Monday, October 22, 2012

Marathon Part 1 : Results

This post is all about the numbers (my favorite).  More to come, including photos and videos and odds and ends.

I didn't wear my Garmin or a watch or anything so I don't have detailed split data for you, just what came from the timing mats on the course.  I ended up running basically an even split for the two halves, despite not exactly staying with a pacer (more on that later).  2:14:14 for the first half, 2:14:27 on the back half.  I did some math and put the split data into RunningAhead so I could get a better view of the paces:

I'm glad I squeezed in one 5K at less than 10:00 min/mile average!  (Barely!).  

After I put the run into my training log, I noticed that my marathon pace (10:16) EXACTLY matches my total average pace for ALL the runs I have logged since I started tracking in March 2010.  Cool coincidence!  4:28 was also exactly the middle of my estimated possible finish time range of 4:21 to 4:35!  The stars aligned :P

Inspired by the Grand Rapids Marathon pacing teams, I decided to see how I stacked up against various celebrity marathoners.  Here are the results. 

 Alanis Morissette and I could have run together!  Look closely at the pictures in the plot.  I put some funnies in there!  (Katie Holmes' photo is of her chest, since she opted not to wear a bra.  Sarah Palin's photos is actually the Tina Fey impersonation.  And of course I had to put Paul Ryan's "fake" and "real" times both in there!). 

So here's out it went it down.  I set my official goal as 4:2X before the race, so anything 4:29:59 or faster.  My previous PR was 4:35:25.  I hadn't given up on the thought of a chance at 4:21:45 (for <10 min/mile average), or 4:25, but wasn't confident about those.  I decided not wear my Garmin, because despite my propensity for data analysis, I really only enjoy pre-planning and post-analysis.  Agonizing over numbers and paces DURING the race NEVER does me any favors (probably because I put too much value on them and can't distance myself from the data).  I get discouraged and give up when I start to struggle.  That said, I knew I would need some kind of measure of my status toward my goal, so I used the 4:30 pacer for that.  My plan was to cross the start line AFTER him, so that if he passed me toward the end, I would know that I had to at least cross at the same time as him to come in under 4:30.  I also decided to use him for pace control at the start, to counter my tendency to start too fast at longer races.  I opted to run with him for 10 miles since that was after the "big" hills (bridge and tunnel), as well as the after the 1st point I would be looking for my family (between mile 8 and 9).  Of course this grand strategy all depended on the pacer being accurate, but I was willing to make that gamble.

I divided the race into a 10 mile "warmup" with the pacer, a half-marathon "race", and a little 5K at the end, either to dump the tank if I felt good, or a short enough distance to hang on for dear life if I didn't.  Mind games are great!  I was a little concerned mile 1-6 because the pacer's pace didn't feel easy at all. I was expecting it to feel like a pretty easy jog, but it didn't.  Thankfully, when I put in my music at mile 6 it felt way easier.  I think I ended up leaving the pacer a little early, at mile 9 instead of 10, and treated that as a gradual speed up to my mile 10-23 half marathon"race pace".  I would have needed like 9:50's or something for the whole 13 miles, plus a strong 5K finish, to have a chance at my super-duper A goal of 9:59 pace.  I knew that was unlikely, and without a watch I had no idea how I was doing.  I felt strong and was reeling people in one by one on that stretch, while focusing on my form and breathing to make sure I wasn't overexerting myself too much and that I'd have enough left for the rest of the race.  26.2 miles is a long way!  I thought I was doing well and opening up a good gap between me and the 4:30 pacer.  The couple times I looked back I didn't see him.  I didn't make it to mile 23 though before I started slowing back down.  I actually didn't really notice, I think I just lost focus maybe?  I probably only ran "fast" (faster than the pacer pace of 10:18) for about 10K or so (mile 9 to 15), but I'm not really sure.  Regardless, at just past mile 18, you do a U-turn around some cones, and that's when I saw that the 4:30 pacer was right on my ass. 

I didn't look back, but the whole way around Belle Isle I was doing my best to keep my pace up to put some space between us again.  I didn't want to run with him.  If I struggled again when I was running with him, there would be nowhere to go but behind him, and I'd miss my goal.  Psychologically, I also find it easier to feel like I'm doing well and really beating him, than I do running side by side with him and feeling like I'm just trying to "keep up".  Much the same reason I don't do well with a watch.  It ruins the race.  I do best with the unknown, and the false hope that I am doing better than I am, which allows me to delude myself into keeping up a difficult pace so I don't "blow it".  If I already know it's blown, or close to blown, I give up.  So I tried my best not to look back, because I didn't want to know if he was on my ass!  I did peek a couple times and didn't see him, but didn't really do a full turn and look into people deeper behind me, just the ones that were breathing down my neck. 

