The Race Strategy

14 Jun

As I’m almost staring down a week until the marathon, I’ve started getting my race strategy together. Using the published course map and the satellite view in runningahead.com, I mapped the marathon course. It helps me in races to recognize the portion of the course I’m on so that I have an idea of where I am and where I’m going. For this race, it will also help me prepare for the hills – and get ready to cruise the downhills!

{I posted the maps in map view instead of satellite so that they’d be easier to read.}

Miles 1-5

Miles 1-5 are an out and back along the highway following a paved trail or road. The elevation gain is steady – 150 feet in 5 miles. Since I’m used to this kind of elevation gain from my daily runs, I’m not worried about the hills. I will, however, be keeping a close eye on my watch to make sure I don’t go out too fast. Coming from elevation to sea level, it could be hard to accurately gauge how fast I’m running when I start. My goal is to run these miles at a very conservative, relaxed pace, probably somewhere around 11:45/mile. If I see my pace go faster than 11:30, I will slow myself down.

Miles 6-10

Miles 6-10 are a nice little downhill! But they also include 4 miles out of 7 that we run on a gravel road called the Oilwell Tank Trail. So these miles will be spent focusing on not twisting my ankle and watching out for wildlife like moose and bears! I read that the race organizers and wildlife rangers sweep the trail in the morning to make sure there aren’t any hanging around but that doesn’t mean they could mosey on over there before I get to that spot.

Other information I read: If you encounter a moose, you’re supposed to give them a good 10 yards of space and an open escape route to get around them. If in doubt, don’t approach. Moose can be moody and ornery. Bears are much more timid and if they hear humans, they’ll probably run away. If you happen to surprise one, put your arms up to appear larger and back away slowly keeping the bear in your sight. (I’m kind of hoping I don’t encounter either of these guys on the course.)

Miles 11-14

Miles 11-14 are still on the Oilwell Tank Trail and are the last section of extended uphill! I will allow myself to walk if needed here and just focus on getting to mile 15 without killing my legs.

Miles 15-20

Miles 15-20 are a net downhill of 300 feet! This is where I’ll pick up steam if I’m feeling good. But I won’t let myself run faster than 11 minute miles because I’ll still have that last 10K to run! The few short pesky hills in this stretch should help keep my pace moderate. Mile 15 is also the last of the Oilwell Tank Trail – I’m sure it will be a relief to get back on to pavement. Around Mile 18, we start running through the actual city of Anchorage. Hopefully this also means more spectator support!

Miles 21-25

Miles 21-25 are mostly downhill, but still involve a few pesky (and downright ornery) hills. If I’m still feeling good, I’ll run at whatever pace feels comfortably fast. But if I need to walk, I’ll walk. It’ll be the longest run of my life at this point!

Miles 26 and 0.2

Mile 26 gets right down by the water (only 3 ft elevation!). But to get to the finish line, we have to climb back up to 79 feet! That’s just cruel. But exciting because it mean we’re almost there. We finish on the high school’s track. (The route I mapped is long by 0.2 mile.)

…………………

I found a really cool running calculator today while surfing Runner’s World boards about increases in running performance going from altitude to sea level. Using the pace from my 20 mile run (which would mean a 5:07 marathon), it calculates that at sea level, I could run the marathon in 4:48, an average pace of 10:58 (an increase of about 30 seconds per mile). I would be beyond thrilled with that time. But again, I want to enjoy this race more than I want a certain time so even though I’ve been tempted to print off a pace band for a 5-hour finish, I won’t. I don’t need the clock staring me down – I’ll have plenty of hills doing that!

Even though my legs aren’t feeling fully recovered from my 20-miler, my brain is feeling excited! I’m still nervous, and reading about the Oilwell Tank Trail hasn’t done me any favors – in the participant guide, it’s described: “Narrow, brushy, and full of rocks that threaten even the most stable of ankles, the Tank Trail tests both physical and mental mettle, as lesser-prepared participants begin to wonder, even this early in the race, if perhaps this wasn’t such a great idea.” Sweet. Thanks for telling me that. (Double gulp.)

But I’ve very glad to be feeling excitement! I’m looking forward to getting out there and proving to myself that I can do this. It still seems incredible to me that I am ready to run a marathon. That’s crazy talk! And in just 9 days, I’ll be at the start line.

5 Responses to “The Race Strategy”

  1. Running in Mommyland June 14, 2012 at 6:13 pm #

    You’ve worked so hard and you’ve trained well. 9 days until that amazing accomplishment of finishing! I’m excited for you!

  2. Mel June 15, 2012 at 7:09 am #

    This post has me pumped, so I can’t imagine how excited you must be!

  3. Lisa June 15, 2012 at 8:10 am #

    I am SO excited for you!! I know you will have an amazing experience. The course sounds scary to me, but you have the benefit of living & training in Colorado elevation to be confident in.

    You’re also well-trained and well-organized. No worries now; just enjoy the anticipation!

  4. specialkkluthe June 15, 2012 at 8:18 am #

    @Mel – I am pumped! Thanks for being excited for me. 😉

    @Lisa – the course sounds a little scary to me too! I’m just hoping that my hill training has prepared me.

  5. Heidi Nicole June 15, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    …and now I know why you were doing hill workouts! But seriously, the drop in elevation and abundance of oxygen should help. You will do awesome and you’re legs will catch up with your brain! Having an excited brain is super important as its such a mental battle!

    Good luck! 🙂

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