|Photo by Donna Sajulga-Tablos|
During the DeMar Marathon two weeks ago, I was completely consumed with the song Society by Eddie Vedder. As that song played in my head, it propelled me through the second half of the course, distracting me from the pain of trying to run as fast as I could.
I watched clips from the movie until late in the night, well past the apparent bed time of the guitar player next door. I was fascinated by the story . The quote above stuck with me the next morning.
Race PressureFor months I made Steamtown my focus. I wanted to run faster than I ever have before. Steamtown would be my way of measuring myself as a runner and as a coach.
I don’t like focused race training. It is emotionally exhausting. The sense of putting all eggs in one basket just screams out with the potential to be an opportunity for self-actualization or for the soul-crushing realization of personal limitations. Something as tiny as starting off just a few seconds too fast and overestimating ability could be all that is needed for me to tip the scale from extreme joy to heartache.
As a coach, I help others work towards their goals. My runners trust me and I am confident that the runners I choose to work with are runners I am sure I can help if all things go well. I race often but not often to meet a goal. When I do make a race the focus of my training, I want to show my runners that when I train myself with the same focused training I expect of them, that I, too, can and will see positive results if all goes well on race day. I can handle the pressure I put on myself as a runner, but I also feel the weight of the pressure I put on myself as a coach. In many ways the latter is much much greater.
DeMar Marathon.I feel like I got lucky. I had a great race two weeks ago, by accident. I ran the DeMar marathon because I needed one more 22+ mile Long Run. I started comfortable, feeling so good at mile 14 that I decided to push myself. I negativie split the race on the hilly second half. I finished DeMar in 3:15. This was one of my best races.
*****Twelve Days Later, I sat in the gym in Scranton trying to decide what to wear. My car had ice on the windshield about 90 minutes earlier when I left the hotel to catch the bus to the start. It as very cold at 6 am. I was wearing capri pants, a t-shirt, arm sleeve, a hat, throw away gloves, a long sleeve throw away shirt. I knew I was over dressed, since it was now closer to 40 degrees and the air didn’t feel like it was biting my skin.
I was glad to have brought extra clothes in my gear bag. I changed into shorts and a singlet, kept the arm warmers and throw away gloves. Took out my sunglasses, my inhaler, 4 gels, and three small packets of iodized salt (yes, I am back experimenting with salt again, but only the iodized kind). Ok, I was ready.
But where was Dave. I was sitting at the 3:10 sign where I said I would be. There was 15 minutes to go. I left the gym, alone, to line up after one last stop at the bathroom. I rushed to the front. I was on my own. For months I visualized running with race with Dave nearby. We are pretty equally matched and I thought we would at least start together. Not today.
TrainingDave and I starting training together for this race after I insisted that he should actually try to run a fast marathon for once in his a life. I knew he should be able to run fast if he set his mind to do it. His BQ time is 3:10. I wanted to try to break 3:10. I asked him to try to do it with me and we picked Steamtown. He would need close to a 20 minute PR for this. It would be hard, but not impossible. We met for speed work and long runs, getting focused and most committed to training with about 8 weeks to go. Training went well. There was some room for improvement but overall we both felt ready to give this an honest try.
The hand-cyclist were sent off and the runners are called up to the start. I begin to walk forward wondering if I would see him along the way. I was ok with racing alone. It could be better to start that way, since we knew it would be unlikely that we would execute the pacing in the exact same way, unless it happened naturally.
I hear my name being called out a few times in the crowd. With seconds to go before we start, Dave and I spot each other and take our positions side-by-side in the starting corral. We are ready to get to work!
M1 is a steep downhill start. It takes about a minute before we finally get some room to run freely. We say nothing. M1 6:55
*****The Pace Plan: I sent Dave my pace plan a few days before. I don't know if he saw the plan. I scrutinized the past years results. I calculated the average fade of the runners who successfully ran my goal time based upon the 18 mile split. The hills came after 18 miles. I did not expect to be able to Negative Split this race and still meet my goal. I wanted to hold an average of sub-7:10 through the half way, try to hold on if possible for that that same pace through 18 miles, coming through at just under 2:10. If I could do that, then my pace could naturally fade to a 7:26 pace as a terrain became more challenging through the last 8.2. If all that happened and he was with me, we would run a 3:09.
