Playing the mental game

Now that I’m nearing the end of my second taper week, I have a lot of free time on my hands in the evening. I do my one daily run in the morning and I’m done! It’s a little weird. I do know that the house is a lot cleaner these days…

My legs have continued to feel tired, although there was a noticeable decrease in fatigue this morning. Tomorrow I do the first of two last harder runs before Steamtown: a 9 miler with 3 miles at 10K race pace. I’ll do it on the roads. Next Tuesday, I’ll do 8 miles with 2 at marathon pace — a rehearsal run of sorts, during which I’ll carry my gels, wear the clothes and shoes I plan to wear, eat the same breakfast, and run at about the same time as the race.

In the meantime, I’m working on my mental game. What worked for me last time around was to go over my training and remind myself of how very hard I’ve worked. I also paid special attention to the workouts (and tuneup races) that went well. Those were a little harder to recognize, given that the summer was so hot and humid, making my paces slower all around. But I’ve spotted some encouraging signs.

First, I turned the clock way back and took a look at my data from my last marathon and discovered that, although my finishing time was 3:32:20, I ran a very long race — 27.98 miles to be exact. Or at least that’s what my Garmin reported. I believe it, given that I had to weave through 7,000 runners over multiple laps, plus I ended up running outside of the racecourse (because it was so clogged) for much of the time. So I ran lots of miles very wide indeed.

If I divide the race up into quarter mile splits, I see that I got to 26.25 in 3:20:05. This makes sense, given that a month later I ran a half marathon (on a much flatter course) in a time equivalent to a 3:18 marathon. This is meaningful because I’d actually trained for a 3:24 race. So I did a lot better than my training would have indicated. In other words, on race day I rose to the occasion.

The other thing I notice is that I ran at a heart rate of 88-89% through miles 21 and 90-91% for the remaining miles. That is some hard running. So I have evidence that I can run at a very high level of effort for well over 3 hours. I need to reach and sustain that effort level for Steamtown, and be confident that I’m capable of holding it for the entirety of the race.

Next, I looked over the summer’s training and noted split times vs. heart rates vs. wind conditions vs. (perhaps most importantly) weather (heat and relative humidity in the form of dew point). The weather definitely affected my performance on lots of runs. But taking it into account, I did okay in training. I was not that far off the desired paces I needed to hit, with rare exception. I’m especially encouraged by the fact that I was able to do the vast majority of planned hard runs, despite often being fatigued from the overall high mileage and other hard workouts during any given week.

By way of comparison, my average mileage for the spring race was 76mpw. Average for this one was 91 mpw. I was running around 95-100mpw most weeks, but the recovery weeks brought the average way down.

The upshot of all of this is that I’m now feeling pretty good about my chances of running a 3:10 or better in 11 days. I have a tremendous amount of aerobic fitness from the huge mileage base, I did the hill work I needed to do to prepare for Steamtown’s notorious downhills, and I did the requisite number of quality runs to get ready:

  • 4 races
  • 5 speed sessions
  • 5 hill sessions
  • 8 tempo runs
  • 9 marathon pace runs
  • 21 general aerobic (easy) runs
  • 16 14+ mile runs
  • 12 20+ mile runs

I think I’m ready as I’ll ever be. Now I just need to hold out hope that the weather will be in my favor.

2 Responses

  1. You look ready to me. I’d say 3:10 is on with favourable weather.

    I’m thinking that maintaining a 90% ave HR probably won’t happen because of the downhills in Steamtown. If you can keep that sort of perceived effort up though, it’s looking good. The main problem could be how your legs (quads) handle the punishment of the downhills. I guess at times you’ll be on a sub-3 hour pace?

  2. I’ve done quite a lot of downhill running (long repeats up and down a hill with an extreme grade), so I think I’ve prepared my quads as well as I can.

    Also, I don’t plan to run a sub-3:00 pace at any point in the race. I want to avoid big changes in pace. It’s too tempting to run too fast downhill, because it feels easy. So I’ll hover between 7:00-7:10ish for the first half of the race, try to stay in the 7:10 range for the second half, and allow some slowing on the final hills (7:20?).

    All very scientific, of course. I’m sure my best laid plans will do what they typically do, though. That’s what’s so much fun about racing the marathon.

    Thanks for the words of encouragement. I need ’em.

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