Racer’s Report: Matty P in Hartford

By now you probably know the results. Matt Pelletier raced the ING Hartford Marathon on October 13th and his 2:19:33 was good enough for third place. At first glance, it looks like a successful race (and finishing 3rd in 2:19 is phenomenal). But knowing Matt’s competitive nature and the kind of shape he was in, there was the possibility that it wasn’t as successful of a race as one would think at first glance.
 
That notion was confirmed upon reading his race report, and also from this phenomenal Facebook post:

Hesch couldn’t have picked a better time to pop, as it looks like it’s really fired up Matty. Here’s Matty’s own take on his race in Hartford:

The Hartford Marathon could be the only marathon that I have ever run that I am truly disappointed in my performance. It was the perfect opportunity to really run a fast time and make the jump to the next level (pun intended) of running, that I’ve only achieved once. I tasted what it’s like to run with the country’s best runners at the 2007 Olympic Trials.I’ve wanted to be back at that level for so long, and I thought this was my chance to do it. The training had gone much better than expected. I was crushing workouts and it felt effortless. I had some great races leading up to Hartford (fastest time ever at the blessing in hot and humid weather, and PR’ing at the Firmman 1/2 marathon, even though the course is not certified). Even the weather (a bit chilly at the start) was near perfect. I couldn’t have asked for anything else. Fast course, fast competition, perfect weather, fit runner usually adds up to something special.

That said, I don’t really have any excuse to hide behind as to why it didn’t happen. Two-nineteen-thirty-three is my 3rd fastest time ever in the marathon, and my fastest since the 2007 trials. I should be happy right? When my goal (that I really didn’t say to too many people) was to run high 2:15′s, low 2:16′s, 2:19:33 seems like a failure. It’s not even a PR. Knowing how I felt before the race, I thought getting the win might happen, but getting a PR was a definite. If anyone was going to beat me, they were going to have the break the course record to do it.

The plan was to go out for the first 2 miles in 5:20-5:30 pace, and then pick the pace up to 5:10-5:15 pace and hold it there until the end. Pretty simple. I had no idea what kind of shape Endale, Kiplagat, Joslyn and the Stotan guys, Morseman, Zablocki, or any of those guys were in. My plan was to take control and force them to run my race. If they wanted to go faster, they were welcome to it, but I was confident that they would come back to me if they started running faster than 5:10 pace for more than a mile or two.

The marathon and the 1/2 marathon start out together and run the same course for 2 miles or so. One thing I would change about the Hartford course would be to make the mile markers more noticeable. I missed a ton of splits. I had no idea what we went through the mile in, but there was only 1 marathoner ahead of me at the mile, and about 10 1/2 marathoners. Once we turned off, the marathoner looked back and settled in with me. He mentioned that he was surprised that none of the Africans came with us. I looked over my shoulder and Endale, Kiplagat, and another runner were 8-10 steps behind us. I told him they were just feeling us out and seeing who was running the full vs. the 1/2. Within the next mile, that runner was gone, and the lead pack was myself, Endale, Kiplagat, and another runner (whose name I’m not sure of…the big names weren’t all low #’s so it was tough to keep track of who was who).

Matty at the Run 4 Kerri (courtesy of Organic Photography)

From that point, I led almost the entire first 12 miles of the race, feeling very comfortable. The only thing I noticed was that my breathing was more labored than both Endale’s and Kiplagat’s. I felt like I wasn’t breathing hard at all, but next to those two, I thought I sounded like an asthmatic at a Cypress Hill concert. I was still confident that I was in better shape than them, and they were just testing me out. Aside from apologizing for bumping elbows with Endale a few times (who chose to run next to me, unlike Kiplagat who was content to run behind us both), we didn’t say anything to each other. There was a little confusion at the first elite fluids station (which was right before a good uphill which made drinking difficult), but we were pretty consistent the whole time. Slower on the uphills by a few sec. and faster on the downhills by a few sec. EXACTLY how I wanted the race to play out.

At 12 miles, Kiplagat grabbed a cup of water. As he drank it, Endale reached back to Kiplagat asking for some of the water. Kiplagat gave it to him, Endale took a drink, threw the cup, and took off with Kiplagat right behind him. I ran a 5:11 13th mile split (2:16 pace). They easily put 20 seconds on me. Even then I still wasn’t worried. I figured they were worried about me, so they were throwing a surge in to try and break me. I let them go thinking they would pay for that wasted spending of precious energy. I kept the same pace for the next 6 miles. They stayed about the same distance ahead of me until the turnaround at 17 miles, and then through the 18th mile.

