Marathon Readiness and Other Ironies

If you read my last post, you know I had a string of super good Marathon Readiness Races throughout the fall and was ready to KILL the Honolulu Marathon yesterday! The marathon indeed was killed, but not by me. Just a few of the champions from yesterday’s battle:

These four smashed it. Average time ~3:30. Studs!

Lectie PR-ed this course by over 10 minutes and BQ-ed! More stars.

Nope, I have a completely different kind of story! And now is not the time to skip a race report. I do not want to forget yesterday, and for heaven’s sake I certainly don’t want to repeat it. Cliff notes version: goal was 3:35, negative split, and a strong finish. Result was 4:27, amazingly (!) positive split, and a 10-mile walk to the finish line. Ooops.

The ironies:

1. Ask any of my friends, I hate tapering. I love training, and racing is simply the icing on the cake for me. However, I felt really strong and ready for the marathon this year so figured I would give this week-long serious taper thing a go. I was more tapered for yesterday than any other previous race in the last 2 years. Without even a smidgen of a doubt.

2. I had a detailed racing plan, with what I believed to be completely realistic paces, spread out to achieve a negative split. I’ve never thought through a race so much and have never pre-committed to a plan like I did yesterday.

3. I had been diligently working on my race nutrition after experiencing a bout of calf cramps in a few races prior. Brought more carbs into my diet (as I successfully did for the recent half-marathon) and made sure to have enough salt in my system. I was ridiculously careful about this, starting last Thursday.

4. I slept a TON every night the entire week prior, including 6+ hours the night before.

5. I was positive, confident, and READY! (except, not)

Blow by blow: The first half was spot on. My amazing friend and training partner Bill Turner offered to run the marathon with me this year (since he KILLED IT at the Xterra half the weekend before and wasn’t going for another SUB-3 marathon PR!!!), and we had discussed the pacing plan and stuck to it almost to the second through the half. I was super focused and feeling calm and confident when we hit the half around 1:49. Right on schedule. Soon after started feeling my calves getting a little “numb.” Oh boy, not now, too early, stop already, pretty please? When this starts happening, I know from experience, I have to slow down or my calves will bring me to a screeching and seriously painful grinding halt. So slowed the pace a bit, hoping they would go away. By this time Joy had jumped in and joined us and was cheery and supportive as ever. Around mile 16 on Hawaii Kai Dr, saw a big sign in Anna Marie’s yard exclaiming “GO KIM AND THE REST OF THE OAHU CLUB SWIMMERS” and just about lost it. About mile 16 my calves got the best of me and I was forced to stop and stretch. What to do? Ten miles to go and I had lost control of my foot placement on the ground. If not for Bill and Joy at that point things could have gotten very ugly. They kept things light and positive, encouraged me to jog along as best I could, so that’s what we did. Bill suggested I try and make it around Hawaii Kai loop and reassess from there. And so we jogged along. Made it to mile 18-ish when my achilles starting making noise. Super tender and every step was hot and painful. Two thoughts kept circulating in my mind: (1) if you blow your achilles you are doomed for IMCdA (2) omg IMCdA? Like with a marathon at the end? I’m so screwed.

Bill’s advice was to walk it in to the finish line and try and enjoy the day. Great cool overcast weather, festive crowds, lots of friends out and we still got a great 16 mile tempo run in. All so very true, but as many of you know, so very hard to swallow. But when forced to make the call, I was not willing to blow anything for another race down Kalanianaole, so walk I did. I would be absolutely full of it if I told you this was an easy decision, or if I have even let it go since then. I did my best to stay positive. We stopped and stretched a lot, talked to friends, shouted encouragement at runners, and tried to reassure our friends who passed with a look of horror that we were walking :) Oh, and Bill reached down to pet a cute little bunny rabbit sitting alone on the side of Kalanianaole, quietly spectating the marathon. I kid you not.

So what the heck happened out there? Who knows. Do we ever really figure it out? Probably not, but not like I haven’t been lost in these thoughts for the last 24+ hours! I have lots of mini-theories but a likely one is that I was running ever-so slightly outside my fitness level those first 15-ish miles (oh and I should mention it was breezy a.k.a. gusting 20+ mph), started to lose my form which led to weird compensation and foot placement issues (I remember thinking to myself coming up Kalanianaole “I wish this road would flatten out, I feel like I’m running at a 45 degree angle”) that would eventually stress out my already pathetically weak calf muscles and therefore involve and irritate my achilles. Or maybe not enough race-pace specific workouts. Maybe too many long runs (or not enough). Or too much taper (or not enough). Maybe too many carbs/salt (or not enough). Maybe someone poisoned my gatorade. Or maybe it just plain wasn’t my day.

Here’s what I do know. I don’t regret my decision to walk the race in to the finish line. I am relatively uninjured (had my foot checked out today and aside from a little plantar fasciitis I’m just fine…though walking on my tiptoes). I don’t know what may have happened had I pushed on through the achilles pain. I am grateful to Bill for being there to keep me going and help me remain positive (every freaking step). I am incredibly proud of each and every one of my friends who completed that race. Trust me, you get a whole new perspective on people who achieve their goal/ PR in a race you struggle through. I am grateful for this perspective, and for my friends and community who lovingly support me even when I suck. As with every race, there were lessons. One Tanya told me a couple days before the race…no matter if you run a 3:35 or a 3:45 marathon on Sunday, you are still the same person the next day. She didn’t mention a 4:27 but I’m hoping it still applies. The biggest personal lesson? Never, ever, take a good race for granted. I think in my own totally clueless and naive way I got too used to PR-ing every race, and assumed I had this one in the bag. While I felt my training and preparation was more than adequate and plan extremely realistic, we are still talking about a marathon. I’ve got a ton of work to do, particularly with respect to strength imbalances especially calves/ glutes/ hips/ core/oh yeah upper body too (at least I have strong quads??), and while I think I could fake it through the 30k distance, there is no fooling the marathon. To say nothing of IM.

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7 thoughts on “Marathon Readiness and Other Ironies

  1. Love your honesty! I totally agree- training is so much better than tapering. But you know what. There is always next time. Be positive :) and yes you are still the same person, the sun still sets and rises!

  2. Great RR, Kim. Tough to read – because I know how hard you trained for it – but so nice to read you’re able to maintain quality perspective on the event and learn from it. Very proud of your effort. And I KNOW you will bounce back from this run with vengeance soon!

  3. Blah. I am so sorry to read all this… You know my thoughts… Nothing but 100% understanding. And I’m with you- SO freakin’ grateful for every run where I feel good and healthy. I’m pretty sure all athletes go through times of feeling awesome and times of being sick/injured/out of commission for whatever reason and those times really do make us appreciate the good days when they happen again. Hang in there! xoxo

  4. Way to heal and share your lessons, Coach Kim! We will all have occasion to go back and read this again; part of the process, I suppose. You sure write well about what it is like to have that kind of day. Now, on to tomorrow, the next training, the next race! Thanks!

  5. Hey, Kim, Sorry to hear about the race. I was fully anticipating a 3:15 out of you! Is it possible you were not fully recovered from the half marathon or 30K? If you went all out for those races, you might’ve needed more time to recovery. I kind of hate tapering too–this last taper was particularly long, but is it possible you didn’t taper enough? One week is on the shorter end, no? I’m sure you’ve already considered these but just throwing it out there. I’m sure once you’ve recovered from this, you will go back to being a rock star again.

  6. Pingback: Honolulu Crampathon 2013 | kimberlymichi

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