At the running store where we picked up our pre-race bags the clerk asked me, “So, are you ready for the race?”
Trying to retain some humility I answered, “I think so.”
Honestly though, I’m a good dose more confident than just, “I think so.” I’m certainly ready, if only because I’ve been consistently training for months now, but the question is what I’m ready for. A PR? A smart race? Avoiding a DNF? My hopes are that I’m ready for a PR as I hope for this every race. It’s been so difficult to tell where I am fitness-wise, but with a few strong workouts this past week, it seems like I’m on track to run a fast race today. And I really need this too. Chicago is coming up and having a solid 1/2 time is a good indicator of what can be run during the marathon.
Still, until the 13.1 miles are covered, you just don’t know where you stand. Regardless, I’ve got a couple things in my favor to run a PR.
My fitness is on track with the last couple weeks of strong workouts, but this doesn’t guarantee I’m ready to run faster than last year’s 1:09:46 showing, even though most runner’s expectations hinge on their assumed fitness. My strength this time around is my experience. I expressed my concerns to Michelle this week, telling her I am not convinced I’m a better runner now as I was last year, but she offered me the assurance that I certainly am. What I relented to was that if I’m not a better runner, I’m at least a WISER runner.
I’ve continuously battled the adrenaline surge that fills me every race and compels me to shoot off the starting line like my shorts are on fire. Time and time again I refused to learn the lesson I’d bluntly experience when further into the race I’d start to die..and die terribly. I consistently blew my fitness in the first 3 miles and this race last year was no exception. Yes, I ran a PR, but it should have been so much faster than the 45 second decrease I managed. I wanted to walk so bad at mile 11 last year that it took all my mental strength to keep pushing through. This time around, I plan to correct that overzealous race method.
Then there is the knowledge I’ve gained regarding training, which I hope translates into a strong race tomorrow. It’s A knowledge I’ve really only come to understand in the past couple weeks. It’s a touch embarrassing to admit, but it took me a full 3 years to accept this little nugget of training wisdom, one which I’ve read over and over again in basically every running magazine I’ve picked up….effective recovery. The magazines say it. The elites say it. My coach says it.
Well, on recovery days anyways. It’s a hard component of training to accept, that in order to get faster, one must run slower. I wanted to believe that being able to run at a quickened pace on days reserved for recovery meant that I was only increasing my capacity to run faster further down the line, but recently I’ve missed some of my workout times. Part of this was directly related to the weather, but it wasn’t all that. Finally, after a week of unscheduled high mileage and some difficult workouts where my legs felt heavy from the start, my coach finally laid the smack down. He wrote to me on my running log,
“Scott, you can’t run 13 moderately paced miles on a recovery day and expect to be ready to put in an effective workout the next day. I appreciate your attempt to accumulate mileage, but if you want to be worth anything on the quality days, you need to take the easy days EASY.”
So, I figured I’d try his theory…a theory I’ve read over and over and over again. Run slow. The first recovery day my legs were so shot that I really had no option but to run 8:00 miles, however, after feeling just how strong and loose my legs felt after that run and then how they felt the next day for the workout, of which I nailed, I was sold. So, no matter how decent I’ve felt on my non-workout days these past couple weeks, I’ve deliberately taken it easy on my recovery days…and the difference is stunning. I’m so less fatigued after the run and so ready for the workout days that I’ve been able to lay down confidence building efforts when they really matter, which is the whole point of the recovery days in the first place.
And for that I’m much wiser and much fitter than I would have been had I kept to my old plan of running machismo.
The question now, which will be resolved tomorrow if I put my expected racing plan into action, is will I be fit enough and wise enough to lay down a solid PR?The course is in my favor, the competition is in my favor, the weather seems to be in my favor and the only variable left is whether and I can run wisely and use my rested legs and built fitness to put down the performance I hope for.
So, am I ready? Yeah, I’m ready in theory….now it’s just a matter of practice.
I hope to follow this with a positive race report. For now, it’s bad TV at the hotel and continued rest for my legs. Until tomorrow.