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Philadelphia marathon - end of a bad year

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Post  JohnP on Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:15 pm

Well, it figures the person who ran the worst is writing a report. Maybe Kenny and Jim will now write reports as they did well. Anyway, the Philadelphia marathon has been very good to me over the years. I've run it three times and had three PRs including my first sub-4 race. All those races were signed up for after hot Chicago marathon weather. This year, after so many hot Chicago marathons over the years, I decided to actually train for Philadelphia rather than run it as a backup. Short story - I didn't keep my streak going though the weather was really good, and seem to be in a bad position right now of rapidly declining performance.

I thought training for this race went pretty well until the Chicago marathon. I did that as a training run with 16 at pace and 10 easy though the last ten were anything but easy. I should have respected the marathon distance and taken more rest but I took one day off and got back into training including 20 milers the following two weekends. About two and a half weeks after Chicago, I noticed my left knee and ankle hurting a lot and swollen to the point I had to stop a run. I took a few days off and tried to run every three days to keep some fitness. But the swelling and pain were still there so I figured I should see a doctor. THe doctor took an xray and then an MRI was needed. After going through options, I decided to get my first ever cortizon shot and the doctor also drained a lot of fluid. I think the draining made a huge difference. This was Wednesday before the marathon.

So I went to Philly knowing I wasn't in great shape but I was going there no matter what because I have a couple of aunts there that I hadn't seen in a long time. We visited with them on Friday. Saturday had a traditional Maggiano's dinner with Kenny and Jim and those with them. What good weather for a marathon, Philly has had good weather every year I've been there now. Jim and I met at Kenny's hotel in the morning but they had heavy security that wouldn't let people in the lobby so we waited outside. Then we walked to the start line but stopped for a very long porta-potty stop. That was the main issue with the race I would say. We barely made the starting gun but we did.

As the race started, I knew I wasn't in shape to run a PR but hoped for something decent. My first splits were 8:09 and 8:15, then seven more miles averaging 8:21. The problem was my heart rate, the same problem as at Boston. Though I started out at a reasonable pace, my HR was abnormally high so that at 12 miles I had run most at a high tempo HR rate. I knew I had a decision at mile 13 because they let you do the half marathon if you want just by going that way. But in the end, though I knew I needed to slow down, I thought it through and came to the conclusion that though I want to run fast, I started doing these marathons for my health and I valued running a slower marathon over stopping at the half. So I kept going. Predictably, the splits got much slower. I quickly got to 9:00 pace and then 10:00 pace. The first half was about 1:50 and the second half about 2:11 for a finish time of 4:01.

So what is wrong with me? My HR is way too high in these marathons this year (Boston, Philly). I have never had this problem. While I always discounted the possibility of over-training for someone like me, it's the only thing I can think of. I had a similar problem at Boston and just blamed it on the heat. Because this year was my first Boston, I trained a lot for it, and then never let up afterwards till starting the Philly program. Now I have this knee issue. Also, I went to donate blood on Wednesday and barely qualified as my iron level was low. Out of a range they allow of 12.5 to 18.8, my hemoglobin level was 12.9 and the nurse mentioned it was low. That's a big problem for a runner.

Anyway, I plan to take some time off now to rest up. Also, the knee needs to heal. If it doesn't the doctor said it was probably a small meniscus tear. I really was dumb for not taking more rest days this year. I looked at my log and see too many weeks of six or seven days of running which is great but I didn't work up to it. I let the desire for improving my time take priority over the need to ramp it up.

Any thoughts on how to get better would be appreciated. On the flight home, there was a great article in RW by Amby Burfoot on running for the long haul. He mentioned in there that if you are injured, you've got to stop running. I guess that's a start but it's hard!
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Post  JohnP on Fri Nov 23, 2012 11:19 pm

Here's a picture of me, Jim and Kenny before the race.

Philadelphia marathon - end of a bad year 9667_110
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Post  Mark B on Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:42 am

Sorry this year has turned out poorly for you, John, but something in your report gave me pause. Did you follow through and actually donate blood on the Wednesday before the race? (Because if you did, that's quite probably the reason for the unusually high heart rate on race day.) If you did it the Wednesday after the race, the low iron level is still pretty interesting. Either way, I hope you get it figured out.
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Post  JohnP on Sat Nov 24, 2012 1:06 am

Mark, it was after the race. I try to donate blood within a few weeks of a marathon so it doesn't affect the next training round.
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Post  dot520 on Sat Nov 24, 2012 10:36 am

John, I'm so sorry that this race didn't work out for you. It's great to hear that you didn't have any knee or ankle problems, so that's a huge plus. You're still not mentioning it, so at least your body in general is in good shape. The heart rate. That I don't know about but overtraining certainly sounds like a possibility. Please don't be discouraged. Give your body a chance to recover and make 2013 the start of a good year. Rest up and start fresh.
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Post  Michael Enright on Sat Nov 24, 2012 10:44 am

John, sorry to hear how disappointed you feel, but happy to hear that you finished in a decent time.

