Tag Archives: racing

Rev3 Williamsburg Half Triathlon: P. Mark’s Race Report

Choices and Consequences

Going 70.3 miles is always a challenge.  I entered this race knowing that just the day before I had experienced some semi-random leg cramps.  I had made some poor nutrition choices on the drive from Knoxville, TN to Williamsburg, VA on Friday.  My choices had consequences.  I had too much sugar and caffeine trying to stay awake on the drive. I figured that since this was a not a major goal race, I could cheat for just a few hours.  That may be a reason, but I was well aware that it does not constitute an excuse for a poor performance.  Time to buck up and tough it out.  I entered the swim stage of the Williamsburg Half with determination to not let this ruin my day.

Lesson/Reminder:  You can’t outrun a poor diet.

The Swim

I have made very slow progress on my swim over my 2.5 years in triathlon, but it is progress.  I entered the water thinking an average swim time would be fine.  I did not try to push it.  I told myself repeatedly: “Do not race; just get into a rhythm and swim.”  This worked well for me.  I did start to feel a cramp trying to happen in my right calf.  Every time it began to threaten to active, I simply relaxed my leg and started my rhythm anew.  That got me through the swim with an average official pace of 1:54 per 100 meters.  It was a solid start for a B race.  I was happy.

The Bike

The bike course was beautiful!  We went down scenic back roads and the course was mostly flat.  There were a few wrecks, unfortunately.  I was happy to stay healthy and upright.  I did face some minor cramping episodes.  Each time it started, I would relax until it dissipated.  I tried salt, water, food, fancy hydration mixes… none of them helped for very long.  This was not an issue that started in the race.  I don’t know why I thought I could solve it quickly during the race.

In between a few breaks for stretching and a visit to the porta-potty, I was able to keep my moving pace around 19 to 20 mph for a lot of the time.  After a while, my breaks saw a familiar set of people pass me as I stayed there stretching, fueling, etc.  Then I would get on my bike and very gradually pass them again.  It was déjà vu all over again as I took another break and then caught the same athletes.  It was kind of fun.  More importantly, I knew that I was maintaining my overall average pace at the goal of 18 mph.  I didn’t care if I looked good doing it.  The breaks eased my cramping for a while.  I was managing just fine.

The Run

When I started the run, I had in mind to maintain a 9 min pace per mile.  That did not last for very long.  The cramps were catching up with me.  It was hot.  I drank an enormous amount of liquid (by my standards) and never got that sloshy feeling.  I was sweating it out as fast as I could pour it in.  The first half of the run was solid, but I was getting more crampy.  The second half of the run saw me walking a lot more.  I did not walk because I was tired.  I was not tired.  I had more energy than my body could use.  I only walked when the crampy twitches were about to turn into a full-fledged cramp.  I have dealt with cramps for years, so I know when that moment has arrived.  I would only walk as many steps as it took for that feeling to subside.  It stayed longer each time as the miles went on.  My right hamstring finally locked up with 0.2 miles to go.  I stood for about 45 seconds before my muscle calmed down enough to walk and then jog.  I ended up averaging 10:12 per mile on the run.  That is a full 1:12 per mile slower than the planned pace, but not bad for the heat and my present situation.

The End Results

I finished the whole thing in about 6:05:30.  This was a little slower than my goal of sub-6.

Regardless, this race was a success for several reasons:

  • It was a Personal Best for a half distance triathlon (70.3) by 17 minutes!
  • The swim was solid and a slight improvement.
  • The bike goal of 18 mph was met, a big improvement.
  • I had fun on the run.

Again, this was not a goal race.  My big goal race is the Rev3 Cedar Point Full Triathlon in September.  This was a test.  I failed at nutrition before the race, but the race itself was a solid success.

Enjoy the run!

P. Mark Taylor

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Boston Marathon 2015, My race report

Boston 2015In 2014, I ran my first Boston Marathon.  I had a bad day, taking nearly 5 hours to finish.  It wasn’t just one thing, but a combination of things that slowed me down.  Nerves, time off for a knee injury, getting hit by a car, …  I set out to run as close to 3 hours as possible, but went into survival mode at mile 6.

As I lined up for the 2015 Boston Marathon, I was much more confident.  I had gone injury-free for a year.  My training was going well.  I had created a “NEXT-LEVEL” training program that helped many runners achieve their goals in the last 9 months.  I used a variation of that program.  I was healthy, calm, and ready to get this done.  The weather forecast was cold and wet.  That forecast was showing itself to be correct, so I knew that I should go with my B-Goal.  My A-Goal would be a personal record of around 3:11.  In the cold, wet weather I expected to struggle a bit more, so I set my sites on just BQing (qualifying for a future Boston) by finishing faster than 3:25.

