I haven’t had any planned runs on race week. To stay loose I figured I go out for 2-3 shorter runs, but at this point nothing I do will improve fitness, I can only risk race day fatigue or injury.
I ended up running 10.2k on Tuesday at a 4:25 pace, 7.1k Thursday at a 4:18 pace, and I picked it up Friday to make sure I could keep my foot-speed high, running 5.2k at a 4:02 pace. Nothing too fast, considering the distances I ran, just enough to keep moving and stay limber.
I really like the layout of the Hamilton course. The first half in relatively flat up on the escarpment. That is followed by a gradual downhill for 5k, then the race finishes with a flat 16k along the waterfront. My plan is to go out hard and try to hang on. I’m going to struggle through the final 10-12k no matter what my pace is, I just haven’t built up enough distance on my legs to be able to be comfortable for an entire marathon. I’ve decided I’m going to try to run out of the gate at a 4:20 pace. For me to have a chance at sub3:05 (what I need to BQ) I think I need to cross 21k in less than 1:31. I haven’t seen the downhill, just the elevation profile, but I think I can run 4:08′s downhill. This will effectively buy me another minute from 4:20 pace. If I manage this I would only have to average 4:30 over the final 16.2km to come in a hair under 3:05.
I understand that this is a very risky strategy; I don’t think you’ll find too many quality runners who advocate for banking time in a marathon. But I think I have a few things going for me. First, I expect the excitement of the race will get me through the first 3-4k of the race at 4:20 pace or quicker without it feeling like work. Also, if I don’t go sub3:05 I don’t really care what my time is. Being smart and running 4:35-4:40′s out of the gate may ultimately give me a quicker finish time, but it wont give me a shot at qualifying. I would be really disappointed with myself if I didn’t at least give myself a chance. Finally, through all the training and racing this year I feel like I’ve grown to know my body pretty well. I know I’m weak at the back end of long runs weather we’re running 4:40 pace, or 5:30. Knowing that I can’t expect to make up time in the final third of the race.
On paper this strategy will get me in just under 3:05, but race day is a whole’nother beast. If someone was to look at my training runs I don’t think you’d find too many people who would put money down on me doing it. Hell, I’d give myself worse odds than a coin-flip. But like I said earlier, I really don’t care what my time is if it’s over 3:04:59. I’d like to think I have a strong spirit and I’ll be able to remain positive when it starts to hurt (and I know it will hurt), but I don’t know that my body will be able to hold on. When your legs break down it doesn’t matter how much you will them to move faster, it’s not happening. But there is something about race day, and I love to race. All my PB’s are during races, and I can never seem to replicate them in training. I’m holding onto faith that this will ring true again on Sunday and I’ll be able to put on my best performance to date!