Sunday, October 11, 2015

The Unknown

I've run some awesome races in the 1 mile, 3k, 5k, 8k, 10k, 10 mile, 13.1 mile over the past 2 years.

If only I can run just one awesome race in the marathon.  I surely can coach others at the distance!  Why am I not performing well in the marathon too?

If there are frustrated milers, then there might as well be frustrated marathoners.  I consider myself one hell of a frustrated marathoner at this point.  It's got me quite perplexed after today, as to why I haven't been able to push past the wall in this race.  The frustrating thing today is that I feel like I've tried everything at this point....things like different nutrition during the race, drinking more water, starting out slower...yes I even tried starting out slow for once today.  Didn't work..

This sounds ironic, but perhaps not getting injured is my curse.  Every good marathoner I know has either had some major surgery etc.....because they push past the limits of their bodies.  But perhaps I don't....perhaps it's something I intend to avoid and I am able to run 120 mile weeks and not get hurt.  Wait, this doesn't make sense at all...  this also makes it appear like I could run the marathon well.  Appears so... But I hit the wall today, hard.  So hard in fact, that I couldn't even jog it in, because I was certainly on pace for a huge PR and thought "well try to run it in at least"....couldn't even do that.  It's not mental.  If someone put a gun to my head to keep running  I literally would have tried and failed miserably by falling over.

I even started off extra slow this time(though I never thought that was an issue in others that I have hit the wall in-I think at least today validated that).  I started off almost too slow.  I let hundreds of people pass me, and I gradually worked into my pace.  I felt comfortable, really comfortable.  I felt like I was just going for a run!  The thing that gets me about this race is how comfortable I felt today.  I felt great!  I passed A LOT of people during the race...and I never felt like I went over that red line.  Even when I hit the wall, my aerobic system was fine!  But suddenly it was my legs.  My legs quit on me at mile 21 and I had to walk.  As if a lightning bolt struck my legs all of a sudden just went to a shuffle and then just like that they were if the workout was over.  No more stride, nothing.  You could have put a gun to my head and told me to keep racing and I would have been dead.  I tried to run again but it was no use.  It was over.

  I've used different nutrition during marathons too...I found the powerbar gel blasts work best for me now(at least in training during that 26 mile run I did...which was an AWESOME run!!!).  I've run some great races the past 2 years and have PR'd in distances 1 mile to the half marathon since 2014. But in the marathon, I'm stumped.  I got sick last year(whatever that meant...bad luck?).  I've thought of other things-maybe I am over-training?  Too much mileage but yet my body can handle it?  Maybe I am just not ready to race the marathon yet(I'm 32 though!-wtf!)?  Maybe I shouldn't do tune-up races(like va beach which was disastrous)?  This has happened to me before I started working with my coach, so it's been there before, this is very familiar to me.  I only have my coach to thank who has helped me reach new levels in workouts and PRs this past year, and I adjust things based on how I feel as well so we're on the same page.  It's a good team effort.

Is it tapering?  The last 4 weeks were 98, 100, 75, and this week was 70-ish.  My high mileage weeks were 120, so I felt pretty well rested from this taper.  Perhaps I need to pound the pavement more in workouts instead of hitting softer surfaces?  I did a hard 15 miler on the road, but I did an 18 and a 20 both fast on the towpath.  But I also run 50% of my weekly mileage on roads....but that's not hard running...

In all honesty I'm completely puzzled at this point.  I'd be interested if there is anyone out there(who has run well in the shorter distances) who has FAILED miserably at this distance 10+ times but then knocked one out of the park and what they think worked/didn't.  I know too many people who are unsatisfied with their shorter distance times but for some reason can just kill it in the marathon.  It's crazy to me some people I know can practically double their half marathon pace.  I also know a lot of good marathoners who run the race well tend to have gone through some very tough injuries.  I do not get injured...don't ask me why or how but I have figured it out somehow...but maybe I subconsciously am avoiding pushing my body past its limits so I can stay healthy?   But that doesn't make any sense...I am certainly pushing myself in training and other races.  Diet?  I try to eat as healthy as I can.  I think diet would contribute to all my races too, not just one.  And I feel healthy.  I don't can see I'm searching for all kinds of explanations here....but maybe there is no explanation.  Or that it's just the way it goes.  If I run well in the shorter stuff, I won't run well in the marathon.  Maybe I need to wait until I start to get slow in the shorter stuff...because right now that sure ain't happening.  I have run a PR in the 1 MILE this year.  GEEZ!

I do know that I love the training for the marathon, and it does seem to help my other upcoming races afterwards.  I think even if I decided to not race marathons anymore, I would still do the training for them because it would benefit me to race well in the other events.

But as a 1:07 half marathoner and someone who can handle 120 mile weeks and 26 mile training runs, I refuse to believe that I am not cut out for the marathon.  I just haven't been able to figure this damn race out.  I want to believe I can run and not hit that wall.

I guess the only way of knowing what you can achieve is to try.  Try to reach into the unknown and see what you can pull out of it.  I am determined to still master this race, because I think I can.  But I need to look into what it will take for me to run a good one.  


  1. Arg this sucks! I knew it wasn't a good sign when I saw your silhouette in the last couple miles and even worst when I passed you :(
    I'm sure you're going to master a marathon soon keep up the good work, it's bound to happen!

  2. Sorry Chris. There is nothing obvious you did wrong... your training was so good. I looked at a lot of your workouts and though "could I have done that before Chicago last year?". I figured you'd be in the low 2:20s. Especially since you ran smart too.

    This may be different than the plan you and your coach have, but it might be worth jumping in a very low key marathon at some point, with no goal other than to win. Something that is won in the low 230s (something you could probably run in training)... but maybe it would be a way to exercise some of your marathon demons and have a positive experience to build from.

    Keep at it.

  3. Chris - as a front-runner for the DC area's most underperforming competitive runner, I hear where you're coming from. I know you've got many more years' experience under your belt, but I feel like the sting is the same regardless of age when the hard work continually doesn't pan out. Things get sticky when you start to compare yourself to how fast you "should" be. Plus, as time passes, the gap between your actual PR's and your self-perceived potential doesn't get any smaller. Maybe your bonks are physical, maybe they're mental, but you should be thankful for them, because when you DO break through that wall, the experience will be worth so much more. And, if life gets in the way for some reason and your goals remain unachieved, you can always refer to ol' Hemingway: “It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

    I like Jake's idea about a low-key marathon or two somewhere along the way. It might not get the monkey off your back, but it'll probably loosen his grip at least a tad.

    We still need to go for a run sometime after work - I can't believe that hasn't happened yet!

  4. Hey Chris! I am also a runner and I been following your blog for last year and I really enjoy reading it. I am also 1:07 Half guy and only 2:25 marathoner. Lets chat on facebook or email maybe we can exchange few ideas both can benefit!

  5. Chris you are a talented runner. You have already accomplished more than most.