Going into marathon training this fall, I was wondering if all of the miles I put in on the bike this summer were going to help my running. They did.
I began training the week of September 22nd, with 13 weeks to get ready. I developed a schedule based on 3 weeks of build followed by stepdown weeks. In the beginning, I did ramp up the mileage fairly quickly, which is not the best, but I backed off on the cycling so I think it balanced out. My running regime was based on the Furman First program, with 3 key workouts (long, track and tempo) plus recovery runs and/or cross-training. I also started getting weekly massages in November. I was able to put in 4 runs of 18 miles or longer, including 2 twenty mile runs. A PR in the Outback Half on Thanksgiving and a strong run nine days later in a warm OUC Half boosted my confidence.
The week before the marathon I was extremely anxious. The weather forecast was not good and it looked like it was going to be hot and humid. I took in a lot of water during the week, so much my wife started making fun of my frequent trips to the restroom. Tapering is not easy because you have trained your body to expect a pattern of work-outs.
The morning of the race was somewhat cool, but it still was not optimal running conditions. The only hope I had was that the skies would be overcast to keep the sun off. I had mentally prepared myself the days leading to the race, envisioning running strong in the heat.
The beginning of the race was comfortable. The goal was to do even 8:00/mile splits. There was a group I was hanging with that was doing 7:50. I decided to remain with them, because I knew in my head that if I dropped back I would find myself pressing to catch them again. Plus, according to McMillan, I was capable of running 7:37 miles for a marathon. I decided that even with the heat, 13 seconds over projected pace would not destroy me. Somewhere along Mandarin Road, between miles 8 and 10, I dropped that group and started passing folks. Running miles 13 through 15 is a blast because of the crowd support. After 15, I was still passing folks. Through 18, my average was a 7:52/mile and on pace for a 3:26 marathon. Unfortunately, this is where the happy part of the race report ends.
Because of the heat and humidity, I was sweating quite a bit. However, for some reason my bladder filled up. I needed to go as soon as mile 6, but could never find a port-o-let that was empty or didn't have someone waiting. Finally, at mile 18 I had my chance. My body felt really good after the pit stop, but I think my legs locked up a bit. After making the turn onto Scott Mill, my body started slowing down. There is less shade on this part of the course, and there were no clouds, so it started to get really warm. At the water stops, I took in a lot of fluid because I knew my body needed it, but it made my stomach gurgly. By the time I got to the next stop, I would be in dire need of fluid again and would feel like I was overindulging. I wish I had a water bottle at this point to sip on.
I continued to slow down and was eventually walking through water stops after mile 21. I saw Rick Patterson at 23.5 and he told me to pour water over my head. That felt good and gave me a boost. I started doing the math in my head to determine what it would take to still finish under 3:30. Once I realized that wasn't happening, I started doing the math to beat my PR. I still had a chance. However, with each passing mile, that goal also became unattainable.
In the end, I finished in 3:39:29, two minutes off of my PR that I ran in my first marathon ever in 2004. The weather in 2004 was absolutely perfect. I consider this year's Jacksonville Marathon to be on par or better than the 2004 because of conditions.
In the past, after a bad marathon I would immediately start looking for another race to redeem myself, but in the end would decide that would be a bad idea. This year is different. I know I am in really good shape and I owe it to myself to find another marathon and hope for good conditions. After talking with numerous folks, I think I am going to do the Tallahassee Marathon February 1 to go for that PR. Traditionally, the weather is very cool for the race and it is a pretty fast track. Apparently, it is even flatter than Jacksonville.
My recovery has been very fast. I ran 3-4 miles 2 days after the race, then did a 30 mile bike ride last Friday. I ran 5 miles Saturday morning, and another 5 miles this morning. Jenny Lindley gave me a great massage this morning and I feel like I am back to pre-race form. I'm shooting for 15 miles this Saturday morning. That will be 4 weeks before the race. A couple more long runs during the first half of January and then a stepdown week followed by a taper week and I should be ready for that PR.
It may sound weird, but my body is now conditioned to expect marathon training every fall. It craves the long workouts. I enjoy the experience, spending time on the road and track with friends. I am also thankful to have the support of my wife and daughters to allow me to be selfish and take the time to do the training (although they are rarely awake when I leave for my runs).