Niagara Falls Marathon 2014 Report

on Tuesday, November 4, 2014 at 8:36 PM

So the race starts. For people that have followed my blog for awhile, I occasionally post about a heart rate issue I have when my HR will jump by about 30-40 beats a second higher than normal. It doesn't happen during my daily life, only happens when I'm running, and doesn't happen every time I run.  I know that if I can start running slowly and gradually increase the effort, I can most of the time prevent the HR from spiking. With no warm-up, I was hoping to use the first km to gradually ease into my pace.  I had set my GPS watch to display average pace which I would use during the first mile to keep from going out too fast. The watch doesn't display HR when doing this.  I had seeded myself well back, just in front of the 3:30 pacer so as to force myself to hold back a bit.Target pace was around 7:24.

First mile started out slow and I was trying to hold back on pace while at the same time trying to locate people I could run with.  Eyed a couple of people who seemed to be running a good pace and pull in behind them. Watch was saying that I was running 7:24 pace which was right on target.

Mile 1: 7:35

Hit the first mile at 7:35 according to the marker even though autosplit said 7:24 which is okay. The first mile is kinda curvy so kinda expected. After each split, my watch reports average HR which showed as being in the mid 160's which was a good sign, so I thought.  By this point, I'm already 10 second behind pace and now running into the westerly headwind. I decide to start moving up a bit to try and get back on pace.

Mile 2: 7:23

Second mile seemed to be going okay and hit the second mile marker at 7:23 which is right on pace, but then I notice that my "avg" HR for that lap was  196 which means my HR was spiking. Damn. Looking back now, my HR started spiking just before the 1 mile mark.  Part of me wanted to stop to let it come back down, but I knew that this had actually happened in 2009 and it came back down on it's own after the bridge so I decided that I would wait it out and see what happens.

Mile 3: 7:32

Heading into the mile three marker, I get another  taste of the westerly wind that they were predicting and it wasn't pleasant.  While trying to sustain pace, I wasn't too happy with this split and with my HR spiking, the doubts started to creep into my mind. I was now 17 second behind where I should be and the effort level I was expending seemed a bit high. This could have been due to the HR or the wind.

Miles 4 and 5: 14:47 (average 7:24)

Mile 4 takes us over the peace bridge which didn't have a mile marker.  The bridge is directly west which meant headwind.  I decide to pull up behind one guy and draft off of him up the hill and try to pick up the pace on the downhill.  By the end of the downhill I pull up on a man and woman who seemed to be running along comfortably and think they might be good to run with. I start chatting with them and it seemed like their goal time was around 3:20 which was going to be a tad slow so I pass and start moving on.

Mile 6: 7:21
Mile 7: 7:31

Mile 6 takes us into Fort Erie in a SW direction where we do a bit of a loop. Both of these miles are into the headwind and recall that my HR is still spiking.  By this point in the race last time, my HR had returned to normal. Not this time.  Mile 6 is directly into the headwind and mile 7 includes the turn around portion with the last part of this mile with the wind at the back. Even with the HR racing, there's a noticable drop in HR after the turn around when the wind goes from a headwind to a tailone. During these miles, I think I pass two people who are going a bit slower than my expected pace so I'm basically running alone.

Mile 8: 7:34

Mile 8 even with the wind at my back was a bit slow. I think this is where I tried to take my first gel and perhaps this is why I slowed down.  I had decided to run with a gatorade bottle and had been drinking from that with every mile and had grabbed a cup of water at each aid station that I came across.  They were serving HoneyMax in these plastic cups and they were terrible for the pinch and sip technique that works well with gatorade cups. I ended up having to stop to gulp down the liquid.

Mile 9: 7:17

Mile 9 would end up being my fastest mile of the race with the wind at my back and I'm cruising right along.  

Miles 10, 11, 12: 23:40 (7:53 average)
As I mentioned basically from mile 5 to this point, I've basically run by myself.  there's also very little in the way of crowd support. I forgot to hit the lap button for mile 10, but my autolap put it at around 7:16 pace also which is basically heading due north with no headwind and some buildings to block the wind from the side. By this point, I had switched my watch to HR display and the HR was starting to worry me.  I had run marathon pace with the elevated HR for up to 12 miles or so during training, but I was probably burning through more calories then I would have liked. I had no desire to see how far I could push it, so realizing that the BQ was not in the cards, shortly before the 11 mile marker,  I came to an aid station and decided to stop to use a portapotty. Not that I had to go, but I needed an excuse to stop so the volunteers wouldn't start yelling at me to keep going. I stopped for two reasons, first to hopefully get my HR under control and secondly to let some people catch back up to me.  I realized there was no way I wanted to run the rest of the race by myself.  A non-BQ that I have to struggle for and run alone is just the same whether it's 3:16 or 3:30 and with the course after mile 11 starting to swing to the west into the wind, I thought it might be better to run with a group and have some people to block the wind for me. My watch says I spent about 25 seconds in the portapotty, when I left, the HR was still too high so I started walking.  I spent about a minute walking when finally the HR dropped back down and by then the couple that I had chatted with back at mile 5 passes by and so I decided to run with them for a while.  They were actually part of a mini group of about 8 people so that worked out well. 

