Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

So first some GREAT news! I was selected as one of the 20 Inspirational Runners in the US by Dailyburn! The people on this list are amazing runners and people and I’m incredibly honored to be put in the same category as them.

inspiration

photo (20)

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These things are much easier and fun to write when it’s about a great day.  Part of me doesn’t want to write it at all because it would be much easier to just try to forget last Sunday, but I know I learn a lot from reflecting on a race and I’m hoping it adds some sort of closure that I haven’t found yet…so here goes.

Last Sunday was not the race I had imagined it would be. Some things went well. Other things not so well. I can sit here and try to find what exactly caused my having to walk and finish >10 min slower than I had set out to run. But, the truth is, I can’t blame anyone or anything except myself. Regardless of whether it was my diet, my pacing, my salty sweating or my ambitious goal time…it was MY doing. I own up to everything that happened that day and in the days leading up to the race.

I’ve made myself nuts trying to pinpoint that one thing that I can blame. It would be WAY easier if it was one concrete thing. But it wasn’t. It’s likely not just one thing but a combination of many things I did (or didn’t do).  The only thing that I can do is use this race as a learning experience, as cliche as it sounds, and try to not make some of the possible mistakes again.

Pre-Race

In the days leading up to the race, I carbo loaded more than I ever have before. I have never paid attention (ever) to how many grams of carbs I eat. For those four days (Thur – Sun), I did. I knew the number of carbs I wanted to hit and I had my meals and snacks planned out so that I could hit those magic numbers. Kind of obsessive, but I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything in my power for Sunday to be a success.

I wanted to eat about 250g on Thursday and then 400g on Friday and Saturday.  It was hard. I felt like I was forcing myself to eat – I wasn’t overeating but I don’t eat a lot of straight carbs on a regular basis so I was just tired of eating by Friday night. Basically all of my meals were replaced by carby foods – gf bagels, bread and pasta. If something wasn’t high in carbs, I was not eating it.

gf bagels

Lesson #1 – Changing my diet drastically in the days leading up to the race made me feel heavy, bloated, cranky and nervoes. But more than anything it just made me feel “off”. I was putting food into my body that I normally don’t eat (and in large quantities).  I had no stomach problems during the race but I just didn’t like the way I felt in the days before the race – made me even more nervous than I needed to be. Next time, I plan to substitute a meal or two here and there – but will not be doing a 180 during race week.

My husband and I drove down to Philly Saturday afternoon. He dropped me off at the expo and went to the hotel to park and check in. I had planned on staying at the expo longer, but it was a zoo and I just wanted to go to the hotel to relax and put my feet up. So I immediately left after getting my number.

philly marathon

We spent about an hour in the hotel before venturing out to eat. Long story short – we waited until too late to make reservations at some of the restaurants we wanted and finally settled on doing take out from an Italian restaurant (that had gf pasta). So back to the room to kick our feet up, eat and watch the Ironman World Championship on TV – perfect inspiration for race day eve!

race morning

Race Morning

The alarm went off at 3:45am and I immediately jumped up – it was race morning!!  I wanted to get some calories in me right away and so I forced down most of a plain bagel (I was not the slightest bit hungry at 4am).  For the next 90 minutes, I drank water and sipped on coffee while relaxing and getting ready to head out. With the new security measures this year, the Philly Marathon had advised all runners to arrive at the security checkpoints early so I left the hotel at 5:15am.  By 5:30am, we had gotten to the checkpoint – I kissed my husband goodbye and made my way into the start area. The next 90 minutes went by fast – between waiting on port-o-potty lines twice, trying to find the entrance to my corral and then seeing Mike and Robert, two friends of mine, in the corral it was time to go.

race morning2

Lesson #2 – Although I wasn’t hungry, I ate about 500 calories hours before the race (bagel – 3 hours, cliff bar – 2 hours, swedish fish – 20 min). When the race started, I felt really good. So I will be keeping this pre-race plan for next time.

Race

My plan for the day was simple. First mile around 7:30. Miles 2-3 in the 720s. And then drop it down to 7:15-7:20. I kind of followed this plan initially. And then I didn’t.  Mile 1-3: 7:25, 7:15, 7:11.  

