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The Commentary

The receptacle that catches what falls out of my head as I run.

Seattle RnR Marathon Race Report

Chris Aronchick

Race Information

  • Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon 2016
  • June 18, 2016
  • 26.2
  • Strava

GOALS

GoalDescriptionCompleted?
A3:05No
B3:10No
C3:15Yes

SPLITS

MileTime
13.11:33:47
26.23:14:47
Split +8:00

Training

I had been running at pure MAF going into my last race (Tacoma City Marathon on May 1) as I had considered that a practice for this race. After completing that in 3:11:12, I was optimistic that, with some speed and strength work, I would be able to break 3:05 and really solidify my chances for getting into Boston in 2017 (my BQ time is 3:15).

I ran tempos and intervals on alternating weeks for the 4 weeks prior to my taper, and I had seen my MAF pace drop to around 7:15-7:20, so I was feeling confident.

I had also been experiencing some pain in my right heel, but had been doing a lot of foam rolling both on the foot itself and my lower legs and the pain had subsided, so I thought I was in the clear (foreshadowing!).

Race strategy

Since I had already qualified for Boston, I knew I could be more aggressive at this race. However, I donated blood on WednesdayI not thinking it would make any real difference (as it turns out, I don’t think it did, really; also, the post-donation cookies are damn delicious). When I did a 4-mile training run the next day, though, my time was pretty slow compared to previous runs. After researching a bit and getting help from some runnitors, , I had to rethink my strategy just to be safe.

I had initially planned to go out at around 7:15 (my easy run HR) for 2 miles, then speed up to about 7:05-7:10.

With the blood donation on my mind and BQ in the bag already, I decided to play it safe and keep an eye on my heart rate more strictly so that I didn't over-exert my cardiovascular system. That could mean reducing my pace even if it meant missing out on a PR or my A or B goal.

Pre-race

There didn't seem to be much to note pre-race at first. I got up around 4:50, had some bulletproof coffee and some sweet potato hash browns before driving to the race. Because the race was a point to point race, my friends and I decided to buy parking at the finish, and I would drive us to the start so that we didn't have the stress of having to shuttle it.

Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men …

One friend got into the parking garage no problem. He had been waiting for me for 10 minutes at our meeting place when I arrived at 5:50. My other friend wasn't so lucky. He waited for over an hour to get in and when he finally did at 6:45, we booked it to the start.

So now it's 7:10 and we assumed that the race has already started. When we get to the starting line, though, everyone is still waiting around. Our guess was that, because of the parking/shuttle situation, they delayed the start. In any case, as we arrived they were just starting the wheelchair racers. My buddy and I went to find the porta potties, and by the time we made it back, we got into corral 9 (I was supposed to be in corral 1). I didn't have much chance to stretch or warm up or anything. We started 16 minutes after the gun.

Race

The weather was great and overall the race is well run. There were a couple of water stations that somehow were either undermanned or unmanned entirely, but no other complaints really.

Mile 0-3.

Because I started late, the first 3 miles were all about getting around slower runners. I started pretty cognizant of my heart rate and maintained it pretty well, even though my first mile was 6:50, much faster than I had expected. My second and third were close to my plan. The main issue for miles 1 through 3 is that there is little room to pass. The first mile is on the street on which you can pass on the sidewalk, but miles 2-3 are on an elevated highway with no shoulder and no sidewalk (well, to be honest, there is but it scared the hell out of me), so I was doing a lot of weaving. Once I got past the 5k point, the course opened up a bit more and I could run more evenly.

Miles 4 to 8

[Quick aside: mile 4 runs through the Pioneer Square neighborhood in which there are quite a few homeless shelters. I felt kind of guilty that the racers are a bunch of people who paid $100+ that could have been donated to help the less fortunate, so it reminded me to up my donations for this year.]

I was still weaving through runners, but it did start to thin out a bit more.

At mile 8 the full and half marathons split, and the course opened up entirely. By the time I hit mile 9, I was averaging about 7:07/mile and was feeling good.

Miles 9 to 18

I kept pace for the next 9 miles, but following my blood donation, I was a little concerned about my heart rate. I knew that I didn’t NEED to push myself really hard, and I wanted to be cautious. However, my HRM just refused to cooperate. It just wouldn’t lock onto a realistic number. I assume it was due to water getting between the watch and my arm (I was pouring water over my head at the water stops). When it would tick up to the high 160s-mid-170s, I just knew it was off. It would drop way down as well, and made me think of this clip. I just kept at my pace and used RPE as a guide.

Miles 19

If you look at my Strava, you may think that I hit the wall at Mile 19. I am sad to say that it was much worse than that. At the end of mile 18, the course climbs pretty steeply up to I-90. When I got to the top, feeling good, I saw some of the faster runners heading back across the bridge and passing the 23-mile mark. I did a quick calculation and figured that I had 61 minutes to run 8.2 miles (7:20-7:30/mile). Based on how I was feeling, I was extremely confident that I’d be able to knock that out to the point that I brought karma’s reign down on my head. I started envisioning the triumphant Runnit post that I would author when I got home. At that point, I started to feel a pretty sharp pain in my heel (I assume this is plantar fasciitis). It was similar to what I had felt before, but it usually went away. However, as I kept running, I realized that:

  • The pain was worse than I had been used to
  • It wasn’t going to go away

I crossed the bridge and knew that my gait was severely affected. I tried to figure out how to run with the least amount of pain, and the best I could devise was to land on the outside of my right foot with each step. The pain was still pretty significant.

I have never DNF’d before, but I was very close to quitting at this point.

