Berlin Marathon 2018 Race Report

Ich habe es geschafft. I ran Berlin.

As often as I have run races, I’ve never actually trained that hard for a race. You see, there’s a big difference between telling yourself that you’re going to run a race under a certain time, and telling almost everyone you know, including people you don’t know that you’re targeting a finish time. The former is like making a promise to yourself and, deep down, you know that you don’t actually have to keep it. The latter is like telling all your friends that you can’t go out on Friday or Saturday nights because you have to run long before sunrise the next morning, and you actually have to do those runs or else your friends will hate you for it – so you do them. And so, completely out of character and contrary to how I approached marathon training for my first three marathons – Berlin became my first chronically documented marathon training and I posted every weekly run report publicly to keep people in the loop.

My rough plan – did 1st 6wks and promptly switch to Jack Daniels’ 2Q.

My rough plan – did 1st 6wks and promptly switch to Jack Daniels’ 2Q.

At Smashrun, we’re big proponents of social accountability. We talk the talk. But I’ve never actually experienced what that felt like. Until Sunday.

Prior to Berlin, I ran NYC in 2010 in 4:44:03, followed by the Santiago Marathon in 2012 in 4:23:44, and Amsterdam in 2016 in 4:02:09. As you can see, I’ve taken my sweet time trying to get under 4. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always wanted to finish a marathon under 4 hours. But it wasn’t until earlier this year that I started thinking about Boston Qualifiers. And Boston, I assure you, is a real stretch for me.

With this in mind, I approached the Berlin Marathon with the goal of finally finishing under 4 hours. And I wanted to be realistic. I’ve been running for more than 10 years, but it wasn’t until 2016 that I started PR’ing in most races and it was also around the same time I renewed my commitment to running for the sake of improving time.

Goals: I wanted a 4% improvement over my last marathon. That would’ve been a goal of 3:52:28. But I like nice round numbers. And I was terrified of going for something that sounded to me like an “aggressive” goal, especially with our frequent moves and – at the time – uncertain training conditions for summer. So I decided to go after 3:55:00.

I’ve done this a few times now and, from experience, I’ve learned that it’s better to train for a faster time to account for unforeseeable circumstances. Overreach a tiny bit, so to speak. I have a lot of room to improve, so I can usually afford to do this. So my training plan was for a 3:45:00. A 10min buffer is pretty sweet, especially when all the training paces seemed very doable. Of course, I recognize that there’s a problem with this approach in that by overreaching, I’m giving myself an out on race day. So I might be more likely to reign it in when the going gets tough… but that’s not the case. I’ve actually found that this approach has helped me push my limits in the past. So I end up running faster than I may have otherwise planned.

Training Plan: Hybrid (Runner’s World Ultimate 3:45 and Jack Daniels 2Q). The Runners World Training Plans don’t really get enough credit for how effective they are, but it brought me up to speed – quite literally. In 4 weeks, I was doing a long run of 10mi or more every Sunday and at about 10s faster than my usual easy pace. By 6 weeks, I was already doing weekly steady runs between 4-9mi at 8:45min/mi and regular 300-800m intervals between 35-50s faster than goal marathon pace. I was off to a great start.

At about 1/3 into my training plan, I switched to Jack Daniels 2Q. I did some ludicrous amount of research on various training plans before settling on JD – although, I’ve been a Daniels fan since I started running. I looked at Hanson’s, Pfitzinger’s, and Lydiard. I ruled out Pfitzinger’s and Lydiard pretty quickly based on the risk of overtraining: doubling up and high mileage weeks are not my forte. Both plans also seemed a bit… monotonous.

On the other hand, I strongly considered doing Hanson’s Marathon Method because there was a fair amount of overlap with JD’s principles. Although Hanson advocates for limiting the long run to 16mi, JD limits it to 2h 30min. It also sticks to the prototypical weekly structure of tempos, intervals, and long runs except that tempo is really marathon paced runs. What I don’t like about Hanson’s method is the lack of any speedwork in the long run. This is because you’re supposed to carry over the cumulative fatigue from your two speedwork sessions each week so that your long run feels more like the last 16mi of a marathon rather than the first 16mi.

