I had a great training plan. I had great training runs. I had no injuries. I fought some illnesses, but nothing that would impact my fitness, I think. So when I toed the line at the 2018 Austin Marathon, I was confident that I would have a personal best day.
I had decided to hold back through the first few miles. I had actually adjusted my strategy based on an article in the local paper. It recommended running 20-30 seconds per mile slower for the first 18.5 miles through the rental Texas hills. I did that.
My goal pace was 7:15. I tried to stay under 7:45 for the first half. I did that. I eased up the climbs and let gravity give me some recovery on the descents. I was picking off miles at a solid pace and felt pretty good.
Once I got to the half mat, I started to feel the previous hills. Even though my watch indicated I was holding back, my legs disagreed. Then my head started listening to my legs. From about mile 15, everything you dread on race day presented in one way or another.
For instance, despite running in a fasted state, I needed to stop at a port-a-potty. Also, despite knowing my family was waiting for me at mile 19, I couldn’t even muscle to just get there at a reasonable pace. Once I started walking some of the tough hills, I just couldn’t seem to regain any momentum or energy, even going down. Pace group after pace group came through, and I just could not fall in and ride the wave.
In the end, I basically just tried to enjoy the race day atmosphere. I ran some and walked some. I called my wife to tell her I was fine and not to worry. I ate some bacon on the course and gave out some high fives. I cheered on some fellow runners as they passed.
After the race, I took some time to reflect and couldn’t determine what went wrong. I had so many great training runs. My preparation was solid. I got a good night’s sleep. My diet was dialed in. I had no excuse and started looking for near term local marathons within 48 hours.
By Wednesday, however, my throat was in enough pain to go see a doctor. As it turns out, I had strep which could be the reason for my energy struggle during the race. I actually wasn’t a hundred percent.
Two weeks after the race, I went out for a typical weekend training run. I stopped myself at 20 mile, and had run a sub-8 minute pace without really trying. I had trained for a personal best, I just couldn’t avoid being sick on race day.
From this experience, I learned you can only control certain things. If you stress about the things you can’t control, it is a waste of energy. This is true before, during, and after the race.
Therefore the bucket list item remains. I will give it another shot and be sure to let you know when I do.
Have you had some experiences? How did you persevere or recover?