It was after the third or fourth consecutive self-supported half marathon run that I realized I was actually doing training for a full marathon. I had been doing some serious running (and to a lesser extent biking and swimming) over the past two months, coupled with changes in my diet, in the effort to lose weight. My last half marathon run saw me conquer my personal best time set when I was a freshman in high school. I honestly didn’t think that I would be able to do that so quickly, but that’s what happens when you put in the effort and time towards a worthy goal.
This past week, I had been talking to Rae, Felix S. and Felix W. about the possibility of running a self-supported marathon. I had been checking out possible routes, and I found one that would take me past my regular Levi’s Stadium/Highway 237 route to Shoreline Amphitheater in Mountain View. I decided on Friday that I would at least try to run it; up until then, the longest run that I had done was a 15.3 mile run on June 14, 2014. A full marathon would be 11 more miles! Could I do it? Felix W. had no doubt, writing to me in an email:
Awesome, Adam! I have full confidence you can do it! Today will be an exciting day indeed!
My belief was strengthened hearing this from someone who has completed many marathons, centuries, double centuries, and even the Tour Divide. With good thoughts coming my way, I woke up at 5:30 am on Saturday morning to begin my marathon preparations. While eating my morning banana, I assembled my gear for the run.
I debated whether or not to bring my 70oz. hydration backpack or just my regular water bottle waist pack. I knew that there were water fountains at Shoreline Amphitheater, although I didn’t know where exactly. Ultimately, I left the Camelback at home, since (1) I was used to running with the waist pack and (2) I thought that the fit (it was designed for cycling) and extra weight of the hydration pack would negatively affect my pace. Because the water bottle waist belt wasn’t big enough to hold two GU energy gels, two Clif bars, Nuun electrolyte tabs and my iPhone, I also brought along a small fanny pack to hold these items. While I wouldn’t mind having an expensive racing vest like a Nathan Vaporwrap, my makeshift setup ended up working well.
I had two goals for the run. Survive and try to run under 4 hours. This meant I had to keep my pace under 9:09/mile. Leaving the house around 5:45am, I settled into a 9:00/mile pace, plus or minus a few seconds. I consciously had to remind myself to go slow, since I had run my half marathon the weekend before at 7:46/mile. I was counting on conserving enough energy at this slower rate so that I could complete the second half of the run.
I had to wait at a couple of signals (the intersections of El Camino and San Tomas Expressway) on the way to the San Tomas Aquinos Trail. Once there, I would be able to run relatively uninterrupted until I reached the halfway point at Shoreline Amphiteater. The first 6.5 miles were very familiar for me, since it’s the route I do the most. I had set a 45-minute timer on my iPhone, and it starting ringing at 5 miles. That was my reminder to eat my first energy gel of the day. On my recent half marathon runs, I just drank water, but for this long run, I wanted to make sure I was fueling my body throughout the entire run. I washed the salted caramel energy gel down with some water and popped in one electrolyte tab into the remaining 16oz. of water. I then reset the timer to 50 minutes.
At the 6.5 mile mark, I found myself at the Highway 237 underpass. Instead of turning around and heading back home, I turned right towards the Bay Trail and Mountain View. I passed a pack of three runners who looked like they were also on a long training run. Unlike me, they all sported hydration backpacks, a sure sign that I should at least try out mine in the future. The Bay Trail is not paved, and my New Balance Minumus 10v2 Trail shoes held up reasonably well on the dirt and gravel. My New Balance Minimus Hi-Rez shoes had developed holes after only 100 miles and are not designed for trail running; had I run with them on Saturday, I would have turned back at 237 and called it a day.
As you can see in my split times below, my miles times were right on target until Mile 14, when it jumped to 12 minutes. I wasn’t resting, I promise you. I spent several minutes running around and looking for a water fountain at Shoreline! From the 6.5 mile mark, I was being very stingy with the 16oz. of Nuun-infused electrolyte water remaining in my water bottle. I was at empty and starting to get concerned about the return trip until I spied two cyclists hovering around a water fountain!
My prayers answered, my water bottle refilled, and my first Clif bar consumed, I began the 2 hour run back home. Around Mile 18, I found another water fountain that had mysteriously eluded me earlier. Should I do this run again, this extra location will ensure I won’t worry about running out of water. I planned to eat my last gel at the 20 mile mark, but I decided to eat it at this point. I was fearful of hitting The Wall so often experienced by new and veteran marathon runners. I had been running farther and longer than ever before, and my quads and calves were getting noticeably tighter and tired. Still, I never felt the need to slow down my pace until maybe the last mile. The Wall will have to wait for another day!
Once I got to Highway 237, I knew I had 26.2 in the bag. The question was whether or not I could maintain my pace and finish under 4 hours. By now, it was around 9:00 am, and there were many cyclists, runners, and walkers along the San Tomas Aquinos Trail. I’ve been running this route for so many weeks that I’ve started to recognized the same people over and over again. I wonder if they remember me, the guy with the orange hat, white shirt, and long hair?
Roughly four miles later, I found myself on the final stretch. The last mile, especially the last 0.5 miles, seemed to take forever. Any fatigue that I was experiencing was probably more mental than physical; I just wanted the run to be over. Finally, the last two-tenths of a mile passed by, and I ran a little longer to make sure Strava recorded an accurate time. And just like that, I was done!
Did I make it under four hours?
Strava had calculated my estimated time for the marathon was 4:00:06, but I have no doubt that I pulled off a sub-4:00 marathon run; the signals along my regular half marathon route, wandering around Shoreline looking for the water fountain, and re-filling my water bottles easily took up several minutes. My moving time was calculated to be 3:55:28, which translates to a 8:55/mile. I hit my pace goal pretty much on the button!
Rae was tracking my progress throughout the run, and she was at the door when I arrived back home with a finish line ribbon. I was really happy to have finished my first self-supported marathon! I wasn’t ever planning to run a full marathon, having been content with half marathons up until this point. 26.2 miles always seemed like a daunting distance, but honestly now, it really wasn’t that bad. Of course, I wasn’t racing or trying for some unrealistic time goal (i.e. 3:30 or 3:10, which would qualify me for the Boston Marathon). When looking back on my athletic career, I would say the Death Ride in 2007 was harder than running this marathon.
In the past nine weeks, I’ve run six self-supported half marathons and one full marathon. Now, I think I’ll take a short break and focus on shorter runs and improving my speed work. Future goals include breaking 1:40 in the half marathon and 19:28 in the 5K (set in high school). If I ever focus on improving my marathon times, I’d like to break 3:30. which would translate to a pace of 8:00/mile. I can already do that for a half marathon and just have to do it for another 13.1 miles.
I marvel at those runners who average a half marathon every day and those who can pull off sub-3 hour marathons. I currently don’t have ambitions to do that, but you never know what might happen! I feel like my current exercise regimen has set me on a good path, and it’s one that I want to continue running down for the foreseeable future. Tomorrow, I’ll head out for my first run since the marathon. We’ll see where it takes me!
|August 9, 2014||26.4 miles||8:55/mile||3:55:28|
My splits were as follows:
|14||12:14||9:10||Looking for water fountain|
|18||9:32||9:04||Refilling at hidden water fountain|