A personal record!
How did that happen? I had a crappy run using the Galloway Method at the Kentucky Derby Festival last week, it was another warm day today, and I didn’t want to get out of bed in the morning.
Still, this turned out to be the best marathon I’ve ever run. Or, I should say, run-walked because I gave Galloway another try. That’s not the only thing I changed though.
In my poor design for my science experiment I changed liquids too. I went with coconut water this time. Gatorade is total shit. The more I run, the more I think Gatorade does nothing for me. I’d say the same for Powerade. But, those are the only two things I encounter in the US. I’m not particularly concerned about energy or sugars since I get that by eating during the run, but I do need more electrolytes. I decided to try something new, and since I sweat a lot I wanted something with lots of salts.
Gatorade Thirst Quencher has 45mg of Potassium in 12 ounces, while Viva Coco has 470mg in 8 ounces. Runners argue about Potassium, Sodium, Magnesium, and other electrolytes because they fancy themselves expert dietitians who know better than everyone else how much any runner needs. I don’t really care about that. I decided to try coconut water to see what happens. If it works for me, I don’t care why or if it works for anyone else.
For what it’s worth, the Mayo Clinic lists some Potassium-laden foods. Raisins and orange juice are in the middle of that list. I had some OJ and raisins for breakfast along with my peanut butter sandwich.
I was also going to try the Galloway run-walk strategy again. I tried it last week, but I fell apart toward the end for other reasons. I don’t think I gave it a fair go since I didn’t follow my other proper race routines.
I’m not doing his strict program, which is geared toward creating finishers and secondarily personal best times. I haven’t gone through his training schedule or computed my optimal pace or interval ratio. I’m ignoring everything I’m supposed to do and showing up thinking it will work anyway. I’m just using the idea of walk breaks, which most people attribute to him. I’ll see how it goes.
Curiously, this marathon has a horse racing component, a week after the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon (their horse racing opens this week). I didn’t think about that at all until I showed up. I try not to overthink these things. As I was in the starting corral I saw some horses running on the track for their Sunday exercise, but I don’t think the season is open yet; I didn’t have a chance to place any bets.
My start pace was really quick. I was way at the back of the pack since I got to the start area ten minutes before the gun. I did get up two hours before the start to have breakfast, something that I didn’t do last week and cause a bit of my suffering, but I also got back in bed for 45 minutes. I wanted to gain a bit of ground and get some space around me, which wasn’t hard since the field wasn’t that large.
Today I wasn’t expecting anything other than finishing another state in the 50 States goal and another state in my Titanium goal. I’m grinding numbers. This is state 30 and Titanium run 21, and the last one before I start the New England Challenge in two weeks where I’ll get another six. My States map is getting full! Other than that, I had no expectations or plan for today. I’d start running, do that for four or five hours, and then do something else.
The start was at 8:00am, which is a bit late and puts me into the warmer part of the day, but, like I said, I got a little more sleep. Standing in the corral and looking at the back of someone’s 50 States shirt, I thought about my Maryland problem. I had planned to run the George Washington’s Birthday marathon in February, but it was cancelled. As I was waiting to run, I saw a 2013 Baltimore Marathon shirt with a date in October. Huh. October. That might work. If everything else works well, that would fix my East Coast hole. And, after the race, I check to see that the October 18 date works; it’s right after the Appalachian Series.
I started a little faster than I wanted, but not too fast. I knew I wouldn’t be able to hold that pace for a half marathon, but I was letting my legs do what they wanted to do. It didn’t seem like an abnormal effort and my breathing was fine. I caught the 4:25 pacers and tried to stay with them, which gave me a short break, but then I pulled away from them. Sometimes it’s harder to run slower.
I kept pushing and caught the 4:10 pace group. I’ve never run with that group before, so I didn’t think I’d be able to hang with them. I stayed with them a bit longer than the 4:25 group, but I slowly pulled away from them too. I figured they’d easily catch me in a couple miles and then I’d fade back to the 4:25 group, but I wouldn’t see the 4:10 group until the end of the race.
I wasn’t trying to bank time. That never works, although I heard people talking to each other about their plan to do just that, and I don’t recall seeing them again. I was running at the effort level I found at the inner edge of comfortable. It was enough to worry me a bit, but not enough to put me in any immediate difficulty.
By Mile 6 I figured I was on a good run today, which I know now that I can never really gauge at the beginning. My average pace, the only one I let my Garmin show me, was somewhere in the 8:40/mile range, and sticking there. That’s faster than any place I’ve maintained in a marathon. Surely I couldn’t maintain it though, but while I was on it I’d give it a try. The course was flat, there was some shade, and there was a nice wind that was keeping me cool.
By the half way point, I was still under a 9:00/mile average, but my watch just hit two hours at the 13.1 mat. Garmin’s tend to be a bit long, so my pace looked a little faster than it was. By that time I was thinking about a possible four hour marathon time because my reported pace looked good, but I didn’t think I could run the second half as fast as the first. I’d have to speed up slightly to do that.
I decided to keep the pace under 9:00/mile until Mile 15, and although I was losing a second in average pace with each walk break, I thought that was doable. I knew I couldn’t hold this up much longer, but while I was I was going to try. Maybe I blow up at the end, but so what? I’ve done that plenty of times. Once I got to Mile 15, still under 9:00/mile by my Garmin, I decided to keep the pace to Mile 18.
