Blog Master G

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Mohawk Hudson River Marathon 2009

Monday, October 12th, 2009 · 14 Comments


I ran my 4th marathon yesterday, where my goal was to qualify for the 2010 Boston Marathon. I fell short of that goal, but learned some important lessons along the way.

My legs are really sore today. Weather was perfect yesterday and the course was beautiful for the Hudson Mohawk Marathon – cool at the start, some gentle sunshine at the finish – but overall, it just wasn’t my day. I held a strong 7:16 average pace through Mile 18 (and a solid 7:15 through 12), then just completely fell apart, slowing to an 8-minute average pace in Mile 19 through Mile 26.


Official time: 3:17:09 (link to Garmin data) – new PR by 2:25. Missed my BQ by 6:10 (better than missing it by 61 seconds).

Lessons learned in this marathon:

  1. Running 2 marathons within 3 months may not be the best idea (trained for this one with a 10-week schedule after SFM).
  2. Not running a single 20-mile long run in a training cycle isn’t a good idea (maxed at a couple 17-milers, and 3 weeks out I raced a half-marathon followed by 3 easy miles in favor of 20).
  3. Shoes that may be fine as trainers aren’t always a good choice for races (stick with what you know), and I have some new blisters to prove it.

Lessons  1 and 2 may be the most important: Even though I set a PR by 2+ minutes, I didn’t feel good about the race yesterday, and hit the Wall at only Mile 19. My previous PR was set at CIM — an equally fast course — last December, when I had trained with three 20-mile long runs, and felt fresh going into the race (hadn’t run a marathon before CIM since my first one in June 2008 in San Diego). I didn’t hit the Wall at CIM until Mile 24, and finished strong.

I also felt much stronger 3 months ago in San Francisco when I ran a 3:20:07 on a MUCH tougher course (link to Garmin data) and had trained with two 20-milers in that training cycle. Interestingly, though, my average heart rate at SFM and at HMH yesterday was identical: 163, which is 88% of my maximal and exactly the high end of where my marathon HR should be, according to Advanced Marathoning.


I’m faster this year than I was last year at CIM and should have been able to run a faster race yesterday with smarter training and more time between marathons.

Another possible factor: Did taking Ibuprofen to ease the swelling in my sore knee a few days prior have an impact? I didn’t feel dehydrated, but maybe I was and that could have impacted my pace. I only took 400 mg of Ibuprofen 24 hours prior to the race (and more for a couple days before that), but I wonder if it had an impact. The good news is that my knee didn’t bother me at all; it was the least of my worries.

I completely ran out of steam in this race. I guess every race is a learning lesson, and that some days just aren’t your day…. even if you’ve just set a PR. 🙂

As for the race itself, I came out strong and settled into a nice, consistent 7:15 pace with a group of about 8 or 9 other guys for most of the first half. The group dissipated on a hill leading up to the halfway point, where I hit the split at 1:35:45, so still felt good about holding on for a 3:10:59 or better. I spent most of the second half running by myself with only the occasional runner in front of or behind me — one of the drawbacks of running a smaller race if running in a pack is your thing, which I think it is for me (even though I do 98% of training by myself).


I hydrated often — with Gatorade and/or water at every aid station — and hit lots of GU, one nearly every 30 minutes (is that GU overkill?). But it wasn’t enough to keep me going as fast as I’d hoped after Mile 19, when I simply had nothing left.

One of the things that kept me going in the second half was running past a spectator just as I overheard him say to his young son, “See these people? These are people who never give up.” That really motivated me, and I kept saying that to myself as I pressed on toward the finish line.

Mentally and psychologically, I felt fine and focused; my body was just wrecked. No matter how hard I wanted to push, my body just wouldn’t do it.

The final 4 miles were the worst. I watched my Garmin in frustration as my pace sometimes slowed to 9:00 or slower. The funny thing was to be so close to a 3:10:59, yet so far away. I watched my clock count to 3:10:59 and beyond when I was at about 25.4 or so miles. Strange how that final 0.8 mile can feel like an eternity — and make all the difference in your Boston qualifying hopes.

I was disappointed not to qualify for Boston, but less so than I expected I’d be. I still had lots of support and cheering friends along the course and at the finish line, and there’s no feeling like crossing a finish line and seeing your wife and good friends waiting for you (even if it’s not your strongest finish). Big props to Jen and Alexis for waking up so early and cheering me on throughout the course!

A 3:17 is still not too shabby, and I want to try to be happy with my new personal record for the time being, and not beat myself up so much for not hitting my goal. Not even 2 years old, my racing career is still young… and this is just one race.

View all photos on Flickr.

