Friday, March 12, 2010

Race Plan – Part 1

Nine days. Count’em. That’s one day less than ten days. Drumming my fingers on my desk…..

Okay – so honestly – it’s time to start filling in the blanks for race day. There are two things that are missing right now – my race plan and my evening before and morning of plans. today I’ll make an attempt to tackle the first half of my race plan – the Start Line and my Pace Plan.

First things first. I’m old enough now to realize that once you get out of school, plagiarism is acceptable. Interestingly enough, have you tried to Google “Marathon Race Plan”? Nada. No wonder marathons are getting so popular. You can’t go anywhere and see all those things you really need to think about before tackling one.  There’s a lot out there on race strategies, training plans, and the like, but nothing that succinctly puts it together in one place. Even though my marathon experience is limited, now that I’ve done it a couple times I know there are a few things that I can do to (a) reduce my pre-race stress, and (b) maximize my intended performance. Here goes:

Start line plan: I am the type of person who really needs to start the day out right. If I stress myself here, the rest of the day will be hell. But, this is a delicate balance. If I arrive too early, then I spend my time thinking about what is about to happen. If I arrive too late, then I stress about not having enough time to properly prepare. Here is the plan for this marathon:

  1. Arrive in my corral 20 minutes pre-start. This means I need to be in the start area with my pace group at 7:05 AM. This also means that I should be in the porta potty line around 6:45 to make sure I am adequately “watered”.
  2. Find somewhere to sit. Stay off my feet. Find the pace group. then find a place to sit.
  3. Relax. Visualize. At least try to relax. Visualize the proper pace. DO NOT start thinking about the course, mile 3, mile 6, etc.
  4. Stand up 5 minutes prior to scheduled start. 7:19 AM.

Race pace: Lots is written. Execution is the key. The big question here of course is the proper pace and the proper pacing strategy. My first marathon doesn’t count because I had no idea what I was doing. My second marathon I tried to keep an even pace from start to finish. That lasted about 14 miles.

I’ve been talking to a lot of people in my running club about this point in particular. There are two schools of thought. One says stay slow for the first half, then pick up just a few seconds per mile. This camp says I should pick the 5:00 pace group and go with them to the half, and then pick it up from there. The second camp says run comfortably for the first half and then decide what to do from there.If my goal is 4:30, then run with the 4:30 group and see where things lead you after the first half. The one thing they both agree on is that if the first half is uncomfortable, then rest of the race will not be better.

The best pacing plan I’ve seen lately was one done by Lisa (Discovering the Meaning of Stonehenge (a runner's journey)) for her recent sub-4 PR at Surf City. The key quote:

“Yes, there is the chance that I could have gone out at 8:50 and continued to be strong throughout and gone on to hit my BQ time of 3:50.  But I didn't want to chance it.  I have no regrets on how I ran this race.”

Wow. There it is. My entire professional life I’ve been trained in the discipline of the plan. Make a plan and stick with it. Don’t make a plan and deviate, unless you have planned the contingencies. A marathon is tough enough. To have to think about contingencies on the course won’t make it easier.

So here is my pacing plan:

  1. First half: I have signed up to go with the 4:30 pace group. Start. Cruise. Slow down. And then when things feel okay, slow down more. Keep the pace group in sight. DO NOT get out in front of them.
  2. Second half (up to 20 miles): Keep the pace group in sight. Cruise some more. At mile 15, focus on 3 mile segments. Make it through the 18 mile distance that was problematic in training (Yikes! How did that doubt filter itself in?)
  3. Third half (past mile 20): HTFU. Push just a little bit. Let the pace group go. Focus on turnover and breathing. Focus on the next three mile segments. Only two left – miles 21 and 24.  Don’t focus on the Garmin. Don’t focus on other runners. Don’t focus on those passing me or those I am passing. Focus on the feel. Daniel-san. Booleezoo in. Booleezoo out. Koolozoo eyes. Relax.
  4. Finish strong. Arms up. Shoulders back. Don’t forget to SMILE!!!!!!

Tomorrow – food and drink.


  1. You are totally the opposite of me. I'm always so afraid of burn out at the beginning of the races that I start them almost too conservatively. I'm so afraid of the crash and burn it's not even funny. Plus I would get very frustrated/intimidated/demotivated by letting the pace group go, it would destroy my brain. More than one way to hatch an egg, that's for sure. :)

  2. Grrrr...I just wrote a monster comment and then lost it. Let me see if this works and if so, I'll write again in a bit...

  3. A man with a plan! Looks like a good one although I only have 2 marathons under my belt. I tend to go out too fast so like the idea of using a pace group to take some pressure off. Can't wait for the food plan!

  4. The start of a marathon has to feel easy, almost too slow. If not you face some tough miles towards the end. You plan sounds good but don't be to rigid to not deviate from it if need be. Think of the contingencies and make back up plans.

  5. Hi Glenn,
    It was interesting to read your take about race day:) I am the runner who shows up way in advanced...all organized...ready to line up pronto...and I like it this way:) Glenn you are so ready to this one:)

  6. Hmmm... I think you may have tapped into something, there, if you've googled "Marathon Race Plan" and nothing came up. I'm just sayin'.

  7. Ha, Irene's comment. I think you're going to have a stellar race, like I said, I wish I could come up and cheer for you! Keep resting up!

  8. I really enjoyed reading this blog entry, Glenn.

    Good luck with your plan. It sounds solid!

  9. I'm a big believer in running negative splits, which means starting out slower than usual and building momentum. My track club paces or the Rock 'n' Roll and each pacer has their own strategy. I'd ask the 4:30 pacer if his/her goal is the time clock because that means he'll/she'll start out faster to make up the time lost getting to the start. And that means a faster pace for you too.

  10. Your posts are getting me all excited for next weekend!! You're going to do great, Glenn!!

  11. I'm really excited for you!

    I am so glad that my Surf City experience can be helpful to you! One of the best comments I received before the race was from Alissa. She told me that the first 10 miles should feel like some of the easiest I have run. It really helped keep my pace in check.

    Your plan sounds solid. I agree with the comment to talk with the pacer. If he/she is going out faster, that might mess with you a little.

    I love that you remembered to put "have fun" in your plan. If you don't do that, what's the point?

  12. Yep, you nailed it - this is exactly what I try to do for races.

    Can't wait to hear about nutrition.

  13. I am running the LA marathon next weekend too. It will be my first marathon. I like your plan for the marathon. I am going to try to run negative splits starting at a slower pace than my HM pace. We'll see how it goes for me. I also intend to have fun and smile as I cross the finish line. Good luck to you!

  14. Glenn: that WAS me running by Boomers around 8 am on Saturday. I started a bit late. I'm sorry I didn't recognize you. I do remember seeing someone on my left drinking water. Hahaha, wow finally almost ran into you.

    Thank you for the good luck wishes. I think we are going to do great next week! I will be running lots after LA so maybe I will see you out on that trail again. I didn't even know that trail was called the SD Creek trail. Learned something new today! :)

  15. It sounds like you've got a good plan! I bet it's really hard to start out conservatively enough in a marathon, with all of the adrenaline. I'm a fan of #4 in your pacing plan. Smiling is always helpful.