Thursday, November 20, 2014

Lessons Learned: Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon

After new experiences and big events, I always like to reflect on how it all went. After committing a lot of time and effort it's always important to decide what went well, what can be improved, and what maybe should be scrapped next time. Seeing as Chickamauga Battlefield Marathon was a whole new type of Marathon racing experience for me, I figured it was a good chance to look back at went helped me get a big PR and what I might need to change moving forward.
I look like a total goof in the photo, but I'm happy, so who cares?!

The Good:

1. I'm stronger than I give myself credit for. Pre-race it had never even crossed my mind that I could run the race in 3:50. In fact, just hitting that 4 hour mark would have been the bees knees in my mind. But come race day, I threw caution to the wind and just went for it. My last two PRs (Hospital Hill Run and Chickamauga) have come in races where I either didn't wear or didn't look at my watch, not even for mileage, the entire race. Throughout the race when chatter about our pace came up in the pace group, I did my best to ignore it. Basically, when I stay out of my head and focus on my body and how it feels, I run a better race. My body is capable of doing more than my mind let's it sometimes and in the future I need to continue to trust my training and run by feel.
The Jayhawk said I can't put this on our Holiday card. Buzz kill.
2. My Fueling strategy. In my first 4 marathons, fueling was a major issue for me both during the race and in the training leading up. I wasn't logging a ton of high miles because of poor fueling and I was having a lot of trouble in the late miles of those races. Last year I started using Island Boost only a month or two before Chickamauga Marathon (marathon #6), and it helped me to a 6 minute PR. This year at Chickamauga (marathon #8), I was able to use it for my entire training cycle, and I've really seen a difference. Not only am I more comfortable during my runs, but I'm less stressed about fueling and more focused on running. I haven't hit the wall and have been able to log many miles at a stronger pace. I'll be the first to admit that there isn't one correct fuel for everyone, but I've definitely found one that works for me. Working out a personal fueling strategy is essential to the marathon (and greater) distance. It's all about metabolic management.
3. The changes I've made to training this year. I've made some pretty big changes to my training this year and it all started with my 50k plan. Previously, I had been consistently running 4-5 days a week with only one weekend run. Starting in May I shifted to 5 days a week, with back to backs on the weekend.  Some weekends they were big back to backs, others not.  I also increased my overall mileage with a focus on balancing it across the week (not just having longer long runs). Both these things really got me use to running on tired legs and being patient during long runs and races.

The Needs-work:

1. Salt. At one point on the drive home from the race, I reach up and touched my hat only to be a little afraid of what I found. It felt like sandpaper: hard, crunchy, and gritty. Though you can't see it in the photos because my hat is white, it was completely crusted in salt from the inside out. I never felt like I was low on sodium during the race probably because it was chilly out and my sweat output didn't feel that heavy, but obviously I was working hard and sweating. Post race I could tell I needed salt as I was craving it (as well as food in general, I ate 3 pieces of pizza before we even got in the car). In the future before long hard efforts, I need to consider pre-loading with salt similar to Snakebite even if the temps not in the 90s. I probably got lucky that it didn't warm up too much on race day.
Also, not going on the Holiday card per the Jayhawk's request.
2. The confidence to do it on my own. I've wondered post-race if I could have run the same time without the pace group dangling in front of me like a carrot. Obviously I was physically able to get it done, but I wonder if I mentally would have pulled it off without that target to focus on.  I'm feeling a lot more confident in my abilities post race and I'm very happy with how my mind stayed positive the entire race, but I need to continue the mental training for days I don't have a rocking pace group to follow.  And big props again to the pacers. I've never seen a group stick so solidly to pace and finish within 2 seconds of their goal.
It was such a lovely day.
3. Training at specific paces. While I've made some good changes to how I train, I still don't really do any pace specific workouts (speed, tempo, etc). Most of my training during this cycle was at small pace window (8:35-8:50/mile), which oddly enough turned out to be my marathon pace.  I guess I got really comfortable with it.  I did have days when I ran faster, but it wasn't because I was planning to, I just felt good.  In the future I would like to set pace goals for certain days and be more aware of planning (not just randomly doing) hard effort days.

Needs to be forgotten:

There wasn't a lot about this training cycle and race I would totally throw away. In fact I'm going to savor this one for a while.

And for those of you wondering about the Jayhawk.....

Not only did he hit his pre-race goal, but he recovered like a champ with minimal soreness and a nice, slow progression back into running. Post-race Chris (who I ran with at last year's 7 Bridges Marathon) asked him if he was hooked yet. It may have all been too new at the time, but it's safe to say this won't be the end of the Jayhawk's running career. He's already talking about his goals for next year and checking out races.  I'll keep you posted.

Do you like to reflect on things after big events? Do you use those lessons for future races?

12 comments:

  1. I liked the taste of the Island Boost I tried so far, Passion Fruit, I think. I haven't used salt in ages, but you've reminded me to take some for my next race, just in case. Great post-race thoughts!

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    1. Glad to hear you are enjoying Island Boost! Good luck!

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  2. Great post race reflection. I also like to look at my races and analyze them tiki make sure I'm always improving.

    For fueling I use the Cliff gel shots throughout my long runs. They seem to work out great for me.

    I have the salt loss problem too, I need to drink more water and a buddy gave me some salt sticks to try. A co-worker also suggested Sports Legs.

    Congrats to the Jayhawk, welcome to the running world.

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    1. I've tried S Caps previously and had no trouble with them. It did even cross my mind to use them on a cold day, but I've got to respect my salt loss.

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  3. I still haven't tried Island Boost, but I need to. I think I am going to sign up for a training group in Dec. and just try some longer runs and see what happens. I tend to only run three days a week, sometimes four, maybe that isn't enough. I don't run on really tired legs that often, it has really worked for you! I get very salty like that after a run, I started eating pickles and drinking just a few ounces of the juice. It makes me feel better. You should feel really confident your abilities at this point! It seems like just a few months ago, you had the swollen infected foot and now look at all the strong miles you have logged :) Congrats again on the awesome run :) and Congrats to Jayhawk.

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    1. Good idea on a group Karen! I find that having the support of others can make it easier to stretch yourself! Although you rocked your recent half without too much trouble! Thank you!

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  4. Sounds like you really made some great progress and learned some valuable lessons.

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    1. Thanks Abby! I try to always learn from things.

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  5. I like the idea of raced paced running. I can't do much at race pace... but if it worked for you, I'd stay with it!! :)

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    1. Race pace running definitely made me more comfortable during the race. I think I need to challenge myself with new paces in the future.

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  6. Congrats on the big PR....these are some great takeaways from the race. I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and things are going well for you!! I miss your posts popping up in my reader!

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    1. Thanks Brenda! I hope you had a great T-giving too. Promise to be posting a little more regularly this month! Good luck with the 50k! Very excited for you!

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