Thursday, January 17, 2013

6.2 things I learned in my first marathon + official race pictures!

I posted my Disney Marathon recap yesterday, and when I posted it I was worried that I would scare people or that it was negative. That wasn't my intent. My goal was just to be real, as I wanted you to get an honest sense of what I experienced in that race. I hope that is what I accomplished. That race was absolutely amazing in the sense that I felt so powerful and strong for running it, but I didn't want to be dishonest and say that it was all rainbows and puppy dogs.

 I mentioned that I would share what I learned and what I would change for my next marathon, so I thought I'd share exactly 6.2 things that I learned. I also got my official race pictures and interspersed them throughout. I'll say, though, that this isn't the last you'll see of them.
Lesson 1: You can't change the weather. Disney was hot and humid, and it wasn't supposed to be! The last few years of the race have been cool, cold, or hailing. That's what I was expecting! So when January started in an unseasonably warm way and continued as so, I spent a lot of time and energy checking the weather and willing it to get cooler and less humid. I even packed arm warmers, layers, and gloves in hopes that my packing choices would sway a change.  They didn't, as you read.

Change for next time: I'm going to say this, and I hope that I follow through. I'm the queen of running in ideal conditions. I'll check the weather and find what time of day it will be cooler, less windy, warmer, or rain-free, and that's how I'll plan my runs. After a really windy Halloween Half, I started realizing I should run even when it's windy, because it could be windy on race day. I didn't, though, run when it was hotter, because it was definitely going to be cold at Disney! I didn't have to worry about that. So for future training cycles, I'll run in less than ideal conditions. Yikes. Hold me to that.
Lesson 2: Start out slower than slow. When I was doing all of my planning and goal setting, I was thinking a lot about time and pacing. I knew I was supposed to start out "slowly", but in my head, slowly meant long run pace. I didn't want to start out too slowly and not hit a goal time because I gunned it to the end but couldn't make up for my slow start (did you read my recap? Are you laughing out loud? I kid you not that this was my concern). Though my 9:45 miles at the beginning felt difficult, I thought they would have to start feeling easier as I went. Then I could pick it up.

Change for next time: I will start at 10:00-10:30 miles for the first 6 miles or so next time, unless that feels hard, in which case I'll slow further. I'll re-evaluate then and only speed up if I feel like I'm walking or somewhere around that pace. Otherwise I'll maintain that pace and shoot for even splits. I learned the hard way that a pace does not get easier as you continue running a marathon (I'm going to start charging for this comedy).
Lesson 3: 13.1 is not the halfway point. Though I'm fairly good at math, I can tell you that half of 26.2 miles is most definitely not 13.1. I even mentioned in my recap that the miles were still going by pretty efficiently at 9, 10, and even 11. It wasn't until I got well past halfway that I even thought about hitting 13.1. It was at the 14 mile marker that I thought about having to do that same distance again, and I'd say that it was at about 18 that I'd say felt like halfway. It doesn't make mathematical sense; don't try to make it. It won't work out.

Change for next time: I really think this just relates to slowing down. I think that the 18 point is where I would re-evaluate again to judge for future pacing. And I think from a training standpoint, I would spend a lot of time internalizing that 13.1 is not the halfway point.
Lesson 4: Having a time goal only matters until it doesn't matter anymore. I made some time goals, not knowing what I know now, and I don't think I really understood why people were telling me not to have one. I had one for my first half marathon and beat it by 4 minutes. How different could this be? As I saw pacing groups pass me that matched up with time goals I had set, I cared less and less as the race went on. That main goal of finishing became more important, and the reality that the marathon is a completely different beast from the half set in. 

Change for next time: This is the only one where I won't change for the future. Now that I've run a marathon, my time goal will be to beat this last time. But let me take my place in the gospel choir of people who have run a marathon: don't set a time goal for your first full (please feel free to leave me a 'told you so' comment below if you did indeed tell me so). I know what I'm getting into now, and I have more respect for the distance. Remember how I said that this was like a mountain that I couldn't see above the clouds? Well now I can see it, I've been on it, and I know it's a lot bigger and scarier than I even planned it would be. My sub-4 hour marathon for the year is also being adjusted.
Lesson 5: Start out at the front of the corral and/or don't waste energy weaving. I started in the front 1/4-1/3 of my corral, but I don't even really know what pace that aligned with. As we started and everyone was going so slow (they were onto something...), I spent precious time, distance, and energy weaving around them so I could get to my "slow pace". Heaven help me. I know part of that extra .41 that I ran came from those first three miles. 

