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Race Result

Racer: Aaron Schwartzbard
Race: Philadelphia Marathon
Date: Sunday, November 24, 2002
Location: Philadelphia, PA
Race Type: Run - Marathon
Age Group: Male 25 - 29
Time: 2:50:42
Overall Place: 78
Age Group Place: 18
Comment: 318 in age group, 4565 starters, I blew up badly

Race Report:

aaron and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Race

Well, that sucked. It was one of those races where it was as if I spent the day watching everything go downhill, figuratively. Here's the short story: I was aiming for 2:35-2:37. I finished in 2:51.

At 10 miles, I was on pace for 2:35. At the half way point, I was on pace for 2:37. By mile 16, I thought I still might be able to go under 2:40. At miles 20, I was thinking I could at least get a new PR (under 2:44), at mile 24, I still had hopes that I'd finish in the 2:40s. At mile 26, I just wanted the death-slog to end.

I'm usually pretty good at training for, and hitting, specific paces. So I really want to understand what went wrong in this race. After a bit of thought, I've come up with three lessons that I hope to take away from this experience.

1) I had come up with the plan of aiming for 2:35 this fall many moons ago. Since I was focused more on cycling earlier this year, I wasn't putting in big running miles. Just before I was about to start running more, I got injured, and wasn't able to run for two months. I didn't start running again until early September. That gave me two months to build up my mileage and get my speed together and do everything I needed to do for a great race. Really, this wasn't enough time to get from where I was to where I wanted to be. I should have revised my goal to account for extenuating circumstances, rather than trying to push through with an ambitious training plan, thinking that I could rush my training, and cram everything in.

2) I always measure my intensity by my breathing. In a marathon, I find that what works for me is to stick with a 4/4 pattern for the first 10 miles, go to a 4/3 (and occasional 3/3) pattern in the next 10 miles, then do whatever I need to do in the last 6.2. During the race, I had to go to 4/3 in the fourth mile to stick to my target pace. I should have listened to my body, and stuck with what I know works. If I had slowed down in the first 10 miles so that I could go to a 4/4 breathing pattern, I believe I still could have finished comfortably under 2:40. (Of course, I should also note that although I sacrificed this marathon, there is a side of me that is glad that I tried going at a higher intensity than usual. It has helped my figure out where my boundaries are.)

3) I didn't train like I race. I don't think this was the deciding factor, but I do believe it made a difference. See, I did all of my long runs as trail runs. That meant that I was used to doing a lot of short, steep hills, and sharp turns. I could do 20 miles on trails and finish strong. I thought that trails would only make me stronger. And while I think that this kind of running has its place, I now believe that I should have done more of my long runs on roads (or at least on flatter trails). I was just wasn't accustomed to using the same muscles for so long --- I was used to switching muscles every couple minutes as the terrain changed. My longest road runs were 14 miles. In the marathon, the wheels started to come off between miles 14 and 16.

Yup, so it was a learning experience. Of course, "learning experience" is a euphemism for "suckfest." I'm almost embarrassed to post my miles splits, since they tell a sad, sad story of a race gone terribly wrong. But perhaps they will be scary enough to help some people avoid the mistakes I made. So here they are in all their blazing glory:

Goal: 2:35 - 2:37 (5:55 - 6:00 pace)

1 5:44 (A little bit fast, but still comfortable --- I was finding my pace)
2 5:49
3 5:48
4 5:53
5 6:05 (I got into a group that had a nice little paceline. The leader dropped to the back in this mile. I thought the pace slowed down after that, but wasn't sure until I saw the split. So I broke away.)
6 5:53
7 5:53
8 6:07 (A bit of a hill in this mile)
9 5:50
10 6:27 (A big hill in this mile, but I still hit 10 miles at 59:38, which was at the fast end of my goal pace.)
11 6:03
12 5:50
13 6:09
14 6:05 (I was still feeling okay. I had crossed the half way point in 1:18:22, which was at the slower end of my goal pace, but still acceptable.)
15 6:12
16 6:33 (I hit a BIG headwind in this mile that almost brought me to a stop. In retrospect, I'm not sure whether wind was as strong as it seemed, or my legs were worse than I realized. My legs were feeling like rubber. My race ended somewhere in the last two miles. I knew the final 10 would not be pretty.)
17 6:18
18 6:39 (I don't care what your running pace is. If you look at my first 10 miles, then look at these last six, you should have some idea of how rough things got, and how much I was hating life. I should note that there was never a point that I just gave up, and jogged in. Each of the remaining miles --- even the 8:00 mile --- was run at the absolute best pace I could achieve at that point in time.)
19 7:01
20 7:03
21 7:05
22 7:15
23 7:34
24 7:48
25 8:00
26+.2 9:23

Total time: 2:50:42


Oh well, at least it was a beautiful day for a run.