Monday, October 17, 2011

Race Report: ING Hartford Marathon

Let's play a game!

I'll tell you my story.  You make a tally for every 'athletic mistake' you see.  We'll compare counts at the end.  Ready?  Go!

Overall, my specific training for the marathon was minimal.  I had focused on the 70.3s more and figured that the endurance I had for 6 hours of racing would help me manage the second half of a marathon.   After Vegas, I did push myself to do one 20 mile run just for the mental sake of knowing the full 26.2 was going to be manageable. 

On race day, I woke up at 5:00AM (race start was at 8:00AM) and had my oatmeal with raisins, a clementine, and took my vitamin.  I got to the race about 6:00AM to get a nice and close parking spot.  I found the info booth where I had to meet my training group, found the bathrooms, and then picked a spot on the sidewalk and laid down for awhile to keep my legs rested.

After meeting with the 5k training group, I headed to drop off my bag at 7:30AM, hit the bathrooms at the last minute and I was ready!  Mother nature had cooperated and gave us temps in the mid-50s and low-60s.  I was a little excited, but overall quite calm.

Race plans
My overall plan was to finish in approximately 3:45, or 8:35 pace.  I know I tend to head out fast, so I figured my first half would be faster, but I would try to keep it from being too fast.  I go very much by perceived effort, so I was going to keep watch on my breathing.  If I was breathing too hard to chat, I'd know I was going too hard. 

Realistically, a small part of me knew that whatever goals I set were just that - GOALS.  I had never run more than 20 miles and that was only once.  I had only run 13.1 miles previous to that.  All of my perceptions about what to expect were completely made up based on advice from others.  So a part of me honestly thought that the first 13 miles would be close to approximation and then it was totally up in the air!  But my optimism took over and reassured me that I'd be fine.  Who do you think won on race day?

Actual Race

Now the fun begins!

After racing back to the start line from the portajohns, I looked around the crowd.  My pacer was halfway between myself and the start line.  There was no way I was going to squeeze my way up.  So I started the race in the back of the pack figuring I could slowly make my way up to my pacer.  The horn went off and...  we didn't move.  That's what you get for not being in the front.  Two minutes later I crossed the start line at an approximate 10:00 pace.  This is one thing I don't like about large races; if you don't place yourself right at the start, you have to either reserve yourself to a slower pace for awhile or weave between people.  Well, given that I'm competitive to the core and that passing people super charges my competitive nature, I weaved for about the first 2 miles.

Mile 3
(7:22 pace)
** 3:38 ahead of schedule **

I'll tell you now that I never saw my 3:45 pacer until mile 18 on an out-and-back.  In those first few miles, I must have passed him.  Just passed the 3 mile mark, however, I found the 3:35 pacer.  I was feeling pretty good at that point, so I eased on passed the group and kept going.  I soon found myself with the 3:30 group.  At that point I figured I was going to dig myself an early marathon grave if I pushed ahead any further.  So I held back and stuck with the group for awhile.

Mile 6
(8:02 pace)

** 5:16 ahead of schedule **

My biggest thought when I hit mile 6 was "You're kidding me, I've already run six miles?!"  I remember that six miles last year on my way to the half mary finish seemed like forever.  This six went by like nothing!  I felt pretty good and my time was better than I expected so far.  The 3:30 guy was pulling ahead a bit, but I didn't want to chase him down.  I knew I needed to let my body slow down, so I just kept his bright green jersey in sight and chugged along.

Mile 9
(8:07 pace)

** 6:39 ahead of schedule **

This is where I started feeling my stomach fight against me.  I had already finished one Vanilla flavored Clif gel and was working on a Citrus one.  We made a detour passed a middle school and then my stomach began feeling weird.  I couldn't quite place it.  The vanilla gel had been a new flavor, but I specifically ate it over three miles to make sure it wasn't going to sit badly.  And the citrus was my go to flavor.  And I had only taken water at the aid stations.  I kept pushing on and hoped the issue would go away.

