Posted by: pointlenana | September 13, 2015

Tunnel Light Marathon – 9/13/15

“A” Goal: sub 3:20.  Actual: 3:44:+.  That pretty much describes how it went – this is the biggest gap I’ve ever had between goal and actual.  Some things about the day:

– To run under 3:20, I had to average better than 7:38/mile.  From previous marathons, I knew my heart rate needed to be around 140 or ideally less for several miles at the beginning.  That said, I looked back at a previous run on this course when I did ok, and it was in the low 140s for a few miles and then only dropped to about 138 and gradually rose from there.  Today, my heart rate was generally in the mid 140s for the first 10 miles and yet my mile splits were consistently things like 7:43, 7:46, 7:37, 7:50.  I knew it probably wasn’t going to end well but I wanted to experience that for myself.

– I went through the halfway point about 90 seconds off my goal time/pace.  I knew that would be hard to make up given that I was already redlining.  Even a PR (3:21:+) seemed unlikely.  But I thought maybe I could salvage my C goal (3:25 or better).  Shortly after that, the 3:25 pacer and his group passed me, fairly quickly.  Ok, so that’s not going to happen either, and I don’t have D or E goals.  Not long after that – somewhere in mile 16 – the 3:40 pacer passed me.  He didn’t creep past me, he went quickly past me and disappeared not too long after that.  “WTF – my heart rate is 149, I’m hurting, what’s the point?”.  I’m running Berlin with a friend in 2 weeks, so I decided to start my recovery at the mile 16 marker.

– From mile 16 to mile 19, I walked for a minute at every marker, and then ran comfortably to the next marker.  I was just trying to get my heart rate down to somewhere reasonable, and feeling a little light-headed at times.  At some point I redefined light-headed as “having that runner’s high” and that stopped bothering me.  But it was pretty bleak at mile 16 knowing I had 10 painful miles ahead of me.

– The pain was partly due to my foot.  3 weeks ago, something bad happened to it, and it’s somewhat of a miracle I started.  It’s felt better recently but it hurt from the starting line, and was fairly unpleasant by the halfway point.  It didn’t seem to affect my stride though and based on recent experience I thought it would feel better fairly quickly (meaning a few days) after the race, so I ignored it.  But 10 more miles on it to no real end wasn’t an appealing prospect.  Still, I’ve gone a long way with pain before so dropping seemed stupid.

– After run/walking for a couple miles, I noticed that my mile splits were things like 10:35.  3 minutes slower than my goal pace.  I did the math on that and started worrying that I wouldn’t break 4 hours, and worse, there was a chance that Janet was having a good day and would catch me and maybe slow down to run with me.  I didn’t want that, so from mile 19 on I ran, and tried to push.  As I’ve told others, the last 10k of a really good marathon really sucks, and we don’t get to practice that suck very much, so I tried to push and get at least some practice.  About 4 miles out I realized I had a chance to beat 3:45, so that became my goal and kept me from giving in to my strong desire to walk.  Eventually I finished…

– Random story 1:  Around mile 12, a guy caught up to me and said “that guy back there says you are running a really steady pace and I should run with you”.  “Ok, what’s your goal?”  “3:23 – a safe qualifier for Boston.”  “Ok, that seems to be what I’m running right now so even if I don’t make my goal, maybe I can help you.”  We talked for a minute, ran together for a few more, and then he ran ahead of me.  I don’t think I was slowing yet and it’s really hard to know your true pace on the course, so I watched him go, scratched my head, and continued on.  Around mile 24, when I was running somewhat-decently again, I caught him and said “bummer, I was hoping I wouldn’t see you again”.  He finished a bit after me.  Oddly someone else told me late in the race that I had a really steady pace.  So that’s something.

– Random story 2:  There is a guy I see running in my neighborhood – we’ve introduced ourselves a couple times and he remembers my name while I forget his.  He was there today, and passed me around mile 23.  Afterwards I introduced Janet to him (hoping this would prompt him to say his name again).  He was wearing a KEXP t-shirt, so Janet complimented it.  When he responded “I volunteer there a lot”, she said “Oh, you’re Ken – you do the running podcast for Jon In The Morning!  I recognize your voice.”  So now I won’t forget his name.  But all I managed to say was “yeah, but you picked one bad song – really slow or something.” (I realized later it might have been an Edith Piaf song.)  So he probably doesn’t want to talk to me anymore.

