After a successful San Francisco Marathon, my mom, my brother and I decided to do the Walt Disney World Goofy Challenge in January: We'd pay more than the price of each event individually in order to run them both. If that didn't make us crazy, then surely running 40 miles in two days did. Even so, despite the logistical nightmare that was Disney, the WDW Marathon Weekend had all the makings of tradition to see our family friends.
This fall I made some changes to my training. I was running in Luna sandals instead of shoes. I decided to train in minutes instead of miles to focus on heart rate training (and also because my GPS is very sketchy in Madrid, where I now live, and because I prefer to run aimlessly in Casa de Campo than along a route with known mile markers). I also effectively eliminated speedwork—I had plans to do weekly tempo runs and monthly 5K trials, but somehow that only lasted a month. I also managed to swap out some of my shorter runs for yoga sessions, which may or may not have been a wise decision. Lastly, my new Madrileño lifestyle included more walking than I'd been used to (at least an hour on an average day), and much more traveling—I was gone many weekends, on which I skipped my long runs. I'm sure all that stuff impacted my training.
In order to focus fully on the Goofy Challenge, I decided not to run a marathon in October (I originally planned to run the Bilbao Night Marathon; instead I ran the half marathon at that event). Despite this precaution, I ended up getting injured in early November. After standing for a few minutes after a decent 10K, I found myself barely able to walk because of my right ankle. This was scary, because the 10K went perfectly fine and there was no pain to speak of (I finished in under 50 minutes). Later I remembered having felt some premonitions of pain in my right Achilles earlier that weekend walking around Barcelona, but I still have no idea what really caused it, or what it was. I decided the closest diagnosis was an impinged nerve, and I tried to do exercises to loosen it up. I had to give up running for a few weeks, so I tried to do yoga or walk for periods of time equivalent to my prescribed runs. I wasn't sure if I'd be able to do the marathons in January, and that was a major stress factor (pretty much the only one in my life).
Eventually the pain went away enough for me to do a few long runs; in all of November I'm sure I ran less than 30 miles, and I maybe doubled that in December. I don't know how far I ran in my peak training runs for the Goofy, but it was only a 1.5-hour run on a Saturday and a 2.5-hour run on a Sunday, two weeks before the marathon. Luckily my ankle didn't complain about that, so I decided to taper down and hope for the best.
Because I knew I was severely undertrained, I focused on my nutrition and looked for any other edge I could get for myself. A few months ago I shifted from mostly-vegan to an Upgraded Paleo (Dave Asprey's Bulletproof Executive Diet) with a high intake of healthy fats and low carbs. I liked the scientific support for this diet and how it meshed with the athletic outlook of Dr. Maffetone (heart rate training). The other edge I was looking for came in the form of electrically grounding myself: I had heard about earthing from Dave Asprey's podcast, and I tried to walk barefoot outside as much as possible (though it isn't exactly easy in the glass-laden and poop-covered streets and parks of Madrid). I was able to order an earthing bed mat when I got home to Milwaukee on New Year's Eve, and I've been sleeping grounded every night since then.
I made one minor mistake in the week before the marathon: I ran barefoot on the treadmill. I'm not sure why—it wasn't even that cold outside. Regardless, though, it was a horrible idea... my feet were blistered and tender for a few days, and I hoped they'd be fine by the time the marathon came. (They were so-so.)
Race day came soon enough. The half marathon went just fine: I ran it at a nice, slow, comfortable pace and never really felt tired. It was about 10:15 miles. I ran in the grass sometimes to lessen the impact on my feet; I'm not sure it actually helped, but it surely did hurt: It increased the friction between my feet and the surface of the sandals, making the bottoms of my feet really tender... something that would prove extremely painful during the marathon the next day. My ankle threatened a bit during the run, and I decided to KT Tape it up later that day as a precaution for the next day's marathon. As soon as I put the tape on, there was no pain at all, so (again) I'm sure it was vital to me finishing. Somehow I felt pretty wiped out after running the half; I hadn't felt so tired after running just 13 miles in a very long time! I should also note how remarkably boring the course was: We ran through the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, but it was 10+ miles of running along freeways and through parking lots. Not so magical...
The full marathon was very miserable. I didn't feel like running: My feet weren't the best and my legs were tired. I had horrible expectations for the run, but it actually went okay for the first 8 miles or so. The highlight was probably stopping for a picture with Lilo and Stitch. The course was pretty cool this year; we ran through all four parks, took a lap on the Exotic Speedway and toured the ESPN Wide World of Sports facilities. If I didn't want to die it would have been a lot of fun. I was floundering, running each mile slower than the last, and the heat was climbing. Before I knew it, I was nauseous and apocalyptic and it was in the 80s. I put myself on a walk 5 minutes–run 5 minutes regimen that carried me to mile 23 or 24, at which time I had to change it to "run 1 minute." It helped a lot when I heard these two women, also struggling, go by me and one of them said, "Okay, ready? Just one minute. You can do anything for just one minute." That's so true.
I finished the full in 5 hours and 40-something minutes, making it my slowest marathon yet. But for good reason, I think! Of course it's extremely disappointing making a new record slow, but if I'm able to examine the points that led up to that race performance, then it was worthwhile. As it stands, though, I don't think I'll be doing the Goofy Challenge again any time soon.
My next marathon plans are the Rock n Roll Madrid Marathon on April 28, and the Marine Corps Marathon in D.C. in October. Not sure if I'll do one this summer; it depends when I get back to the States.
What went wrong:
- Not running sufficient long runs
- Ankle injury
Goals for next training season:
- Switch back to miles from minutes (find variety of routes mapped online)
- Stability and power exercises for cross training
- Self-motivational tactics for on-the-run
- Learn more about mid-race eating and drinking
The road to BQ and all 50 states continues... slowly but surely.