As a guest blogger, I am writing about my experience training for last year’s New York City Marathon. I’ve already shared how I discovered my speed and my prep routine for big races. Today I would like to focus on race planning and being able to adjust to race conditions out of your control.
Despite the devastation Hurricane Sandy brought to New York and the surrounding areas, when my husband and I boarded the plane on Friday afternoon, the New York City marathon was still scheduled to be run. Race organizers and volunteers were doing all they could to hold the event. By the time the plane landed, though, I turned on my phone to find nearly a dozen text messages and phone calls all bringing news I couldn’t believe. New York City Marathon was canceled.
I stared at my phone. Then I looked up at my husband and started to cry.
I immediately hopped online to find a Plan B race. I was so fit! I felt the need to reap the rewards of all of those 100 mile weeks this summer.
My coach and I decided to target the California International Marathon (CIM), which was four weeks away. We felt like that gave us just long enough to go back up with mileage and intensity and then re-taper. We felt that something as close as two weeks would have just been a further taper, and since my taper for NYC was fairly severe, an additional two weeks of easier training would leave me feeling very flat.
I immediately jumped into training, but quickly realized I wasn’t emotionally ready to start back up again. I think it was because I had been so all-in for NYC. The vision of racing against so many fast women in NYC’s professional women’s division had motivated me throughout four long and intense months of training. I used that visual as motivation to give everything I could every day I ran out the door. Naturally, then, when this big goal was abruptly taken away, there was a huge emotional void. I couldn’t convince myself to want to go through all the struggle of training that I had been eager to go through for New York. The thought of future tempo workouts and mileage was not appealing at all. I had been looking forward to some time off, greasy cheeseburgers and chocolate – not another 100-mile week! This emotional response surprised me, especially since I generally am a “let’s go get ‘em!” type of runner that wants to train as much and as hard as possible.
The first week of training was near 100 miles, and then I tapered to 80, 65 and then 55 miles the week of the race (including the marathon). There were some very good workouts, but there were also a few very bad workouts. It was odd; I’ve never felt so all-over-the-board with my training.
Typically the weather for CIM is ideal, but unfortunately, the morning of the race I was greeted with 35 mph winds and sheets of rain.
The race did not go as I was hoping. I finished in 2 hours and 57 minutes, which is the slowest I have run in three years, since I began training specifically for the marathon. My workouts had been pointing to around a 2:42 finish. At mile 16, I went up a slight incline and an alarm went off. My quads were already really shredded! That’s the first time I’ve felt that way so early in a race. I typically train higher mileage so that the distance isn’t a challenge for me – it’s the speed at which I’m running the distance that is my challenge. But here, I could tell, I wasn’t strong enough or ready for the full 26.2.
Despite my disappointment in how my fall marathon ultimately went, I am truly thankful for the experience. Everyone in New York did their best to make what had to be an incredibly difficult time for them a positive experience for the runners. I did a long run through Central Park with Amy Hastings, Kim Smith, and a couple of other elite women on the morning the race was supposed to happen, and that experience alone was worth the trip out there. CIM was also a great lesson for the future in that I learned that pulling off a successful Plan B marathon is much more difficult than I had imagined. There’s the physical component – trying to balance putting in longer runs and mileage again with re-tapering (which obviously I didn’t do correctly) – and there’s the mental component – all of the visualization and “hype” that goes along with a big target race and goal. I had always wondered if I weren’t on pace and was going to miss my goal (i.e. next year when I’ll be shooting for the Olympic Trials B standard of 2:43) if I should pull out and try another marathon in a couple of weeks. I now know that to do this successfully would be much more difficult to do than it sounds. Short of a hurricane canceling the race, it’s probably best to stick to the original plan.
As always, Run Happy!
About Nichole Porath
Nichole is a full-time finance manager from Northfield, Minnesota. She is constantly trying to learn more about training, racing, proper fueling, and mental training in a journey to find her potential as a distance runner. In only three years she has been able to bring her marathon PR down by nearly 19 minutes to 2:44:12 at the 2012 US Olympic Trials. To learn more about her journey, look for additional guest posts on the Brooks Blog, or visit www.nicholerunning.blogspot.com.