– Random story 3:  This course is known for wonky mile markers.  It’s a very hard course to set up (and run) because it’s along a steep ridge and in the woods a lot and gps doesn’t work great in those conditions.  So I don’t hold this against the organizers – they’d practically have to roll out the course each time to get the markers right.  But it’s challenging.  It took me 6:11 to get from mile marker 21 to marker 22.  I was pretty psyched at marker 22 – “maybe they are all short like that from here”.  Then it took me 11:23 to get to marker 23.

– Random story 4:  About 2 minutes into the race, my watch beeped at me.  This is never a good sign at the start of a race.  Even if autolap is on, we haven’t travelled a mile.  Sure enough, when I looked down it showed me my recovery heart rate which means I stopped the watch somehow.  I don’t know for sure, but I think I might have started it when they said go, and then “started” it again when I crossed the start line.  I asked someone near me for elapsed time and it was almost exactly 2 minutes more than what I had after re-starting my watch.  I remembered that for about 16 miles and then forgot.  Which is good, because if I had added that in when I was thinking about 3:45 I might have decided that was unlikely also.

Today I probably had the fitness to run around 3:30 and it’s pretty clear what happens when you run above yourself.  I went into this with a huge amount of ultra training and about 4 weeks of marathon-specific training.  My workouts seemed ok, but apparently slogging for a long time plus a few good workouts does not magically produce the stamina to sustain marathon pace for a full race.  If I want to run a good marathon, I have to focus a few months on it and start in a very healthy state.  More importantly, I learned Michael Wardian and I are not actually the same person.

On the bright side, Janet did have a good day and ran her best marathon in a long time.  Her finish was 4:05+ even with some gut problems and a pit stop.  No cramping though, no walking, and a BQ by a few minutes.  I was happy to see her pull into the finish after a good day.

The data (I use a Garmin 310xt in case you want to avoid that watch on this course):

Miles 1-3 (mostly in the tunnel): Pace: 7:42, HR: 147

Mile 4: Pace: 7:46, HR 144

Mile 5: Pace: 7:48, HR 143

Mile 6: Pace: 7:39, HR 144

Mile 7: Pace: 7:55, HR 144

Mile 8: Pace: 7:27, HR 147

Mile 9: Pace: 7:28, HR 147

Mile 10: Pace: 5:20, HR 147 (A great example of how my watch is not reliable on this course – I ran by HR not pace.)

Mile 11: Pace: 6:14, HR 148

Mile 12: Pace: 4:08, HR 148

Mile 13: Pace: 5:32, HR 148

Mile 14: Pace: 7:32, HR 147

Mile 15: Pace: 8:27, HR 142 (That 3:40 pacer passed me during this mile…)

Mile 16: Pace: 9:24, HR 132 (Trying to recover some…)

Mile 17: Pace: 9:44, HR 130

Mile 18: Pace: 10:23, HR 126

Mile 19: Pace: 10:26, HR 126 (“It’s going to take me a long time to finish.  Huh…”)

Mile 20: Pace: 9:26, HR 134

Mile 21: Pace: 9:03, HR 135

Mile 22: Pace: 9:16, HR 140

Mile 23: Pace: 8:59, HR 142

Mile 24: Pace: 8:56, HR 146

Mile 25-Finish: Pace: 8:46, HR 151


  1. Way to run smart and change gears good luck at Berlin.

  2. lol i dont take my heart rate and get runners high all the time. is that bad? congrats to Janet! i know ive only seen you running a 40+ miler but you do look totally steady and consistent when you run and not surprised when people try to use your pace. i tried but failed:) hope the foot isnt anything serious. btw check out my latest post and then see if you can find it. it’s along the burke-gilman in fremont

    • I think it will be a while before I run there again but I will look for it. Hopefully it’s not much west of the Fremont bridge – we don’t run that way very often.

      • it would be hard to spot. it’s up on the utility wire east of the bridge kinda near speedy reedy

  3. Wow, sorry this didn’t work out for you. Big congrats to Janet. If it’s any consolation I appreciate it very much when great runners like you are honest about the experiences that don’t go well for them. It helps the rest of us understand the process. Good luck in Berlin!

    • Thanks Eileen. I’m hardly a great runner, but I try and sometimes it works out. I like being out there though.

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