Tuesday, March 4

Little Rock

Last night in Little Rock, put me in a haze -- Grand Funk Railroad, We're an American Band

Some spectators at Sunday's Little Rock Marathon weren't just loud. They got political.
I can understand, sort of, the Obama "Yes We Can" signs. That can be a marathon mantra. Then there were women with Hillary signs telling us (specifically many Texan runners whose primary is this week) to vote for Clinton. "Hillary is the real agent of change!"
I don't get it. I don't know how that's supposed to inspire us.
Nothing against Hillary. I would be equally perplexed if Ron Paul supporters lined the course (none did). I say: no politics in the marathon!

Couldn't sleep much the night before my second marathon. Maybe four hours. Instead of just staring up at the hotel room ceiling in darkness, I got up and went to the starting line at 5 a.m. ... three hours before my race started.
Volunteers were already very busy. I got to see a couple hundred walkers start the marathon at 6 a.m. They had to start early because it takes them more than 6 hours, and the finish line closes at 2 p.m.
The walkers are adorable. Super slim elite runners with athletic attire will conduct warmups with a serious expression later on, but these people of all shapes, sizes and clothing just stand, grin and converse with one another like they are going on a museum tour. Some wear backpacks. I (I'm the only runner up that early) and all the volunteers happily cheer them on.

My motto for my first marathon in Chicago was "Prepare for glory" from the film 300. Or something asinine like that. In Little Rock I just told myself no pressure. All I wanted to do was have fun and beat my hideous 5:59:48 PR.
The weather was warm (50s on up to 65) but not a problem. I deliberately went at a 9 to 10 minute pace. Although I do shorter races at a 7 to 8 pace, I was very worried about how I would handle the final six miles.
There are moderate hills from miles 6 to 13, and then you face Monster Hill ... the biggest bump on the course that takes you up to 517 feet elevation. Monster Hill didn't look the way I pictured it in my nightmares. It wasn't a deal where you go straight up and then down. It was like a spiral ramp ... intimidating just because you couldn't see over it. You had no real perception on where it would end. That goes on for three miles.
I had slowed to a 10 to 11 minute pace by the time I reached a lengthy, flat, out-and-back portion in a park that reminded me of Sequiota. At mile 23 my legs cramped up and I had to start walking. It felt demoralizing, but a lot of people were walking at that point.
Then a cool thing happened at mile 25. Supergirl appeared. An attractive young woman with the whole cape and S on the chest bit. She was walking fast trying to pace another lady dressed as some female superhero I didn't recognize. The unknown superhero was struggling to keep up, but Supergirl said: "Just jog the soreness away."
I decided to take that advice too, and I suddenly started running at a decent pace like the ladies were. It was the oddest thing. I was walking with soreness one moment, and then I was running with no difficulty. Thank you, Supergirl.
Luckily I was moving well when Brent Barnett (who ran the half) photographed me close to the finish.
My chip time of 4:47:10 easily beat my Chicago time by more than an hour. Unlike Chicago, it wasn't real emotional. I didn't cry. There was just a nice sense of satisfaction of covering the distance. It's challenging.

Here's my big question: Why did I falter at mile 23?
Did the numerous hills finally take a toll on me? Was it a lack of sleep? Was it from doing a 5K race the day before?
Or, was it simply the fact that I never ran that far nonstop before and it was foreign to me?

How can I better handle those final three miles?
I think the answer for me is to just do more quality long runs and maintain a strong mileage base. I don't think I'm necessarily doing anything wrong, but there's probably something I can do better.

Forgive a long post, but here were my estimated times per mile (as indicated on my Garmin) in case anyone has advice on how I can more intelligently pace myself.
Mile 1: 9:44, Mile 2: 9:17, Mile 3: 9:30, Mile 4: 9:36, Mile 5: 9:34, Mile 6: 9:48, Mile 7: 9:34, Mile 8: 9:50, Mile 9: 9:36, Mile 10: 9:57, Mile 11: 9:51, Mile 12: 9:58, Mile 13: 10:02, Mile 14: 10:02, Mile 15: 10:21, Mile 16: 10:15, Mile 17: 10:27, Mile 18: 10:24, Mile 19: 10:36, Mile 20: 10:52, Mile 21: 10:52, Mile 22: 11:10, Mile 23: 12:37, Mile 24: 14:28, Mile 25: 18:08, Mile 26: 14:23, 0.66 remainder: 6:16


Blogger Jim Evans said...

Great race!
I wish I could have beaten my previous marathon by over an hour.
I agree – no politics in a marathon.

Thanks for posting your splits. It looks like you began to fade at mile twenty, which is typical, then found inner strength to push on. To keep from hitting the wall you have to do four things.
1. Run over forty-miles per week at faster than marathon pace for four or five months and
2. Run four to six 20-22 mile runs every other week at no more than thirty seconds slower than your marathon pace.
3. Force yourself to run a sustainable pace. (talk to Pam)
4. Do a well–designed taper.

I have never been able to sustain that training intensity or to force myself to use the correct pace in the early miles, so I rely on guts and anticipated R&R to get me through the last 3-4 miles.

It looks like you should be able to pull off a 9:30 average (4:10:00) without too much additional training, provided you give yourself a better taper.

March 04, 2008 4:06 PM  
Blogger bl said...

congrats again -

my advice is to start slower and what Jim said.

i'm not sure i agree that you need to do that many 20-22 mile runs, but it's all trial and error and guts anyhow.

March 04, 2008 8:41 PM  
Blogger rslight said...

Thanks for the advice.
I'll keep it in mind when I start seriously training this summer for the Chicago Marathon.

March 05, 2008 12:29 PM  
Blogger MS said...

I think you faltered at mile 23 because, at least for me, the last few miles of a marathon are the hardest running you'll ever do in any race anywhere. It's like the final 50-yard sprint to close out a 5K, only it drags on for about half an hour.

Jim's good some really good ideas, but no matter what, it's probably never going to be anything less than a real challenge.

March 05, 2008 1:51 PM  
Blogger Pam said...

Well done, Ryan! I agree with ms that there's just no way to make marathons easy, but some are easier than others, and I'm sure your next will be better.

I think the wheels started to come off much earlier than 23--looks to me like the slow-down actually started around the half mark, leading to the more dramatic crash over the last few miles. You started around a 9:30 pace and finished with a 10:50 overall average pace. My suggestion would be to start at a 10:00 pace and try to hold it the whole way. That would take about half an hour off your total time and allow you to get through the whole thing without having to walk.

I fell apart in my first two marathons because my goal time was too optimistic. In my third marathon, I started 45 seconds a mile slower than in my second, finished almost 15 minutes sooner, and never had to walk.

And for what it's worth, I think the first two points of Jim's training program are scary. I don't feel competent to say it won't work, but I don't think it would work for me. I guess I'd say try it, but be watchful for any signs of overtraining.

March 06, 2008 9:31 AM  
Blogger rslight said...

Wow, more good advice.
Thanks folks.

March 07, 2008 12:34 PM  
Blogger Vajra said...

Wow! You inspire me! And thank you for the hat tip for the walkers. My sweetie and I are training for the Montreal marathon and perhaps we'll only be fit enough for the walk, but your "reach should exceed your grasp, else what's a heaven for?"

March 10, 2008 1:02 PM  

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