Friday, September 26, 2014

Monument Marathon - Pre-race Overview

Tomorrow is the Monument Marathon. I had originally set out to train for a 4:20 and eventually dropped back to a 4:30. After fooling around the last few weeks, I'm not sure where I am in terms of fitness.

I do know my 5K time improved by 1:28 over the course of this training cycle, and my recent 5K time suggests I could run a 4:40. However, after an epic blow-up at Sleeping Bear last year based on what a chart said I could run, I'm hesitant to plow headfirst towards The Wall again.

In addition, race day is predicted to be 88 degrees and sunny, and it appears there will be little to no shade. The race is also at a few thousand feet of elevation, and elevation has bothered me a bit as an adult. (All it did when I was young was give me nosebleeds.) There will also be some significant hills and potentially strong headwinds.

I hope I haven't lost my heat adaptation already, but I'm not prepared for the hills or elevation because mid-Michigan does not want to hook you up with anything by sea level flats as far as the eye can see.

But, and this is a big but and it cannot lie, I have Stone Bridge scheduled two weeks from Monument. This race should have shade and cool temperatures and is supposed to be relatively flat. With this in mind, I've decided to opt for a more conservative race at Monument.

My main goal tomorrow will be to assess my fitness and not feel like total death at the end. I've decided the best way to accomplish this will be to focus on running on negative splits. I reviewed my splits from all my past marathons, and I tend to slow down significantly after 18-19 miles. My plan is to run easy to that point this time around, and then hopefully pick up the pace.

To that end, I've studied the race course profile almost obsessively, as well as reading the few blog posts on the race that I could find. The first five miles are downhill, but there is a significant climb up to Mitchell Pass (and also where the strongest winds are supposed to be) from miles 12 through 14. This is followed by an equal downhill, and the next hills don't come until between miles 20 and 25, a spot that apparently trips lots of runners up.

While, as I mentioned in my weekly recap, I'm hitting faster paces now that I'm tapering, I still want to edge towards conservative, again knowing that I can always run harder at Stone Bridge if I end up with something left in the tank.

As a starting point I'm using the 5:00 hour marathon pace. I struggled with this for awhile - shouldn't I be able to beat my marathon PR after incorporating way more speedwork this training cycle? But then I realized I need to be more realistic and compare myself to where I was in the spring, rather than last fall. In which case, five hours would be an improvement of about an hour, which is nothing to feel sad about!

To run a sub-5 marathon, I would need to hit 11:26 min/miles. I'm going to round this to 11:25 to make the mental math just a bit easier. The plan for the first 20 miles is to run 11:25 min/miles on the flats, 11:05 min/miles on the downhills, and 11:45 min/miles on the uphills.

What happens after those 20 miles will depend on how I feel. Hopefully by taking it slow, I will be able to drop the hammer, so to speak, and earn some of the lost time back. If not, especially if I feel worn from the heat and elevation, I won't beat myself up.

I'm also excited to give this a try because of my new Garmin (which I absolutely love love love). I have my first screen set to show total distance and lap time. This is a double bonus because it takes away the mental block of being able to see my total elapsed time and prevents me from having to do crazy mental math to figure out my splits.

So, there it is, my relatively simple, but hopefully effective race plan.

Most accurate description of a marathon ever.

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