I don’t mind this idea. RunnersConnect has a similar training plan where you do might do something like an 8mi easy run on Saturday and then an 18mi run with miles 12-16 at 10-15s faster than marathon pace. And it’s a hard long run. But I wanted to try something different. I get so bored with my long runs that I get sloppy. And when I get tired, I naturally slow down. I don’t even consider speeding up. This is why I chose JD’s 2Q.

social-marathon

If you’ve never seen a JD 2Q plan before, and you love creating custom workouts for your watch, you’re gonna be giddy with joy. All of the training paces are dictated by your goal time. For the most part, you’ll spend most of your training running Easy (E), Tempo (T), and Long (L) run paces. There’s about 6 weeks in the plan that includes Interval (I) pacing, but I skipped all of it since I used the RW plan in the beginning of my training. Why? Because I’ve found that JD’s interval paces for me are very taxing and I’ve gotten injured doing them in the past.

A section of the 2Q set up.

A section of the 2Q set up.

What I love about JD’s training plan is the flexibility, the variety between sessions, and the super fun medium long run workouts. The plan requires a fair amount of effort from the runner, because you need you figure out (write down) your training paces based on your current VDOT. And yeah, it’s probably a good idea to get the book. Put it right next to your copy of the Lore of Running and Pfitzinger’s Advanced Marathoning. Anyway, I digress…

JD likes to give you runs that switch between paces. For example: a long run with 2mi E + 2x10min @ T (2min RI) + 80min E + 20min @ T + 2mi cool down. Yeah. It’s a pain to program your watch to do this, but it’s worth the effort. By constantly switching between paces, whether it’s easy and tempo, or easy and marathon pace, you end up remembering your paces very quickly and build the muscle memory to run at those paces. What’s more is that when you spend 80min running easy, only to follow it with 20min running at faster than your marathon pace, you learn to push hard once you’re already tired. It was gold, I tell you. I freaking loved JD’s 2Q plan.

Based on my weekly training volume alone, I knew I trained harder for Berlin than any other race.

I peaked at about 50mi w/ a trailing 7day peak of 56mi.

I peaked at about 50mi w/ a trailing 7day peak of 56mi.

You can dig in to the details on my Smashrun profile (and maybe follow me during my next marathon training cycle!). Here’s a quick rundown of everything I need to remember for myself as a benchmark for next time.

Race weight: 48kg
10km time pre-marathon: 48:08
Best Half pre-marathon: 1:46:04
Best Marathon time pre-Berlin: 4:02:09

In the 4 months leading up to Berlin
Avg Weekly Distance: 42mi (67km)
Number of runs per week: 4
Long runs > 10mi: 15
Long run pace: 9:30min/mi
Longest run distance pre-marathon: 20mi (32km)
Longest run duration pre-marathon: 3:13:46

Race Day. Alright, the day before was a wash.

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It was our day of travel and, I spent way too much time on my feet on Saturday. From the airport, to the expo, having lunch in a different section of Berlin, late Airbnb check-in, toured the Reichstag dome (yeah, I know).

Reichstag

I must have robbed myself of at least a minute just by walking around so much. But I did sleep early. And that never happens. I must’ve had more than 9 hours of sleep the night before when I usually only get 4 or 5 from nerves.

Me being mad chirpy on race morning.

Me being mad chirpy on race morning.

I woke up at 7:15am on race day. I had some coffee, a bowl of oatmeal, and half a Clif Bar. I also had the biggest bowl of ramen for lunch the day prior and gnocci for dinner the night before, so I was feeling pretty fueled, but far from bloated. We left for Brandenburg Gate at 8:15am, got there, figured out our meeting spot, and I was at my starting block by 9:20am. It was surprisingly easy getting there, despite the crowd.

The Course. If you’ve only ever heard of the Berlin Marathon, then I’m sure you’ve heard what everyone else hears: it’s among the flattest and fastest course you’ll ever run. Having lived in Berlin, I knew this wasn’t exactly true. It’s more like “almost completely flat with the occasional bridge and underpass” but nothing like NYC. It’s also got some super wide turns, so congestion is rarely a problem. I say, rarely, because you will only come across a few turns where people slow down, like the right turn at Hermannplatz or at the Breitenbachplatz underpass.

