Berlin Marathon RR

Yesterday, I ran the Berlin Marathon. This marathon idea started when I saw that registration was open and I knew I liked Germany and wanted to go back, so I had an "accident" and signed up. Then, I told my husband we had to go and he, after much huffing and puffing that he does not like to travel in September, agreed. :-)

This was to be my 8th marathon and my goal marathon for the season. I still have 4 more marathons and an ultra in the next five months (I am searching for my second star on the Marathon Maniacs), so I knew a PR would be harder to achieve later in the season, when my legs are tired.

As you remember, I was having bouts of severe asthma in April and May, 2012. My breathing capacity went down from 84% to 74% to 62%! I was taking 5 medications to keep my breathing afloat. I had many races with asthma attacks (mostly 5Ks and 10Ks). Because I needed to try something new to try to improve the asthma while training, I asked a friend of mine who is a coach, for his help. He created a great training program for me that I know for a fact helped me improve my running and improve the asthma (by basically reducing the chances of an asthma attack which in turn helped me train). However, the asthma was not perfect. I spent Week 2 in bed and close to hospitalization due to severe asthma. I ran the first 5 weeks at close to 12mm instead of my usual 10:30mm. Those of you that know me and read my posts in FB know March through June was a really tough time for me.

The only disappointment I had with the program he created was that it was lower in mileage than I had for the prior year. This is not a disappointment against my coach; I was disappointment in myself for not being able to train as I used to. My mileage from March through May was between 30-40mpw, when I was doing 45-60mpw at the same time period in 2011. But I knew I was not 100% so the training program looked great for me at that point in time. I started at around 34mpw and peaked at 60mpw (I don't have the plan in front of me so this is just an approximate). I had easy runs, fartleks and intervals, and easy long runs in the first half or so of the program, and easy runs, tough intervals, and paced long runs at the end. One of the long runs was something like 20 miles with easy, MP + 10%, MP, and HMP miles in that order. Although I thought I wouldn't be able to complete it, I was surprised I did my runs so well.

As I mentioned in my previous RR, I have been training by HR. I've noticed that the asthma attacks come in after spikes in my HR and that by looking at the HR instead of pace, I could prevent attacks. And I have been really successful. My coach and I had a strategy based on HR (at my request) and I did perform it to the T. I will probably race by HR from now on until it does not work for my asthma any more.

So when I first started the training for Berlin, I was not even sure whether I could complete it. When I finished the plan, it was not a question of whether I would PR but by how much. I had everything ready to attempt it; I only needed a good asthma day.

We arrived in Berlin in Thursday, giving me two days to unwind, rest, do some sightseeing, and relax. Unfortunately, my feet got swollen on the flight. That went down by Saturday and I don't think it was a factor in my performance. But, I have been coughing on and off for the last week prior to the marathon and as soon as I arrived in Berlin, the asthma was increasing. My usual breathing now is back to 80% but I had gone down from my peak flow meter showing 435 to barely hitting 400. By Saturday night I knew I needed to switch my pacing strategy.

I woke up at 7am on Sunday and went downstairs to have breakfast with DH. He was going to drive me as close to the Reichstadt as possible, which was the point I was going to meet bingo_jenn and Adam McAllen prior to the race (I had dinner with bingo_jenn and her mom and DH the night before though). As soon as I ate my breakfast, I knew I was going to have nausea during the marathon (I've had 4 marathons with nausea). It was just going to be one of those days, especially after one of my gels exploded at the hotel and I ended up taking only 4 gels. Next month, please travel with 6-7 gels and not the 5 you need, doh.

On top of that, I get to the starting line and turned my iPod on and it's completely uncharged. I was like WTF? I can race without it, but I don't perform as well and I wanted to have it on the tough miles (which are for me miles 15-20). It had some charge (3%) so I put it back in my pocket and was hoping to get some music during those miles. At this point I was expecting the Garmin to die too, but fortunately, it didn't.

