That’s all she wrote.

Posted: February 13, 2011 in Training
Tags: , , ,

As I pulled up at the driveway on Sunday morning and my GPS watch flashed to 8.00 Miles it was over.

My Austin Marathon Training Cycle was complete. 

93 Runs covering 823.45 miles, all building toward one day that will be over in the blink of an eye.

26.2 miles, 3~ hours will pass and sometime around 10:00 a.m. next Sunday I will be hurling myself along the closing mile of the Austin Marathon. 

Much, much worse for wear than I was at 7:00 a.m. earlier that day as the marathon exacts its physical toll on every runner – but there will be a small part of me, hidden under all of the soreness and pain that feels invincible.

Incredibly strong, able to do just about anything if I were to put my mind to it and want it bad enough.

That is the magic of the marathon. 

Like most marathoners I get asked with great frequency the simplest of all questions, “Why?”

“Why do you do it?”

“Why do you push yourself so hard?”

“Why put yourself through that?”

The answer while complex on some levels, does have a very straightforward answer if I really search for it.

The marathon is a test.

It is the one thing in my life where I can put in hour upon hour of preparation, push myself to do absolutely everything in my power to perform well and still have no idea just what will transpire over those 26.2 miles.

To race well next weekend it will take more than just “throwing my shoes out there” and running the marathon.

I will need to be able to control all of the energy and expectation that has been building for 20 weeks and force myself to not come charging across the timing mat at 16th and Congress and go barreling onto the course like a maniac.

I will need to manage those opening two downhill miles, holding back fresh legs that want to push hard early.  Saving that power and strength for the latter stages of the race when my reserves are spent and the physical challenge of the marathon becomes mental.

I will need to stare up at the 147 foot climb at the start of mile 3 and simply relax.  I will need to stay calm, tall and smooth letting my 12 weeks of grueling hill repeats take me to the top of the course at mile 5.

As we make the turn back down towards the city at Ben White and S. 1st Street three lightening fast downhill miles will lay ahead of the runners.

I will need to be smart here and not try to gain back the minutes I lost climbing to the top of South Congress.  There are 21 miles left of racing at this point.  Just taking back :10 seconds/mile will place 3 ½ minutes back into my bank account.  There will be plenty of time to push later.  Be patient.

As we make the turn onto Cesar Chavez, I will be able to cruise a bit and enjoy the last flat section of the course.  As soon as we cross underneath the MOPAC expressway we will start to climb again.  

For 10 miles.

This will be where a 3-hour marathon becomes a reality on Sunday or a dream for another day.  Can I cover these 10 miles in 71 minutes?  If I can without blowing up, we have a great shot at coming through the chute with 2:5X:XX still on the clock.

I will try to focus only on the mile that I am running.  Not looking ahead or behind.  That is the trick during the marathon.  The thought of running 16 more miles or the fact that you have already run 10 is pure folly.

The fact is you are only running the mile you are on.  Run that one.  Then the next one.  Then the one after that and so on.  There is no how far I’ve traveled or how far I have to go.  Those thoughts can be the undoing of the marathoner.

Just stay in the mile.

At mile 20 it will be time for my 4th dose of Clif Bloks.  Followed by water and Gatorade from the aid station I will have only 10 Kilometers left to go.

Decision time.  For the first time in over an hour I will look at my watch and determine where we are.

2:17:30 is the magic number.

If we are still running strong at mile 20 and have 42:39 left to make our goal time of 2:59:59 it will be time to go to work.  If the clock is showing more than 2:18:00 we really don’t have much of a chance. 

2:19:00 and it’s over.

This is the point where it will be important to stay mentally strong.  The final 6.2 miles of a marathon are where the real race begins.

If you are already “defeated” at this point, those can be some of the most painful and loneliest miles you could ever run.  This is where we were at mile 20 last year at Boston.  Dreams of a sub 3:20:00 requalifying time had slipped away.  All that was left was to push to the end and do the best that we could.

The clock said 3:22:42 on Boylston Street last April.  Those final 10 Kilometers were brutal.  I knew that Boston had beaten me and still had 6.2 miles to run.

The year before my legs felt like they were floating as we gobbled up the final 10 Kilometers in the rain at Pittsburgh.  3:17:43 said the clock as we crossed the timing mat.  The best we have ever been.

What will the clock say next Sunday?  It is virtually impossible to predict.

I know that by going after such a huge goal this time I am taking a chance.

