You can find my training plan posts on this site if you dig back far enough and occasional progress updates. The key difference for me this year was to have a very long training plan (25 weeks) as opposed to the normal 4 month marathon plan. This was in part because I like to do my long runs every second week instead of every week to allow for recovery and also to be honest because I was really looking forward to training. In hindsight this was the first place I went wrong on my way to a 3:31 marathon result.
My initial goal was a 3:05 marathon but as training went along I knew I was progressing well and felt I could achieve a sub 3 hour run. My fitness improved rapidly, my body fat plummeted, my strength increased. I felt fantastic and confident.
About 17 weeks into the plan I had my first problems as my right ankle developed some sharp pain on the inside of the leg. A short run holiday of five days off, a visit with my physiotherapist and some laser treatment seemed to fix it up. However just as I was healed and returning to full training I noticed some unusual pain in the bottom of my left foot almost like I'd bruised my heel. I didn't think too much of it figuring I'd compensated for my sore right ankle and that it would be fine.
Training returned to normal as did my confidence and even though the foot pain persisted it would go away within hours of any training run so I wasn't concerned. March 19-26 our family went to Los Angeles for a quick vacation and I treated it like a down week where I'd only do 3 runs before returning home for a strong finish to training. While there we stayed in Venice and I looked forward to running along the beach. Unfortunately the pathways there are concrete and as runners know concrete is a harder surface than asphalt. My foot flared up after each of the three runs exacerbated by about 15km per day of tourist walking. I found the foot just barely felt better before I would head out on a run again. Ironically it felt its best after a 32km run south to Manhattan Beach.
After returning home I went back to training but stopped any leg workouts in the gym that involved impact or stress on my feet. The foot seemed to feel better between runs and sometimes I'd go two or three runs with no pain. On April 9th I went for a 19km run and felt happy with how easy it was my confidence returning to an all time high. However after that run I developed some horrible blisters on my sore foot that later seemed to get infected and my foot pain was rather awful. I was at my taper though so figured I had time to heal and would race pain free.
The morning of race day my confidence was still high. Even with the 4.5 hours of waiting before gun time from the initial boarding of the bus at Boston Common, and the unusually warm weather. My foot was taped, my nutrition was solid, I was in great shape so why shouldn't I run a great race. I've already recapped the actual race day experience but from a performance standpoint I felt amazing at gun time. I knew I wanted to go out between a 4:15 and 4:20 per kilometre pace, not too fast despite the downhill start and I did. I was right on pace and it felt easy. I was breathing easy, relaxed and feeling good.
Everything fell apart very quickly however around 15km. I noticed km 16 went by in 4:35, not too far off pace but concerning. More concerning was that my foot started throbbing. Each step suddenly felt like I was stepping on something sharp when the left foot came down. I'm not sure if the tape on my foot just relaxed so it wasn't helping anymore or if the adrenaline of the start had worn off, but I went from cruising to pain very quickly. Kilometre 17 took me 4:57. I attempted to recover figuring I needed to just focus and deal with the pain. Kilometre 18 went by in 4:38. Some improvement but that was it. I was done.
I managed to stay below 5 minutes a kilometre until the 23rd (crossed the half marathon point in 1 hour 35 minutes) and then literally fell to pieces. I went from running slowly to resorting to full on survival mode. I just needed to finish this damn race. I had also decided that maybe salvaging the race meant soaking in the environment not competing. It wasn't my day. I was disappointed. My brain went from embarrassment to anger to determination not to DNF. Walking didn't help the foot pain but I walked 30 seconds every second water station, nor did slowing down. Once I stopped and walked the first time the competitor in me just died. A 3:31 finish meant I averaged around 5:45 kilometres for the rest of the race prolonging my misery by a full half an hour of my target time. At some point my right calf started cramping and complaining I suspect because I was limping every time my left foot touched earth. In the end I was humbled. All my confidence was useless in the face of defeat. After finishing the race I noticed a full gel in my shorts pocket. I was so distraught I'd even forgot to continue fuelling. I'd taken only 3 of the planned 4 or 5 gels during the race.
- Shorten the training cycle to a standard 16 weeks. I keep a strong run base so don't need to overtrain and despite my eagerness to train my body didn't stand up to my willingness to push it for 25 weeks. Had I raced on week 16 my result would have absolutely been better. I'll just need to figure out how to do my long runs every weekend. No matter how focused you are it's hard to concentrate on training and nutrition for 25 weeks. 16 is much more realistic.
- I'll modify my cross training. In particular I stopped yoga at the end of January and I think that was an injury prevention mistake. Whether yoga simply helps deal with stress and an overabundance of cortisol or if it is just a good stretch, when I dropped it I don't think it's a coincidence I developed pain. Easy yoga sessions will happen throughout my next marathon schedule.
- I'll still swim, cycle and hit the gym, but less often. Instead of 4 gym workouts a week I'm going to shorten it to two. Swimming once a week instead of twice and cycling will continue as I see fit. I wasn't able to keep to the schedule as I tired and as much as I think swimming helps prevent injury it was also a stressor on my schedule. Cross training is vital, but I probably overdid it.
- Massage Therapy. My RMT had a baby cutting short my treatments with her about half way through training. I never replaced her and I think that was a mistake. I could have rolled my calves more at the very least as I feel tight calves likely led to the plantar issue.