“If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going”: After-Action Report, Air Force Marathon 2016

Going into the Air Force Marathon, I had some concerns:

(1) My knees had been bothering me on and off all summer.

(2) I had not trained for this event. Aside from some longish workouts–a few bike/run bricks–I had not done any serious long runs. I had been to 20 miles once, but that was a very slow pace. Since Toughman Indiana, I had laid back on the training, mostly due to very nasty summer weather, and went into this race about 10 pounds heavier than I wanted.

(3) I had done a very tough century ride (the 101-mile Hub City Tour) the previous Saturday, and simply did not have a good taper. (Note: a taper is that period before a race, normally two weeks for a marathon, 3 weeks for any distance longer than a marathon, where you cut back the duration of your long workouts.) Due to the century ride, I had only one week to taper where I normally take two.

(4) Weather on race day was tough. It was about 20 degrees warmer than usual at the start time. Forecasts were for thunderstorms and heavy winds. There was a thunderstorm before the race, and that caused a half-hour delay for the race start. And the humidity was very high.

My goal: finish, get it done. Preferably with no injuries.


The start of the race was uneventful. The first mile was pretty flat, but mile 2 was very uphill. From there, you have some mild rollers between mile 2 and 6.

I felt very good, except that, at the 10K mark, I was already drenched from head to toe. I was sweating profusely, mostly due to the weather.

As a result, I made sure to drink at every rest stop. I made it a point to walk the uphills and keep a light jog on the flats and downhills.

Because I was sweating so badly, I took it extra easy. My split at the halfway point was disappointing–I was at about a 14-minute-per-mile pace, which was slower than I had planned–but I otherwise felt good, except I noticed some bowel issues materializing. I knew I would have to take a pit stop, and hoped I could hold off until mile 20.

I had to break for the potty at mile 17, and that cost me about 10 minutes.

Other than that, most of my run, up to mile 21, was pretty smooth, even if slower than I wanted.

At mile 18, I had an unexpected surprise: MrsLarijani, who had registered for the race but decided (wisely) not to run it–as she had not trained for it at all–showed up to jog with me. Given that she had paid her registration fee, she wasn’t a “bandit”, so she was legally on the course. She decided to jog with me until mile 25, then cut over and meet me at the finish line.

I enjoyed that.

At mile 20, I felt good. “Only 10K left. Anyone can do a 10K! We got this!”

Then the hills from 21-24 began. I started having severe cramps in my calves and hamstrings on the uphills. I had to stop several times to use my stick roller to rub down the cramps.

But I was still able to jog the downhills, even if I was practically crawling uphill. Miles 21-24 were awful.

Looking at MrsLarijani during the worst of the cramps, I quoted Churchill: “If you’re going through Hell, keep going…”

But once I crested the final nastiness at mile 24, I decided I was going to jog the final 2.2.

The last 2 miles featured terrible headwinds, although the course was pretty flat going into the finish. I had about 10 minutes of very bad cramps after the finish, but–after that–felt good, even if I had to walk slowly back to the car.

There were MANY stragglers behind me. While I am used to seeing marathon-related carnage, this was more brutal than normal. I saw people getting cramped at mile 9 whereas that normally doesn’t happen till at least mile 18. There were a lot of hurting people out there.

On my end, aside from the cramps, I was fine. I did not bonk, and my RPE was pretty low for most of the race. Even with my problems–I lost a combined 15 minutes to pit stops–I still beat my first marathon finish time by 25 minutes.

I’ll take it.

8 thoughts on ““If You’re Going Through Hell, Keep Going”: After-Action Report, Air Force Marathon 2016

  1. “and simply did not have a good taper.”

    ummm … correct me if i’m wrong … but do you not have some control over this? as in … no one, well, except yourself, is forcing you to participate πŸ˜‰

    • It came down to whether I was going to do the Hub City Tour and get the 400-mile jersey, or settle for the 300-mile jersey. I figured that since I don’t plan on doing the Century Challenge next year (due to scheduling issues), it would be nice to earn the 400 this year.

      Moreover, my risks were mild on this one, as I had precedent for doing big events on consecutive weeks: in May, I did Toughman Indiana, and then the Horsey Hundred the following Saturday. In June, I did Bike Morehead and then Tri Louisville the next day (although a mechanical failure cut my race short; even then, I got a larger workout that day).

      A 1-week taper isn’t ideal, but it’s doable. I was a little concerned about potential bonking, but, as it turns out, I think my body is spending more time in the fat-burn zone, and that is actually something that I had been working on over the course of the last 4 months. I had an unusual amount of energy after the race.

      Now I just need to extend that fat burn zone into my higher power targets.

    • Besides, I figure next September I’ll be doing a century ride (112 miles) and a marathon on the same day. Of course, the fun will begin with a 2.4-mile swim…

      • Amir, my friend … i’ve got nothin’ to say here. just … nothing. well, except perhaps … God bless the Mrs! πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

  2. i know you say ‘the laws of physics’ … and all … but … seems to me you spend a good amount of time trying to defy them! just sayin πŸ˜‰ πŸ™‚ πŸ™‚

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