Lessons Learned from the DWR Marathon

In this world of endurance sports even our best efforts lead to lessons learned so that we can continue to get better.  That is the circle we live in.  We train to race, then after the race we evaluate what we can improve upon during our training so that we can race again. For a moment while on the course of the Dallas White Rock Marathon when I realized that the 3:29 goal was fading fast I thought to myself this sucks, I am not going to get to my time.  This goal came about on November 22 so I had two weeks to focus on this one item.  To run a marathon faster than any other time I had ever done (truth be told it was only 1 other marathon and I ran it in 4:29:58.)  It became my obsession, and I convinced myself I could do it.  So on the course I kept checking my Garmin and I was there until Mile 20 when my split grew to 8:35.  I rationalized and used the Boston qualifying method that 3:29 really meant 3:29:59 and I was still on target.  Then Mile 21 blew that away. In the back of my mind I knew that I should have been around 3:35 to 3:40.  3:40 was my original goal and 3:35 came about after talking with Ironam Mike Wien.  I crossed in 3:39:23 and for a moment was upset, but then realized that I beat my previous time by 50 minutes.  An incredible feat from one marathon to the next. Since that time I have reflected on the things I could have done differently and instead of cursing myself I have accepted them as lessons to have learned.  Last night while reading Texas Runner and Triathlete I came across an article by Allan Besselink titled 8 Ways To Ruin A Marathon.  The article discussed injuries, developing a race plan, doing something different on race day, acclimating to the weather, focusing on outcome and not process, not driving the course, not strength training and not consuming enough carbs during the race. I read and re-read this list and thought about those that I did not do plus a couple of others that can help me to qualify for Boston (3:15 needed for a young guy like me.)
  1. I normally train in long shorts so that when they get soaked with sweat they get heavy and it is harder to run with them.  These shorts have pockets in them so I carry my GU in there.  The racing shorts don't have pockets so I needed a place to carry my GU.  Went with a cycling jersey UNDER another shirt.  I couldn't get the GUs out of my BACK pockets twice on the course and this is a change from the norm.
  2. I used GUs during training but switched to the PowerBar Energy Gels for the first 12 miles.  Now I have taken PowerBar before but I did not train with them for this marathon so why would I switch.  With the temps hovering around freezing I knew that the GU would be like a rock and trying to get it out of the package would be very hard and the PowerBar Gel is more liquid.  Well at Mile 4 I wore most of the gel because it squeezed everywhere all over my let and the pee did not get rid of that stickiness. (read my race report about the reference to pee here.)
  3. I did not drive the course.  Karen and I spoke about it but we never did it because 9 miles of the course is our home course at White Rock Lake.  We also thought we knew Dallas so no need to drive it.  Mistake?  I'm not sure but it couldn't have hurt to drive the course.  Problem here is that we were home and it wasn't a rush with everything else, but if we travel to another location I will be sure to drive the course.
  4. I will run at the time of the race start.  Not the gun time, but the race start.  Our corral went off around 8:12am because of the wave start but I was used to waking up at 4am and going for a run by 5:30 or 6:00am.  During my training I did not allow my body to wake up fully before running like it would during the marathon.  Part of this is eating breakfast and being properly fueled prior to the race.
  5. I am on the fence with this one, but running with an iPod.  I don't do it now because during the 70.3 California and any other triathlon I do you cannot wear headphones so I need to be mentally tough to conquer the run at the end of a triathlon.  During a marathon it is ok and maybe just maybe a hip-hop tune like the Jay-Z/Linkin Park 99 Problems would get my legs moving faster.  Maybe, not sure.
  6. Train faster.  On my long EZ runs I was at around 9:00/mile to 9:15/mile.  This is too slow if I want to run sub-8s on race day.  My EZ runs need to be closer to 8:30/mile so that my legs know what the speed is like.  On my speed work days I was fine, but I think on the long run days I need to go faster than I have because I want to race faster.
I had a race plan for pacing from coach and I had a nutrition/hydration plan from my training (1 GU and water every 4 miles -- this is why I need to run faster b/c that would be ~32 minutes in a race and closer to 36-37 minutes during training.) I am beyond happy with my time and my improvement but I know that if I want to qualify for Boston in 2012 that I need to improve by 24 minutes.  6 items to improve on may not seem like a lot but it is the world of difference between going to Boston and reading blogs about getting in.  I want to get in.  It is not on the bucket list because I know I can do it and I am willing to put in the hard work and effort.
What lessons have you learned either the hard way or just from experience that helped you reach your goals?
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Jason Bahamundi

About the Author:

I grew up in New York and lived there for 34 years until I got divorced and moved 1600 miles to my new home in Texas.  I love New York and miss it but that does not mean that Texas hasn’t been great to me because it has.  It was here that I discovered endurance sports and specifically the sport of triathlon.  Triathlon has given me new life through all the challenges it presents.  I no longer look at life the same way and I can say that is in part due to my endeavor into this sport.

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