80 Days to Houston ….

Posted: October 25, 2012 in Pace and Racing
Tags: , ,

80 Training days remain before we drop off our dry bag pre-dawn in Houston, run a short, brisk warm-up, re-tie our race flats and tuck in to the starting area among the other marathoners who hope to run a time under 3:00 hours on January 13, 2013.

Last year on a cool, fast day for racing the leader of the 3 hour pace group finished in 2:59:40 which was good enough for 245th place overall.  The 22oth Male Finisher.  He is an Austin runner who I have met at a few races.  Marathon PR of 2:40.  He has paced 5 different marathon groups over the past few years and has come in just under goal time in each of them.

I’m not going to let him out of my site on race day.

Wednesday’s are my mid-week recovery workouts during a marathon training cycle.  They fall just 12 hours or so after my second of two runs on Tuesday and 24 hours before my hill-repeat workout on Thursday.  It is a run of 10-12 miles depending on the week where I just lock into whatever pace feels “comfortable” and cruise evenly up and down the rolling terrain of the hill route.  I run the hills so I can engage all of the different muscle groups, giving a rest to my hamstrings on the downhill sections, working my Quads and calves while I am climbing – essentially flushing out all of the soreness and fatigue from the previous two workouts and giving me the opportunity to reload a bit before going hard again on Thursday morning battling hill repeat after hill repeat.

The runs on Wednesday are not necessarily “difficult”, this week after running 16.5 miles over two workouts on Tuesday with half of those miles between 6:10 pace and 6:45, running a relaxed 7:48 pace over ten miles can feel kind of nice actually.  The challenge is actually in staying patient and not gradually running faster and faster as the miles tick by in an effort to “just wrap this up” or “get back to get some breakfast”.  Early on I would stay nice and smooth for 6 or 7 miles, but the last 3 I would find myself running close to race pace.  Not good.

On a day when I am supposed to be recovering from a tough workout and preparing for another one to follow – I was turning my recovery run into a pace run.

But lately, I have been much more restrained and patient on these recovery days and it has allowed me to run even harder on my hard days.  That is where the good stuff is.  Being able to really hammer away on the days that demand “hammering”.  Recovery days are just that, meant to build your aerobic base and endurance.  In some ways the slower the better as you are going to extend the run and spend more time on your feet.  All important when preparing for a marathon.

What is interesting to me is where my mind wanders on these runs.  When I am running intervals or speed work I really don’t have time to be distracted.  I’m firmly in the now.  But on a relaxed run I can allow myself to think about things other than running.  This morning I spent the first few miles of my run thinking about Dom’s children Sierra and Nico.  With Halloween right around the corner I wondered what they would be wearing to go Trick or Treating next week.  Or what they would be “Going As” which is how we referred to it growing up outside of Philadelphia.

I made a mental note that I needed to call Val this weekend to check-in on everybody and see what their plans were.  Dom in a lot of ways was just an overgrown kid.  Full of fun, laughter and an infectious mischievous side – even at age 39.  His kids are at the age now where Halloween and really all the holidays are a lot of fun.  I know they miss him as much as he misses them.

As I was climbing over the top of the dam around mile 6 I started to think about my strategy down in Houston.  How in my “best” races – and by that I mean when I ran as close to or better than what I thought my capabilities at that distance were at the time, how I had run even splits throughout.  Never more than :02-:05 faster or slower than my race average at the finish line.

IBM Uptown Classic, Austin Half-Marathon, NOCC Balance, Shamrock Half-Marathon, 3M, the Pittsburgh Marathon all races where I was “locked in” for the majority of the race and only over the final 10-15% of the race when things got difficult did I need to tap into the mental strength to keep the pedal down.  Keep pushing.  Not let the brain that was sending me signals that this was getting hard and wouldn’t it feel great to back off a bit right now actually take over.  I just set that thought to the side and realized that every stride I took was one stride closer to the end.  That is the only time relief totally comes anyway.  The finish line.  At some point it really doesn’t matter.  Fast or slow, it hurts just the same.

On top of the dam overlooking Brushy Creek Trail and the lake below, I shined my headlamp out in front of me and I could see the exact spot where I decided to run those two marathons in 13 days for Dom in 2010 as he battled stomach cancer.  Less than 4/10 of a mile from that bend in the trail my plan for the Houston Marathon came together.  80 days prior to race day.

I am going to line up slightly behind the 3 hour pace group and cross the start line a handful of seconds after they do.  Over the first mile I am going to keep them exactly in sight and gradually reel them in over the first three miles of the race.  At the 5K split I will pull alongside Brian the pace-leader and tuck in to the group.  :20 or so of “wiggle” room in my back pocket.

I will stay with them through 10K and through the half-way point.  Around mile 15 or 16 when the group starts to break up a bit, I am going to tuck in on Brian’s heels.

At mile 20 when there are even fewer of us remaining, I am going to fasten a string in my mind from Brian’s waist to mine.  I might let the string stretch a bit, but never break.  I will not no matter what let him get away from me.

The hardest miles in the marathon to hold pace are from 20-24.  It is at that point that your Glycogen stores have run out and you are now starting to burn fat as fuel.  It is much less efficient, and you have to work harder to hold the same pace.  Your legs are feeling heavy.  For me, the outside of my hips start to get sore and it is more difficult to raise my legs as high on my stride as I did just 15 minutes earlier.  It is the time when your brain starts telling you to back off, this is getting hard.

It is the point in the race where I ask myself the same question that I have posed at every “A” race I have ever competed in.

“How bad do you want this today?”

I know that if I can hold on to the pace group to mile 24 we are going to make it.

Mile 25 is going to hurt regardless, whether that mile is at 6:52 pace or 7:15 or 7:30.  I am going to disassociate from everything going on except the back of Brian’s singlet.  Don’t let that string snap.

Mile 26 is going to run itself.  I can do anything for one mile.

And when we make the final turn and only 400 meters remains we are going to kick like we have never kicked before.  I have always had a hard time visualizing what the end of a sub 3 hour marathon would be like.  Perhaps it is because I knew that I wasn’t quite ready before.  Or maybe it was because I wasn’t willing to pay the price of admission.

But on a dark trail 81 days prior to race day I could see every bit of it happening right in front of me.  With a glance I am going to thank Brian for the escort through the first 26~ miles of the race and then I am going to drop him like a bad habit.  It is going to be the most painful but at the time the most exhilarating 400 meters we have ever raced.  We’ll have plenty of time to recover when it’s over.

  1. Robin says:

    Another great post. My hips start to hurt towards the end of a marathon a well! Never hurt any other time, thought it was just me! Good to hear it’s not.

    • joerunfordom says:

      Hi Robin! Yep, those hip pointers heat up and give me fits late in the race, anywhere from 22-23 miles it starts and just kind of nags until the finishing chute. By that point it’s amazing what you can put up with 🙂 Hope you are great!

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