I changed a number of things from last year, and I improved my time (from a 3:04:51 last year to a 3:03:15 this year). Rather than follow the RW plan for 20+ weeks like last year (with all 5 distinct phases), I did a simple 12 week version that looks like the RW Base Phase throughout, except that the Wednesday Fartlek run was a much more challenging workout -- a MP "Alternations" run, where I built up each week to the point where I was running 9 miles that alternated between 6:35 pace and 7:05 pace, for 0.5 miles each. This workout NEEDS to become a mainstay of my future training. Next cycle, I will have a longer training cycle that gives me enough time to build up to a 12 mile MP Alternation workout. Also, 4 and 6 weeks prior to the marathon, I did Long Runs (20 milers) that included the return 10 miles at MP. (I skipped the Out-n-Back the day before those runs (substituted with a Long Jog). My weekly mileage peaked at 77 miles, with 5 weeks or so in a row above 70 miles. I also did the Gambetta leg strengthening circuit following most of my hard workouts (including Long Runs). That is one area that I would emphasize even more next cycle.
Carbo loading was not much of a change from my normal training diet. I ate my last meal by 4:30 pm on Saturday, and did not do excessive hydrating after that. I ate a banana and 2 Pop-Tarts, but I waited until almost 6 am to eat them (rather than eating MORE food at 4 am). I ate in my car in the parking ramp before heading to LTF to warmup. I took a total of 3 S-Caps before the race, and I drank very little of anything. I used Hammer Perpetuem in two 10-oz bottles, and this worked quite well, I think. In fact, I think I should have drank ALL of it before mile 17, then taken the Clif gel at 17, then switched to just Powerade after that. There was a fair amount of the Perpetuem still in my bottles when I finished, and this was the stuff that got me through the first 2/3 of the race without stopping at any aid stations, without making a single porta-john stop, and without any GI issues, etc. A gulp every 2 miles was the plan, and I'm not sure why I wasn't able to follow that ... I drank probably more like every 2.5 to 3 miles, so, by mile 17, I still had some left. I should have erred on the side of finishing it too early -- at least then, I've still got PowerAde and gels to cover me afterwards.
The pace plan I had was 7:20 for mile 1, then 7:05 for mile 2. I honestly felt like I jogged the first mile in 6:55, and then the second mile was more of an effort at 7:18 pace. Something to factor into a future pace plan (maybe 7:00, then 7:15, then back to 7:00 for mile 3, before getting down to 6:50). After that, the plan was basically to hit 6:45 to 6:50 pace for most miles, with a slightly faster mile 10, 15, and 16 (around 6:40 pace). The plan after that was to have miles 21 on at 6:50, 7:00, 7:20, 7:20, 7:00, 6:50. I was a bit behind pace at mile 17, and starting to slow down. Brian ran about a mile with me and it was a serious boost to my pace AND to my attitude! Miles 19 and 20 were both faster than 6:40 pace, and I believe that the change in effort level may have actually prolonged the onset of cramps for me (by using slightly different muscles, perhaps?). I probably hit the wall a bit after mile 22. Mile 23 was tough, but my 7:08 split was encouraging -- it should've gotten easier after that! However, mile 24 through to the finish were very painful miles and it was a struggle to push through. 7:20, 7:35, and 7:39 splits for the last 3 miles show a pretty significant fade.
Q: Did I benefit from having a shorter, but more intense training cycle (~9-10 weeks, then taper)? Or would I have been better served with a longer build-up? My highest mileage week was 77 miles, and it was the last week before tapering began. This is different from the RW plans, where I've usually peaked in mileage more than 2 months before the marathon!