I aimed to start the first mile at 7:30 and then gradually whittle that down to a 7:10 pace by the halfway point.  I did average about 7:20 for the first 3 miles, which fit the plan fairly well.  At mile 12, I was on course with a 7:10 average pace.  That, however, was when I first felt a cramp coming on.  My left hamstring twitched during one stride and I slowed just a bit.  I made a quick stop at a port-a-potty during mile 13, but I was still very close to the goal pace for the first half.

I spent the second half of the race managing the cramps.  I never went into a full cramp.  I know what it feels like when I am about to cramp.  I know how to ride that line, going as fast as I can without going into a full cramp.  I discovered a relationship between the timing of these “pre-cramp twitches” and when I took in calories.  I stopped fueling at that point and drank only water.  I took in as much water as I could without stopping.  I soon found out how much was too much.

From that point on, I used pace and water to manage my conditions to avoid cramping.  I knew that I would not get a personal record, but I was still as a good overall average.  If I allowed myself to slow down just a little each mile, I would still keep the average under the time I needed to come in under 3:25.  With each uphill, I reminded myself that it was okay to slow down.  With each downhill and flat, I reminded myself that it was safe to press the pace just a tiny bit.

By the time I reached the 25 mile marker, I knew that I could run a 9 minute mile the last 1.2 miles and still be under my goal time.  Still, I pushed as hard as I could without cramping.  Then I saw that beautiful sign: “Hereford Street.”  I was still on pace and had two turns to go.  Right on Hereford, left on Boylston, and on to the finish!

I can’t tell you that I passed anyone on that last stretch.  Maybe I did.  Maybe I didn’t.  I didn’t care.  I had just spent the last 26 miles with thousands of others runners, but I was only racing one the entire time.  The race was against my limitations.  I had pressed my limits and managed my resources to get the most out of my body.  In the race against my limitations, I won.  I finished in 3:23:39.

The Real Story

This race was not won on emotions.  This race was won by suppressing the emotions and staying focused.  In particular, I won the race against my limitations because I had stayed in tune with my body.  I ignored the crowd.  I kept a laser-sharp focus on the road 20-30 feet ahead of me.  I felt every muscle and mentally went through a checklist of every body part in an ongoing scan.  When I did get emotional, I talked myself down and re-focused on doing my best in that moment.  I did what I needed to do to get the best possible performance.

 

My story is one of overcoming obstacles, overcoming past performance, and overcoming my own fear of failure.  I did this by staying focused over the last year and staying focused during the race.  After the race, I shivered wildly.  I realized just how cold and wet I had been for the last 3 hours.  I shivered and shook all the way to Boston Common, when I could finally stand in a heated place long enough to regain control of my hands.

That is when it hit me.  I did it.  I beat Boston.  I had come back to the course that defeated me last year and I was triumphant.  I BQed at Boston.  In fact, there was now only one marathon course which I have run, but not had at least one Boston qualifying time.

As with most races, the first thing I did is set my sites on the next big goal.  I had run my first 2 marathons at Knoxville.  I have BQed on every course after that. [not always on the first try, but eventually].  I think it is time to return to the Knoxville Marathon next spring so I can reach 6 out of 6.  If I can run under 3:25, I will have qualified for Boston at least once on every marathon course I have ever run.  That sounds pretty good.  Challenge accepted.

What Did I Learn Between 2014 and 2015?

A)  As an introvert, I need a plan to deal with the noise and distractions.

Many runners are encouraged by all of the fans, signs, and noise.  I, on the other hand, am an introvert.  I had to learn to drown it all out.  If you look at my photos, I am always looking slightly down at the ground about 20-30 feet ahead of me.  I was busy tuning out of the crowd and tuning into how I was feeling.

B)  I need to run my own race.

I was well aware that the people in my corral all had about the same qualifying time as I did.  That does not, however, mean that we can expect to run the race together.  Some will go out too fast for me.  Some will be going too slow.  I take the uphills slower than most of that same group of runners.  I make up for it on the flats and downhills.  If I had tried to stay with the equally capable runners that I started with, I would have charged the hills too fast and faded early.  In fact, there were only a few instances when I stayed with a group of specific runners for more than 20 seconds.

C)  I belong here.  I can do this.  I need to remind myself of that.

You have to qualify for Boston.  Most marathon runners don’t.  Despite the fact that I had already qualified for Boston on four different marathon courses, I still had my doubts.  Last year’s struggle did a lot of damage to my self-image.  Throughout this year’s race, I had to give myself positive affirmations:

“Just because they start out fast, doesn’t mean they are faster than me.”
“This pre-cramp feeling is just a sign.  I will deal with it and keep moving at a strong pace.”
“I am still on pace for a BQ.  I have this.  Keep pressing the limit.”
“I can average a 9 minute pace this last stretch and still get a solid BQ.”
“Yes, this is a slight uphill, but the finish is just around this corner.  You can keep pressing the pace.”

D)  I can still get faster and stronger while only running 3 days per week.

