This was my third marathon, coming after a 3:37 at Portland last year, and a 3:23 at Austin Motorola this past February. I knew my training this time around hadn't been as good as before Austin, but it was still relatively decent, comparable to what I did before Portland last year. I figured a PR was probably out of the question, but that something like 3:30 (8 minute miles) was a realistic goal. At the start I concentrated on taking it easy, to avoid going out too fast like I always do. My splits for the first few miles were all around 8:30, too slow instead of too fast. I knew the first few miles would be slow due to crowds and hills though, and figured I would make up the difference and then some beginning with the downhill at mile 4.
My nifty new Nike Triax Elite heart rate / distance monitor proved to be fairly useless at telling me my current pace, mispredicting my pace by some 30 seconds per mile. The heart rate info was more useful however, and was definitely a concern. Within the first couple of miles, my HR was up around 95% of max. I'm not sure what the ideal HR range for running a marathon is, but I'm guessing it's a lot lower than that. I didn't feel too strained, though, and I couldn't believe that I was burning out at a relatively pokey 8:30 pace, so I just ignored it. After mile 6 or so, my HR settled down closer to 90%, better but still high.
Basically things just went slowly downhill from there. I hit the half-marathon point in 1:48:18, but I was already starting to feel pooped. Miles 16-18 were all over 9 minutes, and I really started feeling the exhaustion. I thought "What the #*&*$!, I should not be hitting the wall yet!", but I was. I had the thought that I'm sure everyone's had during a tough race, "wouldn't it be great to stop and walk here?" That goes through my head in practically every race, but I always push it away. But this time, knowing I was going to miss my goal by a wide margin, feeling like crap with 7 miles still to go, I gave in. I was angry at myself for giving up, but under the circumstances I couldn't find much motivation to keep pushing myself harder. A spectator unhelpfully shouted "you're almost there!" as I passed mile 19, which didn't help my spirits much either.
After that, the final miles became an exercise in pain management as I just tried to reach the finish without killing myself too badly. I ended up walking about 1.5 miles on and off, doing the rest of the distance at a painfully slow jog. The only thing that even motivated me to run at all was the promise of reaching the finish sooner, so I could end the misery. That's the problem with slowing down because you're hurting: it makes the race take longer, so the hurting only goes on more! Not even the excitement of the finish could rouse me, as I ended up walking from mile 25.5 to 26 before jogging in the last 0.2. I finished in 4:03, 40 minutes off my previous marathon time and a 26 minute PW (personal worst).
The annoying thing is that I can't explain why my race went so badly. My training was similar to last year's, I got in enough long runs, I tapered, carbo-loaded, the race day weather was good, and I didn't injure myself. I guess it just wasn't my lucky day, and hopefully I'll do much better next time I go the distance.
If you're a graph geek like me, you can check out my heart rate and pace graphs for the race. The HR really tells the story. For the pace graph, because of my watch's miscalibration, my true pace was about 0.6 minutes (36 seconds) per mile slower than indicated.
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