I was meaning to write this post immediately after the race but life has been BUSY lately! With two three day work weeks in a row, I am now slammed at work and trying to get all my training in and squeeze things like laundry and grocery shopping into the work week.
So after a somewhat disappointing performance at Long Beach, I learned a few things about racing half and full marathons.
- I have a long way to go to qualify for Boston. I was trying to run sub 1:50 which isn’t even my Boston qualifying pace and couldn’t pull it off. I thought after the Ironman I’d miraculously be a faster runner and have endless endurance. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case and I’ve had to work my way out of the hole I fell into after Ironman. However, as I’ve been running more and more, I’m seeing progress. Although I still think Surf City is a long shot for Boston, I have a couple other Spring races in my mind that I think could possibly give me a good shot at making it. However, it’s going to take some serious work to get there.
- Race courses are unpredictably longer than you think. I usually subtract about a minute to my goal race time to make up for the fact that my Garmin usually tells me a 13.1 mile race is 13.2 miles, but as I discovered in this race, sometimes they are even longer despite every attempt to run tangents (13.3 here which is practically 2 minutes extra and could have made the difference in me going sub 1:50). At my future Boston Qualifying race, I need to shave a few more seconds per mile off in order to ensure I end up at the finish line under 3:35. There is no longer a 59 second bonus window for qualifying. It has to be 3:34:59 or less and finishing in 3:36 because I ran a couple tenths of a mile extra would not be fun.
- Water stations add serious seconds per mile. At Long Beach I didn’t carry a water bottle and there were aid stations about every mile. Since it was a fairly warm day and I had just read in my Advanced Marathoning book about how just a tiny amount of dehydration can affect your performance, I drank at every aid station. I think this added at least 10 seconds per mile to my pace. Every time I looked down at my watch I was in the low 8s (sometimes high 7s), yet when my mile time clicked off it was always slower than I thought it should be. I obviously wasn’t watching my Garmin at aid stations and I think this was part of it. I ran through most of them but definitely slowed my pace to get the water from the volunteers and drink it. At Surf City I plan to carry a hand-held water bottle. I will have to stop a couple of times to refill it (I’ve been told you can just use a few of the cups to fill it or sometimes volunteers will fill it for you), but overall I think it should save me time as well as ensure that I’m fully hydrated for the race. Another great thing about a hand-held is that I can take my Gu when I want to rather than basing it off aid stations. At Long Beach I had no idea where the aid stations would be so I kind of had to hold my Gu and wait until I saw an aid station approaching before taking the Gu. At other races, I’ve taken the Gu without knowing when the aid station was coming and ended up with an upset stomach.
In the three weeks since Long Beach, I’ve had some really great runs and some crappy ones. But, that’s how it goes. The good ones are remind me that I am making progress and that I am strong enough to achieve my goal. The crappy ones make me doubt my ability to ever run fast enough to qualify for Boston. I try to focus on the good runs and remind myself that I ran my first half marathon at a 10:10 pace and ran my 2nd marathon at a 8:45 pace not too long after. 8:15 isn’t too far off!
What lessons about racing have you learned the hard way?