Friday, March 05, 2010

"Lost Deal" Debrief

In my new role with my company, we are constantly competing against other software vendors and consulting firms for business opportunities. When we hear of a potential engagement, we go through our tried and true processes, no matter the size of the deal, and do our best to do the things we know we need to do to win it. Sometimes we make mistakes in putting together the deal and we win it despite that, and sometimes, regardless of how well we assembled and presented our bid, it was just not meant to be and we lose out. Of course, our chances for success are usually directly correlated to our preparation, thought and strategy for the bid.

Can you see the parallels to running a marathon here?  Yeah, I've been whacked in the face with the similarities here, especially as I had less than 24 hours to go from the finish line to our yearly conference, where I slid immediately into my new sales support role (combined with three 14-hour days on my feet, but yeah, that's another entry...). So I'm looking at this race report as a kind of "lost deal" debrief, where we analyze what parts worked, what went wrong, why we didn't get it done, and most importantly, what we could have done better, so that next time, we win the deal.

 I've had lots of time to think about this race, both while I was still out on the course (you'll see it later when we see the splits) and in the days since. Bottom line, this is my personal worst performance, worse even than last year's debacle. It was even worse than the disaster that was Miracle Match. And while in the past, I can look at my training and see where I had huge holes in it, this time, I managed to hit most of them. Not all, by any means, but more than I have in the past. My weight is still an issue, but I'm at my lowest weight in about three years. This time really came down to a couple of rookie mistakes.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.  Here, in four parts, my race report from Cowtown 2010:

What worked: 
Nutrition and hydration - this part at least I have down.  I started the day with my tried and true pre-race fuel of organic peanut butter and honey on whole wheat bread, chased down with half a bottle of water. I had my double-barreled fuel belt filled with half water, half-gatorade, so I was able to skip the water stops through mile 16-17.  I drank every time I passed one, and starting an hour in, I also took a bit of my PowerBar Smoothie energy bar every twenty minutes. I never felt like I was out of juice on the run, nor did I have any issues with stomach sloshiness or dehydration.
Wardrobe - I thought it would be dicey to get the right mix of cool-weather attire for the start (there was frost on my car windows when I left the house) that would also work for the warmer temps expected at the end of the race. But I ended up making the perfect choice with my tights and my longhorn spandex top, layered with my aqua fleece top.  The top made it to mile 2 before I tied it around my waist, but it doesn't feel heavy at all, especially when I've already got my belt pack on, so it didn't bother me at all. The tights weren't hot, nor was the shirt - even in the later afternoon sun (yeah, more on that later, too) I didn't feel like I had to roll up the sleeves.  And unlike in the past where I've had all kinds of scary chafing, the kind that burns when you climb into the tub, I had no parts where anything rubbed me wrong.
My Mile Dedications - I was able to keep focused and keep moving (for the most part) when I got down thanks to my mile markers  When things got tough, I remembered who I was running for, and that was usually enough to put an end to the pity party and get moving again.
My Sherpas - My crew came out to meet me at  Mile 19, just like last year. Except I needed them to backtrack along the course and come closer to Mile 17 because the feet were in such bad shape and I needed my old shoes.  My son gave up his socks (right off his feet) so that I could finish. If that's not an amazing crew, I don't know what is!!

What didn't: 
The socks - I've talked before how much I lurve my Injinji socks. I had my old pair of tetrasocks for four or five years, and they never let me down, even when I blew a hole in the forefoot on my last training run. So I thought it was no Big Deal when I used a new pair in their place this time. Except it was, since the weave on the newer versions is different and it really created hot spots on the bottoms of both feet, starting pretty early on.
The shoes - I really like my new Saucony Shays.  I thought they were close enough to my last two pair of Saucony Kilkennys that I would be OK to run in them even though they had just arrived on Tuesday morning and I'd only done about six miles in them. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Rookie mistake. Dumb, stupid, should-have-known-better rookie mistake.  But the old shoes had more than 400 miles on them and the Shays felt so soft and cushy in comparison when I put them on. Yeah, NO. The problem was that I didn't have enough time to get the lacing right. I just didn't time the ordering of the new shoes right.

The Shays have this little interior envelope thing to them (that's the only way I think to describe it) and when I tied them the way I usually do, I started to lose feeling in my feet.  So I stopped at about the 10K mark to loosen them.  But then, combined with the funky weave on the socks, my foot slipped around more than it should have. Tighten, then loosen, then tighten. Back and forth like that until the boys brought me the old Kilkennys. When I changed socks and put those on, sitting alongside the course in the park, my feet suddenly sighed and said, "Hello, old friends." Yeah, that didn't work. I had even stopped at a first aid station and lubed up the feet once I felt the hot spots developing, but that didn't help at all.
My pacing - Went out way too fast.  Erratic and sporadic pacing.  Usually, I can hit my splits at just the right pace without even looking at my watch.  I had my Garmin covered up with my sleeve because I didn't want to psych myself out if I saw my pace falling behind, but instead I ended up going too fast and blowing the end of my race. At one point around the 11-mile mark or so, I looked up and found the 4:20 pace leader in front of me. Um, yeah, WAY too fast. Don't worry, it didn't last.  Pretty soon I was being passed by the 4:20 pace leader, the 4:40 and 5:00 pace leaders and soon enough, the 5:30 pace leader.  GAH. Must get better at this. Must.

