on the treadmill almost all of the last 15 days before the marathon, and sporadically throughout the training. And while I'm not going have the same old tired treadmill vs. pavement argument here, I'll just leave it with I wish I could have been on pavement for those two weeks - although it didn't seem to affect me too much.
My form really suffers during Winter training. I seem to bend over a little at the waist, primarily as the body's natural reaction from running into cold headwinds. The shoulders seem to roll forward a little more, and also, the head seems to bend a little more forward. This happens every Winter. So I have no doubt that my form will be much better for Summer and Fall racing, but it wasn't great for this marathon.
The only real "setback" came toward the end of the training, although it was minor. I strained my left Trapezius muscle during an ancillary workout about 15 days before the marathon. After an A.R.T. session, ice, and plenty of stretching, it was completely healed by race day - however, it was a huge distraction over the last two weeks, impacted about 10 workouts. The injury came during taper so I was on cutback anyway, but I think it definitely had an impact on my core workouts, and also freaked me out mentally a little.
I really seemed to control my diet for most of the cycle and was down to about 171 for a couple of weeks before gaining back a few pounds before the race. I feel like I run much faster when I'm closer to 170, but that's a tough weight for me to get to and maintain, especially considering the lack of calorie burning during taper.
I didn't really do anything different as far as meals the week of the race. I typically cut way back on Sun-Tues, then eat average proportions on Wednesday, stuff myself with carbs on Thursday, and try to eat plenty of chicken and rice on Friday. We found a Whole Foods Market in Phoenix, so I was able to eat basically the same as I at at home with plenty of quinoa, brown rice, and steel cut oats for my pre-race carbs. I also drank a ton of water and coconut water the day before the race as well.
Race morning, I had 1-1/2 bananas, about a cup of steel cut oats, a Stinger Honey Waffer, about two-three tablespoons of Jiff Natural Honey Peanut Butter, two Beet-It Beet Shots, and a Roctane Gel immediately before the race.
Even though I kept my warm up pants, jacket, and throw-away shirt on for warmth until about 10 minutes before the race, I found myself shivering for about 15-20 minutes at the starting line. I always hate shivering before a race because it's the body's involuntary way of trying to warm itself, and it burns a lot of energy. It was only about 50 degrees, with a light breeze, but it seemed really cold waiting in the dark at the starting line. The race had space heaters and camp fires available, which I briefly stood next to, but for the most part I wanted to stay off my feet, so I sat on a log away from the fires.
As we began running, I specifically remember thinking how smooth and effortless the pace was. This was probably because the first few miles are a very gentle downhill that really allows you to warm up at a fairly decent pace, without taxing your quads too much while trying to brake the incline. It was almost completely dark, and there was a slight headwind so it was a little chilly, but I kept having to back my legs off a little from how fast they wanted to run. I'd planned on running the first two miles slightly above 8:00, but ended up at 7:48 & 7:44. The next two miles weren't any better, as continued to increase a little too quickly with 7:35 & 7:19. I've found over the years that I finish much stronger if I ease into my pace over the first 10 miles. These miles weren't disastrous, but a little faster than I planned on going.
|Feeling pretty good around Mile 17|
This stretch is the only real incline on the course, and it's gradual and mild. I really had done very few hill workouts during my training, so I intentionally backed off my pace to 7:32 & 7:48. But even with the lack of hill training, the incline was really very manageable.
Over the next four miles, which were downhill, I began easing into my "race pace" near 7:00. I knew that I hadn't ran quite enough miles at this pace during training, but thought if I managed it well, I could probably be close until the end of the race. The big thing I really began noticing was that my legs were struggling a little to keep this pace. My cardio felt absolutely fine, and my heart rate was probably low (even though I didn't wear a monitor), but my legs just didn't feel as stable and strong as they had in past races. These miles went 7:14, 7:18, 7:03, 7:08. I took a gel after passing Mile 6. I'd planned on taking it at Mile 5, but the water stops didn't match up. Also, around Mile 8 I felt a little light headed and "fuzz", which typically I can remedy in a race with a salt capsule, which I took. It was only about 53 degrees at this point, but I'd been running in 20-30 degree temps at home, so I think I was sweating a little more than I typically would at this point. Also, I passed the 3:25 pace group during this stretch and remember thinking to myself, "Man, that pacer's going way too fast, he's going to kill those people".
