The shrill of my alarm woke me up at 5:00 a.m. It took a few seconds for me to come back to reality, but when I did, I remembered I was in a residence hall at the University of Wisconsin – Superior, and today was race day.
Last weekend, I finished my fifth full marathon at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, MN. I didn’t get the Boston qualifying time I was hoping for, but I did get a personal best (3:11:25)!
We started off the day by getting drenched head to toe before the gun even went off, with the heaviest of the rain occurring an hour before the start. It sprinkled on and off during the race, too. The skies didn’t clear until we got into the Duluth city limits around mile 20.
I got a bad side stitch at mile three, which is rare for me. It came back at mile nine and on and off during the rest of the race. It was so unusual as I never get side stitches. During strong episodes, I struggled taking in air, having to stop and put my hands over my head to get deep breaths. My stomach was feeling weird the day before the race and I think that carried over to race day, unfortunately.
My lower back started hurting around mile 20. I think that was partially a result of the core pain, but I also had trouble with lower back pain in my last three long run workouts in training, so maybe it was a sign of a weak back. Also at mile 20, with my shoes and socks fully soaked from rain, the insole of my right shoe began to slide backwards. This led to my toes hanging off the edge of my sole, which was quite uncomfortable. Almost painful.
When I arrived in downtown Duluth, and the race was nearing the end, I should have been excited, but by that point my legs were trashed and I was trying with everything I had just to finish. I summoned all the strength I had and made it to the finish, got my finishers t-shirt, medal and all kinds of snacks.
Since the race, I have had feelings of disappointment, but I have finally come to terms with my performance. I had a bad race. When you train for one thing for months only to underachieve what you know you’re capable of, it hurts. Looking on the bright side, the fact that I was able to PR having what I thought was a bad race, I can’t be too down on myself. I know I have what it takes to run a sub 3-hour marathon. It’s only a matter of time before I reach my full potential (Chicago 2015, fingers crossed)!
Taking a closer look at the mile splits recorded by my Garmin watch, it’s very clear I was right on pace for my goal time through 19 miles. Through 20 miles I was still on pace for a Boston qualifying time.
Here were my mile splits:
- I need to run more miles. My peak weekly mileage was 54, with five weeks at 40 miles or more. Each week I took two or three off days. This strategy was all part of my training plan, but it was also the reason I didn’t get in the mileage I think I need in order to run a 3-hour marathon.
2. I need to strength train consistently. I really don’t enjoy lifting weights, but I need to if I want to be a well-rounded runner; my lower back, legs, arms and shoulders especially.
3. I need to work on my core. I sit all day at my job. This leads to lazy core muscles. I need to mix in my core workout at least two times a week and find new exercises, like planks, to help strengthen those essential running muscles.
4. I need to focus on breathing. I’m still not sure of the exact cause of the side stitch that plagued me throughout the race. I logged over 400 miles in training for Grandma’s and never once had a side stitch. Regardless, I need to work on my deep breathing. I used to be really good at this, but I think that since I started working on improving my speed I have lost some of my great breath control.
Less than four months away, the Chicago Marathon will be my next race. By then I hope to have applied the lessons I learned, from what was otherwise a solid training plan, to my new training plan and meet the Boston qualifying standard.