Also, up to this point, my watch was behind the mile marker meaning that it would tick over AFTER I passed the official mile marker. This was a nice psychological boost for whatever reason because it made me encouraged that the time on my watch had a little buffer. At some point around here, my watch fell BEHIND, so now my watch would tick over to the next mile BEFORE the official mile marker, so whatever my pace on my watch said wasn’t really relevant. Talk about insult to injury.

Miles 20-26

The last 6 miles amounted to a war of attrition. As much as I tried to convince myself that finishing faster meant an earlier end to the pain, I just couldn’t fight through the heel pain as well as the pain and fatigue in my legs. I pushed as hard as I could, but I couldn’t muster much better than high 7s/low 8s. As I kept running, I had to admit that 3:10 was no longer in sight but could still try to beat 3:15. While it wouldn’t be any kind of guarantee to make it into Boston as a 3:10 would, it would still be a BQ technically speaking, and I put a lot of stock in that for better or worse. So I tried to optimize as best as I could. By that I mean that, as I felt my calves, quads, and hamstrings start to feel that familiar near-cramping feeling, I tried to make sure my pace felt even and my stride was as close to optimal as I could make it. There were a couple of moments when my hamstring tried to seize up, but I was able to get past it.

26 to the Finish

I was feeling like 3:15 was still in sight, so I kept pushing ahead. The course goes downhill towards CenturyLink field, but there is a small uphill to go up and over the train tracks. With 0.1 mile to go, you start heading downhill towards the finish. I was passed by a woman who was just flying, and it totally inspired me to dig as deep as I could. So I ran as fast as I could (ended up being around 7:20) and made it home in 3:14:47. Without her, I may have missed it. In a strange pseudo-coincidence, I missed qualifying for Boston last year by 28 seconds, and this year I beat it by 13 seconds (I was a year younger last year).

I can’t figure out whether I should be disappointed by the injury or somewhat proud for fighting through it. I guess it’s a bit of both.

Post Race

The rest of the day I was a miserable, hobbling mess. Walking on any uneven surface was an exercise in stifling swears due to the pain. I took some ibuprofen and tried to roll out my foot, but it was barely effective. Today it’s better. There is still some pain, but it’s much more manageable for sure. Surprisingly, my leg muscles are mildly sore which tells me that my pace was probably just about right (the races in which I’ve turned myself inside out have been met with significant soreness).

What’s Next

Last year, I ran the Skagit Flats Marathon in September, and I think that I’ll do the same this year. Instead of really pushing myself to achieve a BQ as I did last year, though, I’ll try to stick to MAF training to try to continue to make improvements with my base, and take a bit more conservative approach for Skagit Flats. It’ll depend on how my foot feels, but all indications say that it should be back to normal in the next couple of weeks. If anyone has some guidance on remedies for plantar fasciitis, I’d love to hear them.

Thanks for reading!

-MRC

This report was generated using race reportr, a tool built by /u/BBQLays for making great looking and informative race reports.

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To What End - My Running Commentary

Chris Aronchick

I had a meta moment right after my first post (link) which was, if I am encouraging people to examine their motivation around diet and exercise, what is my motivation for blogging?

So, there are 3 reasons - two mostly true, one very true. The first mostly true one is really the ideal, and I don't want to bury it: I would LOVE it if people said that they read my blog and made positive changes regarding diet or exercise because of the words that I wrote. That would be like finding out that I had a super power that I never knew I had. However, just as with wanting to look good in the mirror, it's an external goal. What can I do about it after I put pen to paper and post to various social media outlets? Not much, and as a result, if that is my primary goal, I may ultimately be dissatisfied by not being able to achieve it.

The second reason, again, mostly true, is that writing things down and exposing your ideas to the light of day requires being critical about why you think what you think. How are you supporting your argument to justify your conclusions? If you keep adding pressure to your conclusions, do they still hold water? For my part,I have to concede that I do not have the resources to conduct the experimentation that I would like in order to see with my own eyes the results of experiments, and that will always make my conclusions weaker than those that have stood the test of repeated experiments. Having said that, I believe that if you hear a message consistently and try validating in your own life, reporting on the results has its own merits. Continually performing this exercise gets you better at it, and when I need to think about efforts at work or my personal life (outside of MRC), I can push on my decisions more effectively and feel more confident in them. There is a risk related to exposing your beliefs to the world: being wrong. But I really would welcome competing information that I'd have to validate. Maybe I am wrong about what I think. You know what's wrong with that? Not a thing. Why? Because I'll know more about the subject than I did the day before, and who wouldn't want that?

But the real reason for blogging? I get to express my beliefs in a way that gets them out of my head and into the world. The thoughts that are coming out of MRC having been rolling around in my head for a long while, and it feels good to get them out. You'd be amazed at how long this post has been sitting in draft form since, once it was out of my head, the pressure to release it dissipated almost entirely. In any case, a hope that I have related to that, though it is not one that I count on to feel good about what I post, is that someone may hear my voice on a day that they are receptive to the message, and it has a positive impact on them. I am always amazed when I hear something one day that rings true, even though I have heard that message a dozen times before. That someone put their thoughts out there and I found it on the right day made all the difference, and I hope to do the same here. 

Adding one more voice to the conversation of how to take care of oneself is all to the good. Yes, there are many good resources out there, but that doesn't mean adding another voice is a bad thing, provided that it is well thought out and supported. The analogy that came to mind was firemen at a fire. Is there anything bad about having ANOTHER fireman at a fire? Actually there is. If that fireman isn't actually helping and is causing more problems than he's solving. So, I have to do my best to make sure that what I communicate makes sense, and that I have taken the time to think it through and validate it as much as I can. For my early audience members, I hope you hold me to a high standard of scrutiny.

-MRC