Sunday, January 22, 2012

Phoenix 26.2 - so that happened

It's been a week now so I should probably write something about my marathon debacle experience.  It definitely did not turn out as planned, quite the opposite.  I had solid expectations and hopes for my 2nd ever marathon, as my training and lead-up had gone very smoothly.  But alas, it was not to be.  Instead what happened was an epic crash and burn during the second half of the 26.2 miles.  Here's all the [ugly] details:

A friend shared this on FB recently, i like it!

Race start was 7:30am in downtown Phoenix and the temperature was perfect, about 12C at the start, and warming up to 18C.  I headed into my corral at just after 7:20, and then at 7:30 it was announced that there would be a 15 min delay to the start.  At 7:45, another announcement that the race would start just before 8am (the timers along the course were all messed up).  So after a 30min delay of just standing around in the corral, we were off! 

I started out really easy, and watched as hoards of people went by.  Don't worry, I thought, stick to your plan, which was to go out easy for the first mile, and then pick it up a bit after getting warmed up. I went through the first mile in 8:40, about 30-40 sec off my goal pace.  After that I picked up the pace and settled into a 'comfortably uncomfortable' pace for the next 10 or so miles.  I was actually feeling great, unlike my first marathon where I didn't really feel good from the start, and my legs felt light and springy.  I felt like I was cruising! 

This is my only pic of the race, and it was taken prior to the start, when I was warming up in a heated parking garage.  There were a bunch of 'official' race photographs, some of which turned out good, but annoyingly the website wouldn't let you copy/save them, so this is all you get for images...


After losing time off my goal pace from the first mile, I worked on making up some time, and was clicking off sub-8min miles for a while, some even sub-7:50.  OK, I will be way under sub-3:40, I thought.  Little did I know! I went through 10km in 50:43, and 10 miles in 1:21.  At around 12 miles, I had to duck into a porta-loo with some tummy trouble, which was to be the first glimpse into what was to come.  After that ~1min stop (the first of many), I lost the people I was 'running with', and found some new folks to pace off of.  

Things went downhill from there, and fast.  My 13.1 mile split was 1:47, still on pace to break 3:40, but shortly before that I started getting stomach cramps and sharp stitches on both sides of my ribs, where my entire ribcage was cramped up in pain.  I thought I would be able to run through it, and resolve it with some deep/belly breathing, but the darn cramps would just not go away! My pace started to slow at that point, and not too long after halfway was when I had to start walking a little.  Soon after that, I began feeling nauseated and a hint of dizzy.  But when your stomach is feeling like that, it is next to impossible to eat anything.  And if you are fortunate enough to have never experienced that, it's also really hard to run with your stomach feeling like that.

It was around mile 15 when thoughts that I may have to drop out began crossing my mind. These thoughts continued every mile, as I clicked off the miles (ever so slowly).  There was a lot of walking, and a lot more stops to the porta-loo (at least 5-6).  Around mile 18 or 19 i remembered something my sister Alice said about doing "10 and 1's", so I decided to give them a try.  It didn't work out too well.  I made it a whole 3 minutes of running, then had to walk for more than a minute.  The miles dragged by soooo slowly, and my stomach/ribs were in such pain I wished I could just stop.  But somehow I kept on going.  Once I made it to mile 24, I knew for sure that I could make it the last 2.2 miles to the finish.  

I was so glad to finally get to the end, but at the same time crushed to have gone a 4:08, literally 30 minutes off what I truly thought I was capable of.  However, that time is certainly much better than a DNF beside my name.  I have absolutely no idea how I actually went a 3:52 in Vegas two years ago when I had problems in that race as well and had to walk a lot the last 10 miles.  Who knows?  This time around the meltdown, or whatever you want to call it, was on a much larger scale.  

So I think that will be it for me and the marathon distance (this goes for Ironman distance as well).  What went wrong? Perhaps sodium depletion, as I didn't think to bring any salt/electrolytes along?  And I was sweating a lot, with salt caked on my face by the end.  Anyway, at this point, I'm not going to speculate further.  There's something physiological/nutritional that I just can't seem to nail down with races of that length.  Perhaps this is just my body's way of telling me to stay the hell away from those distances.  I'm going to listen to it this time!  I'll stick to 1/2 marathon and 1/2 ironman distance (and shorter), at which I know I can do well and be competitive.  

So that's my plan for 2012 - to be fast and kick @$$ at 1/2's or shorter!  I have more fun at those anyway!


Apart from the harsh arctic freeze in Edmonton that greeted me upon arrival, I was happy to come home, especially to this face:

 And this one: