2018 Mt Lemmon Marathon
Published: Nov. 5, 2018, 9:05 p.m.
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!
Did you PR?
Yes, yes I did, by more than 12 minutes. And i am 56 seconds under the BQ time for my age - fingers crossed!
How would you describe the course?
Spectacular scenery. I drove the course the day before and I was concerned that I would waste energy braking on the steeper hills, but no, it was all very manageable. Loved it.
Tell us about your training.
I had a very good training program through Runners Connect. I was better prepared than ever for a marathon. I live in a flat area, so I took the opportunity on a trip through the Rockies to do a 22 km easy run, mostly downhill. It probably was not enough to affect my training, but the experience of running a long downhill at altitude was good for the mental prep. 1 month ago I got a cold and then came back too soon which lengthened the effects - that played on my mind a bit.
What advice would you give future runners?
Go easy at the top, the hills are not killers, but hills at 8000 feet can be. Lots of chance to make the time up on the downhill. Be early for the buses - saw some runners running for the buses in a panic because of the bottleneck to park cars. (You are probably on this, but may I suggest at least - instead of filling the parking field back to front, send 2 cars to the back, 2 to the middle, 2 to the front, etc - should help alleviate the stalled traffic)
I found that as I tired later in the race I increased my effort to maintain the same pace, as usual. But you also have the bonus of descending to a lower altitude where the air pressure is better which helps you maintain the effort.
Layers of disposable clothing for the start of the race. I wore the dollar-store socks as arm sleeves for about 10 miles. The last thing to come off was a thin neck buff at about 20 miles!
Next time I will wear compression sleeves on my calves, both for warmth at the start line and for the support as you stress your legs on the downhill.
What fun things did you do in the area before or after the race?
Chatting with people on the bus and at the start line is great - don't underestimate what an important part of the event that is. The beer tent is great, too. Shame you can't buy another round!
We came from Slave Lake, Alberta (about 3 hours drive north of Edmonton). We are combining this with a vacation where we are sight-seeing, visiting local museums, playing golf, trying local food & beers. After a week in Tucson we will move on to Fountain Hills and do the same, also adding hockey and baseball games.