It's almost universally accepted in the world of marathon running that you don't do anything on race day that you haven't tried before. It's reportedly not the time to break in new running shoes, or try a new pre-run breakfast/snack, or even a new pace or stride. I decided to blow that off a month ago when I ran my third Portland Marathon (Oregon)...and my 33rd overall...with interesting results.
I have been a Jeff Galloway run/walk/run guy since day one of my distance running "career". For most of the past decade I done a 3:1 ratio...three minutes running, one minute walking. I have tried others, including 10:1s, 5:1s, blah, blah, blah. I know from watching him do it, Jeff frequently does 1:1s...and still finishes sub-5 hours. However, even though I've used his method for years, I still had trouble getting my head around his assertion that if I ran less and walked more I could still be faster. For PDX this time around I decided to test it out. After hearing Jeff speak at the expo I adjusted the intervals on my watch to 2:1. I really had nothing to lose.
I also decided to leave my energy gels behind, in favor of Life Savers...and to NOT drink the sports drinks offered up along the route. This, after Jeff explained to a woman how neither of those things do ANYTHING to restore energy during the marathon. Using the fact the body virtually ceases to absorb new fuel during strenuous activities like, say, women in labor, or anyone running 26.2 miles. His research has found that the brain is what needs sugar during a marathon, or it begins to shut down. Thus, the Life Savers (Jeff uses them or just plain sugar). Apparently, all those energy gels and drinks just stack up in the stomach during the race, and aren't processed until the runner's done. No wonder we feel nauseous in the latter parts of the mary. This, I believe, also gives credence to my long-running tradition of eating an English Mars bar at every mile 17. It's just sugar!
It was a gorgeous October morning in Portlandia...although a little warmer at 6:30 than had been predicted. 56 instead of 44. This was indicative of what was to come, but more on that later.
The 2:1 ratio felt good, as one might expect. It allowed for more rest, and less energy expenditure. I quickly discovered that I was keeping very close to my standard pace, despite running less. I also don't run up hills anymore...I walk them all...to save energy that I'll need later. I did not remember PDX being as hilly as it is...even though I'd run it twice before. However, the overall pace felt great. Taking just water along the course instead of energy drinks felt good, too.
At Mile 17, where the big climb to the St. John's Bridge takes place, I was actually on track for a my possible second-ever sub-5. But it quickly became obvious that that would not be happening.
Remember the early morning temperature being warmer than predicted? Well...that translated into the afternoon temp being higher, too. The predicted high was supposed to be in the low- to mid-70s. It was well into the 80s...and from Mile 18 the course rolls through tree-line residential streets...but none of their shade was on the road. So, it was 8 miles of into-the-sun run/walking...and not very much fun.
I will admit that I was a bit bummed thinking about what my finishing time was likely to be as I slowed way down to manage the heat. But...turns out, not so bad.
I finished (according to my Garmin) in 5:40. I had been realistically been hoping to do 5:30...so...considering my change in run/walk ratio, and my walking of all uphills, and NOT taking any food during the race...I nailed this bad boy.
I know all you die-hards will have a tough time with some of this stuff, but I have now adopted it as the Gospel According to Jeff. The Belfast Marathon in Northern Ireland is currently my next scheduled event...next May. I am looking for something sooner, though. Stay tuned. I plan on being here on the blog more often.