I had been doing my NEXT-LEVEL” training program and it had prepared me for the challenge.  I typically run 3 days a week, ride my bike 2 or 3 days per week, swim once every other week, and do a lot of strength training.  In the year between the 2014 and 2015 Boston Marathons, I gained 10 pounds and became a stronger runner.

I praise The Lord for helping me learn these lessons and getting me through this race.

Now on to the next challenge.

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

My Running Form: In Pictures 7/25/2013

 

running form 7_25_2013

Wise Running: The Truth About Cramps

I will tell you two truths about cramping up front and then explain them:

  1. Nobody fully understands all of the reasons for exercise induced cramps.
  2. Since we don’t fully understand the causes, we also don’t know of an ultimate solution.

Electrolytes and Cramping

Most people think of electrolytes as the key to avoid cramping.  If you avoid running low on sodium, potassium, and other electrolytes, then you can avoid cramping, right?  Maybe not.

Research trying to establish a correlation between muscle cramps and low levels of electrolytes in the blood of athletes have shown no significant relationship between these two variables.  This makes it highly unlikely that electrolytes are the culprit for the average runner.  Does this mean that I do not believe in the electrolyte tablets that I am taking?  No.  First, these studies are correlational.  The big limitation of correlational research is that it can’t prove that one variable is the cause, or not the cause, of the changes in another variable.  Hence, we need other kinds of more carefully crafted research before we can negate the possibility that my electrolyte tablets are helping me.stretching

On the other hand, I do believe that it is possible that only some of us need the electrolyte supplements.  I have two things that make my electrolytes lower than they should be:  genetics and eating habits.  Genetically, I have ADHD.  As an ADHD person I am aware that I use up electrolytes faster than the non-ADHD population.  Making matters worse, I have never eaten as many vegetables as I was supposed to consume.  I believe these are the best sources of electrolytes.  I think there is a good chance that if I ate more veggies, my need for the supplements would fade.

Beyond Electrolytes

While electrolyte supplements may or may not help, there are are several other theories about why muscle cramping might occur.  Insufficient fuel on a long run (>13 miles) can mean that your muscles simply cannot work properly.  In addition to proper fueling, cramps can be caused by overdoing it.  If your effort in a race is significantly more than you have done in training, your muscles may not be able to handle it.  Finally, short muscles may contribute to your cramping.  Working one side of your legs much harder than the other side for a long time may cause your muscles to become shorter and tighter.  The imbalance between the sides can cause cramping.

My Recommendations

The fact that there may be many causes for muscle cramping means that you should use a balanced approach.

  • Electrolyte Supplements  – I have not given up on my supplements, but the research definitely calls into question whether the average runner needs them.  When I do use them, I use them primarily as a preventative measure.  In doing that, however, I try to use as little as possible.  Experience is the best teacher.  I started with none and then gradually added some when I had issues during or after the workout.  Over time, I began to understand how much I need.  Electrolyte supplements are not cheap; don’t use them if they don’t help you!
  • Salt Tablets or Packets –  Studies have found that if your are experiencing cramps, one way to halt them is consume table salt.  They found that it the effect it has is to stimulate the brain to stop the leg cramping.  It does not stop because of the sodium, just the salty taste is enough.  Salt, therefore is not a preventative measure.  It is used after the cramps occur.
  • Stay within Your Limitations – Operate at the level of intensity for which you have trained.  Going beyond that can push your muscles too far.  They will rebel!
  • Stretch regularly AFTER exercise – Static stretches before exercise can hurt your performance.  Stick with dynamic stretching and warming up before exercise.  Static and dynamic stretches throughout the day after the workout, however, can lengthen and relax the muscles.  That can reduce or eliminate cramping altogether.
  • Hydration – The current recommendation of experts tend to be to drink to thirst.  This literally means let your body tell you how much to drink and when.  Others still recommend 4- to 6 ounces every 20 minutes.  Just as with the electrolyte supplements, you will have to figure out what is best for you.  Pay attention to how your body responds and learn what it needs for optimal performance.

Electrolyte supplement may or may not be helpful, so make sure you try the other recommendations too!  If you do stretch, stop and relax.  I don’t care if you are in a race.  Until you relax, your cramping is unlikely to subside.  When the muscles calm down, gently stretch and move them.  If you must continue after that, do so gently and paying great attention.  It is better to have a slow race time than to have an injury that will slow you down for months.

Train smart, eat well, and enjoy the run!

wise running logo 7_25_12

 

 

Marathon Nutrition

...about the same time as the last one...

Carrying my calories on a Fuel Belt.

