Man, it feels like we just started this training cycle for Houston and now there are just two rather big hurdles to clear before we start our taper and prepare for race day at the Chevron Houston Marathon on January 13th.
This Sunday’s half-marathon down in Shiner, TX.
Next week’s 80 mile week culminating in our 23 mile/3:00 hour final long run. That long run will be the one that allows us to stay on our feet for 3:00 hours, simulating race day in Houston and getting our body used to moving for that period of time without stopping. If we reach 23 miles before we reach 3 hours, we’ll shut things down. But I’m betting that with our pacing that morning, we will be right around 22.8 – 23.0 miles on the legs when we reach 180 minutes.
But as I’ve said over and over again, when it comes to marathon training it is not wise to get too far ahead of yourself. Just think about and focus on the hurdle immediately in front of you and cross it off the list. There will be plenty of time to worry about the next one when it comes. No sense thinking about something 7,8,9 or even 31 days away (not that I’m counting). Just tick ’em off.
The race down in Shiner is in its’ first year. So there is really nothing to gauge my expectations on. I do not know if the course is going to measure long, short or spot-on 13.1 miles. I think it is unlikely in the first running of the event that it will be perfectly measured, but that is nothing to really worry about.
There is one mile of the course that is not a hard paved road I have recently found out. Country Road 347 which takes runners from the 6.25 mile mark to just past 7.3 miles is gravel. I am hoping that the conditions are dry and the road is packed hard, but again, there really is no way of knowing until we reach that point on race day.
With Shiner, TX being about 2 hours from Austin, I will not have the luxury of heading down before the race for a course preview. We are just going to take it as it comes. That makes pacing a bit tricky for this race as well as setting a firm time goal. The plan as of right now is to take Thursday and Friday off from running this week. Run a short 2-mile shakeout on Saturday and drive down to Shiner on Sunday morning treating this as a “real race”. Not a glorified training run, or a dress-rehearsal at Marathon Goal Pace (6:52).
We are going to race Shiner “honest” and try to run as fast as our legs will take us on that day.
Yes we are not rested in a real sense, coming off of 80 and 70 mile training weeks back-to-back with a 5K race last Friday Night thrown in for good measure. But from an endurance standpoint we are as strong as we have ever been, and I expect to go out somewhere around 6:25-6:30 pace over the opening mile and see where the uphill start to the race takes us.
By the looks of the elevation map, we will be climbing from about 344 feet above sea level at the start up to 430 feet at the top of mile one. A bit of a rolling next two miles and then the climb to the top of the course from mile 3 to mile 6 which should be approximately 120 feet.
When we hit Country Road 347 the footing will be soft, but the terrain will start to tilt in our favor with a nice long, slight descent until mile 10.5, where we will climb again ever so slightly to mile 12, with a slight downhill finish.
The course sets up well as it will allow runners to use different muscle groups throughout the race and not pound on any one area too long like a downhill course or even a dead flat course tends to do. It does look like there are some hard turns on the course, I counted thirteen different 90 degree turns along the route and two rather tight turns that look like 180’s. That does not bode well for a fast time as each of those turns can cost between 3 and 5 seconds on the race clock, depending on how much runners will have to slow down into the turn before they can navigate it.
Over the course of the race, that could add up to between :45 and a full minute on the race clock. So again, until we get into the meat of the race, our goal time is going to be a bit up in the air. The hope is that we run a strong race, we hold pace late, closing the race as fast as we start it and in the end that we place well within our age group.
There is no telling if a time under 1:25:00 is going to be good enough on Sunday for any post-race accolades, but I think given all of the variables surrounding the race, that is a number worth shooting for. If the course proves to be faster than anticipated and the mile stretch on 347 is not a factor, then perhaps we can go lower – we’ll see. After all, that is what racing is all about.
But more than anything I am looking forward to a tough workout – where 13.1 miles at 6:25-6:35 pace is not something to be taken lightly. It will hopefully springboard our training to that final tough week where we break everything down as far as it has gone to this point for the three week taper to build everything back up and put us in position to run the race of our life on January 13th down in Houston.
We are not going to be in “peak” condition at Shiner on Sunday – but that was never part of the plan. It is just another step of the way to hopefully deposit the greatest marathoner we have ever been to the starting line outside of Minutemaid Park on race day.
What happens from there? Who really knows. The only thing I know for certain is that we are going to run a smart, tactical opening 20 miles hanging onto that 3 hour pace group like grim death. When we reach mile 21 we are going to take the race over from them and run the toughest five miles of our life.
A day like Sunday in Shiner are the days where you learn just how tough you really are. Legs aching, lungs burning, 3 miles from the finish line and you are hanging on by a thread to that 6:25 pace. Every part of your body except one is telling you to back off and slow down.
Your calves, quads, feet, knees, abdominal muscles, arms, hips – all aching, begging for the finish line.
But your heart won’t have any of it. It just keeps pumping away, harder, harder and harder still.
Sunday morning will be the toughest test so far in this training cycle. Here’s to a passing grade.
8:30 a.m., Shiner, TX – Boom goes the dynamite.