Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Marathon race report 2016

To sum up this year's Honolulu Marathon result: The first half went as planned, the second half, not so much.  This was one of those days when Plan A fell apart and left me searching for a way to salvage the day. In that regard I feel I did rather well.

Back in August I wrote about muscle fatigue, how this was the one thing more than any other factor that limits my success. This race confirms what I said then. To be positive I will say that I see some improvement.

Let's put up some hard numbers. Later I will dive into the fuzzy stuff.

PlanActual1st half2nd half
Avg Pace17:2818:2517:2919:18
Avg HR130128140117
Avg HR Zone2.
Intensity Factor0.750.740.780.71

The number everyone looks at first is overall duration, and here I totally missed my goal. However, if we look closer at these numbers some interesting things are revealed.

To help in understanding the raw numbers I have included some data charts from Training Peaks, beginning with all Garmin data over time (click chart to enlarge). The horizontal scale is time but I added a vertical line at 13.1 miles, and a horizontal line at heart rate 130BPM. I also marked three places; more below.

Red - Heart Rate
Yellow - Cadence
Green - Pace
Blue - Temperature
Gray - Elevation

My planned average pace was 17:28 min/mi. but I hoped to do a little better than that. To hit that pace I would have to do the flat portions a bit faster to compensate for the hills. I arrived at this pace by studying my runs from the last couple of months, working around the times I was injured. My typical long run pace was down around 18:00 with a goal of keeping my heart rate below 130. Typically my heart rate would slowly climb to around 135 as I warmed up, then after about twenty minutes my technique would smooth out and I could bring my heart rate down to 125-128. My goal for these runs was to spend several hours running without being a basket case for the rest of the week, and I achieved that. My race plan was to run faster than those long runs, to be that basket case at the finish line, so I targeted an average heart rate of 130 but would allow it to go a little higher in order to make my pace.

One of the many good things about this race was that my legs felt great right from the start. Chalk that up to a good taper and the mile walk to the start. Five minutes from the start I was at the pace and heart rate I targeted, and felt fantastic. People all around me were flying past, as if this was a 10K, but I held to my plan. I did have to dodge a lot of people who started in front of me but were already going slow. It takes a few miles to begin to sort out.

After five minutes I saw something all too familiar. I was running at a pace and effort that should produce a heart rate of 130, but I was at 140. I knew I had to hold back a little, but I expected that number to ease back down by mile 2. You can see several drops in pace (green) and cadence (yellow) where I walked the aide stations. I purposely walked up Nuuanu to save energy and get a picture of Santa in front of Murphy's Bar and Grill. I happened see run into some old friends there, too.  But there are a couple of spikes in the data -- one has me running at 6:40 min/mi pace! -- which I attribute to GPS errors caused by the highrise buildings downtown.

What I want to do now is step back and point out the general flow of the first half. I followed my plan, walking the steep hills, running comfortably hard, all the while feeling great. My average pace was spot-on, just 1/100th second per mile slower than plan, and that included the long walk up Diamond Head and again on the north side up to 18th Ave.

This is where I had my first big disappointment. No Batman. Every year there has been a guy on Kilauea Ave. in a fantastic Batman costume in a cheerleader/photo-op role. I even stopped to ask some neighbors. They missed him, too. Hope he is OK. Another thing I missed was the lady playing Christmas songs on accordion, around mile 18. She was there, with a sign that said her accordion was broken.

I was not watching cadence, letting that go to whatever felt comfortable. I did work on increasing my cadence a lot this year, and it paid off. I used to be comfortable around 68, and 75 felt impossible to sustain. Here I am cruising at a very steady 75, nice and smooth and relaxed. Those Chi Running drills worked!

The one thing that was not going as planned was heart rate. It remained stubbornly above 130, a fairly steady 140 with peaks to 147 on the two climbs front and back of Diamond Head. Yes, I planned to burn a match on those, so no surprise there. It was the sustained 140 that stands out. At the time I thought it was just what needed to be done to hit my goal.

I was beginning to feel some real fatigue as I looked for the 13.1 mile flag. I never saw one but I stopped just after my Garmin Fenix 2 registered 13.1, in order to text my split to Pattie. It was here that my legs decided they had had enough. At the points numbered one, two, and three you can see me struggling to keep running, giving myself first a short walk then at two a longer recovery walk. It did not help. Even running at an 18:30 pace drove my heart rate too high and my legs just would not keep going.

At the time I did not feel like heat was a factor, but looking at the blue temperature line on the chart I see where that might of been a factor. There are points in the second half where the on-course temperature hit 97F!

I know there are people who cut the course. It seems easy, the returning runners are right there. But that never occurred to me. My options were to abandon the race and walk back, or walk instead of run. I decided to keep going, and am glad I did.

I never practice speed walking but I did learn from Chi Running that the form is almost the same. Arms up same as running, some hip swing, easy relaxed recovery and foot plant. After a mile or two I was averaging a 19:30 pace. I whipped out my race calculator app and calculated a finish time three hours from then. I wanted to let Pattie know to hang out and not expect me anywhere near my planned finish time.

As the mikes passed I noticed several things. I was getting faster, often making 18:00 min/mi, the same speed had I slowed down my run. I was passing a lot of people. By that point in the day everyone around me was walking. But I was feeling good, going hard, and passing runners who looked like the walking dead, not to mention hundreds lining the side of the road, shoes off. Finally, by mile twenty, my legs had that exhausted feeling they always do around then. There were times when I thought I might never make it to the finish, but I kept going and my body, complaining as it was, kept working.

So much about my preparation went well. I ran out of Perpetuem as planned just past the Aloha station (mile 23) and finished on just water and one serving of Gatorade. I took a Hammer Endurolyte tablet at every aid station. Not even a hint of cramping, in spite of the extreme fatigue in my legs. No blisters, no sore toenails. Only a slightly sore lower back -- I used to run with my head hanging down which resulted in severe back ache after long runs. I have much better posture now.

There will always be races where things do not go according to plan. I think I did a good job of salvaging this race, making the best out of it I could. In the coming year I will focus even harder on increasing muscular endurance, to bring my pace up and maintain it to the finish line.

After race Pattie and I treated ourselves to a caffeine break at Starbucks -- I had a Mocha Frappuccino -- and later an early dinner at Eggs n'Things. Banana macadamia pancakes with a mountain of whipped cream. No upset stomach this year.

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