I'm 1 week out!!!
I should've been tapering for 2 weeks already. Normally, experts suggest that your 3rd week's mileage be 2/3 of your peak mileage (in my case, 30 mi), that your 2nd week's mileage be 50% of your peak mileage, and that your final week's mileage be 30% of your peak mileage.
I did the 75% just fine, coming out with 21/30, and if I do my last planned run for this week, I'd finish off at 16/30, with 11/30 planned for the last week. However, I was feeling unusually tired during my last run, and my hip had been nagging for a couple of weeks, and I've been sore for the last couple of days, probably a result of Monday (2 weeks out)'s tough speed session. I'm wondering if I should do less than the suggested amount. Like maybe only 7/8 for today's run, and just a 3 and a 3 next week, instead of the 3/5/3. And I had initially be thinking about a strength session on Monday, but I had such a breakout session this past week, where I pushed it far. I'm probably still recovering a bit from that. If I skip the strength session, I'll probably be recovered right before the big race, which would be good.
Since stretching does form some micro-tears, any big stretching/foam rolling I plan on doing should be done sooner, rather than later, so that those heal up in time, too. Last night, I slept from 7pm->midnight, and couldn't fall asleep again because I had already slept a decent amount, so I listened to podcasts (which I guess is still resting, since I was in bed) and eventually decided to start packing for Houston. Then, at around 7am (up 7 hours already, and it was only 7am!), I did 35 min of deep foam rolling (by lifting one leg off, adding extra pressure on the other leg) and stretching. Then, I realized how I hadn't specifically studied much on what to do during taper week. I've read those sections in all of my books, but back when I was reading those books for the first time, I hadn't decided to sign up for my marathon, since I was still trying to just build back up from 6 mo of time off. So I hadn't memorized all the details.
What I read didn't add too much. I looked at many different training plans, and they all had wild amounts of mileage suggested in the last week. I gotta take it easy and just trust the feeling. The books also say that rest is key and that tapering effect outweighs any potential fitness gains in the last two weeks (I wonder if my last speed session was too late in my buildup), so I'll go with the rest. Maybe today's run will work out the soreness - recovery runs do that.
I did have a small scare a couple of weeks ago. The New Balance / Runner's World SmartCoach trainng plan app for the iTouch has pace suggestions based on my selection criteria, but I've been ignoring them and just following the mileage targets (quite well, up until the foot injury... caused by normal but excessive walking... about a month ago). It's a big deal for me to even follow a mileage plan, since in the past, hectic schedules and the tendency towards overtraining and injury made how I felt or what I could fit in very unpredictable. Now, I'm healthy and have a more regular schedule.
So the scare... I was looking back at the app settings and realized that there was no input for "goal race time". I thought I had been doing great meeting the LR suggestions of pace and mileage and thought that as a result, the BQ was in the bag. I got an "oh, no" feeling when I saw that the only time-based input was my "recent race time" of 1:45 for the half. That was my old half time, which had been superceded by a 1:35 with an unexpected performance once training was underway and I had already gone a few weeks into the plan. I stuck the 1:35 in there to see the paces that the app generated, and they were a good bit faster.
Later, though, I realized that since there were training run paces, there was also a dictated race pace, if you scrolled way over to the race day pacing instructions, and even at 1:45, it predicted a 3:36 finish. So I should be okay. And when you think about it, assuming 1:35 fitness, I could potentially do a marathon in 3:22. But I'm pretty sure I'm fitter now then I was back then (1 mo into training), since I've done 3 20-milers since then, plus a handful of slightly shorter runs.
Going for which Goal?
I've been going back and forth about whether to be conservative and take the BQ and run with the 3:40 group, or if I want to race to my potential, which is quite a bit faster. With any marathon, there are so many uncontrollable factors, and with a first, you have even less of an idea of how your body will deal with it on that day. Especially because the greatest unknowns come in the last 6.2 of the race, you can't really tell until the race is already pretty much over. If you go conservatively for 20 mi, there's only so much you can gain back in the last 6, if you consider that you'd only have the X:XX/mi pace increas over 6 mi. So even if you increased your speed by a wholel mile per min, you could only capture 6 min.
