Race Report: Queen City Marathon
- What? Queen City Marathon
- When? September 10, 2017
- How far? 42.2 km (26.2 miles)
- Where? Regina, SK
- Website: http://runqcm.com/
- Strava activity: https://www.strava.com/activities/1178031833
A: Sub 3:00 / BQ
B: PR (< 3:07:02)
After going through JD’s 2Q marathon plan for my last marathon, I decided to switch it up and go with Pfitz 12/70 for my next cycle.
The decision to run another marathon in 12 weeks was not made lightly. I knew that it would pose some risks, from injury to burnout, but at the same time I knew that I was mentally and physically prepared for another marathon, and that now would be my best chance to put together two solid training blocks to cumulate in a marathon attempt. I ran 3:07:02 at the Manitoba Marathon and knew that sub 3:00 was in reach because of the circumstances of that race. I firmly believe that it was a nutritional bonk, not fitness or training, that limited my last marathon.
Training went about as well as I could’ve hoped. I did every workout as prescribed, and consistently averaged about 100ish kilometres per week (62 miles), with peak weeks at 114 km (70 miles) and 120 km (75 miles). I nailed every lactate threshold and VO2 max workout (in Pfitz, that’s 5k pace). Every week included at least one medium-long run in addition to the weekly long run and the workout. The long runs were by no means perfectly done according to Pfitz’s standards, but they weren’t blowups either.
My marathon-pace long runs, however, didn’t go as well. A combination of timing and other factors (heat) made them extremely tough to the point that I wasn’t able to complete them. As most of you know, Pfitz’s marathon-paced runs end about 6 weeks out from the race, so I didn’t have many more chances to gain confidence from them. However, after looking at other training plans, I was able to design my taper to include a couple more efforts at marathon pace, with 12k and 8k at MP 7 - 10 days out from race day. I knew that marathon pace was dialed when I did Pfitz’s dress rehearsal and coasted to 5k at marathon pace.
I spent the weekend in Regina to prep for the race and stay relaxed on Saturday. For the two days pre-race, I was able to consume as much carbohydrate as my body can handle, which I believe is an important and underrated practice for running a good marathon. As I said, my last marathon bonk was nutritional, so I wasn’t going to make the same mistake this time around.
I slept very well the night before the race, with bedtime around 10 PM and wakeup around 6:30. This sort of sleep, for me, is abnormal. I normally sleep 4 hours before races, and either wake up in the middle of the night or I’m unable to sleep until 1 AM. This was a welcome change, and I’ll try to replicate what I did that day going forward to ensure a good sleep.
On race morning, I drank a coffee to clean out the system, then settled in for a decently sized breakfast. For my last marathon, I could barely eat on race morning, and I figured that was a factor in my bonk. So, I ate a whole bagel and a large muffin (450 calories) with over an hour until race time. I’m usually okay running on a full stomach, and I’m pleased to report that I had no GI issues in this race.
But I wasn’t done yet. On the way to the race, I drank a Rockstar mixed with water to top off the system. I did a 5 minute warmup and then moved into the starting corral with 10 minutes to spare. It was clouded over and about 18 degrees C. A little warm, but not as bad as I expected given the forecast.
I eyed up the competition and had no idea who would be competing for the win in this race. Normally it is won in the 2:30’s, with two guys competing for the win the past several years. Neither of them were there, so I figured that one of us competitive midpackers might get some glory today. (Turns out the race was won in 2:54, so I guess I was right.) I didn’t have my eyes set on a podium spot or any placement, though, so ultimately it didn’t matter.
My race strategy was simple: go out at 4:15 per kilometre (which is sub 3:00 pace) and adapt from there. If it felt too hard and unsustainable, then I would slow down, but if it felt like marathon effort, I would stay the course.
I figured there would be a pack of us shooting for sub 3:00 or at least the male under-35 BQ given the date of this race, but it turns out I was wrong, because two male leaders shot out around 2:50 - 55 pace and then there was me. It was kinda hard to tell because we were surrounded by half-marathoners, though, so who knows. I heard a couple of guys who looked just older than me chatting about qualifying for Boston, but they went out quite conservatively and came in well after 3:05, so perhaps they were older than they looked or were just hoping for a huge negative split. Either way, I ran the race basically alone the entire way, with some mingling and yo-yoing with some half-marathoners during the first half.
