2012 Louisiana Marathon
The short version: 3:11:42 /7:19 pace. 13 minute PR. First half in 1:35:04, second half in 1:36:38. 26th overall, 4th female, 1st F20-24 age group. I was passed by only one person. [results]
The longer version: Everything was in my favor today. Everything. Perfect weather, a flat and pretty course, fantastic support from a friend, a cooperating foot… heck, even the sports drink offered by the water stations was at my personally ideal lukewarm temperature. Stars rarely align so nicely for a race as long as a marathon, so I need to acknowledge there were absolutely no true barriers to performing well today. There was no, “I probably could have run 3:10 if…” No. These were fantastic conditions under which to run sub-3:10, I just didn’t manage to make it happen today. (Which is fine; that was a reach to begin with.)
I came into this race knowing I’d put in a significant chunk of miles — more than I’ve ever done — and so, felt lost as to my actual capabilities and directionless in the way of a race plan. I wanted 3:15 but I also didn’t want to sell myself short.
The first 20 miles: Let’s keep this part brief, because in my (limited) experience the only thing one should say about the first 20 miles of a marathon is, “I tried to stay relaxed and avoid doing anything colossally asinine with my pacing.” Well, oops, because I was on pace for 3:10 until mile 21, which turned out not to be all that colossally asinine. The first few miles just happened that way, and I figured I was due for another possibly stupid marathon in which I overestimated my abilities. Perhaps it was reckless to be throwing down so many 7:10-7:15s in the first half, but you know all know how this goes — “It felt so easy!” — and anyway, maybe I was in shape for 3:10, right? You don’t know unless you try.
The last 10k: So yes. I thought that if I had a really good day I could take down the 3:10 barrier, but suspected a more realistic result would land me somewhere in the 3:12 range. After mile 21 I just… slowed down. Never suffered or hit the wall. Just got tired and consciously elected not to respond to the fatigue.
(Of course I am thrilled with this run, but there’s nearly always something you look back on and regret in a race, and today, that something was the conspicuous absence of my mental fortitude.)
Prior to the race, I assumed that if I found myself tired but not “bonked” in that final 10K, I’d employ my standard operating procedure of pressing the pace for a nasty finish, but I just… didn’t. I was a little worried about cramping up and paying for it — there seems to be that line you can cross in a marathon; if you stay right below it, you squeak by with a decent finish, but if you cross it in pursuit of a stronger finish, you’re suddenly in the zombie death zone and worse off than if you’d played it safe — so when I started seeing 7:28s instead of 7:15s, I immediately accepted that I would finish sub-3:15 instead of a sub-3:10. Surely not my most mentally heroic performance, but possibly smart. And it was still closer to 3:10 than 3:15, so I’m happy with it.
Also — and I know this sounds odd — but I don’t think I was mentally ready for a sub-3:10 today. That’s a big barrier all built up in my head. That’s what the fast girls run. I don’t feel as though I belong there yet. 3:11:xx feels so much safer and it keeps me hungry. (Fear of success. It’s real, and I’ve got it.)
I wish I had more of a race report, but I don’t. It all kind of just… happened. There were no big emotions or turning points or anything, I simply got out there after managing to stay healthy all fall and winter, enjoyed myself, and suddenly it was over.
A mini race review: This is a PR course, no doubt about it. Flat, fast, and nice. I’m not going to pretend I know anything about marathons or race organization/direction, but it all seemed very well done and my experience was extremely positive, so props to the Louisiana Marathon for putting on a great first showing. I’m glad I got a chance to run this marathon before it takes off and gets really bloated with people because small marathons are a wonderful and underrated thing. I no longer have any strong desire to run Boston or NYC. Just… too much freaking hype. I am extremely curmudgeony and not very fun and resent giant crowds. In fact, I strongly suspect NYCM would leave me with heart palpitations entirely unrelated to the act of running.
Final thoughts: I got lucky with this race and lucky with this whole training cycle in that I managed to avoid injury and put in the miles. There are girls out there who can run under 3:10 on 60 miles a week or something annoying like that, but I really don’t think I’m one of them. I responded very positively to the miles I put in — this marathon felt no more difficult than the 3:24:50 I ran this past summer, and I attribute this to averaging 30 more miles per week than I’d logged for my previous marathons. In the eight weeks prior to my taper, I averaged 88 miles per week. For my previous two marathons, I averaged 51 and 55mpw for those same eight weeks. Honestly, I feel a little embarrassed admitting that I put in so many miles and still didn’t manage to tuck under 3:10, especially knowing there are plenty of girls capable of churning out that kind of performance on significantly less volume… but hey, next time, right? And in the meantime, let’s break 40:00 in the 10k.