If you’re a regular reader of The RunDown, you’ve learned a lot about our fantastic 2011 KeyBank Vermont City Marathon pace team already, thanks to the introductory post each pacer submitted. Now we’re excited to bring you more detailed posts from each leader.
We have a great team of leaders; we hope you enjoy getting to know them. In May we will post detailed information about where and when to meet your pace leader on Race Day (as well as an opportunity to run with them on Saturday, May 28.)
I ran the Burlington bike path this past Sunday afternoon and was thinking about how lucky I am. Not only do I get to engage in this wonderful sport, but I also get to do it right here in the Champlain Valley. I run along Lake Champlain more than 100 times per year, but the scenery never gets old. The beauty of the blue water with the green backdrop of the Adirondacks very often transforms a workout into a nature tour. Miles 13 and 14 and miles 22 through 26 of VCM offer some of New England’s best views (perhaps at a time when you’ll need it most!). I’ve often heard runners and coaches discussing how we should break the marathon into segments. Sometimes it’s a twenty-miler followed by a 10K. Sometimes it’s more, smaller segments. Either way, I offer you this: stick with Sarah and me to mile 22 and the rest will be your reward. The last stretch of VCM is where those views offer a welcomed distraction. A nice, smooth bike path with a gradual descent will allow you to regroup and focus on the goal which is now very much coming into sight. There will be good crowd support here, but don’t forget to look past them to the right so that you can see my lake. She’ll be there as she always is to offer you encouragement or at least a zen moment. It’s okay to slow down here for a minute to take it all in. I all but guarantee that doing so will give you boost enough to make up for any time spent just appreciating the setting.
Now for the business of the day. Sarah and I plan to run approximately a 9:35 pace throughout the race. Given that certified race courses are measured using the most direct route and we will be dealing with crowds, veering for water stations, etc., this should get us in right around 4:15. This assumes, of course, a slightly slower pace on the few inclines that VCM throws at us. I do not generally stop at water stations; I drink on the run. You should do what you’re comfortable with and have practiced doing, though. If that means stopping at the stations, then do that. You can pick up the pace a bit and catch us. If you are properly trained for a 4:15 marathon, the 9:35 will undoubtedly feel slow for the first few miles. That’s normal and necessary. Our job is to help you to avoid going out too fast and crashing before the finish line. While it’s important to listen to your body, resisting the urge to surge early will pay off in dividends later. Like most veteran marathoners, I’ve made the mistake of thinking that the faster pace at the beginning was okay because it felt so good. I’ve finished those races, but I’ve paid for the mistake in the later miles. Sarah and I will talk you through that struggle and we’ll all have a wonderful experience completing the 26.2 miles on pace and feeling good.
I look forward to seeing lots of runners meeting or exceeding their marathon goals. Doing so will mean that I will have achieved my goal. Enjoy the rest of your training and taper! See you at the expo.
Trust the Taper
In full disclosure, I write this blog in the midst of tapering for Boston, so it is as much a letter to myself as it is to all of you. Taper is one of the most maddening parts of marathoning. You can’t make a cycle with taper, but you can sure mess it up.
Dear (insert your name here):
I know you are anxious about the task at hand. I know you suddenly feel that despite months of training and a slew of long runs, that you will never be able to run 26 miles. In fact, I know you feel like even two miles is impossible. I know you’re convinced that you’ve lost all of your fitness and your shorts won’t fit. But you’re wrong. It’s time to trust the taper. Tapering is your friend. It allows your hard-working muscles to heal. It allows your mind time to think about the course, make sure you pack everything you’ll need for race day and reflect on an amazing journey.
Instead of focusing on the bad (like the run you skipped 6 weeks ago because of a deadline at work), the ugly (trying Strawberry Kiwi PowerGel in the middle of a long run) and the terrible (16 miles on a treadmill), focus on the good. You made it. You’re (mostly) uninjured. You’ve slogged through rain, wind, snow and heat. You’ve given up sleeping in on Sundays, happy hour after work and likely yearned for a nap at least a few times. You’ve endured “a marathon is HOW long?” and “why would you want to do that?”
So what’s an anxious marathoner to do?
-Review your training log to see just how much work you’ve put in.
-Write a thank you note to your support system.
-Apologize to your significant other and tell them that sneezing really wasn’t as big of a deal as your reaction would suggest.
-Eat good food.
-Look over the course. What parts are going to be harder for you? Where can you build confidence?
-Make a packing list. Check it twice.
-Get excited. The marathon is a huge commitment and whether it’s your first or fiftieth, is an accomplishment of which you should be extremely proud.
The taper is a miracle of sorts. It’s hard to be patient through, but worth it for that moment where you think to yourself, “wow, my legs really do feel fresh.” Do yourself a favor. Trust the taper.