Four days and 13 hours to go until my fourth full marathon, The Santa Rosa Marathon on Sunday, August 24, 2014. I’ve reached the point where my stomach does a little nervous flip-flop when I think about the race. As usual, it’s ridiculous, and I wonder why I put myself through this. (Answer: The sense of accomplishment after every finish line and every workout).
Taper is going well. I knocked out a 6-mile tempo run on Sunday with five miles at an 8:00 pace. Monday I biked 15 miles and did 30 minutes of core work. Today is a rest day. Tomorrow’s speed workout is just 4 x 200 m with 200 m rest intervals, for a total of three miles with the warm-up and cool-down. Thursday is a rest day, Friday is 10 minutes of drills, Saturday is a rest day and Sunday is the big race day!
I’m busy worrying over a few things:
1. Weather — the race day temperature still looks favorable with the 6 a.m. temperature starting at 54 degrees and not going above the low 60s by 10 a.m. The problem is that in the early morning hours the humidity is nearly 100%, a “dripping fog” as local organizer and legendary ultrarunner Arthur Webb puts it on his very helpful blog. Here in SoCal I train in bone-dry, drought-ridden conditions. I guess it’s a good thing my last long run was in the high 80s and so muggy it felt like I was running through the pool locker room at the gym.
2. Tapering — While I still regret running 18.25 miles of speed workout just 10 days before the race, I am consoling myself with the fact that 9.25 of that was at 10K pace, 2 miles at easy pace, and the rest was walking. I also did a bunch of reading and research on carb loading, and in reading Matt Fitzgerald’s book Runner’s World Performance Nutrition for Runners: How to Fuel Your Body for Stronger Workouts, Faster Recovery, and Your Best Race Times Ever, I saw that he said:
I always recommend doing a final longer run [15 miles] about a week before longer races (half-marathon and up) for maintenance of endurance adaptations.
(p. 131). Bless you Matt Fitzgerald for easing my mind a bit!
3. Health — My three girls started junior high and elementary school last week and two of them have already managed to bring home cold viruses. I find that marathon training revs up my immune system and I rarely get sick during training (knock on wood). The one exception is during the reduced workouts in taper. I am going to be very disappointed if I show up to the starting line with a cold.
4. Bonking a/k/a Hitting the Wall — If I want to come in at 3:45 or under, I need to maintain a steady pace of about 8:30 per mile over the course of 26.2 miles. I looked at my last two big races, the Santa Barbara Wine Country Half Marathon and the Long Beach International Marathon, to see how I did on pacing. In the half I did a good job of pacing (especially in light of the hills), with an average of 8:10 pace and a 7:54 for mile 13. No problem there. The concern comes when I get to about mile 18 of a full marathon. While I wouldn’t say I hit the wall in Long Beach (I didn’t have to spend time in the medical tent like I did at Mountains 2 Beach), my pace dropped off after mile 18. I averaged 8:30 for most of the race, then 8:59, 8:28, 9:06, 9:31, 9:41, 9:50, 9:57, 10:04, 9:41 and the last 0.2-mile sprint at 8:48. Not exactly the strong finish I’d like to see at Santa Rosa. Now, rest assured, I’m not just crossing my fingers and hoping for a better outcome this time. Here are four things I have done or will do to power myself for an even pace at Santa Rosa:
1. Strength training. My core is much stronger now than it was almost a year ago at Long Beach. I know I can draw on those muscles to help maintain good form throughout the race.
2. Carb loading. I’m paying particular attention to what I will eat over the next three days, increasing carbs to about 70% of my daily diet. That translates to 10 to 11 grams of carbohydrate per kilogram of bodyweight.
3. Starting slow. It’s been a hard lesson for me to learn, but now I understand that going out even a handful of seconds too fast at the start of the race can cost whole minutes at the end of a race. I plan to start slower than marathon goal pace and ease into it over the first four miles.
4. Not carrying my fuel with me. This is the first full marathon where I will rely fully on the aid stations on the course. By not carrying that extra weight with me, I can shave a few seconds off each mile (which, granted, gets balanced out by stopping to walk every two miles through the aid stations). I practiced this at my last half, and I practiced it on my 18.25-mile speed workout. I’m still worried about not getting enough fuel at each aid station, but I have calculated that I need to get 6-8 ounces each time and that seems manageable.
Anyone else have a race coming up soon? What have you done differently during your last round of training?
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