Lesson #3 – I still go out too fast. I’m definitely getting better (NJ Marathon my first 5 miles were: 7:10, 7:02, 7:08, 7:05, 7:09)  but still not as slow as I should be. I get caught up in the excitement and how great I feel. Even when I know I shouldn’t.  I know this just takes practice, patience and confidence…this one is a work in progress =)

IMG_0478

For the first time in a race, I don’t remember a whole lot from the first 17-18 miles. Things felt great, despite my first few miles being a touch faster than I wanted. I remember seeing my husband at miles 1, 6 and 13. I remember seeing Erica at mile 6. I remember a few hills and letting the pace slow down so that I didn’t use too much energy.  I remember feeling happy.  But that’s it. I look at the paces I ran and honestly don’t remember running them.

Miles 4-21: 7:20, 7:18, 7:08, 7:28, 7:21, 7:15, 7:28, 7:17, 7:14, 7:12, 7:05, 7:33, 7:21, 7:18, 7:28, 7:19, 7:17, 7:37

So they were pretty consistent. The high 7:20s and 7:33 were all from hills in those miles.  There were definitely some splits I ran that I had  no business of hitting (7:05 and 7:08) but they were both around the time I saw my husband and I know that my happiness was through the roof each time I saw him (so I blame him for those miles – JK!)

mile 13

I hit the halfway point in 1:36 – over a minute slower than NJ last May. I remember hitting the half in NJ and already feeling like there was no way I could maintain that pace. It was different in Philly – I hit the half and felt good. Felt like I was running within  myself (for the most part) and was happy with the paces I was running. It still felt easy (or as easy as 13 miles in could feel.)

My hydration and fuel plan seemed to have worked well. I took a gel every 6 miles (or as close to that as I could – depending on the water points) and I alternated gatorade and water at the water points.

And then things feel apart. It seemed to happen in an instant. My legs cramped, hips cramped and I just couldn’t run anymore. I won’t rehash these miles as I talked about them in my last post. Here are the splits:

Miles 22-26.2: 10:42, 9:28, 9:15, 9:45, 8:21, 8:12 (last .38)

Immediately post race was very similar to what I went through at Lake Placid. No medical attention but intense stomach and leg cramping and terrible nausea that only started to subside after drinking two cups of warm chicken broth (this is one of the reasons why I think salt could be a factor).

Now that I have had some time to reflect on the race, I’ve come up with a few things that could have affected how the race unfolded on Sunday.

– Pacing: I do not think that I could sustain the pace I was hoping to run for 26.2 miles. I’m not saying that the time I was after was unfeasible – I still believe that I was trained to run my goal time. BUT, I do not think that I physically can run that pace the whole time.  For long runs, I always forced myself to run the first mile slow then I gradually sped up and then I finished fast. SO many long runs had fast finishes (low 7s and sometimes in the 6s) and I nailed them. Lesson learned.

– Diet: My diet did a 180 in the days leading up to the race. While I was paying attention to the total number of carbs I consumed, I paid no attention to other things that my body is used to getting. I am a salt lover. I use salt on everything – and in good amounts too. I don’t think I picked up the salt shaker once in the 3-4 days before the race – a huge change for someone who uses it at every meal.

– Salt: I am a salty sweater and I sweat a lot. I’ve known this about myself for years now as I often am covered in salt by the time I finish a long run or bike ride. I am fine during these training runs/rides, however, because of the salt I consume on a regular basis. I think that my diet changed + salt loss during race contributed to cramps. I plan to focus more on salt intake before the race (gatorade, salt on food) and carry a few salt pills with me just in case things start to feel off.

– Temperature: For a mid-November race in the Northeast, it was unseasonably warm – low 50s at the start and humid. I think it was close to 60 when the race ended.  I think the higher temps + humidity added to my salt loss. {Note: I am not complaining – if the race had happened this past Sunday when it typically occurs, it would have been in the teens and winds over 25 mph}

– Nerves: As much as I tried to keep my nerves at bay, race morning I was a mess again. I put WAY too much pressure on myself. I don’t think it has anything to do with sharing my goals (which I didn’t this time) but more to do with just making the race a do or die. I’m always a bit nervous on long runs but there’s no comparison to how I felt on race day.

Most of these seem to be issues that are NOT a problem for me on long runs.  So my goal for the next marathon will be to try my hardest to go into it as a long run. Every long run I did this training cycle was a success. So why am I going to drastically change things for a race when they were clicking perfectly during training?

I am planning another marathon soon – before I start triathlon training. More info on that soon =)  And I hope you have a wonderful and Happy Thanksgiving!!

