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Virtual Marine Corps Marathon Race Recap - Sub 3 Hour Goal Achieved... Oorah!

I ran my Virtual Marine Corps Marathon this past Saturday, October 3, 2020. My virtual marathon experience was a unique one in the best of ways. I had the rare opportunity to run in a very small in person race to finish my fall marathon season. I am happy to report that my race went great. I shared a post on Instagram the day after the race. Link to the post here:

Originally the race I participated in, “Boston in the Central Valley,” was scheduled for the weekend of the Virtual Boston Marathon in September. Talley Timing, a local timing company, had set up the race and invited all the Boston Qualifiers in the Central Valley to participate. On the originally scheduled weekend in September, the race had to be postponed due to the terrible air quality from the California wildfires. Many of the runners who had signed up for the event, like me included, found a way to safely complete their Virtual Boston Marathon on the scheduled weekend. Even though I had already run my Virtual Boston Marathon, I was not going to turn down an opportunity to run a real race, even if it was super a very small race.

The race directors took a lot of safety precautions even with only 8 participants on the day of the race. Every runner had to wear a disposable mask to the start line and have a mask in our gear bag to put on when the race was over. There were markers 6 feet apart from the start line that we lined up on before the start of the race. This race only had 8 participants, so it is obviously very easy to social distance, but I think many of these practices can be replicated on a larger scale for other races.

It was always my plan to run the Virtual Marine Corps Marathon in October as my “A” race for the season, so I lucked out that I got to run it at this event. Andrew, the race director and owner of Talley Timing, let me know ahead of time that another runner would be willing to pace me for my sub 3 hour marathon goal. I have heard from countless runners how helpful it is to have a pacer in a race, but it not something I have ever gotten a chance to experience for myself until Saturday. I can now attest to the fact that it is SO helpful! Benny, the amazing runner who paced me, did a great job helping me not go out too fast in the first half of the race. When I was feeling good during the second half of the race and wanted to pick it up, he went right along with me and we kept each other motivated.

The day of the race, the weather forecast was showing the high of above 90 degrees. We started at 6:00am but I knew by the end of the race it would be getting pretty warm. The air quality was also not the best. With those two things in mind, I decided to start the first half of the marathon right at 3 hour pace, about a 6:50 minute per mile and if I was feeling good at halfway, I would start picking it up. I pretty much stuck to my plan. I averaged about 6:45 minute per mile for the first half of the race. When I hit halfway, I was feeling better than I ever had at that point in a marathon. My breathing was still controlled, and the pace felt like a moderate effort. I did not want to get overly excited, but I did start to take the pace down a little bit. Miles 14-20, I was running 6:30’s. When I hit mile 21, I got excited and thought to myself, “There is only 10k to go,” and ran a 6:28 for that mile. That felt a little unsustainable for the for 5 more miles since it was about 87 degrees at that point, so I backed it off a little for the next few miles. When I hit mile 25, I was still feeling really strong and I started to pick up the pace and ran a 6:19 mile split. During the race, I did not even look at my watch because I knew I was just going to run it into the finish as hard as I could. During last mile of the race, Benny knew I had it, so he took off himself and we both raced into the finish. When I saw the finish line, I could read the clock and I knew I was getting close to 2:54:00. I really wanted to get a 2:53:xx so I ran as hard as I could at the point, and I crossed the line at 2:53:52. Here are some photos from the day of the race:

I really surprised myself on Saturday. Going into the race, I felt a little nervous about just being able to go under 3 hours. Once I was out on the racecourse, I have never felt so good during and at the end of a marathon. At my previous 3 in person marathons, I have felt like I am about to collapse, my legs feel shredded, and I am dizzy. I am not sure what made this race different. Maybe it was the training, I just had a good day, or I am getting better at pacing the race, but whatever it was, I am grateful that I am not wrecked this week.

I broke one of the “golden rules” of running leading up to this race by trying something new on race week. I know that is not recommended, but this training cycle has been all about experimenting for me, so I thought why not keep it up until the end? The day before the race, I calculated for the first time exactly how many carbohydrates I should eat to be truly “carbo loading.” After doing some research, it seems the consensus is to consume about 4 grams of carbohydrate for every pound of body weight the two days before a race. That meant, I had to eat well over 400g of carbs the two days before my marathon. That took effort. I generally stay away from sugar and high carb foods day in and day out. I don’t eat low carb per in the traditional sense. Instead, I use carbohydrates more strategically around hard workouts, long runs, and races. While this works well for me in training, I started to suspect that I was not consuming enough before big races. On Thursday and Friday, I was very diligent about tracking the amount of carbs I was consuming, and I made sure I was getting close to that 400g mark. I did not want to my body to “freak out” so I stuck to pretty bland, low sugar carbs and I drank a lot of water. I think the proper carb loading helped my performance on race day. I have never felt so good during a marathon, even with suboptimal weather conditions.

I want to note one side effect of this extreme carb loading in case anyone else tries it; I gained weight overnight. I expected this because I know it is something that happens when you consume more carbohydrates than normal in a short window of time. I want to mention it because I know a lot of runners can get caught up in “race weight” and being the “right” number on the day of a race. I get caught up in this sometimes too. I like to track how much I weigh throughout training and on the day of races because it is a data point, but it is only that… ONE data point. If I had gone into the race unfueled, but weighing less on my bathroom scale, I do not believe I would have run as fast. I know everyone is different, but I want to share my experience in case it helps someone else.

This week I have been taking “training” super easy and focusing on recovery. I would not say I am training but I am moving my body and putting effort into making sure I am recovering properly. The day after the marathon I went for a VERY easy run / walk. I also ran the day after I ran the LA Marathon in March and I feel like an easy run the day after a marathon really helps speed up the recovery process. The start run may not feel great, but a mile in, I can feel the lactic acid start working out of my legs. After the run, I felt better than when I started, so I consider that a win. On Monday, I took a complete rest day and I am just deciding each day when I wake up if I want to run or take the day off.

I know many people hold fast to the rule of taking X number of days off after a marathon, but I think listening to your body is probably the best rule of thumb. I have never felt so good after a marathon as I do right now. I am holding myself back to play it safe, but I am not going to take time off just because of an arbitrary rule. I enjoy going for my morning run every day and if I feel good, I see no reason why I should not go do that.

I am going to continue to take next week pretty easy, but then I plan on starting to train again because…. I was able to sign up for another in person race!! I am so excited. I signed up for a fairly local half marathon called “Judgement Day” Half Marathon. It was just approved to take place with a maximum of 325 runners. My half marathon PB is pretty old, so I am excited to get to see what I have do. The race is on November 15th so my coach will put together a little plan to tune me up for it. Here is a link to the race registration page:

Do you have any year end goals? Are there any races you know of that are still happening in California?

Also, did you enjoy these training updates? Would you like me to share my training again for my next race or stick to more topical subjects in the blog posts? Let me know.

#runwiththemarines #virtuallyunstoppable #bostonmarathon #finishstrong

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