Around mile 10 or 11, the 3:35 pacer caught back up with me and passed.  While a part of me instantly thought "Oh-no, I'm already falling off a cliff," another part of me knew that I was well under pace.  I pushed it out of my mind assuming they were banking time as well.  I pushed on up Main St and let the group run on.

All of a sudden, I see the 3:30 pacer go pass me as well.  "Hey, wait a second!  Why is the 3:35 pacer ahead of the 3:30?  And when did I pass him?!"  I would later see him pass me a second time.  At that point I realized he had made bathroom breaks.  At least I wasn't the only one with stomach issues.

Mile 12
(8:14 pace)

** 7:43 ahead of schedule **

The stomach issue did NOT go away.  It got worse.  At mile 11 I knew it wasn't going away.  At mile 12, I stopped at the portajohn.  It was occupied.  Again, I'm competitive, so I didn't wait around; I kept running. 

Mile 13.1
(7:52 pace)
** 9:36 ahead of schedule **

Thirty-nine seconds past the half mary mark, I found my relief - a free portajohn!  I stopped for a total of 1:34.  I can't say it cured my stomach pain, but it lessened it for sure.  What I gave up in stomach pain though, I gained in knee pain!

Earlier in the race I began to feel a slight pain in my left knee.  I've had the pain since I got home from the Vegas 70.3 and it's not a huge bother, but it's a constant pain after running a couple of miles that I haven't been able to shake.  However, after sitting down in the bathroom, the pain exponentially increased once I began running again!  I'm talking "Hey, you should stop running you idiot!" type of pain.  But after another mile or so it had lessened back down.  I may not be the brightest runner, but I'm stubborn and persistent!

Mile 15
(8:59 pace)

** 6:31 ahead of schedule **

At 13.5 miles, we began an 8 mile out-and-back.  Around mile 15 I could really start feeling my faster pacing take effect.  I was no longer passing most people.  I was the one being passed.  I was still holding my desired pace though - roughly 8:30.  So I began to do some calculations.  I knew I had between 8 and 10 minutes banked.  Even if I ran 0:30 slower per mile, this 11 miles to go, that would only use up 5:30.  As long as I could hold onto this rough pace, I was golden!  At this point, I let myself slow down a bit (no need to push) and I tried to mentally prepare myself for what lie beyond the 20 mile mark.

Throughout this mental math game, I got to see a number of the front runners go by.  They looked like they were out for a fun Saturday run.  No wonder we all look in awe at them.  We're struggling to hold our own paces while they're booking right along at 5-6:00 pace and look like they're in a 5k. 

Mile 18
(9:10 pace)

** 4:56 ahead of schedule **

My stomach came back for round 2 at about mile 16.5.  I fought it for almost 2 miles until I found another open portajohn.  This time I was in no rush.  I knew my stomach issue wasn't going away.  I also knew that I would cut out my bathroom break time afterward anyways.  So 2:18 later, I emerged feeling better in my gut and then battled the searing knee pain for the next mile.

I also knew I was starting to lose some of my banked time.  At 18 miles, I had roughly 6 minutes, which meant I couldn't go much slower than an extra 0:30 per mile.  Having watched the 3:40 pacer pass me and now finally catching sight of 3:45 as he went by, I started really doubting this race.

The earlier pace kept digging at my legs and I reserved myself not to walk until after 20 miles - I had run that distance before and I could do it again!

Mile 20
(8:37 pace)
** 0:27 behind schedule **

After hitting the 20 mile timing mat, I knew that every step from here on was a new distance PR.  I couldn't stop.  I didn't want to stop.  But my legs eventually took over and somewhere around 20.5 miles in I stopped and began walking.

Thirty seconds later I started running again.  And as I always say, the worst thing you can do is give in to walking.  Once your body knows how much better that feels, it wants it that much more!  

Mile 21
(10:18 pace)

** 0:23 behind schedule **

The rest of this race was a complete mental game.  One of my friends racing with me passed me somewhere around 22/23 miles.  That was yet another reminder about why early pacing is so important.

