October 26, 2010

SB Marathon Strategy and Pre-Hill Jitters

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure.” - Sven Goran Eriksson 

The countdown to my 2nd marathon continues. Eleven days. The course, while surely beautiful, also has a few intimidating hills that I am getting nervous about. In particular, the 1.5% climb for over a mile just after we hit the 23 mile marker.  The grid below the course map is taken from McMillan. I purchased the pacing strategy workbook and in specifying I wanted an "Even Effort" throughout the length of the course, my pace will fluctuate slightly depending on the terrain grade (faster for downhill sections and slower for uphill sections). 
2010 Santa Barbara International Marathon

What's coming at 23.3 miles is truthfully worrisome to me and has me questioning whether or not I have trained properly for this course.  And that's on top of the fact that my longest run was only 20 miles back on Oct 3rd. The planned 22 miler for that following weekend was squashed due to a nasty stomach flu and I barely made it 15 miles. I have yet to run more than 22 miles prior to a marathon, but I am probably in the best physical condition I've ever been in.

Here's the hill situation for the SB Marathon:

Calculating grade is not terribly difficult, even for those of us who are 'math challenged'. To quote from the Running Times Magazine link provided at the beginning of this paragraph, "It’s easiest to look at this in terms of elevation change. A 1 percent grade climbs 52.8 feet per mile. Thus, in round numbers, each 100 feet of climbing is equivalent to one mile of 2 percent grade — whether it comes in a single steep pitch or spread out over several miles."
I'm no stranger to steep climbs or rolling hills. Earlier this year, in March, I set a half marathon PR at the Pacific Half Marathon by 11 minutes, and that was relative to my best time on a flat course. To be fair, I was having IT band trouble previously, but I still PR'd on a tough course (2:20 vs 2:09).

The following elevation map is from a local 5.5 mile loop I run when I want to do hill work outside. I do have to be cautious about how often I run this course as the descent is a bit rough on my IT bands. In addition, for some variety, I add in tempo hill work and speed with my iFit Card (as designed and narrated by Jillian Michaels from the Biggest Loser - need I say more about the level of effort required to keep up with her demands?) for the treadmill.  Regardless, my average pace for this loop was 11:25 min/mile prior to the Pacific Half PR (end of March 2010 - which I ran at an average pace of 9:51 min/mile). Since then, I can now run this local loop (at a comfortable training pace/moderate effort) at just under a 10 min/mile. Definitely a lot of progress for a non-race pace.

The Pacific Half Marathon course elevation map (taken from my Garmin data) looks like this:

During the Pacific Half, we climbed roughly 300 feet over 2 miles between miles 2 and 4 (averaging a 2.8% grade), during which my pace dropped by 60-90 seconds per mile.  The relatively consistent climb at the end comes out to around 1%.  I ran my slowest pace during miles 9 and 10 which I remember feeling particularly difficult, likely due to the short steep hills (2-3%) that seemed to appear around every curve. Looking back, I was nervous about these hills too, but I was still able to push through and performed better than I thought I would be able to do under those conditions.

I remember vividly seeing mile marker 23 during my first full marathon. It was the first time I'd ever run that far. I remember having to run up what looked like a very small incline up a highway off-ramp that felt like I was ascending Mt Everest. What will a 1.25 mile climb at an average of a 1.6% incline feel like? The max incline in this particular section is 3.6% and from what I can tell, it's in the first quarter of a mile or so at the beginning of the ascent. At least I'll get that part out of the way early on. I will definitely be slowing my pace down here by almost 2 min/mile to reserve energy for the final 2 miles. My saving grace is the last 1.5 miles which is all downhill.

I think with careful attention to my pace right from the beginning, I'll be able to tackle that last hill and cruise my way downhill to the finish line. The truth is this is only Marathon #2. I'm no where near going for a BQ time, but the mental pressure to do better than the first is hard to ignore. Relaxation is going to be key for me...especially on race day.

I think my cats have the right idea. Maybe they can share their secrets with Mommy....


Johann said...

Don't worry too much about the hills. Just go relax and run. You'll have a good run.

Vera said...

Hi Johann! Thanks for encouragement. I'm going to relax as much as I can. :-)

Greg Strosaker said...

Vera, I like thinking of such a situation as basically shortening the marathon - once you pass that last hill, the race is essentially over, at least the tough part, and you can enjoy the downhill. Thinking that way may help you get through that last climb. This is a good way to analyze your preparation, and I'm sure you'll do fine.

Vera said...

I like that concept a lot, Greg. I'm definitely going to take your advice in terms of how I'm 'seeing' this race. Thank you! :-)