A little more than four months after deciding that I’d be shooting for a sub-4 hour marathon in Myrtle Beach this winter, race day is almost here. I was apprehensive about setting this time goal at that point, since I was just coming out of recovery from Ironman Louisville and chugging along at paces just under 10 minutes per mile for most of my runs. But, because I am some combination of ambitious, stupid, and overconfident, I figured four months was enough time to attempt to build up the fitness, endurance, and speed necessary to do it. And if I got close to race day and my training hadn’t been sufficient to support a sub-4 hour effort, I’d just revise my goal to 4:10 or 4:15. Those times would be solid improvements over my current PR of 4:34.
But that sub-4 hour goal, as daunting as it sounded in early October, stuck around through this entire training cycle. I thought maybe I’d have to revise it if I couldn’t put up a good time at the Richmond Half Marathon – but then I went and ran a 1:53:32, which the all-knowing McMillan running calculator purports to equate to a 3:58:56 marathon. I thought maybe I’d get injured and miss some long runs – but I logged two 20+ mile runs, and all the long runs in between. I thought my long run paces would be too slow to give me the confidence to go after a 3:59:59 – but then, in solidly low aerobic heart rate zones, I was regularly closing out my long runs with miles at 8:40 pace, and sometimes faster.
And after all that training, the diligent weekday tempo runs and speed workouts, the strength training to stay injury-free, and the generally well-executed long runs, I did more than just hold onto that sub-4 hour goal. In early January, I even started toying with the idea of something a bit faster. Was a 3:55 possible? Maybe a 3:50? I furiously reviewed data from every workout, looking for insights, annoyed everybody around me with in-depth discussions of what paces would be necessary for different time goals, and kept pushing just a little harder in all the key workouts as my potential goal time dropped more and more.
Then, I did the smart thing, and worked on a race plan with my coach.
Boring. I know.
After a lot of indecisiveness about my final A-goal time, my coach realized that she could probably sit with me for a few days before we agreed on one, and offered to set up a range of goal paces so that I can aim for something ambitious but attainable for the first 22 miles, and then burn whatever is left of my legs for the last 4.2 miles to reach as fast a time as possible.
With that, here are the race goals.
A goal: 3:50-3:55. This requires me to run just under at 9 minute/mile pace at the upper end, and near an 8:46/mile pace at the lower end. I think I can average a pace towards the lower end, but wasn’t sure about cutting my average pace by almost 1:50/mile compared to my first marathon to actually BREAK 3:50. However, a sub-9 average feels quite attainable, particularly given my recent long runs, so I’m optimistic about finishing somewhere in this range, and of course, hope to be near the lower end, but won’t sacrifice a well-paced race to shoot for it.
B goal: Under 4 hours. I mean, this was the original dream goal, and was what I trained for. I can’t whine about chopping almost 35 minutes off my marathon PR in 15 months.
C goal: 4:22. Should things go wrong, I hope I can at least hold a 10 minute/mile average. My watch hasn’t clicked off anything above a 10 minute mile all year, so this should be an easy target to meet.
And that’s pretty much it. Race day is just the celebration of all the training gains, so there’s not much more to do than be annoyed by how little I get to run during taper, whine about how slow my race pace feels right now (seriously, 8:49 felt like an insufferably slow jog yesterday), and stay hydrated and centered as the start of the race draws closer and closer.
Time to run and make it happen. Let’s do it.