October 28, 2010

Setting the Pace

Well friends, it's finally that weekend. I'm writing this from my hotel room in Washington DC and on Sunday, I'll be racing the Marine Corps Marathon. And yes, I said racing, not running - more on that in a sec. My mom and I left Sacramento at the crack of dawn this morning, had a short layover in Philadelphia, then finally landed in Baltimore (it's cheaper than flying directly into DC). My mom and I managed to navigate the public transportation like pros (ok, with a little help from my new fancy phone!) and after one bus, two metros, and a short walk we arrived at our hotel in downtown DC! The weather is great, nice and clear with just a slight chill in the air. The hotel is better than expected and is just a 0.3 mile walk to the metro. We have some sightseeing planned for the next couple days and we're both pretty excited to explore the city. And while I'm looking forward to touring a bit of history, there's still that other little thing...

The Marine Corps Marathon. Yes, I'm managing to combine two of my loves, racing and traveling, but no awe-inspiring monuments or memorials can completely distract me from the fact that I'm running another marathon on Sunday. And not just running, but racing - myself that is, with high hopes of setting a new PR. This past week I've been struggling with setting my goals for this race. Unless tragedy strikes mid-race (knock on wood!) I'm almost guaranteed to PR based on my training the over the past couple months. The issue I'm struggling over, however, is how much of a PR to shoot for. My current best time for 26.2 is 4:49, set this past summer at the San Francisco Marathon, a notoriously challenging course. That required an 11:00 average pace. I've been running faster than I ever have before, running my two fastest halfs (2:04 and 2:07) within the last month. Nearly all of my weekday runs have been at a sub-10 pace, and my 20 miler I had an average of 10:17 min/mi. Punching in my recent half PR time in the McMillan Running Calculator, it predicts that I can run a 4:21 (an avg. pace of 10:00). This would clearly be a huge PR, but I'm a little hesitant to aim for it for a couple reasons.

First, I tend to play it safe. I've never really given a race my all, left everything on the pavement. I came close a few weeks ago at the Urban Cow Half, but looking back I definitely had some left in the tank when I finished. So part of me wants to take the easy way out and run just fast enough to beat my previous time rather than really push it and risk disappointment. Second, and this could actually be a big factor come race day, is that I don't know how my hip is going to feel. Like I mentioned, my left hip actually hurt pretty bad toward the end of my last long run and has continuously been sore since. I've been stretching and I even brought my grid roller with me, but anything can happen on Sunday. I know from my training that I can push through the nagging sore feeling, but if it starts feeling like it did this past weekend after only 9 miles, I'm going to have a problem. The final, more minor reason is a lack of trust in my own pacing abilities - aka I suck at maintaining any pace consistently. It really helped to run with a pace leader at Urban Cow. Instead of constantly looking at my watch and trying to do crazy math in my head, I just made myself hang on to her and zoned out. I don't know if MCM has a 4:20 pace group, and even if they do, sticking with them in such a huge race will probably be difficult.

So, there it is. I talked things over with several of my coworkers this past week and got some great advice. My tentative plan is start out at 10:00 pace and keep it between 10:00 and 10:15 for as long as possible. If my hip starts causing me problems, I will slow it down to a 10:30 pace, which would still give me a big PR. And if worse comes to worse, I'll settle with finishing another 26.2, which is always a big accomplishment. I know I can do this. I believe I can do this. Now I just gotta do it!

A goal: 4:21

B goal: 4:35

C goal: 4:45

D goal: finish

Any advice on this matter would still be greatly appreciated! On another note, I'm not feeling so hot. I don't know if it's from a lack of sleep this past week, traveling (all that recycled air and shared germs on planes...), or just a figment of my slightly neurotic pre-marathon mind. But here's hoping I feel more refreshed tomorrow morning - the last thing I need is to be sick this weekend!

p.s. Any other Giants fans out there watching us DOMINATE Texas?!?!


  1. i love all your goals...and that fact that you're willing to be flexible. as i always say, the distance is the boss. in terms of pacing...i'm sure you know these exist...but just in case you don't...you know you can print out a pace band that you wear on your wrist, right? you put in your finish goal and it divides the race up by miles and tells you where you should be, time wise, at each marker. one less thing to think about. i hope you have a grand time!!! (going to john stewart's rally on saturday??) cheers. go giants!

  2. No 4:20 pace group. They have 4:15 and 4:30. (Look under MCM Info/Course Maps/Pre-Race and Start Line.) While it can be tough at the beginning to stick with a pace group, when you're looking for a little extra support it can be well worth it. Pace bands, as Michael mentioned, can also help when you want to go it alone. Just google "pace band" and a million options will come up. See how you feel the day before and then go for it! You've put in a lot of training. If you're feeling injured, however, it's not worth causing something worse. Good luck!

  3. Good luck this weekend!! Hope you get to enjoy DC and your mini vacation!

  4. I hope you have an awesome, awesome, awesome race! If you see Dane Rauschenberg at the expo, please tell him hello for me! :)

    I wish I knew what to tell you - we have a very very similar goal, and very very similar past marathon history. I'm shooting for a 4:15 in Vegas. I think your goal setting is perfect. And flexible. So awesome, and I'm so so so happy and excited for you! Lots of love coming your way!

  5. Goals look well thought out. Good luck with the race. Wil be looking forward to your race report

  6. Can't wait to read about your race!!