I wanted a chance to PR with a week remaining to improve my seeding at Boston, so I scheduled the Duel again. I figured with my current training load and times I'd been running on my tempo runs, that I had a solid shot at running a 2:57 or faster. However, I mismanaged my taper (too much running 2 weeks out) and I had a couple of issues crop up on the course that slowed me down.
Temps were warm for Wichita Falls in the winter, with the race temperature starting out in the upper 40s and ending (for me) in the mid-50s. It was overcast and I had one brief rain shower that dumped a few pellets of hail or sleet around mile 16. The forecast was for a significant SW wind that never materialized. My plan was to approach this at a steady 6:45 pace for the first 5-6 miles, then to see if I could handle increasing the pace. Unfortunately, I realized pretty early that a 6:45 felt a lot harder than it should, and that pace was basically all I had available today. Usually, if I'm not careful, my legs feel so springy that one of my first miles turns out to be a 6:30 or so, but that wasn't an issue today.
I was able to hold that pace for most of the race though, until I had a hamstring twinge going around a corner at mile 18 or so. I had to drop into the 6:50s for a mile or so to let that loosen up, then I sped back up into the 6:40s again for a couple of miles. I did begin to fade a little as I passed mile 21 and then I had my left soleus/calf muscle essentially freeze up with about 3 miles to go, causing me to drop my pace over 7:00 for 2 miles. It never really loosened up for the rest of the race, but I went ahead and picked things up again with a mile to go and finished strong. Ultimately, I ran a 2:59:00, which is my third fastest marathon to date. I was the overall winner, and received a nice embroidered gym bag.
Overall, I think I shot my 2:57 attempt with insufficient taper. Two weeks out, I ran a 16 miler at a moderate pace with 2 mile warm up and cool down, the normal 6x1mi repeat set (also with 2 mile warm up and cool down) on Tuesday, and then ran a hard 10 mile tempo (again, 2 mi w/u, 2 mi c/d) on Thursday with a total mileage that week of 77 miles. I probably should have at least nixed the Thursday temp run and run no more than 60 miles that week.
Shoes: I ran in one of my blue Altra Instinct 2s. Love this shoe, wish I could buy every available pair (or that Altra had never changed its style).
Shorts: I ran in my standard black 3” split shorts from Adidas.
Shirt: I wore the new Marathon Maniacs yellow singlet that Cheyenne bought me for Christmas.
Hydration: I took water at every aid station after about mile 6. Some of the earlier aid stations weren't quite ready for me with water and I wasn't about to stop and fill a cup. I'm not sure what the deal was there.
Socks: Injinji medium weight no-show toe socks.
Fuel: I planned on taking Apple/Cinnamon Hammer Gels at miles 5, 10 (2x), 15(2x) and 20, but my plan and aid stations didn't really match up well. I ended up taking 5 of the 6 gels I carried, at about mile 6, 10, 15, and 20.
Hat: Marathon Maniacs classic hat
Glasses: glasses stayed on my hat the whole race, as the sun never came out.
Watch: Garmin 920 - no problems