Mile 13: 7:40
Mile 13.1 split 1:39:16
Mile 14: 7:35

So now running with a group, the pace had slowed down a bit and I was fine with that.  I hit the half at 1:39:16, but that's a bit deceiving because of the pitstop and walk break.  I was probably on pace to hit the half under 1:38. At this point, I was going to be content with just running the rest of the way with hopefully no more drama.  I was running behind the group and using them to block the wind. My HR had returned to the mid to low 160's which was a tad lower than what I'm guessing it would be while doing marathon pace. 

Mile 15, 16: 17:55 (8:55 pace)

During the 15th mile, I slowly start to make my way to the front of the group. I had been using the group to block the wind for me for a few miles and thought maybe I should lead at some point so I decided to move to the front, but as I was doing so, my HR spiked again.  I continued on for a bit and swore a little bit and then decided I had already spent enough time running today with the high HR, so I pulled over to the side and started walking, hoping that it would quickly come down so that maybe I could join back up with the group. I waited and waited and waited and ended up walking for about 4 minutes with the HR still high. It was hovering around the high 140's but I know that when walking this should be under 110 when normal. With 4 minutes gone, I did the one thing that almost always gets it to come back down and that is to stop and do a deep squat. I'm not sure why this works, but it does and sure enough within about 10 seconds of doing the squat, the HR dropped. I started back up again, but the group was a good ways ahead of me and short of turning the gas on again, it would seem that I would end up having to run the last part of the race on my own. In hindsight I should have probably done the squat sooner and then maybe I could have stuck with the group.

Mile 17: 7:44
Mile 18: 7:49
Mile 19: 7:39
Mile 20: 7:43
Mile 21: 7:43
Mile 22: 7:45

Miles 17 to 22, I decided to run by HR and try to keep it just above 160 as I had been doing while running with the group.  I don't really have any real memories from this section.  I pass the odd person and I think a couple of people pass me.  I'm also passing a few people who are walking the half who started at the same time as we did, but 13.1 miles closer to the finish line.  I'm content with pace and nothing's really hurting or twitching.  I was also trying to do the mental math, which was basically confirmed by passing by the 20 mile mark when I had exactly 10k to go and remembered thinking if I averaged 5 min/km the rest of the way I would finish below 3:30 with time to spare.

Mile 23-26: 33:52 (8:28 pace)

Shortly into mile 23, my HR spikes again and I end up walking for about a minute until it comes back down again.  At this point, it starts getting really windy and I have to slow down my pace. I also find that I'm really thirsty. I had finished my gatorade bottle back in mile 19 or so and tossed it at an aid station.  I definitely did not get enough fluids during this race and they really needed more aid stations and preferably ones that don't serve honeymax. There were a lot more aid stations the last time I ran this race, I think almost every mile. Also having some aid stations 3 miles apart is a bit much, I think.

I stop to walk at the remaining aid stations and gulp down multiple cups of water while also consuming whatever gels I had left. (Strawberry-banana gu's). I'm also staring to feel the making of a side stitch which finally comes to an incapacitating head during the last mile where I find myself running into a head wind while trying to climb a bit of a hill and the stitch is severely cramping.  I end up having to walk up the hill for my first and only non-HR, non aid station induced walk. A couple of deep breaths, some massaging on the side and a downhill the rest of the allows me to crest the hill and pour on the speed for the last little bit.

Finish time of 3:25:48

So that's it, you can see more info about the HR issues and drama and pace in the Polar route. The HR spikes just before the 1 mile mark. I didn't seem to lose that much time due to the walking.  Based on the autosplits, the first time when I came to a complete stop and walked still was about an 8:30 mile.  The mile where I walked for 4 minutes was just under a 10 min/mile.

While waiting for the bus to take me back to the hotel, I came across this trash can. I'm not sure why, but it looked funny at the time.

Got back to the hotel and headed straight to the Hershey's store downstairs to get me some junk food.

I didn't come close to doing the BQ, but think I could have done at least 3:20 if not for the forced stopping due to HR issues. While I had previously commented on maybe doing another marathon before year's end, that's not going to happen.  I think I've come a long way so far and this was a good bit of base training. Plus, I need something to motivate me to train over the winter. Previous times, as soon as I BQ, I get lazy.  Hopefully, I can work on speed and lower my marathon pace over the winter and try again in the spring. Not sure which race I will do yet, but I have lots of time to figure that out.

Day 3


Robin said...

Sounds like you did great under the circumstances, that HR thing is something! The wind this season has been something that's for sure...relentless. Nice work out there and Hershey's store sounds like a great post race stop!

Quinto Sol said...

Have you ever had an echocardiogram? Good effort, regardless of not meeting your goal.