Jasmine’s Columbus Marathon (Not the Pipe Dream) Race Report

This is me not smiling during the Columbus Marathon.
This is me not smiling during the Columbus Marathon.

Let’s cut to the important part: 2:54:06, 12th place (yeah, this was a really competitive race).

That’s a really impressive marathon from someone who two years ago was barely a 1:43 half marathon. But as much of an advance as it represents, it seems like a race that didn’t quite come together. I really thought my fitness level was better than this race.

After a fantastic and flawless training season, I went out there to race on the edge and attempt a 2:50. I came through the half a few seconds past 1:25 and then just didn’t feel ready on the second half. It could have been the cold weather. It could have been my sorry excuses for long runs didn’t leave me ready. It could just have been a bad day. I could have been way off on the estimate of my level of fitness. I don’t know. I felt like Kara Goucher in the NY marathon last year.

Somewhere around mile 14 or 15, I doubted that I could finish without a major slowdown. The real slowdown happened on the uphill section between mile 17 and 19 and never picked back up. I have a feeling I’m going to tear this race and training season apart many times between now and next season. I’ll have so many theories on what training methods went perfectly and what I need to change for next season.

Oh yes …. back to the race report! I left Michigan on Wednesday night and ended up with a few extra days to get my gear packed up. I drove with my parents down to Columbus, checked into the hotel, and walked over the bridge to the convention center. I picked up my bib, said hi to Clove and Ginger, and wandered around with my parents. I talked to the folks from Toledo Glass City marathon about attracting a local elite field to Toledo in the spring (I skipped past considering Toledo this  year because the race didn’t do elite water bottles).

I ate a random assortment of yogurt, toast, cookies, potatoes, hummus, pretzels, chocolate, and stuff like that for breakfast and lunch. We went to the hotel happy hour at 5:30 where I ate more potatoes, mac & cheese and drank some alcoholic root beer. Then we went to dinner where I had pizza. Despite the unorganized eating, I probably topped my carbs up to where they should be.

Race day, I got up at 4am and started getting ready. I started hydrating, fueling, and straightened my hair. I went down to the lobby to see how cold it actually felt outside, and ate some toast at the hotel breakfast. It was a lot like last year, except it was a bit colder. As the lobby filled up with runners eating breakfast, I headed to the start with another girl in the elite field around 6:30am. In a change from last year, we met at the VIP tent next to the starting line. I turned my water bottles in and warmed up about 15 minutes before the start.

The nice volunteers in the VIP tent. Thanks, ladies!
The nice volunteers in the VIP tent. Thanks, ladies!

The race starts slightly downhill. I got (1)6:14 on the first mile. It was a little bit fast, but I think it was a fine and under-control start under the cold conditions, and then I quickly fell into the target pace range: (2)6:32, (3)6:21, (4)6:34, (5)6:24, (6)6:29.  The first water bottle was after the sixth mile. I took in one gel and a few sips of water.

I started to hit a rough patch around mile 7. Rested and fueled, I didn’t expect to have this problem during the race. I just had to wait for it to settle down (7)6:34, (8)6:30, (9)6:29, (10)6:29, The second water bottle was around mile 10. I took both gels and held onto the bottle long enough to wash both gels down.

(11) 6:35, (12)6:40, (13) 6:30. The course goes begins a long gradual uphill (High Street) near mile 13. I expected that 6:40 split. I went through the half a few seconds past 1:25 and just didn’t feel the confidence I thought I should. My legs were sore and tired. It felt like mile 18 came five miles early. The third water bottle was after mile 13. I took in both gels and tried to get a decent amount of water down because the next bottle wasn’t for another 7 miles. I accidentally lost the top of the bottle and had to keep from soaking myself.

(14) 6:40, (15)6:34, (16)6:41, (17)6:55. Somewhere around mile 15, I doubted my ability to complete the race. I was really sore and beat up. I wondered how much I should adjust my pace to keep everything in check. I didn’t have a plan for this, so whatever happened happened. (!?!?!) I think that 17th mile was on the Ohio State campus approaching the stadium.

