I am starting over, for the 16th time. I have a dream and the number of times I have failed is fueling this desire to succeed instead of diminishing it and allowing me to quit. I have run 15 marathons and still have yet to get it right. There have been some….better than others – my 2nd marathon still remains the only one that I completed with a negative split. Now this next statement may not seem to make sense, although my marathon times have gotten faster but my performance has gotten worse. I have become intimate with the “wall” and proficient at the “final 2-mile shuffle”. So here I am, coming off of two of my worst performances in the marathon and WHY DO I HAVE SUCH HOPE? Because each time I fail, I am challenged to improve the areas I am really bad at (on race day).
Here are some of my most classic finishes:
2013 Chicago Marathon – I was crushing it, I remember distinctly crossing the 18-mile mark and thinking how awesome it was that I was on BQ pace. What seemed like seconds later, right after the 23 mile sign you could find me sitting on the curb looking like I was fighting with an invisible alien, otherwise known as full body cramps. I finished that day in 3:44, the goal was 3:20.
2014 Portland Marathon – My goal this day was to simply PR and at that time it was 3:42. I ran with my good friend Devon who is very fast and she was pacing me. We were all good and well ahead of pace until I threw in a 10:39 at mile 24 and finished that day at 3:43.
2015 MO Cowbell Marathon (The PR race) – This race had all the makings of greatness. I cruised through the miles with little or no stress and as I hit mile 21 not one cramp or negative thought had dared entered my mind. As I approached mile 23, I had to double check to make sure somehow I hadn’t left the course and found quicksand to run through, because the pace had slowed and I was forced shuffle home. I was ecstatic to have broken 3:40 but discouraged with my late race performance. Goal was 3:30, my finish time 3:37:42 (current PR)
2016 MO Cowbell & Marine Corps Marathon – Both races started with such promise and slowly spiraled into sadness. In fact, at that The Marine Corps Marathon, I actually had to have a frank discussion with a Medic just to let me finish…which I did with my arms raised.
What can we take away from these examples? It is clear that I have a problem finishing marathons at my designed goal pace. It is even clearer, that I have serious fueling issues, as almost every race has included a point in which the power immediately goes out. When that power goes out, it is one of the worst feelings you can have as a runner, because there is no real way to get it back and you are often so close to your goal, it literally hurts your soul. The one thing that you read though, was that I finished each of those races, often against my own wanting to finish. I had serious discussions with myself with all the reasons of why I should just sit down and wallow in my self-pity, but it was other runners that encouraged me, pushing me to the finish line.
So what am I doing about it? This summer before starting my training for the last two marathons, I admitted to myself that I didn’t know what I was doing and went searching for help. I found it in a knowledgeable, at times snarky, but always supportive running coach. And all though the last two marathons were disasters by the clock, I was able to eliminate the things that I was doing right and feel confident in knowing that my fueling was the key. But now the challenge remains…………how do I fix it?
The running calculators that are accessible have simply not worked for a large “Clydesdale” like me. I apparently don’t process glucose and fat as effectively as I need to. In fact, there is very little information out there for runners that are on the larger size (I am 6’3” and 205lbs) that want to run sub 3:30’s. Sure there are those runners that are just naturally gifted – but I am not that guy. I need help with this fueling issue, I am going to keep trying until I crack the code and when I do, I am going to spread that information to the running world. There are many of us “Clydesdales” that want to run fast, but the calculators are not designed for us. Often the generic calorie calculators end with the range of 180lbs and up, that is very general for what is needed to effectively fuel for a race. When you finally find a calculator that includes over 200lbs and all it tells you that you are going to have to take in 10 gel packets during your race, you make a funny face and do it. But when it doesn’t work, you go back to the drawing board. Here I am, drawing up a new plan, looking to “crack the code” of my fueling. I am excited to be starting over for the 16th time.
Are you a runner that has “cracked the code” of your fueling? Whether you are a “Clydesdale” or not, I would love to hear how you figured it out. Send me an email with your story. firstname.lastname@example.org