Like many others, 2020 plans sort of went to shit. But as a famous comedian Ron White once said, “I Believe, that if life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. And try to find somebody who’s life gives them vodka, and have a party.” It’s sort of fitting for me actually. I started off the year on a no-alcohol path with the idea of having my first drink, a Guiness, in Ireland after Ironman Ireland. But, like so many races it was cancelled and I put back on the 5 pounds I was down. The wineglass marathon too was cancelled but offered a virtual option. I told my mom, who was set to run her first marathon (at 62) with my wife and I in Corning, NY to hold off so that she could cross a real finish line in her first ever race; there is nothing like your first marathon!
But, I continued on with the idea of making 2020 all about a real attempt at Sub3. As a triathlete, I get few times to actually attempt this absolute monster of a goal. I attempted it twice in 2018 with a 5,000′ drop from 10,000′ at the Sandia Crest Marathon in Albuquerque, NM. A very bad idea starting out with a 19:49 5K to start, 1:29:48 half, I blew up and finished in 3:16:43; the most punishing marathon of my life. Three months later, I tried again another net downhill course at the Tucson Marathon. I held back learning my lesson from NM with a 1:35 half and 3:12:51 finish but didn’t have the strength and speed having trained most of the season for Ironman Arizona and qualifying for Kona running a 3:45 just 3 weeks earlier.
In both cases, I was banking on my fitness, not giving a Sub3 the respect it deserves!
In 2019, I stepped into Ultra, running a 50KM (5:24) and 50Miler (51.4miles in 11:07), (the most painful thing I had ever done). We went to Australia and ran a 3:48 at Ironman Cairns and then a 3:55 at Kona (10min improvement over 2016). Again, going through the year training for Ironman I never focused hard enough on my run and in fact peaked at only 43 miles in one week before the World Championship.
This led me to what I was going to do different in 2020; FOCUS ON THE RUN. I ditched my Joe Friel run training and went against what all triathlon coaches advise, build up the run above the bike. I built my run throughout the year getting a couple races early before the Pandemic and followed The Hansons Marathon Method throughout. I had my mom and Fiona on the same plan which focuses on Speed, Tempo, and Race Pace workouts with a maximum long run of 16miles. Having run 40 marathons, covering the distance was not of concern. As a result of the plan, I did workouts that I had never come close to and it was really self-rewarding. So while volume was higher than ever, the quality is something I had never consistently done and to this level. Nearly all of it on our Bowflex Treadmill and Zwift.
5 weeks before the marathon I suffered an injury in my foot. After a half mile of running, my foot gave out and I couldn’t push off. I took a few days off and the tendinopathy subsided. Separately, I had been going to BodyCentral in Tucson for months for pain in my neck and upper back. It turned out that 8 years of IRONMAN training led to 2 hurniated discs C2/C3 and C6/C7 in the worst case my Doctor (the same doctor as Lionel Sanders and Ben Hoffman) had seen in 7 years. The pain subsided as I took completely off of cycling, wore a posture strap, and took some homeotherapy supplements inlcluding the best thing that worked Phisiocreme from Australia and Spain.
The week before the race I headed to 7,000′ in Flagstaff for vacation. For 9 days I ran 80Miles, cycled 135, and hiked 20.4 up 3 of the separate mountains including Mt Humphreys, the tallest mountain in Arizona at 12,635′. The last day, Sunday I had a loop that was supposed to be 8miles. But it turned out to be 12 miles climbing 2,477′ and taking me 2hr52min up Mt Elden. I had just ran more outside, all on trails, than I had the entire year. Would I sacrifice my Wineglass Marathon Goals? A) Sub3 B) PB 3:02:33 C) Wineglass PB 3:08
Work improved and I didn’t leave so late. I swapped Wednesday off day with Monday and then ran 6m, 5m, 6m, 6m. But the day before the race I skipped my 3m run. The 2 days leading into the race my legs were in a lot of pain. I used Normatecs and Epson Salts but they continued to ache. I actually took Tylenol for 2 days to dissipate the pain.
I carbo-loaded for 2 days with 2-2 Liter bottles of Sprite, candy, white bread, and PizzaHut 2 nights before. Pre race dinner was a left over can of chicken noodle soup and 2 pieces of toast at around 5pm. Both nights were enjoyed with traditional Champagne indulgences watching Alone on prime.
