When a PR doesn’t feel so great

I know I should be very happy. It was a very definite PR, not just a small one. So, why doesn’t it feel great?

Just over a week ago I ran my second marathon, and my second Philadelphia Marathon. At the beginning of the year I wasn’t so sure I would do it, but with what appeared to be successful training, I felt ready.

I felt so ready that I was actually looking forward to it. My plan was to go out at an aggressive pace, but one that felt achievable, and a pace I believed I could keep up for at least 18 to 20 miles in the worst case scenario.

The race didn’t pan out that way. I was a little surprised to find that my right calf felt a little stiff very early on, but I shook it off, and the feeling faded.

I passed the 10k in just under 45 minutes, and then the halfway point in 1:36:30, still feeling good. However, just a short while later, around mile 15, I felt a slight twinge in my right calf. Unfortunately I knew what was coming – 2 years previously the same thing had happened but that time around it hadn’t happened until around miles 17/18. That time, my last 4 miles were very tough, and this time, true to history, my last 6 miles were horrendous (although you couldn’t necessarily tell from the picture below taken by a friend at mile 25).

At this point in the race, I was alternating between running, running with poor form to try to ease the calf strain, walking, and just hobbling.

My dramatic drop off still saw me hobbling in at 3:22:45 – a great time especially when I look back at my 5 years of running, but that hope of getting close to 3:15 was gone. Combine that with the knowledge that this will likely be my last competitive marathon for several years (I can’t get away with the level of training around other things in my life – as a friend’s sign said on race day “Still in a relationship? You didn’t train hard enough”), this ended up as a slight disappointment, but ultimately one I can live with.


Why run a marathon?

Two years ago today I took part in my first marathon in Philadelphia.

It’s not something I had ever really wanted to do, and other than the enthusiasm of RVRR, I’m not sure why I did it then.

As before the race, I didn’t really feel like I wanted to afterwards either:


I still maintain that I don’t want to run a marathon – 26.2 miles is too far for me. So, you may ask, why am I doing it again in 5 days time?

The simple answer is that it sort of happened by accident. I signed up early in the year with the aim of using that entry as a training tool to help me on my way to a half marathon PR. At the time I thought there was a very good chance I would just end up running the half marathon.

Armed with my newly gained coaching qualifications I soon set myself a plan. As is always the case, life can get in the way – trying to juggle (and often failing at juggling) family, work, and anything else that comes up, can easily cause the plan to be abandoned. There were certainly weeks when this was the case, but it seems I was able to limit the impact, and this was borne out by my half marathon performance at the LeHigh Via Half and the Newport Half in September where I came tantalizingly close to that 1:30 barrier I had hoped to break through.

Throughout my training my goal was to break my first marathon time. If that wasn’t going to be likely, then I would drop my plans and run the half instead (why put myself through something like that if it’s going to be a disappointment – after all, I don’t want to be running that far anyway). Along the way I have been comparing to my prior experience training for the race in 2013 and I can see, and feel, the difference.

I know I have what it takes to beat my previous time, but I also realize I am fully at the whims of the day – anything can happen to ruin a marathon – so I am not counting out a failure yet. My 20 mile run a couple of weeks ago has given me a huge amount of confidence. I felt good, with no cramping problems, and was able to easily increase my speed as I progressed. It was by far my fastest time over such a distance.

Tapering has been interesting. I simultaneously feel happy to not be running so much, but I am also struggling with the feeling that I should be out there doing more (I actually have run less than my plan had allocated, so perhaps that’s valid).

Good luck to everyone running Philly, and no matter what happens out there, try to enjoy it.

Keeping track of runs

Before I was a runner I used mapmyride to track my bike rides. I had a Garmin for my bike, but never really used Garmin’s own site for keeping track of things.

I started running in 2010 and would upload my runs to mapmyride/mapmyrun and around that time I heard about Strava. At the time it really was set up primarily for cycling and running didn’t integrate so well, so I didn’t use it.

When I got to know other runners and learned what they used I would try different sites but none of them appealed to me as much as Map My Run so I stuck with it. Then someone told me that Strava had done a lot of work to make it more than just a site for cyclists.

I started using Strava and for a while abandoned all others because I liked it. Since becoming a coach I found myself back on Map My Run too to keep track of others I was working with. I also started to use Garmin Connect because it became an easy option with the automatic uploads from my Fenix 3. I linked Strava and MapMyRun to automatically take my Garmin workouts and all was well, everything automatically uploaded to the places I used the most.

Earlier this year I heard about Final Surge primarily as a coaching site – a place to assign workouts and track progress of your athletes, but with a marathon coming up I decided to use it primarily to coach myself (it’s free for individual use, and paid for coaching multiple athletes). The site made it really easy to set up a training plan with its ability to store different workouts to apply when desired. As with other sites it also links to Garmin to automatically load runs, but it also attempts to match them to planned runs. In terms of keeping track and monitoring progress, this is easily the best site for me now. I am able to see a comparison between what my plan indicated and what I actually did, and the calendar view and multiple report options provide useful tracking options.

In recent months I have been running extra miles on a treadmill at the gym near work. This means I have been manually entering runs into Garmin Connect. These runs should filter out to my connected accounts, as it does with the runs that upload from my Garmin watch. They do for Final Surge and MapMyRun, however Strava ignores them. This makes Strava useless to me now as I am not planning to manually input all those workouts missed by this problem so that’s disappointing.

What are your preferred tracking tools? Do you pay for any of the premium services on these sites and, if so, have they been worth it to you? (This is not something I have ever done, despite being almost tempted but then dismissing it as unnecessary for how I use them).