Change for next time: I think I stated this pretty clearly. Either get to the front of the corral or don't weave.
Lesson 6: Have and practice a fueling strategy. I had underfueled for most of my training runs, and though I knew what worked with my stomach and what didn't, I didn't realize how much fuel I should be taking in. I took in a lot more in the marathon than I did while training, and between the GUs, honey stingers, water, and powerade, I just felt full by mile 20. Though I burned 3200+ calories in the race according to Garmin, I was carrying it all with me and just wish I had simulated this experience previously.

Change for next time: I will practice fueling more to get it right. I need to find a balance between having enough and having too much that will carry me through the marathon. I stopped eating anything after mile 19. I couldn't think about eating anything else besides that one mini bar of chocolate at mile 22. They had bananas that I skipped, I had Gu and honey stingers that I didn't want, yet I crashed. Had I taken another Gu would I have gotten any kind of last minute boost? Who knows. I didn't, and I should have practiced this all ahead of time. Next time, I will. I'll know.  And I'll be prepared.

Lesson .2: Have fun! I have now run three Disney races without stopping for a character picture. Though I'm going to remedy this in February when I run the Princess Half completely for fun, I still think maybe sometimes I take myself a little too seriously. I can't see myself stopping for character pictures in a race that I trained for to run a best time, but maybe that means running Disney more for fun than for serious times. 

Change for next time: Whether I change my strategy on running Disney races or not, I think I just need to look up a little more and soak in what's around me. I think I got inside of my head a lot and got so set on doing my best that I forgot the "have fun" part! I wasn't headed out there to qualify for Boston, and as the pacing groups were passing me I should have lightened up. It's not something I'm good at in any area of my life, that lightening up thing. That is definitely going to be with my "beat my Disney goal" time for next marathon. 
What are some lessons that you've learned in any race of any distance that you look back on and are glad to know now? 


Kat @ S and F said...

Love this! Lesson 2 was my favorite...,I know that'll be my challenge come marathon training time. And being in the front of the corral helped me a ton! I've heard that the half marathon isn't the halfway point...more like 18 miles is....but your smile at the end is so worth it! :)

Beth said...

Congrats on your first marathon! It's always crazy when a heat wave catches you unprepared. I bet that marathon number two will go so much better. My first marathon went really well, my second was during an ironman so i don't think it counts so I am worried my third will be difficult.

Amanda said...

That finish line picture is awesome! Way to smile big for the camera, when I am sure you were in a ton of pain! Congrats!

Alyssa Longobucco said...

So happy for you that you did this! That picture of you crossing the finish line is amazing!

The Glossy Life

jennifer said...

Congrats again, Meghan!! These are great tips for all runners! I like the "have fun" part the best :)

Taylor said...

Such amazing lessons! I think we're on the same wavelength right now because a few of the things you said I also said I'm going to do for my first half in a month (starting out slower than you want, not taking time so seriously on first races, and fuel strategy!!! I actually started testing out a fuel strategy today so I'm not dying or too full on race day....)
But you are a ROCK STAR!! Seriously, congrats for the 80th time! Amazing job!

Amanda said...

First, let me just say that I feel like I'm stalking you...commenting on every single post! Goodness. I am just SO interested in reading anything and everything about marathons right now! This was really great. I definitely need to figure out a fueling plan. Up until now I haven't had a plan. Also, wow. The look on your face when you crossed the finish line is priceless. I love it! Congratulations again. I learned the lesson about starting slow during my 3rd half. Went out too fast and died at mile 9. It was the worst I've ever felt. (sorry for the novel of a comment)

lpnedwards said...

I love all these - especially HAVE FUN! I felt like in my first few road races I was focused on how I was supposed to be feeling each mile. I wasn't ever going for time, but I was worried I was going too fast or too slow and didn't want to finish on fumes. It's all about the experience! Congrats again!!

The Unlikely Runner said...

I think this is great advice for anyone that runs races, and not just marathons! I'm glad you were able to learn some lessons, although I think you really should just be absolutely proud of what you accomplished no matter what. I tend to be like you at times and get to serious and take myself way too seriously (hence what happened in my first marathon attempt) and so I get it, it's hard to not take things seriously. But finally letting go of some of harshness I place upon myself has made running so much better! I was able to enjoy the Dallas marathon so much more, even though I was off of my time goal too (stupid weather for me too!) I still enjoyed the process so much more. I think you will definitely enjoy your next marathons much more. I'm glad you want to do more! And as for the time goals, that's natural to have them, don't feel bad you made them but don't dwell on them either! :) Congrats again!

Amy @ A Glimpse of the Gouglers said...