Amy left this note for me on Facebook:

“I was just curious if you had any tips or blogs or any help on nutrition for running a marathon! I ran my first Marathon about a week and a half ago. It did not go to well, I got really dehydrated and hit the wall fast, after that ! 17-23 turned into the death zone! Anyway I did train but my stomach is just not that good and cramps a lot! So it is hard for me to drink a lot and eat much of anything while I run! Also I lost weight training which is okay but I do not want to lose weight again! I am going to start my training up again in June for the Chicago Marathon. I would just like to feel good while I run and I know the key to this is nutrition! Distance wise I felt I was prepared! I am pretty sure I did not eat enough food before, looking back now! So if you have any pointers, info, book whatever I would love to hear it!! If it matters I do not run to fast but would love to pick it up for next Marathon! However not feeling like death would be great !!”

Amy, you are not alone!  When I first started running marathons, I didn’t even like to drink on the run.  The idea of drinking 4-6 ounces of every 2 miles seemed crazy.  That is one of the reasons that I had trouble starting at about mile 17 on my first marathon as well.

Marathon Nutrition is a tricky thing.  For most of us, our bodies will begin to run out of resources somewhere between mile 15 and mile 17 if we are not careful before and during a marathon.  I will split the nutrition advice into three stages: training, tapering, & race day.

Nutrition During Training

Before I get specific about foods and supplements, let me make one comment about weight loss.  Marathon training means an increase in weekly mileage and a gradual increase in the distance of your weekly long run.  As your mileage increases, your need for nutrition increases.  As a result, marathon training is not very compatible with weight loss.  You need more carbs during marathon training, not fewer.

As for the specific foods to eat to maximize the benefits of your training, the answer is simple: eat healthy.  Instead of cutting back on food to get healthy, you should be changing the kind of food that you eat.  As with any time, you need a balanced diet.  You also need to eat less and less processed foods while increasing the amount of simple natural foods.  Dietician Cassie is always talking about striking a balance at each meal with PFC: protein, fat, and carbohydrates.  In marathon training, it is still ideal to balance these three, with an increased emphasis on carbs.  While carbs are the focus in the last days of the taper, you must keep eating healthy fat and a good amount of protein at each meal.  Here is my blog post about protein for runners.

Some folks, including me, need a little extra help from supplements during marathon training.  I need extra the electrolytes offered through capsules, tablets, drinks, & powders.  I mostly stick with Endurolytes Capsules from Hammer Nutrition.  Each electrolyte supplement has different directions to follow.  Personally, I need more than the average person.  I know that I need more electrolytes when my leg muscles are twitching a little bit while I am relaxing after my workout.  Finding your electrolyte balance during  training & especially on your long runs can save a great deal of pain and cramping during the marathon!

Nutrition During the Taper

The taper is usually about two weeks of gradually lowering your mileage and effort as you approach the marathon.  Nutrition for most of the taper period is no different from during the rest of training.  It is normal and healthy to gain a few pounds, especially during the last week before the marathon.  Your body knows what is coming and is storing energy, electrolytes, and water.  This weight gain is good.  You will use it all during the marathon, I promise!

In the last 48 hours before the marathon, you will no longer stick to the protein/carb/fat balance that you normally consume.  You will gradually reduce your intake of protein and fat while increasing your healthy carbohydrates.  You also want to shift towards carbohydrate sources that have less fiber.

Jeff Galloway makes the following suggestions:

  • Rules:
    1. Don’t try anything new.
    2. Go through the same schedule and foods that worked for you in training.
    3. If you hear sloshing in your stomach, you don’t have to drink for the next 30 minutes.
  • 24 hours and before: Plenty of liquids all day long, especially electrolyte fluids. Before marathons you can eat extra carbohydrates.
  • 18 hours before race: Start eating small meals, every 2-3 hours. Keep drinking fluids. After lunch, cut out red meat, fried foods, dairy products, fats, nuts, and roughage.
  • 12 hours before race: Don’t overeat. Only light, digestible foods like energy bars, bread, small sandwiches, which you’ve tried before long runs and races. Keep drinking water and electrolyte fluids. Avoid salty foods.

Nutrition on Race Day

Before a marathon, you need to have a substantial number of calories in the morning.  One expert suggests consuming enough easy-to-digest carbs to provide 200 calories for each hour you are awake before the race.  Keep it simple.  Avoid fat of any kind on race morning.  Whatever you eat that morning, get it in your body about 3 hours before the start.  As the start approaches, shift to your race fuel.  (gels, sports drink, …)

Water mostly, with some electrolyte fluid, in small, regular amounts.  Cold water is absorbed quicker. I recommend 6 oz. every hour, 8 oz. on hot days.  If you want Vitamin C, take it two hours or more before the race.

DURING the marathon is even more complicated.  For a half marathon, most just need one or two gel packets to make it through.  There are mathematical formulas involved in the calculations for marathons and other races longer than the half marathon.  At 160 pounds, I know I personally have to consume around 1,100 calories through gels and sports drinks along the marathon route in order to avoid running out of energy.

