Hamilton Pre-Race Report

I don’t usually write pre-race reports, but this race is the biggest and longest one I’ve done all year, definitely the most painful, and the only one I might not even finish – all of which makes me much more nervous than usual (in the best way possible).  I felt it would be worthwhile to write down some of my goals and strategies so I can review what I followed, what worked and what didn’t after the race.  You know, once I’m done eating my dark chocolate-covered almonds and cranberries that will be waiting for me at the finish line, courtesy of my race-support Dad! :)

First of all, the goals:

My top priority is to finish the race, obviously.  Feeling strong or smiling when I cross the finish line would be nice, but the basic goal is pretty simple: no matter what, finish the race.  Since it’s my first marathon, that’s a PB right there.

My secondary goal is to run under 4 hours, which should be doable and is a nice round number (as well as being completely arbitrary), but it’s more of a consolation goal because my really super-amazing awesome goal is to run 3:30 and qualify for the Boston Marathon!  I know it’s a really big stretch, but I also know it’s possible if everything comes together and I run a strong race.

Since I’m counting on a lot to work out, I’ve come up with strategies for just about everything.  I haven’t made them into an excel spreadsheet yet, but just wait; there’s still time. :)

Pacing is probably the simplest, especially since my goal time of 3:30 works out to just under 5:00 pace. I’m staying a little conservative since it’s my first marathon, and plan to run about 1:47 for the first half and 1:43 for the second half if I can, both of which are under my current half marathon PB of 1:52. Woohoo, double PB!

Nutrition is also relatively straightforward since I’ve practiced plenty in training.
Pre-race: Lots of healthy carbs today and tomorrow, spaghetti the night before, and a scrambled egg sandwich on a bagel with coffee before the race.
During the race: One GU gel every 5km, which works out to about 50g of carbs per hour and also breaks up the distance into nice manageable chunks, with sugar at the end of each. :)  I’m wearing my fuel belt with two small bottles, which will mean I don’t need to worry about missing aid stations and I can take my gels every 5k rather than every 6k at the aid stations.

The toughest part is my psychological strategy.

Beyond the usual difficulties with the distance, my piriformis refuses to behave itself and has been painful enough to stop my last few runs.  I’m going to tape up my piriformis with my gorgeous purple KT tape, and hope that the extra support will delay the onset of pain and/or potentially reduce its severity once it shows up, and I’m preparing myself to manage a lot of pain.  I do have my doctor’s approval to run through the injury, so I’m working on mantras and dissociative strategies to help me manage for as long as I need to.  I’ve written “Embrace the pain” on my left arm, and even though I’m wearing long sleeves, I’ll know it’s there.

But as far as running the actual distance is concerned…well, I haven’t.  I don’t know exactly what to expect, and even for distances I’ve done in training, I have a difficult time coming up with mantras ahead of time since they’re typically different for every race.  Some of the mantras that have gotten me through other races are:

“Just keep going”
“Strong and smooth”
“Make it count”
“Own the pain”
“I am stronger”
“Make them suffer”

I’m not sure which of those will find their way into my head on race day, but tonight I stumbled across a slightly longer quote that really clicked with me:

“Energy and persistence conquer all things” – Benjamin Franklin

I think I know what I’m going to write on my other arm. :)


Walking the Tightrope

Today I am exactly three weeks away from my marathon. It’s that sensitive time where mileage is peaking, and I’m trying to avoid burnout and injury in the last few weeks before my race; it’s also where a lot of people throw their races. My massage therapist called this time “walking the tightrope.”

My tightrope walking started on Tuesday: I added a little tempo to my 12km distance run. Okay, actually I added 8km at faster-than-marathon pace, but I warmed up for 2km first and my heart rate stayed below 170 for the whole tempo portion, so I was still pretty well behaved! The only hitch was when something in my right hip/glute area seized painfully around 9km and caused a little discomfort for the rest of the run…but I was able to finish my tempo, walk it off and it didn’t hurt after.

Unfortunately, I had to cut today’s long run short when my right hip started getting a weird achy feeling after about 40 minutes of running. Stopping my run at 8km was such a difficult decision, knowing that I could have pushed through, managed the pain and finished my run…and instead I walked 2.5km after calling my dad to come pick me up. Frustrated and disappointed.


The thing is, it’s so important to keep the big picture in mind all the way through training. I’m guilty of putting my head down and doing the mileage and paces I see on my training schedule, without adjusting early for how I feel and the conditions where I’m running, and usually it means I don’t see issues until it’s to late and I have to make a major correction. I think this is why most people hire coaches: they see the big picture and can gauge when things are going off track, at the point where a minor adjustment is sufficient.

So today my big picture side showed up and told me that it’s not worth pushing through pain. That the marathon won’t care if I ran 10km instead of 25 today; I’ve put in the training and now I have to walk the tightrope.

Rest, stretch, roll. Don’t fall.