I also began thinking about the Ironman.  How in the world can people run sub-2:40 marathons let alone do it after swimming 2.4 miles and biking 112?!  In order to simply finish I'm going to have to really rethink my training.  Ugh!!

Mile 24
(12:25 pace)

** 11:54 behind schedule **

I already knew I was severely behind my schedule and already started worrying about even making the 4:00 mark since that pacer had already passed me as well.  Then I hear something behind me...

"Go Kurt!"

I knew that voice!  Another friend of mine had caught back up to me.  Haha.  I really need to work on my pacing!! 

I was literally alternating running and walking ever 0.1 miles.  For some reason I just could not mental control my body to make it run any further than that.  It would just give up.  The only thing I could do was shorten my walking bouts.  Then with something like 0.75 mile to go, I started running and the crowd kept me going!

Against my persistent insisting, Chelsea - who had passed me back at mile 24 - had turned around and finished the last 2 miles with me.  With 0.5 mile to go, I desperately asked her where the finish line was; she knows Hartford better than I do.  Thankfully it was just around the corner!  I turned that corner and saw the most glorious view I've ever seen, the end to this 26.2 torture session!  haha

Mile 26.2 - FINISH LINE
(9:23 pace)

I got my Mylar which was at the time more important to me than the medal.   Having raced without a shirt (my normal move), I had started getting chilled out around mile 15.  We all got our medals, picked up our bags, got some food, a much appreciated massage, and then headed home.

Most people talk about the pain of having to fit in training or the physical pain of the actual race as being the worst part of the marathon.  The thing that I think is vastly overlooked is the fact that for HOURS after the race, your stomach is screaming for food but rejects everything!

I finished just after 12PM.  I was starving, but didn't have a taste for anything on top of my stomach already being upset.  It wasn't until about 4-5PM that I could start eating again.  THAT is the worst part of endurance events in my mind.

Also, if you read the post HERE about my inability to sleep after my 20 mile run and then the post HERE about how I came to the assumption that it was caffeine, you'll be perplexed to know that after the same amount of caffeine on the marathon, I went right to sleep after getting home.  Figure that out!

Lastly, for anyone new to endurance events, don't plan on being productive the next day!  I've come back to work 2 days after 70.3 races, so I figured the marathon can't be too much worse, right?  Sunday I was up at 5:30AM and at work by 6:45AM.  Not the best idea I've had. 

What did I think of the race?
The ING Hartford Marathon was well run overall.  The course has slight rolls, but overall is quite flat.  Spectators line almost 90% of the course which helped!  As my first marathon, I think I vastly over-estimated my ability and under-estimated the marathon distance.

Did the race scare you?
You bet it did!  The Ironman seems infinitely more difficult now.  Boston is going to be VERY difficult to qualify for.  And the thought of doing an ultra or even the Goofy Challenge is going to be pushed off for a bit.  I love to challenge myself and I often push myself much further than most people do, but this was further from my real ability than I thought it would be. 

What do I think of my time?
With all things considered - my non-specific training, the stomach and knee issues during the race, and what not, I'm happy with my time.  And you can bet I consider it a 4:04:01 (having subtracted my bathroom breaks), NOT a 4:07:53!!  Could I have hit a 3:45?  Maybe.  Could I have done better?, absolutely!  But that will come with better training and better race day mental power.

Will I run another marathon?
You bet!  It won't be any time soon though.  Knowing now how it feels, I will re-evaluate my training.  Next time I'll be better prepared (no guarantee I'll actually BE prepared though). 

The End

How many tallies did you make?

To be honest, I lost count!  Training, not enough pre-race trips to the bathroom, too fast out of the gate, giant optimism, not enough experience, competitiveness...  There's plenty of things to work on for next season.  But for now, I get to take a month off!!  It seems like heaven now, but once I'm recovered, I doubt I'll make it the full month!


1.  For those of you who have run a marathon, how was your first?!
Similar experience?  Anything here remind you of that race?  What was the biggest thing you learned from?

Swim fast.  Bike smart.  Run hard. 


Karen said...

