Race week is upon us! It’s time to rest up, hydrate, fuel well, check the weather frequently and try to stay sane in the process. And then there’s the small matter of determining a race goal/plan…
A month ago I would have told you that I didn’t have a time goal. Despite improving so much over the summer, I was lacking confidence after starting out so slowly and doing most of my long runs on the slow side. Things continued to improve in recent weeks, but I kept shying away from naming a goal. I think part of the issue is that it has been such a long road (so far) building back up, that I am afraid of setting myself up for disappointment. What if I name a goal and can’t achieve it? What if the pace is too fast and I blow up after 30K? Would I feel like a failure?
That being said, I have worked my butt off (literally) and I want to see where my true fitness is right now. I need to push the limits in order to see what I’m capable of. And I am not going to do my best without taking a chance. Goals are supposed to be a little bit scary, and I certainly haven’t made achievements in the past by worrying about “what ifs.”
In 11 marathons, I have only ever raced for a PR or exclusively for fun (Disney, Boston, Chicago). This “in between” feels a bit like limbo and was making it very hard for me to figure out how to approach it. I started talking to hubs, friends and mentors to get some guidance and the result has been a mixed bag. Some people suggested that I just go out and run by “feel” and stop dwelling on needing a time goal. I respect that approach and I have probably suggested it to others in the past, but I don’t think it works for me. I need a number to focus on in those later miles of a marathon when it gets really hard and every part of me wants to slow down. I’m afraid that if I’m not chasing down a time, it will be too easy to give in.
Thankfully, I’ve had a few workouts recently that have helped me zero in on what I am now referring to as “hopeful” marathon race pace. A couple weeks ago I had a great workout with the group of 3x4K at pace during a huge training week and it felt surprisingly easy. That Sunday I did my last long-long run of about 31K/19mi with the second half at pace. It gave me the confidence boost I needed because the pace felt manageable even at the end of a 103KM/64mi week.
Last week my final mid-week medium-long run of 10 miles included most at pace and it felt pretty comfortable. So finally, with a week to go, I have zeroed in on my race goal.
Previous two weeks of training (last big week followed by first taper week):
So, my “hopeful” marathon race pace would result in a 3:45 marathon and that is the “A” goal. It’s a full 9 minutes slower than my PR, but it scares me because I was barely doing tempo runs at that pace a few months ago. On a good day, I believe it is achievable. Ultimately, though, I want to execute a smart, strong run and reach the finish line feeling accomplished regardless of the time on the clock. I’ve gone on and on in recent posts about everything I have already achieved this year and I am not going to forget that next weekend. I have a lot to celebrate and be proud of every step of the way. The marathon is just one run on one day after 22 weeks of training and it’s not going to define this year for me.
But let’s be honest – I would really REALLY like to reach that goal and I owe it to myself to try.