At the end of my last blog post, I asked for tips on focusing during the tough times of a race. Laura responded by saying that she breaks down the course into sections and focused on each part during the race to get her through. I really took this advice to heart, and decided to implement it for my tough long run today. I was a bit nervous going into this run because it was an 18 mile run with 14 miles at 10-20 seconds slower than marathon goal pace. That’s not an easy pace to hold, especially at the tail end of a 54 mile week.
My goal marathon pace is somewhere between 8 – 8:10. An 8 min/mile will get me closer to a 3:30 marathon and a 8:10 will get me just under 3:35. My goal going into this run was to run each mile during the 14 mile segment somewhere between 8:10-8:30. I figured I’d probably end up on the slower end of that spectrum but I wanted to keep the range open. Mentally I knew this would be a tough run, so I implemented Laura’s advice and wrote down my strategy for tackling each of the 18 miles in advance.
- 2 mile warm-up: keep it super easy, don’t care about pace at all
- Miles 2-4: Start easing into the goal-pace section, maintain around 8:30 min/miles
- Miles 5-9: Pick it up a notch, focus on getting to the first water fountain and/or turn-around point
- Miles 9-14: Maintain steady effort. The pace will probably start to feel harder, but focus on getting to mile 14.
- Mile 14-16: Final 2 miles of goal-pace section. Turn on the after burners and push it.
- Miles 17 & 18: Easy recovery, don’t focus on pace at all
I woke up feeling really good this morning. I got 9 hours of sleep for the 2nd night in a row (plus a 1.5 hour nap yesterday) and I had used Saturday as my only rest day of the week since we had a wedding Friday night and we stayed with family overnight. As soon as we started running (Mike and I ran the warm-up together then split off), I could tell my legs felt good. I was somewhat surprised since I had had a pretty high intensity and high volume week, but I figured the sleep must have done me some good.
As soon as I started the race pace segment of the run, I knew it was going to be a good day. My breathing was easy and my legs felt light. I felt great. I was trying to hold back a little on those first couple of miles but I kept finding myself running faster. Before I knew it, the first section was over. I didn’t focus at all on the fact that I still had 12 miles left to run hard, instead I just focused on the next section. I was feeling so good I didn’t want to stop for anything and didn’t end up making any breaks for water until mile 9.5. Somewhere around mile 4 I started to feel really, really good, and at times let my pace dip into the high 7s and very low 8s.
I kept my mind busy by setting goals for each mile and every time I achieved the goal it was a boost. This was a route with a lot of rolling hills (1,200 feet of climbing in total) so I didn’t get down on myself for some of the slower miles – I knew I’d make up for it on the net decline miles. Mentally, this was a very successful run for me – I stayed present in the moment and never felt overwhelmed with the task ahead.
The final 3 miles of the race-pace portion got hard, especially the final mile which started with a big hill, but I simply focused on getting over it and then picked up the pace to make up the time I lost. By the end, I was running in the low 7s. The cool-down might have been the hardest part of the run since my legs lost all the momentum and I had less to think about while I was trudging down the street on those last 2 miles home.
Needless to say, this run was a big confidence booster. When I uploaded my Garmin data and calculated that I ran a 8:15 average for 14 miles, I was ecstatic. With 6 weeks left to go until CIM, I know I still have time to make even more gains, but this run in particular really made me feel ready for the race. Not only that, I think I learned a valuable lesson about how to keep my mind working in the right direction during challenging runs. I am definitely a person who is motivated by achieving goals, so by setting mini-goals for myself throughout the race I think I will be able to maintain a better pace overall while also keeping my mind where it needs to be- thinking about the current mile, not mile 24 or 26.
If you knew you were going to die that day, would you go for a run!?