Thursday, March 22, 2012

Modesto Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #32:

Sub 3:50, birthday PR.

The Full Recap, Marathon #32:

I have so much to say about this race, and at the same time, nothing at all.  Last week left me mentally flat in ways I don't even understand.  I missed a couple of yoga workouts and a handful of miles because of the sprained ankle. When you get down to it, I skipped ONE run workout last week.  However, when I went out for my run on Friday I felt like someone who had been laid off running for weeks who was getting to go for a first post-injury run.  To put it simply, my ankle really bummed me out.  In hindsight I don't even think it was for the race this past Sunday.  Sprained ankles are mentally horrible injuries to overcome. Unlike other afflictions I've dealt with, these suckers strike instantly and unexpectedly.  You can't see them coming from a few runs out and do damage control.  You can be out for an awesome run and in one bad foot plant find yourself out for weeks.

Quite frankly, I spent last week mourning the loss of confidence I had built up the last year since my bad sprain and knew I'd be back at square one again.  I was, and still am, sad for what this means for my running in the coming months.

My run on Friday went okay and I tried to get myself psyched up again for this race.  I thought I had but really I wasn't in the same mind frame as I was going into Fresno.

I had two goals for this race:
B:  sub-3:50
A:  sub-3:45

I knew the latter would involve digging deep, having a coming to Jesus moment, and pulling through to the other side.  I thought I had the training to make it a realistic thing to fight for.  I did some calculations and figured out that I should be holding an 8:42 pace for the B goal and an 8:31 pace for the A goal according to Garfield.

The course is pretty much flat except for an overpass that didn't give this San Franciscan much trouble.  However, the course was ever so slightly downhill trending the first half and slightly uphill trending the second half.

I prefer to run even splits in races if possible.  But going out at 8:31 didn't feel so wise so I decided to try to go out around an 8:35 and try to ratchet down to the 8:31 the second half.

I don't know why and I don't know when precisely, but I knew very early on that today wasn't going to be my day.  In hindsight I'd say I knew at around mile 5 or 6.  At the turnaround, I had an average 8:36 pace which was pretty much right on track for my plan.  But I knew I was fading and didn't have it in me to bring that down at all.  Boyfriend says it was after the turnaround, but I disagree and think it was before (chances are he is right what with marathon-brain and all), but I passed him cheering at one point and all I said was, "It's getting really hard."

With the out-and-back nature of the course Boyfriend popped up more than a handful of times.  He brought a dry erase poster board and changed the sign up every time I saw him.

The weather for this race was 100% perfect.  It was supposed to be in the low 40's at the start and the mid-40's at the finish.  My perfect running weather.  The sun peeked out for a little bit in the beginning of the race, but the cloud cover rolled back in for the vast majority.  My hands were slightly numb without gloves.  I never felt hot and I never felt cold.  Perfection.  There was a headwind for about two miles before the turnaround (strong enough that a cardboard garbage bin blew over) but soon enough it was at our backs and later became more of a faded crosswind as the course turned.

I ran with my 22 oz hand held and with the cool weather, didn't have to stop to refill it.  Boyfriend swapped out the empty larger hand held for my smaller 10 oz at mile 19.  That 10 oz plus one cup of water at a water station got me through the rest race.  I think this is the least amount of water I've taken in during a marathon.  I generally always drink by feel so don't think this factored in to anything but perhaps worthy of noting.

I was sort of putzing along checking in with Garfield every now and then.  If I thought I was going too slow I'd pick it up a smidgen.  I didn't have any fighting spirit in me, though, to really dig deep and force myself to run at a pace that would have secured my A goal.  I thought about the mantras that worked for me at Fresno and felt sort of meh about them.  I am not sure how to describe it -- I don't think I was running at the same effort level I was at Fresno. I really think my mental attitude was just not there to get it done.   But at the same time, my legs felt flatter than I had hoped and I told myself it was an off day and to do the best I could with it.

My average pace slowly creeped up.  When it hit 8:40 I realized I was in jeopardy of losing my B goal.  That lit a small fire in my heart and I dug deeper to secure that goal for myself.  At the same time, it was nothing like the strong finish executed at Fresno.

Mile 1:  8:39
Mile 2:  8:31
Mile 3:  8:29
Mile 4:  8:31
Mile 5:  8:41
Mile 6:  8:37
Mile 7:  8:36
Mile 8:  8:29
Mile 9:  8:39
Mile 10:  8:34
Mile 11:  8:42
Mile 12:  8:30
Mile 13:  8:34
Mile 14:  8:41
Mile 15:  8:39
Mile 16:  8:47
Mile 17:  8:44
Mile 18:  8:37
Mile 19:  8:40
Mile 20:  8:48
Mile 21:  8:53
Mile 22:  9:00
Mile 23:  9:01 (water stop walk)
Mile 24:  8:49
Mile 25:  8:36
Mile 26:  8:28
Mile 26.35 (Garmin) 7:56

I have done a lot of thinking about this race.  At first I was upset I had an off day -- that either my legs were off or my mental game wasn't in it.  And then I got worried that I had a great day.

