It's been a few weeks now since I ran my first marathon, and I'm still quite excited about it. I know there will other marathons in my future, hopefully one more in 2010, and I know I will have great experiences but Surf City was really fantastic and unique.
It turned out well because of how I trained for it. Knowing what I know now about running and training for races, I know I was undertrained for several races before, namely the 2009 Run Through Redlands half marathon and the 2009 Seal Beach 10K, both in April of '09. I shaved 5:36 from my time in that 10K to the next one I ran, the Mission Inn 10K in November, and I know I can smash my time in the half marathon because I know I can train better.
In many ways, though, that's why I joined the Loma Linda Lopers. I wanted to make sure that I did everything right in terms of my preparation for my first marathon. I knew that I wasn't doing everything right and that to tackle the marathon by myself could have been suicidal.
But how did my marathon training help me cross the finish line in one piece? I figured I'd share some of the reasons how my training helped me get across the finish line.
I didn't have many surprises during my marathon. I had encountered a wall before. It wasn't the proverbial wall you hit in marathons but it was a wall nevertheless. During the Cedar River Run, the last two miles were just beyond challenging. They were probably the toughest miles of any I had to endure in my whole marathon training. I was alone, it was raining, I was wet and cold and fatigued and exhausted and just downright miserable, and mentally I was a bit of a mess too. That was an 18-mile run, the longest I'd done to that point, and I only had 18 miles in me that day, not one step more. But I met my goal, and that run gave me so much confidence.
At Surf City, I was still going strong at 18 miles. It came and went and I didn't even realize it.
My Halfway Point Was 22
I've heard that a marathon is divided into halves - the first half is Mile 1 through Mile 20, and the second half is the last six miles. I did not feel at all worn out at the Mile 20 marker. In fact, I was enthused at Mile 22. While I hit the wall at Mile 23, that was preferable than hitting the wall at Mile 20, or before. I had the confidence in myself that I could get to Mile 22 because I did just that during training. The last four miles were tough, sure, but it could have been much tougher had I only run 18 or 20 during training, or even worse, if I'd only gone to 15 or 16.
Used To The Pounding
I've kept track of my mileage since Jan. 1 so I know exactly how many miles I've ran this year. Through Wednesday, that figure stood at roughly 265 this year alone. I did not keep track of my mileage during marathon training but I ran double-digit miles every weekend from late September all the way through Surf City with the exception of Dec. 7, when I ran a 15K race.
Consequently, my feet were used to the pounding, used to the demands of a marathon. I didn't develop any blisters, didn't have any toenail issues (well, any more than I usually have), didn't have any nipple issues (taped them up, never heard from them at all during the race), didn't have any chafing issues. I bled a lot, and that was a bit odd since it was on my back, but that I think/hope was an isolated incident, and didn't bother me during the race.
I've heard horror stories about blisters developing during races and marathons, but I had no such misfortunes. My feet had been there and done that, save for the last four miles, which were uncharted waters.
Locked And Loaded
Before I joined the Lopers, I had no concept of Gu, fuel belts and how effective they could be. In fact, they are not only effective but necessary I believe. Sure, many runners out there did not have them, but to me my fuel belt has become an indispensable part of running when I'm out there doing 10-12 miles or more.
I got used to running with the belt, got used to drinking Gatorade every now and then, and got used to Gu. This all became part of my routine, so it was no surprise to me. The only thing I had to be aware of was not to drink all my Gatorade too soon and to time it so it wouldn't run out by Mile 12 or something.
Everything I did in training I did with Surf City in mind, at least all of my Sunday runs. I wanted to get into a routine and a rhythm, finding my pace and getting the miles in. Since I hadn't run more than 13 miles before joining the Lopers, and had only ran more than 10 miles a handful of times, a lot of what we did was new to me. I remember feeling nervous about our first 11-mile run, and actually feeling nervous and anxious before a lot of our runs.
But when start to run 15 miles and 18 miles, suddenly a 12-mile run is quite appealing. I cannot tell you how tiny the half marathon seemed to me when I was at the start line at Surf City.
I did fear the marathon distance but I knew my legs had it in me. And now, 12-milers are challenging, sure, but not the daunting monsters they once were.