Here is what Lucia Mahoney from FitBodyNutrition says about fueling during the marathon:

  • under “normal” conditions, the average runner needs 16-32 fluid ounces per hour of exercise. For best absorption, drink 1/2-1 cup of fluid every 15-20 minutes. You will require more on very hot or humid days.
  • for every pound you lose on a run, 2 cups of water are required to replace.
  • 1 pound of sweat = loss of 500 mg sodium (the equivalent of 1/4 tsp of salt)
  • dehydration will increase body temperature, reduce blood volume and thereby weaken muscular endurance and strength. Result —-> you slow down
  • your gel or sports drink should include electrolytes; studies show that ingesting electrolytes (remember: sodium, magnesium, calcium, potassium) during the run will improve performance and help delay fatigue. Electrolytes are important for muscular contraction and for optimal absorption & retention of fluids
  • **how much do you need?** Carb intake during prolonged exercise should be approximately .5-1.0 grams per kilogram of body weight per hour. A 165 lb (or 75 kg) athlete would therefore need 37.5-75 grams per hour. That is equivalent to 2-3 gels or 1-2 gels plus 8-20 ounces of sports drink per hour (most gels contain 20-25 grams of carbs and sports drinks contain 12-14 grams/8 oz)
  • important: each gel must be taken with 8-10 ounces of water (not sports drink) to promote absorption and avoid gastrointestinal distress

Remember This:

Start your eating and drinking within the first mile or two.
If you start your fuel and water intake after 2 miles,
you may have already ruined your marathon.

Be careful to consume enough of everything your body needs to succeed at the task that you are asking it to accomplish.

Train hard, eat well, & enjoy the run!

_____________

Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

 

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

 

 

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Race Report: 7 Bridges Marathon 2012

It has been a while since I have blogged.  I have been overwhelmed by life issues – especially the change to a gluten-free diet.

The Months Before the Race

While this post is a race report about the 7 Bridges Marathon 2012, I have to give you some background first.  Back in April of this year, I had an unexpected DNF (did not finish) at the Knoxville Marathon.  I was ill on and off for months after that.  I was able to finish a couple of races well, but I faced fatigue issues.  These fatigue issues would not allow me to train at tempo pace.  It also kept me from completing runs over 10 miles.  I finally forced myself to try runs of 12 and then 15 miles.  Based on my fitness level, I should have easily run the long runs at a 7:45 pace.  These two runs were done at a 9:10 & 9:30 pace respectively.  Not good for a guy wanting to run a 2:59:00 marathon!

I went to 3 doctors who ran blood tests, ultrasounds, and a CT Scan.  Finally, I was diagnosed with gluten intolerance.  In hindsight, I now understand that I have been ill since January or February, way before my DNF.  It just wasn’t bad enough for me to notice until April.

By the time I was diagnosed, I had only 6 weeks heal from this gluten issue before the 7 Bridges Marathon.  I managed to get in two 20 mile runs, the first at a 8:20 pace and the second at a 7:56 pace.  Unfortunately, I was cramping towards the end of all of the long runs as a result of a calorie deficiency.  I was on a very restrictive diet and I just couldn’t eat enough calories.

The good news is that I could run for several miles at tempo pace again.  Hence, I could run fast effectively, but I could not run far effectively.  My only hope of running a great marathon was if my system could heal a bit more through the time of the taper.  Unfortunately, there was no way to know just how healed I was by race day.

I knew I could manage running at around a 7:45 pace per mile, but that was not my goal.  If I was able to process my food properly and store enough glycogen, a 6:50 pace was reasonable by all of the predictive models.  As the race day approached, I decided that I would let my body tell me which path to take.  I would start out at a 6:50 pace and stick with it if it felt comfortable & relaxed.

Race Day!

The 7 Bridges Marathon is a nice marathon with only two imposing hills.  After running in Knoxville, having only two noteworthy hills = flat.  The course runs through the city, over seven bridges, and finishes with 8 miles along the scenic Tennessee River Walk.  It starts at 7 am, before the sun comes up.  The weather was perfect for running as it stayed in the 40’s and 50’s for most of the morning.

I approached the starting line focused on the first mile.  Like most runners, I usually start way too fast.  Last year I actually stopped after the first few hundreds meters to stretch and calm down.  This year I managed to keep it mostly under control.  I ran the first mile in 6:38.  While that was a little faster than goal pace, I was able to keep nearly all of my miles in the first half right around that 6:50 goal pace.  I added an extra minute at a port-a-potty in mile 12 and still managed to finish the first half of the marathon in 1:30:59, a 6:57 pace.  I still felt comfortable and relaxed at that point.

I maintained the pace for about two more miles.  Then came the big bridge at miles 15 to 17.  It is about 1 mile from the beginning of the ramp up to the bridge to the crest of the bridge.  It is another mile from the crest of the bridge to the exit off the bridge.  I managed to average around an 8 minute mile pace up the bridge, but had to stop and stretch on the way down the second mile of bridge.  I was beginning to feel the cramps that I felt in training.  Not good.