I wouldn't beat myself up too bad over it. You went into it at the last minute without a real training plan. I have a feeling if you had trained for the race, you would have hit your time goals easily. Those last six miles will get you every time :)

Karen said...

oh - meant to add... my first marathon was a torturefest. Marathon number two was a completely different story. MUCH better experience.

Matthew Smith said...

Congratulations on your first marathon. I think you did great! You gave me a little taste of what it's like, so maybe I can learn from you. I know you didn't reach your goal, but who cares. You finished! Nice work!

My Boring Triathlon Blog said...

Congrats on a great time. There was a tread on slowtwitch which hurts more, 70.3 or a marathon. Hands down a marathon hurts way more and for many more days after.

Good job and chalk it up to a learning experience.

PS: many say that a full marathon hurts way more than a full IM. Figure that one out because I haven't

Anonymous said...

Wow...what an experience! Congratulations on finishing through some difficult times though. And that's a great time for your first!!

Runners Fuel said...

We all learn from our mistakes. You did great, though! If I keep bust the day of my race, my legs feel better the next day! the pain afterwards is the worst for me (stomach and legs).

it's all about pace said...

Good job on the marathon finish... last week you were askng for advice etc... no better teacher than experience. My first marathon... sent almost exactly like yours only with leg cramps.

you, have now run a marathon!

Ironmom (Julie) said...

Congratulations on finishing! When you do your Ironman, you will be TRAINED for an Ironman, and that makes a huge difference. Still, if you can learn to run 26.2 at an even pace, you will be a much happier camper.

Coy Martinez said...

That was an excellent time for your first marathon! Congrats on doing so well! I love the distance but it's an acquired taste! I'm like you though, I wonder how people do it after swimming and biking so far!?

Aimee said...

Congrats on finishing your first marathon! woohoo!!! I'm sorry you had GI issues and it didn't go as well as you would have liked, but I think you still did awesome!!!

Let's see...for my first marathon I was cruising along doing great until mile20. I took in a new Gu flavor (big mistake) and instantly wanted to throw-up! I spent the next 6 miles stopping at the side of the course dry heaving! Then, when I finally finished, I proceeded to throw-up 3 times! Good times for sure!! Ha ha!

Caroline said...

Congrats on finishing your first Marathon!
that is a huge accomplishment!

GI issue...I know too well about those
they suck

I think you did great

ajh said...

Congrats on your first marathon and a good time!
Man I have been there with those fast early miles and then bam! I was planning my BQ party in one marathon but the last 4 miles killed me!

Jennifer Spadafora said...

Regardless of time and GI issues, I think you did awesome! I don't have any marathon experience so I only hope to have a time like your when it come to my 1st!

Richelle said...

You did great for your very first marathon, and now you have plenty of first-hand experience to help you as you train for your future races. Congrats--what an accomplishment!

Nelly said...

Nice job on the race!

Very impressive that you pulled off a marathon that fast with not that much marathon specific training. I bet you could improve your time by 30-40 minutes or more if you did a full marathon training plan. I could maybe even see you getting your time down to 3:25 or something like that.

It sounds like you did start off too fast, but that is really hard to avoid when you do your first marathon. Especially when you get into the mileage range where you haven't been before.

Yea, ironman people are nuts, lol I've only done 1 marathon, and couldn't imagine doing an ironman. But it seems like you could do it, seeing as though you did a half ironman, and I bet you could do a solid ironman race with a good training plan.

And doesn't Hartford have a really cool medal? I thought it was one of the coolest medals I've seen out there for a race.

Courtney said...

CONGRATS!!!! You are a MARATHONER!!! Welcome to the club!!

Jessica said...

I just found your blog today - congrats on the marathon finish! I have never heard of anyone having a good first marathon experience. Just running is way different from multisport events, and the marathon is a distance to be respected even by pure runners!

My first one sucked. I bet if we sat down and compared my mistakes to yours, I would win by a landslide - beginning with not understanding the concept of "hill" and choosing a course with lots of them! The five that I've run since then were night-and-day different. With that kind of round one, a little commitment is all it would take for you to BQ!