Through the middle period there were two runners that I was leapfrogging consistently, and I felt a bit bad about that. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t liked the run-walk thing. When I’ve been on the other side of this situation, where I was the one running the consistent pace, I’m annoyed by the guy who keeps running by me only to slow down or walk after they pass me. It throws me off a little in that tough part of the run where I want to concentrate on holding everything steady with nothing changing around me. The walker is a bit on a distraction, but that’s also what running with a bunch of other people is all about. By that time the field has sorted itself out and everyone is mostly running at the same pace, except for the guy running an 8:30/mile pace for a bit then walking for a bit. Still, those two runners were my benchmarks. I’d walk a bit and they’d pass me, then I’d slowly catch up to them. I judged how I was doing about how far ahead of them I got before my next break.
At this point I was getting a bit tired. This is the hard part of the marathon where I’m still far away from the finish even if I am most of the way there. I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel yet. I felt good, but the run interval was getting a bit harder. I was a bit slow in the start of each interval and the walk breaks seemed shorter (where at the beginning they seemed to take forever).
The coconut water was working, I think. I had no soreness or aches like I normally have at this period. My muscles didn’t ache and my joints weren’t complaining. Nothing was threatening to cramp. Even though it was warm and I was sweating, I wasn’t feeling it. That’s unusual, since this part of the marathon usually requires me to push through a lot of discomfort. Instead, my legs were just tired.
At Mile 19, my pace ticked over to 9:00/mile, but I was pushing through it. I wasn’t able to get it back down before that point (the longer the distance the harder to move the average). Miles 20 and 21 went by without too much damage, but the 10 minute run period was a bit too long at that point.
For some reason, I thought a four hour pace was 9:20. It’s never been an issue for me so I haven’t had a reason to note it. It’s actually 9:09, which I had a 9 second advantage on, but I thought I had a bit more time. Still, the math wasn’t working out because I knew I was a couple minutes over.
I only choose the 10:1 run-walk ratio because it seemed simple. Galloway has a way to calculate the optimum pace and race, which I haven’t done, along with all the training I haven’t done. The next time I’ll try this, maybe I’ll start with 10:1, but then in the last third of the race drop down to 5:1, or something less than 10 minutes of running. Or maybe I’ll just get better.
I ended up adding some extra walking during Mile 21, where my scheduled walk break happened to end at a water stop. I walked through that as well so I could take on some extra food, and then took two minutes of walking at Mile 22 so I could catch up on my recovery for the final push.
I knew I was going to miss a four hour marathon. If I maintained my pace consistently, which I was now having trouble with, I’d still miss it by a couple of minutes. That’s a bit of a psychological de-motivator. Maybe I could have done it by trying harder, like in one of those motivation posters, but I didn’t. My goal shifted to 4:10, which would still be a personal best time for me, but not too much of a personal best so it’s harder next time. Going off the clocks at the mile markers to calculate the pace I need to cover the last bits, I knew that was the right call. My Garmin was already 0.4 miles long, which is a little longer than usual but not unheard of. It doesn’t matter if the course is long or if I ran a longer line; only the time across the finish mat matters.
I was still amazed that I was making this decision at Mile 22. The combination of the run-walk and the coconut water was doing me well. I was doing so well, in fact, that I wasn’t taking pictures of the beach and the boardwalks (but there are some good ones on Flickr from other marathoners). I put my head down and ran. It was somewhere around here that I lost the two runners I had been leapfrogging. I didn’t see how far ahead they got, although I don’t think it was that far ahead because they were pretty early in the finishers’ chute when I crossed. I did stop to thank each one of them for setting a consistent pace even if I couldn’t keep it myself.
In that last four miles the end is near and the whole thing seems doable, no matter my performance. I was doing this with no training other than running a lot of marathons this year and running a mile every non-event day. This is what sucks about running: you have a lot of misery and then the running gods give you something to keep you from quitting all together.
Just before Mile 24 the 4:10 pace group caught up with me during a walk break. It took them 20 miles for them to do it. I cut my walking short and ran with them, but I was tired in the legs and tired in the chest. I think they were actually three minutes behind me on chip time, so finishing with them would put we well ahead of 4:10. I hung with them for a mile and a half.
I lost them in the last half mile. I couldn’t keep my breathing in check and I knew I was a couple minutes in front on them, especially since they were checking and announcing target times at each mile marker. Even as I felt myself fading, I knew I was going to run a personal best.
Since my chest was tired, I should have concentrated on belly breathing instead. That’s still hard for me to do unconsciously though.
Were I on the bubble for a record time, I probably could have pushed through this part. I was going to finish under 4:10, so I didn’t push it as hard as I could have in the last three-quarters of a mile. I ended up with 4:08, an eight minute improvement over my time at the 2013 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona Marathon, another warm day in a marathon named after the entire state.
For my effort, I got a medal I liked rather than the usual cheap ribbon with a cheap clasp. This one looks nice as the ribbon integrates well with the medal to give it a clean line (even if I did have it hanging backward for 10 minutes).
Better than that, the finish chute had salt water taffy, which I hadn’t even thought about seeking out while I was in Jersey. That is the local food though! They had a pile on the table, but there were also several pieces in the lunch bag they gave out. I was too tired after the race to wander around looking for a shop to buy more.
Today was a good day, but the first time I’ve had a glimmer that a sub-4 marathon is possible for me. With everything going against me today (lack of training, no speed work for a year, a heavy endurance calendar, a warm sunny day), I got really close. But, why? Was it Galloway or the coconut water? I have some more experimenting to do.