So my marathon didn't go at all according to plan. I don't feel Running Wizard failed me, and in fact loved the training process and feel like I am a MUCH stronger runner for having followed it.
Of the now eleven marathons I've run, only two were efforts I'm proud of (not counting the "just finish" marathons). The first was the very hilly second Blue Ridge Marathon. This was supposed to be a "just finish" race, as I was struggling with IT band issues during training. I was cruising along, having fun running fast on the downhills, when the halfway aid station let me know I was in 20th place. The idea of finishing in the top twenty of a marathon was shocking, and that knowledge seem to give me the mental tenacity to hang on and run through the eventual cramping. I finished in 19th and won my age group.
The second was my only sub-three. I was also competing in a local series at the time, so I was racing a 5K about once sometimes twice a month. My long runs were run hard, too - steep hills at a steady pace for the first half, marathon pace on rolling for the second half. This sort of mimicked the course, which featured a 2700+ft drop from miles six-to-fifteen, then rolling the rest of the way. I suffered a lot, but was accustomed to the sensation. The race went exactly according to plan.
This time, with RW, the training went great. Like I said, I felt (and continue to feel) very strong. But mentally, I was unprepared. I thought that following a 2:50 training plan should mean a 2:58 marathon should feel, well, if not easy, at least not too tough. But it was tough, and a few unexpected albeit minor obstacles made it exponentially tougher for me mentally: it was hillier than I thought it would be (not the pancake I was expecting), and the road texture was very rough.
For many runners, running is about overcoming, about digging deep, finding out what they're made of. Me, not so much. I run because I love it. It feels good. The steady hard work of training really suits me. But I was never into sports growing up, never seriously competitive, never demanded much of myself in any sport. So while RW made me more fit than I ever have been in my life, I was missing the mentality to deal with the trials of a marathon. This isn't a knock on the plan at all - I don't think any plan offers what I need in that respect. If I want to run marathons to my physical potential, I probably need an actual coach. Or a psychologist. Something to give me the guts to match my legs.
I don't have any plans or goals at the moment other than finding and running all the trails in my new home (Port Angeles, WA). Just enjoy myself, and keep my ego in check. Someday though, I hope I figure the marathon out.
Thanks for the thoughtful post, Josh.