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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.

30 Comments leave one →
  1. 01/15/2012 20:09

    “That’s what the fast girls run.” You’re so funny!! I can’t wait to read your blog in a decade when you hit your peak and are regularly running sub-3 hour marathons with ease.

    Also, great job.

  2. 01/15/2012 20:19

    So happy to hear your miles paid off, even though this post reads a little less excited than you should be. Who cares what other people are running and how many miles they train to get there! Your race was so solid. Fast girl!

  3. 01/15/2012 20:54

    Wahoo!! You did amazing. You were first in your AG!! And 4th woman?!?!! Okay, I’m doing a little victory dance for you as I type this. Sorry you didn’t get your 3:10, but congrats on the big PR. And, you are not allowed to be embarrassed ’bout a thing. You trained hard and ran well. No appologies.

    Glad I’m not the only one who actually likes my sports drinks lukewarm. I think they’re easier to drink fast and less of a shock to your system that way.

  4. 01/15/2012 21:59

    ahh! congrats!! STOP telling yourself that only the “fast girls” run under 3:10 because…well..clearly, you are a fast girl. in my mind, the “fast girls” run under 3:30…and i have no doubt you will run under 3:10 in the very near future. seriously, incredible race. i can’t imagine ever running that fast. i love small races as well (baystate marathon, ~1500 runners, has been my PR place twice) and reading this report makes me almost pissed that i’m running boston again this year. but enough about me…i’m SO excited for you!!!!

  5. 01/15/2012 23:28

    Wow!!! Congratulations! That is so, so impressive. You ran a really smart race, including the decision not to kill yourself at the end 🙂 You will so totally run under 3:10 this year. Yay!

  6. 01/16/2012 01:28

    Well done! Beautiful report too. Very cool to have your name on the front page of the results. Under 3:10 will happen, and I can see you going under 3 at some time in the future. Nothing to be embarrassed about putting in those miles — Brian Sell needs 160 mile weeks to run 2:11, Marty Dent runs 2:12 off less than 100 mile weeks. That’s just the way it is. Do what you need to do, and what you enjoy doing.

    Yes, in the meantime, looking forward to seeing you break 40 for 10k. Sure bet that one!

    • 01/19/2012 13:57

      Always a source of wisdom in the comment section — you’re right. If I’m enjoying putting in the miles, and they’re serving me well, no need to be ashamed of that. Thank you.

  7. 01/16/2012 03:54

    Solid race! You are one of the fast girls. It doesn’t matter what you have to run to get there as long as you get there. I think you’ll go under 3:10 shortly which is beyond exciting.

    Rest up and then chase after that sub 40 10k.

  8. 01/16/2012 06:13

    OMG OMG OMG!! I’m so frickin’ happy for you, I want to hug your Alaskan-resident ass. Screw the 3:10 thing, your mental thing about that being what fast girls do was surely a player in that (and I SO get it…though it’s time to work on getting rid of that mental garbage). I think it’s fantastic that you didn’t push yourself to a ragged ending because you held it together. And hello, 3:11 has eons more to do with 3:10 than 3:15.

    This is a thrill and a thrill hear how much you feel the mileage played a part in it all. It’s unbelievably inspiring. Great job, girl, great job. 🙂

    • 01/16/2012 06:21

      I also can really relate to our judging if our miles are worth it. I love Ewen’s response on this. Also, I know a lady (5 years younger than me) who put in 4300 miles last year but her race times aren’t any better than mine. That, to me, would not be worth it, but I believe you and I are on a road to find out what we can find out. It’s an exciting time and worth every mile. Let’s make a deal to not apologize for our mileage but to see where it lands us, it’ll surely be better than a lesser amount.

      • 01/19/2012 13:55

        +1 to the mental block thing and the idea of not apologizing for the miles. I need to hear that stuff!

  9. 01/16/2012 06:41

    Congrats on an awesome race! You are the fast girl and you should muster a bit more excitement for a great finish! Can’t wait to hear about your next 10K.