I woke up at 6am and went back to bed. I needed another hour. I ate a banana, 2 pieces of toast and a RedBull. I took the furchildren for a walk. I wore my new Altra Escalante 2.0s, WattieInk tri-shorts, and a Brooks-Hansons singlet I got years ago when I first bought their book. I started out with a Kona Visor but took this off a few miles in, to keep the A/C air on my forehead.
I read race-tactics from the Hansons book the night before and under that guidance, I approached the run with a strategy to negative split the run. With U2 playing, I started out at 7:07/mile; it takes about 20seconds for the treadmill to come up to speed. I held that pace for 3miles to get my breathing under control as oxygen-rich blood circulated throughout my body. Then I increased the pace to 7:01 for 4 miles. I was on 3:06 pace through the quarter. (I mentally split the run into quarters). At 6.5miles, I was looking forward to 10miles where I intended to drop the pace again by .1mile which really didn’t increase the pace that much. So, at 11miles I dropped it one more to 6:53/mile (just above 3hr pace). It was shortly after 1 hour or 9miles that my HR noticeably dropped 2BPM. I absolutely welcomed this and knew it was coming as my saturated singlet started to cool my warming body. Temperatures had increased from 63F to 70F by this time and would climb to 74F by the finish. I watched the average pace continue to drop and hit the half in about 3:04 pace. I unfortunately don’t have the first half marathon clear but I think it was 1:31:50. I continued to listen to YouTube music and drank Coke every mile.
The only “stop” came at 100minutes (the maximum time of my treadmill). I quickly pressed stop multiple times then start, sacrificing only around 6 seconds, maintained pace, and continued on. It was here that I started my 2 cans of RedBull because it takes about 30minutes to go into effect. At 2hrs and nearly 18 miles in, my mind shifted to the 3rd quarter (always the toughest quarter, I also think I had some cramping coming on; need salt tablets next time). I looked forward to 20miles where I planned to bring the pace down to 6:51 but you can see below, I clearly had backed off after 16 miles (the max I ran this year). It was here where I started to feel the pace was to hot. So I negotiated a little with myself. I think this did help. I was clearly able to then increase the pace knowing I had 42minutes for 10K left to go. I managed this for 3 miles but it was at 18/19miles in that the stiffness/tightness/soreness started to resonate from my calves all the way up to the glutes. This was new for me. By running so much this year at this “Marathon/Tempo” pace and having my quality runs be more and more “Racelike”, I was not coming up sore at all including running a 10mile tempo at 6:55/mile with 2 weeks to go. Ironically, it was this pain that I knew was coming after the half, I was anticipating it, and trying to “Free the mind”, the line I found while running down the Queen K in Kona during my 2nd IMWC.
I tried hard to fight it. With 2 miles I wanted to go. I dropped the pace but the back of my legs were in so much pain I couldn’t hang. It was a little discouraging, knowing my HR was feeling strong and absolutely consistent. I knew a PB wasn’t going to happen but I kept fighting. And I ran to 26.3miles to compensate for the time to get the treadmill up to speed at the start.
This was by far, one of the strongest runs I have ever ran. I am incredibly fit without any decoupling of my HR. While I could feel the 5lbs I’m up, the worst part was the pain in the legs; I truly believe this was from the crazy 20hour training vacation and then sitting in our RV for 6hours driving home. But, I was enjoying my runs and didn’t want to stop… I also knew that this marathon doesn’t truly “count”.
To qualify for Boston I need to run a Sub 3:05. I would guarantee entry with probably a 3:01 but my goal IS SUB 3!!! In 8 weeks I GET to give this another go at the Tucson Marathon.
I will take 5 days off of running, start cycling again, lifting lightly, and then run a 5K in Phoenix in 2 weeks. (I am in 19:06 shape so lets see).
I am so thankful for endurance sport. While 3hours doesn’t seem like much of a day out when I compare it to my 9hour+ Ironman’s, there is NOTHING easy about running 26.2miles, especially Alone, on a treadmill. Both of my parents are now running having started in their 50’s and 60’s. Its Friggen Awesome. I am so proud of them and take pride in thinking I have had a little bit of positive impact on them for doing so. This sport is a lifestyle and there was nothing better than spending my Sunday pushing myself to my 2nd fastest ever marathon, missing a PB by just 51 seconds. I accomplished what I expected of myself today. Now, I want to push myself just a little bit more, be just a little bit smarter, and GET THIS DONE. Stay tuned!!!
Lastly , I am proud of my wife. For years, she has sacrificed her endurance goals while working to become a certified Physical Therapist in the USA. Now, she has the official paper in hand and will be ready to come back. In 8 weeks we GET to do this together, and I can’t wait.