"You can learn more from failure than success. In failure you're forced to find out what part did not work. But in success you can believe everything you did was great, when in fact some parts may not have worked at all. Failure forces you to face reality."
~ Fred Brooks
It has been a week now, and I have been mulling over what I either did wrong, or what I could have done better. It felt like I had put more work into training than was reflected in a four minute improvement over a flatter course. At some point shortly after my marathon finish, I wondered, "have I simply reached what my body is capable of? Have I reached my peak?" But I don't think that is true. I think I still have room for improvement, it is just that the gains are going to be smaller, and will take more effort to achieve.
I'll start first by saying I am happy with my effort on marathon morning. I enjoyed much of the day and walked away with a PR. Some additional positives - I ran at the pace I planned for the first 18 miles, so I don't think I went out too fast. Additionally, the difference (drop off) between the first and second half of the race was my smallest ever (about two and a half minutes). And according to the results page, over the last eight miles I passed 80 people, while being passed by only 19 (it sure didn't feel that way).
But of course I was hoping to do better, and I always want to learn from my mistakes. After a week of recovery and post-game analysis, I have a few educated guesses.
I was feeling pretty run down during my two week taper, when instead I should have been regaining some strength. The shorter runs weren't any easier, and there was certainly no spring in my step. My 20 mile training runs leading up to the taper were run at near marathon pace, and that may have been a mistake. I may have burned myself out a little bit, or as someone said, "used my race day effort two weeks too early".
I had considered skipping my last interval session before the marathon, but I followed the schedule rather than trusting how my body felt. The schedule isn't written in stone, and I need to trust how I feel. Since I am training with more speed and distance these days, I may want to go back to a three week taper as well. My higher than average heart rate on marathon morning, and the fact that I have been sick since the marathon are other indications of burn out.
It feels like my fueling was off, but I just don't have an easy thing to point to. I was completely out of gas at the finish, and the fact that the Coke made such a difference seems to reinforce that I was low on sugar. I had a light breakfast two hours before the marathon, which I don't do in training, so it would seem I started out better fueled. I took in the same number of gels as I did in training, but drank less of the sports drink. I didn't care much for the taste of the Powerade, but maybe I should have been taking more in anyway. I drank plenty of water, but there are electrolytes in the gels, so I don't think I was overly dehydrated or hyponatremic.
In looking things over, it feels like most of the mistakes were made before I even reached the start line. Preparation rather than execution problems. Try as I might to pinpoint the solution, it looks like it will continue to be trial and error.