Hello! I’m hoping to get some wise advice/insight after totally flopping the Erie Marathon last weekend when I least expected it. Excuse my long-windedness:
I super successfully followed Pfitzinger’s 18-week/55-70 mile plan, including:
-4 20-milers (1 was 21)
-4 long runs incorporating MP miles (starting with 8 and gradually building to 14 as part of an 18-miler during a 70 mile week, no problems.)
-3 10K time-trials resulting in PRs each time, going from 44:27 to 44:09 as my confidence improved, each followed by a 17-18 mile long run the following day, no problems.
I’ve previously run 2 marathons in 4:00 and 3:46. My half PR right before starting training was 1:41. I started training with a 3:35 goal but toward the final 5-6 weeks felt like aiming for 3:30 was a reasonable push based on pacing, HR, and comparing a few different predictor charts/calculators (with a grain of salt)!
I never struggled to hit paces/distance and completed the training to an absolute T. I used a chest strap HR monitor to ensure I was being realistic about my paces/goals and avoiding overtraining. Everything lined up.
I do struggle with anxiety and couldn’t stop stressing a week out from the race. My HR was high for my remaining taper runs, and they felt like crap. But I slept well all week with a super low resting HR and bumped up my carb intake gradually from 5 days out. I slept poorly the night before the race but felt joyful and confident heading to the start line. I had a bagel with a little peanut butter and jelly and half a banana 2 hours prior.
I ran the first 2 miles at 8:15 (letting the 3:30 pacer take off), and from there to the half-way point tried to keep it around 8:05-8ish. The plan was to negative split by holding steady at 7:59 through the 2nd half and push at the very end (the course is flat).
Unfortunately, I got the feeling as early as 10 miles in that I couldn’t keep it up. I slowed to around 8:20 approaching the half, walk/ran by 15, and then literally just gave up and walked from mile 16 to the finish line. My legs felt heavier than I’ve ever experienced in training or anything outside the final miles of a marathon, but mostly I felt like I just bonked mentally. I even felt a little hint of nausea walking. I took water every 2 miles and Huma+ gels starting early at mile 3, 8, and 14 (though I didn’t get all of the last 2 down because the water stops came earlier than listed). Never bothered to take my last one because I was walking. Jogged the last .2 across the finish line. It was in the 60s, maybe a little humid, and some hot sun and wind in places - but I’d trained in similar or worse alllll summer.
I wouldn't be surprised had I struggled in the later stages or missed my goal even by a large margin - it’s a marathon, and it was a big goal! But running less than 16 miles and clocking in at 4:24 was worse than even my imagined worst case scenario. The most reasonable explanation I have is that the anxiety/stress/perfectionism/pressure I put on myself leading up to my A race left me mentally/emotionally overtrained and exhausted. Or was my goal really that unrealistic??
Any thoughts? Maybe I needed more MP miles? Was Pfitzinger's focus on V02/5K-paced intervals at the end of training unhelpful? I just can’t understand how anything could have been quite THIS detrimental to my experience, and so early in the race. Other than just unnoticed mental burnout. Leaves it hard to take away lessons to apply to the next one.
My other question is whether it’s reasonable to try to find a re-do (with a more conservative goal to get my mojo back) next month considering I basically just ran a slower than race-pace half followed by walking another half. The other option is to crush some local shorter races this fall and maybe try again in the spring, or even Erie again next year since I really did love it there. I was hopeful about getting a BQ with a buffer (my time as a 36yo F is 3:35) - but now I feel like a newbie idiot.
Thanks for reading.