Monday, October 26, 2015

Gel Factory Test Run - Chicago Marathon

Raceday has come and gone, so how did I fare?  The 2:56:30 (a 1.5 min PR) says pretty well.  However, it wasn't an "easy" run.  Following up from 2:57:55 at Boston in April, here is how I would rate myself:

Training (total mileage + race specific) = Under-trained
I had a hard time getting in the groove of building mileage.  Apart from the Saturday CES crew, 1-2 weekday run commutes with Dan, and Wednesday am speedwork, I struggled (actually didn't really try) getting weekly mileage racked up.  Mix in some work travel and summer weekends, I don't have any real regrets about it.  With Boston Bound, I had this tenacity about suiting up and battling the elements...not so much this summer.  After being so focused to hit the sub-3 number, chipping away at 2:57:XX just didn't have the same kind of oomph.  Also, didn't really spend much time at Marathon Pace.
Extra Low Mileage Training Plan - September Weekly Mileage surpassed a whopping 30 miles/week

Lifting/Cross-Training = On Track
Kept on Matt & Amber's 1x20 lifting routine that I've posted about before.  While I didn't progress that much (due for a little more variety), it was steady and definitely kept me injury free with my running form improved. 2-3x/week (didn't manually enter into Strava)

Nutrition = Much Improved!!! (?)
This was what I changed since Boston (well that and significantly reducing my mileage, ha) and will spend a majority of the race recap sharing my "secrets".  I strayed a little here and there during the cycle, but all-in-all it didn't take much effort to stay on a Low Carb High Fat routine.  Full disclaimer: I'm not an expert on this, I'm an experimenter.

Similar to High Cliff Half Iron, the two weeks prior I stayed at 70% Fat with the balance in Protein and Carbs (70g of carbs/day with berries, nuts, and beet juice being the largest drivers).  The goal here was to get my body's metabolic efficiency ramped up (readily burning fat vs. glycogen).  While preparing my lunch one day, a colleague commented that I was more like a mechanic fueling a race car in a very specific manner for high performance...I liked the synergy of that comparison.

A typical day (including Bullet Proof Coffee for breakfast):

Three days prior to the race, I incorporated some low-glycemic carbs (sweet potatoes, Lyndsey's Feed Zone Portables, bananas, Generation UCAN bars).  The goal of this was to fill up the glycogen fuel tank (~2,000 kCal), which was theoretically empty.  I also made a switch from running a slight caloric deficit to a slight positive by adding more fats and proteins as well (eggs, chicken, salmon).

Raceday nutrition became a wild card.  My past two long runs, I had Generation UCAN before and tried to incorporate normal gels during.  In the past, I took pride that I could stomach 5-6 gels/marathon with only minor discomfort.  However, based on my long runs this cycle, I learned mixing in standard gels no longer sat well with my stomach.  During race week, I finally made the decision to try something new for race day and concoct my own UCAN gels.

The Gel Factory:
After scouring the internet, I ended up purchasing disposable baby food pouches and a cake decorating syringe (Amazon had a surprisingly limited selection of large syringes).
Using Magic Bullet to blend 3-4 oz water with 1 scoop of UCAN
A large medical syringe would work better as the cake tool tolerances left something to be desired
Finished product
Considered utilizing the Salomon hand carriers, but opted for a traditional waist belt
For prerace dinner, I omitted the usual pasta and went for wild salmon plus half an avocado.  Race morning, I had one serving of UCAN (with 8 oz of water) 30-60 min before race start.

The Race:
Dave and I have an ongoing rivalry and this race had a heightened competition between the two of us as it had been since Boston 2014 that we went head to head (Dave being the victor that day).

As we worked our way to the corral, I felt the 2 caffeine patches "kick in" and was feeling the energy of the race.  Finally made our way up in front of the 3:00 group (somewhat strange feeling to do so in such a confident manner as only a year ago would have been a bold move).  Moments before the gun, a throw-a-way shirt hit me square in the face.  Here it was Sascha's who successfully caught my attention from the other side of the corral.  We gave a wave and soon we were all underway.

For pace, I didn't want to run any of the first half faster than 2:55 while making sure to keep it under 2:57:14 (Dave's PR) - I accomplished this through a patent pending dual pace band.  We clipped the first miles a little hot, but nothing damaging (we kept Sascha and Jake in front of us).
Some friendly competition
Some people split the race into three sections (North, West, and South) - my race was also split into three sections (Feeling Mediocre, Feeling Good, and Suffering).  In the Feeling Mediocre section, I didn't feel real comfortable, but let the miles come to me.  Dave maybe did a majority of the pace-making, as we'd split a 6:40, then we'd agree a little hot, back off, then surge up a little, and split another 6:40.  This went for mile and after mile until I had my first issues.  All along the way, people kept calling my name (thanks all!) and then a "Go Minnesota!" (Dave's classic jersey) and "Go Badgers!" (some random guy wearing a Wisconsin jersey).

When we hit the Old Town Fleet Feet aid station, the loudspeaker called my name and seconds later Chris Willis!  I swung my neck around and sure enough, sitting there creeping was the freshly shaved shine of Chris's head.  This brightened my spirits and brought me from feeling just ok to now feeling pretty good.  We also had Sascha, Jake, and Lynton rolling along.  We rolled through halfway about 30 seconds off 2:55, right where I wanted to be.
Approaching halfway with Chris at my side.  DMV close behind.
First half - just rolling along targeting 6:41-6:45
There weren't many words being shared here, but I didn't have any concern with a few high 6:30s as it wasn't going to get any easier to get back to 2:55 later on.  Being as Dave and I were "racing," I kept silent as Chris and I worked on a gap.  Although I didn't really have any idea if Dave was gone or not as I told myself not to look back.  Somewhere in here, Chris and I also separated a little and I gave a little more throttle to get back on the 2:55 pace band exactly.  The miles kind of blur together here, but I remember thinking, "ok, just need to run 6:41s rest of the way...wait 'just' 6:41s?!"  Although, I already knew it, I continued on to run one more 6:39 before coming to the conclusion that this was not possible.  And so I entered the Suffering Section of the course (commonly, mispronounced as "South Section").  Weems and I shared a mile or two...although we had a lot in common at this point, there weren't many words to share.

My second gel helped a little, but I was not loving running at this point.  I should state that I was still in a mentally ok position...actually pretty good.  I attribute this to my fueling preparation.  While I had burned through my glycogen tank, I was able to switch back to fat burning without too much of a hiccup.  My problem was the intensity...I was trying to run at a much higher intensity than desirable in a fat-burning stage.  The intensity was too high because I was "under-trained".
Around mile 20, I ran the glycogen tank to empty and went back to fat (theoretically).
1 to go!
Knowing that 2:55 was gone, I had no trouble doing the math for the slowest possible pace that I could run and still finish 2:56:XX.  So I trudged along while reassuring myself that I'm never running a marathon again (apart from the fact that I had just registered for Boston 2016).  I was aware that I didn't look pretty at this point - fortunately had plenty of cheers along the way.  The final mile, I could see a running friend, Tony - fortunately he was out of reach and I could coast in.  Then all of sudden at the final turn, noticed that we were along side of each other and had to kick it in...ugh!  Crossed the finish line dizzy, decided I should sit down, was quickly picked up by some volunteers and escorted to the beer table.  Success.
The "Suffering Section" easily identifiable with red conditional formatting.
Now that it's been 2 weeks, already beginning to look forward to the spring season!  As always, a thanks to Lyndsey, my run crew (no, this isn't NRC), friends, and a special shoutout to Dave who is now trailing the marathon showdown 2-3.

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