In my mind, after this morning's intervals the preparation for the Mercedes Half Marathon has ended. I have a 2-mile recovery run tomorrow (huh?) and a 30-minute tempo run on Thursday, but for all intents and purposes the taper is on. And the anxiety and nervousness begins. Over the next few days paranoia sets in, and I worry about getting sick or hurt. I imagine this is normal for most runners.
What may not be so normal is that, based on past experience, my pre-race jitters will end the day before. People like my friend, Duane, can't sleep the eve of, but I'm out like a light. While other runners will be fretting at the start line, I'm unusually calm. I'm a planner to a fault, so I have everything in line a couple of days before the race. I know exactly where my hotel is in relation to the start and how to get to each, I have a good idea of what I'm going to eat, and I'm all over the weather forecast and how I'll need to dress.
So, outside of the last-minute details, how do I feel about my readiness? I racked my brain and came up with these points to ponder. Attitude rankings on a 10-point scale preface each comment.
Mental Health (9/10) - I'm pretty confident that I will set a new PR at this race. I've never set foot on it before and it does have some hills, but I still think I can take off at least 5 minutes. My training these past 12 weeks have showed me I am capable, and I believe in myself. The only thing that even remotely concerns me is that I've never faced real adversity. I've never suffered a setback in the middle of a race, so I don't know how I would handle that. I hope I have the mental fortitude to push through pain, if it comes to that.
Physical Conditioning (9/10) - I was a little tired last week, but I'm feeling better now and have no injuries to report. I've adhered pretty closely to my training plan, only straying once or twice. To paraphrase something my training partner, Kym, said recently, on race day I won't be looking back wondering "what if" about anything. I've put in the time and miles, and I've even followed through on most of my strength training. I'm just about as ready physically as I can be.
Weight (10/10) - When I began training for the Chickamauga Half Marathon (outstanding race!) last fall I set a goal to lose 10 pounds. I exceeded that easily, dropping from 168 down to around 150. These days, with the bump up to the advanced training plan, I've often struggled to keep my weight up. I've learned to eat more - especially before long runs - and at this writing I'm around 151-152. I feel light and primed to go.
Nutrition (8/10) - My friend, Eric, asked me a couple of weeks ago before his first half marathon how far in advance he should start carbo loading. I laughed, because I'm always doing that! I eat lots of whole wheat bread, bagles, pasta and whole-grain rice, and chicken, milk and peanut butter are my protein sources of choice. I try to mix in as much fruits (bananas and apples) and veggies (salads with all the trimmings) as I can, so overall I feel pretty good about how I'm fueling. On the occasions I stray from my typical diet I have noticed dramatic changes in my energy levels, so the next few days I will be behaving. I know if I don't introduce anything strange to my diet that I will be charged and ready to go.
Form (6/10) - A little while back I read some tips on improving form and have tried to implement them. When I do things correctly I can feel my effort level drop and efficiency increase. When I don't focus and execute properly, however, I have experienced some unexpected pains. My lower back can get tight, I've had nags with my Achilles and even experienced some compartment syndrome. I'll do my best during the race, especially focusing on the last few miles where it will count the most.
This is running a little long, so I'm going to discuss my race tactics in a separate post. If you're reading this and have a race this coming weekend, how are you feeling? Let me know in the comments.