Distance Totals

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

3:00C Marathon Race Report

Pre-race at the finish line just after visiting the expo

The cliff notes: I ran a 3:00:53 time, with a 1min33s negative split for a 6min PR and 3rd place in my age group. This was a significant come back, as I was badly injured a few months before the race. For those not interested in the detailed description of to my path to recovery, you can jump straight to the race description.

Pre-CIM injury
November 13th, 2012, 3 weeks before CIM. During an afternoon recovery run following a hard tempo interval session in the morning, I started feeling the back of my right knee. This was not the usual soreness, but some pain that I had not experienced before. I continued my planned workouts in the next few days, thinking that a few ART sessions and some icing might take care of it. Unfortunately, that right leg issue initiated a chain reaction that resulted in a compensatory injury on the left side, which resulted in increasing pain. A week before CIM it became obvious that I had to drop out as I could not run 5 minutes without hobbling in pain. Things were so bad that the week-end of the CIM race, I did a 5k fun run with my kids and had to take a couple of Aleve before the run in order to be able to complete the distance at 13 min/mi pace.

December 2012 was a very dark place for me. The right knee issue took care of itself, but because of the left side, I was barely able to run a few minutes before experiencing pain, and my body was stuck at 9:15-9:30 pace at an effort similar to general aerobic running. Driving every day in the neighborhood was a cruel reminder of the routes I used to run everyday when I was a fit runner just a few weeks before. I was not sure exactly what the issue was, but thought that it was due to a problem with the left glute or hip. After taking a week off during a ski vacation, things were not much improved, and I had to DNF the Operation Jack half marathon on 12/26 after 3.6 painful miles at 9:20 pace. I kept in shape by working out on the spinner bike at home, and tried to rehab myself with glute and core exercises, while trying some easy runs every 3-4 days to test the leg. I also had semi-regular ART sessions and acupuncture treatment to get rid of the pain. After a couple of weeks, the level of discomfort was lower, but my body was still stuck at 9:15 pace, and I felt like the running was not improving much. In despair, I started to reintroduce some fast running with some short hill sprints, some strides on grass, and also some downhill strides after reading an article from Magill describing how he reset his quads by doing fast downhill running. I do not know whether this desperate fast running treatment triggered the recovery, or whether the consistent rehab exercises, ART and acupuncture ultimately fixed me up, but things started to slowly improve. I tested my legs at the 13.1 LA Half marathon on 01/13 and was able to finish with minimal discomfort in 1:50. This was 26 minutes slower than the year before, but the finish photo looks like I broke my PR by 10 minutes, as I felt so happy to feel like a runner again.
Finish line of the 13.1 LA Half Marathon-2013

Back to training
After that race I felt ready to resume structured training, but I thought that I needed to change things in order to fully recover, get back into marathon shape and not get injured again. I contacted my coach Andrew to get back on the training, and we decided to forgo Boston because it would be too soon for a full buildup and focus instead on the Orange County Marathon on May 5th. I made the decision to not run doubles anymore, but instead spend more time in the gym to lift weights, and also give me one day off from running every week to help with the stress/recovery cycle. The first two weeks on the program felt awkward, with my legs still feeling sleepy, but I quickly improved, and the weight sessions proved to be useful. After just a few weeks lifting, my 200m times went down by 2s (37 to 35) and my legs felt much better after speedwork or tempo interval sessions. I also had a few sessions with a personal trainer, who identified some weaknesses in my glutes and had me do specific core exercises and AIS. Even though I could sometimes feel the left glute area, the training went fine, I did not miss any of the scheduled runs and my key workouts were an 18 mile LR with 13.1M at marathon pace that I finished in just under 1:30, a 15 miler with 5x2k tempo intervals at 6:20 pace, and a 14 miler with 6.8 M of fartlek ladder in the middle alternating 6:00 pace and 7:14 pace recoveries. I did most of my intervals and tempo on the track to minimize the pounding, except the fartleks sessions usually ran on a bike trail with multiple underpasses to get used to running faster downhill and uphill. At the end of the cycle and before a 2 week taper, I averaged 58 miles over 12 weeks, and 64 miles for the last 8 weeks on 6 days of running, with at least 2 weight lifting sessions per week, and AIS stretching every day. 

Weekly Training from January-April 2013
This was less mileage than what I ran before Missoula and CIM, but I felt well prepared and my heart rate at marathon pace (164) matched 6:48-6:52 pace, which made me think that I was ready for a sub-3 attempt. Another advantage of the combined running and lifting is that I lost 4 lbs, having started the cycle at 126 lbs and been down to 122 before carbo loading.   

The Race
I booked a hotel right in front of the start line because of the early start (5:30AM). The forecast predicted 55°-60°F, which was probably the best one could hope for a May Marathon in Southern California. The only issue was a significant SE wind, which could become a problem for the late miles given the direction of the course. The temperature ended up being 60°F during the time I was on the course, a tad too warm for my taste, but still good enough for a PR attempt.

I was at the start by 5AM and met Howard and Rocky from the CA forum, before warming-up with drills. I positioned myself a few rows from the front, and we observed a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston explosions, after which the race announcer asked us to shout "Strong" after he said "Boston". Following the national anthem we were off and running a few minutes past 5:30AM.

The first few miles did not feel comfortable. Miles 6-8 miles were supposed to be the most scenic and enjoyable, with ocean views and some of the most expensive pieces of real estate in Southern California, but I didn't really enjoy them. The course was more rolling than I expected, and the effort felt harder than my usual marathon pace. This was validated when I checked my heart rate, which was on the high side for MP (167-169). The course was constantly going slightly up or down, with a lot of turns, which did not help get into a rhythm. In addition, the constant changes in direction made that either I was feeling a cooling head wind, or it felt warmish because of a tailwind. I started to douse myself with water at pretty much each water station to help cool down. I carried a small water bottle to help with hydration the first few miles, and drank from it after my gels at mile 3.5 and 8. 

