RACE REPORT: Oklahoma City memorial marathon 04/27/08
Wow! I did not do well in this race. Talk about an "off" day. I averaged almost a minute/mile slower than my training runs.
Above is our pace group. The two guys set PRs at this race. This was a first marathon for the two girls on the left and they ran really strong, finishing in great times! I didn't do well at this race, but I am grateful have finished and be surrounded by such good friends!
The volunteers and race organizers made this a well-organized race with well-stocked and fun aid and medical stations. There was Powerade, Gu Gel, bananas, pretzels, and oranges at the water stops.
My goal pace was 9:30/mile, based upon an average pace of 9:20 to 9:30/mile on our 18 to 20 mile training runs. In general, your race pace is supposed to be better than your training pace, but mine was almost a minute more per mile. I think the crowd, wind and hills had a lot to do with it. We spent a lot of the first few miles weaving in and out of people, trying to maintain our pace. They started the 5K, relay, half, and full marathon groups all at 6:30 AM. It was so crowded. Maybe they'll stagger the start times next year. If we had lined up in the starting corral sooner, this wouldn't have been as much of an issue. But it was so cold, we stayed under a shelter until the last minute.
The combination of hills and wind took their toll on me. As seen from the Total Ascent/Descent for each mile below, it was a constant up/down with very few "flat" miles. Only a couple of the hills were steep but they seemed to be "into the wind" (or maybe that was my perception at the time). The rest were gradual inclines, but 26 miles of them had an effect. I need to be better prepared for all conditions at my future races: hills, wind, cold, heat, and crowds.
As seen from the mileage chart below, I "hit the wall" at mile 22. Up until then, I was averaging 10 min/mile. The last four miles caused my average to go up to 10:28/mile. But I am just so glad to have finished, and I will continue to improve :)
The weather was cold/rainy at the start. Our pace group found a carport type shelter near the start where we tried to stay out of the rain/wind until right before race start. Of course I realize now that we probably should have gone ahead and lined up in the starting corral. It took 10 minutes to get to the start line once the race started. Luckily, with timing chips, your time doesn't start until you cross the mat.
It took quite a while to weave through the slower runners and get near the pace group leaders. If we had started farther up in the corral, we wouldn't have had as much weaving in/out to do around the other runners. I usually like running in cold weather, but the rain and wind made it feel too cold. (Note to self: Bring a throwaway shirt at the next cold race). The rain subsided as the morning went on, but the wind was really blowing (20-30 MPH out of the North). As we were running over a bridge the wind kicked up and actually pushed my running partner, altering her stride for a second.
I usually overheat, but I didn't overheat in this race. I never really warmed up...and my fingers and hands became really swollen. I couldn't get my wedding ring on afterwards. My running partner's fingers and hands became swollen too. I meant to look that up and see what it means. My hands were so swollen/cold that I couldn't open my special K protein bar. I tried using my teeth and that didn't work either, so I just threw it away.
Because of the wind, it seemed cold up until the last 8 miles or so. The sun peeked through the clouds around mile 18 when we were running by a lake. The lake looked like the ocean with the white capping from the wind. I think it was a pretty lake (with a great lighthouse), but by that point I was feeling very fatigued and couldn't really appreciate things as much as I should have. Most of our pace group members were still feeling good as they ran by the lake.
Some of the aid stations were really nice as well, with different themes (e.g. Elvis and the Pink Ladies), but I was so exhausted that I couldn't really appreciate them.
We passed two people that were a great source of motivation. Despite their physical challenges, they were doing a marathon. That warmed my heart!!!!
Between the hills and wind, I wasn't feeling too good by mile 16. As much as I didn't want to, I had to tell my running partner to go on without me at mile 22. My left IT Band was hurting really bad, as well as my muscles were all cramping up. I stopped and walked for a while at mile 22. I walked over to the medical tent and got a couple of Tylenol, drank some Powerade and ate pretzels from the aid station, and then finally started running again once the muscle cramps became bearable. I was just glad I could get my legs running again. They hurt so bad that I wasn't sure I could even walk the last 4 miles. I've never had that happen before. Even my brain felt scrambled. Our coach asked if I was okay when he took a photo of us around mile 21 . I wasn't feeling too well at that point. As we started running again, I asked if her legs hurt really bad. This other runner heard the question and we all three laughed. Of course our legs hurt! They just went through 20 miles of pounding.
I probably shouldn't have switched to a different sports gel before the race. I had run out of my Accel Gel, but I had plenty of Gatorade Gu Gel. The difference is that the Gu Gel didn't have protein in it. From what I read when I returned home, protein in a sports drink/gel "reduces muscle damage during exercise" (Brain Training for Runners by Matt Fitzgerald). I used Accelerade when I PR'd at Cowtown. I'm not sure if that was the difference or the weather/course or a combination of everything. However, I'm thankful for the experience. Every race makes me stronger and teaches me about "pushing through the wall of fatigue".
I tried to maintain my Chi Running form, but after looking at the race photos, I realized I wasn't keeping my footstrike in line with my body (hips/shoulders). My foot was landing out in front (really bad for the knees). I guess a week before the race didn't really give me time to get the new technique down. Plus they say your running form degrades over the miles unless the form has become second nature.
I don't want to sound like a whiner, but I believe it's important to make note of feelings/aches/pains during hard races/runs. This is so that you can learn from the past and learn what conditions and race preparations work and which don't...So with the disclaimer out of the way, here it goes...I couldn't believe how bad my muscles were hurting after mile 20. Even my feet were hurting...the laces felt too tight; it felt like there was no padding in the front of my shoes. I started getting a blister and my shoes were my normal training shoes (200 miles on them at race time). Even my speech was becoming slurred and I felt disoriented. I wonder if I drank too much fluid. My stomach was sloshing.
The book "Brain Training for Runners" by Matt Fitzgerald says "the brain continually reads feedback signals from the muscles, blood, and elsewhere to answer the question, How much longer can my body go at the present work level before something terrible happens? When the answer received through the various feedback channels is, in essence, Not much longer, the brain reduces motor output to the muscles and generates those familiar feelings of pain and suffering to reinforce the reduction in output."..."According to the brain-centered model of exercise performance, a runner achieves his race goal when his brain calculates that achieving the race goal is possible without catastrophic self-harm....This result is most likely to occur if you have already done in training more or less what you are attemping to do in the race." I think I should have done more training runs at 20-22 miles. And I have at least three 20-22 mile runs scheduled in my fall training plan...Plus I have added track workouts at speeds greater than my goal pace. The book says I can teach some of my muscle fibers to be fast twitch, but I need to do speed workouts for that to happen.
It was a great experience to run the marathon with my friends from DRC. I had run two other marathons and didn't know any other runners and it does make a difference to be surrounded by friends and family.
My husband is a great source of support in all of my races. He goes to the races with me, helps me figure out where everything is at (packet pickup, race start/end), takes photos, takes my extra clothing, and gives me encouragement.
Because we don't have children, my husband always gets me a Mother's Day present from the dogs. When I got back from the race, I received a "runner bear" for Mother's Day. It was the best gift (I collect bears). The bear was wearing running clothes in my favorite color (pink) and had my initial monogrammed on it. It even had on pink and white running shoes. The card said "I don't know how you can 'bear' to run marathons." What a great guy! After almost 20 years of marriage, he's still doing sweet things like that!