Best. Race. Ever. (Read 845 times)


    Remember me?  I am the Worst. Race. Ever. guy who had a complete implosion at the 2011 Chicago Marathon.  After running a personal worst by 28 minutes and ending up in the medical tent with a 104 degree body temperature,   I limped home to consider where it all went wrong.    Many of you offered sage advice and for that I thank you.  In particular, I want to thank Nobby for helping me to realize that my approach to training was not sound. 


    With the benefit of hindsight and Nobby’s advice, I look back at my self-designed Chicago  “training plan” and realize that while it contained all the elements of a proper plan, it lacked any sort of cohesive structure or flow.  It looks like something that I assembled at the runners workout buffet.  Like a buffet, it  was not particularly tasty or nourishing.   The combination of poorly structured training and a hot day was not a good one and it ended with a terrible race experience.


    After a couple of months of just running, I started a 24 week Running Wizard based plan to prepare for the Philadelphia Half Marathon that took place yesterday.  The plan had what I was missing in that it developed all of the tools that I needed to run well in a logical pattern that progressed steadily over the training cycle.  As I moved through each phase, I felt myself getting stronger and able to run longer and faster than I have before.  In particular, the Lydiard approach to long tempo runs really prepared me for the sustained effort that would be required on race day.  I knew that I was headed for a good day when I ran a solo effort time trial 5K (not in a race) one week before the half marathon at a pace that was 87 seconds faster than my official 5K PR.    Given that I did not run this as a full race effort, I was very optimistic about Philly.


    Race day in Philly arrived with 38 degree temperatures so there was nothing to do other than to execute a solid race plan.  Running Wizard had projected a 1:37:46 (7:28 pace) so I focused on running an even effort race with the goal of pushing the last few miles if I was feeling OK.  The first 7 miles were uneventful.  I ran with my iPod and just focused on maintain solid form and staying loose.    After 7, I took a gel which turned my stomach and made the next couple of miles that have some rolling hills a bit challenging.    I turned off my iPod at this point to focus on the race and how I was feeling.  I let the course dictate the effort and slowed a bit on the uphills while letting gravity help on the downhills.


    I arrived at mile 10 and took inventory.  My legs and breathing were still good but my stomach was cramping.  I decided to skip the remaining water stations, start pushing the pace and see how things went.  I was more than a little surprised to run the last 5K of the race at an overall pace average that is faster than my 5K PR.  I would push the pace a little more as each mile marker went by to discover that I still was OK (other than my stomach).    I ended up running the last mile of the race as my fastest mile of the day and crossing the finish line with 6 seconds to spare to hit my ‘A’ goal and notch a 9.5 minute PR.


    Official time: 1:37:54 (7:28 / mile overall average)

    GPS Mile Splits: 7:26 7:28 7:22 7:27 7.24 7:28 7:29 7:34 7:26 7:27 7:22 7:13 6:58 (last .1 @ 6:44 pace)


    I now understand the difference that proper preparation can make in how I perform on race day.    Following a plan that developed each facet of running fitness gave me the ability to run the race in way that was not previously possible.  Having the aerobic reserve to run the last mile as the fastest of the race was an amazing feeling that I attribute to the base that was built in the first phase of the Running Wizard plan.


    Lessons learned:

    -          Proper preparation leads to a great race day experience.

    -          I should go race a 5K soon.  My 22:45 PR is due for an update.

    -          I need to figure out fueling for longer races.  I used to use Gu with no issues, but it appears to not agree with me any longer despite testing it a few times in training.  The walk back to the hotel was a cramptastic experience due to low electrolytes and dehydration.  The Gu taken at mile 7 really messed up my fluid intake in the late miles and it would have been a real problem if this was a longer race.


    Thanks to all of you (especially Nobby) for your help and advice.  I am very much looking forward to the next race now that I have a better handle on how to train.



     201x goals: run a bunch....race some.....repeat...

      Congrats on a great race!

      I have been debating getting a coach of some sort for next year. Sounds like it really helped you reach a new level.



      Nashville, TN


        That's a smart training revision and a really nice race effort.  Feels pretty good, huh?

        "I want you to pray as if everything depends on it, but I want you to prepare yourself as if everything depends on you."

        -- Dick LeBeau

          That is awesome.  I love it when a race comes together like that--even fighting through the "Gu belly."  Great report, and it's great to see solid training pay big dividends for you.  That 5K PR is going to be smashed to bits as soon as you do one.


          I used to use gels, myself, but starting this summer they began to "sour" my stomach almost every time.  Previously, I'd used them in training, 3 marathons, and an ultra with no issues.  I don't know what triggered my issues with them, other than, perhaps, the fact that I've cut down on (but not cut out) caffeine.  I've been doing my long runs without them and felt much better than I would have expected.  I think I was using them needlessly in the past, honestly.  For my next marathon, I plan to try to get my carb boost strictly from Gatorade, which has never bothered me like gels do.  I'm sure there are plenty of folks here who can report in on what they use.


          Congrats again!

          "When a person trains once, nothing happens. When a person forces himself to do a thing a hundred or a thousand times, then he certainly has developed in more ways than physical. Is it raining? That doesn't matter. Am I tired? That doesn't matter, either. Then willpower will be no problem." 
          Emil Zatopek


            That's a smart training revision and a really nice race effort.  Feels pretty good, huh?


            Boy Howdy you ain't kidding.  This is the first race that I have ever had where I hit my goals so completely.  The fact that I was capable of doing it the hard way through a negative split has made me giddy.   I am walking around, grinning like an idiot.  My wife told me that I may revel in this for only a few days more or I may be deemed to be insufferable.

             201x goals: run a bunch....race some.....repeat...

              Nice work, Jon!

              - Joe

              We are fragile creatures on collision with our judgment day.

                Great job - congrats!

                Princess Cancer Pants

                  That's one helluva redeeming run -- great report, too!  Now you have to do that 5k within the next few weeks...and report back on your next PR! Big grin

                  '17 Goals:

                  • Chemo

                  • Chemo-Radiation

                  • Surgery

                  • Return to kicking my own ass by 2018


                  She was not strong. She was valiant. Radiant. Brave and broken. The beauty she discovered in the aftermath was unparalleled to anything she had known before, because it had come at such a cost.

                  ~ Unknown


                    Thanks to all for the kind wishes.

                     201x goals: run a bunch....race some.....repeat...

                    Maggie & Molly

                      fantastic race!  congrats on the new training and the clear impact it has had on your racing!!

                       "It does not matter how slow you go so long as you do not stop."
                      Wisdom of Confucius

                      HF 4363