The Road to Richmond: Mind Games (Week 14)

View on the way up Camelback Mountain in Phoenix this week.

It’s hard to believe I’m entering my last week of training before
Richmond. I’ve organized my life around training for the past three and a half months so it’s strange for it to be drawing to a close. There were only two key workouts this week, and I hit my targets in both the mile repeats on Tuesday and in my last tempo run on Friday (despite facing a stiff headwind for the last half) to provide some positive momentum into the taper.  My challenge this coming week will not be running as much as it will be mental preparation. To be as ready as possible for Saturday I need to rest, stay calm, and finalize my plan for the race.

For my first marathon I was able to go into a kind of shell to mentally prepare but that will be harder to do this time around. Work has been hectic and stressful, the election is Tuesday, and there’s always something that seems to come up with the kids. I woke up this morning with a strong bout of anxiety and couldn’t get back to sleep and expect this to happen at least once or twice more before next Saturday.

There are a couple of things I know I can do to help with this. I will force myself to go to bed earlier, eat enough, and do some deep breathing and visualizations at points during the day to stay as centered as possible. Additionally, I have been able to rest and relax for the past couple of days. as Andrea and I have been in Scottsdale, AZ for her work and a mini-vacation. I have never been to that part of the country before and loved getting to run and hike in the desert. This was good for my mind and soul. I’ve been running the same routes for the past few months, and it was easy to get into a flow along the trails and canals. I hope I can carry some of those feelings into the week and draw on them when nerves set in.

Aside from trying to rest and stay calm, I need to finalize my race plan. I have good information about the course and will be able to map out where and how much nutrition to take in, but I’m struggling with setting my target pace. I’ve been working towards running a faster pace than my first marathon and feel good about my training. The best predictor for my pace is my past performance and I built my goals around that time. Based on the pacesI’ve been able to hit in training and races, though, it’s possible I could improve my time maybe more than I thought.  This sets up a battle for me between limited experience and uncertain predictions and it’s hard for me to know which should win.

I don’t know if my time last spring is really indicative of what I can do or not, but my training regimen has been so different from the spring that I don’t know if I am interpreting things correctly. My practice ten mile race a few weeks ago went well, but I didn’t do any run longer than 18 miles. I hit my speed and strength target paces after the first few weeks of training, but sometimes struggled with my tempo runs. I almost doubled my weekly training mileage from the spring, but ran a lot of those at slower paces and did less dedicated strength training. These differences swirl through my head every  time I think I have settled on a pace.

Overall, I want to be aggressive but not stupid. I went into my first marathon thinking it was possible to run a BQ pace despite having limited evidence that was realistic (even under a perfect scenario). I ran a very respectable time that would have qualified me in the next age bracket, but went out too fast and slowed by twenty-thirty seconds per mile for the last quarter of the marathon. Had a run a more consistent pace my time may have been the same, but I would have felt better. I have more evidence qualifying is possible (under the right conditions) this time but am still unsure and don’t want to push too hard in the first half of the race. Richmond also has more variety in the terrain than Wrightsville Beach, so I may not be able to keep a consistent pace anyway.

This is one of the ways off-the-shelf training plans fail. They provide a good structure for someone who has not trained before, but they can’t help you interpret your results or think through your actual plan when you don’t have much experience with either the distance or the course. I have talked to people who have run Richmond before, and this has given me a lot of good things to think about. This is also where my lack of self-confidence comes out. One of my natural states is to doubt or downplay my own abilities, especially when goal setting. At some point I will have to decide what I think I can do, trust my judgment and training, and execute against that plan.

I know in the grand scheme of life this doesn’t matter and is something I am doing for fun. I am grateful that I have the time, energy, and flexibility to train and still perform my duties as a husband, father, and project manager. Making it to the starting line is an accomplishment as is completing the race regardless of the time. Still, I want to do my best. I want to know that I gave my best effort for a few hours at something I truly love to do. I believe I have done what I could to prepare my body for the endeavor, and I just have to make sure I can say the same for my mindset in the coming days.

Goal Mileage 56
Actual Mileage 47.3

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