Race Report: Phoenix Marathon

Hey guys, here's the slightly edited version of the race report I sent my coach Saturday after Phoenix Marathon.  Only thing I took out was my breakdown of nutrition and the two questions I asked him at the end about how to fix what is broken in my thought processes when I road race over a half-marathon.

Phoneix Marathon
Mesa, Arizona
Saturday February 24, 2018
Weather At Race Start:           Clear & 38  // Feels Like 36 // Humidity 42%
Official Time                           6:20:59
Garmin Time                           6:08:30

I’m not going to bury the lead.  I made the decision today that I’m not a marathoner.  I hate marathons.  BUT, I have one, maybe two more in me.  Copenhagen, then fingers crossed that I get into MCM, because I have a score to settle.

The mental beat down is too great.  I don’t think I’m weak, but I don’t think that mentally, I have what it takes to stay the course and post a “respectable” time over 26.2 miles.  I’m perfectly content hanging at mid-distance and dialing in improvements there.

To be clear, I’m not backing down from Copenhagen, nor am I lessening my commitment.  I’m just putting out there what I fought with for the last nine miles of the race today.  

That being said, I had a couple of goals :

  1. Take 45 minutes off of my time at MCM (which was 6:37:09)
  2. Execute a flawless fuel delivery as if my life depended on it.

The fuel execution was beautiful! I was taking in fuel every 30 minutes.  Around 6:45 AM, I realized I had to go to the bathroom.  At MCM, I had to go to the bathroom around mile 2, but didn’t stop.  I held it for almost six hours and was miserable by the end.  So I made a mental note that I had to stop, I wasn’t going to be uncomfortable like that again.

Then at 7:15 (still no bathroom) I realized I had to poop and there was no holding it back.  But the problem was there were NO porta potties between miles 3 and when I finally stopped at mile 9.5.  Because I was holding back pooping myself, I intentionally skipped 7:15 fuel (afraid it would stoke the poop fire), telling myself if I didn’t see a bathroom before 7:30, I’d go ahead and eat anyway, not wanting to go too far into a calorie deficit.  I took in fuel at 7:30 and finally got to the bathroom at 7:55 AM.  Which is why there is an almost 12 minute differential between Garmin time and the official time.  That’s how long the line was for the porta potties.  I was afraid it was diarrhea, but it wasn’t it was solid, and once I evacuated, I felt so much better!  I know that’s a bit TMI, but thinking thru nutrition, I know it’s important. 

The rest of the race was fuel every thirty minutes without fail.  Pretty proud about that.

I also salted every 30 minutes starting at the top of the race.  However, at mile 12 when I went to salt, I realized that somewhere between mile 10 and 12, I’d unintentionally dumped all my salt and there was nothing left.  Had to talk myself off the ledge of “I’m going to die…I’m going to be that person that the day after the race, dies in their sleep because their electrolytes were off from racing…”  Executed plan B: take two Gatorade cups at every fluid stop until I crossed the finish.

030218 Race Report Phoenix Marathon (Post Photo).JPG

I carried 26 ounces of my usual water/nuun/crystal light mixture and forgot to drink for the first hour because it was so cold and dark.  But finished it around mile 11 and refilled it with half water and half Gatorade at two different water stations between mile 11 and the end of the race.  That was on top of making sure I took in two cups of Gatorade at every station to help mitigate the loss of the salt I’d dropped somewhere along the route.

Looking at nutrition/hydration/electrolyte balance today, pretty proud of the kick-butt execution of the plan AND the subsequent level-headed adjustment to the unintentional salt dump.

I fought with myself a bit at the beginning.  It was hard to establish a reasonable pace because we were pure downhill for the first three miles.  My brain kept saying to pull back, but I was concerned that I was being too conservative or even lazy.  When I looked at HR, I was holding a pace mid zone 2.  I knew there was a two mile climb between miles four and six, so instead of allowing my very lazy mind to rule, I ran to comfort/respiration.  Knowing I would intentionally pull back on the climb, I let my legs rule and if I felt like I was breathing too hard, I pulled back. 

Halfway through mile 15, the wheels started to come off.  And that’s when I began to fight against myself.  At first I tried logic.  Asking myself, what’s the problem?  I did a mental inventory of any aches and pains.  There were no aches and pains, just tired legs.  But, to be clear, my legs could still run.  I began to enforce a run two hundred steps, walk a hundred steps rotation.  I count my steps when I run (left, right equals one step).  And if I’m running strong with a healthy stride, 1,000 steps equals one mile.  When I get tired and my stride decreases, the count goes one to two hundred over 1,000.  That worked to keep me in check and forward momentum for a while. 

But then at mile 17, I realized there was a cop car riding slowly behind me.  I asked if I was the last one on the course, he said “no” but the course closes at noon (something that I didn’t realize) and at the rate I was going, I wasn’t going to make that cut off.  He wasn’t ugly about it, he was very friendly.  But that compounded greatly the “I hate this” refrain I’d been trying to rebuff for the last mile and a half.  I didn’t understand if I was going to be pulled off the course.  So instead of digging deep, I chose to be pissed off, hating the world and hating my tired legs.  My count went to 500 walk then 500 run.  I walked the last 1.5 miles right before the 26 mile marker which is when I began to run very slowly again, and crossed the finish.

I ended up besting MCM by 29 minutes and some change.  But that’s not what I wanted.  Mentally at the longer distance, I’m weak.  Granted my melt-down started much later than MCM, but the fact it happened at all pisses me off.  When I step way, WAAAAAYYY back and look at this without emotion, this is what I see:

  1. I PR’ed over MCM
  2. Despite hating life after mile 15.5 and feeling like a piece of crap after talking to the cop, I still chose to move forward with the mental thought process of “they’ll have to physically remove me from this course.”
  3. I finished
  4. I got a medal
  5. Despite having incredibly exhausted legs, they do not hurt badly (or at all) the way they did after MCM
  6. Fuel plan was impeccable
  7. I made good decisions/choices when faced with a mishap regarding my salt
  8. Leading into this race, I executed food/sleep/hydration this week like a champ.  When I woke up this morning, I was good mentally and physically.  Totally ready to run, no anxiety/hesitation, no shoulda/woulda/couldas
  9. The last couple of weeks have been tough physically as I’ve fought through lower leg tightness/pain.  I was diligent in stretching/rolling/trigger point release and outside of a very tired left hip, the sciatic pain issues I had at MCM were non-existent today.  And I started and finished with NO lower leg discomfort.  I did the recovery work and I reaped the benefits.

Even though there’s all that good, I can’t stop focusing on the mental meltdown.  I’m frustrated and need to find a way to overcome it, because in August, there’s 114.4 miles prior to that 26.2.  Thus I won’t be starting fresh like I did today.