The Wausau Marathon on August 22, 2015 was my first attempt this year to go under four hours for the marathon. It went well for 15 miles or so but a poorly considered hydration plan coupled with not enough "fast" miles in training caused the last 9 miles to be anything but marvelous.
And I learned a ton.
Back in June, good running buddy Mike Taylor said "Joe, you need a dress rehearsal for this sub 4 plan of yours. Don't leave it all to chance at your other target race on November 7." Good words, Mike. So, the Wausau Marathon in northern Wisconsin filled the bill. I dialed up the training through the muggy Indiana summer and went for it.
The trip north was a treat. My wife came along with me for the 7 hour drive on Friday and we had truly a wonderful trip. The chance for extended uninterrupted time in the car led to substantive conversation which nurtures both of us. On Friday night, we met up with fellow runner and fellow blogger Heather who lives near and works in Wausau. What fun!! The three of us sat and talked and, as is so often the case, found much in common, far beyond running.
We found a fine motel just around the corner from the start/finish area, which simplified all logistics. With a 7am gun time, I was up at 5am, had oatmeal in the lobby, got ready without waking Gretchen and was at the start area just past 6am.
Race Day is always fun and this one was especially enjoyable. I had some good meet ups and was very happy to talk with Larry Macon once again. Larry, a rock star in our sport, was as friendly and outgoing as ever. Now at age 70, he still does multiple marathons every weekend, heading to New Jersey after finishing this race in Wisconsin. "The usual logistics, Larry?" I asked. He grinned "Yeah, I've figured this out!"
The race started right on time (I always appreciate that) and off we went. I tried to quickly establish my pattern for the day. I used a run/walk ratio of 4:30/0:30...a five minute cycle of running for four and a half minutes and walking for half a minute. While mathematically identical to a 9/1 pattern (which is roughly what you get by just walking through water stops), I find it more palatable psychologically to hit a walk break every 4.5 minutes. This pattern meant my run pace needed to be 8:47/mile when I did run.
I executed this plan, up and down the early hills and was ahead of my planned pace through mile 13, hitting hit the half marathon mark at 1:58. This portion of the course was into the day's south wind and I was pleased. We turned to go generally west for a ways and I started to feel the heat of the sun on my back, now around 9am local time. At mile 16, we dipped onto a running path through a park, the legs feeling sluggish. By the time we emerged from the park at mile 18, my earlier pace at 9:00/mile had slowed to 11:30. It was clear the sub four race was not going to happen.
I shifted back to slower run/walk ratios but never really found a rhythm the rest of the way home. I got more and more sluggish, with mile times drifting up to 13:46 at mile 22 and 14:36 at the mile 25 marker. I walked a lot, shuffled a little, thought deeply, smiled plenty and eventually got back to the park where we started. Gretchen was there, hoping to see me at 11:00am. When she saw me around 11:30, at least I was smiling and she knew, before I told her, that today was not the day. I have a wonderful wife!!!!
I crossed the finish line, marathon #58, grateful for the small gift of the announcer pronouncing my surname correctly. I was done with running and done, period...fully spent...as wiped out at the end of a race as I have been since the 2010 Chicago Marathon. Adding insult to injury, my preventive paper tape fell off somewhere along the line and I had a dandy bleeding right nipple, as you can see in the photo below.
I did have enough wits left to see Jose Santos, aka "Superman" along with his son Steve, whom I had talked with for a long time before the race. Jose finished about 45 seconds ahead of me and was so pleased...race day was his 60th birthday and he celebrated his 98th marathon with his son. How cool is that!!
The organizers had a wonderful spread of food set up underneath a big tent with chairs and tables where we headed just after this photo op. Remembering the curative power of a burger at mile 23 of last winter's HUFF 50K, I picked up a hot hamburger and slathered it in ketchup. Then, I walked to a big cooler of ice-cold chocolate milk, grabbed two of these 8 oz cartons and sat down.
Gretchen sat across from me and was a little concerned that I looked decidedly flat...she had good reason to, as the analysis below will demonstrate. I started in on the chocolate milk and, man, did it taste good. The burger was tasty and hot. The second carton opened, I was starting to feel better. I started talking with the young guy next to me who just finished his first marathon. I asked Gretchen to pull out two more cartons of milk. I started laughing with the new marathoner. The third carton done, the burger half done, I began bopping to the music playing. By the time I began downing the fourth carton of milk, I looked at my wife and said "I'm doing better now" and she concurred, knowingly. I finished the burger and we headed out, as I grabbed one more milk for the road. We walked back to the hotel, feeling better, I showered and we headed home.
By the next day, I realized what had really happened: I had dehydrated by mid-race. I simply could not ingest enough water from the water stops and I was dried out. Totaling what I drank post race is instructive:
- Five 8 ounce cartons of chocolate milk post race
- 24 oz of electrolyte drink back at the motel
- Three 16 oz glasses of ice tea at lunch around 2pm
- 24 oz protein smoothie during the drive around 3pm
- Two more 16 oz glasses of ice tea during the rest of the drive
That's a total of 168 oz of fluids post race. And I didn't need to pee until 8:30pm, when we got home. That's nearly 5 liters of fluids by which I was in deficit...yeow. No wonder I wasn't running well after mile 15.
In the post-mortem of this race with the aforementioned Mike Taylor, he correctly informed/lectured/exhorted me to pay attention to my fluids, both prerace and during the race. Message received. I learned this once before in 2008...and now learn it afresh.
This Race's Lessons:
The marathon is an exacting taskmaster, which for me is the most compelling reason to keep running them. The key lessons from this race:
- The 4:30/:30 run/walk ratio works. I liked it. I need to continue to work on it.
- I ran enough training miles but not enough quality miles, not enough miles quick enough to get to sub 4.
- I have to carry my own water. Gulping a bolus of water every mile and a half or so just doesn't cut it. I need to sip, almost on each walk break, to stay hydrated.
- Temperatures over 60 is not conducive to a hard marathon effort.
- Chocolate milk is the greatest post race restoration drink. Ever.
- A cold protein smoothie packed in ice is perfect for the trip home.
- Quickly go buy some lubricant to keep my white shirts white!!!!
Hope you've learned a bit from this write up.
Persevere. And stay hydrated while you persevere!!
Postscript: About four weeks after the race, a package arrived from the Wausau Marathon. Despite the difficulty I had in the later stages of the race, I placed third of eight in my age group. And this earned me a Wausau Marathon beer glass!! How nice of them to look this up and mail the prize to me. Pure class, thanks folks!!