If it’s a sunny day, as it was on Sunday, most of the course is completely exposed to the sun with the exception of the long stretch along Hasenheide, big chunks of Friedenau/Wilmersdorf, and along parts of Kurfürstendamm. Naturally, it would also depend on how fast you’re running/time of day.

The course is more or less lined with people cheering from start to finish and lots of bands! Quite a lot of drumming, some funky bands, and a couple of odd jazz groups. I’m pretty sure there was also a woman singing opera at some point. It thins out in some parts, like the sad stretch of suffering that usually takes place between mile marker 17 – 23 (25km-37km) but, by and large, it’s a lively course.

Refreshments, however, were a disaster. I mean, beet juice electrolyte drink? Who thought that was a good idea? And plastic cups. Terrible terrible plastic cups. The sound they make when runners crush them beneath their feet really resonates and it was LOUD. Which I guess is great because the signage was so tiny, you kind of needed a warning that it was coming up. And they’re slippery as f#%&! If they do plastic cups again next year, do yourself a favor and bring one of those collapsible cups that are required for trail runs. Or if you’re into bringing your own juice – camelbaks are permitted up to 2L.

Miles [0] to [13]
I was running fairly even splits. I mean, I was rocking it. There were a few odd splits that were too fast like my 8:16min/mi at mile 5 and 8:21min/mi at mile 11, but my legs were in rocket shape. They were cruising and I was just along for the ride. My HR stayed close to 75% of my HRR for the vast majority of it. I wasn’t dehydrated, hungry, or overheated. I was drinking to thirst when I felt like it but I wasn’t chugging water. Took Gu #1 at 15km. Just like in all my training runs. Saw Chris near the start!
Splits: 8:35, 8:29, 8:22, 8:33, 8:16, 8:32, 8:34, 8:34, 8:38, 8:33, 8:21, 8:36, 8:32

Miles [14] to [17]
And then it got warm all of a sudden. Nothing but sunshine. I was sweating truckloads and well on my way to chugging water. Had a banana or two on course. Took Gu #2 at 25km, also same as my training runs. Stomach fine. A bit more tricky getting past the refreshment areas at this point. A lot of slowing down. Too many hazards. People were cutting in sideways to get water. That’s just poor form.
Splits: 8:32, 8:49, 8:45, 8:47

Mile [18]
Holy crap. Right calf seized like it just wanted to destroy my day. Like the kind you get in the middle of the night, which makes you want to grab your calf thinking that it would somehow stop the involuntary muscle spasms. This is a FIRST for me. I’ve never cramped like this during a race. I hit walls, but I don’t cramp. I pushed through it and just barely salvaged my 18mi split at a 9:00min/mi pace. It probably helped that some guy was running along the course with a sign and screaming “new world record! new world record today! 2:01:39!!”
Split: 9:00

Miles [19] to [21]
I was feeling better. I got over it pretty quickly. I did do some weird movements – like smacking my right calf a few times – to get it to snap out of it. It’s not like my brain was fully functioning at this point. I ultimately concluded that I wasn’t going to run any faster than an 8:45min/mi pace. Right calf was intermittently spazzing out, but I was still grinning like a kid who just scored some candy – because I did – and was happily talking to myself about what a great idea it was to train with gummy bears 🙂 Took Gu #3 at 35k.
Splits: 8:44, 8:47, 8:49

Mile [22]
Left calf wanted to join the party! Have you ever had both calves cramp during a race? I really want to understand what went wrong here, because I was hydrated, I had bananas, I took 3 Gu gels already. Nothing felt out of the ordinary and it’s like the wheels just fell off. These cramps were a lot worse. I’m glad some really nice woman gave me a small bottle of Powerade. Imagine that. Some nice lady with her little kids just standing there giving out small bottles of Powerade, water, and pretzel sticks. Man, I love Berliners.
Split: 9:04

Miles [23] to [26.2]
Saw Chris briefly some point before the finish. Yay! I needed to hand over my Spibelt that no longer served a purpose. Apparently, I looked great! The cramps started to wear off around the 42km mark, go figure, but I was so far off my target pace, I was just doing what I can to move forward and pretend like I was still moving as gracefully as I did when I started running that morning.
Splits: 9:12, 9:13, 9:09, 9:35, 9:02

Berlin Marathon Course 2018

Berlin Marathon Course 2018

When I saw that gate though, I thought, “Hell YEAH! BEER AT THE FINISH!” Well, actually, it was probably more like “thank god, it’s almost over.” I’m pretty sure I was still smiling at this point. The spectators were so joyful in seeing all the runners cross that gate. It was super contagious.

