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Training Journal

My journal of running, training and racing.

Race Report - Houston Marathon 2013

Mark Junkans

Training And Coaching

After I finished my first marathon in March of 2012 in 3:22, I thought that maybe I could get close to 3 hr for the next. Taking a couple weeks off, I slowly picked up my running again using the Maffetone Method. I knew that my aerobic system wasn’t as good as it needed to be in order to sustain a faster pace at that distance. So for the next few months, I ran as many miles as I could all below 145 HR. My pace was painstakingly slow at first, but as promised, my pace per mile slowly got faster as my aerobic system improved.

I then started noticing Caleb Masland posting on Dailymile that he was sending out training plans, and I contacted him asking how I could get some coaching. After we talked about his training philosophy, I immediately signed up to be one of his lab rats (i.e. member of Team Wicked Bonkproof.) I was now part of a team!

Coach Caleb continued my base building of easy running and began to incorporate some workouts, getting me ready to run a good half marathon as part of Branson 70.3 where I ran a PR at just under 1:30.

I then spent October-December building my base back up, building strength, building speed and finally tuning up my marathon pace. My weekly mileage built back up to a peak of 102 miles in December and my average training pace moved from 7:45 to 7:05 from September to December. Toward the end of the cycle, I was running 40+ miles of quality workouts along with all my easy miles and frankly never felt better. I had some pains along the way, but was always able to adjust when necessary and not do any damage. Slow days were slow, and hard days were hard.

Diet and Fueling
Sometime in the summer I switched to a mostly Paleo food template, which basically cuts out all grains, processed foods and sugary foods. I drove my family nuts with my new diet restrictions (no bread, no cookies, etc.) I truly believe that by replacing the empty inflammation-causing foods in my diet with nutrient-rich proteins, veggies and good fats, I was able to recover faster from my workouts and put in much more quality and volume than I thought possible. I also religiously refueled my muscles with quality carbs and protein immediately after every workout. I can’t stress enough how much how a good diet has allowed me to recover faster and train harder.

I was also getting better at using fat for fuel via diet and training, so I was unsure about exactly how I would fuel the race. I settled on mixing Tailwind at a higher concentration and carrying it in a flask. After a couple of training runs with this mixture, I didn’t like the bite that it had or the way the mix settled at the bottom of the flask. A week before the race I had an epiphany. I used maple syrup to cut the TailWind and provide some viscosity. I found that maple syrup isn’t too sweet, but still has 100 calories per ounce. The mixture was perfect.

Fueling the week of the race consisted of shifting my diet from 30% carb to about 90% by Saturday. I loaded the two days prior to the point of feeling slightly bloated, eating my final “meal” of a banana, fruit juice and a sweet potato at 6pm while watching my daughter’s volleyball tournament.

My fueling for the race, I only carried one 2nd Surge and only made it through the big flask.

Race Plan

As the race got closer, I started to really think about my target pace and how I would run the race. Three months ago, I would have said that my goal pace was 6:50, or just enough to break 3 hours. Surprisingly (or not) my tempo runs and pace workouts got harder, but faster. Toward the end, my easy pace was between 6:30 and 7:00, depending on the day. I was doing tempo runs of 8-10 miles at 6:25 or less with a warmup and cool down at 6:30-6:40. It was hard not to get cocky, but I also wanted to be realistic in my plan because I know that marathon is a cruel master.

So about 2 weeks before the race, Coach Caleb and I talked through pace strategy. I decided that my goal was to break 2:50, and he concurred. My plan was to run the first 3 miles at 6:30 or slower, the next 10 at 6:25, miles 14-20 as fast as 6:10, and the final 10k at goal pace while building to the end. This seemed a a little daunting to me, but definitely doable considering the training paces I was running.

Race Day

I woke up at 3:30 am, unable to sleep anymore. After some coffee, some quinoa w/ maple syrup and a banana, I was good to go. I got my race gear ready and reviewed my race plan. I knew I had to adjust my pacing strategy a little bit after looking at the wind direction. A 20+ mph wind from the North meant that the toughest part of the race would be between miles 13 and 20, exactly the segment where I had planned to run faster. I decided that I would stay with my original plan, but alter the pace against the headwind as necessary by perceived effort and draft as much as possible.

Lining up was definitely memorable with a cold, blowing rain. I then had some doubts about my decision to not wear a hat, gloves or arm warmers. Between the trash bag I wore and the runners in the corral, I never got too cold. I worked my way up near the front of the corral and then got a little perturbed when the 3:00 hr pace group marched right up to the front ahead of me. Instead of getting angry at possibly being trapped behind slower runners, I took it as a positive that my start would be even more controlled.

When the gun went off, we started out at a relatively easy pace and as things thinned out a little I was able to begin moving from runner to runner, looking for someone to draft behind at the right pace. The wind, rain and hail were blowing hard against us as we crossed a couple of overpasses out of downtown. My first mile came in at 6:33, which was perfect. After that I kept things easy and fought the urge to go faster. I slowly moved down to goal pace by mile 4 and was happy about my start. Miles 5-11 were all south down Studewood and Montrose so we had a nice wind at our backs. This is where I knew I needed to exercise restraint as I warmed up and felt like letting loose. I kept thinking about the plan and the hard work I would put in against the wind on the back half. My splits were all between 6:23-6:28, a couple seconds slow, but conserving energy.

Coming down Montrose where I started to realize that those around me were almost all Half Marathon runners. I hadn’t yet figured out the color coding.