I remember saying to the guy next to me, “Shit, that was slow.” Yet somewhere in here around mile 14 I caught and passed the girl in front of me, Lauren, and held this lead until around mile 22. I could tell how far behind me she was by how long it took for people to cheer for her after I passed.

But by now, I was about 8 miles from the finish and just had to hang on for another 50 minutes or so. My glove warmer started to turn off and my fingers were getting cold (which might be a clue about hydration levels.) (18)6:24 (I din’t know where that came from), (19)7:01 another slow mile. (20)6:46. The last water bottle was after mile 20. I ended up getting one of the gels in me and I carried the bottle for the next three miles ditching it after mile 23. That makes for six gels total for the race. I started to loose my lead on Lauren.

I think this is somewhere around mile 23, one of the spots my parents found me on the course. They watched the race on Bike with my father's college roomate.
I think this is somewhere around mile 23.

(21)6:50, (22)6:37. Then Lauren pulled past as I started to really struggle and another woman passed both of us. (23)6:48. (24) 6:55. By now the two women who passed me pulled way ahead and I didn’t see them anymore. (25)7:05. I think this is where I stopped for a few seconds to use a water station so I could feel confident I was going to make it to the end. (26)6:45, (26.2) 1.27. And I couldn’t be happier to be over the finish line.

Meanwhile in the elite tent, I congratulated Cleveland Elite Development‘s Ellie Hess who qualified for the Olympic Trials and Becki Spellman (Rocket on Salty Running) who ran a heart-breaking 2:44:44. These women are my heroes. It was Ellie who last year’s advice was, “Don’t be a pussy.” Yes, even us kinda fast runners have running heroes too. I called my parents and my pal Fox, but was so out of it that I didn’t even think to go try to watch for Catnip. I was freezing and dehydrated after the race.

What can I say? To everyone else this race looks like the fastest race of my life, but I know better. It felt much harder than last year’s 2:58 and I know I’m in shape for faster. Most people think of this sport as running consecutively faster races. I see it differently. I think it is about reaching your seasonal limit and showing up to the starting line in the peak of your season (which ideally is also the best shape of your life)  with all the practice to run a perfect race—then running a race at that level. This wasn’t a perfect race.

Instead of listing things that didn’t go well, here are things I wasn’t prepared for.

  • I wasn’t prepared for a cold race (30’s). I don’t think there any training days this season under 45 degrees.
  • I don’t think I was prepared for pre-race fueling. I don’t think I ran out of fuel during the race, but I just don’t think I went through those last few days with a good fueling plan.
  • I didn’t have a plan for what to do when the race started do derail. Though I did make sure I continued to gel and grab my water bottles.
  • I never ended up measuring my training loop so I couldn’t turn lap times into exact paces when formulating a race plan.
  • My pace wrist band should have been more thought out. In fact, I completely forgot to print one and instead cut it out of my pace sheet and tapped it to my wrist. It was hard to find the right lines and read it. I think I’ll do some sort of pull off tabs next race.
  • I said last year that the 16 mile MP Run should go a week earlier – 3.5 weeks out from the race – and I did that. But reflecting on it, I think I liked having it closer to race day, 2.5 weeks out. It left me more prepared.

There were some things I tried out for the first time this race that were awesome.

  • My parents came and I drove with them so I didn’t have to drive myself home.
  • My arm warmers were actually wool socks from Costco. They were awesome. I’ll be doing that again.
  • I raced in wool mittens with nitrite gloves and hand warmers and ended up never changing gloves at any of the water stops. I’ll be doing that again.
  • I took my pace as lap split between course mile markers. Only once or twice did I actually look at the pace field of my watch. I could have done this race with a ten dollar watch.
  • This is not my first time out in buns, but I will say again, I like buns.
  • Despite the cold start, I opted for the least amount of clothing I could, and that was the right move.
  • My calves didn’t hurt at all after the race. It was my quads that took a beating. I think this is a hint that my PT exercises made a difference.