I slowed down to nurse that cramping, but went into full-on cramping in my right hamstring during mile 18.  It was much like the experience in Knoxville 6 months earlier.  This time, however, I was used to it.  I knew what to do.  I stopped and waited for the worst cramping to subside.  I relaxed, I stretched just a bit, and I jogged on to finish mile 18 in 10:50.  I managed it well enough to run a 7:44 pace for miles Miles 19 and 20.

More importantly, I stayed calm.  I knew I could still manage to beat my PR of 3:27:27 that I ran on this course last year.  I also knew that the toughest part of the course lay ahead at mile 25.  I had to keep managing to run as fast as I could without causing the full cramps to emerge again.  In miles 21 through 24, I gradually slowed a bit more with each mile.

By the 24 mile marker, I was confident that I had at least eked out a PR.  I just had to carefully survive the last two miles.  (the last 0.2 is downhill)  I ran miles 25 & 26 at a 10 minute pace.  During these two miles I was careful to distribute my weight purposefully relying on different muscles.  Form was no longer about speed, but survival. And survive I did.

Results

I forgot to stop my Garmin when I finished so I had to wait a while to find out the exact time.  Officially, I finished the 7 Bridges Marathon in 3:22:44.   That is a personal record by nearly 5 minutes.  At my age, it also qualifies me for Boston for the first time.  :)

3:22:44  (personal record & Boston qualifier)

32nd Place Overall

1st Place in 45-49 Age Group

What I have Learned

You should learn a little something from each race you run.  In this year’s 7 Bridges Marathon, I learned that I still have a lot of healing to do from this gluten issue.  I also learned how to run through a cramp problem and still do fairly well.  Finally, I learned that I am a tough son-of-a-gun.

What’s Next

My next race is the Secret City Half Marathon on November 18 in Oak Ridge, TN.  My next marathon is the Shamrock Marathon in Virginia Beach, VA on March 17.  The P in P. Mark Taylor stands for Patrick, so it should be my lucky day, right?  I hope so, because I will be aiming for a 2:55.  If my gut has healed and the weather is good, I should have a very good day.  Until then, I will stay on my new gluten-free diet and train hard.

Train hard.
Race easy.
Happy Running!

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The Gift of Running,by P. Mark Taylor, is now available in both paperback & e-book

Paperback Version – Amazon.com $9.00

Ebook Version – Kindle Store $2.99

Ebook Version for Nook $2.99

Funny and Inspiring Running Quotes

“Most people run a race to see who is fastest. I run a race to see who has the most guts.”  — Steve Prefontaine

“Runners are the ultimate celebration people. Running is just so intense, you’re really experiencing life to the fullest.” — Bill Rodgers

“Jogging is very beneficial. It’s good for your legs and your feet. It’s also very good for the ground. It makes it feel needed.”   — Charles Schulz

“You have to forget your last marathon before you try another. Your mind can’t know what’s coming.”   – Frank Shorter

2 women laughingThe only reason I would take up jogging is so that I could hear heavy breathing again.   – Erma Bombeck

“I used to jog but the ice cubes kept falling out of my glass.” –David Lee Roth

“So much in life seems inflexible and unchangeable, and part of the joy of  running and especially racing is the realization that improvement and progress can be achieved.”  — Nancy Anderson

“Motivation is what gets you started. Habit is what keeps you going.”  — Jim Ryun

“We all have those days, weeks, months – just keep running through it & you’ll come out the other side!”  — Jenn Bacile

___________
Start your own nutrition business for less than $3,000!
___________

“Most people never run far enough on their first wind to find out they’ve got a second.”  –William James

“Build step by step. Push yourself, but not too hard. Learn. Keep it fun.”  –Matt Fitzgerald

“Running is real and relatively simple…but it ain’t easy.”  – Mark Will-Weber

“We can’t all be heroes because someone has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.”  –  Will Rogers

“It’s very hard in the beginning to understand that the whole idea is not to beat the other runners.  Eventually you learn that the competition is against the little voice inside you that wants you to quit.”   –   George Sheehan

“There are clubs you can’t belong to, neighborhoods you can’t live in, schools you can’t get into, but the roads are always open.”   – Nike

“I’ve always felt that long, slow distance produces long, slow runners.”   – Sebastian Coe

“Why aren’t you signed up for the 401K?”
“I’d never be able to run that far.”        – Dilbert

“Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must move faster than the lion or it will not survive. Every morning a lion wakes up and it knows it must move faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve. It doesn’t matter if you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up, you better be moving.”   – Maurice Greene (attributed to Roger Bannister  shortly after running the first sub-4 mile)

Finland has produced so many brilliant distance runners because back home it costs $2.50 a gallon for gas.   – Esa Tikkannen, 1979

