Going down in flames...

on Sunday, September 30, 2007 at 4:00 PM

I had said early in the week, it was going to be Boston or Bust. Well if you've bothered to check my live tracking, you'll already know that it was the Bust part of that statement and I went down in flames. Finish time of 3:27:40 which I suppose isn't that bad of a time, but considering I was on Boston pace up till about the 35k mark, it's a disappointing time. I had a brutal last 7km.

I went to bed at around 9:30pm last night and basically lay awake in bed for 2 hours. I tried counting sheep and I got to about 400 before I realized that it wasn't working. I ended up getting up to do some things before trying again. In all I guess I got about 3 hours of sleep. I was up at 3:30am for my morning breakfast of a bagel and PB and jam.

Headed downtown to the race start and got there with plenty of time. Used the facilities a couple of times and wandered around a bit just to ease some of the nerves. Headed to the corrals for the start and bumped into Yumke. Even though I had been placed into the Sub-Elite corral, the 3:10 pace bunny was starting the corral behind me, so I ended up joining Yumke who had voluntarily moved back and started next to him and the pace bunny.

The start
Well the plan was to stick with the pace bunny for the whole race. I had figured that he would be running fairly even splits and if I didn't make it, then I knew that it just wasn't meant to be. There would have been nothing else I could have done. I was trying to target 7:15 pace with an absolute limit of 7:17 which is 4:30 for each km or 4:32 respectively. The first couple of km went by okay and we were pretty much on pace.

1 4:34 (7:21 pace)
2 4:26 (7:08)
3 4:27 (7:10)

Then what happened was a little troublesome. According to my watch, the pace bunny then pulled off a sub 4:00 min km and then a bunch of others that were way too fast.

4 3:56 (6:20)
5 4:20 (6:58)
6 4:22 (7:02)
7 4:20 (6:58)
8 4:18 (6:55)
9 4:36 (7:24)
10 4:28 (7:11)

Hit the 10km mark at 43:46 which averaged a 7:03 pace. At some point during these km, I lost the pace bunny since I think he realized he was going too fast. Considering how much on the bubble I was in term of actually meeting a 3:10 time, I should have realized right off the bat that any km that were too fast were going to cause me grief in the end. I continued on my own hoping to be able to maintain proper pace.

11 4:18 (6:55)
12 4:36 (7:24)
13 4:14 (6:49)
14 4:38 (7:27)
15 4:27 (7:10)

I hit the 15k mark at 1:06 flat which average a pace of 7:05 from the start. This 5k was done in 22:13 which was 7:10 pace. I had actually hoped in the best case scenerio to run a 7:10 pace for the first half and then do 7:20 for the second half to run a slight positive split. Oh well, too late.

16 4:27 (7:10)
17 4:38 (7:27)
18 4:21 (7:00)
19 4:33 (7:19)
20 4:25 (7:06)

Somewhere between 16 and 20 km (actually right outside of where Yumke lives), I started chatting with some guy from Mexico who was wearing a Chicago marathon hat. I didn't remember his name, but he said his nickname was "Bull" since he used to be fat when he was a kid. He ran Chicago in 2005 and was also aiming for a 3:10 BQtime today. I ended up running with him for 10 km or so to the 25 km mark when I started to slow down. He told me after that he ended up finishing in 3:10:50 so congratulations to him.

21 4:40 (7:31)
22 4:02 (6:29)
23 4:42 (7:34)
24 4:32 (7:18)
25 4:30 (7:15)

I hit the halfway point at 1:33:20 which is a new PR for me, but not so good when you consider it as being done in the first half of a marathon. It should have been about 2 minutes slower. Unfortunately, I don't have any more splits for the race. I ended up using a Nike watch I have that even though can record 5 different runs, it can only keep track of 50 total laps. I still had my Chicago splits in the watch from last year, so it only ended up recording 25 laps before it filled up.