Year to date: 2,678 miles
Race day weight: 117.5 lbs, I think.

Although this race didn’t go as expected, I can’t say enough great things about the Columbus Marathon. I might have already booked a hotel for next year.

Have you ever been disappointed even after running what looks to everyone else as a fantastic race? Did I set my expectations too high? 

 

Fortnight update: After sleeping on it for two weeks, these are things I forgot to say in original the race report.

One of the things I didn’t mention is that I put steroids on my crotch when I was getting ready so I didn’t have to worry about it itching during the race. (I used Fluocinolone Acetonide cream). I’ve been wearing a knee brace for the last two weeks because I was worried that I sprained my right MCL during that race. Two weeks later, it feels alright, but because treatment is no big deal, I’ll continue to use the knee brace for another few weeks (when I walk around, not when I run). And Ellie said, “thanks for the shoutout.” So hey. Here’s another shoutout. Good luck in LA.

I'm a subelite marathon runner, but I didn't come from a collegiate running background. Instead I'm trying to break into competitive running in my thirties. I write about chasing the dream of running with the elite girls and tell stories of adventures along the way. Watch me chase the next big thing.

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27 comments

  1. From the outside, of course, fabulous time for this race. So congratulations! The lists are a good idea, linking pre-race preparation with the actual events of race day so you have a check list (both mental and physical) for the next one. I’d suggest (yes, the mother in me) not to beat yourself up too badly: look at two years ago and your progress is stellar!

  2. Thanks. It might look like I am beating myself up, but I’m not. This is what I do for fun. It is funny that my one perfect race of the year was a 5K at the Hanson Store during the awful hot week in September in the rain. Salty keeps telling me that I’m faster than that 19 minute 5k, but I’m pretty happy with how perfect of a race it was.

  3. Heh that all sounds like a tough race and I have totally been there… but I am stuck on the straightening hair thing. I do that too!! I totally straighten and fix my hair, and sometimes put make up on… if I feel good, i run better. heheh

    1. Yeah. IT is hard to get your hair in a tight ponytail without straightening it. And in a cold race like this with almost no sweating, it actually stays that way.

  4. Great race, Jasmine! You looked good at mile 13 when I saw you. And, um, wool socks as arm warmers…do tell! Did you cut them or wear the sock? They look great and I may have to do that. Better yet, make a pinterest how-to pin!

  5. Great race! What are nitrite gloves? I have Raynaud’s and need to figure out a wau to keep my fingers warm this year.

    1. I’ll have to write about running with Ranaud’s. I’ve come to manage it much better over the last year as it has gotten worse. It is so bad that it can kick in as low as 64 degrees. Calcium channel blockers I thought provided some improvement. I wear gloves below 55 degrees. I add a bottom layer of nitrite gloves so I don’t sweat through them and end up with soggy cold gloves. I wear heavy duty mittens below like forty degrees. This race I ran in wool mittens and hand warmers.

  6. Way to stay in it when it got tough! One of the things I do race week is mentally run through the race preparing for things to go wrong, mentally reminding myself when to take fuel, thinking of the way I’m going to feel and making a decision on how to respond. I probably do this 20 times in the 10 days leading up to the race. For me I really notice a difference in how I respond to tough miles when I have done this compared to times when I have not. And yes I always plan for it to get hard way earlier than I want it to so that each mile that passes easier than I expected seems like it’s free!
    Keep working hard and chasing those goals!

  7. I am interested in this part of your analysis.

    “I said last year that the 16 mile MP Run should go a week earlier – 3.5 weeks out from the race – and I did that. But reflecting on it, I think I liked having it closer to race day, 2.5 weeks out. It left me more prepared.”

    I am a mid-pack half marathon runner, not a elite or sub-elite full marathon runner. So, my opinion must be given the appropriate (low) weight compared to people with more experience and knowledge.

    But when I read about how your body felt beaten up half way through the race, I immediately thought (perhaps incorrectly) that you put too much intensity into your training plan in the 2 or 3 weeks leading up to race day.

