My bags are packed and I’m ready to go. The miles are in, the hard work is done, and the ultimate test is just 72 hours away. I’m really excited, but I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you I was nervous, too. Like, really nervous.
Five months ago when I was getting ready for the Philadelphia Marathon, I was also nervous. But it was manageable. I knew that no matter what, no matter the conditions, I was going to run a PR that day. It was just a matter of how big of a PR it would be.
This time around, I’m not so sure. I put in a lot of really good training, and ran a lot of really good workouts … but I don’t feel like I’ve gotten that much faster than I was in the fall.
Perhaps the problem is one of scale. Perhaps after you improve your marathon time by 15 minutes, or 7.5 percent, suddenly the 6.5 minute, or 3.5 percent, improvement that I’m looking for this time around feels like nothing.
Perhaps I’m nearing my physical limit. I mean, the time I’m hoping to run on Monday is a solid 20 minutes faster than the fastest marathon I ever thought would be possible for me when I started getting serious about running again a few years ago.
Or perhaps I’m being blinded by my self-doubt, only self-selecting the negative data points for comparison. Or perhaps it’s some combination of the three.
To back it up a little bit, let’s take a look at the key workout that really started feeding my self-doubt last week, my final workout of the training cycle.
It was simple: 3 x 10 minutes at Lactate Threshold pace with a 2 minute 30 second recovery jog between sets. I ran this workout on Friday, 10 days before the race – the same exact workout that I ran last November, 10 days before the Philly marathon.
Here’s the side-by-side comparison:
So the one good thing to say about this year’s workout is that I was consistent. Each set of 10 minutes I ran 1.56 miles. That’s an average pace of 6:24.6 minutes per mile.
Last November, I was pretty close to that, running 1.55 miles in the first two sets, a 6:27.1 min/mile pace, and 1.57 miles in the final set, a 6:22.2 min/mile pace. That’s an overall average of 6:25.4 min/mile for that workout.
But that means this time around, five months later, I only ran 0.8 seconds per mile faster. Talk about a sad panda.
That final workout really got me feeling down. Can I really run a faster marathon when that final workout improved by so little? And can I really run a faster marathon when the forecast for Monday is looking uncomfortably warm? While Sunday and Tuesday are forecast to be in the low to mid-50s, Monday is showing 70+ degrees right now. Yikes.
To be fair, I did have some really good workouts. I ran 18 miles with 14 of them at goal marathon pace — averaging 6:49.3 min/mi for that portion. I ran a half marathon in roughly 1:26:07 (the course was long), a 2+ minute PR over my half marathon leading up to Philly.
Still, the doubt is pervasive. Maybe I’ve got a case of the taper blues. Maybe I’m not prepared for this race, or maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself.
Whatever it is, I’m happy that I’m healthy, and I’m happy that I’ll be toeing the line this year after having to skip last year due to my stress fracture. I’m going to do my best to have a great time out there on Monday…no matter the result.
How do you deal with pre-race self-doubt? How do you approach a marathon that is looking like it’s going to be uncomfortably warm?
4 thoughts on “Boston Training: Excitement Meets Self-Doubt”
Good luck on Monday!!! I am a little worried about the weather as well, but it’s going to be a great day. You’ve had an incredible training cycle, you will do great. I think the thoughts regarding your last run have to do with taper blues– I am feeling them as well! Have fun out there!
I wish I had read this sooner, but I’m looking forward to your report. Not helpful now, but maybe in the future — don’t forget you were training harder this season, so more cumulative fatigue may hinder the workouts. In fact, my coach recently told me we were long past the point where I’d be able to PR in a workout. Pre-race self doubt? I re-read Once A Runner and Again to Carthage before every marathon. I’m super-lucky in that my coach frequently references the book, too. Uncomfortably warm? Not much you can do. Our plan was if the effort seemed too hard to early, to back off and run for place, since everyone would be in the same boat. Now, recover and rebuild for fall!
Not all training cycles are going to be the same, and a lot of racing just depends on how you feel that day! I’m very analytical like you and I have all the data and do the comparisons, but that is only one part of a much larger picture that makes your race what it is. I hope you enjoyed Boston!
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