There are as many reasons for running as there are days in the year, years in my life.  But mostly I run because I am an animal and a child, an artist and a saint.  So, too, are you.   Find your own play, your own self-renewing compulsion, and you will become the person you are meant to be.   – George Sheehan

If God invented marathons to keep people from doing anything more stupid, the triathlon must have taken Him completely by surprise.   – P.Z. Pearce

The difference between a jogger and a runner is an entry blank.   – George Sheehan

“There ain’t no shame looking at a good runner’s back. Now, if the runner sucks, that’s something else entirely… “The Rage, Training Tips “Comeback”

“No doubt a brain and some shoes are essential for marathon success, although if it comes down to a choice, pick the shoes. More people finish marathons with no brains than with no shoes.” – Don Kardong

“There will come a point in the race, when you alone will need to decide. You will need to make a choice. Do you really want it? You will need to decide.” – Rolf Arands

“Most mistakes in a race are made in the first two minutes, perhaps in the very first minute.” – Jack Daniels, Exercise Physiologist and Coach

“Why aren’t you signed up for the 401K? I’d never be able to run that far.” – Scott Adams, Dilbert (4/2/01)

“If you can’t win, make the fellow ahead of you break the record.” – Unknown

“Hills are speedwork in disguise.” – Frank Shorter

“Run like hell and get the agony over with.”  –  Clarence DeMar

“If you run 100 miles a week, you can eat anything you want – Why?    Because…
(a) you’ll burn all the calories you consume, (b) you deserve it, and (c) you’ll be injured soon and back on a restricted diet anyway.”  –  Don Kardong

“Your body will argue that there is no justifiable reason to continue.  Your only recourse is to call on your spirit, which fortunately functions independently of logic.”   –   Tim Noakes

“Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing.  You have to make the mind run the body.  Never let the body tell the mind what to do.  The body will always give up.  It is always tired morning, noon, and night.  But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.  When you were younger the mind could make you dance all night, and the body was never tired..You’ve got to make the mind take over and keep going.”   –   George S. Patton, U.S. Army General and 1912 Olympian

“My favorite moments are when I pass someone who’s huffing and puffing and all I got are some slightly tired legs” – Troy Streacker

“Aspire to be great instead of good, aspire to be remembered instead of forgotten, aspire to accompish what others have and have not done, aspire to be yourself and nothing else for when you strive to be yourself everything is limitless because you are not holding yourself to the limits of others.” – Troy Streacker

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” – Oprah Winfrey

“Racing teaches us to challenge ourselves. It teaches us to push beyond where we thought we could go. It helps us to find out what we are made of. This is what we do. This is what it’s all  about.” – PattiSue Plummer, U.S. Olympian

“You also need to look back, not just at the people who are running behind you but especially at those who don’t run and never will…those who run but don’t race…those who started training for a race but didn’t carry through…those who got to the starting line but didn’t get to the finish line…those who once raced better than you but no longer run at all. You’re still here. Take pride in wherever you finish. Look at all the people you’ve outlasted.” – Joe Henderson

“The task ahead of you is never greater than the strength within you.” – Unknown

“Today I will do what others won’t, So tomorrow I can do what others can’t”. – Unknown

“Train smart, eat well, & enjoy the run!”  — P. Mark Taylor

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Check out these books by P. Mark Taylor for more advice on running:

The Gift of Running: A Book for Runners & future runners  Wise Running Book COVER mockup

&

Wise Running: Thoughts on Running and Life

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What I Learned from the “7 Bridges Marathon”

Wow.  There is so much to say about this race.

I did  a lot of thinking and analysis before this race.  My previous PR was 3:55:59.  In that race, I began to slow down at about mile 17.  I had run low on energy and electrolytes.  I was also low on water, but I did not understand that at the time.  What I did believe was that I could have run 10 or 15 minutes faster if I had a better nutrition/hydration plan.

The goal I set for the 7 Bridges marathon was to demolish the old PR through what I had learned.  In training, I practiced drinking and nutrition.  I had my fuel belt loaded with Gatorade Pro to drink along the way.  I also dropped by water fountains on the long runs to add more.  I practiced with different gels and foods until I finally settled on Power Gels.  After months of preparation, I believed I had the right amount of everything prepared.

As for time, my training runs had gotten much faster in the month before the race.  I actually ran a 5:21 mile in the middle of a short run.  I managed to hold a 7 minute pace for several short runs.  I had not pushed it so much on the long runs.  I knew that I could hold an 8 minute mile pace for a very long way, but I had not tried it for 20 miles.

Two weeks out, I knew that I had a small chance of qualifying for Boston.  At my age, this would require a 3:25:00 to qualify for the 45-49 age group in the 2013 race.  This was my pie-in-the-sky-lofty goal.  If the wind was at my back the whole way AND I actually had the right nutrition/hydration plan, then I could reach this lofty goal.