I agree with pretty much all of your lessons! I think I could have started out a bit slower than I did. I weaved a ton but since I didn't have my Garmin I don't know how much "extra" I ran...I'm sure it was similar though! Oh and 13.1...not halfway AT ALL! I would say 18ish is the halfway mark. Or at least it was for my race. I'm sure it's different every race based on the conditions. I loved this post! I hope you have so much fun during the Princess run. It's a blast and maybe I'll see you!!!

erin said...

Great great great advice (from a girl who still does 5K). I am pinning this. PLUS - you are so freakin' cute in all your pictures! Love that!

Karen said...

I didn't do any hill training for my first (hilly) marathon. I guess the mindset I've taken for marathons is: Do I want it to suck during training or during the marathon? Not training enough or in less than ideal conditions will make the training better but the race suck.

Glad I don't have to say I told ya so ;) I'm sure others reading your recap will go thru the same thing. Nobody gets it until run a marathon.

Gone Bananas said...

Congrats on running a full marathon! I'm not a runner myself, but I admire those who are! Sounds like you did a great job and the pics were cute, especially the finish line one!

whomerunner said...

Great advice! I will definitely keep these in mind for my first marathon (whenever that may be...). I have been following your blog for a while and have loved your recap and thoughts on your marathon. I love that you have been so realistic and candid with sharing your experience. The smile on your face in your finish picture shows that it was all worth it!

whomerunner said...

Great advice! I will definitely keep these in mind for my first marathon (whenever that may be...). I have been following your blog for a while and have loved your recap and thoughts on your marathon. I love that you have been so realistic and candid with sharing your experience. The smile on your face in your finish picture shows that it was all worth it!

TWINS RUN in our family said...

Awesome! Congrats! We finished our 10th (slower 1/2) & 20th (faster 1/2) marathons on Sunday and we're still learning lessons!

Amanda - RunToTheFinish said...

i think you learned all the lessons that many of us take a lot of races to learn!!!

Danielle said...

Oh, I'm sorry you had a tough time with the marathon, but it's good you are able to take some lessons from it!

The heat and humidity was just TERRIBLE, I trained with a time goal in mind (it was my 2nd marathon), but I totally abandoned it when I saw how bad the weather was - I just decided to have fun and take lots of pictures instead. I highly recommend running a Disney race sometime just to have fun and stop for pictures, it's such a unique experience and totally worth it!

Abby said...

I love this.
The weaving is the worst.
There is a race here that is a 10K, but they cram 40,000 people (bigger than most huge marathons) into 6 miles. You end up running almost 7 or 8 miles then hating your crummy 10K time. I will have to take you advice.

Ari @ Ari's Menu said...

Confession: I am totally guilty of having a time goal. Feel free to say I told you so on Monday. Great tips Meghan! Thanks for sharing! .2 is my favorite ;)

Lauren Speer said...

Wow - that's a great marathon lessons list! I am training for the Princess Half also and I'm excited for it to be my first half. I totally relate to your pace comment - I think that is going to be my biggest problem! :) Have fun and maybe I'll see you there!

Beka said...

This is such a great post!!! #2 and ESPECIALLY #4 I need to remember this year! :)
I've been working on my fueling. It's all new to me, but I have 9 mo to get it down.

Melissa said...

I must say you this... you looking AMAZING in your last photo for just having run a marathon! I look like a beet after a 5K. Thanks for the tips they were helpful. Also, .2 is def my favorite one.

armyamy said...

You look so happy in all your pictures! That's the sign of a good race!

I had read your goals prior to the race and thought to myself, "No! Don't set time goals!" I caution people against that for their first full only because you don't want to run for 4 or 5 hours, for mile after mile, and be disappointed. I've seen it happen, and it makes me so sad for runners. Just be happy you finished. Which you are - so don't beat yourself up for setting lofty goals. Now you know what to expect for next time and can be more realistic. But in all honesty, you weren't that far off. I would have loved a 4:36 first full! Congrats on the accomplishment!* said...

I learned the "start slow" during a 5k! I'm just a naturally slow runner so when I sign up with friends I say "see ya at the finish" I can't keep up with them at the beginning, but if I start nice and slow to start, I usually get closer to them in the end!

Jameil said...

This was awesome! I trained so diligently for my first half, preach start slow ALL.THE.TIME to my running group and still went out too fast for the first 10K and paid for it in the miserable rest of the HILLY race. But such a great learning experience. Can't wait to blow it out of the water in April.

Crystal said...

Thanks again for all your insight. I'm learning a lot from so many.

Meghan said...

These are all awesome lessons. I am glad the first marathon was such a successful yet teachable moment for you. I think you did an amazing job and I cannot wait to see what you decide to do next!

Running Librarian said...

Congrats on a great marathon! Always lessons to learn for each race we run

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