Thursday, October 7, 2010

Marathon Decision-Making and Running Underwater

Detroit's "Underwater Mile" is International
After the Columbus Marathon registration disaster, I thought long and hard on two questions:
  1. Which marathon should I run on October 17, Detroit or Toronto?
  2. Was the Columbus Marathon rejection a message from God that I should not run a marathon this fall?
The answers to these questions were more questions:
  1. Which marathon is better, Detroit or Toronto?
  2. Why would God have any power over my OCD running behavior?
I had to come up with answers:
  1. Detroit was better for four reasons: it's closer than Toronto, one of my good friends is running her first marathon there, a well-respected running friend (Tim Budic) convinced me it was just as good as Columbus without the stress, and the kicker: it's got an "underwater mile" (surely, that's reason in and of itself to do it).
  2. I am the Disaster Magnet and I'm running a marathon whether God wants me to or not.
Now comes the biggest question: with a marathon less than two weeks away and my goal race, the Ironman 70.3 World Championship in Clearwater, less than six weeks away, how should I taper? Will the taper screw up my half-ironman plans? I gave it some long hard thought.

I looked in my past for evidence of good race performances without much recovery between races. In 2008, I raced two half-ironman triathlons separated by eight days. The second one was not only harder, but I did it faster. And, not just faster, but five minutes faster on the run. In 2000, I ran two marathons five weeks apart. The second one was faster. Only a minute faster, but they were the third (2:50) and second (2:49) fastest marathons of my life.

Knowing that I only have to run 13.1 miles in the half-ironman, I've convinced myself that doing a hard marathon four weeks before will not sacrifice that, my most important race of the year. In fact, I hope that all the marathon training will do just the opposite and give me the boost I need to tear up the run course in Clearwater.

Because of my late decision to race, my taper won't be a full three-week affair that I usually afford my marathons. But then again, my running mileage is hardly where it was when I was just a marathoner. I guess it's an experiment, really. I've been running hard and long mileage but in only three or four sessions per week. Therefore, if I think about it, my "running" recovery is done in the water and on the bike, even though I put in up to ten hours weekly in those sports, including hard training.

Thus, my marathon taper will only be this week and next week and will mostly involve dropping my running mileage, but not intensity. I plan to continue to swim hard throughout the taper and probably drop my bike mileage around the middle of next week just to rest my legs. Three or four days of good rest will probably be all I can mentally handle anyway. I suspect I'll be bouncing off the walls by the end of next week.

Then I'll work on race strategy and pacing next week with all that extra time and energy. But I may still have to cut down on my daily Starbucks.

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