I checked my watch shortly before the turn that showed me the Brandenburg Gate. I was over 3:49:00. I was very briefly sad about this. Not because I wanted to finish under 3:50:00, but because I felt like I ran a good race. I used to struggle explaining to people the concept of a wall during a marathon. I have a better idea now, because I genuinely feel like I didn’t hit it this time. The wall is that sudden onset of extreme fatigue that forces you to slow down. This was my first marathon where I didn’t feel that. Even when I my calves felt like daggers on my legs, I actually felt like I could’ve kept going. You learn something new after every race right?

After getting my medal, I walked straight towards the exit to get to my meeting point. The post-race bag had a banana, an apple, a bottle of water, some weird tasting granola bar, and a chocolate-filled croissant (I pretty much ate this one first). Then, I hobbled/jogged/walked to where Chris was waiting. We then made plans to meet up with a couple of other marathoners, had several pints at BrewDog and a burger to end the day.

Tiny me is hiding in there somewhere :)

Tiny me is hiding in there somewhere 🙂

3 days after the race. Legs are feeling good again. Will probably shake them out tomorrow. None of my usual hip flexor issues post marathon. No lingering soreness that might point to a problem. I had a lot of stairs to deal with in Berlin, so that probably helped quite a bit with the initial recovery. I need to figure out this cramping problem so that, on my next marathon, I can train for 3:35:00 and be one step closer to Boston.

If you got this far – you’re a champ. Thanks for reading!

Mitja Barcelona Race Report

Last year, I signed up for the Mitja Barcelona but skipped it because I got sick. On a whim, I signed up for it again this year, somewhat half serious about actually running, but mostly wanting a short break from winter weather. I figured it’s a flat and fast course, a short flight away, and an excuse to speak Spanish for a weekend! And after a long 2017 of not really trying hard to break any of my PR’s, Barcelona felt like the right race to set the tone for 2018.

I ran the Lyon Semi in 1:50:46. I was going for a 2% improvement and targeting 1:48:34. Surprisingly, despite not really running that much through winter, but running a lot of intervals in the last 4 weeks leading up to the race, I ran Barcelona in 1:46:06. Much much faster than I intended.

The other surprise was that I ran fairly even splits in the first half and, although I slowed down quite a bit in the second half, even then, my splits were close.

Barcelona Splits

Ten days before the Barcelona Half, I’m fairly certain that I strained a calf muscle. It was bad. Bad enough that I walked the remaining distance home, because I couldn’t finish my run that day. I rested it for two days and then went for another run. It actually hurt so much then that I was in tears by the time I got home from a short mile. I wanted to call it off. Chris talked me out of it. He reasoned that I had a week left before the race. I could rest it and go for a short run the day before, while already there in Barcelona. If it felt ok, run the race by feel. If it was bad, it was a weekend in Barcelona! So I rested it and did a short shake out the day before the race. And you know what? I would’ve regretted it so much if I didn’t go.

Part of me worries that Barcelona was an edge case. I was averaging roughly 25-30mi/week leading up to the half marathon and I practically took December off. I did, however, do three long runs (longer than 10mi) and a couple of really hard interval sessions in January. Mostly just January.

I guess the weather was nice and I took a lot more days off than usual before race day. But is that really enough to make that much of a difference? Maybe. Perhaps, this is why rest is such a big part of tapering. I have to remember this, because the next time I taper before a race, I’m gonna want to keep running when I should really be resting.

New Year, New Goals

Talking to Chris the other night, I asked him what his New Year’s Resolutions were for 2018. I always assumed that most people set year-long goals at the start of each year. I never considered that that’s not always the case. Sometimes, we might already be doing all the things we care about and as much as we have time for that a New Year’s Resolution isn’t really necessary.

