Saturday, March 17, 2012

Ready to Get my Sham Rock On!

Here I am on the cusp of another marathon. When you pick out and commit to a marathon, it always seems like the marathon is so far away. You plot your training plan. You go out and run. Then all of a sudden, you are days away from your race.

I have a lofty goal again. The same one I had for Chicago. 3:35:00. Yep, that's a Boston Qualifier for me under the new standards. That's 3:35 flat. Not 3:35:30. Not 3:35:59. To reach my goal, I have to hold an 8:12 pace for 26.2 miles. I have to run a marathon 18 minutes overall and 42 seconds per mile faster than my PR. This is my second try at a BQ after a failed attempt at Chicago last year. I may not make it again, but I am feeling much more confident than last time around.

Still, I need an A day. I need the right weather. I need to run a smart race. I need everything to come together perfectly. I'm not sure I have a B goal. Go big or go home, right?

I have heard you will know within the first 5-10 miles how your race is going. I kind of agree with that. What you do in the early miles sets you up for the later miles. I've never had issues with 5-10 miles, though, or even a half marathon. I can pick a pace and hit it almost perfectly. I run into trouble somewhere after the halfway point. There is a lot that goes into a marathon performance. You have to get it all exactly right. Even a small miscalculation in pace, weather/temperature, energy, fluids, or fuel can cause problems. Some people run into trouble at mile 20. No. I have trouble somewhere between miles 15-19. I suspect this is where I hit the wall. My pace slows. I get all kinds of uncomfortable feelings. I need to reach deep into the pain locker. But once I get through it, it gets better. I pick up the pace. The uncomfortable feelings lessen. I keep going. For me, mile 18 is the critical point that makes or breaks my marathon. Mile 18 is where I decide to step on the gas pedal or set the cruise control and hold on.

I managed to keep calm and carry on in the days before Shamrock. Going into Chicago, I was revved up the entire week before the marathon. I didn't sleep well for days before the race. I flew into Chicago the morning before the marathon, went straight to the expo, had lunch, had an hour or two to settle into my hotel room, and then met friends for dinner. Not the way to prepare for a marathon. I used up too much energy before I even crossed the start line. Once I got out on the course, I was overly focused on trying to hit my planned pace in the first half of the marathon. I should have saved that focus for the second half. I learned that if I start to feel nauseous, I am already dehydrated and I need to do something immediately. I need to drink more Gatorade and/or get some salt into me and/or slow down. Where did that happen in Chicago? Mile 15-19? Yes, that's when it was worst. But it started much earlier. Around mile 6 if I really think about it. Trust me when I say that you don't want to run 20 miles into dehydration. Hopefully, I have learned what not to do. I have no desire to repeat that mistake at Shamrock.

In my preparation for races, I usually practice positive mantras. Commit yourself. Right here right now. Yes I can. Yes I can. Yes I can. I decided a few races back that I did not want mantras with negativity. Words like "not" or "fail" did not make it into my mantras. But I am not sure the positive-only strategy works. Some of my fastest runs have been on days when I was angry. I ran a PR half marathon (at the time) where so much went wrong pre-race that I didn't have time to warm up and almost didn't get to the start line on time. Negativity is not necessarily a bad thing.

On some of my runs, I practiced giving myself pep talks. Sometimes out loud and usually addressed to my legs. I did victory fist pumps if things were going particularly well. I didn't care if anyone else saw me, heard me, or thought I was strange. It helped. I practiced keeping my excitement levels in check. You will crash and burn if you go out too fast and don't leave enough fuel in the tank. You need to be mindful (but not overly mindful) of your pace, especially at the beginning where a fast pace feels easier than it actually is. I practiced picking up the pace at the end of a few of my long runs. I managed to run one of my fastest miles of this training cycle at the end of a 19 mile run. I did it again at the end of a 20+ mile run. Whoa. See, self? Yes I CAN run faster when I am tired. I had some utterly beastly runs where I ran faster than I ever imagined. Those runs were not overly difficult, and I felt like I could have kept going if I had needed to. When things start getting tough, I know I can sustain my pace AND pick it up because I've already done it. More than once. Having that confidence is priceless.

I have worked too hard to fail this time. Too many early morning workouts. Too many miles (600+) in the cold, dark, rain, or snow. Too many Friday nights with water and the DVR instead of wine and friends. Too much thought about what to eat and drink. Too much time carefully listening to my body. Too much energy spent planning and preparing for this marathon.

I have worked too hard to fail this time. Just keep repeating that to myself. If the 3:35 pace group passes me, I chase them down. I will not let the 3:35 pace group get ahead of me. Just keep repeating that to myself, too.

I painted my nails the same sparkly white color I wore for my first marathon. Based on projected time, I am in Corral 1 (out of 4). My bib is odd-numbered. I hate odd numbers, but I tend to run well with odd-numbered bibs. Go figure. I hope it is a sign.

Shamrock, you better be running because I will chase you down. Tomorrow. Sham Rock On!

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