Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Boston Analysis: What went wrong/right

OK, I know you all are probably sick to death of hearing about Boston from me. But what's the saying - that like, in a relationship that breaks up it takes a week for every year you were together to get over it? Or something to that effect? Well I think it's the same thing in running.  A 5K is like that stupid fling you had where it clearly was just for fun and you can find another guy the next week. [uh..not that I've ever been in that situation haha]. You can race it every week if you want, and while it definitely takes a certain type of effort to train for a a good 5K, chances are if you're in good base shape to start and tack on a few weeks of speed and sharpening, you'll be ready to go.  A marathon is different.  A marathon is like a long, tumultuous relationship that has its ups and downs but the people in it are truly in love...and then when it ends, they're left picking up the pieces for a good long while afterward. You invest a lot more in every aspect of the training and the race, just the straight up time-commitment to running is longer, and you can't just race a marathon every weekend. [unless you are one of those people who does/can...I am not]

So anyway, I am still kind of trying to wrap my mind around the race. This isn't a post to whine about my time or how bad the race was - it is what it is and I know that under the circumstances I did damn well and I'm too far out to still be wallowing in my sorrows about a race that didn't live up to my expectations.  No, this is more of an analysis trying to figure out WHY the circumstances were...well...the circumstances. Obviously all you can really do with training and racing is try different things and just see what happens.  So here are my thoughts on what I did wrong and what I did right.

Thing I Did Right: Training Plan [in general]
I really don't think my training was the problem here. I know I was in the best shape of my life going into Boston as evidenced by my huge HM PR just 4 weeks out from the race. I thought the Hudson program was a great mix of things - his philosophy is to keep up ALL aspects of fitness throughout all aspects of training, so there's always plenty of different workouts to keep things interesting. I pretty much followed his level 2 marathon program to a T this past time, his philosophy is actually that at some point you are kind of able to coach yourself so I am thinking I might tweak things a little more this time around - but I do like the general makeup of his program.

Thing I Did Wrong: Race Pace Training
When I look back at my log, I see almost zero runs done at between 7:55-8:05 pace.  That right there is/was my GMP.  I think in my mind I figured that if I was running FASTER than that all the time, then that should be easy, right? But I think knowing how to run a pace requires a certain amount of time spent running AT that pace, and I think more GMP work will definitely be key in my future training...which leads me to...

Thing I Did Wrong: Run Too Fast, All The Time
Someone needs to pound it through my head that my easy days need to be EASY. Seriously.  There are zero reasons for running marathon/GMP or faster on a long run [unless there's specifically a segment that's supposed to be done at that pace for the sake of a workout].  This especially applies to long runs; I think my super fast 23 miler 3 weeks before the race might have completely done me in. I am a speedster at heart and it's hard for me to see slow paces...but there is a time and a place for everything, and I am not absorbing my hard training as well as I could be when I'm running too hard on my easy/recovery runs.

Thing That I Kind of Did Wrong: Stomach Issues
I followed the exact same plan for nutrition during the race as Baystate - or so I thought.  But there were 2 key differences that I think may have messed up my stomach.  One was the caffienated Gu Chomps I ate before the race.  This sounds like such a small, stupid thing, but I was not planning on having any caffeine until my Gu at mile 6.  Combined with the nerves, I think that really started my stomach off on the wrong foot.  Another issue was hydration - I think that I did a relatively good job of staying hydrated, but it actually became a problem because my stomach just couldn't handle the fluids.  This really is partially my fault because I didn't TRAIN with fuel - I had one Gu and some water on each of my 22-23 mile runs...I think maybe some fruit snacks on my 20 miler...bottom line, need to get my stomach used to what I'm going to be taking in during the race.

Thing That I Have No Idea How To Fix: Peaking Too Early
I said this in my last post, but I think it's pretty much beyond doubt that I peaked somewhere in late March/early April. I was flying through workouts and long runs and ran a great race...and then something was different.  I will confess that even in the early stages of taper my legs didn't feel right. Not really sure how to fix this one.

Thing I Might Change: Taper
I think the last week of my taper was a little too drastic.  I did it because it was the same thing I did before Baystate, but what worked for me when I was running a lot fewer miles and nearly killed myself to hit 60 is not the same as what works when I was consistently running high 50s-low 60s for like 8-10 weeks straight. I still feel like a relatively drastic taper is my style, but maybe 3-4 milers instead of 1-2 next time around.

