Lesson Learned: Don't Slack During Marathon Training

Oh blog friends, how I've missed you!  My new job as a kindergarten teacher has taken over my life.  I'm not complaining, and I absolutely love my school, colleagues, and  students; but if I let myself, I could spend all hours of the day/night/weekend planning and prepping for it.  But now that I'm getting more and more in the swing of things, and conferences are over, I'm going to make time for blogging because I love being a part of this amazing community! 

Sure I've had no time for blogging, but you may be asking if I've made time for other things in my life.   Actually no; I've had no time for running (or a lot of other real life activities for that matter). Which may not have been such a bad thing; except for the fact that I ran a marathon on November 20th!

I started off my marathon training pretty gung ho, and had my mind set on PR-ing.  I ran quarter mile repeats on the track, completed my first ever tempo run, got in two 20 milers, and even ran the morning of a hurricane!  But after I got my job at the end of October, I ran maybe 5 times on a treadmill.  I never doubted that I would finish, and a hopeful part of me still thought I may be able to PR by a few minutes.  However it didn't quite end up that way...
All smiles at the start....
 The Philadelphia Marathon got sold out, so I signed up for The Bucks County Marathon in Pennsylvania (awesome decision as this was a WONDERFUL marathon!).  It was this marathons first year and the smallest race I've ever done, capped at 500 participants.  The course was extremely scenic, winding mostly along the Delaware Canal Tow Path.  Shout out to all the volunteers, they were great!

I just joined a gym  and I was talking to one of their trainers.  He's a seasoned marathoner and iron man, so he knows his stuff.  He told me that going into a marathon and not being at my best, I should focus on achieving negative splits (well you should always do this, but especially if you're under trained) and really listen to how my body felt.  And the first half I took it easy, although looking back I should have taken even slower, and I felt super.

Seriously happy before the running began

 As I ran past the 15 mile marker I distinctly remember thinking to myself, "Wow, it sure doesn't feel like I've ran 15 miles!  This is great!  Maybe I will PR!"  <-----hah!

Mile 16 is when I began to feel a few aches and pains, but nothing alarming.

I had been rockin' a pretty steady pace (on track for 4:45 to PR) and had been doing well with fueling about every hour.  Had my GU's about each hour, starting from 1:00. 2:00, and 3:00.  But for some reason, around the 3 hour mark, when I took that 3rd GU my stomach began to have major issues.  I felt like I needed to throw up, and I came close to doing it a few times.  After that I *dumbly* did not take another GU.  

I went from feeling great to utterly blah, in a matter of 2 miles.  By the time 20 hit, I was in pain.  Miles 20-26.2 are a blur and I mentally started to doubt myself at that point.  Here are a few snippets of my thoughts.

"Who the h e double hockey stick would sign up for this?  I am NEVER EVER EVER doing another marathon again!"


"I can do it.  I can do it.  I don't care how slow I am.  I can do it."

"Never mind.  I can't do this.  What if I just called Shane and asked him to come get me?"

"If I stop taking walk breaks and pick up the pace, maybe I'll still PR???"
"Get real Melissa.  WHO CARES ABOUT PR-ING!!!!! "

Things also got a little scary in those last 4 miles.  I felt terrible, due in part for not taking another GU, and I started to get a little spacey.  I was close to tears a few times because my body felt bad.  I hyperventilated 2 different times; I couldn't get in more than a shallow breath, my airway constricted and I could hear myself wheezing.  I was not running fast enough to be out of breath, I just kept getting into these tearful, unable to breath, episodes, and it was scary.  I'm a hard headed person, and wanted to finish so after it passed I continued on, walk/run/walk/run.  

The last mile an extremely nice girl came up behind me and I started to run with her.  We were chatting and she was so motivating!  However my sick stomach did not enjoy her quick pace, so I wished her luck and she continued on.    As I left the towpath another runner came up next to me and he also shared some much needed positive energy.  He kept repeating, "We're almost there!  We can do it!"  As my feet hit the pavement, I knew we were close, but my body was giving up on me.  I begrudgingly gave into my bodies demands and began to walk.  As though there was a light at the end of the tunnel; a literal tunnel we had to run through to get to the finish, I saw my Dad, Kelly, and Shane cheering me on!  It was the extra oomph I needed to get my butt running, ahem, hobbling again. 

I couldn't wimp out with the finish line in sight!

It took every fiber of my being to make it across that finish line...but I did it!  5:05:11

 So what did I learn from my second marathon experience?  

TRAIN!  This one is obvious, but it still needs to be mentioned.  Even though *most* of my training had been completed, not running for a month completely threw me off.  And thankfully I made it across the finish line and a few days later I feel great, but maybe it could have taken a scary turn for the worst.  Check out *this* article from Runner's World about sudden death in races.

Have a fueling strategy.  Sure my stomach hurt, and just the thought of a GU made my stomach queasy.  But I should have sucked it up and taken another one around hour 4.  I think my breathing difficulties, mental haze, and overall fatigue could have greatly been reduced if not completely gone, if I had fueled properly.  I sort of "go with the flow" but next marathon I will have my fueling strategically planned.  No ifs, ands, or upset stomachs about it!

Know your limits.  As much as I would have loved to beat my previous time, I could tell my body was not going to do it.  At the end maybe I could have skipped the walking and pushed through the pain but I knew my limit had been reached and in order to finish I had to run/walk.  I'd rather be a bit slower than not finish at all!
Never make a bet on pre-marathon adrenaline.  I bet Shane 1,000 dollars he would not run a marathon by next year.  We shook on it and it was posted to Facebook.  He's running Philadelphia next year (so he says) and wants it delivered in a brief case...in one's.  

Any suggestions for my next marathon ;)  The amnesia has already set in!

**And Happy Thanksgiving**  A little late, but I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday.


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