Mile splits by Garmin:

Split Time Avg Speed Avg HR Calories
1 0:07:15 7:15 158 122
2 0:07:19 7:19 162 124
3 0:07:14 7:14 155 124
4 0:07:10 7:10 155 124
5 0:07:12 7:12 155 124
6 0:07:11 7:11 158 124
7 0:07:15 7:15 157 124
8 0:07:19 7:19 159 125
9 0:07:16 7:16 161 124
10 0:07:19 7:19 160 125
11 0:07:18 7:18 162 124
12 0:07:12 7:12 165 124
13 0:07:29 7:29 166 125
14 0:07:11 7:11 167 123
15 0:07:14 7:14 168 125
16 0:07:18 7:18 170 124
17 0:07:18 7:18 169 125
18 0:07:11 7:11 167 124
19 0:07:26 7:26 169 123
20 0:07:37 7:37 170 125
21 0:07:26 7:26 173 125
22 0:07:53 7:53 169 123
23 0:08:00 8:00 166 125
24 0:08:29 8:29 162 124
25 0:08:40 8:40 159 124
26 0:08:29 8:29 163 123
26.2 0:02:18 6:47 176 41
Summary 3:17:13 7:29 163 3,267

Tags: photos 2009 · running

14 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Lillie :p // Oct 12, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Hey Gabe, it’s Lillie from RWOL. First of all congratulations on your new PR! Don’t worry, your BQ will happen.

    I’m sorry I’m new to your blog but have a couple of questions. In preparation for this marathon did you run higher mileage than your prep for SF? Also, were you very disciplined about taking adequate recoveries between hard training runs?

    I ask these questions because we have similar finish times across the board. In the fall of ’07 I ran a 3:19 at the CIM. Three months later I ran a tune up half marathon in 1:29. About one month after that I was ready to run a 3:10 at Boston, or so I thought. I had tweaked my training plan a little to peak at 70 miles for two weeks instead of peaking at 60 miles. I also pushed it a little harder in quality workouts and even on easy days. I tapered well though, so I thought I’d be ready to nail that 3:10.

    Long story short, I was mentally fried and tired. I ran the first 16 miles of Boston in a haze, not really fired up and not really into it. Somewhere just before the Newton Hills I woke up and said, “Let’s do this!” By then it was way too late. Not only that but I took 3 or 4 potty stops prior, which slowed me down significantly. I ended up with a 3:00+ negative split (showing that I turned it up in the last 10 miles)… but as I said, it was too late.

    I finished with a TON left in the tank at 3:17:xx.

    Then I got greedy because I hadn’t met my goal so I pushed it and pushed it all summer long and ended up very injured by October. I’ve been kind of “screwed” as far as running goes ever since, and trying to get my old self back.

    So… enjoy your new PR for a while. Take some down time from the marathon and switch things up a bit for a few months. Then go for it again! Just don’t burn yourself out over this one goal.

    Great job!

  • 2 Blog Master G // Oct 13, 2009 at 8:24 am

    Thanks, Lillie! I appreciate it, and know it’s important to keep things in perspective and not get too bummed about missing one goal.

    Good questions about my mileage and recovery. I actually did not run higher mileage than in SF prep (when I peaked at 65 MPW a full 3 months prior to SF, then was dealing with Achilles tendonitis leading up to SFM), and I think that’s part of the problem. I think I may have been overconfident that I could ride on the success of my SF race. I may have looked at it as a 3:20 training run instead of a tough marathon effort on a hilly course that took a lot out of me. 🙂

    Then I thought I wouldn’t have to worry about running any 20-milers (wrong) or more than 55 MPW for HMH (peaked 4 weeks out, followed by two 45-mile weeks, then a taper to 27 and just 13 last week pre-marathon on 2 days). I was also dealing with a knee injury this time around, so that made me taper more aggressively, too.

    Leading up to SF, I had a tough summer of racing to prepare for it, too: A hilly half in Lake Placid (1:34:24) and three uphill legs totaling 20 miles over 2 days on basically no sleep in the mountains of Vermont for the 200-mile Green Mountain Relay.

    So it sounds like your PR is also 3:17:XX in Boston?

  • 3 Greg Friese // Oct 13, 2009 at 11:43 am


    Thanks for sharing your marathon story. I did a single half marathon with the Garmin and vowed I would never race with it again. Mile distances were frustratingly different from actual miles.

    Running alone at a consistent pace is pretty tough for me.

    I also think those 20 or just more than 20 mile training runs are really important.

    What is your next marathon? During my last 6 weeks of training I was swearing off marathoning for 2010, but 48 hours post race I began plotting my next marathon. Maybe Grandmas or another spring marathon for me in 2010.

    Good luck with the recovery.

