Finally getting to my recap of my experience at Grandma's Marathon. I have no excuses. I thought my training was there. The weather was perfect - - okay, some don't like to run in 49 degree weather but I have run Grandma's in 70 plus temps and 90% Humidity, I'll take the 49 degrees, overcast and a 9 MPH tailwind.
As I shared earlier, I had run the Stillwater Marathon 20 days before. Now looking back, that was probably not a great idea. But finding the right mix of miles, speed, and rest for the marathon is not like any other distance. You can make a mistake on shorter distances when you have the wrong combination of the three, but in the marathon, you are going to pay, in time, distance, or by just dropping out. After all that training, I wasn't about to drop out.
My plan was to run a 10:30 MPM using the Galloway method for the entire distance of the marathon. Run 1 mile at a 10:08 pace, walk a minute, run to the next mile marker and do it again. For those of you that are unfamiliar with Galloway, he argues for walking breaks each mile so that the body can recover from the pounding that it takes while attempting the marathon. In my long run training, I had used his formula of running 5 minutes, walk 30 seconds, and keep alternating. This helps the body recover faster from the long runs and gets you ready for the marathon attempt. His method also has you do a 26-29 mile long run, 3 weeks before the marathon using this same 5 min/30 second run/walk system. Again, because it has the walking breaks built in, the rationale is that you should recover in time for taking on the marathon at a faster pace. Hence, the reason for my running the Stillwater Marathon 3 weeks before.
Anyway, back to attempt at Grandma's. I picked a 10:30 MPM pace because I wanted to go conservative to see if this method worked. That's right, conservative. My speed workouts (800s) were done at a 4:07 – 4:14 pace. This translates to a 4:07 – 4:14 marathon total time. My Stillwater Marathon was 5 hours, about an 11:30 MPM pace. Galloway says that you should run the long runs at a pace two minutes slower than you plan to run at the marathon. This I did (a 4:10 marathon total time equates to a 9:30 MPM pace – two minutes faster than the Stillwater pace). So instead of going for a 9:30 MPM pace, I went for a 10:30 MPM pace – this should be easy following the formula.
Well, it wasn't. I have to admit, for the first half of the marathon, I was right on pace 10:30s all the way. But at the 14 mile mark, there was tiredness in my legs that I just couldn't shake. My heart rate was a mirror image of the Stillwater Marathon, nothing change there, but I couldn't get into the heart rate range to make up for the drop in pace, no matter how hard I tried. I wasn't out of breath or anything like that, I just couldn't shake that my legs had to be 're-started' after each one minute walk. At 16 I knew I was in trouble, by 18, I knew I wasn't going to keep the 10:30 pace. But I switched to the mind games that we all use in marathons - - telling the body to do something it doesn't want to. The last 10K was all mental. I would make a deal with my legs "Just start running and keep running until the heart rate gets up to what we did in training for the long runs. You can stop after you hold that heart rate for two minutes." Believe it or not, this would get me to within view of the next mile marker, and then I could say "Okay, just keep running until you get to that mile marker and then you can take the one minute walking break." This worked to get the marathon done. But I ended up with the same total time I ran at Stillwater.
So live and learn. I am now convinced of two things. The first is that you can't run a marathon competitively, within 3 weeks of another marathon. The second is that you can run marathons every week, as long as you don't run them competitively. I believe I could probably run another marathon this weekend… but my overall total time wouldn't be that good or any better than the marathon the week before, give or take a few percent.
I have thought about doing an Ultra Marathon in my future, and I will probably use the Galloway method to complete that. As I expressed in an earlier post, I am also looking at running a marathon in all 50 states. But as for running marathons competitively, I am tossing this training method out. It's great for finishing a marathon, not so much for achieving a personal best.