Marathon Take #5: A Step Forward After A Major Step Back.






Mile 26 of 2014 Grandma's Marathon.  2:19:43

As I wrote about in a previous blog, my early 2014 racing season was cut short secondary to a great deal of professional distress and life changes.  The consideration to shut down the entire cycle, including Grandma’s Marathon, was definitely a topic of discussion.  Although the primary goal of another Olympic Trials Qualifier was missed, I’m pleased that things have clearly turned back in the correct direction the past 9 weeks.

I now have 5 proper marathons under my belt.  Each has provided its’ own unique learning experience and I think this past attempt has provided me the greatest lessons.  In a nutshell; Enjoy the race; Drink anything versus nothing; Emotional control is tough.

Relax. Enjoy The Scenery! (Er, fog…)

Leading up the this race I had a very calm but confident demeanor.  I knew the training was there for a good performance.  I knew we had once again tapered well.  And I was excited given the race day conditions; temperatures in the low 50’s, calm winds, heavy fog and a light mist.

However, after the air horn was blown, I found it very difficulty to find a smooth rhythm.  I spent most of the race feeling rigid and tense.

In my two best marathons, I recall being focused but relaxed.  I regularly engaged in friendly banter with fellow runners, smiled and hi-fived spectators and then turned things into race mode after the roughly 20 mile mark when things become progressively more challenging.

At Grandmas I was the polar opposite.  I acted almost militaristic.  Not a single word was said to the men in my pack, eye contact avoided with spectators and my surroundings, and my typical late-race mantras were overplayed in the first half.

By the time the real race started around 20-22 miles, I felt mentally exhausted from nearly 2 hours of continual and unnecessary distress.  If it’s possible to burn through your mental energy like one does muscle glycogen, I successfully hit that proverbial “mental-wall” right around 21 miles.

After a slow string of miles from 20-22 (5:24, 5:23, 5:22) and the previous 45 minutes spent alone in thick fog concerned that the pack wasn’t coming back to me, I could feel myself begin to raise the white flag simultaneously as my body began to run out of fuel…

Curse Of The Elite Bottle

Once again I was very fortunate and thankful to be provided elite bottles along the course.  This meant I could use the exact fluids I used in practice without any worry of GI distress.

I was very diligent to practice taking fluids during all of my long runs and tempos.  A friend was either recruited to ride next to me, bottles placed on the trunk of my car for multiple loops or I stashed fluids ahead of time out on a course.  I felt confident with my fueling strategy and new stomach problems would not be a factor.

The decision was to place 7 bottles at miles 3, 5, 9, 13, 15, 19, 22 with PowerGels attached to bottles 9, 19 and one in my pocket.

Unfortunately, the race organizers placed all of the elite bottles (perhaps 100+?) on just a few tables.  So imagine a pack of 10+ guys, running low 5 minute mile pace, all attempt to cherry pick a single bottle from a cluttered table, without knocking over others or dropping your own.

Inevitably, bottles were dropped, knocked over, and mistakenly taken.  At several tables I couldn’t locate my bottle or found it had already been knocked to the ground.

Of the 7 bottles I placed, I only managed to pick up 3 of them.  With each bottle containing 5oz, and foolishly deciding only to drink about 1/2 of each, I consumed roughly a mere 9 oz of fluids throughout the race.

In fear of GI problems, I decided against taking any of the regular fluids offered on the course.  In hindsight I would’ve fared better to consume something rather than nothing and my hearty stomach likely would’ve been just fine.

Emotional Control

Something my coach continues to reinforce about the marathon distance is emotional control.  Meaning, you can’t get caught up in someone else’s foolish pacing early on as it will likely destroy the late stages of your own race.  Everyone feels good the first half of a marathon so to have the confidence to run within your ability is an important skill to master.

On Saturday I found myself in a pack of 13 guys through half way and we worked well together.  We hit the split in 1:09:01 which positioned everyone perfectly to attack the second half as a group.

Unfortunately, one of the horses got spooked and foolishly took off in the 14th mile.  I could sense the pace quicken so tried to ease off the pack and run my own race.  My 14th mile was still covered far to fast, 5:06 compared to their 5:00, or 2:11:05 pace.

I then fell back into the 5:15 pace, all that was needed to run under 2:18, as they continued several more quick miles.  A large gap was then formed and the rest of my race was run completely solo.  Had I not misgauged my fluid intake, I likely could’ve capitalized on the packs impatience in the final 4 miles as 9 of the initial 13 struggled home outside of the Olympic Trials Standard.  The quick stretch of miles from 14-16 undoubtedly was responsible for this.

I Think I’m Turning Japanese

For a long time I’ve been fascinated with the Japanese legend, Yuki Kawauchi, and his ability to race an absurd amount throughout the year at a high level (  After spending some time with Nick Arciniaga over the weekend and picking his brain about his past 9 months of employing a relatively Kawauchi- esque approach, I decided that if my legs felt recovered enough the week following Grandma’s I would consider giving this a shot.

So as I do after every marathon, following the race, I spent 30 minutes rehydrating, refueling and cheering on other finishers.  I then jogged the half mile back to the hotel, stretched, rolled and ice bathed.  My philosophy is why throwout everything you did to stay healthy prior to race day simply because now you’ve accomplished (hopefully) your goal?  An actual cool-down jog isn’t recommended for everyone but if you hate walking around feeling like you’ve been run over by a Mack Truck the following few days after a marathon, consider employing what I’ve mentioned above…

Following a day off on Sunday, I resumed typical training Monday morning with a 10/4 double.  My legs felt just like they do after any normal hard long run when marathon training; a little soreness and general fatigue, but, nothing out of the ordinary.

Unfortunately, the fresh legs are simply a continual reminder that I ran under my potential last Saturday and missed a perfect opportunity to get the Olympic Trials Standard.

I have decided to experiment and take the Kawauchi approach to marathoning and attack another marathon next month.  Eugene.  With the standard structure of 2-3 marathons a year, it’s quite possible that you rely too heavily on hoping everything aligns perfectly on a given day.

As always, Run Happy!

Race details

Gear: Brooks Green Silence (Can anyone find me another pair?!!!), Brooks Elite racing kit, CEPs, Brooks 80’s sunglasses.

Fuel: 2.5 Double Latte PowerBar Gels, ~9 oz Lemon-Lime PowerBar drink, ~4-6 oz water

Pack: 12 guys through 13.1, solo from there to the finish

Splits: 5:13, 5:22, 5:10, 5:16, 5:15, 5:13, 5:13, 5:18, 5:15, 5:06, 5:22, 5:19, 5:20, 5:06, 5:14, 5:15, 5:16, 5:18, 5:10, 5:24, 5:23, 5:22, 5:32, 5:39, 5:28, 5:46; 2:19:43

2 thoughts on “Marathon Take #5: A Step Forward After A Major Step Back.

  1. Thanks, Nate. I take waist deep ice baths. During my taper I do this every 1-3 days depending on how I’m feeling-more if legs are sore, attempting to return some freshness to them. During heavy training I typically only do them occasionally if I’m feeling really beat up after a hard workout or long run. I ice cup (massaging) when there is a very pinpoint ache or pain.

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