Chicago and Dublin Marathons

So I haven't updated the blog in a while.  Not that anyone really reads this most of the time anyway, but I like to keep track of some of my thoughts on running in a more concrete fashion than the ramblings in my training log.  In October, I ran both the Chicago and Dublin marathons.  I had different expectations for each and was unsatisfied with both.  I think that has something to do with the fact that I haven't written in a while.

First, the Chicago Marathon, October 10, 2010.  I ended up dropping out at about 16 miles into the race—obviously not what I was looking for.  I find it very frustrating that my PR in the marathon is still 2:26:19 from what was more or less my debut in 2008.  I know without a doubt that I was in PR shape in Chicago.  I'm pretty sure I was in low 2:20s shape.  I made some mistakes in training in the 4 month build-up that kept me from being in 2:19 shape, which I wrote about some previously (these were mainly errors in the Fundamental Phase).  However, fueling was my downfall in Chicago.  I had not anticipated this being an issue.  In fact, I had planned on taking next to no fluid or carbs during the race.  Like Canova, I believe that if you train properly, you don't need to.  The problem is that it was 80 degrees on race day.  I knew I needed to replenish liquids in that heat, so I started drinking early on.  Having done next to none of this in training, my stomach rebelled, cramped; I began having breathing issues and by halfway in around 1:12-mid, I knew my race was more or less over.  I decided to bag it because I don't really care about finishing a marathon or not.  It just doesn't hold any intrigue for me.

The lessons to be learned from Chicago were not immediately obvious to me.  I still don't believe carbohydrates play a key role in the marathon for a properly trained runner completing the race in under 2:30.  Further, taking on carbohydrate drinks in training can actually have an undesirable training effect.  Your body sees that it will get fuel when going long distances and it doesn't teach itself to burn a higher percentage of fat to conserve its own glycogen.  This is exactly what you don't want.  But obviously, I need to practice taking down something in training.  I think the answer is water.  Water will not have the negative training effect that a carbohydrate drink would, but it will help teach my stomach how to handle fluid at a quick pace.

I think an even better lesson from the race is to pick a better marathon.  Chicago is way too much of a crap shoot with the weather.  Why they don't move the race to late October, I don't know.  Instead of 3 out of every 4 marathons being 70+ degrees with one good one (as has been the case from 2007–2010), a late October race would likely see only 1 out of 4 marathons with poor weather (and likely in the opposite direction, quite cold, which is still better than too hot) and would have good weather most of the time.

One of the things running through my mind when I dropped out of Chicago was that I was racing the Dublin Marathon 15 days later.  I already had a vacation in Ireland planned when I realized that the race was going on while I would be there.  Not wanting to miss a unique opportunity, I signed up, planning on running it as a training run, perhaps in costume.  However, as my Chicago hopes came to and end mid-race, I was thinking that I just needed a solid marathon under my belt.  Not necessarily a PR, but just something positive.  My last three marathons were DNF (Chicago '10), blowup (Berlin '09), and DNF (Houston, '09).   I felt that I could go run 2:30 without much of a problem and at least get things headed back in the right direction.  I was wrong.

Well maybe not wrong in theory, but wrong for pragmatic reasons.  The Dublin Marathon came near the end of my trip.  After 10 days of travel, drinking, and very little running due to being sick, I had lost a lot of fitness in a hurry.  I fell apart in Dublin and struggled home in 2:47 after an opening 1:18 half.  I couldn't believe how hard it was to run 6 minute pace a mere 15 days after I was in top shape.

Another bout of sickness followed Dublin and I found the window of training time before the North Face Endurance Challenge on December 4 rapidly closing.  However, I have gotten some good training in in the last few weeks and finally have the fire back.  I lost focus, as surely all runners do from time to time.  And while the last year's training has certainly not been bad (in fact, it will be my highest mileage year ever), even looking back at my training log for 2010 disgusts me.  How can I allow myself to wallow in mediocrity running 90 miles a week?  I had an incredible 6 or 7 weeks of training in late 2009 before letting things slip away back at school in the spring.  I know now the training I need to do, and the mileage I need to run.  I have an incredible plan that will see me run a massive PB at the June 2011 Grandma's Marathon, if only I have the heart to carry it out in full.  It will be a difficult test, as I begin work full time at my law firm on January 10.  Doubtless, there will be many times, after long days and nights of work, where I won't want to lace them up for "yet another, Jesus God, ten-miler with the boys" (except, in my case, without the boys).  But no one ever said it would be easy.