The Fredericton Marathon was one of my major races for the 2014 season. I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to bring my marathon PB below 3:45 which would be an eight minute improvement over my first marathon last October.
To say that I’ve been pleased with my training would be an understatement. I’ve been able to pack in a lot of solid runs and had barely any tweaks or pains and have been healthy all winter – especially awesome considering how brutal this winter has been. Ironically, pushing myself to get the majority of my runs outdoors in the cooler temperatures would actually come into play on race day. Just not in the way I expected.
My taper week and fueling during the lead up to race day all went according to plan and I even got as much sleep as I had hoped for which is something that I can never bank on at any point. The one thing I hadn’t really counted on was the temperature. Don’t get me wrong – it was an absolutely beautiful day. It started off overcast and mild, but the mist quickly burned off and for the majority of the race there were clear blue skies and very little wind. By the midway point, I was running in temperatures that were 10 degrees higher than anything I had trained in to this point in 2014 and the humidity was 100 percent.
My pace to the halfway point was pretty much bang on for my plan as I passed the checkpoint in just over 1:51 and I was feeling good. Visions of a negative split (briefly) danced in my head. The course was designed as pretty much two loops of the same route, with slightly more on the trail for lap two versus more route in town on road during loop one so I knew what to expect with the terrain. It was probably around the 27-28 km mark that I knew the rest of the race was going to be a struggle. For starters, I had forgotten to apply any sunscreen (a totally rookie mistake for someone as pale as I am) but I knew that the temperature and humidity were still rising. I increased my fluid and gel intake but in hindsight maybe not as much as I should have.
Even with an extra water bottle and making sure to at least take some fluid at each aid station, I felt my legs fading and my turnover decreasing. There’s really not a lot to do at this point other than grit your teeth and get through it. By 35 km I was well aware that my 3:45 goal was out of reach but a PB and salvaging a sub 3:50 time were still plausible B goals. The conditions definitely hit a lot of people hard as many people were walking at various points and for the last couple of aid stations I actually walked to make sure I took in enough water – my bottles being empty at this point.
With a couple of kilometres left and my pace still decreasing I knew I was going to have to push myself to get under 3:50. The increase in spectators towards the end spurred me on and when I rounded the corner to the last street my boys both spotted me and ran towards me. Normally I would be much faster than them but at this point they were keeping up pretty easily. I held each of them by the hand and crossed the line in 3:49.49 – cutting it close but still a PB by just over 3 minutes.
Now that the summer racing season is upon us, I will definitely need to get some running in during hotter temps. There is no predicting race conditions, so it’s better to be prepared! With such a long race there is no short list of factors that can affect you and I won’t go into another marathon without preparing myself mentally. Something that keeps running so enjoyable for me is that you really can learn from each and every training run and race.
Next up is the Bluenose Marathon 5k race on Saturday. I don’t think I will be in any kind of race condition, but I love Halifax and I’m really looking forward to checking out the expo and all of the prep that their race committee has done for their race.