Of course, I have no idea what is going on with you, but I hope you get to the bottom of it. I ran three marathons this year. The last one I expected to run slow, but the other two I hoped to come close to my PR, and both were well off of that. And I have a theory on the first one, but not really the second.

I'm not sure I'll ever understand all the things the marathon distance does to us, or all of the physical factors that affect a particular day of race performance.

But it would probably pay to get that iron level checked out.

Hope it all comes back together for you next time!
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Post  mul21 on Sat Nov 24, 2012 11:47 am

John,

Great seeing you again. Sorry to hear you had a tough day out there. The hills (and going out a bit too fast) definitely took a toll on me.

I would bet the marathon plus the consecutive 20s took a lot out of your legs. That's a lot of long runs in a short period of time and those will have a lasting effect even if you don't feel it right away. Possibly played a part in the knee issues as well. I'd get the iron checked and have them look at your vitamin D levels as well.

I'm sure with a revamped training program, there's another PR out there waiting for you!
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Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Sat Nov 24, 2012 12:23 pm

Sorry things didn't go as planned, John, but sometimes that is just what happens. It does sound like your body is calling out for a break, so the first thing I would do is begin an extended rest period. One indicator of over training is an elevated resting HR, so make sure to check that as well, but it does sound like that is some of the issue. Iron that low can contribute to fatigue and decreased performance, I know, as I have suffered through iron deficiency issues. make sure to get you serum ferritin checked as well as your hemoglobin as it is an indication or your iron stores. When my serum ferritin is low, I can tell in that I am very fatigued. The tough thing is that the measured "normal" range is like 30-300, so if you measure 50, a doctor will tell you that you are fine. Well, in my experience, that is not so, if you are a marathon runner or cyclist or basically an endurance athlete.

Take some time off, rest up, recover, and set a goal for next Spring (mileage build up) and then next Fall (race). (I can also say that I have found that I can no longer do a "marathon" as a training run. It just takes too much out of me.)
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Post  Kenny B. on Sun Nov 25, 2012 9:29 am

John,

It was great seeing you and Jim again. Enjoyed the time we spent.

I was wondering how you did and sorry to hear it did not go as planned. I can understand the HR stats and it being to high to early in a race. I no longer run with a HR monitor (first cycle) and it helped me just run my runs and run more on feel then on data! That said, it seems like you have some things to check out health wise which could be the culprit.

You'll figure it out and bounce back in time.
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Post  Jerry on Sun Nov 25, 2012 10:57 am

John,

Sorry you had a bad year. Jerry had bad 3 years now, though this year is just lazy. lol!
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Post  Julie on Sun Nov 25, 2012 3:16 pm

Sorry the race didn't go well. I would really consider over training and planning more rest days or more breaks between marathons or whatever you need to do. Also, low hemoglobin is miserable. I've had it before and it's so hard to breathe and run well with that (at least in my experience) so I can't imagine that helped anything. Do you eat red meat? I hope you knee heals quickly and completely.
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Post  KBFitz on Fri Nov 30, 2012 12:23 am

Was it really a bad year John or just a sub-par performance at your distance of choice?

Like all of us, you know that the marathon distance can be terribly fickle. I thought earlier in the year that you were racking up some pretty impressive miles with consistency week after week. I know because I was running high mileage myself and you were ahead of me. (I was in the MotoACTV Spring Superstar Challenge and the only other runner who had a chance to beat me in total distance over three months was Steve Emmert [a Motorola Engineer] usename steveemmert5.) Let me hazard a guess: you ran more mileage through September than ever before, no? Perhaps you even stepped up the intensity? Possibly hill repeats? This may have tipped the balance. Stress, recover, improve. It's a fine line we tread. We learn where that line is by going up to it and backing off. Sometimes we go over. When we do, the season may be lost. But your conditioning will improve if you take the time to rest, heal and get back at it.

So rest and heal. You'll know when you're able to get back at it. And you'll be stronger for it.
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Post  Alex Kubacki on Thu Dec 06, 2012 8:17 am

Sorry John it didn't go too well. Give your body and mind a chance to recover fully then come back strong.
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