Tuesday, May 27, 2014

What I Learned From the Maine Coast Marathon

I signed up for the Maine Coast Marathon several months ago, knowing full well the race would be sandwiched between two weddings on opposite coasts. I figured I could pull it off pretty easily -- the trip to San Francisco was one week before the race, amid my taper, and the trip to Disney World three days after the race would offer a nice recovery opportunity. (For the uninitiated, a typical day at Disney requires several miles of walking.) 

For the most part, I did pull it off. I fell short of my lofty goal (a BQ of 3:05) and my more realistic goal (a PR under 3:13), but I ran the race I wanted, for the most part. I'd planned to run negative splits, starting with 7:20s and finishing with sub-6:50s en route to that BQ. This worked well -- that is, up until Mile 19 or so, when the sun, the heat and the pace starting to take their toll. (Any other year, 70-degree temperatures might have been bearable, but after training through the Polar Vortex, not so much.) 

My finishing time, 3:16:15, ranks as my third or fourth best. (I can't remember, really.) I'm still several minutes faster than I was at 21, which is great, and more than half an hour faster than my worst marathon, so I really can't complain. 

Of course, there's a lesson here. I concocted my negative split plan a whopping two weeks before race day. (Great idea, Beastwood.) This means I did none of my long runs as progression runs, which means I wasn't physically prepared to run faster deeper into the race. I thought I was, of course, having made easy work of my tempo runs, often exceeding my target paces by 15 seconds per mile. It takes more than two weeks -- and two weeks of taper at that -- to prepare yourself for a race strategy that you've never employed.

That said, I got the hard part of the marathon right: I started slowly, stayed that way and kept to my target paces for three-quarters of the race. Next time, I'll set less ambitious splits -- and, more importantly, I'll train for those negative splits from the beginning. Setting goals is important, after all, and now I have two clear-cut ones for training for marathon #11. Now, about that sunshine...