October 30, 2015

Analyzing my Marine Corps Marathon

The week following a marathon is usually a time for reflection and celebration. This week has been no different. Danielle and I have talked about our races, dissecting various elements of them. My diet has been 90% junk food following the race. (In full disclosure, my tummy has been hurting so I think I'm going to fast track back to healthy food.) I have always tried to take lessons from each race, but definitely marathon races. Given the fact that the training cycle is significantly more intense and longer in duration, marathon races feel as though there is more on the line.

Goal Review
Before I jump into the specific analysis and lessons learned from my race, I figured it would be helpful to review the goals I established for myself.
Outcome (time) Goals: Final time of 4:36.36 which beats my first Marine Corps Marathon time of 4:38.52, so my C Goal was achieved. I knew early on, probably around mile 12 or so that a PR would be very tough that day.

Goals for the journey
1. Have fun: Done! I high-fived spectators, thanked the Marines, and enjoyed the race weekend with a fantastic friend and my family.  Despite the moments of pain and tears shed during the race, I still had fun!

2. Enjoy the camaraderie of Team Fisher House: I made a few friends throughout the weekend, including one during the race. I loved the Team Fisher House cheer stations on the race course.

3. Regain my marathon confidence: Yes! While it wasn't necessarily in the fashion that I had hoped, i.e., obtaining a new PR to eclipse the Richmond Marathon from that spot, I really feel like I turned a corner with the way I approach marathon races. I ran with an open heart, soaking in the journey more so than I ever have.

4. Soak in the race: I probably didn't do this quite as well as I had hoped and that is largely due to the fact that I hurt a lot. Simply for that reason, I forced myself to focus on specific things rather than just taking in the course. But regardless, my focus wasn't narrowly on a time-based performance so I think this was a success.

Lessons Learned
Like I mentioned in my race recap, I feel good about this race but there are a few things that I need to take note of for future races. I realize that this content is largely about me but hopefully it might trigger something that you learned yourself and how you addressed it at a future race. I'm always eager to learn how others addressed challenges.

- I was generally somewhat under-trained for this race. When I was dealing with my challenges at work and ensuing stress over the summer, my weekday runs were pretty lackluster. They were generally very short (3-4 miles) and I was simply running just to log the miles. Even though I hit the long runs, I know this had to have impacted the overall training efficacy.

- My training cycle was pretty short at just 18 weeks. My baseline mileage was very low so I was forced to ramp-up my longer runs rather quickly. I knew this going in and was highly conscious of doing this in an intelligent manner so as not to get injured. Reflecting on this again, it's somewhat of a miracle that I was able to do two 20 mile training runs despite the time constraints.

- My hill training was much stronger this training cycle. I was diligent about completing one hill workout each week on the treadmill at the gym. And while they were generally my least favorite workout, I made sure they got done. My body was definitely prepared on race day when the hills did not wreck my legs.

- I was really thirsty at several points during the race. My Mom commented that this also happened at Richmond Marathon. For future marathons, I may consider wearing a hydration belt or vest to supplement the course water stops. I've always been a heavy sweater and during races, this clearly impacts me.

- If I run another marathon, I think I would like to work with a coach for a more detailed training approach and for some help with speed work.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from a marathon? Do you have recommendations for a good hydration vest?


  1. Ahh, now that I've finally written my race recap I have a post like this coming soon! I agree with you in that overall I had a great race experience, but I do have a lot of takeaways from this race to learn from.

    Given the situation you were in (wedding planning, stressful work schedule, etc.) your marathon training was great! I think it would be interesting to work with a coach during a training cycle, I bet it would be really insightful - I always have trouble sticking to training plans, so maybe that would help me.

    If you happen to find a good belt/ vest let me know, I really need a new one! I've been considering the OrangeMud ones.

  2. I have been trying to incorporate more hill workouts into my training as well. I think that really helped during my trail race this past wkend. And will help me with the 50K coming up. I have the orange mud hydration pack which I like. Also I heard that the hydration vest by Jenny collection from ultimate direction, specifically made for women is really good as well.

  3. I need to go back and read your recap! I think it's good to reflect on your races and know what you can change the next time around. I'm constantly working on my mental game!

  4. Love that you are looking back on your race and dissecting it! That's a great way to improve. So proud of you girl!!!

  5. Sounds like you've learned a lot from your MCM experience. I too tend to get very thirsty while running, and never depend solely on the water stations. I'd rather be safe than sorry by carrying my own water with me.

  6. Ha, I've totally succumbed to junk the last week too! I ate ramen and chips with dip for dinner TWICE last week. What is that?! Ah well; just gotta regroup. :)

  7. I am also a heavy sweater and will sometimes get cramps. I use SaltStick capsules. They really seem to help. I have a Camelbak Lite. It is extremely comfortable but unfortunately adds weight. Congratulations on a great race!

  8. Loved reading your recap and this, Christine! Team Fisher House had the BEST cheer stations. I loved running by them, even though I wasn't on the team :) I love my Nathan's women's 'Intensity' hydration vest. I ordered mine via Amazon, but I've seen them in running stores too. I wore mine for training and last year's MCM race day and this year's MCM. I'm pretty particular and this one doesn't bother me at all. It also has a great pocket for your phone so it doesn't weigh down your skirt. I'm off to read some of your Wine and Dine recaps. I'm doing that one for the first time, next weekend!

    1. This is from Jenny Paxton @jennyelmore - Not sure why it didn't publish my name :)

  9. I love my CamelBak Dart. I would suggest investing in one, I think they are amazing.

  10. All good insights!! I love my Ultimate Direction Jenny Ultra Vesta, although I didn't wear it for the race because I have been having some back issues, but I love it. I would definitely recommend working with a coach. I loved mine and he helped me get a 15 minute PR which was huge. After talking with my coach after the race he told me that he thought my mental attitude going into the race probably hurt me. I was totally stressing about my goal and my calf issue and he said that when you are stressed your hormones can get out of whack and effect your muscle function which I thought was interesting and didn't even think of that. Also standing in line for an hour before hand didn't help. My mental atittude was fine on race day, so not sure what happened. As far as the junk...OMG, for like 4 days after I couldn't stop eating everything in sight!!