Race Report: Saskatchewan Marathon
- Name: Saskatchewan Marathon
- Date: May 29, 2022
- Distance: 26.2 miles
- Location: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan
- Website: https://saskmarathon.ca/
- Strava: https://www.strava.com/activities/7222768901
|C||< 3:04 (PR)|
I covered my training in a previous race report.
While I have benefited greatly from Daniels’ 2Q system, I made a few adjustments to the taper this time around. Focusing on 2 intense long runs works well for most of the marathon build, but for the taper, I prefer to reduce the volume and maintain intensity with more frequent workouts at marathon pace or faster.
- May 16 - 22: 60 miles
- Workout 1: 12 miles w/ 1T + 2M + 1T + 2M
- Workout 2: 2 x 4 miles @ M
- Workout 3: 12 miles w/ 4 miles @ M
- May 23 - 28: 27 miles
- Rehearsal: 5 min + 6 min + 7 min @ M
Tapering is always a bit of an unknown – you expect to recover and feel rested, but sometimes it’s the opposite. I had 2 workouts that went well and felt easy, and I had 2 that felt much harder and took more effort than expected. This was also my first time tapering down from 80 - 85 miles, and 60 miles still felt like more than I should be running with fewer than 10 days to go.
Without spoiling anything, I plan to follow this taper right down to the last minute of running in the future.
My work week didn’t end until 5 PM on Friday, so I was a little late hitting the road. The 6-hr drive to Saskatoon was uneventful, and I tried to snack on cookies and muffins to make sure I was okay for calories that night. I only planned on a 1-day carb load, which would hopefully start early on Saturday.
I got into Saskatoon to a friend’s place around 11, had a few adult beverages around a fire, then got to bed around 12:30. Saturday was an early morning despite my best efforts to sleep in. I did a 3 mile shakeout after waking up, then settled in for my first meal of the day.
This was the first time that I tracked carbohydrate during the day before the marathon. I wanted to aim for 8-10 grams per kg of bodyweight, which was way harder to do than I thought. I ended up somewhere between 650 - 750 grams of carbs that day, with my last meal at 6 PM. I didn’t really have to force it as I had a huge appetite anyway. I have a full list of foods and carb count if anyone is interested, although some of the numbers are guesstimates.
I tried to stay awake until 10 PM on Saturday, but I was feeling drowsy by 9:30, which was around the time I fell asleep. I woke up around 4:30, ate my last meal, and suited up with my race kit. Gear included the following:
- Top: Craft PRO Hypervent Singlet
- Bottom: 2XU MCS Run Compression Half-Tights
- Shoes: Nike ZoomX Vaporfly NEXT% 2 (Ekiden)
- Watch: Garmin Forerunner 245 Music
The race conditions were utterly perfect – an overcast day and about 10 degrees Celsius. It was a bit breezy but the entire course is fairly sheltered and it was fairly calm in all the exposed areas.
I said hi to /u/halpinator at the start line and took down my first gel before the gun went off. My plan was to settle in around 6:40 - 6:45 per mile and hope that it feels easy. I figured 2:57 is the best goal pace as a compromise between 2:59 (my real goal) and 2:55 (what I though I was capable of).
I mentally rehearsed my race mantras as they sang the Ukrainian and Canadian national anthems:
- Miles 1 - 10: Relax
- Miles 11 - 18: Restraint
- Miles 19 - 22: Refocus
- Miles 23 - 26: Rage
Mile 0 - 10 - “Relax”
6:36, 6:37, 6:39, 6:38, 6:44, 6:42, 6:40, 6:40, 6:34, 6:30
The first 11 miles of the marathon course are the same as the half-marathon course, so I ran most of this with a couple half-marathoners. Marathon pace felt absolutely effortless. I could easily talk and every stride felt smooth.
I chatted with a runner from Saskatoon who was a bit of a local running celebrity. He knew a lot of people who we crossed paths with on the out-and-back section. He talked about the course and about trying to go sub-3, and gave me some pointers about the latter half of the race.
I told myself that I wouldn’t run faster than 6:40 in the first 18 miles of the race. That went out the window in the first mile. I ran almost entirely by feel and by occasionally checking the lap pace on my watch. I decided that my new strategy was that I couldn’t run faster than 6:30 until mile 22.
I also missed my first gel at mile 4. I took it at mile 5 instead, then my second at mile 8. I grabbed Gatorade from every aid station since I didn’t have any discomfort at all in my stomach.
Mile 11 - 18 - “Restraint”
6:31, 6:29, 6:38, 6:37, 6:33, 6:37, 6:33, 6:35
The marathon course splits off from the half-marathon course after mile 11. I knew my time running with people was over. Based on the out-and-back section, I estimated that I was in fourth place. The third place male was within sight by about 400 meters or so, and the first place male was running 2:45 pace based on our brief chat at the start of the race.
There’s a short section of the race that’s on crushed gravel. I wasn’t looking forward to it because it looked fairly curvey, but I kept on pace.
I kept repeating my mantra as I prepared for the hardest part of the marathon between mile 16 and mile 20. Marathon pace just kept coming naturally and I didn’t have to increase effort at all. I took gels at miles 12 and 16 just to stick to the plan. You never, ever skip a gel in a marathon just because you’re feeling good.
By the time I’m on the half-marathon course for a second time, I know that today’s the day. Everything feels like magic. I’m thanking the volunteers. I’ve never felt this good during a race and potentially ever in my life, but it’s just a dumb road running race, right?
Mile 19 - 22 - “Refocus”
6:32, 6:28, 6:33, 6:21
The way the course is setup, you run an out-and-back twice on the half-marathon course. I think the final turnaround was around mile 20.
For every marathon I’ve run, if I hadn’t fallen apart already, I fell apart after mile 18. This part of the marathon will humble you no matter how magical your day has gone so far.
My confidence was through the roof after the final turnaround. I thought briefly about adjusting my plan and just hammering the rest of the race. Almost everyone else who is on their way out to the turnaround looks like they’re 16 miles into a marathon. I’ve been there so many times that I can’t help but feel a bit guilty, but I feel like I’m out for a Sunday jog.
I decided against my brash change of plan, and just kept repeating “refocus” to stay on pace. I just trusted that whatever pace and effort came naturally was right.
Mile 23 - 26.1 - “Rage”
6:28, 6:33, 6:15, 6:23, 5:28 (pace)
If I have a chance to catch the 3rd place guy, it has to be now. But the gap isn’t closing no matter how much faster I run. I don’t have a care in the world, though, because today is about time and not about place. I’m grinning like a madman coming down the final straightway and feeling like I could run 10 more miles if I had to. I can’t resist hyping the crowd up as this is the first time I have any kind of positive energy at the end of a marathon. I’m deliriously screaming as I come to the finish line. After a big windup, I leap across the line with my final fist pump.
Final Time: 2:52:45
The guy who finished first congratulated me with a high five and I stumbled around a bit, eventually finding my medal. I meet up with a few friends who were waiting for me, ring the PR bell, take a few pictures, have some snacks, then plan for the rest of the day.
As for what’s next – I’ll figure that out once I come down from the intoxicating high I’ve been on for the last two days. I expect lots of easy jogging and weekends on the couch are in my foreseeable future.