But… I like setting goals. Of course, most of them are running-related, so it’s a bit boring, but hey! It keeps me active right?

This year, I’ll be running Berlin. I woke up early last year to catch the leaders of the marathon at Kottbusser Brucke. It was awesome to see them! Insanely fast runners have a way of making something that looks deeply uncomfortable somehow look desirable. But, no runner ever starts a training season thinking that there won’t be any pain or misery involved. Much less, think that running fast is the product of effortlessness. So it goes without saying that you shouldn’t necessarily envy insanely fast runners, because so much work goes into that. And excellent genes… I guess I’m enviable of their exceptionally good genes.

It rained so much that day. Mother nature must have been laughing at everyone for thinking that 2017 was the year someone would set a new marathon record. But the crowd showed up! Everyone was geared for the weather. People were there to cheer and have a good time. It made me really want to run it. And, being lucky with marathon lotteries, I got in.

In February, I’ll be running the Barcelona Half. I’ve got the Madrid Half in April, and my first 50km run in Oslo at the end of May. I’d like to run a few shorter road races leading up to Berlin, but it remains to be seen where we’ll be from March onwards, so it’s too soon to plan that far in advance.

It’s our last year in Europe. It would be great to live in another capital city like Prague, Vienna, or Lisbon. Maybe a few short weekend trips…

And, if Nate and Poliana’s January visit is any indication of what’s to come, then I have a feeling that 2018 will be an eventful year.

Nate & Poli in Berlin

Amsterdam Marathon 2016 Race Report (sort of year-end review)

Background
There were lots of new things about this particular training cycle. I’ve always been a consistent runner but, for years now, I’ve been stuck in a rut. Part of the problem was because we moved around so much that it was impossible to find a reliable “everything” running route. Either the routes were too short for long runs or too segmented by street crossings for speedwork. The other problem was that I wasn’t setting any real goals for my running. Month over month goals are fine but, in order to progress, you kind of have to throw a few uncomfortable situations in there. So, after much delay and getting a really bad case of the flu last season, I signed up for 6 races this year.

On schedule was:

  • EcoTrail Paris (18km) – March 19th
  • La Pyrénéenne (10km) – May 15th
  • La Course Royale in Versailles (15km) – June 19th
  • EcoTrail Brussels (18km) – September 24th
  • Lyon Semi Marathon – October 2nd
  • Amsterdam Marathon – October 16th

The two trail races and the Versailles run, which was an all-terrain course, were thrown in there to satisfy my craving for off-road runs – I do miss trail running daily.

This is, by far, the most number of hard effort races I’ve signed up for within the same year. When I lived in Brooklyn, I frequently signed up for the NYRR events, but I never really “raced” them. I hadn’t really discovered “racing” until much later on in my running. When I was staying in Virginia Beach, I raced my best 5k at 23:35 and that was really hard for me. I actually trained for that run, and I placed second in my age group. When Chris and I lived in Split (Croatia), I ran a 1.32km staircase race and finished in 11min 50s, placing first in my age group. I genuinely trained for that one too! Of course, we were so excited about the free buffet that came with the race entry, that we skipped the awards ceremony and I missed out on a snazzy medal (maybe a trophy!) In any case… those 2 runs were really the only ones I’d consider hard effort races, following my NYC Marathon and Maratón de Santiago, both of which were a long long time ago.

Having just surfaced on the other side of all my races this year, I feel really good about doing what I did. I PR’d during La Pyrénéenne and finally skimmed a 50min 10k. I PR’d my Lyon Semi with 1h 50min. And I PR’d Amsterdam with 4h 2min. It wasn’t the PR I wanted, but it’s still 18min off my previous marathon PR.

Training
I was coming off of a minimal base heading into my first EcoTrail. That first race was really meant to get me back into training mode. Unfortunately, I picked up the flu shortly after that race which, ironically, compelled me to sign up for 5 more races for the rest of the year (plus 1 next year – the Marathon de Paris in April).

