2022 Columbus Marathon Recap
Another year, another marathon retrospective! I started training this year using the lowest milage plan from Advanced Marathoning by Pete Pfitzinger and Scott Douglas. It had slightly more milage overall than the “advanced” plan from Hal Higdon, whose plans I’d followed exclusively up until now. It was pretty enjoyable, and the only deviations I made were due to catching COVID (!) about a month and a half before the race. Really, that was the only hiccup in my training, as you might expect. My kids came down with it from school, and it spread rapidly through the house. I never tested positive, but was down for the count with a high fever and lethargy, so not sure what else it could have been. I missed about a week of training, including one of my scheduled 20 mile runs, unfortunately. Getting back into easy running was concerning, as my heart rate (as reported by the optical sensor on my watch) was 20-30 bpm higher than normal. I ended up staying conservative in my return to training, as well as buying a chest strap HR sensor for more accurate readings. It took two weeks for me to get back to “normal,” but didn’t miss any other long runs, so felt I had a reasonable chance of still being able to race.
I thought I was relatively safe from sickness after that, but two weeks prior to the race, my twins came down with colds. Vigorous hand washing saved me from infection, thankfully. Then, the week before the race, my oldest daughter came back from a school-organized overnight camp with a stomach bug. My wife proceeded to get sick the day before the race, and my youngest daughter the day of. I was up at 4AM on race day cleaning up barf. Amazingly, I was still unscathed, aside from running (ha!) on terrible sleep.
Otherwise, race day was mostly uneventful. Traffic to the starting area was terrible, as usual. I made it out of the parking garage with about a half hour to spare, and thought I’d take my own advice from last year and use a porta-potty, but the lines were so long and slow that I didn’t have time. There were signs advertising “restrooms are in the starting corrals!” But that was a lie. So I just held it for three hours! I didn’t even really have enough time for a proper warm up — I was still fiddling with the fit of my shoes when the starting gun went off.
My race was not very strategic — I mainly went by “feel”, even though I was wearing my HR chest strap. I didn’t do enough training at race pace to have a good sense of how fast I could/should go. I was definitely running faster than most of my training runs, and I was breathing hard, but the pace felt sustainable. Fortunately my target pace (7:15/mi) was conservative enough such that my endurance was sufficient. I tried to pair up with other runners who were also trying to hold a similar pace, and ran for a few miles with another guy around my age, but ended up dropping him even before the halfway point. The rest of the race was a solo effort.
One last-minute change to my plan was bringing along my own gel packets. I watched a video of Floris Gierman’s Chicago Marathon experience, and noted that he brought quite a few gels. I felt like I would definitely need them, as there are only two nutrition stations along the Columbus course, but I didn’t know how to carry them. On my long runs during training, I would usually only bring two gels, which fit neatly into a side pocket on my water flask. Well, I ended up just shoving them in my pockets — I ate one in my car before the start, then put one in each pocket of my shorts, and carried a third. The additional weight in my shorts ended up not being that big of an annoyance, even though I’d never done it before, so I’ll probably adopt that strategy again in the future. In total I consumed five gels; four of my own, and one from a course nutrition station. My one regret was that I didn’t take the last gel packet; I was having a hard time getting them down by that point in the race and didn’t think I could choke it down. The volunteer handing out the flavor I wanted was offering two, and I thought “no way I can eat those!” so just skipped. I think if I would have taken 15 seconds to eat that last gel, I would have done better for the last few miles.
Even after experiencing cramps in the last mile last year, I never really investigated ways to replenish electrolytes during the race. Of course the same thing happened this year. One amusing thing was being encouraged by another runner during the last stretch to the finish. My hamstrings were on the verge of seizing up; “I can’t push it too hard, I’m cramping up!” I told him. “So am I!” he yelled as he passed me, then continued to yell “Ow! Damn!” as he kept on going.
On the whole, I was pretty satisfied with this year’s race. My official time was 3:12:54, more than 5 minutes faster than last year. Even with catching COVID, I felt a lot stronger, especially just after finishing — last year I was barely able to hobble to my car; this year I was even able to walk the dog with my family later in the day. I still have the goal of a sub-3:00 race though, so there’ll definitely be more running adventures in my future.