Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Paying anything to roll the dice, just one more time

4 days before a marathon is, eternally, the day when I suddenly find myself questioning what the hell I'm doing with my life. Today, a coworker (who is also a runner/triathlete, so she does understand these things) asked me "So, are you going for a PR on Sunday?" My reaction must have been hilarious, because I honestly had not even thought about that question until she asked it. It's like I forgot that I've been training for a race or something. I think part of my hesitation is that my last PR took me 5 years and as many marathons to get. And it was SO big, so beyond my expectations - I think it's hard for my brain to fathom that I could not only run that fast again, but even run faster?

And yet...

Without putting a lot of thought into it, I've run some of my best ever long runs this training cycle. Not just some, but all of my 20 milers included 5-8 miles at or below goal marathon pace, all during the second half. I took far fewer casual rest breaks (running with friends definitely helps with that) which I feel like generally made my long runs a lot higher in quality. However, I also did them all on the same, consistent course (gradual uphill miles 1-8, downhill 8-10, uphill 10-13, gradual downhill the rest of the way). Clearly, running faster on a net downhill is easier...but Lakefront is also a net downhill course. So there's that. My track workouts this cycle have also been significantly stronger than any in the past, even with the atrocious heat and humidity we've had all summer. I know that I have pretty good leg speed and strength, because there's no way I would be getting through these types of workouts otherwise. The weather is also playing a part - I've done maybe a grand total of 5 runs in sub-70 degree weather (it was 85 and humid during yesterday's easy 5 miler...on September, are you kidding me?) Sunday's forecast calls for high 40s at the start, mid 50s at the finish...aka GLORIOUS, holy grail running weather for me. I'm definitely anticipating getting to run in cool weather after so long will put some extra snap into my legs. Finally, the Lakefront course is relatively mild in terms of hills and is actually a net downhill as well - essentially, very similar to what I've been training on. Reading back on this paragraph...that's a lot of strikes in the positive column. But even with all those positives, the idea of running 7:26 or even 7:30 miles for 26.2 miles? Still terrifying! In the negative column, of course, we have my dismal tune up race performance (which comes with its own asterisks, but still), lack of tempo runs, and failure to keep up with strength training this cycle - although regular dance I hope has made up for some of that.

Pro and con columns aside, my basic plan is to run this course similarly to Boston, but hopefully faster. They are actually similar in that they're both point to point and have a significant amount of downhill in the first half as well as downhill/flat in the last few miles, so I feel like a similar strategy (go out fairly relaxed/easy, and be able to turn on the afterburners at mile 20) makes sense. With my focus on fast finish long runs this cycle, I also feel like I'm physically prepared to execute a negative split sort of strategy. Cognitively, however, going INTO a race with the idea of even or negative splitting is scary. In Boston it sort of happened by accident; literally I just knew I couldn't go out like an idiot and whatever followed would follow. I didn't think about it in advance. Trying to execute that strategy again feels a little like asking lightening to strike twice. Still, I think it's the best strategy to try in terms of going for a PR. My best races have been those where I didn't blow up at the end, and that typically means NOT GOING OUT LIKE AN IDIOT (just putting that in all caps, for myself to read later). And with Boston, I was still able to negative split despite the inevitable slowdown in the Newton hills, which isn't a factor on this course. It's been ages (since 2010) since I ran a flat, non-trail marathon, so there's something to be said for that too.

So...what am I hoping to run? On a good day, I certainly think I can PR - whether it's by a little or a lot is unclear. Any PR would obviously make me happy; the closer to 3:15 the more thrilled I'd be. Under 3:20 and I certainly wouldn't be mad about it. I still feel this need to legitimize myself, to prove to myself that I can run a good race again. My best races come when I'm not dwelling on a specific time goal, and I think this race definitely falls into that category. I just want to go out there, run, and be awesome. I know that I'm capable of it, I just need to have the confidence to DO it. No crowds, no headwind, no pouring rain, no hills - I feel like this race is stripped down to the basics which, hopefully, will make it a great stage for me to be able to go out, me against the road in myself, and run my ass off. My favorite Journey lyrics pretty much sums it up...

Workin' hard to get my fill
Everybody wants a thrill
Paying anything to roll the dice, just one more time...

Looking forward to rolling that dice for the 9th time, knowing that I've done the homework (as Tom said) to hopefully sway those odds just a little bit further in my favor. 9 freaking marathons...if you'd told me when I graduated college that 6 years later I'd be working on marathon #9 there's absolutely no way that I would have believed you. To be capable of running 26.2 miles, and to be capable of trying to do it faster than I ever have before is something I hope I never stop feeling grateful for.

1 comment:

Gracie said...

Exciting- maybe a PR day for you! The weather is ideal - I would love race weather like that, but I always (always) get hot race days. Wishing you a perfect race!