Monday, January 18, 2010

Plugging Along Towards a Fuzzy Goal

Boston Week #2 is in the books.  It pretty much came out as planned, with a total of 67.6 miles for the week.  The highlight was Sunday's long run with my friend Joe in Falmouth, Maine.  The miles always go by faster with company, and I've yet to meet a like-minded runner who isn't good company (at least while running).  The only blemishes on the run were my own GI issues (a lingering after-effect of Friday night's Chinese dinner) and the fact that I nearly caused my own demise by crossing the road right in front of a town police cruiser.  Stupid is as stupid does.

The plan for this week is as follows:
  • Monday - 6M (which became 6.7), with 6x12 secs hill sprints
  • Tuesday - 10M, with hills or some sot of fast-paced running
  • Wednesday - 8M easy
  • Thursday - 9M, with a moderate progression towards the end
  • Friday - 10M, with threshold work as yet TBD (depends how I feel)
  • Saturday - 7M easy
  • Sunday - 20M, with maybe 3M at goal marathon pace (whatever that is at the moment)
That comes out to a nice even 70 miles for the week, with one more planned mileage increase in the following week, before a cutback week in early February.

I could certainly feel the recent mileage ramp-up in Sunday's long run, where I was able to slog through the miles, but without much spring in my step.  The stomach issues and a poor night's sleep on Saturday didn't help.  That said, Joe and I still managed a 6:00/mile pace for the final stretch, just as I know we will for the last 0.x mile in Boston.

One great thing about this training cycle is that I'm not fixated on a specific goal.  I've been thinking about my strategy for Boston, and what I have settled on - without equivocation - is that I will run a solid race, meaning that will not pace myself out on the edge of my abilities.  In other words, if I finish Boston feeling like I could have run a minute or two (or more) faster, I will not be mad at myself.  At all costs, I will avoid the long reach for "what might be" that led to three disastrous marathons in my first three attempts.  A PR is not an issue, since unless something unexpected goes awry, I should run a faster time based on having put in another year of solid training since my last competitive marathon.

As I wrote sometime ago on RWOL (and maybe here), the real challenge of marathon racing is to make an honest and accurate assessment of our fitness level before the race.  While there may occur an occasional pleasant surprise, much more often the path to the finish line is sullied with the painful realization that we were overly optimistic in that assessment.  So, marathon goal-setting for the "competitive" runner (meaning the kind of runner whose goal is to do more than merely "finish") is part art, part science.  With more experience training and racing, science takes the lead and we can narrow the range of what's really possible on the day we toe the line.

I trust that we are only scratching the surface on the topic of goal-setting, but longtime readers should realize that this training cycle will be be largely devoid of the neuroses and histrionics which marked some prior efforts.  What's a guy to do with all that extra, unwasted energy?


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