6 days. Hard to believe that after all the runs and miles we are now just 6 days away from the New York City Marathon.
Sunday was a pretty uneventful final medium long run of 10 miles. One of the most enjoyable runs of the training cycle I took to the hill route and locked in at an easy pace just under 8:00 minutes/mile. There was nothing to gain by going faster as any training gains take approximately 13 days to manifest themselves – long after race day will have passed.
I worked on perfecting my race pace on Saturday – mission accomplished, so it really was a matter of just capping off a 37 mile run week and getting ready to taper hard this last week leading up to race day.
I will run 3 miles on Tuesday morning, 4 miles on Wednesday after we get to New York and then completely rest on Thursday and Friday.
Saturday morning I will leave the hotel, walk up to Central Park and run my final 2 mile shakeout that will cover the final 2 miles of the New York Marathon Course.
A day later I will push through those same two miles, cross the finish line and will be a New York Marathon Finisher for the first time.
This week is a tough one for the marathoners as race day jitters build day after day while your usual way of managing stress and anxiety is cruelly taken away from you. Little to no running as the final week of the taper allows your muscles to fully recover and your Glycogen stores to top themselves off in preparation for a long, tough race on Sunday.
As of Monday I am very calm and I feel very prepared. I have a little bit of a cold that I am hoping is 100% cleared up by race day and I need to load up on my sleep this week as best I can, but other than that things are about as good as they could be from a physical and mental standpoint leading up to race day.
With one lone exception back in July we ran every single workout that we intended to preparing for New York. 98 runs covering 997 miles on our way to the starting line – we have never been better prepared for the marathon. On Sunday as the sun was rising over the Brushy Creek Trail I took some time to think back on this training cycle.
One thing that leapt out at me was the fact that only twice during the entire ramp up to race day did rain fall on me during a run. Just a brief sun shower on a Sunday morning in August that lasted less than 10 minutes and a rather miserable 2-mile shake-out run prior to the Denver Half-Marathon three weeks ago.
Other than that it was a dry and hot training cycle. The hottest I can ever remember. Hopefully the weather on race day will be similar to what we had here in Austin on Sunday – 49 degrees and light winds. The forecast looks promising for Sunday, but we have a long way to go before that becomes clear. When I pack for New York tomorrow I will make sure I am ready for anything from 39 or 40 degrees up through 60 for the race.
Hopefully we’ll be running in shorts, our Team USA singlet to elicit some support from the hometown crowd along the course and a light pair of gloves. Perfect.
Our nutrition and hydration plan is finalized, our pacing strategy is committed to memory – now it is just a matter of determining if 3:00 pace or 3:05 is where we need to be.
Frankly it looks like that is our window of opportunity right now. By going for 3:00 hours there is a risk that the pace will be too rich for our blood and we will crash hard over the final 10 kilometers, making finishing at even 3:05 unlikely.
If we start tentative and shoot for 3:05, we may run a strong, strong marathon, never hit the major hurdles to climb at mile 22 through the finish, but never have a shot at reaching our goal of 3 hours. It is a tough decision, one which I will be thinking about and re-thinking about every day until Sunday morning.
But whatever we decide to do on race day, I need to be 100% committed. That is the way the marathon works. There is no room for doubt and no room for questioning your decisions. You make them the best you know how, internalize them and make them your own. Then you go out and ignore all of the indicators that this is too damn hard.
In a 5K the final mile is a killer. In a 10 Kilometer race, I start feeling bad around the 4.5 mile mark. In the Half-Marathon, things get pretty dicey around mile 10 and you just keep pushing through to the tape.
The marathon is a see-saw battle. You feel good/great at the start, not so great in the middle, you regain your strength in the latter portions of the first 20 miles and can recover that earlier feeling of invincibility. Then the miles seem to get longer, your legs seem to get heavier and the thought of running another 4 or 5 miles seems to alternate between ridiculous and absurd.
At this point you need to disassociate yourself and focus on small incremental achievements – making it to the next water stop, the next time you will take some gels, the top of the next hill, the turn onto Central Park South, Columbus Circle, the grandstands on the right where Dawn and Landry will be rooting for their marathoner and finally the finish clock as you squint into the sun to try to make out the hours, minutes and seconds.
Crossing the mat is the briefest of accomplishments. It takes less than a second, but it stays with you forever.