Are you a salty sweater? Do you take salt tablets? 

Do you carbo load? 

Do you shoot to run the same pace for the whole marathon or do you start slow? 

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I don’t post here every day, but I post all of my workouts (and other happenings) on Instagram on a daily basis {NYCRunningMama}.

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    33 thoughts on “Philadelphia Marathon Race Recap

    1. So I’m thinking of running Philly this fall and I stumbled along this race recap. I know by this point, this is pretty old, but I wanted to tell you that taking Salt Stick during races has changed my life.

      I too am a salty sweater, but I can’t do Gatorade during races. It makes my stomach feel gross and it makes my spit sticky and just generally bothers me. (If they had Nuun on course, I’d be so happy…)

      During a training run for the NJ Marathon on the race course last spring, this one guy I was running with insisted I try one of his salt pills. I did, and I felt fantastic. I used them during that race, and during ever marathon there after, and I won’t be turning back.

      I ran a 3:21 in Berlin for a 7 min. PR last fall and felt SO GOOD after that race. Like serious, I was literally skipping around…after running a marathon. I thought that was impossible, but I totally credit the salt pills with that feeling. I use them no matter how hot or cold, because even during a cold race, I’m sweating. My baseline is two pills for a cool marathon, more as needed for hot races.

      Anyway, I recommend experimenting! Perhaps some salt pills can make as big of a difference in your running as it has in mine!

      • Hey Kaitlyn,
        I so appreciate you taking the time to share your experience and insight. I have some sitting down my basement and have NEVER used it. Do you recommend trying it during a training run to see how it goes? And when did you take it during the race?
        My concern is that they may cause some stomach problems or something else during the race since I’m not used to them…but I know that I am a salty sweater so it can’t help to try I guess.
        Thank you, again. I really appreciate it!
        And if you have any questions about Philly, feel free to send them my way! I’ve run it twice now!
        Best,
        Michele
        nycrunningmama recently posted..Speed is Relative (Women’s Running)My Profile

        • I would definitely try it out during a training run, just to be safe, but I’ve never had a problem with it impacting my stomach. Salt is such a basic element of the human diet, I can’t imagine it would cause any problems, but better to be safe than sorry.

          Since I usually take two in a marathon, during the race I like to take them at miles 8.5ish and 17 (or the nearest water stops), so it is roughly a third and two-thirds of the way into the race. I also like taking them then because it usually falls between my eating schedule (typically miles 6, 12, 18, 22), so I don’t have to try to do too many things at once.

          During long runs, I usually stick to just one Salt Stick (unless it’s a really hot, sweaty day) and take it at the halfway point.

          On Philly, my big question is how is the start? Is it crowded? Were the corrals seeded well so you didn’t have to worry about being surrounded by people of drastically different paces?

          • Okay. I just ordered another bottle! Should be here by Friday so I’m going to experiment on this weekend’s long run! Thank you so much for your advice !!

            Philly is a great race – it’s a really big race, but it doesn’t have the overcrowding feeling you get at some of the larger races. The corral system is really great – I am fairly certain you have to have a recent race performance to “seed” you (which you would be with your 3:21). I was in the 2nd corral – behind the elites and sub-elites and it was awesome. No crowding along the course once the race started (there’s a lot of runners but because you are accurately placed in your corral, you aren’t dodging walkers or slower runners).
            The only thing that wasn’t easy was that you have to be through security and in the corrals really early – but that happens at any large race (as I’m sure you had to do with Berlin), so it’s not something Philly can do differently.
            I would definitely recommend Philly – it’s a great course, lots of crowd support (although the latter miles along the river tend to be a bit boring and quiet!) and really well-run!
            Hope that helps! =)
            nycrunningmama recently posted..Speed is Relative (Women’s Running)My Profile

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    3. I have never done a full marathon before so I dont know what it is like. However, I have been there when it comes to going to fast in the beginning of a half marathon. This last one I did on Sunday was tougher than the last because there were actual big hills, which I am not used too. For my next race, I’ll be sure to incorporate more hills into my training. Plus, it was quite warm too for this race which wasn’t expected!
      Tara@PNWRunner recently posted..Hustle like RussellMy Profile

    4. Sending you big hugs!!!! I am with you lady! this is such a great thing to do with the lessons learned. it is not easy but understanding them helps for the next race. meanwhile i feel your pain with philly i don’t think i will be returning
      Stephanie recently posted..Baby Lee – One Year Old!My Profile