KM 25-30
These were out on the Leslie spit where I did a couple of my long runs. Shortly before the 30km mark, the 3:10 pace bunny passed which I know wasn't a good sign. I hit the 30km mark at 2:13:53 which was an average pace of 7:11 at that point. I was still ahead of BQ pace, but I know I was fading.

KM 30-35
At this point, my breathing had become labored and my breathing pattern was now in a 1-1 pattern which is usually reserved only for the end of races. I was struggling to maintain pace. I passed the 31 km mark and had banked almost exactly 2 minutes of time. So I knew that I could fade by 2 min over the last 11-12km and I would still be okay. This was an easy calculation to do in my head and would mean that I could slow down to around 4:40 pace (7:31 min/mile) and I would be okay. This was the pace that I averaged for the entire marathon last year. I kinda have a foggy memory of this, but a couple of the km were in 4:45 range and I knew that it was quickly starting to eat into my banked time. According to the timing website, I passed the 33 km mark at 2:30:19 which would mean that I had slipped behind Boston pace, but I'm pretty sure that the mat wasn't at exactly the 33km mark. By my pace band, I was still ahead of pace up until at least the 35 km mark. During these km, my right calf started to twitch and cramp. I found that I had to change my gait a little to keep it from spasming.

km 35 - Finish

The last 7.2 km were by far the toughest. The spasming in my calf kept getting worse and it was around the 35 to 37 km mark that I ended up taking a walk break through a water station. It was at this point that I came to the realization that a BQ wasn't in the cards today. With my funny gait, the 1-1 breathing and my ever slowing pace, there was just no way I was going to be able to do it. I still had hopes of setting a PR at this point. This however would soon not be possible either as shortly thereafter, my left calf also started to cramp. I don't think I was able to completely get rid of that trigger point that I had mentioned early in the week and it decided to come to the surface now. With both of my calves now cramping, I ended up talking extended walk breaks. Everytime I would start to run, even at a slow recovery pace, the calves would cramp again. Eventually my inner quads and the back of knee also started to cramp whenever I tried to run. In total I would guess that i probably ended up walking more than 5km of the last 7.2 k. I only started to jog a little right at the very end cause I hated people telling me that I shouldn't be walking so close to the finish line (they were right of course).

So I crossed the finish time in my second fastest time ever of 3:27:40, but it was by the far the worse I have ever felt in a marathon. In hindsight, I should have run my own race. I was familiar with the Boston pace having done extended long runs at this pace and should have relied on my own pacing abilities rather than someone else. To summarize here are the timing mat splits:

km Time Pace from start
10 0:43:46 0:07:03
21.1 1:33:20 0:07:07
30 2:13:53 0:07:11
33(?) 2:30:19 ?
42.2 3:27:40 0:07:55

I was way too fast in the early part and ended up hitting the wall towards the end. What's next? That's a good question. I'm somewhat disappointed with this run not because of my time, but because I started out too fast. I would have been fine with running even splits and then just hitting the wall and having a slow time since I know that i wouln't have been able to do it any better. I'm pretty sure that starting out too fast and doing several km at LT pace basically killed my ability towards the latter part of the race. So the question remains, could I have BQ if I had started out slower? The answer is I really don't know. I would still like to take a shot at BQing again before the end of the year. I've been casually looking at the Tucson marathon or California International marathon which are both on December 2.

There's also another Toronto marathon in 2 weeks time. I was kinda thinking that if I recovered quickly enough that I could potentially take a shot at the Toronto one. It's a net downhill course with a couple of hills. I haven't done hill training so I'm kinda concerned with trying to tackle it. Here's the profile.

I'm not sure if being able to do a marathon only two weeks after a previous one is such a good idea. Considering that I've been tapering for 3 weeks, I would basically have to restart a taper again and would probably have lost a bit of fitness. I'll have to see how the recovery goes.


L*I*S*A said...

