John’s AZ Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Report

John (2330) PRs in AZ Because He Sticks With the Beach Runners’ Program

On Sunday I ran the Arizona Rock-N-Roll Marathon in Phoenix (and Scottsdale and Tempe). My time was a PR, which is comforting since it was only my second marathon.

I learned a few critical lessons leading up to the marathon. First, avoiding injury. Two weeks prior to the marathon, while running with my usual Beach Runners’ group, I started feeling shin splints in my left leg. As it did not go away after a mile or so, I stopped. I stretched my leg for about a minute, and then I walked for a minute. I then ran slowly for about 1 1/2 miles, alternating between the concrete and sand (and checking my footprints in the sand to see if my foot-strike looked good, per the Chi Running book). I then met up with coach Steve — who was resting at his mid-way running point — to discuss the issue. I resumed my slow running, focusing on my form, and my leg was feeling better. I did not resume my normal pace until I turned around with some of my usual running buddies who were heading back. I finished my run without any shin splints, and only missed less than 2 miles of running versus the rest of the group. Big deal.

Second lesson: more fuel to avoid bonking. On a couple of my long runs leading up to the marathon, I simply ran out of gas. My body felt reasonably well, judging from my recovery time post run. I had only been eating about 1 gel pack per 45 mins to 1 hour. So for the marathon, I decided to eat a gel pack (100 calories each) every 1/2 hour.

The marathon itself provided a third lesson: you can’t prepare for everything (at least until you’ve done a lot more than 2 marathons). The day of the marathon was the coldest day on record in the Phoenix area in 16 years!!! Phoenix weather this time of year is supposed to be like Southern California’s: pleasantly in the high 40s or low 50s in the morning. But the race started at 29 degrees. Brrrr!!!!! I knew enough to bring extra shirts and other clothing that I could toss away as the race proceeded. Once I warmed up, however, I really did not need any extra clothing. But many of the runners were only comfortable with much more clothing. With this weather, unless a runner had been used to running in sub-freezing temperatures, you really didn’t know for sure what you needed until you did it. Fortunately for me, I guessed correctly.

I had run the Long Beach marathon in October at 4:42:27 relatively comfortably, so I figured I could go at least 4:30:00 in this one. But I decided not to have any sort of printed time pacing on my wrist (unlike the L.B. marathon). Instead, I ran at what I felt was a comfortable pace, with my trusty Garmin to tell me my current heart rate to check that I was not stressing myself.

The Garmin also told me what my average pace was, but that led to my fourth lesson: technology might fail you. About 1/2 way through the race, the Garmin lost connection with satellites for a few miles. It reconnected for another few miles, but in the last 6 miles it received nothing. So much for keeping tabs on your average pace. (Although this marathon had timers every 1 mile.)

As the marathon progressed, I used the first lesson about avoiding injury. At some points in the middle of the run, I felt some extra pain and stress in my right foot. During those times, I eased up a little bit on my pace, and focused on my running form including breathing “into” the injured area. This always worked, since my foot would feel better after a couple of minutes. And I had no significant foot pain in the last several miles of the race. I had prepared mentally to walk or stop and stretch if easing up on the pace only resulted in the same or increasing pain, like I had on my weekend run 2 weeks ago. Fortunately, my body responded without those measures.

At the 20-mile mark, I employed a fifth lesson from Beach Runners: go for a negative split. I felt reasonably well at that time, so I took my metronome and increased the tempo from 88 to 90, and leaned a little more to increase the speed. At the 24-mile mark, I still felt okay so I increased the tempo to 92 and ran like I wanted to have nothing left at the finish line. (Leading up to Sunday, I had run at 88 or 90 in my long runs, and at 94 on my weekday “tempo” or “interval” runs, so a 92 was not new to me.)

I finished the race at 4:21:31, with an overall pace of 9:59 min/mile. Between the data provided by time chip and my Garmin (resetting the “lap time” at various times as I passed distance markers), this is how my race broke down by intervals:

First 6.2 miles (10K): overall time of 1:03:03; interval pace of 10:10/mi

6.2 mi to 13.1 mi: overall time of 2:12:53; interval pace of 10:07/mi

13.1 mi to 20 mi: overall time of 3:22:51; interval pace of 10:09/mi

20 mi to 25 mi: overall time of 4:10:26; interval pace of 9:31/mi

25 mi to finish: overall time of 4:21:31; interval pace of 9:14/mi

As I crossed the finish line, I felt tired, but I didn’t have all that much pain, other than a dull pain in my gut (aka my “chi”) and, strangely enough, some pins-and-needles in my arms. Immediately after I stopped, however, I didn’t notice anything in my gut or arms. Instead, I felt T-I-R-E-D and I had P-A-I-N all over in my legs. No joint pain or shin splints or the like however; just muscular pain as if I had just run 26.2 miles. Curiously, my butt felt okay post race. “Butt” once I got to my parents’ car for the ride to their house, as soon as I sat down, the P-A-I-N in my butt felt worse than in my legs.

Post-race, I employed a sixth lesson: have lots of fuel. (At least this works for me.) After the Long Beach marathon, I didn’t eat much and after about 15 minutes I was incredibly woozy. I had to lie on my back or stomach for a couple of hours until I felt good to walk around for a cab ride home. This time, my wife Laura had ready for me a protein shake, electrolyte drink (Ultima), peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches, and bananas for me to scarf down. So, even with feeling tired and pain, at least I avoided the woozy feelings this time.

I sit here today, 2 days post marathon; I’m feeling pretty good. Like I might go out for a short, easy run on Thursday (like I did after the Long Beach marathon). No way I’m going to be out of commission for a couple of weeks or more like a lot of marathoners.

Here’s to ChiRunning® and to the Beach Runners!



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