Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon: Boston Bound!!

The fruits of my labor.
I have finally figured it out.

I know the secret to running a fast(er) marathon.

I do not mind sharing that little secret with everyone. 

But what works for me, works for me. 

It may not work for you.

The goal for 2013 was to run a qualification time for the Boston Marathon. Blowing my chances at that on the hottest day of the year at the BMO Vancouver marathon in May, I had secured my back pocket chance by registering for the Goodlife Fitness Victoria marathon at Thanksgiving. I had hoped that it would not come to that, that I could make my qualification time at the BMO and not worry about the fall marathon. But sometimes things do not work out the way we plan. The Victoria marathon, my fifth in three years, turned out to be my best yet.

My race weekend started with a delayed ferry ride over to the island, a couple of rounds of Mario Kart with my boys on the boat, and a late Friday night chatting and talking with the McNichols. Saturday morning had me on the Galloping Goose testing out my legs for an 8km tempo run to see how my body would respond after the taper and weeks of high volume. I also decided to calibrate my watch to the new shoes I was in, a set of Saucony Kinvara 3's. The readings from the footpod were wacked out, so I picked a calibration factor that I thought was accurate. More on that later. In short, the Saturday strides were a good indication that I was feeling pretty darn good to go for Sunday. 

Some time spent at the race expo gorging myself on free powerbars and accelerade, a trip to the Old Spaghetti Factory where we could make a colossal mess with our families and leave, a stunning walk on the breakwater at Ogden Point off of Dallas Road, some more pasta dinner, and a crap Canucks game on CBC (they lost to Les Canadiens) rounded out our Saturday before the big day.

Hanging with out hosts: The McNichol's took care of us really well! Thank you so much!!!
I think I could live here. Island life is wayyyy chill.
Of the 4 marathons that I had completed prior to this, Victoria is far and away the most stunning--a scenic, ocean-side course that has wonderful community support. Although and out and back, it is one out and back that I will be back for again. It is too good to miss!

The Race: how it all went down.

My 6AM wake up had me eating my typical daily breakfast: Oatmeal and eggs, with a cup of tea. That would be all I would ingest before the race, save for 4 Sportlegs capsules. I walked to the start area from across the bridge in Esquimalt just after 8, checked my bag, and met up with Philip and Sean for our warm-up on the backside of the Parliament Buildings. The warm-up was easy: 6 minutes of getting the blood working and the body used to some exertion. My pre-race warm-up for these distances is short, as the pace is more conservative, so I need not blow things up and tire myself out; easy rhythm running to making things work.

I started at the front decided to be smart and run my own race. I definitely ran this marathon with my heart, and not my head. The numbers on the watch were out by a short margin at the 1km mark into the race by nearly 25m--too much to be accurate. I knew that my pace was not what was reading on the watch, so I decided to run on feel. I did ask a couple of guys what their goal times were about 17k into the run, and let them go instead of trying to pace with them. This proved to be smart on my part. 

As the sun came out and the temperature rose, I took in zero fluids or gels at all before the 23km mark. At that point, I had a small dixie cup of accelerade, and managed to take in only 4 more small cups after this. At KM 29 and at KM 36, I had a mocha Gu gel. I may have put back 16oz of fluid into my body, a grand total of 473ml over the three hours. This was by design based on my crap feelings and poor digestion from previous distance events--ultras, halfs, and marathons. Tim Noakes and his theories on hydration have had a huge part in my decision to stave off the water and electrolyte drink, almost entirely.

His book Waterlogged has convinced me that if I am well trained, and if I have trained before without water, I did not need copious amounts of water to stay hydrated over such a short period of time. This, I believe, was the key to my successful marathon: drink to thirst. Screw all that "drink before your are thirsty" BS. As my mother-in law says, "God don't make no junk". We have a built in system to tell us when to drink, what we need. Should we really override that physiological function.

But how can one resist a table lined full Full of Cytomax in dixie cups? I mean, that stuff is not cheap, and right now it is free, right in front of me. Maybe I should.....

Nope.

I passed on it in the first half.

I also passed many people in the final 15kms that took off from me at the beginning: Barefoot guy, Spokane twins, blondie in the lululemon top, all people who had fast starts, but faltered before the end. I passed the Spokane road runner with 2k to go, and witnessed him in the throws of the marathon-suicide-zombie-death-march (He ended up in a wheelchair wrapped in blankets, frothing at the mouth at the finish line, the last that I saw him). I suspect he had too much to drink on the run, and was experiencing hyponatremia. Good thing I keep my fluids to a minimum. I know that feeling all to well from Test of Metal years, to recent marathons. I am D-U-N with drinking sooo much on the run.

With one km to go, I had a bit of trouble: my left hamstring cramped up on me, forcing me to walk for about 20s to smooth it out. Knowing that there was only 1k to go, I thought of Jens Voigt and his mantra "Shut up legs". That seemed to work, as I lengthened my stride, and powered to the finish line. Seeing my family and a student I coach in the final 800 meters was enough to give me wings, as I had energy to burn at the line.

One of the best parts of this marathon was the finish chute: it had to be another 500m long as you passed through the photo area, drink area, bananas and oranges tables, donut tables, all the way to the end and out of the compound. It was amazing!! 