The smart move would be to lock onto a goal around 3:15:00 and not take any big risks.  Take a couple of minutes off of our PR and head back to Boston in 2012.

By chasing 3:00:00 we may very well blow-up on the course and run a time much slower than had we taken a more conservative approach.

I know this.

But there is a part of me that has to find out what I have inside of me.

I did not train so hard over so many weeks and months to play it safe.

I just have to know.  I have to know how good I am.  When I look in the mirror is there a sub 3:00 hour marathoner looking back at me? 

I may never see that runner stare back at me in my lifetime.  I know this.  But I also know that without trying, I’ll never find out.

This weekend’s training runs, the last “real” runs of this cycle told me a few things, but they are far from “predictors” for next weekend.

Saturday’s run was a “Goal Pace” run, where I set out to run 4 miles at Marathon Goal Pace – 6:52 min./mile.


I came out too fast on legs that are starting to feel incredibly strong and fresh due to the decreased mileage over the taper period.  I could not “find it” and the more I tried to lock in to 6:52 pace, the faster I seemed to go.

Splits were:  6:46, 6:48, 6:42, 6:41.

Total time 26:59 – 6:45 pace.

A great lesson for me as now I know that the opening miles will be a challenge next weekend.  As much as I want to lock in around 6:55 and cruise I will be fighting a lot of obstacles not to go out too quickly.  My mind and body will be conspiring against me as well as the downhill start to the race.

I ran a 6:48 mile on Saturday going straight uphill to the top of the dam at Brushy Creek.  What will that mile be like running downhill with thousands of runners around me, screams of encouragement and cowbells clanging on race day?

Sunday was my final legitimate run of this training cycle.  8-miles at a relaxed pace, something around 7:15 would be just about right.

I started controlled and was able to build to a nice even cadence until the middle portion of the run.  When once again, my legs started to churn much too quickly.  I was able this time to get it back under control and close out coming in much closer to my goal.

7:27, 7:24, 7:12, 6:59, 7:09, 7:12, 7:07, 7:08.

Total time 57:42 – 7:13 pace.

Better, but still not perfect.

Training miles this week will be cut back even more dramatically, just an easy 3 miles on Tuesday, 4 miles on Wednesday and a 2-mile shake-out on Saturday morning.

That’s all she wrote.

Predictions for Sunday?

There are few guarantees at this race distance.  The forecast right now is calling for highs around 70 and a 60% chance of rain.   Whether rain is falling or not, there will certainly be a lot of humidity in the air.

Not great conditions for a fast time at an endurance race.

The one thing I do know with absolute certainty is that there is not a thing I can do about any of that, and not a thing I could have done during this training cycle to be any more prepared for this race than I am.

We are healthy.  We did the work.   Now it’s time to race. 

All that is left is to listen to Dom, go out there and “absolutely kill it”.

  1. Jodi Higgins says:

    Joe you have done everything you needed to do during this training cycle! You have successfully crushed many a PR over the course of your Austin training! Like I have told you before, you are the runner my coach warned me about! Just shy of 10:00 AM on Sunday I will be screaming my heart out as I watch you cross that timing mat with the clock reading 2:5X:XX. So, it sounds like Sunday will be a shorts and tank top kind of race day right?

    Get out there Sunday and kick some assphalt! You can do it and you are a sub three marathoner…you have the heart Joe…you have the heart!!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Jodi! Thanks so much for the visit and the message! You have been one of my most loyal supporters and a great “student” as well. I know Austin isn’t an “A” race for you to chase a new PR – but I think you are going to feel remarkably strong throughout and have a great, great race.

      Will be fun making that final turn and seeing so many familiar faces coming towards the finish. I’m really looking forward to that last 2/10 no matter what the clock says overhead.

      I’ll be racing in my Brooks Bright Yellow Singlet and black shorts on Sunday. I’ll be hard to miss!

  2. Love2run says:

    I’m excited for you Joe and like your plan but don’t sell yourself short if things are going really well on the downhill miles. Your fitness and indicators are looking ideal so just get yourself to mile 20 in one piece and then ‘give er’! Good racing!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Thanks so much for the message and the kind words! It will all come down to that last 10K I’m hoping. If we’re in position there look out, I think I’ll have an answer for those final miles. That middle section of the course is a real monster. It will just be a matter of how much of a bit it takes out of the runners on Sunday.

      We’ll be fighting to the end though, that much I know. Have a great day and thanks again!

