I guess I could call the 2014 Country Music Marathon in Nashville, TN the first full marathon that almost wasn't, was almost a half and then at the last second became a full once more.
After training for 13 weeks, I had my first serious bout with IT band syndrome. I adjusted my training, changed my running style and tried to get myself of track to at least run the half marathon in Nashville. After I got there and realized that the only thing I had to do differently to run the half rather than the full was to just run the half course and the timing chip would do the rest, I realized that I could wait to decide until the cutoff point between the 2 races at mile 11. So feeling strong at that point I went left when the half marathoners went right. It took a while (5:14:15) but I finished and learned some good lessons for next time both in the race and in training.
Lesson 1) Since I have started running with a forefoot strike, my calves do a LOT more work while running and they were the first thing to start aching around mile 13 or so and then they were toast by mile 20 leading me back to my old form, while made my IT band knee pain fire up. So the lesson learned was before the next marathon, I need to focus more on calf strength.
Lesson 2) The next thing to really start bugging me was a nasty blister on the inside ball of my right foot. I think the toebox of my right shoe was just a little too loose and was sliding around on me. But instead of pulling over and dealing with it, I kept going. Lesson 2: Stop and make adjustments when needed rather than just pushing on.
Lesson 3) I trained for the last month using my Nathan VaporWrap hydration vest and was ready to take it with me on the course. It had pockets for everything I needed from nutrition and water to my camera, phone and car keys. As I crossed the pedestrian bridge from the LP field parking lot to the starting line, I was stopped by a policeman telling me that since my pack was not see-through, I would not be allowed to take it in. There had been nothing on the RnR website about not allowing hydration packs. I had to go back to my car and 1 hour before the race re-evaluate everything I was taking with me. Luckily I had my phone armband in the car, so I could still take it, and my Hammer Nutrition shirt and shorts have very good pockets on the back for some gels and my car key. I decided to carry my flask of Hammer Gel for the whole race. So I had to leave some items behind. I was not very happy and it derailed my attitude for a little while. But I made quick adjustments and moved on. So lesson 3: Even if you are sure something is allowed on the course, it might not be. Have a backup plan for your gear.
Lesson 4 & 5) These were lessons learned during training, On my first 18 miler I was completely toast by the time I got home. My mile splits had been all over the place and I felt terrible. After consulting with some of my fellow Hammer Athletes, I realized 2 things needed to change. 1st, I had gone out way too fast and was pushing too hard too soon in my workout. I needed to start out slower and build slowly using my heart rate gauge an "Endurance Zone". Second was that although I had been fueling at every 5-6 miles, and timing-wise this seemed to be ok, my body responded better to more frequent fueling. I found that fueling every 4 miles (which for me is every 32-45 minutes) really kept my energy levels up and feeling good. So even though my calves were just sore by mile 20 and my knee hurt by mile 21, I still had plenty of gas in the tank to keep moving all the way to the finish line. Hammer Gel and Perpetuem solids were my go to fuel source. So learn by trial and error how often YOUR body needs to refuel and stick to it!
My first marathon is something I will never forget. It was so much fun, sometimes it was effortless, sometimes it was painful, but in the end crossing the finish line was so very satisfying and I can't wait to do it again.