Sunday, September 5, 2010

Race Report: What happened?

Well first let me correct some misinformation. There are rumors circulating that I finished 4th and 2nd Canadian. Actually the "live" (now dead?) results are incomplete. I ran 3:08:14 which netted me 6th woman overall and 3rd Canadian. I am sure will have the full & final results up soon.

I'm honestly not quite sure what happened. I felt okay for the first 14 km. I never felt awesome. I never had the feeling I normally get in the first 1/3 of a marathon where I have to consciously slow myself down. At 15 km I realized I felt far too tired for only 15 km. I was still hanging in at the 1/2 way point (1:27:28) and then things started to unravel. I took my first walking break at the 23 km mark and realized that a 2:55 and even possibly a 3:00 were not looking likely. I had a brief conference with, well, me. I tabled the proposition that we close up shop for the day and look for another marathon in a month when perhaps I would have a better day. This proposition was unanimously rejected. There is no way I will have time to train & travel to another marathon this month. I am coming off a 3 week taper and therefore fitness is declining not increasing. But mostly, it felt very important to me to finish this marathon. Even if it took 3:20 which was kind of the worst case scenario I was calculating at that point.
Decision made I soldiered on. La cocotte was waiting with hubby, parents and a friend at 26 km. Seeing them was a HUGE boost. I took the time for a quick chat and to kiss la cocotte. I figured 30 seconds was not going to be meaningful at the finish line at this point.

From 26 km - 37 km I had a hell of a time. I tried to only take walking breaks every 2 km. Sometimes I could go 4 km and sometimes I could only go a few minutes. I felt like an ass walking past the elite table at the 30 km mark and picking up my special bottle which had been so carefully transported there. To underscore the situation, mine was the last, sad elite bottle left. All the others has been long since picked up. All in all I walked 8 times for a total, I would guess, of about 12 minutes of walking. Eek. The thought of seeing la cocotte & family at km 37 kept me going. And they did not dissapoint! No easy task navigating from km 26 to km 37 on the Montreal subway with a sleeping baby!

I again felt like an ass at the 40 km aid station as the amazing volunteers scrambled to get me my special bottle when they saw bib #13 moving towards them at geologic pace. They couldn't find the bottle to their great consternation and I heartily reassured them it was okay. I was beyond the help of flat coca cola and gummy bears by this point. I did motivate myself a little with the thought that even if it took me 12 minutes to finish I could still break 3:10. Sigh.

The finish of the Montreal Marathon is a real treat as the last km is a huge downhill (4:15 - fastest one since the 1/2 way point) and then the last 200 m are run in the 1976 Olympic Stadium with HUGE crowd support. I managed to put on a show and run a 48 second last 200 m despite my calves which were cramping with every footfall.

So... what the heck happened? SLG suggests it was the move through 7 time zones. Steveq suggests that the nursing and also the move should be factored in. What do I think? Mostly I think I could really go for some take-out thai food but I would hate to disappoint Fast Bastard by not overanalyzing this.

Some possibilities:

1. Started out too fast - I went through 10 km in 41:00 which is 2:53 pace. It's quicker than realistic pace for me but not, I would have thought, egregiously so. I really feel that I did not do anything overtly stupid today so... REJECTED.

2. Hyped this up too much and therefore chocked - REJECTED out of the gate. I was relaxed and calm and really having a ball for the first 14 km. It wasn't nerves.

3. Weather - the temperature dropped 15 degrees between Friday and race day. Furthermore with the collision of two fronts, it was pretty darn windy out there (40 kph). And I was mostly alone, there being a dearth of 3:00 marathoners at this race. Maybe this might have caused a few minutes but others ran stellar races despite, perhaps they were more sheltered in the pack... I'll blame the weather, particularly the wind, partially.

4. Stomach issues leading up the race - the heat & humidity in the days before the race gave me absorption issues. My weight actually hit close to an all-time adult low a few days before the race. I was eating and drink loads to compensate but clearly much of it was passing through unabsorbed. But if this had been the problem I would have expected to feel low blood sugar and drained. This was not the case. I felt tight, tired and like everything was more effort than it should be. Similar but subtly different. Maybe this factor is partially to blame.

5. Training - Yup. It was all SteveQ's fault.
Ok. Obviously I don't feel that way. I was given a brilliant training program that was, as per my request, extremely flexible. Meaning that the work-outs were smart but there were loads to chose from and the execution of the training program was left up to me. Here are the mistakes I made: 1. too much mileage too soon, I think I was in better shape at the end of June than I was today. 2. Deficity of long, long runs. My longest were 36, 36 and 34 and two of these were done a little early in the progression. My weakness as a runner is endurance. I am naturally speedy but not endurant and I did not pay enough heed to that. 3. Not enough mileage overall. 4. Not enough running at marathon pace. SteveQ emphasized this both in his e-mails to me and on his blog and I did not pay enough attention to getting it done.

I'm done with the marathon for awhile. It is clearly not my strength, even disregarding today, my marathon performances are simply not as good as my 5 km - 1/2 marathon. The investment to prepare is too demanding given my current situation. I am thinking about what is coming next but it likely boils down to a massive reduction in mileage (maybe as low at 65 km per week) and seeing if I can run a sub-17:30 5km and a sub-36:30 10 km.

The strange thing is, I am not actually that dissapointed. More curious than dissapointed. I have very few marathons under my belt; today was #7. This is few enough that finishing still feels like an accomplisment.

So thank you everyone. I really appreciate your support & comments. And thanks SteveQ for the training program. I should have executed it better.

42.2 km is a long way to self-propel.


  1. I was checking the live results frenetically this morning (actually I was switching between your live results and SLG marathon results to be finally posted on a website, which led to postponing my 70+ mile bike ride into afternoon, which led to me being hungry as a wolf (ok, that's Slovak) 50 miles in since I ate only breakfast) but was waiting to comment until I read the report because I did not want to write anything that might upset you. But seems you are not too disappointed with the results. I still think you did amazingly considering a recent trans-Atlantic move and taking care of a 13-month old.
    And don't worry, I still want you to be my coach:)

  2. PPC,

    First of all, I think it is odd that you never felt well. If your theory is your training was more directed towards a half marathon (since you hadn't had many long runs), why were you lacking energy already at the 1/3 marathon point? I know you mentioned your lowest adult weight reading was due to hydration, but you looked very thin in your recent, um, one photo of your entire body. Have you actually lost a lot of real weight?

    All that being said, I agree with you that training for a marathon should involve more long runs than both my husband and your coach seem to think. I'm actually thinking of changing my training to involve two long runs a week and then alternating weeks doing a tempo or intervals. But marathons and 50 milers are my favorite distances. If you prefer half marathons, there is no reason to run more long runs!

  3. I don't know how you do it! Amazing! Congratulations. We sure miss you! xoxo

  4. If I suggested that nursing was an issue, I didn't mean it to be - I just think it's absolutely amazing that you can nurse and run that fast. I did think that the heat wave before the race meant weather might be a problem. Sometimes there's no clear answer (and sometimes it takes a decade to figure out), like my last marathon in 2003, when I seemed to hit the wall at 8 miles.

    The low weight before the race suggests possible chronic dehydration, which air travel .and nursing and a heat wave wouldn't help. It just causes one to feel sluggish.

    One last thing I learned from a coach I once had: don't make any decisions about future races in the first few weeks after a marathon.

    @SLG: Have you read anything I've written? I've been saying that long runs are crucial for marathoning.