*****I knew at mile 7 the course had a hill. I expected to fade a little, but I was 2 seconds below my goal pace for this section so I had some time to use. I was able to pick it up again by M8. M7 7:16, M8 7:04 (Gel and salt)
First Check point - Targeting Sub-1:34I hit the halfway mark at 1:34:xx and knew I was already off pace. Someone calls out you are number 18 for the women. People had been counting ladies and I expected this to be the case.
The Second Checkpoint - Targeting sub-2:10 at 18MFinally out of the woods, I take a gel. It felts like I was a little late for a gel. I should have done it about a mile earlier, but I wanted to be near water. I was fading mentally as I knew I was falling off my goal with 3:09 slipping away. I hit the 18 mile at 2:11:xx and knew I had a lot of work to do in the last 8 if I wanted to run a 3:09:59. I also knew that the worst hills are in the last two miles so it was going to be almost impossible for me to make up 90-120 second in those 8 miles. I started to feel defeated. M19 7:30
Measuring Myself and Feeling StrongI can see women ahead and I know I am moving steadily faster than they are. I am starting to feel strong. "I read somewhere how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong, but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once." I start to feel like if I fight and dig and use everything I got I might still have a chance at 3:10. I pass two more ladies. M22 7:23 15th female.
I was breathing so hard that I could tell Dave heard me before I got there and knew it was me. I asked him to come with me. I wanted him to find a second wind. There were ladies just up ahead that I wanted to catch. He said he was done. I asked him to dig. He said he had nothing to dig for. I told him he had more, it was in there... that he put it all in there during all our training... he just needed to find it.
I had hoped he would unlock some false bottom of fatigue and come along with me so we could cross the line together just like I had imagined... but he just told me to go.
I knew he was right. This was his first serious marathon. Pacing is very tricky. When he drifted off ahead of me at mile 4, I thought about calling him back, telling him to stay with me because 7:09’s is fast enough for the 3:09:59... but I also know he is bigger than me. He is stronger than me. He trained with me but I know he can run faster than me. I hoped that when he pulled away this meant he would finish hard and run sub-3:09. But when I caught him I knew he was depleted. He wasn’t going to be able to dig for low 7’s in the last 3 miles. Three miles is a really long way when the legs are just empty. I know next time this won't happen to him. I know he learned a lot. M23 7:32
My pace say 7:16 overall on my Garmin, but the distance is already reading long. I need to average 7:15s for 3:09:59 and I don't think I can do it … but I am just not sure. Over the hill and down to the finish. I push myself as hard as I can. My watch is already reading 26:3x and I am not there yet. The clock has turned to 3:11. I know I was only 10 second behind gun time. I wont get sub 3:10. I won't even get sub-3:11. That "half mile to go" was more like .7 miles to go, which it ok. It felt great to believe I had a shot. Last 0.2 - 2:30 (calculated on watch as 6:48 pace over the .37)
I finish strong, stagger though the finishing area, proud that I just ran the fastest marathon of my life. I sit at the finish, waiting to see the finishes of those runners I trained. I find Steve and learn that he did get his BQ! I find Dave and learn he set a new marathon PR by over 15 minutes! I later get emails from the other runners I coached, learning two BQ'd and five in total ran personal bests either at Steamtown, Mohawk Hudson, or Chicago. I call a few friends on the ride home to share all the amazing results of the day!
OA Place 163/2185
Gender Place: 13/931
AG Place: 2nd
I may not have reach my "A" goal, but I could not be happier with my result. I wanted to run the fastest marathon of my life and that is exactly what I did!
Thank you very much for reading my blog.
|Photo by Donna Sajulga-Tablos|