 Belle Isle sucked.  On the course map it looked so small and short, so I expected it to go by fast, but I felt like it took FOREVER.  I'd say mile 19-24 was the most difficult part of the race for me.  The mile signs were coming so slowly that I thought for sure they had skipped a sign and were going with every 2 miles instead!

I had a race plan printed out, with the locations of the fluid stations, including which ones I was "allowed" to stop and walk through, where I would down a Gu or Gatorade chew pack, and on the back it had some strategies for getting through the tough miles.  I ended up not really sticking to it (I walked through all but 2-3 of the water stops.  The only ones I specifically remember running through were the 1st one and the last one).  BUT I didn't stop at all, and only walked through fluid stations, and not long when I did.  I did like having the locations of the stations available, so I knew how far I had left to run; usually well under 2 miles in those later miles.  I tried counting footstrikes to distract myself, but that only works when I don't have music, because it's too hard when the rhythm doesn't match.  The only strategy that worked, was one that wasn't actually pre-planned.  That was smiling!  When I was really struggling I would put on a big (fake!) smile, and it tricked my brain into thinking I was having a blast and cruising a long on a runner's high!  Sometimes I lost focus and it turned into a grimace, but hopefully the spectators couldn't tell.  My MVS (most valuable song) during those miles was La Roux - Bulletproof:

Finally at just past mile 25 (I think), I looked over my shoulder and there was that pesky pacer again.  I looked right at him and said "SHIT" before speeding up to again try to get away from him.  Sorry Bill!  But, my strategy worked.  I had fair warning that I was going to miss my 4:30 goal when I saw him at the end, and had time to put him behind me a bit for my 4:28:41 finish. 

One has to wonder if I would have been better off just staying with him the whole way, like you are "supposed" to use a pacer, but I don't think I would have.  I think having some faster miles in the middle made it so the inevitable slow down at the end was still a decent pace.  It made the 10:18 feel more manageable than it would have if I had already been running it for 19 miles.  I think if I would have stayed with him, I still would have slowed down at the end, and that would have left me nowhere to go to save my goal.  So I dropped from say 10:00 to 10:30 when the going got rough, instead of from 10:18 to 10:45 or something.  But, who knows.  Maybe the conversation and distraction would have been nice.  Maybe I should have run with him until mile 23 and then kicked it to the finish.  (I know a lot of people set their "mark" at mile 20, but 10K is too far for me to get my head around "racing" at that point!).  And again, I'm just not confident in my ability to kick at all, no matter how short the distance, at the end of the marathon.  I don't want to put all my eggs in that basket.  More importantly, I was still hoping I might have a chance at a 4:21-4:25 time, and that wouldn't happen unless I separated from him at some point to see what I had in me.  The only other thing that might have worked would be to have chosen the 4:25 pacer and stayed with her throughout the race; that would have left some buffer if I fell off at the end.  I didn't go that route because I felt that 10:06 was too fast to start off at.  Either way, I'm happy with my strategy, and with my final time, which is almost a 7 minute PR.  I'm sure I could have done better if I was willing to push harder, but I'm only willing to deal with a certain amount of misery, and then of course there's the risk of bonking to consider.  I had a good race, and I think I did all I could out there.  I was hoping to feel great at the end, like I did at my first marathon, happy to be finishing and feeling strong.  I wouldn't say that was the case, but it wasn't a survival shuffle either!

At least I felt better than Jeff did after his half marathon!

I would also like to point out that his pace for his half marathon was 10:56.  My pace for the full marathon was 10:16.  He says it was because he was on his feet spectating from 7am until his race started at 11am, but I was on my feet RUNNING A MARATHON and still beat his time on the exact same 13.1 miles (the back half of the marathon, 2:14:27 for me, 2:23:something for him).  Sorry Jeff, I had to rub it in!!  He usually kills me at ALL of our races (by a pretty big margin!) so I have to capitalize when I can.  I do feel bad that he got sick. :(   And I'm so thankful that he came out to cheer me on for the first half.  My dad did too, all the way from PA, but I'll save that for another post, along with some pictures and things.

I guess that's it for this one. I kind of rambled on a bit there and covered some topics that weren't strictly "results" oriented, but oh well. 


  1. Great Job! & I agree Belle Isle was the worst part! of course I was having some uneasy stomach issues at that point and that circle around seemed to take forever!

  2. Great job Ty! Glad you edged out Alanis and smoked Subway Jared (he's my imaginary running nemesis because I saw his running pictures in ads online and in the store and felt that we resemble each other. I think it's the glasses). It's funny that after all your analysis that you decided to ditch the watch, but it worked for you!

    While you ran a marathon, I ran 6 miles all week. :( Time to get back after it!

  3. Even splits! That's fantastic for any race, let alone a marathon... Yeah, I still have demons on Belle Isle when we used to run the entire perimeter.

    1. I saw you on the course...somewhere. Don't remember where. Haha. Must have been somewhat near the end since I apparently was in a bit of a fog!


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