    5. I love that you use this experience as a learning one and that you take full responsibility for what could have caused certain conditions. But remember that there are some things we cannot control and often times as a fellow “control freak” myself, it is easier to take full blame than to accept that some things happen no matter how much we prepare…some things are out of our control and our life lesson is to remember this : )
      Jenn@Be ME recently posted..Thankful ThursdayMy Profile

    6. After reading this it sounds like you did a lot of things right. :-) You have some good ideas on what you can try to improve on but sometimes it’s hard to pinpoint one major thing. Bottom line- 26.2 is just a HARD distance. I’ve run 9 of them and so far only once I felt great from start to finish. The last 10K has played out a little differently in all of them but overall it is definitely a battle. Like you, I’m trying to figure out what I can do better next weekend.

      Hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving!!
      Tia @ Arkansas Runner Mom recently posted..Back to Back Marathoning while trying to PR!My Profile

    7. Oh, these races just hurt! They hurt when I run them and they hurt when I read about others running them :(…I’m sorry!!!…but you gutted it out and trained your butt off and that makes you awesome! I almost quit in my Kansas City marathon…I was so close and then another runner came along side me and he was walking too and said he wasn’t going to get the time he wanted or trained for but he was going to finish and be proud. Totally motivated me and got me thinking…after all that am I really not going to finish just because I am not going to get the time I wanted?
      I kind of carbo load but I love carbs! I read some where , and this is pretty much what I do, that you don’t really need to go crazy on the carbs because you are tapering your body can store more. I do throw in maybe a little extra (but I probably eat too many to start with). I have never tried a salt tablet but I would say go for it…or try carrying an electrolyte drink in a handheld.
      I have done my best marathons when I started out slower! I think maybe I can’t hold that pace the whole 26.2 miles either. Part of me just keeps thinking one of these days I will be able to so I go out fast hoping…but when I do I have always regretted it, and in fact gotten my worst times.
      Hang in there!!!! Let me know when I get to root for you again!!!!
      Jen@milesandblessings recently posted..Baby, It’s cold outside!My Profile

    8. Congrats on being one of the 20 most inspirational runners! It is motivating for me to see your workouts posted on Instagram. It’s hard to write a recap for a race that didn’t go the way you wanted, but I believe we learn something valuable at every race.

      A year ago, I discovered how much humidity affects my sweating. I’m a salty sweater, and I’ve learned that nausea sets in if I’m not rehydrating with electrolytes. It took me missing a marathon goal by almost an hour to try something else. I discovered Nuun tablets and those make a big difference for me.

      I’m running my marathon next week and I’m worried about my carboload because I’ve been eating higher fats (avocados and almonds) and lower carbs (mostly fruits and veggies) for the past few months. I also get a headache when I carboload, and it’s just not fun.

      Can’t wait to hear about your next marathon plan!
      Eileen recently posted..Peak Week – Dallas MarathonMy Profile

    9. 1. Congrats on being selected as an inspirational runner- although it’s something I already knew about you.

      2. Congrats on Philly- you still ran a great time and regardless of time you did the one thing that some forget to do- they learn from their experiences..the good and the bad. Looking back and seeing what worked and what didn’t is so important to help you improve along the way.
      Laura @losingrace recently posted..Pittsford Turkey Classic 5 Mile RecapMy Profile

    10. Congrats on being selected as an Inspirational Runner! You definitely inspire me! I actually just discovered that I need to increase my salt intake before races. I knew that I was a salty sweater, but it had never affected me until my race this past Sunday when I got all crampy!
      Amy recently posted..Happy Thanksgiving Eve Day!My Profile

    11. Great recap and I’m sorry you are so disappointed with your performance.

      I don’t overdo the carbs leading up to a race. I just eat what I normally would but I do have dark rye toast with honey and almond butter the morning of the race and then I eat an Elevate Me all fruit bar about one hour before the start. I’m not nearly as fast as you but I’ve not had any stomach or cramping issues either.

      Starting out slower is so hard to do because in my mind I think that I’ll never make up the time later in the race but it does work. It’s hard to feel people whip past at the beginning but I tell myself that I may see them later on when I pass them!!