Not wanting to be too unrealistic, I set one other goal.  My I-would-be-happy-with-this goal was anything in the 3:30’s.  Anything slower than that would be a dissappointment.  I had already finished 2 marathons.  I already went sub-4.  I was getting faster.  I needed to at least reach the 3:30’s.

My race plan:

Hydration: My fuel belt was loaded with Gatorade Pro & I would drink water periodically along the way.

Nutrition:  I had 5 packets of Power Gel with caffeine.  The calories in the Gatorade added to this.

Electrolytes:  The Gatorade and Power Gel both had electrolytes.  I also took Endurolytes before the race.

Pace:   I actually wrote the following info on the palm of my left hand in permanent marker…

5      0 :35
10   1:10
15   1:45
20   2:20

I did not actually plan to run 7 minute miles, but I wanted to run faster than 8 minute miles.  For me, it was easier to do the math this way.  My intention was to run as close to that time schedule as possible in the first half and then see how well I could hang on in the second half.  If I could be anywhere close in the first part, that meant I could ease up and still have a shot at the lofty goal.

The actual race:

I followed the nutrition/hydration plan very closely.  I paced the Gatorade & gels throughout and had a few drinks of water periodically.  If anything, I drank a little more water than I had planned.

The pace plan started out very well.  I sprinted out a little fast, but then stopped to stretch for a few seconds.  When I rejoined the race, I fell into a steady pace that was just right.  In the first half of the marathon, I ranged from 7 minutes per mile to 7:39.  My time at the half-way point was about 1:37, which is about a 7:24 pace.

I held that for a little while longer but pacing became more difficult.  It was a small race and there were not many people to pay attention to while I ran.  I have a $12 watch from Walmart, so I can’t really tell what my pace is until I pass another mile marker.

By the time I reached the 16th mile marker, a lot of my get-up-and-go had got-up-and-went.  I still maintained around an 8 minute mile pace.  At this point, I was still way ahead of pace to meet my lofty end goal.  In miles 16 to 21, I just sort of floated along the Chattanooga Riverwalk.  This was a really cool scenic area that you should visit some time.  I did not have the same intense focus as before, but I kept checking my watch and my pace was still going to get me there in plenty of time… or so I thought.

By the time I hit the 23 mile marker, I was just happy to still be running.  I knew I had slipped to a 9 minute pace, but I had gained so much time earlier, that I still thought I would be good.  So here it comes…if I can run the last two miles at a 9:30 pace, I would meet my lofty goal and qualify for Boston.  Unfortunately, the gas tank hit absolute zero.  I was draggin myself through the last mile.

As I crossed the seventh bridge, I was 3:23 into the race with less than 1/2 mile to go.  I got most of the way across and I could see the finish line down below me when it hit me.  Every muscle in my legs tried to cramp at the same time.  I stopped, relaxed as much as I could, and mustered the strength and composure to jog the last bit.

I realized that I had missed my lofty goal, but I was still exceeding my happy goal.  Given that, it was easier to relax and enjoy the scenery of downtown Chattanooga.  Once again, I saw the smiles on the faces of the people cheering.  I saw the cool little shops that I passed along the riverfront.  As I turned to enter the park for my victory lap, I saw various runners and families hanging out in the park.

I smiled as I approached the finish line.  I stopped across the line and gave a Hulk Hogan pose.  I went to the snack area and munched and drank.

I was a little light-headed.  I was very tired.  I thanked the volunteers.  I went  for some extra fluids.  I was dehydrated and my blood sugar was a little low.

What happened to my plan?  I followed it.  It almost worked as well as I had planned, but I fell short by about a liter of fluid and several hundred calories.

Post-Race Feelings:

At first, I was angry and generally upset about missing the cut for Boston.  I knew I had run really well.  I knew that I am still basically a rookie because it is only my 3rd full marathon.  Still, I was mad at myself for not getting it just right.  It was difficult to stay mad at myself, however, as I reported to my friends and fellow runners that I had beaten my previous PR by almost half an hour.  That rocks!

The results were slow in coming, but I finally heard…

Time:  3:27:27
Place:  21st out of 261 finishers
40-44 Age Group:  5th place

Here are some conclusions that I have come to:

I have been allowing the Boston Athletic Association define excellence.  Qualifying for Boston was the end-all of my existence as a runner.  I had to give up that standard and realize… I had a great race when you take everything into account.  I am excellent.

There were a few other minor things learned from this experience but here are the big 2…

My new guideline:

Excellence as a runner is defined by you. You set goals. As you reach them, you excel. The more it happens, the more excellent you are.
My new hydration/nutrition strategy:
Get so much faster than “goal pace” that frequent breaks for consumption (or elimination) will be of no concern.

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I believe that with these 2 new guidelines in place, I will be able to enjoy the races more and continue to push & excel.

I have set new goals for myself.  As I seek them, I am determined that I will continue finding the joy in running while training AND racing.

Happy Running!