Why I Didn't Get it Done
The "Resting" - there were several points along the course where I had to sit down, either on the curb or on a conveniently-placed bench just to get off my feet. When your feet hurt so bad that you can't stand on them, it's tough to keep moving. So I sat on several occasions. And more often than not, the sitting and "resting" led to...
The Crying - Yes. I cried. Many times. At first, because it hurt to walk. And once I cried because I couldn't find the boys, even though I knew they were just in front of me. I cried because the mile markers were WAY too far apart.  I cried because I had done the work and it was a gorgeous day ( have I talked about that? about how glorious a day it turned out to be? Sun shining, but not hot. Light breeze but no wind. Did you hear that? NO WIND!!!) and it was so hard to keep moving.  And, dammit, this time, it was not supposed to be so hard. Twice, as I laid on the ground crying, I had other runners and volunteers come up to me and ask if I needed help. No, I didn't need help at that time. I just needed to cry and whine and bitch and moan and bemoan the fact that I was having a horrible race and not what I'd wanted, which was to not only PR but lose that damn 5:00 monkey off my back. And instead, I had half-dollar-sized blisters on my feet, and hips that hurt from having to limp, and walking muscles that hurt because I used them instead of the running muscles that I'd trained. So there was plenty to cry about. Until I just got mad, and then as I passed under the overpass near the park along the Trinity and just screamed, loudly and primally, and let all my frustration out.  And from that point on, with about 5K left, all there was left was to stop crying already and just get it done. Just Shut the F Up and Run.

What We Could Do Better
Put all the Pieces Together - I know what to do.  My body is NOT  incapable of running a 5-hour marathon, when all the pieces of the puzzle are put together right. If I can get the pacing right, if I can get the shoes and socks right so there aren't blisters keeping me from my proper stride, I know I can do this. I know I will finish, it's just a matter of getting it just right and lining everything up just so. The good news is that I'll have a couple of long runs in the shoes before Big D in six weeks so I'll have time to break them in properly. I'll also  practice some blister-prevention techniques used by ultra-marathoners in the meanwhile. And as much as they say not to try to lose weight while training for a marathon, I have to clean up the eating and crank up some weight training so that I drop a little more by then. It helps that I haven't had any candy since Lent started (boy was it tough to pass up the on-course Jolly Ranchers and Snickers bars), so once I get past my one-week-post-marathon-eat-what-I-want period here, I will tighten it up and be extra conscientious about it. I will work on pacing, and I will work on negative splitting all my runs, no matter the length.

So, there you go.  As I said on Saturday afternoon, I finished.  I struggled mightily, but nothing was going to keep me from the finish line.  And while I was supremely disappointed with the 6:19 and change finish (last in Athenas, btw), I am supremely stoked that I never gave up.  As my Road ID tag on my shoe says, I finished this race "Through Sheer Force of Will."  As long as I have that, I can do anything I put my mind to.

For posterity, the hard data:

Run Time: 5:56:51
Run Distance: 26.48 miles
Avg. Pace: 13:28
Calories: 3395
Time spent crying on the side of the course: 22:37
Total Time: 6:19:28

And the splits:
Mile 1 - 9:54 - YOW - way too fast - downhill section and excitement got better of me
Mile 2 - 10:11 still too fast to maintain for 26.2
Mile 3 - 10:42 - stopped to take fleece off and adjust iPod
Mile 4 - 10:00 - too fast
Mile 5 - 10:43 - first time I stopped to adjust laces; still too fast
Mile 6 - 10:09 - too fast
Mile 7 - 11:21 - stopped at med tent for KY jelly (!) what happened to good ol' Vaseline?
Mile 8 - 11:02 - finally got into a good groove pacewise
Mile 9 - 11:07 - better
Mile 10 - 11:15 - just hold it at this pace
Mile 11 - 11:33 - no, too slow...
Mile 12 - 12:34 - stopped to adjust shoes again
Mile 13 - 11:24
Mile 14 - 13:11
Mile 15 - 14:16 - started 5/1 intervals - had altered gait significantly by this time
Mile 16 - 14:14
Mile 17 - 16:48 - stopped in park with boys to switch shoes, socks and timing chip
Mile 18 - 15:18 - felt better, got moving a little faster
Mile 19 - 15:35 - still had to walk more than run
Mile 20 - 17:30 - stopped to perform surgery on blisters with safety pin from bib - yeah, gross, but I couldn't keep going without getting some relief
Mile 21 - 15:25
Mile 22 - 16:12 - laid on ground and cried for a while. Kind hunky firefighter blocked sun from me while I did it.
Mile 23 - 15:59 - little bit of a lift when I saw GI Jan coming off the ultra course. Had STFUR moment.
Mile 24 - 17:14
Mile 25 - 17:35 - stopped on a bench and hung out for a while
Mile 26 - 17:53 - LONGEST mile ever...
Mile .2 -  7:34 - Garmin measured at nearly .46.


Erica Rodriguez Maier said...

Wow. Just wow. And huge, huge, huge kudos to you for staying the course and finishing the race. Such an inspiration! I know there are many, many people who would have thrown in the towel in the face of the obstacles you experienced, but you didn't. GOOD FOR YOU! The worst runs can sometimes be the most cathartic and as you often say, you learn something new about yourself every time.

I started running last summer, and have since lost 25 pounds (and gained a lot of leg muscle, LOL), but I still have roughly 30 pounds to lose to hit my goal weight of 140. I know how the pounds can literally weigh you down and slow you down. And on the days when my runs are extra exhausting, it just motivates me more to get the rest of the weight off.

I am running a 1/2 marathon on Sunday, then beginning Monday, I am starting Hal Higdon's Intermediate Spring Training calendar ... going to do 4 days running and 2 days kettlebell training. I trust the weight training will finally help strengthen my core and get the rest of the excess weight off.

Thanks for your post!

Lincy and Iris said...


We are from the Netherlands and for an English assignment for school we have to interview a sporter that has a blog. We would like to interview you. But we couldn't find a e-mail adress so we comment you here.

We hope that you want to do this interview with us.

You can contact us at

Lincy and Iris