Saturday, March 17, 2012

The race that wasn't: National Half Marathon

Over these past few months, I seem to be experiencing a new phenomenon, where I start out feeling great in a race and then, at some point between 25%-50% completion, the wheels fall off and my pace goes right into the toilette.  This time, it was a bit after 4 miles into the National half.  Things were going well, I didn't go out too fast, and was on the whole, feeling pretty damn good.

5:53, 5:43, 11:25 over miles 3 and 4 for an average of about 5:43.  I felt strong, I could actually see the lead vehicle, and I had the entire road nearly to myself.  It was awesome to be that far up in a race this big (27 corrals).  Then we made a turn around and a left up a light and manageable hill.  Then I never saw 5:4X again.  I fell to pieces and pretty much just cruised in, my body wanting nothing to do with going hard.  I finished in an extremely pedestrian 1:22:17, my slowest half in over 2 years.  Heck, I've run near that time on regular runs.

This reminded me much of the NCR trail marathon where I felt invincible for 10-12 miles and then in a split second, everything went straight to hell.  What's even more frustrating is that on the whole, I've been running well as of late, but just fell flat on a day when it mattered.

So naturally, I want to try and figure out just what's going on.  On the whole, racing has been ok since I ran that 1:14:44 half in Philly in September.  Everything has been quite hit or miss, with 2 good races, some meh races, and a few bombs.  I think in general, it is just getting a lot harder to both stay where I am/get better.  I'm sure I'm a lot closer to my limits than I have been the last 13 years I've been running.  Although it doesn't mean I can't get better, I think it means I need to take better care of myself to keep getting better.

Things like sleep and eating well (or at least better...definitely not less!) may just be more important than they used to be.  I've let both of those get away from me and it shows because I feel really tired way too often these days.  It's a pretty vicious cycle really:

1. Go to bed too late.  2. Sleep in as late as possible before work to maximize sleep (7 hours is an accomplishment).  3.  Rush off to work, rarely having breakfast at the time sine it takes a little bit for my appetite to kick in.  4.  Get really hungry at work or on the way and eat whatever is available just to be full enough (rarely anything healthy).  5. Finally, by lunchtime, eat something I cooked that was designed to fill me up and be relatively healthy (I'm actually good at that). 6. crash by the afternoon and take a nap before running. 7. Run  8. Have a 50/50 shot of eating something healthy for dinner. 9. go to sleep too late  10. start over the next day!

Clearly, this is not working.  It all starts (for me anyway) going to sleep on time such that 8 hours from the time I hit the pillow, I need to wake up.  It doesn't mean I'm asleep for 8 hours, but that formula works, because the handful of times I get a week or two like that, I feel much, much better.

I also need time to actually eat a reasonable breakfast, and go back to avoiding buying all that food that I know is bad for me, mainly because it's all I'll eat, to the point of avoiding fruits and vegetables (even though I actually do like them).

And what's the cause of all this?'s just laziness.  I get distracted too easily and stay up too late.  Once that happens, everything crashes down around me as I get too tired when I'm free to actually do much.  Clearly, it didn't matter much in 2010 and early 2011 since I've more or less operated this way for a while.  But now, for whatever reason, it seems to matter more.

Thankfully, I care about my running that much to finally start changing my habits.  If I have to be healthier all around to run faster, than so be it.

It starts Sunday night!  The first step is to just get more sleep, and get up early enough to start the day the way I know I need to.  My next round of groceries are going to be slightly more thought out in terms of buying the right kind of fuel...


  1. I hear you on the grocery bill thing, if you're creative, it actually isn't too bad. Hope everything starts to come together-small, methodical changes may reap big rewards.


  2. Outside perspective:

    Last Saturday you ran your long run - it was both long, and the pace was quick. Then you came back Sunday and ran a 5k PR. Then Monday looked like it was just a little too quick to be considered a recovery run. This is a problem for everyone on that run - this shouldn't be a competition. If there's a place in your training for it to be that speed, then sure, but otherwise, it CANNOT hurt you if it's well over 7 minute pace. Then Tuesday workout wasn't what I would consider hard for you, but it was still a substantial workout. You also just came off your biggest week of the training cycle.

    So it's a lot more than just not eating well and not sleeping enough. NOBODY does those things. It wouldn't have been any different prior to Saturday, or Sunday, or Monday or Tuesday. Chalk today up to being a bad race, and move on. Don't let it get in your head.

    And as I reminded Joel today, Boston is now a month away. Realistically, you will not make any fitness gains between now and then. But, you CAN hurt yourself. You can wear yourself out, you can get injured, and you KNOW this. Be smart. As runners we generally come into races overtrained. If you give yourself this week to let your legs come back under - like no workouts, no running faster than 7 minute pace, I am willing to bet that you'll feel great by the end of the week again.

    1. I always need someone to save me from myself...

      I'll be chilling out a bit this week for sure.

    2. Agreed Ryan.

      Dan, I went through the same thing last fall when I raced Baltimore half just 3 weeks before NYC marathon. I ran 1:31 or something terrible @ Bmore half, and crashed right around the same point mile 4 or 5 or so. I took evaluation in training and had to bite the bullet: fact of the matter was that I had and was overtrained. I adjusted as best I could, and came through a 2:55 effort in NYC.

      The hay is in the barn, bro. You cannot "cram" marathon training as you would for an exam. There isn't much more "work" you can do at this point to improve your time. But you can certainly screw it up more.

      Be wise about all of your hard running until the race, and keep your head up - confidence heading into Boston is crutial. The race is far too long to dwell on a "non-goal race". DC meant nothing, in the scheme of it - it is not your goal race. You're far too fit, and you have plenty of time to recharge, and put together a SMALL surge prior to tapering.


  3. It's because we're getting old. At least for me that means I can't abuse my sleep cycle like I used to in my "younger days". My quality of sleep has been complete shit lately and I know it's something I need to work on.

    Sorry you fell apart in the race. When you pass me near mile 5 you still looked pretty good to me!

    1. That was the end of me feeling good :) Thanks for the cheer though, it at least made me last a little longer.