Sunday, October 9, 2011

Towpath Marathon 2011 - Race Report

Towpath Marathon (Oct. 9, 2011)

The Towpath 5K was my first race in 2002. I have run an event in this race since then:

- 2002: 5K (my first race ever!) - 21:27
- 2003: Marathon Relay
- 2004: My first marathon! (3:55)
- 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008: Marathons (3:36 best time in 2006)
- 2009, 2010: Half Marathon (I ran the Athens Marathon that was close)

My goal this year was to improve my 3:36 best course time.

Yesterday I carbo-loaded by taking my wife out for dinner. My total carbs for the day amounted to 150 g (nutrition experts recommend 600 g before a race). The morning of the race (today) I had what could be called "a nutritional nightmare" before a marathon: eggs with bacon, cheese, olive oil, nuts. Total of 680 calories, 67% fat, 8% carbs (15g – vs. 400 g recommended by the experts). Yikes!

I laced my New Balance Minimus shoes and decided to run without jacket & gloves (at 52F), but held my bottle (with home-made orange juice) and my 3d camera. Here are a couple of pictures that I took before the race started.

Right away I found myself running at 7:30 pace. First 6 miles: 7:33, 7:33, 7:46, 7:50, 7:45, 7:39. This pace felt comfortable. I found myself running with some guys that I knew could not keep up this pace.

My next 10 miles were in extremely even pace. I was running like a well-oiled machine :) averaging 7:45 min/mile: 7:40, 7:42, 7:44, 7:46, 7:47, 7:48, 7:41, 7:42, 7:42, 7:40.

I passed the half mark at 1:41:15. A quick calculation convinced me that I had the 3:35 in the bag, so to speak, and maybe I have a shot for 3:30 if I didn’t slow down a lot.

At mile 17 my legs started feeling tired. My pace slowed from 7:40 to 8:00 min/mile: 7:49, 7:54, 8:03, 7:58, 8:02, 7:57, 8:03, 8:05. It took a lot of determination to maintain this pace. But everyone else was slowing too, as the temperature rose to 70F. I was passing runner after runner, those who had passed me earlier.

As I am approaching Red Lock, with only 2 miles left, I was trying to figure out if I had a chance to finish at 3:25. This would be a -5 BQ. I made an effort to speed up. Mile 25 is 7:57. Mile 26 is 7:26, which is the fastest mile so far in the race.

My Garmin watch shows that after mile 26, I had 0.4 miles to go, instead of 0.1 (it was running slow). At this point I was flying. I am always running faster when I get closer to the end of a long race, but now I was trying to achieve a goal of 3:23

My time at this last 0.4 mile was 6:43!!

I crossed the line at 3:25:08 according to the race clock. My chip time was 3:25:02.

Wow! What a great effort! I beat my previous course record by 11 minutes and ran faster than the Akron marathon 2 weeks ago, by 10 minutes. As a matter of fact, this is the 3rd fastest marathon out of 17 (the other two are 3:19 and 3:22 in Cleveland 2010 and 2009). Next year, I am definitely going for a PR in Cleveland (my favorite course)! Here is a picture of me at the finish, and a picture of my wife who finished the Half Marathon at 2:06, a good time for her.

After the race we went home, cleaned and changed and then went back for the awards. No awards for us this year. I finished 7th/49 in my age group. It is interesting that if I were I the next age group, I would have finished first. We then went to Bob Evans for some real food.


ThreeDay said...

To answer some of your questions about low carbohydrate living and running consider the book "The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living" by Jess Voltek, PhD, RD and Stephen Phinney, MD, PhD.

In their book they discuss athletic performance under low carb diets in several places. The essential thing they describe is a multi-week period of adaption to the lower glucose burning and to increased ketone (fat) burning. With this adaptation, long periods of exercise or work are possible, but not so much so in a short term study.

I would do a search on the authors to see what they have written in the literature. Or, simply buy the book and then hit the referenced papers.

It sounds from this last race that you pretty well adapted to the ketone burning of fats replacing a lot of the conventional need for glucose, and that you may actually have escaped "bonking" because you are not that dependent upon glucose for endurance. It may be that if you were persued by a hungry lion at mile 25 in the marathon, you wouldn't have the energy to sprint away, but you could plod along at race pace for at least another mile (which you in fact did).

Voltek is at Univ of Connecticut amd Phinney may still be there as well. You gentlemen clearly have somthing in common.

DrT said...

Thank you for your comments! I am familiar with the authors and their work, even though I have not read the book (I have read some articles/interviews in the internet). I think I am the proof that low carb nutrition works for endurance runners. The only question is my mind is that why isn't this more popular among runners?

ThreeDay said...

I suspect that they have fallen for the common brainwash about the kookiness of those "low carb nuts who will die of heart disease from eating fat"..... and the common sense that carbohydrates are "natures finest energy food (free of artery clogging fats)".

There was a small group of heart oriented medical folks who focused on the theory of fats causing those nasty cholesterol deposits -- without proper scientific proof, and managed to greatly change the diet business of the USA and later much of the world.

This led to the general regard of carbohydrates as the new (heart healthy) central pillar of the diet, forcing meats and fats off to the land of limited consumption.

This distorted view of carbohydrates being absolutely vital goes so far as to recommend that diabetics consume large quantities of carbohydrates regularly and "cover" their glucose effects with medication, rather than eliminate the starches and glucose surges by diet in the first place.

In other words, carbohydrates are king of the nutrition world, and low carbers are ... hardly to be respected.

No running athlete will risk being so foolish as to violate "carbohydrate dietary laws".

Well, except for kooks like you and me, and I don't run, I backpack.

Simple Man said...

Thank you so much for posting this. I have been on a low carb diet (avg 30-40g/day)for the last 6 months. But this year have signed up for a 15km run. I am beginning to enjoy running, but so much information on nutrition is around high-carb intake. I don't want to do high-carb because I am a diabetic, and for the first time in my life have total control of it.