  • 4 Blog Master G // Oct 13, 2009 at 2:35 pm

    Sure thing, Greg. Thanks for checking out the blog!

    I love my Garmin and have just accepted that it’s usually a little bit off in races… sometimes to my advantage (i.e., official race distance is shorter), but usually a little longer (e.g., in this marathon the 26.34 mi Garmin says I ran).

    My legs still hurt too much to think about my next marathon. 🙂 But it will certainly be more than 3 months from now.

  • 5 Hugh // Oct 13, 2009 at 8:14 pm

    Gabe, great job–sorry you fell a little short, but hey, you’re young and only been training for marathons for a couple of years. I think it’s a great time. Look to see you around for the Stryders workouts. take care, Hugh

  • 6 sumorunner // Oct 13, 2009 at 9:55 pm

    Here are some photos taken at mile 10. See if you’re in there.

  • 7 Blog Master G // Oct 14, 2009 at 11:58 am

    Thanks, Hugh! Good to hear from you, and glad you came across my blog. I’ll look for you at the next Stryders workout!

    sumorunner – thanks! I do see myself here and in the one before it:

  • 8 adhoc // Oct 14, 2009 at 11:17 pm

    Dear Blog Master G,

    First of all, great job on your race. A PR is always a good thing to take away from any race. And I think the fact that you are not that disappointed with missing BQ means that you ran a good race and left it all on the course.

    Last year, I did almost the same thing as you and my results were very similar to yours. I planned to run 2 marathons, 2 months apart, the 2nd race being a backup BQ . First marathon in October, I ran a strong effort 3:13 on a warmish day, then I immediately looked towards CIM and got injured with mild case of piriformis which hampered my training (no speed work).

    So on race day, at CIM, I ran a good time, but I start the first half feeling not up to it, kinda like Lillie. The best way to put it is like my running rhythm felt off. I ran through the half at 1:35 but it did not feel easy and was actually thinking about stopping there… thinking that I would be toast for the race.

    Anyways, I persevered till mile 18 and then realized that I was only like 30 secs behind BQ time! And finally decided to hammer it, but it was too late. The best I could do was between 7:12-7:24 pace.

    At the end of mile 25, I was like 40 secs behind BQ and knew I couldn’t finish at 6:30 pace….so I jogged it at a 8:10ish pace and finished at 3:12, a 1 minute PR.

    Had I only run CIM, I would have been more fresh on race day. Also I would have had higher quality training leading into CIM, instead of the injury laden 40 MPW weeks leading up to race day…

  • 9 Blog Master G // Oct 15, 2009 at 9:10 am

    adhoc- thanks for sharing your story! What’s eye-opening for me is what a difference going into a race fresh can make. CIM and Mohawk Hudson are both FAST races, so one would expect to do really well, but it sounds like we both just ran out of steam as a result of overdoing it with the back-to-back marathons.

    As I mentioned in this blog entry, SF Marathon is a much tougher course, and my time was 3:20.

    When’s your next 3:10 effort? Have you targeted another race for it?

    Also, do any of you have any thoughts on the Less-is-More Marathon Plan (FIRST)? I’ve heard good things and may give it a shot next time around after I learn more about it.

  • 10 adhoc // Oct 15, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Yeah, SFM is a much tougher course. Had you run just Hudson Mohawk you would have definitely run a MUCH better time, possibly even a BQ. You’re really close.

    I think the important thing now is getting some good rest, not rushing back too quickly…which is the mistake I made last year after CIM. *LOL* After a 20 minute PR in 2008, I got GREEDY and started training too quickly and aggressively for a SUB 3:00 for 2009. Now I’m not even at the same fitness level I was one year ago.

    Most likely Napa in March will be my next BQ attempt. BUT if I run a strong half marathon this Sunday, I’m MIGHT do CIM.

    As for FIRST, I’ve read about it and it works for some and not others. I never tried it. I *think* what most people ignore is that those non-running days should be substituted with vigorous cross training exercise and not rest days. Perfect for tri-athletes. I find it more convenient and familiar to just setup and follow a standard running training plan. So laziness is my excuse.

    Below is a link of a good blog that used FIRST and switched back to Phitz:

  • 11 Blog Master G // Oct 17, 2009 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks again for the pointers, adhoc. I’m definitely taking it easy this week and trying to enjoy the relaxation of not training (just got back from second easy 4-miler this week).

    Good luck in the half tomorrow! Let me know how you do…

    I do love CIM! Bummer that I’m not going to be running it this year… must…. avoid… temptation. 🙂

  • 12 Suzanne // Oct 22, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Gabe: That pic of you on the grass wrapped in “foil” –you look like a fallen super hero or X-Man! LOL!

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