During this stretch, I finally began to "feel" the pace. My legs still weren't really firing like I wanted them to, but I was able to manage the speed without too much trouble. These miles went 6:56, 7:01, 7:00, 6:58. Looking back, I probably should have backed off these paces about 5 seconds. We ran into a fairly significant headwind around mile 14, but my pace was still fairly quick. I walked though every water stops at this race, but it didn't really seem to adversely affect the overall pace much. And plus, stopping briefly every couple of miles seemed to really help me regroup. My half-marathon split was 1:36:08, which was pretty much where I wanted to be.
This is where I typically make my biggest strategical error on race day, and this marathon was no exception. Usually at Mile 18, I'll take a mental inventory of how I feel, which is usually an indicator of how the rest of the race will go. And when I felt really really really good at Mile 18, I started pushing it a little too early. Even walking through three waters stops, my paces were 7:17, 7:09, 7:06, 6:57, 7:04. When I glanced at my Garmin during this stretch, I was consistently running about 6:50, which was a little too fast. I kept thinking to myself, "Slow down dummy, or you're gonna regret it!", but I just kept the pace. I was flying by people at this stage. Often when I passed someone, their head would snap around like, "What the...", which was kinda funny - but that happens a lot in a race if you start slow enough, ha. In fact, somewhere in this stretch I passed the 3:15 pace group and was pretty confident I was going to come in close to a PR. But at Mile 21 I remember thinking, okay, these last five miles are going to be a grind, and I began counting them down in my mind. I took a gel, at half a banana, and also added another salt capsule during this stretch for fuel.
|Pretty pumped with a strong finish|
(yes, I copied all of these photos taken of ME)
I was really really proud of the way I responded to the last five miles of this race. I was definitely at my limit, but I pushed through it and fought to a fairly respectable finish. I've hit the wall before, and if not near a PR, I've mailed it in in some of those races. But on Saturday, my legs were really grinding at Mile 22. I felt my pace slowing, and I was beginning to feel some tightening in the back of my left groin, the origin of my knee tightness during training. I knew that I'd ran a net downhill for the race to this point, however, my quads still felt pretty good. But I was really focused on just putting one foot in front of the other. Miles 22-24 were 7:34, 7:30, 7:25.
At Mile 25 my stomach started cramping a little, and I actually looked for a restroom, but managed to hold it off. I walked when I hit the Mile 25 marker, and then again at the water stop, which were a few hundred feet from each other. My Mile 25 pace dropped to 7:48, the slowest of the race, which was because of all the walking. But on the last mile, I looked at my Garmin and saw that I was still on pace for a near PR and gutted it out for the final mile, which was 7:21. Also, I ran a fairly quick last .2, averaging a 6:48 pace.
I never used to have any post-race stomach issues after a marathon, but for some reason over the past few races, it's taken me about six hours to get past post-race nausea and stomach cramping. I'm sure it's something in my fueling that I need to take a look at. But it could just be that natural result of pushing your body to it's limit. When evening rolled around I felt okay, and we had dinner with friends at a pizza restaurant.
I don't remember writing, or even thinking, during this training cycle that I thought I'd PR, but maybe I did - who knows. Some folks seem to read and analyze my words a lot more closely than I do when I'm writing them. Regardless, I figured it would be a pretty good race, just not a PR. But the last few weeks of marathon training always mess with my head and confidence, so going in, I wasn't really sure what to expect. Plus, I only ran two marathons last year, and even though both had significant external conditions that greatly affected the race, they were huge disappointments. So to say the least, my "marathon confidence" was lacking a little. But all in all, I'm exceptionally happy with this result especially at a Winter Marathon. I feel like this race is a huge springboard for 2015 since I'm not nearly in the shape I'll be in this Summer. I loved the race, and the course was perfect for a fast run. Also, we've decided to make this our annual Winter race, and vacation spot. So hopefully I'll have more good results in the future. But for now, I'm very satisfied with my conditioning and the results from the Phoenix Marathon.
... Be Great Today!