Friday, April 25, 2014

Grudge match

I've had something rankling since May 1st, 2011. Something that bothers me every single time my brain tosses it up for examination.


The time it took me to run my one and only attempt at a road marathon.

Of course, I've done longer races. I actually ran my first Horror Hill 6-hour about 5 months before that marathon, completing 44.1km in total. I've run that 6-hour 3 times since, plus the Run for the Toad 50k last October.

Still, my mind comes back to that marathon. Almost nine minutes over the Oprah line. A 6:35 per kilometer pace, on the road. Even a namby-pamby talk show host was dusting me by 12 seconds every one of those 42.2 kilometers of pain. I was shooting for under 4:30:00, and I missed. Miserably.

I hate it. I hate it even more than I hated my Around the Bay PR of 3:04:23, up until I smashed that last month.

You see, my crappy* showing at the 2011 Waterloo Marathon was entirely my own fault. I had the whole winter to train, as I'd signed up in the fall (I think in the post-race delirium from Horror Hill), yet I spent what would have been a relatively pleasant season for running absolutely failing to do so. Ok, so the weather on race day sucked - 7c/45f with rain and strong winds that became a headwind in the last 10km - but lack of preparation and

Let's whip out the spreadsheets one more time:

Forgive me. I'm an accountant. It's what I do.

I was only running 3 days per week back in early 2011, and I'd skive off my long run about every second week in order to either race something silly (like Frosty Trail of the Re-Fridgee-Eighter 8 mile), or just to cross-country ski or snowshoe with Tanker. I probably averaged about 2.5 runs per week through January and February. I kept telling myself that I'd run for 6 hours/44+km on minimal preparation, not knowing how different ultrarunning on trails is from a road marathon. March saw me pouring on mileage for which I wasn't really prepared in a last-ditch effort to cobble together some semblance of readiness.

It didn't work. This time, however, things are a little different.

  • Per the spreadsheet, I've put in an additional 221.6km of training so far - by the time I'm done my little shake-out run tomorrow morning, I'll be as close as makes no odds to having 800km of hay in the barn for this race. That's basically more than an extra month's worth of prep vs 2011.
  • I've been running 6 days per week for a few years now, and despite the absolutely horrible winter we experienced this year, I've not allowed it to get in the way of Doing The Work.  I think there have only been about 4 times in the last 4 months that I haven't got my 6 weekly runs in, and those were due to (minor) injury or illness.  
  • Race-specific preparation is much better. Long runs have happened. Hilly runs have happened. Long, hilly runs have happened. Six of the last 13 weeks have seen over 50km of running; 3 have been over 60km and I even managed 70.57km in my final build week. My highest mileage week in 2011 was 53.33km - one of only 2 weeks of 50+km total mileage. I also have 3 runs of 30+km under my belt this time, with 36k as my longest training run. The last marathon was attempted on a single 20 miler (32.9km), with every other long run being under 30k.
  • I have sorted out the nutritional issues that were plaguing me in 2011. I hadn't yet become aware of the whole host of food allergies that had completely wrecked my digestive tract, leading to generally poor health and a portajohn break at the halfway mark of the marathon.
  • I am about 8lbs lighter than I was going into my 2011 attempt, partly as a result of figuring out what I should and should not eat for maximum belly happiness.
  • I am coming off a really gawddamn good performance at Around the Bay, which is a very similar race to the Waterloo Marathon - a few tests early on, a big flat spot in the middle, and some tough rolling hills in the last 10km. This also served as an amazing preparatory workout for the marathon.
  • I have done a 2-week taper for this race rather than a 3-week taper. While I think I needed the extra recovery time in 2011, I feel better racing long distance if I don't drop my training too drastically too far out.
  • The weather is supposed to be sunny but cool-to-mild (high of 11c/52f), which favours my less-than-optimal-for-cooling build, and the light winds (10kph/6mph) should be a tailwind through the final hilly 10k of the course. 

  • While the McMillan Running Calculator claims I can run a 4:10:37 marathon (based on my 2:53:59 ATB finish last month), it assumes I am equally well trained for 42.2km as I was for 30km. This is not the case. I had done an over-distance, hilly training run as my last long workout 2 weekends prior to Around the Bay. My longest training run for the marathon has a 36km trot out and back on a nice, flat rail trail. I'd also put in at least one week where my mileage doubled that of the race prior to ATB, whereas my longest marathon prep week was only 1.67 times the distance of the race.
  • I'm not sure I allowed myself sufficient recovery time from Around the Bay. Running hard on the road for almost 3 hours takes it out of you, but after a couple of easy days I was back out running over 20km the Saturday after the race (that's 6 days post-ATB; I ran 66km total in that 7 day period). The following Saturday was the above-noted 36km slog, just 13 days after beating myself up on the roads of Hamilton.
  • Possibly as a result of a suppressed immune system due to all of the above, I caught a damn cold from a coworker and was a sniffly mess prior to that 36k training run. Strangely enough, I was no better afterward.
  • Because I was a giant pile of exhaustion and post-nasal drip after The Big Run, I ended up having a very low mileage week last week, with low total training hours overall. I ignored my bike, forsook the pool, and spent as much quality time as I could with my bed. I've come around a lot, and actually have done more swimming this week than I did last week, but I'm still fatiguing easily and feel like I've lost fitness (even though that's not really possible in 2 weeks).
  • With a predicted overnight low of -1c/30f, I can't for the life of me figure out what I'm going to wear that isn't going to either freeze me at the start or overheat me by the end.
  • I am being repeatedly kicked in the stomach by pre-race nerves, in a way I haven't experienced in a couple of years. Road marathons are bloody tough, and I have trepidations. 

Still, what else can I do but get out there and give'er?

It's gotta be better than 4:37:53.

* Please note that my disgust over my marathon time merely reflects my opinion of it in relation to my own abilities. It is in no way intended to disparage anyone else's results or achievements!

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