Dec 25, 2013

California International Marathon: Race Report

 Trust.  That´s what this entire training program and race came down to.  Should I trust in the training I set up for myself? Should I trust the strategy I wanted to run in the marathon without getting nervous as to whether it was going to work out or not?  Should I trust I was fully prepared to reach my goal?  Instead of my usual worrying and letting uncertainty control the outcome I decided to let go and trust that everything was going to work out.
Earlier this year the Los Angeles Marathon put a dent in my confidence to run a marathon well.  I had put 16 weeks of 80-90 miles to break the invisible sub-3 barrier and I thought I was fit enough to do it. After faltering early in the race, I struggled to finish and crossed the line in a disappointing 3:12.  Faulty race day execution, a poorly thought out and executed training plan, and nagging injuries due to said training plan all contributed to that result.  Sick, literally and figuratively, in the weeks after the race I looked back on what went wrong and things started to pop up immediately.  I decided to use those lessons I learned and apply them to the next marathon I would run.  Lessons such as:
-Limiting my weekly mileage.  I didn´t need 80-90 mile weeks.  I only ended up needing around 60/week with a well thought out plan.
-Having a very limited amount of hard runs during the week, but with each one having a precise purpose.  In a training program, constantly running hard without purpose is detrimental to the overall picture in long distance events.  For me, two high quality runs per week was enough.   
-Running the weekend long run at aerobic capacity.  Running with TCLA on Saturday is difficult because they tend to go out faster than my aerobic pace from the get go and most of the time I would end up running alone.  At times I would get pissed off at my heart rate because I wanted to run with them but I wanted to give this plan a fair chance.  Looking back, this was a downfall in the lead up to the LA Marathon. For the goal pace I wanted to run in the marathon this long run pace was simply too fast .
-Having a mix of road and trail runs.
-Limiting my long run to 2-3 hours total, maximum.
-Run a marathon negative split.  If I couldn´t run the first half at marathon goal pace without pushing on the gas pedal then I had no business running that pace.
-Taper and carbohydrate load properly.  2 weeks worked for this training cycle. The first week was little running, the second week mostly not running with some walking.  I was rewarded with light legs and plenty of energy.

Surprised but happy to see Megan and Elissa at mile 13.1
On a frigid morning of 20 degrees I shivered until the start of the race.  I couldn´t feel my hands or feet.  Off we went.  I heeded numerous warnings of not going out too fast on the first downhill mile. 6:56 first mile.  If my goal pace was 6:52 then this would be considered a slow start.  I was determined to run the first 13.1 miles at goal pace or even several seconds slower.  If I couldn´t do that then I should forget about sub-3.  I was feeling quite good and itching to run faster.  I held back though and I knew if I was able to run this seemingly easy pace for the first 20 then I could let it out for the final 6.2.  So the marathon became a waiting game and was quite boring but I had music to keep me company.  I reached the halfway mark in 1:29:35 which was a 6:52 pace and was surprised to see Megan and Elissa cheering me on.  Now that the hills were done I decided to let it out a notch for the next 7 miles and see how that felt.  I continued to feel great and started to average 6:45 for that stretch.  I was happy to see mile 20 because that meant I could empty out the tank for the next 6.2 miles.  I clicked off a 6:31 mile from mile 20-21 but felt a little over zealous so I reigned it back a bit.  My form started to break down at mile 22 and I started to use everything I had to maintain pace, which was around 6:40.  I felt my IT band on my left knee starting to tighten and I hoped with all my might that it wouldn´t be a factor.  Everything was hurting but I knew the end was close.  These miles seemed to take a while but soon mile 26 was reached and I picked it up the final .2 miles because I simply had the energy.  I crossed the line in 2:57:45, about 2 minuted under my goal pace.  I was happy but exhausted and weaving a bit.  I averaged 6:40 the final 6.2.  Trusting the training and race strategy paid off.  I saw Megan at the finish, gave her a hug and declared, ¨"I retire from marathons!"

I still couldn´t feel my hands and was cold but was really satisfied.  Thank you to Elissa, Chris, and her family for letting us stay over the night before.  Thanks to all my TCLA and trail running friends.  The above lessons worked for me through trial and error, prior failures, advise from other runners, and exercise physiology research.  I´m really excited to head back to ultras for the time being until Fall 2014 where I hope to lower this current mark.  Merry Christmas!


  1. congrats dude! perfect execution in both the training and the race

  2. Thanks for the words, Josh! Aren't coming to South America soon yourself?

  3. Great job and execution Chamoun!

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