Monday, October 6, 2008

As ready as I've ever been . . .

As I type this, there remain five full days before I will toe the line at the 31st Chicago Marathon. I have firmly resolved to go for my Boston Qualifying time of 3:20. I know that it's certainly within the realm of the achievable, but it will require that everything come together perfectly for me on race day. That includes the weather, my own feeling of well-being, proper nutrition/hydration, smart pacing and having the mental fortitude to push through when things get difficult. As I said in a post in the RW forums, I'm not sure I'm ready to run 3:20, but I know I'm as ready as I've ever been.

The last week was okay running-wise, considering the need to taper and the fact that I got a cold from my son starting last Sunday night after finishing the 17-miler and which only seems to be finishing up with me about now. I ran an easy 6+ on Tuesday, took Wednesday off, did 6 miles with 2 at tempo pace on Thursday, did 5 easy on Friday, 4 on the trails with 6 x 100m strides afterwards. Saturday turned out to be a very active day, with the run followed by my youngest daughter's soccer practice (I'm the Asst. Coach) and then what turned out to be a longer-than-expected hike in the woods on a gorgeous autumn day. The kids made fairy houses, and mostly had a great time, that is until we were about a half-mile from home and the little ones hit their own version of "the wall". I carried my five year-old for most of the return trip.

I ran 13 miles yesterday for my final "long" run. I didn't feel great before I went out, and it was pretty chilly at the start, around 40, I'd say. I tried out the arm warmers which I've owned since last spring, but which I've been too self-conscious to wear. Call me a convert who doesn't care what he looks like at this point. They allowed me to run comfortably in my singlet, much more so than if I'd worn a long-sleeved shirt. I ditched my headband and gloves at about Mile 2, but the arm warmers kept me comfortable all the way through the run.

The first 10 miles were pretty easy, though I'm pleased that that "easy" pace has settled into something along the lines of 8:15/mile or faster, at least on the flats and downhills. There were two major climbs on the run, the first at around Mile 4 (where I held back intentionally to save myself, for the only over-9:00 mile of the day), and another at Mile 10, a nearly mile-long steady climb (ran it in 8:35) which I chose on purpose in order to simulate feeling tired before running the final 3 miles at goal marathon pace. I don't want to overstate how challenging that climb is, but - pardon the possible overshare here - I did note that someone had apparently left his/her breakfast on the shoulder, probably earlier in the morning. It was pretty gross, and a reminder that I too will be flirting with the edge of my abilities and limits on Sunday.

At this point, I'm calling "goal marathon pace" 7:30/mile, which is not what I expect to average for the full distance, but it is the pace that I need to run for at least 8 or so miles in order to have a chance at the BQ. Despite some hills and some wind, the final 3 miles were 7:30, 7:30 (pleased with the precision of the pacing) and 6:56. The last mile is a slight downhill, and I did open it up a bit, but by no means did I give it everything. I ran an easy half-mile cool-down and called it a morning.

My hips (especially my left one, for a change) are slightly sore, and The Stick, a foam roller and a tennis ball have served as my personal massage therapy team. I'll see my chiropractor for the last time pre-race tomorrow and hopefully will be all aligned and only minimally sore.

This week is very busy at work for me, has my wife traveling for her work, has Yom Kippur on Thursday and then it's off to Chicago on Friday morning. The running schedule calls for 5-6 easy miles tomorrow and then 7 with 2 at goal marathon pace (the so-called "dress rehearsal") on Wednesday. I'll likely take Thursday and Friday off completely, and will run 3 easy miles in Chicago on Saturday. Then it's time to focus and see if I can discover the elusive alchemy required to turn a very good training cycle into an even better race performance.

Stay tuned to find out.



Billy said...

You must be excited man...rootin' for ya big time. Hope you can get it this time around. My girl's there also trying to get her first BQ (sub-3:40)..

Good luck!!

Marathon Maritza said...

Good luck and have a great time in Chicago! I'll be sending you BQ vibes from the SF Bay Area!