Thursday, October 27, 2011

Final Thoughts and Lessons Learned from the St. George Marathon

after the race
My full race recap is HERE. I just have to repeat that it was an AWESOME day. I thoroughly enjoyed the course and was excited beyond belief to qualify for the Boston Marathon.

The St. George Marathon is long over and I am still thrilled with the result.  My friends had mixed results, but overall everyone had a great time.  Kim hit a wall due to becoming dehydrated and missed her goal.  She still finished her first marathon, blowing me out of the water with an impressive time of 3:41. Heidi and Whitney finished their first marathons with smiles on their faces. Heidi met her goal of a sub five-hour marathon (4:50) and Whitney was grinning ear to ear at 5:29. 

But the story of the day was Kelly.  Kelly finished in 3:39!!!!! Not only did she qualify for Boston (by 21 seconds), she got 5th in her division, earning herself a very cool plaque!* I was filled with so much emotion at this news. I was SO proud. I was SO excited and happy for Kelly. I was a little surprised (she never talked about such an aggressive goal). Unfortunately, I also felt a little jealous**. I felt a little frustrated (that I had not had more faith in her and been more supportive of her “balls out” race plan).*** I was mad at myself for feeling anything but pure joy for Kelly. Now all I feel is happy for her. Unfortunately, Kelly couldn’t truly enjoy her accomplishment. Kelly is so sweet and such a supportive friend that she didn’t feel comfortable celebrating when she beat her “coach” by over ten minutes and her friend Kim by two.  Kim was pretty disappointed in her race and no one wanted to make her feel any worse.

All of us are talking about our next marathon together, but that is a post for another day.
Kelly told me after the race that she thought I left too much out there on the course. I have pondered this over and over. I know now that I probably could have run that race faster had I run the first miles faster. I know that I couldn’t have run the last half of the race any faster than I did.  But the first seven? Maybe.

In looking back, however, I have NO regrets. I ran my race plan and did what I wanted to do. I felt fantastic afterward and recovered quickly. I have a reasonable shot at getting a PR next time I run a marathon. I think that is a great place to be. I know the pain and disappointment of going out too fast and struggling at the end.  Feeling strong and having enough energy to push through that wall at the end feels WAY better than shuffling those last few miles, completely spent.

Kelly admitted that she went with her “balls out” plan because she had nothing to lose. I did have something to lose. The last thing I wanted to do was to go through that disappointment that I went through in Long Beach. Running smart was a better plan for me. Who knows…maybe next year I’ll try the “balls out” race plan.

What worked in St. George?
  1. Downhill course.  While the hills were nothing to scoff at, the net downhill of the race helped me keep my speed up in the tough miles toward the end.
  2. Solid pacing plan. I had plenty of energy to get through those tough, painful miles in the middle of the race. At the end, I was able to keep my pace right where it was supposed to be.
  3. Good hydration plan. I decided to carry my own hydration. The weather was hot; the hottest start in race history. The start was at 5200 feet and altitude can contribute to dehydration. While there were water stations every two miles, I wanted to be able to drink more often than that. I get side stitches when I drink too much water at once.  In addition, the sports drink (available every four miles) was Gatorade.  I had been training with Nuun and wanted to stick with that. The great thing was that when I ran out of Nuun, I refilled my bottles with water and added a Nuun tablet that I was carrying. I felt no signs of dehydration despite the excessive heat combined with the altitude.
  4. Great pre-race carb loading. I used an old school approach to carb loading. I ate a relatively low carb diet on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday morning. Then I switched mid-week to a high carb diet. I ate things like waffles and popcorn in addition to meals of pasta etc. and drank plenty of juice and water. We snacked constantly on the day before the race on the long car ride to St. George. Then I had a sensibly sized pasta dinner at a reasonable hour.
  5. Imodium. One of the things that derailed me in Long Beach was bad tummy issues resulting in a porta potty stop. I never got my rhythm back after that. The same thing has happened in several other races. I experimented with taking Imodium before a couple half marathons this year and it worked well.
  6. A positive attitude. While I was focused on my goal, I was also determined to enjoy myself. I enjoyed the fantastic view and fabulous company. It was the most friends I had ever run a marathon with****. 

Happy Running…

*She ran in the “under 40 heavyweight division.” It is great that they have this division. I do believe, however, that the guidelines for the division are WAY off. To qualify for “heavyweight” as a woman you only have to be over 145 pounds. Since when is 145 pounds heavyweight?? 145 pounds is average. In fact, it is below average for women. I would venture to guess that it is well below average. Kelly is a strong, fit athlete and I would never think of her as a “heavyweight.”
**I ran all the speedwork faster than she did. Our training was the same. Could I have run that fast??
***I never thought she would run that quickly. All the charts (RRCA, McMillan, Attackpoint etc.) predicted a slightly lower than four hour pace. Kelly is one of the best downhill runners I have ever met. I can’t keep up with her on a downhill slope. Most of the guys can’t keep up with her on a downhill. She goes for it and it does not wear her out at all. This course was tailor made for her. While there are plenty of uphill sections, they are outweighed by downhill (a net 2600 foot drop). But she pushed through and didn’t lose speed up the hills or at the end. She is awesome!
****There were seven of us that travelled from California to Utah


Kathy said...

I've had a lot of these thoughts since my last marathon. I'm definitely a conservative runner. I make a plan and pretty much stick to it. It works well for me -I've had significant PR's in the half and full marathon distance in the last year - but I am also kind of left with these "what if" questions afterwards - because I've definitely never left it all out there on the course. I don't know if I just went for it if I would burn out early or if I could do way more than my "plan" thinks I can.

You did so great at your race Lisa! Great to hear how well you are feeling afterwards! You ran such a smart race. Congratulations again!

Kristin said...

Congratulations again! I was wondering if you had any issues with your quads due to all the downhill? In Boston I suffered in the last few miles (but in CIM the net downhill was all good). That is my main concern doing the Tucson Marathon in December (also the elevation somewhat). I am tring to train on downhills but it is just not feasible to find a downhill of more than a few miles. (We have mountain highways but they're too dangerous to run on.)

Teamarcia said...

COngrats on putting it all together and executing a fabulous race. No easy task!

XLMIC said...

You totally rocked this race, Lisa! Even after hearing these thoughts and lessons, I am still super duper impressed with YOUR results :)

L.B. said...

Great post. Also nice that you were able to digest the race a bit and then write this sort of reflective post. I often times get too anxious to reflect on my races that I just spit something out right away.

You ran a pretty impressive race. Not sure how running faster and exerting more energy early in the race would have affected you. It may have sapped some of your strength and you may have not been able to keep such a steady pace in the final miles.

But i've been where you're at, kind of wondering what may have happened if this or that. I just try and remain happy and just try and work harder the next time. That's all you can do really.

Bottom line, you BQd. Period. BQ = impressive.

Aka Alice said...

There's nothing better than a running road trip with the girlfriends.

Congrats on BQing Lisa. I always knew you would! I'm so exciting and happy for you!

Catey said...

I fell in love with this course!! Loved every second of it! I ran very conservatively, because I don't run well in heat (man the start temp scared me!!), and being my first marathon, I just didn't know what to expect from my body.
Considering that at mile 22 I decided I'd like to become an ultramarathoner, I definitely didn't push hard enough. ;) But hey, it was great to feel fabulous when I was watching runners around me struggling. (not fabulous to watch them struggle, I'm not a meanie I promise!)

I can't wait to do this course again and really push it! Loved the hills, it definitely made me grateful that I train on hills though!

Unknown said...

Congratulations on qualifying for the Boston Marathon. Sounds like you had an awesome race!


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