    12. Go into it as you would a long run… I like that. Think I’m going to take that little bit with me for my next. I do the freak out nervous thing to and hate it because it takes the fun out of why I’m doing what I’m doing. :)
      Lindsey Hein recently posted..Strong.My Profile

    13. I feel like I could have written this post about some of my marathons in the past. This was the first one where I didn’t change my diet radically in the days leading up to it b/c I have decided that it’s kind of silly to do. As much as we are preached to carb load, I think that if it requires big changes in our normal diets, it might not work out. And I also think it was a warm/humid weekend for racing in November, which does have an impact, without question. And as for starting out easier and negative splitting–yep, when I don’t do that, I pay for it, too.

      The great thing is you went back and analyzed how to change things up and are doing it. You’ll nail this complicated race next time!
      misszippy1 recently posted..Happy Thanksgiving Week!My Profile

    14. I don’t go out of my way to carbo load but i will eat pasta or pizza the day before.
      I ALWAYS take sodium during a race. I usually keep a NUUN tablet with me and break it up into quarters. I’ll drop it into a water cup at a water stop every 5 miles. Gatorade actually doesn’t have enough sodium in it. Some of my friends take salt packets from fast food places and literally just pour it straight into their mouth.
      I always try to maintain an even pace for the entire run. I’m getting better at it but still haven’t been able to maintain pace the last 5-10 miles of my full marathons are ALWAYS slower. But I don’t start out too fast. I’ve also run with a pace group for 2 of my 4 marathons so that helps keep me steady.

      Thanks for your recap. Easier said than done but STOP PUTTING SO MUCH PRESSURE ON YOURSELF GIRL!!!! =)
      Sally @ sweat out the small stuff recently posted..Pictureless Post: The day that didn’t go according to my planMy Profile

    15. I think you over carbo loaded the days before and maybe not enough the morning of. I eat normally and avoid the “bad” stuff like too much fiber or dairy the two days prior (stick with plain things)….otherwise everything else stays the same.

      I use salt tabs during warm marathons. The Hammer company makes great ones.

      I’m SO sorry you had a bad day. The marathon can be a tricky, evil heart breaker and sometimes there is no real reason why. This training cycle will contribute to your next marathon and a PR will be yours. Thank you for sharing your experience!
      Kris @ http://www.kris-lawrence.com recently posted..Philadelphia Marathon Race RecapMy Profile

      • I was thinking that the carbo-loading may have been too much. I read several things that said 1g per body lb so went with 400g. It just seemed like A LOT. Especially since I don’t eat carbs on a regular basis. I literally felt like I had carbs coming out of my ears by Friday night. The morning of I hit just about 100g which was more than I ever have before so I thought I was okay…
        Did you use salt tablets for the race?
        nycrunningmama recently posted..Philadelphia Marathon Race RecapMy Profile

        • I did not use salt tabs for Philly but I also had a HUGE Philly soft pretzel for breakfast purposely because it was plain carbs (70 grams) and covered in salt. I also drink more Gatorade than water during the race and used Gu Roctane gels that have more sodium than normal gels. You have to be careful with Roctane though because some people have adverse reactions to the extra caffeine. I’m a salt and caffeine lover so my stomach was fine.
          Kris @ http://www.kris-lawrence.com recently posted..Philadelphia Marathon Race RecapMy Profile

    16. I too am a salty sweater and I think that’s what is scary for me about a long distance. I am soaked within 3 minutes and I have no eyebrows so I am also afraid of being unable to see. I know some of what I fear just needs more experience and so I look to my friends who run for guidance and hope!!! You are truly an inspiration and have way more of the “get up a nd dust yourself off” stuff than I do….so it’s to that strength I reply, I will try again because you have set the example!! Nice work Michelle and Kona had better look out!!!

    17. It’s hard to do a big “goal” race because the pressure. I think that’s why some people race all the time…because they can’t handle the pressure of a big “A” race that comes at the end of months of work. The important thing is you learned from it, but honestly we all have crash and burn races occasionally. Don’t beat yourself up over it. :)

      Also, take salt pills before you feel off. I take at least 2-3 for a marathon distance, more if it’s hot. The worst thing that will happen is a tiny bit of water retention later, but I’ve never had that happen. Salt pills are cheap to buy and easy to carry, so you have no excuse 😛
      Kara recently posted..Thanksgiving Themed RantsMy Profile

      • I think you are 100% right. I love training for races b/c it pushes me and I love the motivation. BUT, I feel like I blow up on race day. SO frustrating.

        You take 2-3 before the race? And no stomach issues?