Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Marathon Two Weeks After a 100

Since exhausting my collegiate athletic eligibility and shifting my focus to ultra trail related competition, I haven't raced often or fast.  If you look over my race results and race schedule you'll never see a bunch of races, especially not in close proximity.  I feel content with finding a few focus races for the year and spending large chunks of time training and gearing up for those races.  So it was out of the ordinary when I was toeing the line at the Columbus Marathon just two weeks after completing the Grindstone 100.  Not only would this race be in close proximity to my last race, but it would also be a shorter and faster race than what I have ran in many years.  I had run one marathon previous to this years Columbus and it was in 2011 at the NAIA National Championship - since then it has been mostly trail ultras in terms of competition.  I went from low-key trail ultras to the pavement in the big city - this would be different!

      -Strava data (Garmin Forerunner 310xt)

I'm not entirely sure why I decided to run the marathon in such short recovery time after the Grindstone 100.  I guess it had to do with my internal desire to find out how much I can handle or how far I can push myself.  I knew it would be a grind from the start - but I wanted to face that feeling of straight up sore, dead legs.  I knew I wouldn't set my personal best marathon time, but it was not about running the fastest I could for 26.2 miles.  This was an experiment, much of what running is for many people.

In the two weeks between Grindstone and Columbus, I ran a total of 18 miles, mostly just short jaunts to loosen my legs.  Fitness wasn't an issue - weeks upon weeks of long runs in the months prior meant that I would have the fitness to run 26.2 miles.  This two week period was a matter of recovering and getting my body to be as healthy and fresh as possible.  After a 100 mile race, I will typically do the same thing, except without another hard effort at the end of that recovery period.  My muscles and core structure were feeling pretty good in the days after Grindstone.  With the course being a mix of technical uphills and downhills, I was never using the same muscle for a prolonged time.  I think this made recovery easier than my previous 100's because I was able to spread out the usage in my legs.  The only hot spot was my right hip muscles which permeated through my upper leg muscles - once I was sure I had that cleared up I was set to go ahead and run the marathon.

Race morning was quite the difference at the marathon compared to the ultras I've been accustomed too.  Instead of rolling out of my tent to a quiet early morning in the forest, with a couple hundred racers getting ready, I pulled into downtown Columbus with 18,000 other runners, music blaring on the streets, fireworks, and the whole shebang.  I felt out of place and nervous - not nervous from pre-race jitters but nervous about being in the huge crowd.  Luckily I was able to get into the elite corral and miss a lot of the hustle, but I was still sort of buzzed from the hype around me.

I won't go into much of how the race played out except for a short synopsis.  I started out feeling surprisingly fresh and smooth - this might have been from the adrenaline pumping from the festivities at the starting line.  I made it through 10 miles feeling strong and in 9th place.  I went through the half marathon in 10th place at around 1:16:30.  This was fast and not too far off my PR, but I wanted to ride every ounce of good feeling that I could get.  The second half of the race presented me the grind that I knew was coming.  It hurt - for 13.1 more miles I felt the shock of every step I took two weeks ago at Grindstone reverberate through my legs.  My pace slowed from 5:40's in the first half to 6:00's to 6:30's and I was passed by 13 people.
In the last mile, feeling rough!
The race went exactly how expected - it was a grind.  I ended up finishing in 24th place in 2:39:54.  The second half was about 7 minutes slower than the first.  Even though it was such a grind and even though I was in so much discomfort, it was strangely fun and satisfying pushing through that feeling.  Each mile was a small test with separate goals and I was able to tough out some low moments.  Even though I was out of my comfort zone and running through an unfamiliar setting, it was a fun and fulfilling event.

A few takeaways from running a Marathon two weeks after a 100 Miler:
  • Road marathons are cool and I'd like to do more than I have in the past, but I will be sticking to trail ultras for the majority of my races.
    • I'd like to take a good shot at training seriously for a fast marathon someday and getting a solid PR, and then be done with competing seriously in marathons.
  • I am not Mike Wardian.  Mike can recover like non other and I think it is incredible how he can run such fast times in marathons so short after ultras.
  • Being uncomfortable is just temporary.  This is a mantra that I've repeated in ultra's lately and it found its way to my mind in this marathon.  Knowing this helps me get through the low moments and push harder.
  • To run successful ultras, even in mountains, there is a need for speed.  I'm not saying mountain ultra runners need to be pounding out road marathons, but running fast regularly during training adds a lot of strength to the well.   
  • As a ultra runner, it is okay to do something different.  I have sworn against road marathons too long - it is okay to do something other than run trails :) especially if it helps your training.  
With Bobbi, who ran the half, after I finished the marathon. 
Run Free

1 comment:

  1. Great RR Michael! I'll never be able to run fast again, so I like to live vicariously through friends like you.

    The Athens Marathon would be a good course to try to run a fast PR on.