Monday, September 22, 2008

The Magic 8-Ball Race Predictor

Much is made in the distance running community about how to translate training progress into a race-day goal. There are myriad calculators to help one predict such things, and the conventional wisdom says to run a shorter race and extrapolate your goal time for the full marathon (allowing for slowing oevr distance). After Saturday's long run - a successful 22-mile out-and-back on a hilly course and into a 10+ mph headwind during the last 10 miles - I tried a new technique: the ever-trusted Magic 8-Ball. Allow me to explain.

I ran 22+ miles in mid-coast Maine, where we were for my wife's cousin's wedding. It was a cool start at 9:00 am, likely in the high-40's/low-50's and very breezy. Just before I left the seaside house we'd rented, I ditched my gloves and arm-warmers (which I've never actually used on a run), deciding I'd warm up soon enough. For the first couple of miles, I was regretting the decision, but sure enough, both my body and air temps climbed soon enough. "Climb" turned out to be one of the operative words of the day.

The route I chose was one I'd driven many times, and part of which I'd run a few times. The kids like it because it's so hilly that there are quite a few "belly-floppers", hills which rise and fall steeply enough that one's stomach rushes upwards on the descent, kind of like being on a roller coaster. See elevation profile below. In 22+ miles, reports that I climbed and descended about 4,000 feet in each direction.

Well, when I got back to the house, I saw that an area with games and toys had a Magic 8-ball, that wonderful prognosticator, offering quasi-cryptic responses to yes-no questions. So, obsessing about my marathon performance while basking in the afterglow of this great run, I asked the 8-ball whether I'd run 3:35 in Chicago. It said that I would not. "3:40", I asked nervously. " "Outlook not so good." So, I gulped and wondered what could go wrong during my taper that will send me to run another disappointing marathon in Chicago. Then I thought of casting aside that negativity, and asked whether I'd break 3:30. "It is certain," came the reply in that little black window. Then I got a bit greedy and asked it whether I should try to qualify for Boston at this year's Chicago. The insidious little device gave me the worst possible answer: "Ask again later", it said, without even a hint of being aware of how cruel it was to string a guy like me along like that.

So, be it resolved that along with my gels, sunglasses, gloves and whatever else I need to carry with me on race-day, I'm thinking of getting a Magic 8-Ball key chain which I can consult mid-race. "Should I get water at the next stop?" A: "All signs point to yes". Should I pick up the pace here? A: "Concentrate and ask again". You get the idea. Scientific? No. But it's probably no less kooky than some other methods of making those on-the-fly decisions.

Seriously, though, I am currently feeling a sense of serenity and preparedness unlike anything I've experienced during my last two marathon build-ups. I have also learned humility and still intend on running a conservative race plan this time around. I keep telling myself that a successful marathon will be one where the last 10K are faster than the first 10K.

I'm actually thrilled to be "tapering", though I have little desire to run less than I have been (except maybe for those mid-week, early morning 10+-milers), especially with the recent lovely fall weather. I just hope to stay healthy, be rested and well-fueled and be sharp so that I can execute a solid race in Chicago. Nice weather wouldn't hurt either.

Stay tuned . . . .



Progman2000 said...

Wow, that's a seriously hilly 22 you did in Maine (I thought I was running hills in NJ!) - that has to give you a lot confidence for a flat race course. Good luck in Chicago!

Da Weekend Warrior said...

That was an "interesting" read... LOL. Next time could you do me a favor, ask it if I should race my half then race the full two weeks later (my first full). Your half time is very close to mine, and "it is said" that I should run a 3:30 full... good luck on your sub-3:30.

chuckd said...

Great post ESG. I say follow the sage advice of the eight ball. (if you've got an iphone you can get the eight ball app for free and use it any time)

It sounds like you've had an excellent training and are ready for Chicago.

Hang in there through the taper. And go out and have a fantastic marathon.

Good luck,

aka armadillo on RW forums