Friday, December 12, 2008

another year: another post-marathon blues

I ran the 2008 Tucson Marathon this past Sunday.

It's my second attempt at Tucson.

I first ran it two years ago, establishing a true baseline time for my first year as a runner: 3:51.

(See off-blog write-up here to see why.)

The course is a bit different this year, finishing up in the town of Catalina instead of Oro Valley:
[At mile 26. Nearing the finish line. Picture courtesy of Jim Montgomery.]

I'd say it was definitely harder due to the rolling terrain to the BioDome and back out to Oracle Rd. And I finished with a better time: 3:41.

Still I'm disappointed. Why? Well, look at my split times:

I was on 8:07 pace until mile 19.3. Then I started walking and hobbling alternately for over an hour until the finish. And that put my finishing pace in the toilet, so to speak. But this wasn't meant to happen this year. I thought I'd fixed that.

Last year, I was bummed because despite training specifically for a marathon, I was shocked to have gone improbably slower in Phoenix (3:56) than my first attempt at Tucson - which I didn't do any marathon-specific training for. (See PF Chang post-mortem lament here.)

This year I'm bummed because 3rd time around I thought I had fixed the PF Chang problems: specifically, an inadequate number of long runs.

In short, I believe I trained well this year. I always start at the end of August (beginning of the Fall semester). Indications were excellent. I met my weight-loss goals: I was lighter than in the previous two seasons. PR'ed every one of my training runs by a significant margin. Faithfully showed up at the midweek training runs. Completed all the weekend long runs except one.

Unfortunately, I did pick up an overuse injury in my lower right leg 4 weeks before the marathon, which I traced back to an over-exuberant training week back in October in which I ran 6 days in a row. That week I was running so well, I decided to run extra. Yeah, it was stupid. I blame the endorphins.

However, I was careful to rest my injured leg. I basically cut out all training runs except the long weekend run. And I was able to complete those. I thought I had kept my endurance.

And for the first 18 miles of the Tucson marathon, I was going exactly as well as I had predicted. Just over the 8-minute mile mark. I wasn't stressed. I was steadily running a minute-a-mile faster than 2 years ago. (In fact, I'm pretty sure I could have gone a bit faster.)

And then I fell apart all of a sudden. I went from running to walking. I had plenty of glycogen left. After all, I was quaffing strawberry cliff bloks like candy. No bonk possible.

But then I started feeling my injured leg stiffen a bit. That's not so bad I thought: I can manage one dodgy leg. But then my uninjured leg started cramping and seized up. Electrolytes perhaps? Anyway, the result was another meltdown:

Sigh. How many years will it take? When will I get the training and race day execution right?

A few things are clear:
  1. I need to find a training program where I can pile on the miles and not get frustratingly injured. Injury is definitely a limiter in marathon training.

    (Someone just told me about Jeff Galloway's run/walk philosophy.)

  2. Maybe I need a running season longer than just late August to December, i.e. come in with more base.

  3. I could do with some speedwork. I only managed one speedwork session all semester.

Until next year when I get to try this all over again...

P.S. This year, they had disposable timing chips. Just a printed label that wrap around the shoe laces:

No need to cut the chip off at the end of the race. The underside contains just a simple induction loop:


  1. congrats on your success this year. Your dedication to the sport is inspiring. Are you planning on running the Changs?

  2. No PF Chang's this year. Too close to Tucson.