Marathon PR by over 20 minutes and a qualifying time for Boston!
2 major things I had to figure out - the first is a physical limitation (I sweat a lot) that caused terrible leg cramps due to dehydration. In all 3 of my previous marathons I had leg cramps, each worse than the last. After web searches and thinking about the symptoms (including not having to pee many hours after the race was over) I thought I would try the simplest solution -- hydrate more. After a bit of experimentation I found a liquid that seemed to be the most palatable - 1/2 Gatorade, 1/2 water. The 23 mile run 3 weeks before the marathon I got the idea to set my interval timer for every 12 minutes to remind me to drink. It worked - I had a great training run!
The second is physical conditioning that falls into 3 categories - stretching, core strength, and running. The stretching I have to give credit to my sister-in-law. The looser I get, the faster I go. For core strength - planks (front and side) and crunches. For running strength - intervals, race pace middle distance runs, and distance runs. Here are 4 runs from about 3 weeks before my race:
3 1/2 weeks before - 2 mile intervals on 18:00, last 2 under 14:00
3 weeks before marathon - 23 mile run, 3:04 (lots of liquids)
2 1/2 weeks before - 10 miles at faster than race pace, 7:24
2 weeks before - RPHD (race pace, half distance -- trademarked)- 14 miles, 1:50
Nothing earth shattering - you can find this advice in most marathon training material, but I tweeked it a bit. I've been preferring longer intervals (2 miles) instead of shorter (1/2 mile -- Yasso 800's) and after the race I'm convinced that helped in the 2nd half of the race.
There are a number of little things that helped too -
* cooler temperatures training in the winter
* a warmer winter with almost no snow (I think I had to postpone only 1 run by 1 day because of snow/ice/slush)
* a good sleep the night before the race
* a hotel room 4 blocks from the starting line (no stress finding a parking space) that helped me stay calm and warm waiting in the start coral.
* a pace group that exactly matched my goal finish time (3:25). For the first half of the race I just needed to stay close. I actually preferred to be a bit ahead because there was a pack running with the pace runners.
* water stations just about every mile-and-a-half so I could save the liquid I did carry for the parts when the stations seemed farther (not sure of exact location of all stations).
* I used my watch to take a split every mile so I knew my pace for each mile. Most of my training runs are on a paved trail with markers every 1/2 mile.
* taper for 3 weeks - every other marathon I only tapered 2 weeks
It all added up to a great race! Starting to think about VA beach in March 2013