My overall take on the racing was that I ran well, but was not in shape for the pace I wanted to run. I had no idea that I wasn’t in PR shape. I thought my training consistency could make up for the lack of overall volume and intensity workouts.
In the minds of most of the people who know my training, they would say I trained hard, but it was actually a step down from last year this time in mileage and completed 20-mile long runs and the Baltimore Marathon is a challenging course. I had to remind myself to slow down repeatedly throughout the first six miles, but managed to keep the pace mostly on target. I went through half in roughly 1:53. The dreaded hills from mile 16 to 23 hurt. I did not handle them like I wanted to, but even still I had my PR still in sight as I hit Johns Hopkins with my heart and lungs feeling good and only a small reminder that my legs (particularly, my Achilles tendons and calves) were only barely holding off a cramp. I picked up the pace on the downhill.
A note about the Baltimore Marathon course for those who have yet to run it: it is touted as a challenging course – it is. To the rookie who looks at the elevation chart it looks like an early steep up and down followed by a long stretch of flatness around the harbor/downtown area followed by another long up and steep downhill to the finish. Manageable right? I claim that it is if you survive the seven miles from 16 to 23 relatively fresh. The down-hills are always too short and followed by another soul-claiming climb on the return home. The bridge over Falls Road can ate away the remainder of my ability to attack the downhill on Eutaw Street as a debilitating diaphragm cramp seized me a wouldn’t let go. We meaning half marathoners implored me to keep running as I fast walked and stumbled holding my side. I fought the cramp harder than I have ever before, but anyone who tells you that you can ignore such pain is tougher than I.
I got to Camden Yards with my PR long gone and the 4 hour pace group on my heels and I tried to pick it up and sprint to the finish. I thought I was going to make it and break 4 hours at Baltimore again, but as my stride had me step of the curb to approach the final tenth of a mile my left Achilles spasmed and I had to slow for fear of it completely locking up. 4:00:07 was my chip time.
Baltimore 2011 may be the end of my marathon season. I am not satisfied and hope I can figure out another this year, but I plan on focusing on speedier short races for a while. The race was crowded this year and the wait for food and getting out of the “athlete’s village” when I finished was a bit annoying, but I’d definitely do the race again. I will be more fit next time putting in a lot more long runs and marathon pace long runs with hills. I have to slow down in the first half (half in ~2 hours) in order to have something left for the attack on the last 3-4 miles.