La Pyrénéenne was my first real race this year. It’s a local 10k held in the 19th arrondissement. There are fewer than 2,000 participants and it’s a hell of a hilly course running through Belleville and Ménilmontant. The start of the course is mostly downhill, then flat, and then a long hard ascent up Rue de Ménilmontant before another fast descent. Then a slight downhill gradient all along Boulevard de Belleville and Boulevard de Ménilmontant, past Père Lachaise and around heading back on a slight uphill to finish at Place Gambetta.

Coming off La Pyrénéenne made me realize how much I enjoyed hilly courses. As much as I’d like to think I could’ve run an even faster 10k on all flat, that’s probably not true for me. I’m incredibly efficient at running uphill and I’m almost at the point where I can charge hard downhill without breaking. And it’s just so much more fun than a flat and fast course.

Following my 10k, I knew I needed to stretch out my legs for the longer distances coming up. So I put in lots of easy runs during the week and did a couple of 15-17km runs to start building my base. This was all pre “training plan”, which I didn’t actually put together until about mid-July. It was a nice comfy 4 months out from Amsterdam.

The plan was pretty straightforward. 4 runs a week (Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday): 1 easy w/ strides, 1 speedwork, 1 easy, and 1 long run. As I got closer to Amsterdam, there were slight variations: increased distance of easy runs, increased number of strides, cut downs/ Short Tempo/ Long Tempo for speedwork, and more cut downs plus marathon pace towards the final laps for long runs.

This was the first time I toyed with cut downs, which I’m surprisingly good at doing. I’ve always paced conservatively, so I like to start slow and gradually speed up. I’m way less good at it once I start the cut down at about 13mi (21km). Learning the concept of running on tired legs was a nice addition to my training repertoire but … it’s something that I’ve yet to master.

I felt a little aggressive about my base building phase, mainly because I was out of practice. My long runs were 9mi, 11mi, 13mi, 15mi, 10mi, 16mi, 18mi, 11mi, 13.2mi – with the last one being my Lyon Semi. The first 3rd of my plan averaged 26mi/week, the second third was about 33mi/week, and my peak week was 38mi.

In retrospect, the Lyon Semi was scheduled way too close to my marathon. I seriously aggravated my hip flexors following my half marathon PR, which came back in full force during the Amsterdam Marathon.

Goal
Okay, so I know this was a stretch, but I really thought it was possible to get an 8% improvement over my 4:20:00 marathon. If I did, that would’ve put me at 3hr 59min. So I decided to train for a 3hr 50min finish, with the assumption that I’ll actually finish right around 4 hours.

The Course
The course starts and finishes at the Olympic Stadium, which is pretty cool. It will take you through Vondelpark, the Rijksmuseum, and along the Amstel River. Most of the roads are narrow and, because there’s about 30,000 runners running with you, it’s safe to say that you should expect quite a few bottlenecks. The course is mostly flat, with the occasional small grade hills, especially when running underneath the overpasses.

Pre-race
We had, what appeared like, a minor Smashrun emergency the day before the race – also our day of travel. So we had to pack up Chris’ computer and bring his monitor all the way to Amsterdam so we could put a patch together and release it before Sunday. Like clockwork, Thalys was delayed on the way up from Paris, but we still made good time.

I left Chris to work on the patch and I headed out to grab my race bib. We stayed close to the stadium, so it was easy for me to get to the marathon expo. They had a well-oiled operation going. I found the sign for bib pick-up and also got my race shirt within 5min of entering the building. Then they funnel you through to the expo (two buildings of it) before you can get back out. I wasn’t in the mood to linger. It was a cloudy, rainy, miserable day out and I needed to head back to help with QA testing.

When I got back, Chris had already furiously coded away with a solution. We tested it and everything looked good. We also found out that it wasn’t as big of a problem as we thought it was and didn’t need to bring the computer at all. Ah well.

By then, it was almost 5pm, so we went to the city for our dinner reservation… for ramen! It was the perfect pre-race dinner. You see, Chris had found a study indicating that marathoners consuming carbs the day before the race at a quantity of >7 g/kg body mass had significantly faster overall race speeds and maintained it for a much longer period of time than marathoners who didn’t. What’s more is that those who consumed that much carbs ran an average of 13% faster. Basically, he tried to get as much carbs into my system as I could tolerate over the course of 36 hours. So soup for dinner, the day before the race, was such a welcome change – without compromising the carbs! I also had 2 beers the night before, because fuel. I really should’ve had 3.

