How do you know when you are ready to race? For some people it’s a certain go-to workout as a test of fitness. For others, it’s months of training and the cumulative confidence that comes from stringing together multiple solid workouts. Some people just feel in shape and figure they’re ready to go. For those of us lucky enough to have a great coach, their honest and objective advice is also invaluable in assessing race readiness.
My training cycle this spring for the Eugene Marathon has been a little different than marathon training cycles I have done in the past. Since I started running what I consider “fast” (sub-3 hour) marathons, I’ve never done more than one full marathon in a year. I raced Chicago in October 2012, Chicago October 2013, then CIM in December 2014. For each of these, I took 2-4 weeks off after the marathon, then increased my mileage, then did speed work and ran 10Ks and a few half marathons. Once I had my speed up I added volume and long runs to be in shape for the full. This is a type of build up that I am comfortable with because I understand how my body responds and the trajectory with which my fitness increases.
This spring was different though. I took two glorious, full weeks off after CIM. It took me another two weeks to get back up to 60 miles a week. I ran several half marathons and a 10K in January and February, and none were even close to my PR from last year. I was disappointed after every race and impatient to get back to my pre-CIM fitness. I found myself looking back at my Final Surge training log leading up to CIM, comparing workouts and feeling like I was running out of time. After the Phoenix Half at the end of February, I was 95% sure I wouldn’t be ready to race Eugene and I began looking at late summer marathons.
On a long run with my teammate Tanaya in March, we were discussing my racing plans. She shared that her experience with back-to-back marathon training cycles was that you feel out of shape and then suddenly the fitness comes out of nowhere. Since I’m more used to a slow build up, I was skeptical that her experience would also be true for me. However, over the next week it was like a switch flipped. 6:00 pace didn’t feel like a struggle any more. It felt smooth and controlled. I started to want to run faster than my prescribed workout pace rather than being intimidated by the splits and just trying to hang on.
So although this marathon cycle has been much different, I finally feel confident that I’m ready to have the race I want at the Eugene Marathon. An integral part of this is guidance from Coach John. I told him I would not race a marathon until I was in shape to go for a 2:42. I trust him 100% in assessing my fitness and readiness. Honestly, without his advice I still might not feel confident enough with my current fitness simply because I have only been feeling good for a month compared to the several months that I am used to pre-marathon. What I have learned? Listen to your body, know what has worked for you in the past, but also don’t doubt yourself if things don’t progress exactly how you envisioned that they would.
So here we are – four weeks to race day. I’m signed up, plane tickets booked, and I’m all in. Thanks for reading… see you in Eugene!!!