Archive for February 15, 2011

Idle time.

That is what it feels like with the Austin Marathon now just about 5 days away.  Normally my other titles, Husband, Dad, VP and all the rest make the other one, “marathoner” a bit more challenging.

It means early morning alarm clocks waking up long before dawn to get in training miles and hill workouts.

Sometimes it means knocking out an 8-10 mile run, getting cleaned up, dressed and to the airport to catch a flight all before 8:00 a.m.

But during marathon week those other “titles” are a blessing.  Those roles allow me to focus on all of the other important things in my life that I have going on and try to keep my mind off of the 26.2 mile 3 hour battle that will ensue on Sunday morning.

So what does the training schedule look like this week?

Monday – Strength Train

Tuesday – 3 miles easy

Wednesday – 4 miles easy/Strength Train

Thursday – Rest

Friday – Rest

Saturday – 2-Mile Shakeout

Sunday Race

Seems pretty innocent.  Nothing too strenuous.  Just a handful of miles to keep the muscles loose and the chance to burn off some of the energy that will be building as race day approaches.  I might have gone out a little bit too hard this morning on that 3-miler, but I wanted to try to lock in “Race Effort” to see how that will feel for Sunday.

Over a hilly three-miles I clicked off splits of 6:55, 6:55, 6:57 … just about perfect.  Now if we can just run about 20 of those on Sunday …. but that is for another day.

This week is a key, key week from a training perspective.  The drastic reduction in mileage which will now be just 25% of our training peak, will allow for our legs to be as rested as possible when the starter’s gun fires at 7:00 a.m. on Sunday.

Any lingering aches, pains or soreness that a marathoner has after a tough training cycle is very likely to disappear during this final week.  Fortunately for us, all of our aches and pains have been gone for almost a full week at this point.

There is not a part of our body that we are “worried about” heading into the marathon, which has only happened to me once before, Pittsburgh in 2009 where we were at our very best.  3:17:43.

That is not to say that our body is bullet-proof or that a blister, sprain or pull could not happen at any point on Sunday.  That is always a possibility when you are pushing hard on race day for more than 180 minutes.  Each footfall, more than 40,000 of them is a chance for injury.

A slip or slide down a wet incline, a pothole or crack in a city street all are concerns.  A collision entering or exiting a water stop, a trip over another runner’s feet or even a fall on an object cast aside by a competitor from up ahead are all hazards for the marathoner.

But those concerns are saved for Sunday.

This week I will continue to formulate my mile by mile strategy for the race and by the time I sit and have lunch with a good friend and fellow marathoner Erin R. on Thursday, I should have my plan for race day finalized.

Last Friday I drove the marathon route with my GPS watch running in the truck.  I wanted to track the elevation along the course and get a visual on every twist and turn of the route.

This has become a pre-race ritual for me this year as I like to know far ahead of time where the next turn will occur, whether it is a right or left, if there will be a hill around the bend, and if so how high a climb will it be.

This has relaxed me greatly on race day and has allowed me to know which side of the course to run on, where the bottlenecks and trouble spots may be and how to tangent the course to make sure I am not running an extra 2/10 of a mile unnecessarily.

This exercise was very interesting as the course map published by the Austin Marathon and my own elevation chart are very similar.  But a few tough climbs appear much more “smooth” or “Gradual” on the Austin Marathon graphic vs. what my eyes and GPS watch showed me on Friday.

Course Profile from Austin Marathon

Elevation Chart from my GPS

This course “recon” helps me understand much more accurately the parts of the race where the course will be looking to trip me up, and the places which favor the runners this Sunday.

I will be doing all of the things that I normally do preparing for a marathon this week:

Getting my pre-race haircut.

Laying out my race clothes Saturday night.

Packing my “race bag” with everything I will need before and after the event.

Affixing my bib.

Finalizing my playlist on my iPod.

These are all habits designed to comfort me and make me feel like everything is going according to plan.

For the first time ever I will be running a marathon in my hometown.  This will afford me the opportunity to eat my pre-race Marathon Dinner at home with Dawn and Landry.  My own pasta, my own sauce, on my own plates with the people I love the most.  If that is not good for race day karma, I’m not sure what is.

On Sunday morning I will get up at 4:00 a.m. and have my breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter, a banana and grape Gatorade.  I will get dressed, drink a bottle of water and be ready to leave the house by 5:00 a.m.

By taking my last drink two hours before the race I should be able to hit the porta-potties twice before the starter’s gun and not have to take any bathroom breaks along the course.

I will be sweating out all of the fluids that I take in on the course until post race.  A formula that has worked perfectly for me in all of my marathons to this point. 

Should we need a bathroom break on Sunday our chances of hitting our goal time are all but gone.  It will be that close.

Forecast as of today is calling for a start time temperature right around 60 degrees moving up to 65-67 by the time 10:00 a.m. rolls around.  There is a 30% chance of rain in the area, Winds out of the south at 8-10 mph.

The temperature is a bit concerning, the rain somewhat as well.  But if I could have anything removed from the forecast it would be that wind.  Anything under 6 or 7 mph is a perfect cooling breeze.  Greater than that and the gusts can be felt as runners will be headed up the steepest climbs over miles 3-5 to the top of South Congress and again over the final 10 Kilometers when the course finally tilts in the runners favor and we head downhill to the finish.

If that wind is blowing hard enough to take precious seconds off of each mile over the closing stretch of the race, it might very well be the difference between reaching our goal time or falling short.  Let’s hope that we are that close exiting mile 20.

No sense worrying about any of that until race day.   And in fact, there is no sense worrying about that then either.  Some things can be controlled by the runners, others cannot, the weather being one of them.

I will not allow a single ounce of energy to be spent worrying about something like the weather this week.  I will continue to formulate my race plan, play it over and over in my head a few hundred times and then shut off everything on Sunday morning.

There will be a timing mat lying at South Congress and 16th Street.

Another timing mat will be placed at South Congress and 11th Street.

What happens between those two mats is entirely up to me.

Time to go to work.