Monday, September 22, 2008


Okay, Internet, we are now at less than ONE WEEK before the marathon, so it is time for me to kick up the obsessiveness into high gear. Current topic: race strategy.

My strategy when I ran the Des Moines marathon last year was fairly simple - my goal was (1) to finish and (2) to not die, and I thus achieved that goal by moving in a forward direction until I crossed the finish line and got my medal and space blanket. Mission accomplished!

But this time, I am looking to PR by a significant amount and to finish as strong as I possibly can. But I can think of several different approaches that will get me there.

One thing I have figured out is my hydration and fuel strategy. I will get water and/or Gatorade approximately every three miles and will take Gu or sport beans every six. I will walk through those water stops - my goal is not so ambitious that I can't afford these short breaks, and I know from my long runs that they work well for me.

But what about pace?

Option 1: Program my Garmin, Paula, to prompt me to run a pace that will get me to my goal of 4:30. Aim for even splits. The pros are that this strategy is very straightforward, and obviously will work if I just run as fast as I need to. The con is that what if 4:30 is not the fastest I could have run? What if I end up doing myself a disservice?

Option 2: Fly blind. Use Paula to track mileage, but ignore the pace. Possibly even tape over that part of the screen with blue painter's tape to avoid temptation. When I ran the trisko, I did most of it blind because Paula couldn't get a signal in the bad weather. I ran completely by feel, and I think that because of that, I ran faster than I would have. If I had known how fast I was going, I might have said, "Betsy, that is way too fast for these conditions. Take it easy." The con to this idea is that I might go out too fast and die in the end.

Option 3: Make a hybrid of these two plans, leaving the door open for negative splits. Program Paula to get me on 4:30 pace through the halfway point, then run by feeling, picking it up if I feel up to it.

Well, runners? What say you?


Nikki said...

I'm a big fan of negative splits...I say go for 3. but I've never run a marathon! Why not ask Vanilla? ;oD

Nat said...

God I am the last person who should be giving strategy advice. I'd say stick to pace -- Marathons are long races, you can kick it up at the end.

tfh said...

It is SO close. If I were you I would probably just sit staring at the countdown ticker.

I don't know about strategy but knowing that you have 6 whole days to fret over it I am sure you can come up with the pros and cons of each option.

newsjunkie said...

This isn't going to be your last marathon ever, right? I say go for the 4:30 and get your PR. You can always kick it up at the end if you're feeling good, and then you will have another goal for next year.

I'll be thinking about you on Sunday!

Marcy said...

I agree with newsjunkie. Keep on track for a 4:30 and if you feel good at the end then kick it up. You know this won't be the last marathon, I mean shiz you'll be PR-ing on marathons for years to come, right? ;-)

Ms. V. said...

I say PR, and Option 1.

Kent said...

I say do number one and program in your "gold" time (whatever the best result you could possibly do that day would be) and understand that meeting it is unlikely. If that day isn't possible then simply hit the down button to just display the current pace, and run what feels comfortable or good (if anything can) at the moment. For me, I like the motivation of the pace report and where I am at, but know far too well that bodies lie in the first 10 miles of a marathon and what feels good might be too good or too fast.

With this strategy, you've set the upper limit or if I run faster than this pace I will die or DNF, which ever is worse. And you always have the option of ignoring it if it proves too fast for the conditions at hand.

So really I am #3 with optimistic pace time or possibly positve splits rather negative splits.

Frayed Laces said...

I always run with my Garmin, but in two instances (yes, only two) I had it crap out in the middle of a run. One was during the run portion of a triathlon. I thought I was going INSANELY slow, but ended up beating my 10k run time!
Here's what I'm getting at: when I run without my Garmin, I go way faster, yet feel slower. This can be good for short distances, but I would be scared to do that for a marathon. I suggest #3, but keep in mind that at the halfway point you'll still be feeling pretty good. I suggest use it until the halfway point to make sure you don't go out too fast, then use it from mile 14-20 to make sure you stick on pace, then....if you're feeling good....ignore it and run on feel. You're going to rock this one, babe!

Anonymous said...

Of course, everything depends on the course and conditions, but I like option 3.

Also, I'm not sure if this helps, but for my last marathon I set my autolap to do a split at every 3 miles (instead of every mile). I created a pace band for every mile, but I bolded the three mile splits. Since I was running a hilly course, that helped smooth out the pacing and allow for up- and downhills (not to mention the occasional "bad patch").

The wider splits took a lot of the pressure off and let me run by feel a lot more of the time rather than trying to hit a certain pace for every single mile.

RooBabs said...

Option 3 looks like a good compromise to me (and my inexperienced-ness). Good luck!