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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, April 08, 2018 1:00 am

Finding satisfaction when top marathon goal goes unfulfilled

AUBREE REICHEL | The Journal Gazette

Satisfaction is a funny thing.

Athletes work and work to the mantra of “Never be satisfied.” What about when it's all over? Is satisfaction acceptable then?

The Carmel Marathon on March 31 was my first road marathon since Boston in 2016, a training cycle that consisted of a “just finish” mentality. With that, I was satisfied. Until one day, I wasn't.

I remember it was sometime before my most recent 50-kilometer race, Bigfoot 50K in Ohio, in December. I was running down Anthony Boulevard on a 6- or 7-mile run and I was able to hold a pretty consistent sub-8-minute-mile pace.

I felt good. I felt as if I worked for it, I could manage a marathon. 

I mentioned it to my friend Brad Altevogt, who drew me up a training plan. The plan he drew up began on Christmas and consisted of three workouts, three 5-, 6-mile easy days and one day off per week.

The workouts were tempo-based, a hard effort that could be sustained for long periods of time.

I set my goal at 3 hours 20 minutes for the 26.2-mile marathon distance, a 7:37 per mile average. It was ambitious and set the expectations high. I set secondary goals of a personal best (3:26:08), Boston qualifier (sub-3:35) and a finish.

My training was good. There were some hiccups and there were several long runs that had to be cut short due to injury concerns where I erred on the side of caution. Overall, though, I felt as if my goal was attainable if everything went well.

Race weekend was different from anything I'd ever done. I was going to an out-of-town race by myself, which felt like a business trip. I went to the expo, picked up my packet, checked into my hotel, got my bib pinned to my shirt, sorted out my nutrition and relaxed. I had dinner with a friend and went back to my room and was asleep by 10 p.m.

I woke up at 5:45 a.m., got dressed, ate breakfast, had some coffee and tried my best to relax.

I got into my wave about five minutes before the start and ran into Hannah Hoffman and Paula Henry. I ended up running with Paula for the first five miles or so, but she pulled away with the 3:15 pace group and I was adamant to stay within myself.

My half-marathon split was right where I needed to be (1:38:25), but I knew my pace would slow. I clung on to a guy named Joel for the next few miles, but around 16, we departed the Monon Trail and he pulled away.

I was still ahead of goal pace until mile 20 but shortly after, I began walking through aid stations, for mental and physical benefits, ensuring I got fluids and my nutrition. I took a gel every 5 miles or so and a salt capsule every hour while alternating between water and Powerade as best I could.

My knee started bothering me around mile 22, but I slogged through and finally found a second-wind around mile 24. Two miles? I can run two miles.

The last mile was a struggle with much of it being uphill. With one step at a time, though, I got closer and closer until, with Smash Mouth's “All Star” blaring, I finished in 3:22:23.

My first reaction was disappointment. I missed my primary goal. I worked for three full months and I missed it.

On race day, though, the key is to perform as best as possible on that day, training aside. I achieved nearly a 4-minute personal best on my first speed-based training cycle since college.

I have Boston to look forward to a year from now as my next big goal race. I have another chance.

The goal remains 3:20 or simply, as best I can do on that day and take the little bits of satisfaction I can in the meantime.

Aubree Reichel covers high schools, IPFW and recreation for The Journal Gazette. She can be reached at 461-8339 or at areichel@jg.net.