I had a bit of redemption given my performance in the 2009 race. I had trained very well for this run and felt quite ready with my base, tempo training, etc. Of course the last couple of weeks of taper always give you a bit of time to doubt your abilities. But I felt really good going in that I would be able to hit my goal of a sub 4:00 and possibly hit a 3:50 marathon.
One thing about marathon training is there are A LOT of plans on how to train. There is a A LOT of advice on how to taper. There just isn't that much about how to actually run a marathon on race day. With that in mind I sought out this advice during the taper week and found some good stuff.
Here is what I found.
I have researched much regarding nutrition more in preparation for my upcoming ultras but this also applies to marathons (any run over three hours really). Fortunately the RnR series has really good support on route so I knew I didn't have to carry a bunch of fuel during the race.
There is a lot of information out there on how to fuel for long runs and I guess in the end it comes down to following these guidelines into what works for you.
- You need to consume calories during long runs > 3 hours. For me (~184 lbs) I have seen figures in the 250-300 calorie range. Scott Jurek (at the RnR expo) gives what I think is a good formula which is [your body weight in kg] * .70 = [amount of carbs in grams you should consume per hour]. Which works out to about the same amount.
- You need to hydrate. This does not just mean drinking water but also to replenish electrolytes. You can judge how much fluid you need to consume by weighing yourself (naked) before and after training runs - the difference is how much sweat weight you lose (if you didn't consume water during the run). I have not found anything definitive on how quickly to replace electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium, etc) so I rely a bit on some of the sports nutrition out there that they will do this for me.
Given my weight I calculate I need 55-60g of carbs per hour. With Cytomax on course + my bottle full of cytomax I determined I should take a GU every 30 min starting at 45 min into the race. I would take water / cytomax at each aid station to stay hydrated.
This one is funny - you run M pace during training, you know your T pace from 10k's but rarely do you hear about a pace plan for marathons (this is my experience in the literature I've read). In my first two marathons without a plan I went out far too fast getting caught up in the hype.
So, with a 3:50 in mind I decided I would ease into the pace and run 9:00 miles for the first 5 miles and then increase the pace to run 8:45's for the next 15. That gave me good targets to hit:
10k @ 00:56
9mi @ 1:20
13.1 @ 1:56
16mi @ 2:20
20mi @ 2:55
So I just had to try and hit these marks at the various :20 or :55 split. If I held pace the last 10k I'd be right on target for a 3:50.
Don't want to talk much about the course - it's a decent course around Seattle along the lake and across the I-90 bridge. As I've seen many comment on the out-and-back on I-99 is a bit tedious an brutal. I knew the course well from the year previous and that was quite helpful with the "big hill" at mile 19.
Given the large race the start is always a bit hectic. I tried to chill out as much as I could before the start which I've found is a tactic rather than an action that comes naturally.
I think I got off in my corral for the start. As per plan I focused on starting off slower and was right on pace. Over the first few miles I just focused on holding my slower pace and hitting my marks. I hit 5 miles right at 45 minutes. At five miles there is a good downhill so I was able to pace down to 8:45s.
In short from 5-20 I hit all my marks right on target and felt really good about this. I was fortunate to see a few people I knew on route which is the fun part of out-and-back routes.
I slowed a bit in the final 10k but held steady pace during the last 5 miles which I feel really good about. If I'd been racing I could have pushed the pace harder but with a 50k in two weeks I didn't want to burn my legs out. I feel really good about finishing in 3:56:25.
As boring as it sounds I executed my plan quite well and feel very good about that. My nutrition and pace plans were spot on and I finished really strongly. And I have a new marathon PR by 21 minutes.