Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Starting to think about race day

The Bengaluru Marathon is now just five days away. I've been in India for nearly seven weeks and training has gone okay, so I should be ready to race.

That said, I'm still recovering from injury. I've never gone into a marathon with my fitness level so low, so setting goals for myself has been difficult. I've always felt that even when running a marathon "for fun," I should be able to complete a road marathon in under four hours, but as I think about this event, I'm not quite sure that is a reasonable goal.

A 4-hour marathon requires a 9:09 pace per mile, or 5:40 per kilometer. Most of my training runs -- even the short ones -- have been slower than that. In principle, there's nothing wrong with taking your training runs slowly. Often runners say they have difficulty keeping their pace slow enough compared to what their training plan proscribes. In my case, it's been so hot and humid that I've had little trouble keeping my runs slow. My difficulty has been in getting enough mileage. Since I'm recovering from injury, I don't want to push the mileage too far, but I still want to be prepared for the race.

When I'm healthy I like to peak at 70 miles per week during marathon training. I haven't gotten anywhere close to that training for Bengaluru. The past 6 weeks have looked like this: 43 miles, 40, 31, 40, 36, and 29 (the last two weeks are taper weeks). Again, plenty of people run marathons on mileage like that, but I'm not sure how many of them are breaking 4 hours.

Where I've been lacking is speed work (I've done practically none for fear of injury) and long runs (my longest is 28k [17.5 miles]; I would have preferred to run a couple 32k [20-mile] runs). How will I perform in the final, uncharted 14k of this race? I don't know.

The final variable is temperature. It should be considerably cooler in Bangalore than it has been during many of my training runs. Here's the current forecast for race morning:

Race starts at 5:30 a.m. and ideally I'd finish by 9:30
Even by the end of the race, it should be cooler than nearly all of my runs here, but it's still considerably warmer than what I'd like to see--my ideal running temperature is around 40 degrees! I know the weather will be slowing me by the end of the race. The question is, should I try to bank a little time at the start when temperatures will be cooler? Another argument in favor of a faster start is the elevation profile:

Elevation is in meters!
It's not a super hilly race but there is definitely some climbing, and most of that climbing happens towards the end of the race.

My solid "B" goal for the race is to run 6:00 per kilometer, about 9:40 per mile. This would have me finishing in 4:13. To hit my "A" goal of sub-4-hours, I need to run 5:40/k or 9:09/mile. I think a reasonable approach to that goal is to shoot for sub-5:40 pace on the downhills at the start, running closer to a 6:00 for the uphills. Then if I'm feeling good after the turnaround 22k in (13.7 miles), I can try to stay below 5:40 even on the climbs. If I can push through the big climb around 33k at that pace, then I will have a shot at sub-4; if not, hopefully I can at least hang on for 4:13.

I read an interesting article yesterday about running in the heat. The take-home message is that runners perform better in the heat if they pre-cool. In 65-degree temps this probably just means not bundling up before the start, bringing some cold water to consume at the start, and also probably taking every opportunity to dump cold water over my head during the race, even before I feel hot.

The article also offers some advice for heavy sweaters like me, and offers a strategy for hyper-hydration before a race. Since I haven't had time to test this out, I'm not going to try this during the race, but it's an interesting strategy that I may try some time in the future.

During today's run it was relatively cool (around 70 degrees) and I was feeling good, so I allowed myself a few kilometers at sub-5:00 pace (it ended up around 7:50/mile). It felt fairly solid; my hamstrings seemed none the worse for the wear, so I think I should be okay running anything up to about a 5:00 pace during the race on downhills. Anything faster than that would probably stress my legs too much, but even a 5:00 pace will allow me to bank some time.

When I was initially thinking about running a race in India, I was concerned about the quality of water provided to the runners, but since I've gotten here I've been fine drinking water provided by restaurants, etc. Everyone knows that you can't drink tap water, so what's provided at the race should be fine. Therefore I'm not going to use the hydration pack I brought for the race; I'll use the regular aid stations like everyone else. That should save me some weight and allow me to go a little faster.

Wish me luck!

No comments:

Post a Comment