So that happened.
I’m nothing if not blunt. Perhaps a bit alarmist.
But there are a few things you need to know:
1. I ran a marathon yesterday.
2. I was very concerned about my lack of fitness. I trained for about 8 weeks. I didn’t taper. I only got up to about 56-57 MPW, a good 15-20 MPW lower than I can handle, which is dangerous. I was hands down in the worst shape I’d been in in several years. I didn’t race all summer (with the exception of a 5k I did at about 7 minute pace and a 15k where I barely broke 70 minutes) and didn’t do any real long runs between April and August.
3. I am still several pounds over where I should be. Which is, frankly, several pounds higher than what I SHOULD be.
4. Somehow that translated into these splits:
27 2:26.3 (measured at .35 because, as we all know, Garmins measure long.)
That’s a 3:18. On the nose, so a 29 second PR.
To be honest, I’m kind of dumbfounded. I was legitimately struggling to run at like…9:30 pace at points this summer. I was working too many hours to run more than a few miles a day. I just didn’t do anything right.
But on the other hand, I’m not dumbfounded. And here is why:
1. It was cold. Temperatures stayed in the 30s with manageable wind. I even felt cold at a couple of points, which never happens. The wind was annoying at times, but overall…a non factor.
That’s almost 400 feet of downhill in about 4 miles. To be honest, it hurt like hell and I purposely backed off as soon as it started to flatten because my legs would have buckled if I hadn’t. Fortunately, the rest of the course was run on pancake flat surfaces, including maybe a kilometer of hard packed dirt. Once I’d shook off the pounding (that’s what she said?), I felt much better and was able to enjoy the fact that I’d sped up for a few mile without expanding any extra energy.
3. Look at how fucking slow I ran the first few miles. I mean GOOD VODKA it was hard to hold back. It was a small race and I immediately locked into sub 3:20 pace because frankly, I went into the race with every intention of breaking 3:20. But I was scared to push too early because I’m so, so, so undertrained. I’d run a 5k last week and ran behind a fast masters runner for a couple miles before getting her in the last mile. She suggested I was in better shape than I thought based on much I’d sped up the last mile and figured I could even PR. I wasn’t totally sold but she’s run in the 2:40s at her prime and understands the sport so I took her word for it. But anyhow, point being, after talking with her she points out “It’s not like you don’t know how to run a marathon.”
And that’s the bottom line: for whatever reason, I’m good at parceling out energy over longer courses. And this one was just so absurdly fast, I let the nagging “OMG STAY AT 3:22 PACE 3:22 PACE IS SAFE” voice go relatively early on.
4. I ran my PR at Boston while I was injured and ran even more conservatively. Frankly, I probably underperformed a bit there, which makes me curious to see what I could run on this course if I’d fucking trained for it.
So, how the fuck did this feel?
I’ll tell you this: the last 12k was rough. I felt my legs buckle and kept forcing myself to back off for stretches here and there. I blame this on the fact that I was severely undertrained. I should be able to run a full marathon on maybe one gel when it’s cool. But I was cramping enough that I needed three just to keep going. Adding insult to injury is the fact that this part of the course was an out and back on a crowded bike path. There were not too many people in front of me, but on the second loop MY VODKA there were tons. I had to weave around pace groups and start counting down the kilometers (one of the things I like about racing in Canada!). Then I had to weave around stragglers in the half marathon. I tried to look for people that were in the full and reel them in but every time I tried to pick it up too much…a leg would buckle and I’d feel every beer an fried pickle I’ve consumed this year haunting me. There where two women and two men within striking distance I couldn’t reel in, even though shockingly…I’d still sped up.
So I finished. Annoyingly close to having cracked 3:18. Slightly wobbly but really, not in horrible shape.
Look, I know.
This might be incredibly obnoxious to read. I didn’t train, and I managed a PR. I can’t offer an explanation other than it was smart racing and a fast course. Meanwhile I know a lot of people who trained really hard for NYCM who didn’t get to race this weekend. (I’m not going to comment on any of this flap as it’s been done to death.)
Hell, I saw a few displayed NYCMers – even ran with a guy from Calgary for awhile. He’d flown from Newark to the race as soon as he found out he could still get in. He lost all of his gear in a cab and bought all new things just to make it to the starting line. He backed off the pace a bit when he realized he didn’t know how the stress would affect him later in the race, but at the same time…that’s a hell of a lot to do just to make it to the start. And you know what? He said to me “But I’m here! Running a marathon.”
Why am I telling you this? Because I get it. You pour shit into a day for months and it doesn’t go off. Whether it is because of a natural disaster, illness, whatever….sometimes it just doesn’t happen. You lose your opportunity. AND IT SUCKS SO FUCKING HARD.
On the other hand, sometimes you’re a slack ass who gets lucky.
And yesterday, that slack ass was me.
And me being me? I feel a little guilty.
I’m running CIM next month. I have no idea how this happened. But if you’re going to be there, TELL ME.