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Anatomy of a Bonk - St. George 2011

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Anatomy of a Bonk - St. George 2011 Empty Anatomy of a Bonk - St. George 2011

Post  Glenn on Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:19 am

First, a bit of background - I ran a 4:04:52 at Grandma’s in June - a 7 minute PR for me. The weather was perfect there, and I felt like I had plenty in the tank at the end. I might have been able to break 4 hours that day, but I was targeting a 9:30 average pace, and a 4:08 finish. I ended up finishing strong with plenty in the tank, and exceeded that goal. Given the plan, a sub 4 was not really an option. But with that success, I trained specifically for a sub-4 at St. George.

I had run St. George once before (2009), so I knew the course. The elevation profile makes it look like a toboggan ride, but there are some daunting uphills that look deceptively tame when plotted on an elevation profile with a 2,500 foot net drop. The most notable is at Veyo - miles 7.3-8.4, where you run up the side of an extinct volcano - about a 250’ rise over 1 mile. The other challenge that makes St. George tricky is the net downhill itself. It can really shred the quads. But I trained well, and I was ready for Veyo and the net downhill. I’m lucky enough to live where I can do long runs with even more extreme elevation drops than St. George, and I found a nice pace run route that mimics the elevation profile of running up Veyo after 6 or 7 downhill miles.

But as the race approached, the one thing that concerned me was the weather. The forecast was for mid-50s at the start, high 70s/low 80s at the end, and that was pretty much how it turned out. Not ideal for a PR attempt. It was probably too hot a day to stick to my plan, but I already have a nice PR this year, and I decided that my B goal of another PR greater 4 hours, probably wouldn’t be that satisfying. I decided to go for it anyway, and worst case, I bonk, get a medal and another finish.

The St. George starting line is easily my favorite of any marathon. It is on a lonely stretch of road 26 miles north of town. But on race day morning, it is a great atmosphere. There is a big clearing on the side of the road, and they have a bunch of camp fires lit to keep you warm, while you chat with your friends. 6:45 am finally came, and we were off. As far as the course itself goes, check out Matt’s race report – he got some great pictures.

The race itself: You know how people say that numbers don’t always tell the story? Well they tell this story pretty darn well! While heading to the buses that take us up to the start line, a store marquee read 74 degrees ...at 4:15 am! It was mid 50s at the start (2500 feet higher elevation) and that was great. But with the elevation drop and sun on us by mile 8, it warmed up quickly. The final 10 miles were in direct sun – and probably mid 70s. It must have been high 70s/low 80s when I finished, but I don't know for sure. It got up to the mid 90s later in the day. Here are the splits:
Mile Pace Elevation change
0-1 9:14 -59.9
1-2 9:00 -33.1
2-3 8:35 -110.4
3-4 8:34 -123
4-5 8:51 -56.8
5-6 8:43 -190.8
6-7 8:50 -203.4
7-7.3 9:29 -61.5
7.3-8.4 10:44 +257 Veyo Volcano
8.4-9 8:56 -61.5 (First direct sunlight)
9-10 9:13 +3.2
10-11 9:35 +108.8
11-12 9:15 -52 (I think the rising sun and temps messed with the Garmin altimeter – this is still uphill)
12-13 8:50 -56.8
13-14 8:51 -71 (13.1 mile / half marathon split: 1:58:31 – probably a tad too fast)
14-15 8:23 -157.7
15-16 8:42 -236.5
16-17 8:48 -206.6
17-18 9:02 -112
18-19 9:43 +35 Uphill at Ledges
19-20 9:11 -118.3 (holding a 9:03 average pace through 20)
20-21 8:48 -290.2 (first hint of cramps in left calf)
21-22 9:43 -55.2
22-23 9:48 -277.5
23-24 9:36 -130.9 (still holding a 9:08 average pace)

*Explosion Sounds* Sweaty
24-25 16:43 -124.6 (got free popsicles – or bonksicles as we like to call them – from people on street)
25-26 18:25 -74.1
26-26.2 14:10 -7.9 (feeble jogging to the finish line)

So: a major bonk at mile 24 and a 4:17:33 finish. Not a bent over throwing up bonk. My legs just politely informed me that they were done running for the day. My left calf had started cramping a bit at mile 20, and I just powered through for four miles. By mile 24, that wasn't going to happen any more. A compromise: they let me keep walking. I tried to run again at ~ mile 25, and there was immediately a shooting pain down the inside of my right thigh.
OK, OK OK, I GET IT!!!!

