Monday, July 30, 2007

A Marathon Distance Personal Best!

Well, we did it. Yesterday we ran from London to Port Stanley (26.25 miles according to my GPS), in a total time of 4:09:19 -- and that included a 4:14 delay right at the end while the lift bridge in Port Stanley was up letting some boats through. So, we'll call it 4:05:04. And at the end, it was hot out -- 27 degrees c. (81 degrees f.).

We took it easy, targeting 9:00 minute miles, and stopping at all hydration stops which, after the first 5 miles were spaced about 2.5 miles apart. The stops were longer than we had planned, ranging from about 1.5 minutes to 2.5 minutes, while we were counting on 1 minutes stops.

Less than halfway through the run, Jenny, Karen and Tori showed up to augment the water stops that John Ferguson at Runners Choice in London had arranged. They had a bucket filled with cold water and sponges. But they weren't counting on the sheer number of runners that Runners Choice had lined up for this run. While John, Jed and I were the only ones who did the full 26 miles, Brian joined it to do his 23 mile run, and others joined in at various other spots along the route. By the time we were at the end, there was over 100 runners that were taking part -- and many of them really appreciated the sponges.

The topology of the run was nice for a training run, with a total drop of 248 feet from start to finish. But it wasn't quite that simple: We started at an elevation of 812 feet, climbed to 947 feet within the first 20 minutes, and then finished at 564 feet. There were a couple of valleys and overpasses in between, so we got to do our share of hills during the run. But the drop in the last half-hour of the run was almost 200 feet, so it was nice to finish on a downhill grade, especially in the heat.

Looking through our running paces, we did pretty well keeping within range of our target. These paces include the times we spent stopping at stop lights and at the girls' sponge stops, but don't include the time at the Runners Choice hydration stops:

Lap 1: 1 mile, 9:09 pace
Lap 2: 1 mile, 9:04 pace
Lap 3: 1 mile, 8:38 pace
Lap 4: 1 mile, 9:03 pace
Lap 5: 0.42 mi., 9:00 pace
Lap 6: Hydration Stop: 1:53
Lap 7: 1 mile, 8:57 pace
Lap 8: 0.68 mi, 8:59 pace
Lap 9: Hydration Stop: 1:28
Lap 10: 1 mile, 8:58 pace
Lap 11: 1 mile, 8:55 pace
Lap 12: 0.55 mi, 9:00 pace
Lap 13: Hydration Stop: 2:03
Lap 14: 1 mile, 8:53 pace
Lap 15: 1 mile, 8:49 pace
Lap 16: 0.42 mi, 8:46 pace
Lap 17: Hydration Stop: 1:30
Lap 18: 1 mile, 8:52 pace
Lap 19: 1 mile, 9:04 pace
Lap 20: 0.63 mi, 8:56 pace
Lap 21: Hydration Stop: 1:52
Lap 22: 1 mile, 9:08 pace
Lap 23: 1 mile, 8:33 pace
Lap 24: 0.33 mi, 8:42 pace
Lap 25: Hydration Stop: 1:20
Lap 26: 1 mile, 9:06 pace
Lap 27: 1 mile, 8:52 pace
Lap 28: 0.15 mi, 8:49 pace
Lap 29: Hydration Stop: 2:17
Lap 30: 1 mile, 8:41 pace
Lap 31: 1 mile, 8:58 pace
Lap 32: 0.86 mi, 8:33 pace
Lap 33: Hydration Stop: 0:54
Lap 33: Hydration Stop: 0:33 (must have pressed the button twice)
Lap 34: 1 mile, 9:04 pace
Lap 35: 1 mile, 8:49 pace
Lap 36: 0.57 mi, 8:22 pace
Lap 37: Hydration Stop: 2:23
Lap 38: 1 mile, 9:11 pace
Lap 39: 0.52 mi, 8:38 pace
Lap 40: Lift Bridge Up: 4:14
Lap 41: 0.52 mi, 7:51 pace

(Sorry about the overabundance of detail here!)

A couple of things I learned along this route included the fact that despite the fact that its really not polite to pass gas in public, it really helps the run so if one feels the need, let 'er rip. Only try to do it without your running partner directly behind you (Sorry Jed!). There was a good crosswind, though.

Despite the fact that Jed and I each had the same GPS model, our pace times were markedly different. It could be due to settings in the GPS itself -- perhaps mine was set to 'lap pace' while Jeds was 'instant pace' - but it was definitely good to have a running buddy there to confirm the pace. Next time, I'll wear my GPS on the south-most wrist (the left wrist, in this case), as wearing it on the north-facing wrist could have impacted the ability of the GPS to find the satellites.

Another thing was that you really can work through the pain. I developed a blister on my insole of my right foot at around the 8 mile mark. But as I kept running, the pain went away. When I got home, I had a big honking blister there, but it hadn't burst so it obviously was doing its job.

I discovered that the chaffing on very long run is different (and hurts more) than on a medium run. My inner thighs, right beside my -- um -- private parts -- were very chaffed by the end of the run. I didn't feel it until I started walking towards GT's where we had lunch and a few beers after the run. So while my legs were stiff after the run, most of the reason I was walking funny was because of the chaffing. Next time, I'm getting some Vaseline or body-glide stuff!

Around the 22 mile mark, I was getting hunger pangs. But I'd take just a swig of sport drink, and the pang would subside for another mile or so.

On the last stretch of the race, I could feel my hamstring about to cramp up, so I slowed up a bit. That's one of the dangers, I guess, of running such a long distance during training -- that you'll end up injuring yourself. Thus, the reason for keep it slower than Marathon target pace.

After the race, while waiting for our drinks and lunch at the restaurant, I think I may have been starting to crash. This happened to me once previously, after my last marathon. I was very cold, despite the heat outside, and I felt the urge to cry -- very weird -- almost like I was having a stroke or something and couldn't control my emotions. What's weirder is that as soon as my beer arrived and I took a swig, I felt considerably better. And after a fruit smoothie and another beer, I was back to 100%. I think next time I'll carry more sport drink with me for after the race -- and keep the carbs and electrolytes coming!

Some of the things that we confirmed were that running with a partner is really helpful -- not just for the GPS pace mentioned above. In chatting after the run, both Jed and I confirmed that near the end of the run we had each -- unknowingly -- kept the other running, and on pace. We kept each other in check -- slowing down when our pace was too fast, and speeding on the odd occasion where we were too slow. Thanks Jed!

Also, the ice bath when I got home had amazing results. I was able to walk semi-normally after the bath and today, a day after the run, I'm feeling pretty close to 100%.

For running apparel, I had my Running Room shorts, 1 pair of socks (I thought perhaps I should have double-socked for this one), my Filo running shoes (my Asics aren't quite broken in yet), my Shore-to-Shore running vest (worked great!), and my Running Room hat. I'll have to go shopping at Runners Choice soon, if for no other reason then to thank them for organizing such a great run!

For breakfast, I had 2 peanut butter and jam sandwiches and a glass of milk -- about 1.25 hours before the run. And I had a medium black Tim Hortons coffee about a half hour before the run. That seemed to work well.

In summary, while initially I was a bit disappointed that we weren't closer to the 4-hour mark for our run, Jenny reminded me that we were running in 27-degree heat at the end -- and I don't run well in heat. Combine that with the fact that we had 20 minutes and 27 seconds of hydration and bridge breaks for a total running of 3:48:52 (an 8:43 pace), I should be very pleased. And I am!

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