The time has come. 10/10/10 is upon me. I've been reading other runners' blogs about their last long runs, their tapers and their race strategies for upcoming fall marathons. It's great to feel the enthusiasm of other runners as they gear up for their big days. Well, my big day is coming soon too, and it's time to think about my race strategy.
The first and most important aspect of my race strategy this year is confidence- both physical and psychological confidence. This is the weakest link in my running and always has been. As my personal trainer used to say "I'm a head case". Yup, I am. I've tried to focus on this confidence over the past few weeks. I've been using various tactics I've read in books, even the really goofy ones, in hopes of convincing myself that I can run my 4:15 marathon this year. (Of note, 4:15 will be 20 minutes faster than my current marathon PR.)
One of the "goofy" tactics that I read about in a book is creating a mantra. I've read about this a bit in Runner's World in the past too, so I guess folks actually do it. The book recommends writing a paragraph of optimism to repeat to yourself during tough times. So, yes, now I have a mantra. And, no, I do not plan on sharing it.
To help improve my physical confidence (i.e. my body's belief that I can finish the task at hand), I did many long runs. More long runs that any conventional training program recommends. Since I started keeping track of my mileage on the daily mile on the last day of May, I've logged 10 runs of 15 miles or longer and 4 runs over 20 miles. I did this because, without fail, I fall apart somewhere between miles 15-20 during marathons so thought if my body and mind could begin to view 20 miles as just another training run, the marathon would be a cinch! Many of my long runs were enjoyable, a few were unbearable, but during all of them I suffered a certain amount of boredom. For the first time, I realized that part of the challenge of "racing" a marathon instead of just getting through it, is staying focused. I know I can physically run at my goal pace for 26.2 miles; the challenge will be staying concentrated on the goal rather than my boredom. The Chicago Marathon itself is an entertaining spectacle, so hopefully that will keep my boredom at bay!
Up until my 15 mile marathon pace run two days ago, I was not at all confident that I could run a 4:15. I figured I could from a muscle, respiratory, and cardiac output standpoint but wasn't at all confident that I could keep my head in the game. The Busse Woods 20 miler was supposed to be my marathon pace run, but when that didn't work out I was starting to doubt myself.
I started this marathon training cycle full of optimism after my half-marathon PR of 2:00:19 at the Rockford Half Marathon, which was 7 minutes faster than my previous best. Training went okay, though my work schedule generally only allows me 3 runs a week...at best. Then the MICU started. Let's just say that working 30 hours straight every 4th day is NOT conducive to running. Despite my best attempts, I'm sure I lost fitness during those 4 weeks.
But I tried to stay optimistic and as I caught up on sleep after the MICU, and the weather grew cooler, I got my running mojo back. Tuesday's pace run confirmed for me that I'm back! I'm just as fast as I was back in May and my endurance has certainly improved.
So this post is my final pep talk to myself before the big day. Hopefully, knowing I have to post a race report after the race will be a little extra motivation to push me for that 4:15!
So what's my race plan?
--Stick with the 4:15 pace group for the first 20 miles. Relax and enjoy the comfortable pace.
--Only stop at every other water stop and drink extra so that I don't have to sprint to get back with the pace group. (I can't drink on the move at all.) If it is like "the hot year" this part of the plan will go out the window!
--At mile 20, I can pull ahead if I have anything left.
--No walking. Period. I don't care what my mind, body, or soul says. I will not walk (except through the water stations). I concede that walking can be part of a good race strategy for some but for me, once I start walking, I have trouble running again so it's a no-no.
So, here I go! Marathon #6, Chicago Marathon #4! Here are some pictures from Chicago Marathon's past.....
My family (Grandma, husband, Mom and Dad) after my very first marathon. It was so cold and they were such troopers!