In my opinion, I paced the first 21 kilometres well. I consistently ran 4:12 - 4:15, with only 5 splits a bit faster (4:06 - 4:09). I maybe could’ve been more conservative here, but 3 seconds per kilometre doesn’t make a significant difference pace-wise (that’s like 2 second per mile, if you’re wondering). Looking at my mile splits, though, I was comfortably under sub-3 pace. My heartrate was relatively high, closer to what I consider my threshold, but I felt fine aerobically, and after 8 kilometres my legs loosened up and my stride felt great.
We split off from the half-marathoners around 17 kilometres and I was ready to tackle the hardest and loneliest part of the marathon.
I got to 21 kilometres without much change in effort or pace, and hit 21.1 in 1:28:43. Right according to plan, I had about a minute to spare. However, things were about to get hard. As I turned out from the residential streets and onto the bike path that follows Wascana Creek, I am hit by a ferocious headwind that almost blows me over. This is going to make or break my race: 6 kilometres into a headwind on an exposed bikepath with little crowd support.
I knew I would lose time on this stretch but I felt strong and I knew I had some room to work with and that I would have a great tailwind coming back. The thought of sailing back with a tailwind kept me going, but this still felt like the longest 6 km of my life. I was able to keep the pace around 4:20 - 25, which is a lot better than what my pace felt like here. Nonetheless, I reach the end and cross the bridge to start coming back. It’s at 27k and I still have legs left, so I’m ready to race.
I tried not to get carried away here, even though I had a tailwind and was meeting a huge pack of runners on the way back. I ran 4:15, 4:18, and 4:19. I thought I was ready for the final 12 km but it was false hope. The pace started slipping on the way back, even with a tailwind, and suddenly I’m running 10 seconds slower than goal pace. I try not to panic as I figure that I can still run a BQ if I keep the pace around 4:30. I manage to do that until about kilometre 37, when I ran 4:58.
I’m self-destructing and I know it. I had no idea that my goals were still within reach if I could’ve just done some damage control during this bonk. It is honestly hard to look at my data and to write this report without feeling sick to my stomach. The truth is I just quit on myself when it got hard. I hated running and especially the marathon at that point. All the training and hard miles felt worthless. I tried to remind myself that last year I ran this race and blew up spectacularly, running 3:34 with a 17 minute positive split. It helped me here: it can always be worse.
Although I didn’t have any splits slower than 4:58, I feel like I’m trudging along at barely a jog. I try to crank it up a bit as I come onto the residential street that I know will lead me back to the turnoff to the finishing kick. I turn back onto the half-marathon course and join the walkers who are finishing their days. Even though I’m weaving through them, I’m grateful that they’re there, because at least I know I’m still running and have some life left.
The final 3 kilometres of the race are on a beautiful street that follows Wascana Lake. I really thought I was making progress here but I looked at my splits and it turns out that kilometres 40 and 41 were my slowest splits of the day: 5:08. If I could’ve fought for 30 more seconds each kilometre, maybe things would’ve been different.
In the last kilometre there’s quite a bit of crowd support. I didn’t think I had anything left, but I kick anyway, because it felt good to come in 4th to a pretty active crowd.
Turns out I did have something left. After I finish I realize that I didn’t leave everything out on the roads that day, and I’m just disgusted with myself as I look at the clock and see 3:04:16. I finished 4th overall and 1st in my age group, but it was a bittersweet victory.
My friends who I was staying with are psyched for me. They see this as a huge victory worthy of celebration, and I try to feel the joy but I am experiencing a whole host of emotions: happy about a PR; frustrated about having something left in the tank; disappointed and upset that I spent 6 months building for this only to blow it by a few measly minutes on race day.
All I’m left with is “There will always be another marathon.” A PR is a PR. Never give up.