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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Seattle Rock 'N Roll Marathon Prep

Giving the body time to rest can help the brain get active.

Today is technically a cross-training day, but Hal suggests that as I get closer to the actual race day, I take it easier on some of the other physical activities in my life. As it happened, we were signed up for the Austin Pets Alive Walk-a-thon Wag-a-thon, which gave us a nice 2.5-mile walk with the pup and took care of my exercise requirement for the day.

So, the question becomes what to do with the rest of the day. I've got rehearsal tonight, but in the meantime, I decided to go through all of my Seattle research and put it all together.

First, I took a look at the weather. Seattle's got a reputation for being cold, rainy, and overcast pretty much all the time. At least, that's what I've been told. So, I figured I'd actually look into the facts. A quick Wikipedia search tells me that I've been partly misinformed. True, it's cloudy or partly cloudy 300 days a year, but the total rainfall is actually less than they have in New York. Summers are reportedly warm and dry, with average highs around 75, which is currently the average low in Texas.

The real issue is that, while it doesn't rain hard, it tends to be misty and rainy a lot. This is a fairly easy fix overall. It simply means that I've got to stretch and warm up with a little more intensity. One thing I've got going for me is that my training temperature will be so much higher than race day temperature, so during the race, I'll feel great. I've just got to remember that the weather isn't going to do me any favors getting my legs ready for the workout.

Some other facts - Austin and Seattle do not have much difference in their elevation, so I don't have to worry about thin air. Seattle is smaller in population and area, which don't really affect my run, but I found it interesting.

Natural factors aside, my real concern becomes the course itself. There are a lot of out-and-back moments, which can be sort of exhausting, particularly watching someone else come back when you've still got a way to go to your turn-around. There are three of these U-turns, which I'm not wild about, but then half my training runs are out-and-back, so I should be used to it by now. As with most runs, the real challenge comes from elevation. It's tough to compare elevation to training, so I'll compare it between races. First, Austin:

On this shot, it doesn't look that bad, but those up and down spikes in miles 11-16 took all the wind out of my sails. They don't look that bad, but they're the sharp uphills that can destroy your race if you're not ready for them. So, now we look at Seattle.

What I like about this course, is that it tends to be even. There are none of the sharp peaks and valleys that Austin had. There are three major climbs that I've got to be ready for. The first is early, and I want to make sure I maintain on that one, rather than push it and give up all my energy before 5 miles. The next challenge comes shortly before the first half is complete, much like it did in my last race.

After mile 21, the course is almost universally downhill, so when I face the third slow, exhausting climb, I can keep those last few miles in my head. Since most of my training runs finish with a long, slow climb up a hill, I should be able to remind myself how much easier this finish will be. The only thing I've got to watch out for are short, sharp climbs up on-ramps and down spillways that might not show up on a broad, inexact map.

I think I'm in the right place for my training, both in terms of mileage and location. The weather should be better, and the course won't be worse. I've got two 20-mile runs in the next three weeks, and after that, I start my taper. I'm excited for everything related to the race at this point, but I'm still working on my race plan. It's a delicate balance between wanting to run smart to ensure a solid performance at the end, but not wanting to finish the race believing I could have done more.

Still, I've got a much bigger problem than creating a race plan.

I've also got to follow it.

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