I can't even begin to convey how weird it is to be "tapering" right now. I feel like I'm just starting to ramp things up! Which is, of course, a testament to what a weird training cycle this has been. What's equally weird is that despite the numbers saying I shouldn't, I'm not feeling too terrible about my fitness at this point. Let's talk training first, then we'll talk race.
I think I'd give myself a B in this area of training. My progression of long runs was as follows: 11, 14, 13, 17, 20, 2 weeks without a true long run because of Heartbeat, 15 (race), 21, 22, 17, 14. Aside from that obvious 2-week hiatus, this looks like a pretty typical progression for me. In a perfect world those 2 weeks off would have been replaced by an 18 and another 20, but life isn't perfect and considering I've had a LOT on my plate over the last few months, I think I got it done pretty solidly here. I also feel like the quality of my long runs was above average for me, with only 1 really "LSD" run when the weather also happened to be 90 degrees and humid, so I think that's fair. 2/3 of the 20 milers included a decent chunk of miles at sub-8 pace. The half marathon I raced was horrible, but that was my own damn fault for racing like an idiot.
This was a little bit of an odd area this training cycle. I feel like I did fewer formal track workouts that I would normally (think I did maybe 6 or 7 workouts on the actual track), but the number of impromptu tempo/pickup runs I did was higher. I also think in general (and this could be interpreted as a good or a bad thing) the pace of my runs was faster than usual, even if the overall mileage was less.
Big fat F here. I think I did one 10 miler, which was really only done because I wasn't doing a long run that week. Sacrifices had to be made somewhere this cycle and this is where it happened.
When I looked at my weekly training mileage going back to when I started officially training in August, I was APPALLED. The numbers looked so, so low. Really, I would say I've put together about 7 weeks of really genuinely solid training in the 45-55 mpw range. There are unfortunately also about 5 weeks of awkward 30-35 mile weeks scattered in there...and 2 weeks of 20 miles total while Heartbeat was going on. Ouch. I think I've made up a lot of ground over the last month but I definitely wouldn't say that my overall mileage base is ideal going into this marathon. What can you do?
Since moving to Cambridge I have encountered a lot fewer hills on my daily 5-7 mile runs. I've made solid efforts to seek them out particularly for long runs, but let's face it, at the end of the day, I probably could have used to run more hills. Couldn't we all.
This is the real mystery ingredient to this training cycle. For the first time, I own a bicycle and have been putting in at least 20, but some weeks >35 miles on the bike commuting to and from work as well as other errands, rehearsals, etc. I also danced a LOT over the first 2 months of training, and while that slowed down a bit during October that was also when my actual running mileage ramped up. I'm VERY intrigued to see whether all of this has been able to replace some of the lost running mileage as far as fitness goes. I assume that my legs are stronger with all of the biking and dancing, but will that make a difference at mile 22? Hoping that this will be my ace in the hole.
Soo with all of that being said...let's talk about the race! Honestly, even as I sit here and think about all of the training details I just went over, I can't even begin to guess how this race is going to play out. Some things I think I have working in my favor are:
-The weather: hot weather is the devil for me, and current forecasted high is 36 degrees.
-Familiarity with the course: while I don't know miles 16-22 very well, I have experience running on at least 70% of the course and am prepared for most of the little rollers/"bigger" hills (Observatory, Edgewood, etc).
-Miles run at something vaguely resembling marathon pace: When I've done runs over the last few weeks at "relaxed" pace, it always seems to come up somewhere between 7:36-7:47. It doesn't escape me that that's just the pace I was hanging around at when I PR'd at Baystate.
-Emotional connection to Madison: The excitement of getting to run through that city for the first time in 5 years is definitely going to be worth something
-Mileage base over the last year + (this will be marathon #3 since September '13)
-Cross training benefit, maybe?
-#14 IN MY BIB NUMBER
Things that I think are working against me:
-The above-mentioned lower overall mileage
-Lack of hill training. I know that Madison is a somewhat hilly place (although, having run there for 4 years I still don't know if I'd describe the course that we're running as a "really hilly course", which people seem to be. That's psyching me out and it needs to stop.)
-Decreased awareness of my fitness level. Honestly, I have NO CLUE what I'm capable of running right now. Not the slightest idea. I keep coming back to the fact that I don't think my marathons the last few years have accurately represented me as a runner because all of them were run in temps over 70 degrees, which I know I don't handle well. But, is cold weather enough to overcome (what I feel) is less that awesome training? Or is my training actually fine with all of the cross training that went on? I have no idea. And that's a big unknown to think about going into a race because you've got to pick a pace to go out at. What pace is too slow, what pace is suicidal, what pace is OK? I don't have a guess.
Thinking about all this. here are the vague goals I've decided on:
GOAL ABOVE ALL ELSE: Have the most fun and love the fact that I GET to run a marathon through the city where I became a runner. Love it 100% of the time, even when it hurts.
A+ goal: 3:25 +/-
A goal: Better time than Boston 2014, getting me a better corral for 2015
B goal: BQ (sub 3:35)
C goal: sub 3:45 (this just can't be worse than Lehigh)
Even putting that 3:25 out there seems bold; it's been 4 years since my PR and that was on a much flatter course, with significantly more miles under my belt. But damn it, I just KNOW that I should be able to run in the 3:20s more consistently. And I want to embrace the cold, embrace my beautiful Madison, and just do the damn thing, hills, doubts, and demons be damned. You can see I'm not even gunning for a PR (I mean, obviously if the moment strikes) because that's not even what I care about right now. I just want to prove once and for all that my PR is NOT a fluke. And that even on not the best training ever, I CAN put together a solid marathon. And no matter what, I want to love every moment I get to spend running through those Madison streets, because those streets made me a runner. And hopefully, with some mental fortitude and a little bit of luck, they'll make me the marathoner I know I can be, too.