This past weekend I decided I was gong to run 22 to 24 miles for my long run. And, for a while I had been planning on making this long run as close to the real race deal as possible. And, how else can one simulate a marathon race other than running in a marathon. So, that is exactly what I did. I ran a marathon.
I found a race not too far away, and I signed up for it about a week before the race. My goal was to just run 22 or 24 miles then pull up and DNF or walk/slow recovery run to the finish. So, under race conditions, I had a very exciting long run.
The race has only one real hill, and that was in the first mile. From there its a few rolling hills until mile 4, then its flat. I wanted to take the first mile slow, and I was trying to average 6:55 to 7:05 miles thereafter. The only concern I had was the starting temperature was 56 deg (sure—it isn’t the 72 to start Chicago last Fall, but still pretty high for this time of the year) and the humidity was beginning to ratchet up.
The first mile was a 7:18, just what I wanted. And that would be about the last thing that would go my way. Instead of just picking up the pace a bit, I hit the next mile at 7:00 flat. There was no reason to do this, I got sucked into the ‘going out too fast’ mistake so many of us make. Worse, I wasn’t really paying attention to Garmin the Great, so I was missing my splits. Therefore, when I hit mile 3 at 6:41 I could have taken note and slowed down. Instead, I hit mile 4 at 6:46. Mile five was a 7:05.
By this point, Garmin was about .03 ahead of the mile markers, and I was missing most of my splits. I had planned to break the run down into 4 5M parts plus whatever else I was going to run. If the goal was to run 7:00 average, I failed the first 5M segment due to my two 6:40 miles.
Miles 6-10 were the best part of my race. It was overcast and it seemed like it would rain. I had consumed my first Gu and things were going well (although there was on slight setback: I had some water intake issues and spilled a bunch on my face, which of course caused my left earphone to short out for a few miles). Splits went: 7:03, 7:06, 6:54, 6:57, 6:55. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any of these. But I felt great. Second 5M segment, perfect.
Miles 11-15 went poorly. After mile 10 I slowed to actually drink the water, and by now the humidity had hit over 80% and the overcast sky was a hazy and angry sun. Worst of all, I finally got a look at a mile split—mile 10, 7:22. I flipped out, I panicked, and I dramatically overcompensated. Mile 11, 6:28. Stupid, stupid, stupid. At this point I was getting dehydrated, the weather conditions were killing me, and I had crushed a mile when I had no business doing so. But I didn’t see my super fast split, I just felt taxed. The remaining splits went: 6:59, 7:01, 7:12. Third 5M segment—mega fail due to wasted energy.
Miles 16-20 were where things really got bad. I was starting to feel a cramp in my left calf around mile 16. I thought, “Oh Noes, not calf cramps!” I was slowing down under the heat and humidity and I just tried to keep everything about a 7:15 mile. I went 7:10, 7:23, 7:46. The big slowdown was due to the fact that I stopped and walked through the water station at mile 17. Worse, the cramps were still building. Mile 19 was a decent 7:31, but during mile 20 there was a turnaround. As I slowed and made the turn the calf revolted. I was suffering Nitmosian calf cramps.* It was horrific, and I actually laughed out loud as I stopped to stretch. Mile 20, 8:07. The fourth 5M segment can be titled “paying for the 6:40s and the 6:30—and paying hard.”
I did everything I could to make it to 22M, with splits going at 7:45 and 8:03. The Nitmosian calf cramps were relentless. And, at mile 22, I pulled up and started walking/stretching.
After I felt the calf cramps could be managed, I did a very slow recovery jog to finish the last 4.2 miles. I had completed my long run, and even managed to finish the marathon.
And what have I learned? First, I need to find a better way to consume water during a race (race cups = getting wet and little hydration). Maybe a fuel belt, maybe something else, I’m working on it. Second, carry salt tablets and use them. Third, be extraordinarily mindful of knowing your splits and DO NOT GO OUT TOO FAST. Lastly, in the event you have a slower than pace mile, DO NOT GO CRAZY AND OVERCOMPENSATE BY RUNNING A VERY FAST NEXT MILE!!! I did this twice.
* Special thanks to Sun Runner for the phrase