"You have to have confidence in your ability, and then be tough enough to follow through." ~Rosalynn CarterSaturday was my last 20 miler before the Santa Rosa Marathon. Jason, my coach, asked me to run the last 8 miles at marathon pace (around a 9:00 mile). Seeing as how I love long runs, I was really looking forward to it. And it turned out pretty well:
20.46 miles 9:47 pace with the last 8 miles @9:05 pace
I left at 4 am and ran along my usual route which is one of the main roads here (also a major bike route). I like to go early because there are less cars and I don't have to stop for so many lights since they are usually green. There are actually quite a few people out at that time. As it gets lighter, I get to share the road with cyclists and I usually see the LBS boys while I'm running (sometimes more than once) who are always good for a little pick me up and encouragement! Plus, who doesn't like to see a group of guys ride by on kick-ass bikes? Oh wait, that' probably just me. ;) Oh come on, I'm single. I can look without guilt!
Anyway...since I live in the foothills, I don't have any trouble finding hills to run but this route isn't too bad. This is an elevation profile from one of my runs on this route.What I like about this run is that the last 8 miles are mostly downhill. And sometimes I even get a tailwind (not this run though).
This route sets me up quite nicely to hit my goal pace. I have to do some work before that, of course, and that steady hill right before the 8 miles gets my legs a bit tired but overall it's a fun run. After reading Matt Fitzgerald's Run-The Mind/Body Method of Running by Feel, I learned that 3 of the most important factors when training are enjoyment, confidence, and psychological momentum. Basically, it means to have fun on your runs and do workouts that will give you confidence and you will create psychological momentum that things are going well and will continue to do so. That confidence and psychological momentum will carry you forward to your race so you can be in a position to do your best. For example, if you love tempo runs and you feel like you accomplished your goals when you do them...do more of them. Same with long runs. Do what you love and you'll have fun and run better and get better. It's a win-win situation!
Still, I felt a little guilty that those last 8 miles had a downhill in them so I had to confess to Jason about how I "cheated" on my long runs! Luckily, he was good with it. :)
What's funny is that when I start out my long runs, I often think there's no way I can do 20 miles and hit my marathon pace at the end. And how am I ever going to do it during a whole marathon! But when I finish the run, I think "Yeah, I can do this." and that tells me that the workout was a good one and that it fits the 3 "rules" above of a good workout for my goal.
I've found that confidence is a huge factor in my not feeling anxious before a race. Sure, I'm a little nervous. If you aren't a little nervous, it means you aren't willing to stretch and risk failing. But it feels so good to get to the starting line and know you've done all you need to do to reach your goals. That, my friends, is worth it's weight in gold.
3 weeks and counting now...