I should probably wait a few days before typing this one to let things sink in and put them into perspective. I will start with why I should be happy. I took 34 minutes and 12 seconds off of my previous (and only other) marathon which was in February of this year. I went from 4:54:37 to 4:20:25. I also beat my half marathon stand alone time at the half way point by five minutes and ten seconds (2:03:10 vs. 2:08:19) and felt pretty good at the halfway point.
So why am I bummed? Perhaps I just had too high of expectations. My goal was to hit four hours and I told myself I would be happy with anything under 4:15. Well, I knew that goal was dashed (or at least had a pretty good idea) when I saw that 4:15 pace setter run by at about mile 23. I tried to hang on, but with my right leg cramping, it just was not going to happen.
Here's the race in review - with the boring details leading up to the start even. I arrived at about 7:00 a.m. I actually do not recall so many people being there this early last year. The portolet lines were humungous. I seem to remember walking right up the John, no wait last year - this year, no lie, it took me a half hour to get to the John. By the time I had releived myself it was time to head to the start. I actually did not have much time to get my bag checked in before heading to the start. When I got to the start I did a few stretches, but not a very good stretching routine (did this haunt me in the race).
I lined up between the 3:45 and 4:00 pace signs. A little more forward from where I was last year, but probably still not far enough up - there are a lot of people who are just fooling themselves or plain ol' rude who line up near the front who have no business being there. The start of a massive race like this is chaotic enough without having to weave through all sorts of people who should have lined up behind you rather than in front of you. This is a pet peave of mine as it slows down the beginning pace which is hard if not impossible to make up during the race.
I felt pretty good at the start and monitored my HR as it is pretty easy to get caught up in the moment and overcook the first few miles. I feel I maintained a fairly even pace throughout the first half of the marathon. I even had a few people tell me they were pacing off of me - I told them to be careful as although I was fairly certain that I would hold an even pace through mile 20, I did not know what would happen after that.
My sister lives at about mile 6.25 - she handed a water bottle off to me. I have friends at mile 8.25 and 14 and had stashed some powergels with them for a handoff at mile 14. Unfortunately they almost missed me and I was going to have to count on the aid stations and roving bike patrols for my nutrition, but they got me. I like having my own nutrition because I know what's in it.
I use powergels, not because I like them over any of the other gels, but because they are the gels handed out at Lake Placid - I feel it is important to be consistent. They have 110 calories and 220 mg of sodium per packet. I was taking three an hour so I figured I was getting enough eloctrolytes (it was not too hot out), but considering that I started cramping around mile 21 I think I may have missed on this aspect of nutrition. As soon as I felt the first cramp coming on (right calf muscle) I took a salt capsule. I know it was probably too little too late, but I did not know what else to do - I certainly was not going to stop. I changed my gait a little to avoid pushing the muscle that had started to cramp. I thought about stopping to stretch it out, but stopping was the last thing that I wanted to do. I took another salt capsule about twenty minutes later. The muscle started to cramp again at I think mile 24 - I stretched it a little (without stopping) and kept going. There was no way I was going to stop at this point. At mile 26 (i.e. only 385 yards to go) my calf cramped and I thought my leg was going to collapse beneath me. Two tenths of a mile to go - no way was I going down! Somehow I made it to the finish without my leg knotting up.
I lost 14 minutes in the second half of the marathon and I am fairly confident that most of that was lost in the last five miles. I plan to test my sweat rate soon and figure out what I am losing from my system on an hourly basis so that I can get more scientific in my approach to fueling. In retrospect, I probably should have popped a salt tab every hour regardless - I have ingested these in both races and training and they have never bothered my stomache - I doubt it would do any harm to slightly overload on the electrolytes.
This is it for my major goals for this year - I plan to do a 5K in three weeks (local event) and am thinking about doing the Manchester Road Race if I can get a time seeding card - no way am I lining up at the back of a 10,000 field race for a 5 mile course. Other than that, it is time to reflect on this year and start planning for next year (starting with Hyannis - my next shot at a 4 hour marathon).
I've had good races and some not so good - all learning experiences.