I figured its about time to go public with the plan. Not that I have ever been one to stick to a plan when actually in the race itself. But here we go.
When I first started training for this marathon in December, my plan was to NOT do what I did last year. For those of you too lazy to read through that race report, let me recap what not to do.
Don't go into the race having not run for 5 weeks due to injury, run the first half of the race at the pace I should have run if I had been training for those 5 weeks, and end up walking a good portion of the last 6 miles because I ran the first half at a pace I never should have run at.
Did I finish in a respectable time? Sure, but my race experience sucked for those last miles. And, I know I should have run much more efficiently if I would have been able to control my race strategy. Which is why I am writing it out this time, because it will at least be a mental note that I thought it through this time.
I need to go out at an easy pace this year - something in the 8:45/mile range. This has been my low Zone 2 pace, so I'm going to try and stick to it. The first 4 miles are pretty flat, save for the slight flat/uphill of the start and the big downhill at the US Capitol Building.
In an ideal world, this is where I would start picking up the pace. However, these miles happen to be the biggest hills on the course - oh joy! So I plan on picking up slightly the level of effort, however my pace will likely remain at or around the same pace. Because last year I planned for the unexpected and brought extra ClifShots, I am going to do the same, since it appears that first gel station isn't until Mile 7. I'd like to keep at least 1 spare ClifShot with me at all times for emergencies. In training, I had been taking a gel every 45 minutes. That means I'll likely be taking my first around mile 5. I've also been taking Endurolytes for a year or so in triathlons, so I figured it would only make sense to take them for longer distance running, given the success they have provided in reducing crampage. I've taken them on my longest runs and they worked very well. I'll be taking 2 of those every hour, which should be around Mile 7 this go around. This is also where I plan to grab a gel at the first gel station to replenish my reserve.
This is the steady downhill section of the course, starting at North Capitol St and eventually flattening out and heading back around RFK. I'd like to be into my goal pace for the rest of the course by this section. Considering the first couple miles of it are downhill, it shouldn't be an issue hitting a pace of 8:30 or under. Gel #2 should be taken around Mile 11. I'd like to come through the half at or around 1:54, averaging around 8:40/mile for the first half. At the half is another gel station to pick up and replenish my stash.
Shortly after passing through the half, I'll be taking my next set of Endurolytes. I remember mentally struggling through this section, because coming around RFK was where I started to begin unraveling last year. I'm hoping to start feeling strong at this point and ready to continue the pace, although the mile or so around the stadium is a bit uphill leading back to Independence Ave. Once past the US Capitol again and down the hill, the pace should be steady. Running through the tunnel of death from last year (9th St tunnel) and into SW DC I should continue to push my 8:30ish pace. Gel #3 will come around Mile 17 and Endurolytes around Mile 20.
No strategy here. Just hopefully run through to the finish and pick up the pace if possible. I also hope that those slight hills in the last 3 miles before the final bridge crossing back to RFK don't break me like they did last year.
Time wise, I have several levels of goals:
A) Finish the race without walking the majority of the last 6 miles
B) Break my PR from last year of 3:57
C) Break 3:50
D) Break 3:45
If I can keep to my plan like I did in my longer training runs, I should have no issue meeting Goals A-C. I think Goal D will come down to those last 6 miles and seeing how my body responds.
So there you have it. More details than you probably care to know about my race strategy. I'm hoping that by writing this down, it will be set into my head. After my injury in January, I didn't really expect to be thinking about PRs, let alone running the full marathon. I am happy to be where I am and just hope to have fun out there. And by fun I mean set a PR. We'll see how it goes ;)