Race morning
I woke up at 7:30am, ahead of my 7:45am alarm, feeling pretty sharp. Showered and dressed by 8am. I ate 1 hard-boiled egg, a banana, and a stroopwafle – I kid you not. And an espresso. Then Chris and I planned our meeting points and walked to the Olympic stadium so that I could line up by 8:45am.

It was a little messy getting into the stadium. There’s a separate public entrance and one giant entrance for all the marathoners. You’re literally shoulder to shoulder with other runners for about 15min before you’re inside. Once you’re in, though, it clears up pretty quickly and it’s easy to spot the separate corrals.

Now then… I ran this thinking in kilometer splits, so we’ll have to do the breakdown in kilometer splits.

Km 1-5: target was 5:31-5:48/km
I ran a little faster than I wanted in the beginning, but I wasn’t far off. It was a bit of struggle to lock down my pace, because it was much more crowded than I anticipated. The spectators both inside and outside the stadium were totally nuts. So much cheering! So much joy!

The first turn off just outside the stadium was really slow for some reason so I tried to stick as close to the side as possible. There was quite a bit of uneven pavement to get used to and the tram tracks were a hazard and a half. There were also a couple of islands in the middle of the road for the tram/bus stops, so there was a bit of hop-on-hop-off action going on. The course narrowed significantly as we turned into Vondelpark, so it took a lot of mental energy to just focus on not stepping on someone’s feet or bumping into them while trying to squeeze past. And it didn’t really clear up until we ran past the Rijksmuseum.

Splits: 5:29, 5:27, 5:28, 5:30, 5:20

Km 6-20: target was 5:34-5:37
Km 6-10 was when I first realized how hot the sun was going to be. After leaving Vondelpark, most of the course was pretty exposed and there wasn’t a single cloud in the sky. I was running with my watch set to show my lap pace so I was aware that I was running way too fast again. I was getting worried about the heat and started wondering if I should bank more in the first half than trying to run a reverse split. I wavered back and forth, but decided that I was gonna try and stick as close as possible to 5:30 unless I was breaking away from a crowd that’s running slower in front of me.

At km 14, we entered Amstelpark and started running along the Amstel River. The crowd thinned out pretty quickly at this point so it was much quieter, and the next 6km is all pavement and no shade. The temperature went up a bit. I missed my music. It was a last minute decision to not run with music, making this my first marathon without music. I guess I figured, if I could PR so well in Lyon without music, who’s to say it won’t be the same with my marathon?

Anyway, I ate the piece of banana I picked up from the last water station, thinking that it’ll be somewhat hydrating. The next water station was on the other side at 20km. Most of the runners around me looked a little beat by the time we got to the turn off to cross to the other side of the river. That sponge station felt AH-mazing.

Splits: 5:21, 5:27, 5:17, 5:24, 5:17, 5:26, 5:24, 5:28, 5:23, 5:28, 5:38, 5:23, 5:29, 5:28, 5:29

Km 21-35: target was 5:29-5:34/km
I assessed everything at the half marathon mark. Was I hungry? Still thirsty? Overheated? How did I feel about running another half of what I just ran? It was a bit of a downer that I didn’t “race” my first half knowing that I could’ve done it in 1:50, but I also knew that I was starting to feel tired. I don’t ever drink too much at water stations – I don’t like the sloshing of the water in my stomach. But coming off that last 6km under the sun really got to me.

Spotted Chris as km 24! He was generous enough to say that I looked good. Ha! He asked if I needed anything, to which the guys next to me said: “an ice cold beer!” And to which Chris responded: “ok, you wait right here and I’ll be back with a beer in 10min.” Haha. Anyway… it was such a relief to hear from him that there was a water stop just past km 25. So we parted ways and I hurried off to the next km marker.

I think I drank two glasses of water and carried along one of the ISO energy drinks for back-up. It really slowed me down at km 27. I tried to pick up my pace again, but I couldn’t manage to hit my target zones and really fell off a cliff at km 31-32. It was a little disheartening. But, much like Dory, I just kept going.