  3. Jim in Maine says:

    Morning Joe –

    I read virtually all you have written for public consumption for close to a year now and have mt own favoritie posts… this will be included. A straight forward look at the BIG race essentially boiled down in the end to, “I will try to focus only on the mile that I am running. Not looking ahead or behind. That is the trick during the marathon. … The fact is you are only running the mile you are on. Run that one. Then the next one. Then the one after that and so on. There is no how far I’ve traveled or how far I have to go. Those thoughts can be the undoing of the marathoner.” Only at mile 20 are you going against that philosophy – and with good reason based on a reality you know through past experience and a finely tuned sense of your own abilities and limitations.

    I truly hope you get the sub-3:00 you have trained so hard for Joe and I am confident that you will. I am even more confident that you will definitely run the best and smartest marathon you can possibly run on that day both for yourself and for Dom. I am excited and, like others, living this marathon through you and with you.

    I am absolutely certain that you will stay focused so that you can run hard and have fun. When you cross that finish line and see Dawn holding Landry I know there will be three of the biggest smiles Texas has ever experienced.

    Mega-positive thoughts coming to you and yours from Maine …

    Jim & Patti

  4. joerunfordom says:

    Thanks so much Jim! Your support and kindness (Patti’s as well of course) over the past year has been such a great source of motivation and strength, I’m not sure that I can ever thank you enough.

    There are going to be a lot of tears on Sunday post race, some from pain, some from joy – but they will be hard won regardless. Of that I promise.

    Thanks for helping me keep it all in perspective Jim, wish you guys were going to be here this weekend in Austin – but in a lot of ways you already are.

    Take good care my friend. Best to you! J

  5. Cortney says:

    I’m so excited for you! You are going to kill it! I know it! I almost want to not run it just so I can see you cross the finish line! 🙂 You’ll do great!

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Courtney! Thanks so much for the message. Don’t you worry I’ll still be around watching the finishers on Sunday. I plan on seeing you cross with the biggest of smiles! Have a great race on Sunday.

  6. Tom M says:

    SO PSYCHED for you, Joe! Let’s do this thing!

  7. Nicholas G says:

    It’s been an honor and a pleasure following your training throughout this cycle, Joe. It’s crazy to think that all the work going into the first 20 miles will come down to a 1:30 range that will tell you if 2:59:59 is doable that day or not. I love your attitude about this race, though. All your training this cycle has been not about putting in a solid performance and returning to Boston, but rather giving it everything you possibly have to really test your limits. If your goal was easy, I’d say, “You’ve got this, Joe. Good luck!” But, your goal is very challenging, and the course is unforgiving. I don’t think you’d have it any other way. So, I will just say that your training has been spot on, and I hope you cross the finish line having given every last ounce of energy. Personally, I think the clock will still be ticking toward 3:00:00 after you’re done, and I wish you a happy, healthy, and strong race.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Nicholas – thanks so much for the message and all of the great support here and over on Daily Mile. You are going to have a great race on Sunday, I can’t wait to “debrief” with you afterwards over a few cold beverages! We’ll be doing some celebrating I hope on Sunday no matter what happens over those 26.2 miles, but I feel ready physically and mentally to really make a run at it. We may be on the outside looking in by a few minutes afterwards, but it won’t be from playing it safe and backing down …

      Take care Nicholas – have a great pre-marathon week!

  8. You are so ready for this! I’m excited for your run on Sunday. My wife and I are planning to come cheer on Sunday. Even if we don’t pick out you and your race number from the pack, we’ll still be cheering for you.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Michael! Thanks os much for the message – I should be pretty easy to spot, I’ll be racing in my nightglow Brooks Singlet – basically flourescent Yellow with black shorts that have a matching stripe.

      Or you can just look for the really buff handsome guy 🙂

      Have a great week Michael! Best to you! Joe

  9. You’ve done the physical training to a T. It’s a mental race at this point. Just run the smartest race you’ve ever run…no big deal, right? 🙂

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi AJ! Exactly. I think that like most races course management is going to play a huge role. I nailed it at IBM, Fun for the Water and 3M. Missed it a bit at Decker as I was a little conservative over the middle miles and the climbs.

      If we have a repeat of that on Sunday, I’ll fall short …. but if I nail that 10-mile middle stretch – I like my chances.

      Best to you and R! Hope you guys have a wonderful Valentine’s Day!

  10. onelittlejill says:

    I will be thinking of you Sunday- along with many others I am sure. You are so ready for this and I cannot wait for the race report! Make sure to get a few photos of that proud little girl you are raising too!

    Take care Joe, good luck and speedy feet ❤

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