Elevation Profile from RunningAhead
The other issue is that my GPS splits and the mile markers did not agree with each other pretty much from the start. I was very careful to run the tangents, and did not do any weaving since there weren't many runners at my pace, but I was already 20-30s long by Mile 4 or 5. This worried me, but I did not want to believe that the markers were correctly placed and pretty much ignored the problem thinking that the later markers would compensate for this.

Despite feeling lousy for these first miles, I did not panic as I had experienced this before during previous marathons. By mile 8 I tossed my water bottle, and things started to feel better. This was corroborated by the heart rate data, which dropped towards normal MP heart rate. I started to feel more comfortable and relax. The course flattened out, with still a few inclines and declines, but less rolling and twists and turns. 

At Mile 8, starting to feel better

I checked my time at the official M11 marker and knew I was already late, as I was supposed to get there in 1h15 for a 2:59 time, but got in around 1h16min30s. However I did not feel I could start to run faster at that point without risking a major bonk later. Around M12, two guys caught up with me and I hooked with them as they were running at a good clip. We reached the official half in 1:31:13. Shortly after, there was an overpass over the 405 freeway, and I dropped the two runners on the uphill, and also passed the second female who was escorted by a bike.

I much preferred the second half of the course. It was supposed to be less scenic than the first half, but it was much more conducive to fast running, with less turns, and a flatter course. During M16-17, I felt really good and the pace dropped to low 6:40s. I started to pass many runners who probably went out too quick in the first half and were already struggling. I might have run these 2 miles a tad too fast, as the next 2 miles became harder -- although my heart rate continued to drop. After M19, maintaining sub 6:50 Garmin pace became more of a struggle. My calves became tight, and I felt that they could cramp at any moment, but they never did. Around Mile 20 we turned onto a bike path following the Santa Ana river bed where we hit a headwind. I heard my name, and it turned out to be coach John Loftus who was there to encourage his runners and who gave me a shout out.  I passed a couple of runners, which was good for the morale, but I knew then that I was getting close to my limit running around 6:50 pace.

During these later parts of the race I saw my average pace dropping from 6:53 at the half down to 6:52 and 6:51, which told me that I might be on track to a significant negative split. After 2 miles on the bike path we were back into residential areas. I was still reeling in runners, including one who had to stop abruptly to walk, probaly because of cramps. He asked me what time it was, but I did not want to lose time or energy responding. There were a couple of small hills there, which felt hard but did not slow me down much.

M23 and 24 were spent bargaining with my body to hold on just one more mile at MP. I clearly remember focusing on using more of my butt muscles like my trainer Adam told me during the training sessions, and it seemed to make running easier. I also remember feeling the breathing becoming harder and more labored, as if my cardio was now becoming limiting. 

Mile 25 was very cruel. In contrast to other markers, this one was exactly in sync with my Garmin M25 split, which made me think that other markers might have been misplaced and that I might be on pace for a sub-3 run. I gave all I had in M26, dropping to 6:39 pace, only to find out that the marker was back to 0.24M further than my Garmin split. Major bummer! I knew then that I would not hit sub-3, but still tried to finish as strong as I could. I saw the race clock from far away and knew that if I pushed enough, I could hit a 3:00 time and avoid having some minutes on my finishing time.

Kicking hard to get under 3:01 at the finish

I clocked in at 3:00:53, good for a 6 minutes PR, a Boston qualifying time with 25 minutes to spare, and a 3rd place in my age group (out of 147 runners in the 45-49AG). I ended up running the second half in 1:29:40, which corresponded to a 1min 33s negative split. I probably lost too much time on the early part of the course with the rollers and twist and turns, which cost me a sub-3 time. Despite not being able to go under 3 hours, I am still ecstatic with my race. Reflecting back on the last few months, I feel blessed to have been able to came back and run strong on that day. Thanks for reading.

Split            Dist.            Time            Pace         AvgHR       MaxHR
1              1 mi            07:01.7            7:02            166            173
2              1 mi            06:42.0            6:43            167            172
3              1 mi            06:51.2            6:52            168            174
4              1 mi            06:52.6            6:53            169            173
5              1 mi            06:48.0            6:48            168            171
6              1 mi            06:57.7            6:58            169            179
7              1 mi            06:53.3            6:54            168            172
8              1 mi            06:58.8            6:59            169            173
9              1 mi            06:51.6            6:52            166            174
10            1 mi            06:56.5            6:57            164            169
11            1 mi            06:52.6            6:53            163            172
12            1 mi            06:51.8            6:52            162            167
13            1 mi            06:51.3            6:52            161            164
14            1 mi            06:54.1            6:55            162            172
15            1 mi            06:48.6            6:49            164            170
16            1 mi            06:44.8            6:45            163            166
17            1 mi            06:42.0            6:42            163            166
18            1 mi            06:54.4            6:55            161            163
19            1 mi            06:47.7            6:48            161            166
20            1 mi            06:56.3            6:57            160            163
21            1 mi            06:50.5            6:51            162            169
22            1 mi            06:52.0            6:52            162            163
23            1 mi            06:48.9            6:49            164            167
24            1 mi            06:52.2            6:53            165            167
25            1 mi            06:47.6            6:48            165            168
26            1 mi            06:39.3            6:40            168            169
27            0.44mi        02:46.0            6:18            168            170