Well, I have to say that I really like that course. The first half is super fast, despite a few uphill segments. I was barely working and still pounded out a personal best Half time of 1:39:23. But at 23 k, my left hamstring started cramping on me. It got worse and worse as the run went on, so my rule was that if I had two cramps in a row, I'd walk for 10 seconds and then pick up a trot again. Pretty much the last 12K was walk/run.
Still, I managed a 3:39:43 which is about 7 minutes faster than when I went through the same scenario in Columbus last fall, and my fastest marathon since I ripped my right hamstring a few years back.
Here are my splits:
06:08.1 (kilometre 23 - first hamstring cramp)
04:17.7 (downtown Toronto -- GPS was wonky)
06:32.3 (kilometre 31 - average pace so far: 4:56)
02:04.3 (for 400 m. at 5:15 pace)
Here is an elevation and pace chart from https://connect.garmin.com/modern/activity/764824050 :
While I was getting tired and beat up otherwise, clearly the cramps were the big problem causing me to need to walk. I could get through a single cramp, but when I'd hit two in a row, I'd walk for anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds and try to stretch it out.
Jenny and I did lots of research on cramps after the run. This site does a very good job of explaining the symptoms and issues in trying to find the solution:
Jenny also found this:
and then click on the See Also links at the bottom for more
Same info in a much shorter version:
"Researchers are now considering the possibility that cramps are a phenomenon related to “altered neuromuscular control”, stemming from multiple factors including fatigue, muscle damage and genetic make-up. The new theory doesn’t offer any quick fixes, but it suggests that proper training and pacing could help minimise your risk.
Research comparing cramp-prone Ironman athletes to their non-cramp-prone peers at the University of Cape Town (UCT) in South Africa found that hydration and electrolyte levels in the two groups were almost identical. And a forthcoming study from the Brigham Young group found no change in volunteers’ susceptibility to cramps after they lost three per cent of their body mass through sweat. The neuromuscular cramp theory was first proposed in 1997 by UCT sports physician Dr Martin Schwellnus, who asks: “If it’s a systemic problem like dehydration, then why doesn’t the whole body cramp?”
Your muscles are always held in a delicate balance between an excitatory input that encourages them to contract, and an inhibitory input that encourages them to relax. If this balance is upset, Schwellnus says, “the muscle gets twitchy”, and if the imbalance persists, it leads to a full-blown cramp.
Interestingly, Schwellnus’s study of triathletes found that those who developed cramps had set higher pre-race goals and started at faster-than-usual paces. And in a further study he found that crampers tended to have trained more in the final week before the race. So the lesson is to taper for your races, train adequately and pace yourself. "
- From TriRadar.com, Sept 2013, by Alex Hutchinson (who writes for Runners' World a la Dr. Mirkin)
Schwellnus' study abstracts are here:
So the answer is simple: train "properly" and "adequately", and get "appropriate" rest. Oh, and don't be genetically disposed to cramps. :-)
We're meeting with Bernie LeForte tomorrow night to discuss his (high mileage) training regimen that allowed him to take 10 minutes off his already-fast PB, getting a 3:14 in Toledo.
Training for Erie in September starts Tuesday.