Long distance racing is tough - thats a given. The long hours of training, endless packets of Gu, Gatorade, Nuun, and lots and lots of blood, sweat and tears.
We enter taper ready to collapse because we've worked our asses off so hard. Long runs, tempo runs, fartlek runs, track workouts, ice baths, recovery drinks. Blood, sweat, and so many tears. We've put in our best training cycle ever, our highest mileages to date, and ready to rest for the big day.
As long distance athletes, we put in the months and months of work, and on race day, we can only control so much. It's a gamble we take every time we sign up for a race - you never know what the weather will bring on that day.
Enter the 10-day forecast. Every marathoner I know will click on weather.com 10 days before the big day, in hopes of seeing a high of 55, and overcast skies. For me, add some rain, and you have a perfect race day. Of course, the forecast ALWAYS changes, so we go on weather watch, our emotions roller-coasting with the degrees of Fahrenheit. I behaved myself for the most part this year - I checked last Wednesday, and then didn't start checking it obsessively until this week. My anxiety was creeping up as the highs marched right through the 70's. Oy.
Well documented, this has been my worst performance season to date. I hit consecutive weeks of high mileage, didn't recover enough, and shelled myself day in and day out. I tried to keep up with other athletes around me, instead of focusing and growing myself as an athlete. When I hit rock bottom back in late August/early September, I decided to make a change. I reached out to a friend and fabulous coach who talks mostly in Heart Rate zones. I knew I needed someone who would help bring me back by strictly watching my HR, RPE, and also while acknowledging my level of neuromuscular fatigue and cardiac drift I had going on due to over-training. The exercise physiology nerd in me had taken over. I've had a September full of healing, a month full of great workouts, and a fantastic first 70.3, leaving me full of hope that I could pull off a miracle in Chicago.
My race plan is all HR zone driven, not pace driven. Of course, I'd be lying if I said I haven't gone back to ALL of my Garmin files to figure out where my pace may lie in accordance to these HR zones. As the temperature forecast has risen, I've gone back to the race plan and tried to figure out how it'll effect my Chicago finish time.
I made some decisions last night - I will acknowledge the temperature with a polite nod (or a polite middle finger - either way). I will also prepare the best way that I know how. I will be thankful it's not 100 degrees, which would be a much worse suckfest scenario. I will work through each mile of that race staying focused on doing the very best that I can.
Bottom line? Bring it Chicago. I am going to run the smartest race that I can, controlling what I can control. I'm going to give no less than 110% of what I have, and cross that finish line knowing that I have left every ounce of blood, sweat and tears from 2011 on the streets of Chicago.
Good luck to everyone racing this weekend!