The race is on Sunday. It’s so soon. It’s go time. Time to lock it in and focus.
The taper is kind of evil. At the end of my last big training week, I was flying high and thinking I could take over the world. Somewhere in the middle of the taper my confidence was ripped to shreds by heavy legs and paranoia about an oncoming cold that never came (yay!). Now that I’m over the hump, seemingly healthy and with fresh(er) legs, my confidence has come back, although possibly not to the extremes I experienced during some of my most epic training runs where I imagined myself flying through the marathon shooting off 7:50 min/miles and shocking everyone, including myself.
I’ve landed somewhere in the middle of that. I’m feeling confident. I think the taper worked, although it was painful. I know I’m rested. I’ve been eating very healthy and I have noticed a difference in the way that has made me feel compared to the indulging during my 3 Thanksgiving feasts. I feel light and good. I’ve obsessively checked the weather (so far, so good, although not as ideal as I had hoped). I’ve mapped out the race weekend, I’ve read the course map (and detailed course information – no guessing games at CIM!) and I’ve charted out some possible scenarios.
So this is where I land.
My big goals for this race:
1) Qualify for the Boston Marathon (Sub 3:35)
2) Run a race I’m proud of
3) Never give up
I believe I have the BQ time in me. Deep down, I also believe I can run even faster, potentially sub 3:30. I don’t want that secondary goal to take away from the big goal, which is the BQ. I originally thought about running with the 3:30 pace group but now I’ve decided to take a slightly less aggressive approach.
My strategy for achieving these goals is not set in stone but generally involves these principles:
1) Start EASY for the first 5 miles. Running should feel comfortable. I’m not going to dictate an exact pace because the first 5 miles of this race have a nice decline so it’s possible I’ll be running around a 8 min/mile and feel good. Or, I’ll be running 8:15. Either way, I want to keep it easy. This is why I’m not going with the pace group – I don’t want them to force me to run faster for the first 5 miles.
2) Hit the halfway mark under or around 1:46. I know this is a time goal and I said I didn’t want to be dictated by them, but I also know myself in marathons and the half marathon mark is usually the point that I assess whether or not this race is going to go my way. I wish I could NOT have these thoughts, but I know I will. I think given the course profile, I should be able to easily accomplish this goal. The b) goal to this goal is to NOT freak out if I’m not feeling great even at the halfway point. If that’s the case, I’ll need to think back to my last key long run where I averaged 8:20 and finished with a negative split on tired legs.
3) Stay within each mile. I have broken the course down into segments and I want to think of it as a series of small races instead of one big one. One of the mantras I’ll be repeating to myself on Sunday is “Be Here Now.”
4) Embrace the pain in the final miles and remind myself of WHY it’s worth it. I wrote down a list of all the reasons why I want this goal so bad. I plan to remind myself of each of those things throughout the race, but in particular during those final miles. “Pain is temporary, pride is forever.” Another strategy for the final miles is to find people to pass. I did this at Long Beach and at one of my triathlons this summer and it was very motivating! And from what I’ve heard the final miles at CIM are the most populated by spectators so I hope to use them for a boost as well.
5) Fuel properly. Gel every 35 minutes (Gu), salt pill every hour, and carry my handheld water bottle with several water refills (I’ve gotten really good at stuffing the cap down my bra, running through aid stations and dumping several cups into my bottle). It’s going to be warmer than I originally thought on race day (likely in the mid 50s at the start, low 60s at the finish), so hydration will be more important than originally anticipated. Eating is even more important. At some point in the marathon, I always don’t want to eat anymore, but I need to keep on my fueling schedule even if my beloved Salted Carmel Gu sounds like puke.
The Pace Group Dilemma
I definitely considered going out with the 3:30 group, but ultimately have decided to run my own race. However, CIM has amazing pace groups and they even have a page on their website dedicated to getting to know the pace leaders, many of whom have run and/or paced CIM several times (some like 25 years!). The contact information of the pace leaders is online and I emailed the 3:30 pacer to get his strategy. He did tell me that the group will be running even splits, not trying to bank time or negative split (like the pacers at Phoenix Marathon) because of the net decline. So, if the wind is particularly daunting, I may change my plan and jump in with the group. As of now, the forecast says light and variable winds with a potential for a 5-10 mph headwind. That’s not that bad, but if it gets rough I may tuck in to either the 3:30 or 3:35 group, depending on how the day goes.
One thing that my Oiselle teammate Robyn wrote in her pre-marathon blog post recently that really stuck with me was her strategy to “be smart in the first half and brave in the second half.” It’s time to be brave, face my fears and achieve my goals.