Thing I Did Wrong: Psyching Myself Out
I have an issue with choking. There's a quote: "Big races which are anticipated almost to the point of dread are where great things can be accomplished".  Well, for me, big races which have been anticipated almost to the point of dread are where I will inevitably crash and burn, fall apart, or just fail. At Baystate I was so proud of myself for actually running the race I wanted, when I wanted - and you know why? I had zero expectations for that race - it's your first marathon, finish.  Finish under 4 hours, ideally. I think I started thinking about a BQ around mile 14. It was always there in the back of my mind but I never really made it a big deal.  Same thing with the New Bedford Half - I kind of vaguely knew I wanted to break 1:40 but it was just a tune up race, and hey, I like racing, why not?  And look what happens -a  4 minute PR.  And then we have Boston. And we have my training going amazingly, and suddenly I'm looking at wanting to run 3:30.  And as soon as it became clear that that wasn't happening [early, EARLY in the race] - I completely fell apart mentally.  I won't deny that there are so many mental games that go on with the marathon and I just absolutely didn't have it.  If I had said "hey, it's Boston, just enjoy it" or even "hey, just shoot for a PR, sub-3:39"...I would have gone out less ridiculously, and likely could have ended up with a better time.  I did everything that everyone says NOT to do in this race because I was so stubbornly set on this time goal. The mental game is definitely something I need to work on especially in the longer distances, and I definitely thing it came back to bite me in the ass at Boston.  Yes, I want to set high but realistic goals for myself, but completely screwing myself up mentally over them is really not going to help me have the race of my dreams. there are my thoughts. In all seriousness, I had a good experience at Boston.  I'm thankful that there were moments in the race - the thrill of walking to the start like, random drunk men dressed up as women, the giant window at 7.8 with the sign that said "check your form", high fiving little kids, Wellesley, the spectacular spectators who always seemed to have a cup of non-lemonlime Gatorade or a FREEZY POP when I needed it most, making that turn onto Boylston - where I was able to think how amazing that it was that this was The Boston Marathon.  I think I just regret that my first experience there was not the magical one that I was hoping for [apparently, the 26,000 other people did steal my "magical fairy dust" that I experienced so many times out on the course alone] and that I wasn't able to simply ENJOY the experience as much as I wanted.  I was so worried about racing, then so in pain, and so frustrated about having 'failed', that I was caught up in my own mind and body to get everything out of it that I wanted.  You know what's lucky though? I live half a mile off the marathon course.  I run on at least part of it almost every single day.  And next year and the year after, somehow or another, I will hopefully make that trek from Hopkinton to Boston once again - learning from all of the mistakes of my first time and running the race I know I can.

This is my last word on Boston 2010.  As you might be able to tell I've been sitting on this post for awhile, I just haven't had the words. It's been long enough since the 'breakup' that I can look back and smile at the good times - the 23 mile run in a pouring, wind whipping rainstorm, the mile repeats at faster than I thought possible, the best half marathon race of my life, and so many incredible runs in between - and forget about the bad.  It's time to get back out there and start anew - remembering what's brought me to this point and believing - don't stop believin' :) -  that I can only go further from here.


lindsay said...

trust me, i didn't steal your magic fairy dust! :)

sometimes i think about how boston wasn't the "magical" experience for me that (most) everyone makes it out to be. then on the other hand, i remind myself it's just another race. i've never been one to put it on a pedestal. i'm not discounting that it's a great race and an accomplishment to just qualify for it, but some of the overdone, running-snob parts of it i could do without.

anyway... hopefully you can put these 'lessons' in the bank and truly learn from them. maybe next time around you can ditch the watch on your easy days? then you won't be so "disappointed" about your pace and just go out for a relaxing run? well, you know, try to at least. :)

Anonymous said...

i soooo need to finish writing my version of this post. haha. i'm so lazy ;)

excellent points. glad youre able to see some positives from the experience and that you can recognize the lessons there :)

J said...

I think that if you train at an easy pace on easy runs and MP on MP paced runs your legs will feel better going into taper. It is hard to believe that running slower helps you. I think if you take the stuff you did wrong and fix that you will be good. its hard sometimes not to peak too early but it really depends on your training!

I for one want to run fast all the time. I know that for me, listening to my body is vital to not getting hurt. Plus I dont even follow a training plan so that I wont over do it.

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