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Race Autopsy

November 2, 2010

What went well in this training cycle?
Training with Little G. She’s a good partner, pushing when I would be likely to quit on my own and yet compassionate and thoughtful toward true injury and illness. And she’s wise about workload, too; she doesn’t apologize about the fact that 40-mile weeks are better for her than 50-mile weeks, and my training with her has included few, if any, junk miles. In these last four months, every run as had a purpose, every mile a meaning.

I feel like we worked out a good schedule, training our legs toward strength and speed in the first half of the schedule and then backing off that kind of work as the distance work picked up.

How was this training different from training for my last half?
My last half marathon was run at the end of the Gasparilla Distance Classic, as part of a multi-race weekend challenge that also included my first 15k and my slowest-ever 5k. So I’m completely dismissing that race. Prior to that, my last half was the 2009 13.1 Fort Lauderdale, at which I set a personal best. Before that race, I’d endured a sixteen-week training season, similar to the one I’m engaged in now, but with the sole focus being the half marathon distance. This year I knew my primary goal wasn’t to improve upon my half marathon time, but to race a half marathon on the way to improving my marathon time. It’s a slight variation in goal, and though setting a PR in the half certainly was possible, it wasn’t the priority.

What will I do again?
I really think our schedule was well-built. In the early half of the schedule we ran hill repeats on the odd weeks and mile repeats on the even weeks. I tracked my progress on the speedwork, and the work definitely strengthened my legs and quickened my speed. Halfway into the schedule, we dropped the repeats in favor of tempo runs, which aren’t quite as demanding, just as our long runs began to tip over 18 miles.

The other factor I think has been helpful is running the day before the long run. I eased into this practice by running 4 miles before a 12 miler, but the day before our 23-mile long run I had run 6 easy miles, and still managed to finish the run with an 8:25 ending mile and fairly fresh legs. And the confidence and mental strength this has given us is invaluable. We know we’ve already run 29 miles–we just need to power through 26 in one day on November 28.

We did our first 20-miler at easy pace for the first 14 miles, then picked it up to race pace for the last six. For the next long run we actually did 23 miles, but did them very slowly until that last let’s-get-‘er-done mile. And on Friday we’re running our last 20, at a very easy pace. I think this schedule of long runs was a good idea.

What did I do wrong?
Where to start? The day before the 23-miler, I did everything right. I drank water all day. I sat down every chance I got. I slept 9 hours. I mean, I was perfect–you’d have thought I was actually running the marathon the next day. Somehow, the day before I was actually running a race, that didn’t happen. I might have had one glass of water the whole day, and that was at dinner. I’m trying to crystallize the feeling of my whole lower leg cramping up, just so I can never do that again.

What have I learned?
Dehydration hurts.

Also, pinning gels to my skirt is a wonderful, practical, safe way to carry my fuel on the run. It means I don’t need a belt, and the gels are easy to access while I run.

Carrying an extra gel is always, always advisable.

Always get to the porta-potty line before the crowd. (And the rodents, if possible.)

When will I ever learn that I can’t wait two hours after a race until I get something to eat? Little G and I were wonderful about getting water and Gatorade in us right after the race, but we waited way too long to eat breakfast, and I was toast (ha!) by the time I got home. Yes, migraine meds were in my future. Just poor planning.

What’s next?
No surprise–active recovery for the next couple of days, then a 20-miler on Friday, and the marathon is just a few weeks away.

“Active recovery” took the form of six slow miles today. I was worried that the burn in my quads all day yesterday would render me incapable of anything but walking, and I’m overwhelmingly thankful for my training partner, who, after establishing that I was not in agony, encouraged me to not to turn around and walk home, or to sit on the curb and bemoan my pain, but to keep running and work those muscles out. The fact is, I did feel better when I got home than when I set out, and I know it’s because I used the very muscles that are sore.

Though the slow taper madness is starting to creep into my joints, muscles, and mind, I think my body is ready, and I’m beginning to welcome the slow passing of mornings until race day. I’ve done most of the work; it’s time to execute.

But yes, I’m at that point in the training when I’m saying I will never do this again.

Who runs for 26.2 miles, anyway?

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