  10. 01/16/2012 09:24

    you did GREAT! 4th is so cool… I think when there are only 3 women in a race running faster you get to be a fast girl.

    this race report doesn’t sound nearly as happy as i would think it would for someone who just ran a freaking 13 minute PR, but I am feeling major post goal race letdown today myself so I will let it slide.

    on your later point: well, I was worried that I would be annoying, but I averaged 64.9 for the 8 weeks before taper so I guess at least I came ahead of the cutoff? for me, the flip side is more annoying. I KNOW that volume works. I see it working all around me. frankly I’m embarrassed that as much as I love running, that I don’t do more. I want so badly to be able to have free rein to run big miles and “live up to” my somewhat better medium-distance times but honestly, I barely held it together with my knee at the end. Being able to train a lot is a form of talent and it would be different if you were doing it stupidly or haphazardly, but you shouldn’t be embarrassed about putting in an impressive body of work.

    oh, and girlfriend PLEASE. drop back to 70-80, do a handful of 6:20-5 pace specific workouts and you can run under 40 no problemo in, like, a few weeks.

  11. 01/16/2012 17:59

    Hey kid, did you win any shoes?

  12. 01/16/2012 18:19

    wowza! awesome! well done! rocking! (and a gazillion other superlatives, kid)

  13. 01/16/2012 19:37

    Holy shit, a 13 minute PR?! If the stars aligned for ME, I still wouldn’t be able to pull that out of my ass. Your kind of running is way beyond my realm of comprehension so I won’t try to say anything smart. Word UP.

  14. Pat D. permalink
    01/16/2012 20:31

    You are my new hero!

  15. 01/17/2012 11:23

    Cathleen, I want to provide my congratulations for that great race. It is an awesome time and you should be proud of it. Do you think you did enough speed training while running those 88 miles a week? What do they say, quality beats quantity. I will admit, I do not adhere to that saying too much myself, as I really like the quantity. But you should enjoy your awesome finish for a while and look for another race to zone in on, making plans to beat your goals. Great run.

    • 01/19/2012 13:53

      Thank you!! No idea on the speed training, but I wondered that myself! I did two “speedy” workouts a week in weeks 6-5-4-3 before the marathon and felt comfortable with that. My favorite workout was 2×3 miles at “1/2 marathon” pace… I definitely don’t always train very intelligently or thoughtfully, so maybe with some fine tuning to that I could do better. I suspect that this volume might have given me a big boost and that I can ride on it for a little while on lower mileage and more speed workouts… I’ve read so much about diminishing returns once you get above 70-80 that it makes me feel secure in chopping the mileage back significantly.

  16. 01/19/2012 19:21

    I am way late to this, so I’ll just say: congratulations. You rocked it!

  17. 01/19/2012 20:01

    Congrats on the PR!! Sounds like an ideal race and it’s always nice to see things come together for once. Said it before but it’s worth repeating: You = Badass

  18. 01/21/2012 05:49

    A belated yahoo to an incredible PR – congrats on a great race and an amazing season of training.

  19. 01/22/2012 12:07

    congrats on a great PR!! the stars aligning sound amazing…I have yet to experience that at a race, but I know when I do I will relish it and soak it in!
    I am training my brain & body to understand that the last 10k of any marathon is going to hurt like hell and that I better dig to push my pace and race!
    I hope you are enjoying a great weekend!

  20. 01/24/2012 12:34

    To say “I was only passed by one person” could mean you ran the smartest race of the day. My friend and I stumbled upon your blog a month or two ago and learned you were gearing up for this race. When I read here how you did, I was super excited to call him and tell him that you PRed like crazy. Way to train hard/race hard!

  21. Mike Doyle permalink
    01/28/2012 19:47

    Great race. Congrats

  22. Runblondie26 permalink
    01/29/2012 18:16

    Bravo! Congrats “fast girl”!!!!

  23. 01/31/2012 05:00

    Wow, that sounds like a thoroughly amazing marathon. It’s so impressive! All your training and hard work that you put into it obviously paid off. You should be so proud of yourself because that speed is a HUGE accomplishment and definitely puts you in the rank of ridiculously fast girl

  24. Tom Allred permalink
    02/06/2012 12:50

    Some first time marathon finishers won shoes. Great race. It was my first marathon, and only third race…did two local 5k’s, (just started running in July after 18 years away from anything aerobic). I died right around the little overpass. Ha. Not died, just lost my mental ability to fight. Finished 15 minutes slower than you did. In fact, at your pace…you were in front of me the whole race. I kept asking the kids at the water stops for tequila, but no one gave in. However, I did see someone was selling or giving beer away somewhere toward the end….in that neighborhood turn around…not sure, I was starting to get fuzzy from the tequila. Ha. I am trying another marathon in May, and am upping the mileage. I think 40-50 mile weeks was not enough, and I am glad to read that more miles helped you out. Very nice. Again, congrats. Under three hours, will be yours very soon.


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