It's Monday morning, 13 days out from race day. *Insert silent, internal freakout*
Just kidding. I'm not freaking out. It is officially "taper time" but I'm hoping to not fall off the train like what tends to happen during this time. Let's be honest, I'd LOVE to consider myself a "veteran" at this point. I'd love to say that I'm past the internal freakouts, that I'm past the mental war of thinking my body isn't ready, etc.. I AM a veteran, I've been doing this a long time, but there are mental aspects that are nearly unavoidable when you prepare to put your body through what it is about to go through. But for the most part, business as usual today as I start the next 2 weeks of taper.
I was MEGA inspired this weekend. Between watching our American distance runners crush it around the country and being present in spirit for my good friends and team mates while they crushed it, I had no option but to be filled with joy and pride! When you train with people (even long distance) all year long, it is such a rush to see them do well and set the bar high. It gives me courage and hope that I will be able to produce the kind of result I'm hoping for on race day. Soooo, what AM I hoping for on race day? GREAT QUESTION.
I'm not necessarily prepared to publicly proclaim every aspect of what I'm hoping for on race day, BUT, there are some specifics that I think are going to be very important when I get rolling on that Sunday morning. Let's talk it out:
1.) My first 13.1 mile split need to allow room for a negative split. PERIOD. I get caught up in the race moments just like everyone else, and with a flat marathon it's easy to go out thinking, "Hey, I'll just bank some time up front and even if I suffer on the back half I'll still come out ahead. WRONG. It doesn't work that way. Last year at this race I ran 1:36 for the opening half and lost a bunch of time between 23-26 with cramps. I think 1:36 is a great first half for me, so that's my goal again this year.
2.) My thought process on true MP (Marathon pace) needs to back UP a bit. All year I've had 6:50 on the brain for MP. I believe it's real, I know it's in my body, I know that would give me a sub 3 hour marathon, or close. BUT, according to how I trained this year and what I truly believe my body is capable of right NOW, an MP of 7:10-7:15 is more reasonable and attainable. Afterall, if my above statement of 1:36 first half is true, 7:15 pace gets me a 1:35 first half. I need to realize that and honor that, and NOT go out the first half in 1:32 (which my body is VERY capable of doing) It's hard, but dying out there at mile 20 is MUCH harder, and I'd obviously like to keep suffering to a minimum :)
3.) My mindset at the start needs to be joyful, calm, and PATIENT. I get too serious. I get too tense. I clinch my jaw and stare off into the distance like I'm about to murder somebody. I think this is a raw aspect of mental preparation, but, it doesn't lend itself to a relaxed settling of the mind and body from the start. For a 5k where it's 18 minutes of pure madness, sure... get your warrior paint on. But I know personally, for ME, I need to stop and smell the roses a bit. Like, literally I might find some roses and actually stop before the gun goes off to smell them. You get the picture.
4.) My nutrition needs to be realistic and SPOT ON. I know what works. I've been using Hammer Nutrition products for almost a decade now on and off, and certainly 100% this last year, and I KNOW what works for me. I have a fueling plan, and I need to be real about it and not think I can 'go without' for any extended period of time during race day. It needs to be consistent and it needs to be a huge focus if I'm going to avoid losing time to cramps late in the race.
That's about it... I need a top 4 to focus on instead of drowning in constant introspection during race day. I know all the little marathon do's and don'ts, but I think having a core block of top focuses will help. And from the one and only Josh Cox (50k American Record Holder, US Marathoner), his advice rings true and simple in my head: "When you feel good early in the race DON'T pick up the pace".
Alrighty then, my 'splits' have been calmed and my plan has been set. Now it's time to be sane and under control these next two weeks.