I took note of Chris Zablocki and Jared Burdick who were running in 4th place together. I had run 2 min. past the turnaround when I saw them, so I had a 4 min. lead on them. Good, just worry about the guys in front of me. When they start to fall apart I would just sweep them up and cruise into victory and a big PR.

At 18 miles, I have no idea what happened. The miles just didn’t come as easy, and I was starting to slow even more with each mile and there was nothing I could do about it. At 20 miles, the guy from Granite State Race Services said I was on pace for a 2:17 when I crossed the mat, but I knew that wasn’t going to happen. My hamstrings felt tight, my feet had blisters, and the thought of having to walk was very real. Endale and Kiplagat were now out of sight, and I immediately shifted my focus to the guys behind me. Could I even hold them off? I focused on getting to the next mile marker for the last 6 miles. I was asking people on the side of the road to yell when someone behind me came into view so I could hear the time gap. Coming into the last mile I kept looking to see where 4th place was. I used every last ounce of energy to finish the race without walking. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever put my body through. I’ve never run out of gas that early in a race before. My biceps and triceps hurt so much from trying to throw my body forward in the last few miles. Seeing Chris and Jared cross the line in the 2:20′s made me realize that they would have caught me if the race was 26.8 miles, and I could have done nothing about it.

The only reason I can come up with for the crash is that I didn’t eat enough the morning of the race. I woke at 5 and had a clif bar, and some coffee but that was it. It’s the same breakfast I’ve eaten for all but one of my marathons. The difference is, about an hour before the race, my stomach started to growl. I hate running with food in my stomach so I made a decision not to eat anything else so I wouldn’t get stomach cramps like I did in VCM. I also only took one gel at 10K, and only a few sips of fluid. I wasn’t sweating, so I passed on all my other bottles to focus on keeping the pace, and also didn’t grab any gels. I had one inside my glove that I took at 23 miles as a last ditch effort to stay vertical, but I think that’s why I may have bonked so early. That’s a rookie mistake if that’s the reason why I bonked. I also had a cramp just under my rib cage at 14 miles. I couldn’t really take deep breaths. It didn’t hurt, it just wouldn’t allow me to breathe like I wanted to. Possibly from trying to drink after the water stop confusion and then trying to run uphill and drink at the same time? I don’t know. Hindsight is 20/20.

I’ve never walked away from a race feeling as though it didn’t show what I was capable of. It makes me want to prove to myself that I CAN run as fast as I think I can, I just need to regroup and focus on the next one. I can’t do anything about Hartford except learn from it, and move on. I hope to get a good group of runners together in the spring. Nothing formal yet, but I’ve talked to a few people about training together as often as schedules allow, and focusing on the same race with the intent of a fast time. It makes me hopeful that I can take the fitness I had for Hartford and carry it on to a spring marathon and get the time I’m capable of.

splits:

1.—-
2. 10:42
3. 5:18 (16:01)
4. —-
5. 10:17 (26:18)
6. —-
7. 10:15 (36:34)
8. 5:11 (41:45)
9. 5:19 (47:05)
10. —-
11. 10:17 (57:23)
12. 5:10 (1:02:34)
13. 5:11 (1:07:46)
14. 5:08 (1:12:54)
15. 5:08 (1:18:02)
16. 5:19 (1:23:22)
17. 5:22 (1:28:45)
18. 5:01 (1:33:46)
19. —-
20. 10:57 (1:44:43)
21. 5:28 (1:50:11)
22. 5:41 (1:55:52)
23. 5:35 (2:01:28)
24. 5:33 (2:07:02)
25. 5:29 (2:12:32)
26.—-
F. 7:01 (2:19:34)

Things didn’t go as planned, but Matty gutted it out. Many of us have been in a similar situation (though probably not nearly as fast) and can relate to the experience of fighting through a tough one. There are some important lessons to be learned from his experience (for all of us), and it all comes back to knowing your body and being able to listen to it. No matter how well prepared for a race you are, it’s all the little things on race day that could end up causing a big problem. As you can tell from what happened to him, it’s not always easy or obvious; what worked in the past might not work for whatever reason at the present moment.

We’re looking forward to the next marathon for the now über-fired up Matty P. We’ll also hopefully have more on his soon-to-be-formed training super group.

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