But, I’m not that upset. I was shooting for an aggressive goal (for me) on a less than ideal day, and two years ago, even this 4:17:xx time would have been a 20 minute PR. With the confidence I got at Grandma’s I know that once I combine a good training cycle with the right course on the right day, it’s going to happen. Next up: Napa 3/4/12.
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Post  Julie on Tue Oct 04, 2011 11:35 am

Wow your miles were looking really good until the last 3. I hope Napa goes great and you make your time goal then! Either way, congrats on finishing another marathon!
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Post  Michele "1L" Keane on Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:09 pm

Nothing to worry about, Glenn - you ran well for a tough day temperature-wise and on a course that is tougher than people realize. I got lucky with weather in 2008 when I ran and I run hills everyday, so they didn't seem so bad, but I know so many people who are destroyed by Vejo and the hill at mile 19. Congrats on the finish!
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Post  Jerry on Tue Oct 04, 2011 12:17 pm

Jerry doesn't have any hill experience, but that temperature rise and earlier downhill pounding combined probably hit you hard in the last 3 miles.

Still, way to finish, Glenn! Congratulations!
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Post  Jeff F on Tue Oct 04, 2011 1:16 pm

Glenn, even though you did not meet your goal, I bet you learned something you can apply to your next marathon. That is the great thing about marathon running. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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Post  dot520 on Tue Oct 04, 2011 3:43 pm

Hey, a course PR counts! Awesome!

That was almost textbook bonking...wow. Going, going, going..bonk! Sometimes you have to risk these things and just go for it knowing full well what might happen. Congratulations on gutting it out! Yahoooo! Looking forward to you Napa race report in the cool of March.
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Post  Seth Harrison on Tue Oct 04, 2011 5:47 pm

Yikes Glenn, that was tough day with that temperature differential between the start and finish. I know just how hard and quad shredding a net downhill course can be. It definitely requires specific training. I'm glad you're not too bummed about the bonk. It's done...now you move on! Good job getting it done.
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Post  Matt W on Tue Oct 04, 2011 9:53 pm



I'm sorry that the race didn't go as you hoped Glenn. Hopefully the weather will cooperate better for you the next time out and the experience of being on pace for so long will help you get that sub four hour time you have coming. Recover well and best of luck next time.
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Post  Mark B on Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:01 pm

Glenn, it was painful watching the bottom drop out in those last few miles. I'm glad you made it in without injury, though. That's a tough course, and the temperature swing only makes it trickier.

Rest and recover well (I suggest many more Popsicles). Good luck in Napa!
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Post  John Kilpatrick on Tue Oct 04, 2011 10:24 pm

Ahhhh - I know the feeling well. Running 4 miles with the cramping thing was an accomplishment of itself. Some sort of nutrition thing perhaps? Overall, not a bad time at all, but bummer about the bonk. If you figure it out, let me know!!!!! Good news is that cardio didn't seem to be the cause? Sounds like a beautiful race to participate in - come back next time with more suitable weather and nail it! That is really encouraging that you have improved as much as you have over two years - obviously a lot of work there! Reboot and I look forward to following your march to March! You and I will be on similar trajectories, as my next goal race is the Snickers marathon on 3/3/12!

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Post  Dave-O on Wed Oct 05, 2011 10:06 am

There's nothing wrong with giving it your all for a certain time goal and coming up short. It wasn't an ideal day, and damn, you were still so close. I know the pain and helplessness of the cramps. Rest up for the next shot!
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Post  Alex Kubacki on Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:16 am

A tough last couple of miles but you got it done. Congrats on the finish and in the end that's what counts for this distance.
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Post  Jack_Scaff on Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:34 am

Still a strong finish - well done in tough conditions.
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Post  Jim Lentz on Wed Oct 05, 2011 12:15 pm

Very nice job considering the weather!
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Post  fostever on Wed Oct 05, 2011 1:33 pm

Way to tough it out to the finish, Glenn!
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Post  healdgator on Wed Oct 05, 2011 3:27 pm

Sooo close. I'm sure that's frustrating, but you have a good outlook on it. It also seems to confirm that you would have gone under 4 relatively comfortably with decent weather.
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Post  amyjoann on Wed Oct 05, 2011 8:51 pm

wow you ran great race until bonk! that heat and those mountains combined really had to hurt. I feel your pain for last 3 miles but you did great! and made it through .I think you have a huge PR on way soonAnatomy of a Bonk - St. George 2011 4044942068
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Post  Pete B on Wed Oct 05, 2011 11:10 pm

Glenn, A great attempt - I know that feeling very well, almost within reach. Those miles at 8:2x and 8:3x, I hope that was a serious downhill, otherwise that may have been what did you in later, that, and the heat, the hills, the downhills, egads!

You'll never look at a popsicle the same way again, enjoy and come back stronger.
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Post  JohnP on Thu Oct 06, 2011 10:25 pm

I know you bonked Glen but I admire the attitude you had of saying other than your A goal, why bother. I've done that myself . That is some elevation there, I would like ot run that marathon some day. Good try, look for a November marathon? It should be much cooler! Congrats on another one.
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Post  Kenny B. on Fri Oct 07, 2011 5:19 pm

It's a bonk but with the weather you took a chance and therefore it was a self-inflicted bonk. Much more admirable IMO. Really stayed strong last 8 miles looks like a slow down but you finished at know with weather like that you always have a choice!
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