ORN: 8.6 miles, 1:37:11, 4R/1W then 1/1, 11:18/mile
I’ve done a lot of thinking and analyzing following last Saturday’s Rocket City Marathon. When I crossed the finish line and during the two hours immediately after the race, I truly wondered why on earth I was even attempting marathons. I felt I had done horribly, was deluding myself, wasting tremendous amounts of money, looking like a fool to my family, bringing shame on the sport of running and causing disgrace to America. Well, with the exception of the last item, I did feel all the rest. I was exhausted, nauseous, quivering, barely able to walk and pretty fed up with myself.
By the time I had showered, attended the awards ceremony and headed out to dinner with Darrell, Wes and Dee Dee, I was more myself. Chicken fingers and 6 Diet Cokes helped restore the physical balance. I slept well, felt little if any soreness the next morning and drove home feeling fine.
The nagging question remained, though. Why did I feel so rotten over the last four miles of the race and the immediate aftermath? And why was I so disappointed, mentally and emotionally, in my 4:56 time???
My analytical side went to work on the 9 hour drive home (which should have been 7+ hours, except for a large slowdown for a car accident and downpours south of Louisville, making me sing this old song; but I digress). This quest for a root cause problem led to two new strategies for 2008. I invite your opinions.
Fundamentally, I felt so rotten because I went out too quickly given the 65-70 degree temperatures and 90%+ humidity on race day. I felt fine through 15.5 miles when the early pace caught up with me. At 13.5 miles, I felt quite fine, even hamming it up for the race photographer.
But why did I go out so quickly?
I was intent on running a 4:15 marathon and had been for months. Once I worked though my ITB issues last spring, I set my sights specifically on hitting 4:15 in Rocket City. I had shaped all my training and mental preparation to hit that time on that day. So, when the day arrived, I did not even consider modifying the goal. You can see the yellow pace band David gave me on my left wrist. I was into it. It was what I HAD to do. Darrell even picked up the so called “game face” I had on that day and decided to run his own race. Darrell's one perceptive guy!
So why did I cling so tightly to that time?
Part of it is personality. It’s no surprise to anyone reading this blog for a while; I’m rather goal oriented. This can be a positive thing, but it has its dark side as well. I also realized I felt like I only had one shot at the 4:15. After all, this was the target race. Like a starving man seated before a big plate of food, I had little poise or discretion in the moment.
As a result, I stubbornly clung to the target time, ignoring the reality of the day’s weather. Dumb, in retrospect, but very real. There is nothing wrong with planning, nothing wrong with setting goals. Yet I need to hold these goals with a light grip and with a long term view.
So, I’ve landed on a couple of new strategies for 2008.
First, I changed my goal. It is “Run the best race conditions allow.”
With this as a goal, I avoid foolishly holding on to a particular target time while still seeking some level of achievement. “Conditions” speak to three parameters. First, the weather. Running in the Midwest means uncertainty about temperature, humidly and precipitation. I’m foolish to think I can rise above that. I learned that in spades in August 2006 in Parkersburg, June 2007 in South Bend and once more at Rocket City. Second is my training condition. If I’m using a race as a long training run, I can account for that. If I’m coming off an injury, I can account for that. Third, is my health. If I catch a bad cold four days before the race, there is no point in seeking to PR.
Putting this together gives me, it seems, a richer, fuller topography in which to decide how to run a certain race. It particularly gives me the framework to recognize those rare days when all conditions align and I should do nothing less than hammer hard for the full distance.
My second change is to make the marathon more common. Right now, I’ve penciled in four marathons in 2008, each of which fits my rough criteria of location, cost, interest and timing. I’ll describe them more in a future post. I’m pretty pumped to take four shots at 26.2 in the new year.
I think the basic training plan I used is sound. I say that because I’ve had no negative physical aftermaths of the marathon last week. Very, very little soreness, I went up and down stairs pain-free all week. I ran three miles on Tuesday and Thursday with no problem. I did 8.6 today (in the snow!) and felt fine for five, and just a few “comments” from my right knee over the rest of the run. So, I’m thinking if I stick with the training plan, adjust my thinking as above, it could work.
Thanks for listening to my ruminations. I do welcome your comments, positive or negative, on my approach. I learn a lot from all of you, for which I am thankful!