Lehigh Valley Marathon - Post Mortem

Well, that didn't go as planned at all.

DISCLAIMER: I've found that there are three kinds of people in this world. A. People who don't set goals. B. People who set reasonable goals because they get mighty upset if they miss them. C. People who set stretch goals and are cool with missing them.

It's important to note that I'm a C. While what follows could be taken as ripping my performance apart, I'm really not. Well, I really am, but I'm ok with it. Understand, that I'm eternally grateful to complete my third marathon and that I'm especially grateful to be healthy enough to run at all. That being said, yesterday pretty much sucked.

Reader's Digest Version:
I finished in 3:33:45. 5th out of 30 in my AG (I mistakenly Tweeted 4th yesterday) and 37th out of 305 overall.

It was 15 minutes slower than my fastest marathon, and ten minutes slower than last year.

The Summary:

I went out according to plan and did a pretty good job of running 7:23 miles. I had two that snuck in at 7:15 but for the most part hit my numbers. As is usual, it took me a while to hit my groove, but at mile seven, I felt like I was hitting my rhythm and would hold it for a good ten miles. Except, I didn't, and by mile 11, I found myself tiring already. I held it together to the half-way point, and was averaging 7:20 until then. From there, I experience a long painful decline which hit bottom with a couple 9:30 miles, until I limped home.

What Went Wrong:
Truth is, we don't always know what went wrong, but I'm placing the failure on three key components:
1) No speedwork/LT work - This was an intentional move from previous plans and I fear it did me in (particularly when considering that my 3:18 PR came with the FIRST plan, which is little more THAN speedwork). Most experts say you should train to your weaknesses and instead, I trained to my strength. I'm going to be thinking about this a lot over the coming months. Truth is, I don't like doing the FIRST plan because I don't like treating every workout like a war. That being said, it might be what I need if I'm ever going to hit 3:15.

2) A bad diabetic day - Though the Dexcom performed flawlessly, I didn't have a good day diabetes-wise. When I woke up, the adrenaline was already flowing and I was 200. By the time I was on the starting line, I was over 300. Experts say don't exercise when you're that high, but they weren't going to hold the start for me. It took me until mile 7 to get below 200 and when I did, I thought my race was coming together, and I did settle in around 150. But still, I think running those first seven miles between 200 and 325 did some hurting.

I find that I've done so many shorter races, I can keep my adrenaline in control and go to the starting line 200 or less. But this time, I had so much adrenaline that I couldn't get the numbers to line up and while I took insulin to compensate, I was scared to take too much.

3) Course conditions. I had paid very little attention to the course prior to race day. While we had non-stop rain Thursday and Friday, Saturday was supposed to be cloudy without rain and Sunday's low temperature was supposed to be 57.

Instead, it poured rain until Midnight on Sunday morning and when I went to the start it was already 64 degrees. The course, meanwhile, consisted mostly of 18 miles of a dirt towpath beside a canal through woods.

Adding up all of these elements, we had a warmer, more humid experience than I expected and trails that were frequently muddier than I expected. While it would be wrong for me to place much blame on the course, ten degrees cooler with lower humidity and dry trails would've made an improvement in my time.


There is a 4th possibility, however - one that I'm giving ample thought to. It's entirely possible I'm not fast enough to qualify for Boston, that no matter what plan I do, or what course I run, I don't have what it takes to get there.

I don't mean that to sound negative, of course, but running has many possible rewards. I love running half marathons and trail races and even some of the shorter stuff, but proper marathon training demands a full commitment without offering any promises in return. Over the next several months, I'm going to think about that a lot.

In the comments to the previous post, Mark from Tampa brings up a good point: Boston is supposed to be hard, and I'm cool with that. It would be a bummer if it were easy for me. On the other hand, it would also be a bummer if I did this to myself every fall and never got there, when I could be enjoying the racing season a bit more. I dunno.


Other notes:
1) The race ended in Easton, PA, home of Weyerbacher Brewery, which meant I brought home a mix and match case at factory prices. Cool!
2) My previous marathons were both in Harrisburg, which has a relay component, so I thought I'd be used to that. But the relay is actually bigger than the solo competition at Lehigh Valley. The hand-offs were frequently congested by relay teams and there were plenty of fresh runners blowing by me after the hand-offs. I'm not one to pick on the relays - I believe anyone who runs anything is a winner - I didn't like the high percentage of relay teams in this race.
3) Lonely marathon? With 18 miles of tow path, this was a lonelier marathon than Harrisburg, which has been called sparse for spectators. I had many stretches of four miles without a single spectator.
4) Celebrity sighting? Actually, I never saw him, but according to the results, last place in the marathon went to Lawrence Block, age 71, from New York City. My guess is that it's probably the same Lawrence Block who's written tons of best-sellers and recently penned a memoir about being a long-time walker. I wish I would've seen him as I've enjoyed many of his burglar tales.
5) It's all relative. To me, the race was 18 weeks and 3.5 hours. To my son? It's just 25 seconds on YouTube. :)

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