Looking back on Sunday, I am overcome with elation. It was an emotional day and I'm glad to have conveyed that through the race report. Thank you so much for your comments and feedback, and mostly for believing in me all this time.
Now that I've made it into the 3:XX:XX category of marathoners, I've taken some time to look back at my previous times and what it took to get here.
Marathon #1: Sep. '08 - 4:42:04
Marathon #2: Sep. '09 - 4:26:02
Marathon #3: Jan. '10 - 4:48:03 (Goofy Challenge/"fun run")
Marathon #4: May '10 - 3:58:56
In less than eight months, I shaved 27 minutes off my previous PR. Looking at the big picture, there are a couple of things that I believe to have played a major role in such a significant improvement:
1. Goofy Challenge
I trained for and completed the Goofy Challenge immediately before beginning training for #4. Through back-to-back long runs culminating in 63.3KM (39.3mi) of running over two days, I learned to push myself to a new level. I built a great deal of endurance and carried it with me into my next training cycle, incorporating many back-to-back long runs in an effort to practice running tired. This also allowed me to start training with a very strong base.
2. Weight Loss
Starting in December of last year, I made some significant changes to my eating habits. I taught myself to look at food as fuel for running, reminding myself that garbage in = garbage out. I definitely had my "treat days" but started eating much better overall and managed to lose 15-17 lbs before marathon #4. I began to notice an improvement in my running as the weight came off. My body handled distances better and I naturally got faster. Don't get me wrong - I worked at getting faster too, but there's no doubt in my mind that losing weight had a tremendous impact.
On a related note... I focused on nutrition even more in the weeks leading up to this race. I adopted the motto Eat Like An Athlete and cleaned up up my diet as much as possible, eliminating all alcohol, most processed sugar and unnecessary fats. When I eat well, I feel better and RUN better and I know this has helped me improve my running this year.
Here's what worked for me on race day:
- Carrying my 22-oz Nathan handheld allowed me to skip most water stops and ensured that I always had my own fluid. I hate fuel belts, but carried my handheld on every single long run so I would get used to it; it didn't bother me one bit.
- My new waist pack was perfect for carrying gels, salt, my iPod and anything else. I had ordered a new belt from iFitness, but it didn't arrive in time. Fortunately, this was a perfect alternative and will become a staple accessory.
- SaltStick salt caps were perfect for electrolyte replacement. They pack a strong punch (215 mg sodium, 63 mg potassium, 22 mg calcium, 11 mg magnesium and 100 IU Vitamin D), so just two capsules are often enough (I decided to take three). I liked that I didn't have to worry about taking in gatorade (I prefer to stick with water) and these were easy to carry and swallow. I had no issues with cramping.
- I was truly spoiled with support on the course and this had a very positive effect on my race. Getting encouragement from familiar faces along the way and at the finish (not to mention Coach Don by my side most of the way) was invaluable and made me feel good even when it got tough.
- Writing "BELIEVE" on my hand with a Sharpie marker. It may sound cheesy, but I looked down at my hand to read it countless times. Kudos to Tall Mom who drilled this word into my head in the weeks leading up to race day.
So... what's next?
Coming up in less than six weeks I'll be running Rock 'n' Roll Seattle with some awesome bloggy buddies and I couldn't be more excited. I'll be using the Pfitz "Multiple Marathoning" plan as a guide to recover, build, then taper again in the coming weeks. I'm not sure what to expect from my body in terms of another marathon next month (!!!), but it will be interesting to find out. The priority is to have fun and stay healthy.
I met up with the group for a nice and easy ~4 mile run tonight. I felt pretty good with the exception of tender quads. I'll be taking it easy for the duration of this week and essentially running whatever I feel like (not much).
More race photos coming soon...