Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Houston Marathon Goals!

Five days until the marathon! I'm deep into taper-mode, which is the time right before the big day when you run less and rest more to ensure that your mind and body are ready and raring to race 26.2 miles. While I've welcomed the chance to run shorter distances (on today's schedule: an easy three after work!) I do feel some paranoia creeping in. I keep worrying that I'm about to get sick, and convincing myself that a cough/fever/bronchitis/mono/etc is imminent. In reality, I've been eating tons of fresh fruit and veggies, making juice almost every other day, and eating extra quality carbs at all my meals. (Apparently, it is better to increase calories slightly the week before the race than carb-load the night prior. This is a theory I can get behind!) I've also been reflecting on my training, examining a pace chart that my friend Chip sent me, and finalizing my A, B and C goals for the Houston Marathon. 

Second Time's a Charm

As I've said before, I feel much more prepared for this marathon than I did for Austin. Since last February, I've completed two half marathons, a number of 5K's, a five mile race, the Warrior Dash, and a second cycle of marathon training. My paces this round have been much faster than last year (a full minute per mile, in most cases). My only concern is that last year, I ran two 20 milers during training and this time I only ran one. I can't do anything about that now, so instead of focusing on the ones I didn't complete, I'm going to instead reflect on the one that I did finish - 20 miles, with an average pace of 10:13. Best long run of my life, and best to think about that! Other things that went right this year: I didn't lose any toenails, I didn't get sick (knock on wood!), I consistently cross trained with 2-3 yoga classes per week (each of them 60-90 minutes long), and I did a ton of walking with the dogs. I don't usually count walking as cross training, but the extra movement couldn't have hurt.

Regrets? I wish I'd been able to run four times a week, but with the ridiculous amount of stuff I loaded into last semester (full time job, one graduate writing class, nine MFA applications, and a new puppy) I'm lucky that I managed to run three times a week! Weight training and an occasional ride or swim would have been nice too, but alas. That's what half marathon training will be for!

In the end (because it's almost the end!) I feel prepared. I know I can go the distance, and I'm fairly certain that my goal time, while challenging, is reachable. (Ooh. I got chills when I wrote that!)

Pace Charts and Data Porn

My friend Chip is a very motivating person with a huge passion for running (and yoga!). He just started a blog, which you should definitely check out. He also sent me a pace chart that outlines what your times should be for different distances (races and training runs) in order to reach a certain goal. My A goal for the marathon is 4:15. When I looked down that column of the pace chart, I was pleasantly surprised to see that I am right on target! According to the chart, a 5K race should be done in 26:07 (my PR is 25:08), a 5 mile race should be 43:27 (my PR is 44:22, but it was terribly humid that day), and a half marathon should be 2:04:39 (my PR is 1:58, but my most recent half was 2:04!). This is all very good news!

As for the suggested training paces, I've blown them all out of the water. I don't know if this is good or bad and I was tempted, briefly, to shoot for a BQ. But then I remembered that I'm not there yet, not even close, and that I have to run the race I trained for. Which is what I plan to do. I'll save the BQ for another day.

Easy as A, B, C

In the grand tradition of making not one, but three goals for any big race, mine are as follows:

My A Goal. Everything is perfect. The weather is a cool 40 degrees at the start. I am perfectly fueled, well rested and mentally sound. The course is flat. My body feels like air. All is right in the world. I easily reach my goal of a 4:15 marathon, which means maintaining a pace of 9:43 minute miles.

My B Goal. If I see my 4:15 marathon slipping away, then I will settle for a 4:30. In fact, I will be perfectly happy with a 4:30. A 4:30 will not be my A goal, but it will be a huge accomplishment and I will celebrate accordingly.

My C Goal. If all else fails, I mostly just want to beat last year's time and get a new personal record. Considering everything I was up against last year (hills! bronchitis! under-training!) I think I should be able to finish in less than 4:43, no problem. A new PR is a new PR, and that will be enough.

If I do not meet any of my goals, then you might not hear from me for a few days post-marathon. Just kidding. Sort of. I'll blog, but it won't be pretty. Consider this your warning!

So that's the plan! My goals, my reflections, and probably more than you ever wanted to know about my journey to 26.2 miles. Have you run a marathon? Any final advice you want to share in the days leading up to the big race? I'm ready and willing to take whatever you can offer!