Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Post-Philly Thoughts

Analyzing my splits, I could have possibly gained a few minutes during the final three miles, when I was crashing, by running a little slower during the first half of the race.  I am thinking of running The Boston Marathon in April.  Perhaps more long runs, and a few more than two hours, might erase the rapid decline in pace over the last three miles of the race.

Reacting to some other people's comments, I now realize the effect of the wind chill factor.  I remember talking to people before the race, after walking almost 2 miles from my parked car, and feeling that my face was cold enough to cause my speech to be slurred.  That should have given me a clue that my core temperature was below normal, especially for starting a race.  I changed into shorts just before the start of the race.  It felt warmer than the wind chill dictated at that time because I was in the shelter of the bag check area, protected from the wind by dozens of school buses formed up into sort of a corral, and surrounded by hundreds of other runners.  The result was an inability to warm up.  The top of my left hamstring had an unnatural tightness for a few miles.  My quads were sore from about mile 8 to the end of the race.  I didn't remove my had or gloves ever, even though I usually do that to moderate my body temperature at some points during most training runs that require hats and gloves.  It was cold enough to make my Powerbar gels feel almost chewy and make the water and Gatorade go down with ice-cream-headache swallows.

I told a lot of people I was going to run the first half of this race conservatively.  I just wanted to run a Boston Marathon qualifying time.  For me, that is 3:30 = 8 min/mile.  I found myself in the first corral, got sucked into a 7:10 pace, perhaps - partially, at least - in an effort to get warm.  And once you are in a pace, it is hard to step back and get out of it when you are surrounded by an endless crowd of fellow runners.  The taper always makes the first half of a marathon feel much too easy.  Although this was my 17th marathon, the third in three years after a big marathon-break of perhaps 12 years, I still was a little foolish.

But I shouldn't judge myself so harshly, since marathoning itself is both an immensely self-important and an immensely foolish activity.  Yet, for so many people, the foolhardy few hours we are out there running a marathon marks a pinnacle in time.   The marathon defines and justifies everything we have done in our daily lives to lead up to it, and sets up our plans for everything we do to recover and improve after the event.  These effects go beyond simply training for our next race - it leads us to living a more transcendent, productive, meaningful life.

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