With race day now just a little more than two weeks away I am starting my transition from the physical preparation to the mental.
Most marathoners, especially multiple marathoners will tell you that the race itself while a physical test becomes more about your mental abilities to push through to the finish of the race than anything else. You will hear people make statements that “the marathon is 20% physical, 80% mental” or “the first 20 miles are just a warm-up until the actual race starts”.
If you haven’t been there to experience it, these comments seem to be rather flippant or an exaggeration of what it is like to really “race” a marathon. But for those of us who have been there, we just nod along silently and remember our own battle with the 26 mile 385 yard challenge that is the marathon and think to ourselves, “Yep, he’s got it right.”
In an effort to underscore what the race can really be like I have my final weekend of long work ahead, 10 miles at a relaxed pace Saturday morning followed up by a 20-mile long run on Sunday. 30 miles in 24 hours has to be a tougher challenge than just 26.2 in one day doesn’t it?
Not even close.
It really is those final 6.2 miles that make all the difference. Your energy or the amount of fuel that your body can carry is depleted after about 2,500 calories. If you have your pacing wrong or the temperature is too high or the winds too strong or the hills too steep, you run out of gas before the finish line. You have to time it all just right and on top of that have that particular Sunday out of all the Sunday’s of the year be “your day”.
It can happen – and it results in a personal best, a Boston Time or maybe even a sub 3 hour marathon.
But it can also NOT come together perfectly for you and the only thoughts going through your mind at that point in the race is hanging on to the finish. Whether it occurs with 4 miles, 6 miles or 8 miles to go, they feel like the longest miles you have ever run in your life.
So with all but the final pitchfork of hay already in the barn my focus has shifted a bit from the physical to the mental.
I have thought back a lot on my most disappointing marathon – Boston 2010 and revisited some of the things that I feel contributed to my less than optimum performance.
The physical things that I have been able to control have already been addressed in changes to my training. I got lured into thinking I could prepare for Boston on just 4 days of running a week coming back from my shin injury. For me, the volume of mileage I ran simply was not enough. All the cross training in the world did not make up for those missing miles. My mileage now sits in the high 50′s up to 65 miles a week over 5 run days – leaps and bounds above where I was heading into Boston.
I was weak on the hills in Boston, now the hillier runs and races have become a strength of mine due to countless Thursday morning hill repeat sessions.
Race pace workouts, which I never included during marathon training have now become a large part of my preparation. Racing at 10K pace or half-marathon pace during a marathon training cycle adds many miles run in the 6:00 minute to 6:35 minute per mile range that were never part of my previous training periods.
I have been able to not only get stronger through increased volume, but faster by “racing” more and recruiting more fast twitch muscles to help me late in the marathon to hold pace.
So physically – we’ve done just about all that we can do to get ready for race day while being careful to stay healthy, injury free and most importantly make it to the starting line feeling 100%.
The final physical adaptation that I will focus on starting next week is to move my workouts to 9:40 a.m.
I am an early morning – very early morning by some definitions – runner. Typically I am out the door for my weekday runs by 5:15 a.m. and my weekend long runs by 4:45. That helps me beat the high temperatures and sun here training in Austin, but it more importantly allows me time to get back before Landry and Dawn are up and at ‘em. I don’t want to be missing out on things while I hammer away on the trail system behind our home.
But the late start time in Boston – 10:00 a.m. EST definitely contributed to my struggles on race day. Even my 22-mile long runs are FINISHED before 8:00 a.m., starting a marathon two hours later and racing up past lunch time had my fuel needs and resources all out of whack.
Beginning next week I will run at “race time” to get my body in synch with what I am going to be doing on November 6th. I will eat before my runs, something I never do outside of race morning – and get my body-clock in tune with that race clock.
Then finally I will start eating for race day. Lots of lean meats, proteins, vegetables and fruits over the final 10-12 days of preparation and cut back a bit on my carbohydrate intake as I will be drastically reducing my mileage over the final two weeks to race day.
I will more than likely put on between 1 and 2 lbs. of weight in the final week+ before New York, weight and strength I will need over the final 10 kilometers, but not so much weight that I will feel heavy and sluggish as I lock in on pace and tick off the opening 12-15 miles.
Beginning on Saturday morning I will carry a water bottle with me everywhere that I go up until the race start on Staten Island hydrating fully prior to race day and then have one solid carbohydrate laden pasta and seafood pre-race dinner Saturday night to top off my tank and get ready to rumble.
George Santayana who is often misquoted said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to fulfill it”.
Each of my first 6 marathons have all taught me something. Simply put, they have taught me what I believe I am capable of and what I am truly capable of. They have also shown me just how much I am willing to sacrifice to blur the two lines on race day.
16 days to go. This one is going to be special.