At mile 12, I ran alongside someone and asked him what his target was. He said 2:50, so I suggested that we team up and share the pacing/wind duties. He agreed and I let him lead the first quarter mile. The only problem was that we were starting to slow down. I took over the lead and he trailed me for another quarter mile before he dropped back. I then spent the next 5-6 miles running solo against the wind with a few runners visible ahead of me, hoping that someone would be running my pace. At his point, I just resigned myself to a solo run and picked off literally every runner I could find.

By the time I got to mile 19 I was a little beat up and allowed my pace to slip to 6:36 as well as begin to calculate what my finishing time would be. I knew I wouldn’t make 2:50 if I stayed at that pace, so from there to the end of the race I forced myself to pick up the effort even as my heart rate increased and my stomach got more queasy. I felt like I was riding the edge of puking from mile 20 onward and stayed just under the threshold. I also badly wanted a shot of caffeine, so I tried to swallow the 2nd Surge gel that I planned for this point, but could only stomach less than half of it. It turned out to be way too gritty and a little too thick. I had also stopped taking any liquids from about mile 17, so forcing myself to eat some gel also made me drink some water at the mile 21 water stop.

When I could finally see downtown I started calculating again what my time would be. I did some fuzzy math and decided I didn’t have any time to spare. I also started negotiating with myself saying “Just compromise and at least stay under 3 hours, that’s good enough. Take it easy, no need to go through any more pain.” I literally yelled out loud at myself at one point and said “No, that’s not good enough.” Luckily nobody wearing a white coat was close by to take me to my padded cell.

It’s at this point where my DailyMile friends, my wife, my family, my teammates and my coach all became my source of inspiration and motivation. I knew that they had followed my training, had given encouragement and advice, and were expecting me to do well. I ran through the list of people that I didn’t want to disappoint, even though in reality my wife and my coach were about the only ones I had even told my time goal to. The tactic worked and, even though my pace had slipped back to 6:35 by mile 25, I was able to hold on despite the burning on my legs. As I merged with the Half Marathon finishers people would yell “full marathon” and everyone would clap and cheer. They may not know how inspiring that was, but kept me running hard to the finish!

When I hit downtown and still had a mile to go, I was basically going on autopilot. I ran as fast as I could, increasing maximum effort for the last .2 miles. Looking at my watch, I knew I only had seconds to spare and gave it all I had. I stopped my watch at the mat and it read 2:50. I was less than a second away from finishing in the 2:40’s. I was completely spent when I crossed the finish line and honestly don’t know if I could have given any more, very pleased that I hit my time and left it all out on the race course. I had a positive split of 40 seconds, but I’ll take it considering that the first half had some tailwind and the second half had some nasty headwind and side wind.

Inside the GRB, I spent about 15 minutes in a daze while trying to put on my warm clothes, suddenly remembering that my wife might be there. She directed me by phone to the exit chute to the reunion area and got to meet up with her, two of my daughters and a friend who was there to cheer me on as well. From there we went home to eat pancakes and bacon for a perfect recovery breakfast.

Who wouldn’t be inspired by these beautiful ladies, Just missing my 14 year old daughter who was in Confirmation Class

My coach and I will work on my next goal time and now I have to pick my next marathon, but it’s really cool to have all the options open. NY, Boston, Chicago, etc.

I truly appreciate the support and encouragement of my wife, coworkers and teammates. I especially appreciate the wise coaching of Caleb whose goal is to help me get reach my genetic potential. I know I’m still in my running honeymoon where almost every race is a PR, and that I’ll probably never see another gain like this one during a single training cycle. That being said, It’s been really fun to build to a 32 minute PR and get to the point where qualifying for Boston wasn’t even a big enough goal.

Team Wicked BonkProof Singlet of course
Pearl Izumi Fly Ultra Short
SwiftWick Aspire One Socks
Skechers GObionic (awesome)
5 oz gel flask w/ Tailwind/Maple homebrew

A note on my race shoes: I was planning on running in my Merrell Bare Access 2 and had done most of my MP work in them. 3 weeks out from the race, I started feeling pain toward the back of my foot where the shoe is a tiny bit too narrow. I would run in the BA2 and then recover for two days in my Altra Instincts or Kinvara’s. I decided that I just didn’t want to deal with foot pain during the race and had resigned to running in the Kinvara’s, even though they weren’t my first choice for a race.

KIDS, DON’T DO THIS! I did what everyone says not to do, I bought a pair of GObionics at the expo and ran in them the next day. I had read enough reviews to know I would like them, and I also rotate between a number of different shoes in training. After a trial on the treadmill at the Skechers booth, I decided to use them for the race. They were perfect with zero drop, ample toe box, great flexibility and just enough cushion to handle the full marathon. After battling lower leg cramps for the first six miles of the race, I ended up with only a slightly achy arch. I don’t believe the cramping was a result of the shoes through, because my legs felt terrible the whole week of the race before and after every run.


Time: 2:50:01

  • First Half - 01:24:35 - 6:28 pace
  • Second Half - 1:25:15 - 6:30 pace

4th in Age Group
42nd in Male Category
50th Overall (the fast guys must have all stayed home this year)

5K Splits
5K 20:08 - 6:29 pace
10K 20:03 - 6:28 pace
15K 19:53 - 6:27 pace
20K 20:07 - 6:28 pace
25K 19:59 - 6:27 pace
30K 20:15 - 6:28 pace
35K 20:19 - 6:29 pace
40K 20:23 - 6:29 pace
Net 02:50:01 - 6:29 pace

Mile Splits
6:33 6:29 6:27 6:25 6:27 6:25 6:23 6:26 6:24 6:26 6:24 6:28 6:25
6:25 6:30 6:28 6:36 6:30 6:27 6:36 6:28 6:30 6:32 6:32 6:35 6:26