Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Knoxville Covenant Health Marathon: A Training Run?

On Sunday I ran the Knoxville Covenant Health Marathon, as a training run.

Yep, I said a training run. Is that possible? Can you run a full marathon as a training run? After Sunday, I truly believe that you can do so!

On my quest to do a full marathon a month in 2012 I have been through the ups and downs of training. Admit it, you have to be completely out of your mind to "enjoy" a 20 mile training run. I know I do not enjoy 20 mile training runs, especially one by myself. That mileage was the exact mileage that I wanted to run on Sunday. The family was going to be out of town so I figured I had plenty of time on Sunday morning to get 20 miles in for the day. The more I thought about it, the more I dreaded it. Why would I want to run 20 miles on the same roads I always run? I wouldn't have crowd support, I would have to worry about water supplies, and I wouldn't get to hang another medal on my rack.

As a result, on about Thursday, I decided to run the marathon in Knoxville. I had wanted to run it in the past and had discussed it this year. A few weeks ago I decided against it and opted for the Go! St. Louis Marathon on April 15th as my full for April. So I went to Knoxville on Saturday and registered.

I guess a definition of a "training run" would be appropriate to have this post make sense. To me, a training run is any run that helps you get better in the future. It could be a physical training run or it could be a mental training run. Either way, a training run, simply put, is one that helps you get better.

The way I look at things is that if I stay registered for a bigger race, I'll keep training. On Sunday, I wanted to accomplish a few things. I have been working really hard on stopping my heel strike. I also wanted to tweak my run/walk ratio a bit to see if I could get a better feel for a faster pace. I also think that every marathon that I do teaches me to stay mentally focused on the run the entire time. Sunday helped with that task also.

To me, 26.2 miles is more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge. True, it is tough physically. There is no arguing that point but I have personally struggled with the mental side more than the physical side. After ten of these things, I won't say it's any easier but I will say I have learned a ton that helps me tremendously.

So what did my "training run" do for my 2012 Marathon quest? First and foremost, the Knoxville Marathon helped me with the mental aspect of running in the heat. As many of you know, it has been really warm this Spring. When I ran the Publix Marathon in Atlanta two weeks ago, it was 87 degrees. Sunday wasn't much better. It was about 84 degrees at the end of the race. The huge positive is that it was foggy and cloudy until the mile 16 mark for me. It was humid, yes, but it was bearable. At 16 though, it changed. The sun seemed to burn off the clouds almost instantaneously. It got warm quick. Running in the heat isn't really that bad. Again, it's a mental thing. I began to wonder if I needed to slow down to save energy. I also began to take on more fluids. This one action cost me a good bit. I took on too much fluid which caused me to have that feeling where your belly is completely full but you think you need more water. It also caused me to get a bit nauseous if I picked up the pace too much. I finally adjusted my fluid intake about mile 19 to the point where I got a good balance going. A huge lesson for marathons later this year. The other thing about the heat and sun is the fact that you can get sunburned quickly. I made sure to put suscreen on that morning but it didn't stop the burn completely.

My quest to stop my heel strike has been tough. I really enjoy my new Newton Motion shoes and they have helped. I do really good at staying on my forefoot until I get tired. As I began to tire on Sunday, I struggled to stay focused on staying off of my heels. I don't think that I mastered it by any means but I did make progress to the goal of eliminating it completely!

This marathon was also a bit hilly. I heard from several runners pre race and they all said that it was maderately hilly. That was about right. There weren't any hills that were crazy like mile 23 in Atlanta but you consistently had to climb every few miles. There is no doubt that running hills in heat helps. I made sure to push through each hill hoping to capitalize on the training for St. Louis.

Another learning lesson for me on Sunday was the fact that I need to stick to my 5 to 1 run/walk ratio. I began this race by doing 5 miles at about an 8 minute pace. I found that I was a bit more tired at miles 15 to 20 than I have been in the last few races. I will shift back to doing 3 miles at an 8 minute pace and then immediatley move into my 5 to 1 ratio for the rest of the race. My legs were more fresh and I felt stronger at the end when I stuck to that plan. The only thing that I might need to adjust is my pace during my run phase.

Another thing that I learned from this race that has nothing to do with running, is that it's cool how Auburn and Alabama runners get along well. Because I was going to finish on the 50 yard line of Neyland Stadium, I ran in my Auburn shirt. Apparently, all of the Bama fans in Knoxville had the same idea! I got several good hearted "Roll Tide" yells and had some good converations with a few of them as we ran. Apparently, Auburn and Alabama do share a mutual understanding, they hate UT!

Auburn was represented well. I saw several fans on the course and I also saw several runners with shirts or hats on. I'm not sure there is a better feeling than hearing "War Eagle" at mile 20 of a marathon! One great story from the race was at about mile 8, if I remember correctly. As I ran by a band playing the lead singer stopped singing mid sentence and yelled, "War Eagle!". Good stuff for sure!

As I wrap up this post, I look back and see that I didn't really recap the race. There was really no highlights to this one. It truly was a training run for me. I want to PR the Go! St. Louis Marathon on April 15th and I know this marathon helped with that purpose. I really just ran a consistent race that got me another medal.

If there is anything that I can take away from this race that might be helpful to others is this: Running is 99% mental. If you train smart and get a good mileage base under you, you can do whatever you set your mind to doing.

Keep running!

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