Describe your race day.
All my pre-race preparations went smooth, albeit a little last minute due to work commitments. Bizarrely, my right calf got hurt on my easy 15 minute shakeout on Friday. I nursed it with stretches, rolling, heat and compression. It felt pretty good in the morning.
It was a cool start, with lots of hills at 8000 feet. I took it easy, knowing I could blow the race here trying too hard. As has happened in many of my marathons, the left calf muscle on the front tightened going up the starting hill. When I crested it eased up so, it was still sore, but I knew it would warm up with an easy start. Perhaps in response, my right calf started to grab. At the 6 km mark I was 5 minutes behind my goal average pace for that distance, as expected.
I tried running through the calf soreness but by km 15 I could tell it was about to seize up. Had it been a training run I would have packed it in. But this was a day where I was consciously not obsessing. Rather than trying to nail down exact splits my approach was general: lose 5 minutes early, get it back by running each km close to or under 5:00 per km.
So I committed to getting through this; nothing worthwhile is easy. I babied my calf the rest of the way. Because this was a long downhill, dropping 5000+ feet, I knew I could rely on gravity for the speed, I just needed my legs to catch me and hold me up. I adjusted my stride so I landed on my right midfoot and just rolled off my toes, rather than pushing off, to preserve my calf. It meant my left quad was taking a beating. I took the speed when it was easy. I walked through water stops because even 10 seconds of walking helped my calf. My nutrition plan was flexible and worked perfectly based on how I felt and understanding what I needed. I got some Deep Blue on my calf at mile 21 and it helped.
My sole brain cramp occurred when I reached the final 2 miles. My splits look consistent but they were anything but. I had been gauging my progress by average pace. I knew when I reached 5:05 min/km I just needed to maintain that pace to reach my goal. When I got to 5:04 I had time to spare. When I got to the flat, I looked at my overall time for the first time. I saw 3:21:XX. My foggy brain said less than 4 minutes to run 3 km? Where did I go wrong?
I dug deep because I wanted to go down swinging, but I was pretty pissed off. I was passing people, but I had increased the effort too much, too fast. Soon I had to walk. I had just started running again when I saw the 3:35:00 pace bunny standing at an intersection holding his sign indicating there was room to spare. Duh, my goal was 3:35, not 3:25.
I sprinted the last 1/2 km and arrived in 3:34:03.9. BQ, PR (by 12 min), 5 min negative split, 4th in my age group. And a new mental toughness. Pretty satisfied.
And the scenery was spectacular!