Sort of amazed to write that this morning we completed our last group training run – a relatively quick 8 miles in very chilly and incredibly windy weather! Afterwards we went to brunch to celebrate and strategize a bit for the big day. My pace leader has run 18 (!!) marathons and had a lot of practical advice. This coming week I have three very short-distance runs and then I will have done everything I can to prepare. Part of me is still bugged by the fact that I missed mileage when I was hurt, but when I tally up all of the miles I’ve done (which I’ll share if/when I cross the finish line!), I realize that my missed miles are a fraction of what I’ve accomplished. I’m still a bit sore in my hip flexors and I’m going to talk to my PT guy about that this week – right now I like the idea of pushing through sans any pills, but I also don’t want to be stupid/stubborn. I have a feeling he’ll tell me to try it without the medication but we’ll see what he has to say.
I thought tonight’s post would be a good one for some reflection. Remember early on, how I said I’d trained for the Marine Corps Marathon but did not complete it? It’s overshadowed my training every weekend – each time I get out there I’m not confident that I’ll finish. So tonight I’m going to remind myself exactly how different training for this marathon has been and hopefully will convince myself I’m in a much better spot today than I was 12 years ago.
- The actual running: I am maintaining a 5:1 run/walk ratio and averaging 11:30 miles (faster when I don’t take breaks, slower as the mileage increases). In 2003 my running partner and I were maintaining a 2:2 and, as I recall, were closer to 14-minute miles. I distinctly remember there wasn’t much of a difference between our run/walk pace and flat-out walking!
- Preparation: I have stuck to my training schedule like glue, and have really emphasized the mid-week runs. I know I’ve written this before – the last time I trained, I really thought those runs were to help get you ready for the long run, and very very very often I’d skip out on them because I’d be able to get through the Saturday mileage one way or another (usually with a ton of walking). This time I’ve completed every single scheduled run, aside from when I was hurt. I’m looking at my mid-week runs as preparation for the real race, not just my long runs.
- Mindset for race day: In both races you’re told you’re going to have a ton of crowd support (Chicago in particular does deliver on this) – and while there were definitely people lining the streets in certain parts of the MCM, there weren’t nearly as many as I thought there would be. And I remember thinking that the crowds were going to be what carried us through. One part of the course was particularly desolate AND it was a loop, so as we were entering (and at the very end of the lineup), allllll the faster runners were passing us. And I remember it took a big psychological toll on me. This time I am really excited for the fans (especially my own!!) but I’m not counting on them – I want to be uplifted by the cheering but I also want to be able to get through this on my own.
- Also on race day mindset: the importance of weather. With the MCM we expected cooler temps and it turned out to be a warmer and more humid day than what we were expecting. But I didn’t change up my attire – I wore long pants, a t shirt, and my singlet – I was really overdressed, and I remember feeling way too warm. This time around I’m not planning my outfit until Thursday, most likely – and I’ll be paying way more attention to the forecast. My hope is that I can just wear a t shirt and running sleeves (kind of like long socks but for your arms; they keep you warm during the beginning but you can slide them down or take them off entirely during the run as you warm up) and my REAL hope is that the wind is nil and we have no rain. At this point the forecast looks promising but I’ve lived in Chicago long enough to know that the 5-day forecast is more of a suggestion than a science!
- Nutrition: This week I am…mindfully carb-loading, you could say – eating light mac and cheese for lunch and lean meat and sweet potatoes for dinner. I will not be overdoing it on carbs the day before the run – everything I’ve read says to increase carbs incrementally rather than all at once – but I WILL eat an appropriate amount of food. On the day before the MCM, my training group had a pasta luncheon and I guess I ate then, but I distinctly recall (and my BFF can attest to this) eating a Lean Cuisine for dinner and…god…soy crisps for breakfast the next day, of all things. Back then I just wasn’t putting a premium on fueling the way I do now.
- Technology: Two-fold. I bought my fancy shmancy Garmin watch before the 20-miler and that means I’ll always know my pace and distance. Some runners get bogged down in numbers and I’m sure that could happen to me if I stick with this, but for now it actually gives me peace of mind. For one thing I can set my own run/walk ratio so the watch itself beeps and vibrates when I need a break (no staring at the numbers or counting the minutes), and for another I know that for each run/walk cycle I’ll either get to half a mile or a full. During MCM I did look at the course map ahead of time but in reality I had no idea where I was – with the Garmin I’ll always know. Also, music – in 2003 no one (I think!) had iPods or iPhones or anything like that, and I feel like headphones weren’t allowed on the course in the first place, so you couldn’t play a tune to perk you up. This time around I have a marathon play list. My plan is to try running as long as I can without any music, to really soak up the experience, but have my headphones ready to go if I need a boost.
- Support: As you know, I’ve been shameless in asking for help (esp having my friends and family record messages on the Motigo app), and during the race I already know I’ll see my friends/neighbors when the course gets close to my house (around mile 8), and I’ll also have my parents and my brother and sister in law on the course. On Friday I mapped out where they can be and approximately what time I’ll see them. We tried to do this for the MCM but it didn’t work – I expect this time around I’ll have more success. Plus there’s an app where my parents can track me – allegedly it’s not entirely accurate but I think just for them to have a sense of where I am will help.
There you have it! I guess one of the key behaviors I WILL repeat from MCM is going to bed early this week and getting lots of sleep. And probably taking a Tylenol PM the night before so I’m not tossing and turning and panicking. I know Chicago will be a different experience based on everything I’ve written above – hopefully it’ll be different enough to yield a very different result!
That’s about it for tonight – I’m definitely ready for this thing but I’m glad I still have a week to go. 🙂 Have a great rest of the weekend!