Is there life after DNF? – a partial-race report

My race bib for the Kentucky Derby Festival Marathon
KDF Marathon DNF Bib

Race Preparation:

Something about this morning’s race just wasn’t right. There were just other priorities going on this week, starting with the night of Thunder Over Louisville and every night up until last night, I had been up late with kids who had stomach bugs, or just going to bed late and waking up late.

Packet pickup for this race was an afterthought, and with all the changes, a nuisance.  I told my wife last night that I really wasn’t excited about this race.  This morning, I told my team member that if I hadn’t put money toward registration, I probably would have bailed on the race.

I never got the same symptoms that everyone else in the family got this week, but I did feel pretty lethargic, and every meal I ate produced mild nausea.  Because of all of this, I may have not eaten enough for the days leading up to the race.

My goal time:  3:25.  Unfortunately, I had erratic training, despite averaging about 50 miles per week over the last 12 weeks.  Business trips and the Louisville Triple Crown of running worked against me this time.

Race Report:

It was nice and rainy prior to the race.  Normally, I’d at least have a 20 ounce coffee before any race [for various reasons], but my stomach issues prevented me from taking more than a couple of sips.

I lined up behind the 3:30 marathon pace group.  My plan was to track 3:30 through the hills of Iroquois Park and then push toward 3:25 as I made my way out of the park.

I took my first gel at mile 1.  I was already feeling hunger pains, and was worried about running low on energy. Unfortunately, I’ve had those pains all this past week, probably associated with the kids’ stomach bug.  That first gel hit my stomach like a ton of bricks.  These are gels that I always use…

With the course change, the hills for Iroquois Park started a little past mile 1, instead of being after mile 4.  While I prefer early hills, having them hit after only a mile of running is brutal.  I kept my eyes on the 3:30 pace group until the first hill, and never saw them again.

I lost 90 seconds off the 3:30 marathon pace by mile 4, exiting the park.  The downhill made me think that I had more legs than I had, but I quickly slowed down beyond 8’30” pace.  I took a gel at mile 6, which went ok.

The trek through Churchill Downs’ tunnels took quite a bit out of me as well.  I took a gel at mile 11, but then proceeded to sit down to let my stomach settle.

At this point, I could have followed the half-marathoners in, but decided to follow the marathon course. Incidentally, the construction signage giving instructions alternated between “<—  MINI MARATHON” and “MAXI MARATHON –>”.  The only “Maxi Marathon” I know of is the Maxi Marathon Killarney, which is 15 miles.

I managed to plug along at a decent pace [sub-9s] through the first half to cross the halfway point at about 1:55. While a 3:50 was not my original plan, the 1:55 halfway point gave me a solid shot at staying under 4 hours.

Here’s where the major course change really hit me.  I was having mild stomach issues again after the first big hill of the Scenic Loop in Cherokee Park at mile 15-16.  On the old course, this would have been mile 17, and would have exited the park at that point.  The new course completed the Scenic Loop with “Dog Hill”, which is a long, switchback hill which wears on you both physically and mentally.  I walked it.  As long as I walked, my stomach was ok.  If I ran, I started getting intestinal and stomach discomfort, which limited my ability to push through any fatigue.

From that point on, I could no longer bargain with myself to finish.  At mile 17, I was finished for the day, and was focusing on where to go to be picked up.

Life After DNF

I was upset with myself at the time, but there was nothing to be gained for me to stick it out for another 4:30+ marathon.  If I stopped, I could continue training without an extended recovery period.  Throughout the day, I still had thoughts of at least running the remaining distance on the treadmill tonight.  However, I’ve noticed that my stomach is still not in the mood for any abuse, and my joints could use a day off.

What’s next?  I think this week becomes a “cut-back” week for me, and I continue base-building beginning with 50-ish miles per week.

Some things I need to focus on from now until October 10 [my next marathon]:

  • One hard workout per week [tempo or interval].
  • Build my tempo runs to at least 7 miles.
  • I need 60% of my mileage at 1:45 slower than my 5k time.
  • Leftover mileage needs to be at 2:30-3:30 slower than my 5k time.
  • Race shorter distances on more tired legs.

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