One week from Sunday is race day.
My number one goal is always to have fun and finish and this race is no different.
I will admit out loud this time that I really want, almost need, to score a PR here. That means beating 5:37:51 - the time of my first marathon (Philly 2008). I really believe I can do that. In fact, barring any unforseen (knock on wood) major physical breakdown, I should beat it significantly but I will stop short of defining significantly right now. This race will be 'won' or 'lost' in my mind and on my fueling/hydrating. I've trained well, including the hills. My body feels ready and I know I can do the distance; I've done it before. My two 20 mile runs were good. Although my running since the last 20 miler has been sporadic, the ones I've done have been well-done.
I'm going to steal an idea from my friend Pete's 100 mile run to get my fueling right. I'm going to write down what I want to do and tape it to the bottom of my shirt. This will look funny no doubt but I have never been (nor do I aspire to be) a fashion statement and especially not while running. I want to take gels every 3 miles and an endurolyte every 5. Instead of trying to remember that and remember when I last took my stuff, I'm going to write it out; Mile 3 Gel, Mile 5 Pill etc and tape/pin it to my shirt. I have to remember to tape it upside down so I can read it. Standing on my head during a marathon is not a trick I've mastered yet. As for water, I will wear my hydration belt and take sips every walk break and at the water stops. Since I generally don't drink the entire cup I'll use the extra to keep my bottles filled.
Staying strong mentally
The mental toughness is going to be necessary for all the hills. I have no idea what they actually look like. I have studied (and studied and studied and studied....) the elevation chart from on mapmyrun.com and read the comments from folks on the Gettysburg Marathon Facebook page. Everyone's definition of rolling hills is different. But from all that I imagine nothing more difficult than I have to do when I run around Media or at Valley Forge but that it's hill after hill after hill. I will not let that get inside my head. Here is my strategy:
3 min run/ 1 min walk intervals for the first 20 miles. I may run the first mile depending on how crowded it is. It's difficult to do intervals when elbow to elbow. I don't want to annoy other runners. After a mile it should thin out. I will channel last night's run for that first mile though and go easy and relaxed. Easier said than done sometimes but I will do it. After the first mile I intend to stick to my 3 and 1's without fail for the first 20 miles regardless of where I am on any hill. I'm going to focus on posture during the run portions. I find I run better that way. The less hunched over I get the less tense I get in my shoulders and back. But I have to focus on it. I also find I can hold my pace better that way too. I will concentrate on keeping the pace up while walking with a few duck walk steps to keep my back and hips loose. More proof that I don't care what I look like when I run.
At mile 18.5 the course is almost all downhill through the end. Being an out and back course I will have climbed up this same 7.5 miles at the front end of the race so I'll know what to expect assuming I can remember that long. I will continue with my 3 and 1's until the 20 mile mark or the first water stop between 18 and 20. Then, if my legs are feeling good I would like to lengthen the run portions. I'd like to start running to water stops at that point. Water stops are allegedly every 2 miles. I'll channel last night's run again and try for relaxed and easy. The hard part here will be what to do if my legs do not feel good. I will have to remain strong and not give up. I can stick to 3 and 1's for the rest of the miles if I have to. I don't want to give up and walk the whole way. Another minor issue will be resisting the urge to run through my walk breaks on the downhill portions before 18. I have to remember the purpose of the intervals is to save my legs for the later miles.
So there it is. One more week and I can test it out. I. Can't. Wait. :)