Splits: 5:28, 5:29, 5:30, 5:35, 5:35, 5:34, 6:13, 5:36, 5:44, 5:46, 6:14, 6:21, 5:43, 5:43, 5:35

Last 7km: target – run it as fast as I can
Which is to say that it wasn’t very fast at this point. Can anyone else spot the wall in there?

My right hip started to kill me after km 35. I felt like I was just shuffling my feet, but they were still giving me trouble. This was a lot of speed up, slow down, speed up, slow down. Anything to keep my legs from slowing down to a walk. I would look for something in the distance, and pick up my stride. Then slow down for the next couple hundred meters. I did this for the last 5k, before I settled back into the rhythm of the runners near me.

I was so relieved to be running through Vondelpark on the return. The spectators were still so cheerful. I got lots of “Go Jacklyn! Go!” I can’t even imagine what I looked like at km 39-40, after having sponged my hair, my neck, and my arms sporadically for the last several kilometers just to cool down.

Approaching the stadium, I managed to pick up my feet a bit. Honestly… you could be crawling back into that stadium and you still wouldn’t be able to help but feel like you’re so cool for finishing your marathon at the Olympic Stadium. So I did what I imagined was a full-out sprint, plastered on a smile, and laughed a little as I crossed the finish line.

Splits: 6:16, 5:50, 6:17, 6:50, 6:09, 6:07, 6:17, 5:29

Post-race
A few minutes later, a guy ran up to me, “Hey! You run around Buttes Chaumont, right?” Crazy! Same guy I see running around my local park in Paris, who actually spoke to me in French mid-run around Buttes Chaumont… at the time when my French vocabulary was limited to maybe 30 words.

He asked how it went. “It was okay.” “But did you enjoy the long run?” Huh… I know he was referring to just this one run. On that particular day. But this long run really felt like it started for me back in April. I guess I don’t feel like I sacrificed that much because it’s not like I went on any special diet. I didn’t really change my sleeping habits. I didn’t skip spending two weeks with my friend and my sister this summer. Or skip the Brooklyn Brewery Mash, which involved so many Brooklyn lagers, preceding my 18mi run. So, with that and my several PR’s in mind, I turned to him with a big smile and said “I did!”

I met Chris about 20min later, with a beer waiting for me. Win! I was pretty sore, but not immobile. We had two flights of stairs up to our Airbnb so I was in pretty decent shape to be walking up and down. We headed straight to the city after and filled up on Indonesian food. Then we walked around for the next 3-4 hours before I felt like crashing.

My legs, as expected, were a bit stiff the day after on Monday. Nothing out of the ordinary. We walked around some more and explored the De Pijp neighborhood before our train back to Paris. Tuesday was about the same, but I felt less awkward walking quickly from place to place. By Wednesday, I felt ready to run again, but laid low for another day before starting my reverse-taper.

I’ve got a bit of work to do for my next marathon and I have to look into my hip flexor issue. A little consistent strength training will probably go a very long way. Nevertheless, this was a strong year for my running. I’m looking forward to next year already!

Running Events

Every race is an excuse to celebrate my training, so I’m always on the lookout for my favorite distances. Although, it’s gotten much tougher to find the right events. Mainly, because I’m traveling so much, but also because races have become really expensive.

How is it ever acceptable for anyone to pay $100 for a half marathon?

So, I do a lot of searching, but there’s really no site that can filter by cost, which makes no sense to me. I even went as far as consider creating a website that listed every race but categorize the heck out of it for super awesome filtering by:

  • length,
  • terrain,
  • elevation profile,
  • location,
  • type (fun run vs. adventure trail, for-profit vs. charity-driven etc.),
  • number of participants,
  • and, of course, by cost.

Someone should’ve built that site already. I’ve looked and I haven’t found it.

Why don’t certain events include a route of the run? That’s so lame.

Seriously, just give me an elevation profile when it matters.

I need a better site for race listings. Does anybody know one that lists all or most events internationally, notes the size of each event, and/or has a filter for cost?

I’m currently using http://marathons.ahotu.com/, http://aimsworldrunning.com/Calendar.htm, and http://www.runinternational.eu/. Your go-to online resource(s)?