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?