Happy to finish. For the last 5 kms, I like to think that I ran with a smile the whole way...

Marathon numbers 2011-2013: 

2011 BMO Vancouver:                   3:29:24
2012 BMO Vancouver:                   3:12:31
2012 Kamloops:                              3:11:53
2013 BMO Vancouver:                   3:16:12

2013 Goodlife Fitness Victoria     3:06:30   *New PB.

16/122; 84th overall.
With this run I know I can set a marathon time of 2:55. Even  2:50 is within my reach. I am certain that with more specific speed training, keeping a strong and wide endurance base thanks to my long runs and cycling, and hitting the hills,  I am developing into the runner that I want to be. Quick and efficient, one who recovers from the efforts in a relatively short time, and is not debilitated by the racing for days after the run. I think that this run proved that all of the ultra running and long distance runs have paid off--at no time during this race did I feel like the 42.2 was an insurmountable distance, like it was over a year ago. I ticked off the kms with calm. 

As Catrin Jones, female winner of the marathon, said "the race is 70% mental". I agree with her statement. Trusting in one's own training is necessary. Then pushing just a little outside of the comfort zone for the entire distance is crucial to success. At some point in a race, I don't care which distance you run, the body is going to want to give out, give up, phone it in, and slow down. 

For this race, I had to make the conscious effort to continue to drive my body. I had to override the natural slowing and literally control my movements in the latter part of the race. The wall, the blerch, whatever you want to call it, may have been there knocking. But I managed to stave it off, unlike in the last two BMO Vancouver marathon runs. This run was unique. 

I was in control of my body. I gained a tonne of mental toughness from this PB. My own determination got me to the line, not my body. I overcame hamstring cramps, wanting to slow down, pee sensations, and general pain. Looking at the photos from the last half of the race, I was either squinting, wincing in pain, or half smiling. I took on the smile, or something that looked like a smile, to get the most positive energy from the spectators that I passed. 

Success from preparation:

September was the month of high volume, and the month that I started training for this race with any level of seriousness: 100km/ weeks leading up to October helped me get back into marathon shape. That volume of double run days in the AM and PM, longer morning runs up to 18k, and some speed work in the form of Wednesday morning Yasso intervals (2:40-3:00/ 800m interval) has definitely helped me figure out how to maintain the quick turn over and tempo later in the race. Running the South Fraser XC 8k and the Terry Fox Run at work helped me really push some speed on top of my Yasso's. 

For this marathon, long run Sundays topped out at 35kms. Sean and I did not run the distance because the recovery for an extra 7k is just a bit too much. I will hold to this for future marathons, and not run the whole distance in training. It makes more sense to me now to train that way. 

Lessons learned from this run: 

It goes without saying, but running takes it's toll on the body, and the body and mind need time to adapt and develop in order to deal with the increase in pace, intensity, and effort. Recovery too takes a tremendous amount of time in order to get quicker, more fluid, and faster. It has taken me 2 and a bit years to get to where I am now, and I feel like the sky is the limit. When I look at the faster guys n their 40s, I am inspired and heartened to see them running so fast. I really believe that running is the fountain of youth--if you take appropriate rest days.

For this run, I took appropriate rest days when I felt like crap. I knew that feeling better was better than running while sick and low in training. Although it can be done, what does it prove? It does not make one more hardcore to run when they should be resting. It just breaks a person down.

The Victoria marathon was all about running the race by heart, and not by science. When my watch showed at the 1km mark that it was out by about 20 meters, I knew that my pace and distance readings would be out for the whole day. It was at that point that I decided to scrap running off the pace and distance readings, and run by what the time was telling me and how I was feeling. 

Running according to what your heart is telling you is a liberating feeling. I was not a slave to the watch, especially when it was telling me lies. I am done with letting it dictate how fast to run in longer distances. I ran pushing myself just a little outside of my comfort zone--not too terribly hard because I knew at any point, I could succumb to the dreaded wall, blow up and have my whole day ruined. Fortunately, that did not happen.

Some other notes: 

--Contrast showers work for recovery. They do. Hot/Cold. Repeat. Again. Hold your junk so it does not get shocked by the cold.

--I need to calibrate my footpod.

Gear for the day: 

Saucony Kinvara 3's, Size 14.
Sugoi Notch Short
Sugoi BC Tank
Sugoi BC run shirt
Sole double wall socks
Fuelbelt
2 Mocha Gu gels
Suunto T6C and Footpod

*I should have had sunglasses and sunscreen--that would have helped!

With this Boston qualifier in the bag. I am now ready to go and smash my PB and earn an earlier registration date!! 

Many thanks have to go out to: all the volunteers at the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon--you make this thing tick, be proud of your work--a truly well oiled machine at this event; marathon general manager Cathy for convincing me to register back in May; Crystal and Matt for housing us; my family for putting up with me and supporting my addictions; Sean for being the best training partner on those dark and dank weekday morning runs; and to Philip for inspiring me to push myself in this direction! 

Me, Sean, and Poppa Philip.
Boston 2015!

Have you every solved a run or a race? 

Ever felt super happy with your own race plan and execution?

Tell me about it!