Going into this race, more than the result I got on Sunday, I was excited for the gains I had made this training cycle.  I felt that my goals were realistic and based on good training data.  Boyfriend pointed out that I didn't crash and burn.  "That involves lots of walking," he said.  And I suppose he is right.  It never got so bad that I contemplated walking.  So then I started worrying that perhaps 3:48 was really the limit of my ability for this training cycle.  Had I been totally blind to my actual abilities the last few weeks of training?

I've ruminated on this for a while.  I really don't think it is true.  When I did that half marathon last month I felt oodles better at mile 6 of that run than I did at mile 6 of the marathon yesterday even going 10 seconds a mile slower.  So I do think my legs had an off day.  At the same time, perhaps they had an off day because I pushed too hard the last month of training?  Things to think about and consider going forward.

As for my mental issues, I blame it all on the twisted ankle.  And honestly, I can live with that.

At the end of the day-- even if I had tired legs, even if I had pushed too hard the weeks before, even if I didn't have the mental fortitude to squeeze out every possible second, even if I just had an off day -- I posted a 9 minute PR.  Boyfriend pointed out that on a less than stellar day, my worse mile split of this race was still faster than my goal pace of the last marathon.  That's huge, and I am immensely proud of it.

As for the race itself, I think it is a great local option for a fast time.  It is one of the flattest marathons in driving distance of San Francisco.  The scenery is pretty in a Norman Rockwell kind of way but very repetitive so I would not run this one for kicks and giggles.  The crowd support is fairly sparse but endearing (Boyfriend said it was an easy race to spectate at due to parallel country roads).  The weather was awesome this year, but if it is a bad weather year you're very exposed and have long straight sections which could turn a bad wind into an awful situation.  Organization was great.  The race had free race photos (of course they didn't get one photo of me) and awesome food at the end (bags of chips, I'm looking at you!).  The swag has a high craptastic value, but this isn't one you'd run for the shirt or medal.  There is a half marathon which starts off with the full which always irks me, but they're only around for about 7 miles which isn't bad and long since finished by the time you head home.

Amazingly, my ankle felt no worse after the marathon than it did before the race.  I'm sure I set recovery back a little, but I honestly expected a bigger fallout than the minor stuff that has almost subsided.  I got a nasty blister from my ankle brace.  There is a hot spot it creates that I usually put a piece of medical tape over.  It's been more than a few months since I last wore my brace and with only a short test run Friday, I wasn't 100% sure where that spot was anymore.  It takes 16 miles for the hot spot to become bothersome, and right on cue at about 15.8 the rubbing started to bother me.  But that is pretty much the biggest issue my ankle gave me during the race.  I'm taking a full week off and will see how I feel when I start running again in a few days.

Edited to add:  I forgot to mention that the roads are a little chewed up the first few miles.  I saw *three* people totally fall and eat it in the first few miles.  With my wonky ankle I was super paranoid and had my eyes glued on the ground.  Especially since things were more congested in the beginning of the race.  Once you get out into the country the roads were not bad at all.


SF Road Warrior said...

But still!! What an off day to have!!

Also, the dry erase board is genius. I'll have to give that a try the next time I spectate. :)

Congrats again!

Jade said...

Mario obviously approves of the nice medal you got for him, and that blue looks lovely with his fur, too. (Just want to scoop him up and squeeze him, too, but that's beside the point. :) )

Boyfriend gets more GB points because that sign made me giggle.

ReneighRuns said...

Nobody can tell you how to feel about your running. I understand the feeling of not reaching your goal and the disappointment that can cause. That said, I think you're amazing, inspiring, and, really, just great all-around. Congrats on the PR!!

bookitjvb said...

CONGRATS on your PR!!! Totally awesome time. Hope your recovery goes well!

Rabbits' Guy said...

Nobody has every race work perfect. Take It!

Love the reports - I can't ever remember anything but the start and the finish! Sometimes not even to start my watch!

Tita said...

I can completely relate to that nagging feeling of disappointment when you don't hit the goal you trained for, but you really do (as others already pointed out) have so much to be proud of. Your courage, for one. Your performance too. I am hugely impressed by the fact that you stuck to it and pulled all this off despite an injury and an off day. When you nail your A goal at the next one, you will look back on all this as the unexpected catalyst in the trajectory toward your success. Congrats on #32. Onward and upward you go!

Alisa said...

If your off day includes a new PR I can't wait to see what your ON day has in store.

It has been so much fun watching you get faster and faster. You are one of the most dedicated athletes I know. You're a rockstar!!!!!!!

Rachel said...

even on an off day you set a huge PR! i know i've said it before, but i am truly impressed (and inspired!) with how far you've come. just think what you're capable of on a good day! congrats, i see some speedy times in your future : )