    Why do I think this? I have often read your training logs and I have a hard time believing that you didn’t train hard enough. I find it more plausible that you trained very hard, but your body didn’t have enough time to recover from that hard training on race day.

    I know this is all Monday morning quarterbacking. But that’s the first thing that came to my mind. I’m not saying I’m right though.

    1. I slowed way the hell down this time on every run that wasn’t a workout. I even slowed way the hell down on long runs. I might have increased my mileage to over 90 miles per week, but I was almost never sore or too tired to function except after a few bad workouts. But possibly, I exceeded the amount of mileage I needed.

      Anyway on the topic of why I thought 3.5 weeks out was too far out. By race day I couldn’t even remember doing it — and that makes it too long ago. Maybe at this level I just need more marathon pace miles in those runs. It is conceivable that I should be doing 12 or more miles instead of 10’s. Maybe 13’s so I’m confident that I still have plenty left at the halfway point every week. It is all things to consider.

      1. What about slightlu fewer miles during taper? I would consider that too. I would also consider that sometimes our bodies, for whatever reason, just can’t quite do their absolute best on the one day we want them to do it and it’s not something we can control.

      2. You definitely know your body better than some anonymous dude like me on the internet.

        But to put things in perspective, I was telling someone that I want to take my recently accomplished 1:51:36 PR in the half marathon (I know, that’s turtle slow by comparison) to under 1:50. This someone said, “Well, someone who has been running for a few years like you has a hard time taking that much time off their PR.”

        You already had a sub-3 PR going into this race and you still took almost 5 minutes off of your PR. And your perception is that your performance was sub-optimal. All I can say is: WOW!! Congratulations on the great race and good luck on the next one.

  8. Jasmine, congrats – I want to be you when I grow up as a runner. I think your training season was amazing and the things you are learning now are fine tuning. One thing to add for next season is work on perception of effortl. Matt Fitzgerald has a new book out about this – I can’t wait to read it.

    1. Hey thanks pal. My perception got much better. I still need real split times to keep it tuned during a race, but I seriously could race with a $10 watch now. I haven’t used a heart rate monitor since last august (except for my testing of the M400, which was a bust anyway)

  9. One other thing which is that Hanson’s is advertising online programs for training at 75 and 100 mpw — the 100 mpw might have cruise intervals and tempo runs that are better adjusted to your fitness than the book.

  10. Wow, I’m impressed- with how far you’ve come (!:43 half two years ago?? Coach me, please!) and how tough you were to finish that fast feeling so badly for that many miles- great race report. I had a friend running the race going for the sub 2:43, and she ended up at 2:52 (red-head, you probably saw her?) Anyhow, NYC is coming up for me and I’ve been focusing on/reading articles about perception of effort and mental toughness. I keep trying to tell myself it’s going to hurt like Hell but I can deal with the hurt. I did my last 20 with 10 @ MP (actually ended up being HMP) 3 weeks out this time. . . So many variations of how to train it’s mind-boggling.

  11. Wow! Congratulations! I just finished the Melbourne Marathon (I’m an Aussie) and I know my legs had more in them too. But hey a marathon is a marathon and congratulations on a massive effort!
    Curious as to your improvement from a 1.43 half? Any tips and tricks? That’s almost where I am at. I’m 1.45 and would love to improve.

      1. Isn’t your answer to buy the books “Hansons Marathon Method” and “The Daniels Running Formula?” Oh, and then you have to actually run those miles. You can’t just read the training plans, right? Darn.

          1. I just googled Jack Daneils TCTC and discovered that this is an 11 part video series on youtube. Would that take me an hour to listen to? Is it worth it even if I already own a copy of his book and have studies the VDOT tables?

  12. While Columbus is by far my favorite. I think you should reconsider Glass City for 2016–it’s the 40th anniversary. I’m sure a little birdie will mention ways to improve the elite field and would gladly take any suggestions. I honestly never thought about elite fuel stations–so that’s a starter. Thanks for the great recap!