Will I Run a Sub 4 Marathon?

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I finally ran my last pre-marathon long run, and am now starting to taper off before the big day. Ordinarily I would feel great, on a high from the run and from reaching this point in my training.  Instead, I am physically wiped out and am feeling very uneasy about the upcoming marathon. Until Friday my training had been great. I’d felt faster, stronger and lighter than ever and have broken a couple of personal records along the way. But my last run did not go at all as I had hoped.

I left home at 5:30am on Friday morning and started off at the slow pace I had planned for the first 2 miles (I decided to plan the run out as if it were the marathon). After a quarter of a mile my heart rate shot up to 175, but was back down to normal half a mile later. This happens to me sometimes and I’ve had very good runs that started like that. Everything seemed fine, so I stuck to my plan and held myself back when I felt the urge to speed up- one of the more important lessons I’ve learned running long distances. But then suddenly, after 12 miles, my heart rate jumped up into the 170’s.  I tried slowing down but it didn’t help.  I continued running, of course, but felt it harder to keep up the pace. Being worried didn’t help. I checked my blood sugar a couple times during the run and it was fine – 160 and 190.

My heart rate dropped back down at around 18 miles but seemed to be quite erratic going to 190 and then 120. The weirdest thing was that it jumped up to 190 when I stopped to drink. By the time I had run 20 miles I felt like I was hitting the wall, slowing down and feeling a lot like I did ate the 20 mile mark in the Tiberias marathon last year. It was the first time I’d felt this way since that marathon, and I was (and still am) quite upset.

I knew I wasn’t in top form this week. After running a decent tempo run on Monday following last weekend’s half- marathon, I spent Tuesday feeling lousy. It seems every time Adam, my one-and- a half -year-old, has a virus I get  a “light” version of it. So Tuesday’s run got delayed to Wednesday and instead of a 7.5 mile progression run, I ran an easy 6 miles which did not feel too great.

I had planned on resting two days before the run but figured it wasn’t such a big deal if I didn’t. On Thursday (the day before the run),  I did everything wrong. I planned to load myself with carbohydrates by having a good lunch and an early dinner (6:00PM) and to go to sleep at around 10:30pm. Instead I didn’t have much of a lunch and ate dinner at 9:00pm, loading up with carbs and insulin. I didn’t get to bed until midnight (but I did have a very nice phone interview with Charlie Kimball at 10:00pm my time… to be published tomorrow!).

Sleeping, something I am usually very good at, did not go so well either. Because I ate dinner so late (with all those carbs – sweet potatoes) I set an alarm to go off an hour after going to sleep  so I could   check my BS. After that I found myself waking up every hour either because I was nervous or because one of our cats was howling (This happens most nights but I don’t always wake up from it.) By 4:30am I was up and getting ready to go.

I don’t know if any of this really caused my HR to shoot up and my energy to run out, but I know that the day before the marathon is just as important as the day of the marathon and should be carefully planned out. This is what real athletes do.

There is another side to this. One of the things I’ve come to believe is that all bad runs are followed by good runs and that good runs are many times followed by bad ones. I know this is just a rationalization I have made to try to comfort myself, although it seems to work.  Looking back at the last runs before the Rotterdam marathon and my first Tiberias marathon I can say that both runs were good and left me feeling confident I was just 2-3 weeks away from my first sub 4 marathon (which as you know I did not achieve). So maybe this run will humble me into making sure I do all the things I know I need to do before my next attempt at a sub 4 marathon.

Note: looking back to my pre-Rotterdam final run – I ran 22.5 miles in 3:21. Yesterday’s run took me 3:15 for the same distance. So may be I’m Okay after all.

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