I get the Reichstadt at 8:29am and attempt an FE with Adam and Jenn without success. I am freezing and in need of a restroom and spend the next 30 minutes on the potta potty line. I missed the start of the marathon but since I was in Wave 2 or 3 (this marathon was pretty informal in that regard), I was not worried. By the time I got to the Corral G, Corral H was already there moving forward and I thought this was better since my strategy started with the first 3 miles @ easy pace heart rate, so starting with the slower corral was better. I crossed the mat at close to 9:25am.

Miles 1-3. The first three miles went right on track. Pace of 140-145 and easy pace. However, I noticed my breathing was harder and it took more effort to do this HR in Berlin than all my easy runs at home. Paces: 10:26, 10:12, 10:18.

Miles 4-10. The next part of my strategy was to get my HR to marathon pace HR of 150-155. However, every time I tried to get it to 155, my breathing became labored, so I kept most of these miles between 150-153. Paces: 10:09, 9:48, 10:23 (water station), 9:42, 9:52, 10:03, 10:35 (asthma inhaler, water station).

One of the things people warned me about was the water cups. They are plastic and there is no way for you to take them and continue running. So, every stop took at least 30 seconds, assuming you could restart running quickly when 200 runners are also doing the same. There was a lot of weaving and accidental pushing.

Miles 11-15. At this point, my breathing was hard. I just used the inhaler at Mile 10 and I could barely breathe. I kept pushing and I had the mantra of you will not walk unless there is a water station and your HR better be between 150-155 at all times, and that's what I did. It kept me going through the finish. Paces: 10:23 (inhaler of mile 10-11), 10:03, 10:14, 10:05, 10:42 (water station). I don't have the official splits here but I crossed the 13.1 mat at exactly 2:15. I knew by then 4:30 was out of the question, as I did not feel well between the nausea and the asthma. But I kept at it.

Miles 16-20. I was looking forward to Mile 18 because there was a billboard with messages and the mammals had asked me to post one. Except when I found the billboard at Mile 20, the messages were going so fast I never saw mine. It was Rock It, You Smokin' Hot Mammal. Boo at my miss. I had to use the inhaler again at Mile 17 (even though I use it at every 10 miles). I could barely breathe well. Paces: 10:51 (no idea what happened here), 11:36 (water station, asthma inhaler), 10:38, 10:38, 10:41 (water station). I knew my pace was slipping here but like I said, I was not breathing well during this period. But I never walked and my HR was between 150-152 :-)

Miles 21-26. Miles 21 and 23 were tough. I still cannot breathe well so I decide to pull the inhaler out at Mile 24 (third time during the race) and puffed again. I only do this during races and it's worth it because it prevents an asthma attack, which I knew was upcoming. It was sad because my legs were ready to push and all I could eek were 10:30-11mm, which is my easy pace. But as you can tell, after Mile 24, my asthma settled enough for me to do a last push at the end. At this point of the race, I was passing so many people that were struggling that I felt guilty. I never hit a wall (I never do), my legs felt fine the whole way, I just needed to chest to cooperate and cooperate at the end it did. Then, I got a cramp in my leeft quad so I had to do a brief stop to massage it and restart running. And then I just let it fly at the end. Paces: 10:38, 11:10, 11:03, 10:22, 10:14, 10:59 (cramp), 8:54.

Finish time: 4:37:18, which is a 9 minute PR.

I am really happy with my performance. Although my splits look like 2:15/2:22, I ran even splits. The only reason for the "slow down" was the use of the my inhaler twice during the last half, as each stop to use the inhaler takes at least 2-3 minutes between stopping, lowering the breathing enough to take the medication, inhale, exhale, repeat. I kept my strategy through the end and I did my first marathon of eight without an asthma attack.

Sorry for the no pictures, as I am still on vacation and I am using the iPad, which is the reason why I screwed up the RR and posted it before I finished.

Thanks for reading!


OK, nowthat I am back from vacation, here are the highlights of the marathon:

The FE with Jenn:

Here is me at the hotel (DH took a better picture of me before dropping me off but he'll take forever to upload those):

This is why I do this.  Priceless picture.  Don't be fooled, I am flying at 15K pace here:

My flying picture (Mile 22) (I have several but this one is my favorite):

And the medal:

Me at the finish:

And for the mammals:


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