Thursday, August 4, 2011

SF Marathon Race Report Part II, The Anatomy of a Disaster

If you have ventured here in search of the perfect formula for achieving your goal marathon time, I invite you to click here, where my good friend and associate Mike can show you exactly how to set your training to your pace, and your pace to your finish.  Simply put, Mr. Execution as I have now come to call him, made a plan and stuck to it, sparing himself the embarrassment of having to slog his way into the finish line like a banana slug across the Santa Cruz boardwalk.

If however, out of a morbid sense of curiosity, you wish to read about the dangers of poor pacing during a marathon and the deflated soufle feeling that goes along with it, than let me tell ya, you have come to the right place.

As I said in my last post about my pacing philosophy, I was pretty loosey goosey about what I would stick to as far as per mile pacing goes.  I was really shooting for "comfortable and then throttle back a little" for the first half at least, and then pick things up about mile 17 for the ride in.  What I failed to consider was the fact that I would feel abnormally strong given the time off over the previous week.  What also didn't help was the fact that I didn't look at my watch for the first five miles.

Obviously in hindsight, the disaster was clearly unfolding from the get-go.  Even if I wanted to run a 330, of which I am marginally capable of at best right now, this is way too frigging fast.  At the time though I figured things were fine, and I didn't pay much attention to my overall time.  Plus I'm too busy focused on the business of the bridge to be able to do that kind of head math.  So I settled in for the bridge out-and-back.

When I hit the base of the hill after mile 11 though, I knew it was time to pay attention.  I started to feel winded which almost never happens, and it was clear that I needed to throttle down as I negotiated some of these hills through Golden Gate park.

As I struggled to right the ship, I realized that the constant pounding my quads were taking was beginning to have an effect and I felt like sub-9 miles might be something I need to consider getting away from attempting. Little did I know that as soon as I was able to get a little bit of strategy together, this would happen:

Ruh-roh, something is rotten in Denmark and Houston we have a problem.  Daddy don't feel so good no mo'.  I'd be lying if I didn't say that I hit a wall here.  My pride doesn't want to admit it after all the training runs during which it wasn't an issue.  But, alas poor Yorrick, hubris is one mean nasty bitch and she'll make you pay eventually.  Slide please. . . .

So in short, I got jacked up, went out too fast, tried to settle things down and the result was the ship of expectations crashing violently into the rocks of reality, leaving me feeling like the dumbest kid in class.

Despite all this, there were however a few positives.  First, this is a full 35 minute improvement over the Marine Corps Marathon in October during which I paced out at over 10 minutes a mile and finished in 4:29.  Second, I felt flashes of brilliance in my legs and I absolutely know I can improve with a little more focus on execution.  Third, this race didn't scare me as much as I thought it would and probably should have.  That leaves me with a nice sense of confidence going into the 50-miler in December.

That being said, I do have some thoughts on things that might have helped me out.

  1. I should have worked out my quads a bit more.  Leg presses, stairs and some cycling might have helped.  In addition I would have made sure to run downhill more than I did.  I'm thinking that may have done more damage than my pacing did.
  2. The official San Francisco Marathon elevation profile just doesn't do it justice. Miles 17 on look somewhat flat on paper and I assure you, they aren't.  The hills are fairly relentless and that has to be taken into account.  By the time I hit the real flat part of the course (around mile 23 or so) I didn't have the quads to pick it up.  This is a much better representation of how it feels: 

    3.  While I didn't have a great plan for the actual marathon, I did feel like I had a good philosophy for the train up which was this: don't stress, and make every run have a purpose.  Back when I was really into golf, I always hit practice shots with a purpose and tried to keep from just smacking balls around the driving range.  I did the same during the train-up.   Each run had a purpose and if I missed one, I didn't stress out too much. I try to keep reminding myself that although I am training for a marathon or whatever, my family is not.   That forces me to keep focused when I run and that allowed me to screw up royally and still finish sub-four hours.

And last but certainly not least, a special shout out to RadRunnerGirl.  She mentioned on her blog that she was running and there weren't too many Marathon Maniacs with that many tattoos so I said hello as we ran through Golden Gate park.  Unfortunately she had taken a spill right after the gun went off and busted her Garmin all to hell but still managed a positive attitude and was nothing but smiles.  Kudos to her for getting up and finishing the remaining 26.1 miles in style!

By Marcus with 6 comments


Great report man and thanks for the shout out! You really did awesome bro and you are totally capable of hitting some faster times. You're right as well that your splits really tell a story!

Great commentary, Marcus. I'll be sure to keep all your insights in mind when preparing for and running the 2012 race. Fingers crossed it will all work out. Good luck in your future workouts and races! Get those PRs!

I did that "run too fast" thing in my first marathon. But I wasn't smart like you. I didn't even try to rein it in. Fly and die. Not pretty. But for 15 miles, I felt like a freakin rockstar :P

You definitely made the most of a brutal marathon and unfettered start :)

I'm prepping for the 2012 SF Marathon to be my first full. Thanks for the detailed race report...I'm googling these like mad trying to learn all I can. :)

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