I'd signed up for this one almost a year ago, when I was still running somewhat. I didn't know what to expect coming in to this one, but I knew that I was going to finish it even if I had to walk it. Luckily I didn't have to walk.
Silicon Valley Marathon - 4:40:09 (10:41 pace; 460/769)
I was seriously skeptical about this one. Not only had I not ran that much in the past few months, but I also had come down with something about a week before the race. Lets start from the beginning.
I gave myself a crash course in running in order to trigger muscle memory. Mind you, I had no notions that this would improve my speed. I figured my speed was shot, but the least I could do was help my muscle memory try and remember what it was like to be on my feet for that long. So in the three weeks leading up to the race I ran 2 half marathons within 48 hours (both at 2hrs9min) as well as a smattering of other runs ranging from 3-8 miles, totaling 48.2 miles. A decent amount for me, even when I was running all the time. I felt confident that I would do alright.
Then a week before the event I came down with a bad cold, hacking, coughing and phlegm that I couldn't get rid of. I was annoyed, I wanted to get a couple of more runs in, but, alas, I was unable to. I played it by ear. Obviously if I felt too bad then I wouldn't run cause I wouldn't want to make everything worse. So I get to bed the night before and around 2:30 wake up completely soaked in sweat. At first you would think, "Oh no, maybe I shouldn't run", but as I lay there trying to fall back asleep I couldn't help but think, "Alright, whatever I had finally broke, I should be good to go in about 3 hours". Haha, oh how the mind works sometimes.
Perfect weather when the race began. I immediately felt good about the run, hitting my stride and not feeling too winded. I did notice I was sweating more than usual, but no biggie. About mile 11 I couldn't help but begin to dread running that whole course again as I was starting to feel tired. I wasn't even half way, oh well. I push through. I'd eaten 6 shot bloks (180 calories) at mile 9 and told myself to do it again at mile 15. By mile 14 my calves were starting to hurt and energy was low, so ate them then, vowing to repeat the process every 4 miles, thereby eating before, during and after I normally hit the wall. The next few miles were uneventful. I remember frog hopping with a handful of runners. I would run ahead, then walk, then they would run ahead, then they would walk. Repeat process. I hate it when that happens.
About the same time I noticed that I never hit the wall. I was at mile 19 and the only time psychologically I hit the wall, ever so tiny though it was, was when I thought to myself that I don't want to run marathons anymore (this is a common wall issue for me, when I begin to doubt myself and think why, oh why would anyone want to torture themselves this way!). Too tired. I coupled that thought with my fellow frog hoppers and knew I had to take a different tactic. My training was nowhere near what it should have been, so I knew I had to focus on my muscles. I immediately started a routine where I ran until my calves hurt, then took a 20 second walk break, then started all over again. Immediately I surged forward and left my frog friends behind. I never saw them again (in fact this one guy that I was doing that with finished the race about 20 minutes after I did!). In fact from mile 19 on I was passing a ton of people! I mean they would come on to my radar and I just pecked them off. I think I was on to something with this run walk routine, at least for times like this when my conditioning is completely gone.
So my morale is buoyed as runners are left in my dust (if only I was going that fast) and the miles went by so fast that I barely noticed. I mean I was running slower than my average marathon but it felt like the strongest (at least mentally) marathon I had ever ran! I came to within striking distance of the finish and realized that I might be able to pull off a sub 4:40, my only goal for the race. With 2 minutes to go I hit the 26 mile marker. I sprint past numerous runners in the final stretch, wanting, needing (for some reason) to run a 4:39:59 or better and... I don't know. My clock said 4:40:14 but I was off when I started it and when I stopped it, so I relied on the chip timing.
When all was said and done I missed my target time by 10 seconds! I ended up running a 4:40:09. Just one walk break less and I would have been exactly where I had wanted to be. I guys that's where the cards fell.
Anyway, I could not have been any more happy than I am after this race. I learned an eating strategy that helps break down the wall (eat at miles 9, 14, 18 and 22) and a way to speed up if my calves are beginning to cramp, notably a 20 second walk break. I didn't run this race faster than when I ran it in 2007, but I certainly felt much better during and after it, despite being sick.
(P.S. I was coughing during the race and needing to blow my nose a lot, which was the only sign that I was sick. But after the race I was having the biggest coughing fit. Add that to being sore that night, as well as sore the next day and still not feeling well, I think I did quite well considering. Now whether I made the right decision to run while sick is a completely different matter and I probably shouldn't have done considering it will probably prolong my cough and phlegm problem longer than it should have lasted. Oh well, you win some you lose some, and I think I certainly did a little of both.)