I’ll start this post by saying this: I’m nervous. That means you get a long, rambly post that captures all of my taper thoughts.
This will be my third marathon, but the first where I’m going in with a time goal. I’ve put in some good work, particularly in comparison to previous training cycles.
Let’s look at it:
Last training cycle (July – November 2015)
Total miles – 411 (102 miles/month average)
Longest run – 20 miles (1x)
Avg pace the last 4 weeks of training: 11:17
This training cycle (July – November 2016):
Total miles – 524 (131 miles/month average)
Longest run – 21 miles (2x)
Avg pace the last 4 weeks of training: 11:02
A few other things were different about this training cycle. For example, I started with a higher base of miles. Also, I’ve stayed consistent with my strength training. Though I’m not going heavy, the regular exercises have made a difference. Also, I’ve been very, very cognizant of running my easy and recovery runs at a true easy pace – something I know I was not doing last year. The weather stayed HOT and HUMID longer, which helped build both endurance and mental toughness.
I’ve put many pace miles into my long runs, helping me build confidence that I can work hard and still finish a very long run. I had my highest monthly mileage ever last month at 146 miles! I ran not one, but two 21 mile runs.
I’ve also had some lessons. There have been a few workouts where I’ve gone out too fast and crashed and burned. I didn’t listen to my gut during the first few miles of the Diva’s Half Marathon and kept myself anchored to my time goal, which in turn led to a really not fun second half of the race. BUT what I learned is that my body really does know what the right pace is – I just need to find that fine line between pushing through the “I can’t”s and the truly unrealistic pace. To me, this has been the hardest part of racing longer distances.
Last year, I combated this by just giving myself a “negative split” time goal. I ran super conservatively the first half in order to hit it. I recently went back and looked at my splits. I ran the first half nearly 11 minutes slower than the second half! I finished the race super proud that I was able to pace myself and get that negative split. Later, when I was analyzing my splits, I knew I could have executed a better time if that was what I was aiming for that day. I was way too conservative the first few miles. I don’t regret this at all – I had an amazing race and PRd by almost 30 minutes! It was a fun race for sure. However, I knew that for my next one, I wanted to see what I could do.
Thinking about this year’s race, my training cycle, and how I’ve at performed every race I have a time goal (poorly…), my biggest concern with race day is that I will get anchored to a number and have a hard time letting go of it if I really should be adjusting my goal to a slower time. Fun fact: all of my current PRs at any distance have come in a race where I didn’t have a time goal. I perform best when I don’t put pressure on myself. My current half marathon PR came when I didn’t look at my Garmin but for 3 times during the race.
In typical type-A form, I tend to be a stickler for hitting exact paces. I like to have a plan, and I like things to go according to that plan. I’ve also set very high goals for myself that perhaps may not have even been realistic, and went for them anyway on race day. These are all the things I’ve been mulling over when deciding on my goals for Richmond. What will be a lot of work and a stretch, but realistic given my training? What do I deep down truly believe I could hit, and how does that compare to what I WANT to hit?
I tried to get my coach to tell me how a marathon should feel at each leg of the race. She gave me some advice but largely told me “it depends”. What I am really trying to figure out is actually how it SHOULDN’T feel. What shouldn’t the pace feel like at mile 6, mile 10, mile 13 if you’re running the appropriate pace? What is too fast for a middle of the pack, novice marathoner like myself?
I still don’t have all the answers (or even some of them), but I’ve come to some goals that I think are realistic based on this training cycle and how I’ve felt on my runs. When discussing goals with my coach, I asked her if she thought I could hit a 4:30. There was a very long pause at the other end of the phone, and she told me that if everything lined up and I had a perfect day, she thought it was possible. She encouraged me to think about my training runs and what I thought I could realistically hold for 26.2 miles. She also wanted me to be happy with whatever the time on the clock showed under my current PR. That’s her goal for me: a PR by as much as possible.
Over the past two weeks, I’ve let go of the 4:30 goal. Here’s the thing….I really WANT to hit this time. This is the time I put down on my registration, this is the time I was planning to write about in this post, this is the time I’ve been dreaming about on my training runs. Deep down though, I don’t think it’s realistic enough for me to have this as what I gun for out the gate. I do agree with my coach in that if I’m having a fantastic day, I could get close to this number. Reflecting on my training runs and how I can struggle mentally in races to figure out what is too tough vs just “push through” tough, I am just not convinced that this is the right goal for me. There’s a sliver of hope that I’ll still hit this – but that’s NOT what I want to pace myself to early on. I would be truly surprised if I hit it (and would probably cry at the finish!)Setting goals for the @Sportsbackers Richmond Marathon #richmondready Click To Tweet
So, here are my goals for Richmond. I’m very excited about these, and I feel that the way my coach helped me structure them will give me the flexibility I really need on race day so that I’m not anchored to a pace. I feel confident that I could hit these, but it will require work, patience, and strategy. I do not think these are so conservative that they are “in the bag” – they are going to stretch me and force me to run with a little bit of guts, which is exactly what I wanted.
Best day goal: The stars align and I’m running the race of my life. This goal is what I’ll adjust to if I’m feeling VERY good early on.
Goal: 4:40 or under, getting as close to 4:30 as possible. This would mean running an average pace between 10:40/mile and 10:17/mile.
Better day goal: This is a solid day and things go relatively smoothly and as expected. This is the time that I am pacing myself to out the gate, and will adjust up or down depending on what my body is telling me.
Goal: PR (4:49:33) or under, as close to 4:40 as possible. This would mean running between an 11:00/mile and an 10:40/mile pace. If I’m being honest, I will be disappointed if I don’t PR.
Good day goal: This is a day where maybe things don’t work out the way I want them to, due to one of the many factors that can impact a runner during a marathon. This goal will keep me going so I can still work toward something and get to the finish line.
Goal: Under 5 hours, an 11:25 pace or faster.
My last few runs and the current weather forecast have me feeling very good about hitting that 4:40. I’m nervous, anxious, terrified – the marathon is a distance that can chew up and spit out even the most experienced runners, and the fear of the unknown of race day is part of what makes the marathon so exciting. I’ve put in the work, and I’m so ready to toe the start of my third marathon on Saturday! See you on the other side of 26.2!
I’m curious – how do you think about setting goals for race day? How do you adjust mid-race, and how do you find a way to be proud of yourself if things don’t go as planned? What’s your race day strategy?