Mark asked a couple good questions in my last entry. Instead of answering them in the comment section, I've decided to do a post answering his questions with some additional analysis on my training and racing leading to Hamburg Marathon.
(Mark) Did you happen to run the calculator on your predicted marathon? I checked a couple of your PRs and think that Hamburg is a breakthrough.
I did not use a running calculator, but I did refer to the Daniel's Running Formula chart (VDOT values with times raced over popular distances) a few times. I didn't pay much attention to the predictions from my recent results though (1:14:30 half and 33:54 10K), because I knew that I should be running much faster.
I personally don't think Hamburg was a breakthrough marathon for me. My fitness was about the same as Amsterdam by the comparison of some of the same workouts, or maybe slightly better. I had a good chance of running sub-2:35 in Amsterdam, but I made a rookie mistake. In Amsterdam, I felt extremely good at 20K/Half and picked up the pace. My 10K split between 20K-30K in Amsterdam was 36:11 - 5:49 pace (see Amsterdam Race Report). I ended up paying for it in the last 5-7Ks of that race. I certainly wasn't going to make the same mistake of getting over-excited too early. I'd say I applied this lesson-learned very well in Hamburg.
(Mark) Were you going into the race with an expeceted per K\mile pace>?
Yes. The goal pace I had in mind coming into the race was 3:39-40/Km or 5:53-54/mile, basically sub-2:35 marathon. I had practiced this pace in an 8M marathon pace (MP) workout mid-March, a 10M MP workout 3 weeks before and in a half-marathon race the following week. I think the pace was dialed into the legs and body.
I want to touch on this topic because I believe it was one of the reasons to my success last Sunday. I've learned over the past few marathons that my body needs to take in 4 energy gels instead of 3. More importantly, it matters when (time or distance) I take it in. In Amsterdam I took in 4 gels (10K, 20K, 30K, and somewhere around 38-39K). In that race I ran out of energy in the last 5-7K and by the time I took in my last gel it was a bit too late. In Hamburg I altered my fuel plan where I'd take in my first 2 gels at 10K intervals and then the remaining 2 at 7.5K intervals (10K, 20K, 27.5K, 35K). This turned out perfectly as I never cramped up or felt like I was going to hit the wall. Also, I should mention that I took in fluids at every refreshment station (water and powerade).
I think my training went fairly well considering the setback (Achilles Tendinitis) I had back in Dec/Jan. Looking back, the training that really carried me along were the races, long MP workouts, and long runs. One of the long runs was too long though; 26 miles in 2:49 (equivalent of a 2:50 marathon - 6:30 pace) instead of 23 miles or 2hr 35min. That run took something out of me, but I recovered from it by cancelling the key workouts and doing easy running. The run also gave me some confidence on my fitness.
Comparing the amount of races leading to Amsterdam, this time around I raced more. During Amsterdam train-up I only ran one race (Rotterdam 1/2), which I think was probably my breakthrough race leading to a 2:35 in Amsterdam. Before Hamburg I ran 5 races (3 x 10Ks and 2 x half-marathons). I just wanted to race more. I felt like I had to reward myself from all the training by running more races. The problem was that my races were subpar, even the new 10K PR. I thought I was ready to run low to sub-1:13 for the half and mid to low-33s for 10K. I think my Hamburg result proves it.