This is how I picture it...
- I can take a 100% chance of a BQ if I go conservatively, or
- I can take a 70% chance of a BQ + a great performance, with a 30% chance of no BQ.
Hmmm.... okay, I should go with option 1. I can PR when I'm in Boston. I can PR when I'm in Boston. I can PR when I'm in Boston. (and re-qualify)!!
I would regret not getting the BQ... very much. But I wouldn't regret getting a 3:3X. Okay.
Pacing Group Consisderations
Okay, so I've decided to go for the BQ.
I had planned on going with a pacing group, for the motivation and the ability to zone out and let someone else monitor the pace, plus the experience.
However, there are some big questions...
What is the leader's strategy? Go faster in the first 20 anticipating the slowdown in the last 6?
Even all the way? Neg splits for a faster, more pain-free performance (but even less of a chance of me being able to make up any time at the end)?
What if sometimes, I'm feeling stronger... should I go on, taking advantage of it and not purposefully slowing? Or do I stay, even if it messes with my stride a little or stresses me out a bit? Other times, they could conceivably be going faster than I feel like going at that point - push it, or go my own way and hope to rein them in later?
Ooh, just saw that they've posted the pacing group leaders for the 2011 race!
So, these are the groups...
Finish Time (hours) Pace Per Mile (min.)
Eh.. I was hoping for a 3:35 group. Because that's close to the 3:36 conservative expectation if I use the 1:45 HM performance. And that would give me a bit of a cushion, since 3:40 exactly would be cutting it close, if the pacer made any mistakes. Hmm...
Well, let's see who's leading 3:40 and who's leading 3:30. Maybe I can tell how experienced they are.
Okay, so this guy... he's done 27 Houstons! That scores him big points. He's older, but only someone older could've done 27 Houstons. Has Houston even been around that long? Wow!
The other 3:30 group is led by a younger guy with no Houstons. I'd go with the experinced guy, if I did want to go crazy and go 3:30.
This guy's got 20 Houstons under his belt. Nice.
I guess I'll be going 3:40 with Carlos and his 20 Houstons.
Why is experience valuable? He'll probably know the best strategy for getting his team over the line. He knows the course. He knows how to handle the water stops. He'll have good stories to tell of past Houstons. CARLOS, CARLOS, CARLOS! With his 3:04, he's probably run Boston (all of them have, probably).
Maybe I can ask him about his strategy at the expo. For me, pos split > even > neg split, if "even" is considered a 3:40 pace. I mean in terms of the pace group. Because I plan to do a neg split anyways, so if there's a pos split at the beginning, and I execute my neg split since I anticipate finishing faster than 3:40, it should result in the ideal even split.
"I'll PR in Boston." - gotta keep telling myself that. So tempting to go for it. But I'll PR in Boston.
And if you're wondering about the distribution of finish times, here it is for 2010, from Marathonguide.com.
// 2PM UPDATE...
Aww, man!!! I just saw that with a 3:39 in last year's race, I would've gotten 7th in my age group. With a 3:22, I could get 4rd. 3rd is out of reach, at 3:05!!! The current fourth is 3:35... a huge gap btwn 3rd and 4th. Ok... so maybe I can have a conservative first half but still get fourth... or I could run with the 3:30 group. Oh man.
BQ > placing. I placed at Spinx. BQ is the big deal. Maybe I'll wear my Boston jacket instead of the orange Vizipro jacket, to remind myself of the end-goal.
// 2:11PM UPDATE...
BLAH BLAH BLAH okay. Maybe I'll hang with the 3:40 until the half. Then, if I feel good, I have 13 mi to gain 13 min... ooh.. that means 13 mi at my HM PR pace - 7:22. Ok. So maybe slow it down a bit... a lot... if I gained 10 min, that's a 3:30. Eh? Let's see what that pace would be... 8:23 for 13.1 mi, makes a 1:50 time at the half. Then, I turn it on for a 1:40 half in the second half... means 7:38. Possible. Man, a 3:2X time would be sweet. 8:23 then 7:38.