I know you're disappointed in your finish time, but you still did a great job. I think whatever marathon you decide to do will hold a BQ for you, since you'll run your race YOUR way.

Great job, Fran.

AddictedToEndorphins said...

Hey! The Toronto one Looks TOUGH! But you can do it if thats what you decide. Be careful though, don't get injured.

The ones in December sound like a good plan., You were right on pace, for awhile.

Hang in there! Don't give it up!

You'll get that BQ!

yumke said...

Hey Fran, I was getting worried for you at the 500 metre mark, but was happy to see you run in. I figured you hit a patch of trouble cause of the too-fast start. By the way, I snapped a blurry picture of you on your way up to the final turn.

I was actually thinking today that maybe the Toronto International Marathon may be a good one to do. The first 15K is def. downhill and should give you speed without pushing you into LT territory. The last few miles are kinda brutal though.

Sonia said...

So sorry to hear about your race, following the pace bunny came at a cost, that's too bad he wasn't good at consitent pacing. I'm really dissapointed for you but you were so close and a BQ is definitely in the near future!

There is also the Las Vegas Marathon on December 2... I think I'm going!! Flights out of Detroit are really cheap right now! But I still need to find a roomie for the hotel, let me know if you're ever interested!! I do not snore

Perry said...


Great job on your second fastest marathon ever! Not sure if trying for a BQ time in 2 weeks is such a great idea. If you went all-out in this marathon you'll need time to recover. I say go for the December one.

Or give yourself a break and try the Phoenix marathon on January 13th. That's a great flat, fast course.

Stephen said...

Fran, I woke up this morning at 5am to track your progress. My heart was pounding when I saw your 30K split time.

When your finishing time popped-up on the screen, the first thing that came to my mind was...calf cramps I BET FRAN HAD LEG CRAMPS! Something of which I am very familiar with ,and something you had mentioned a few days early.

All I can say is..I'm sorry it happened, but hey, anyone who can pull off a sub 3:30 marathon with full-on legs cramps, is an awesome athlete in my book. If it wasn't for the cramps, you would have more than BQ'd.

So, if you decide to the Sacramento race ( which I think you should) I'll be there to cheer you on and to congratulate you in person!

Audrey said...

wow. i'm sorry fran. live to fight another day, eh?? it will be SOOO sweet when the BQ arrives, i can promise that. sighh... feel better.

Cuckoo said...

Fran, you did an amazing job today and throughout your training. I don't think you ever missed a run, did you? I'm sorry to hear that the calf cramps got in the way of your marathon goal, and I know how you are probably feeling. Let yourself recover and then give it another go in December. You did great today and I know you are totally BQ ready.

Running Jayhawk said...

Fran, I'm bummed for you. :( I know how much you wanted that 3:10. You'll have to keep us posted on which marathon you tackle next. We know you've got that A-game race inside of you!!

Quinto Sol said...

Fran, you ran a gutsy race...

I suggest Tucson; I ran it a few years back and it is a nice downhill, but it known as quad-buster.

Clay said...

Sorry to hear that you didn't qualify.

Ryan said...

Sorry about the difficult race, but congratulations are still in order. All marathons are tough. Chalk this one up to learning and a tough day. No PR - but it's another marathon in the books.

I am little skeptical of your racing again in 2 weeks. Based on your description of the end of you race, I am not sure you'll be able to recover quickly enough.

To Sonia's Comment - A word of warning about Vegas - it is terrible. I was there for the half last year. BRUTAL. Don't bother.

Heal fast and think about your next move over the next few days. Keep your chin up.

Dave said...

Sorry to hear about the race - it still is an awesome time though! Your experience sounded like Chicago last year for me...
I know how badly you want to BQ and I know you will - you've done the training and you can do it. All the best on your next marathon!

Fran said...

Yumke: Thanks for the pic.

Sonia: I looked at Las Vegas, but the elevation looks like a killer!

Cuckoo: I didn't miss a single training run, though I probably cut a few miles off here and there.