Race Day Tweaks for Mexico City

I can't stop thinking, and blogging, about Mexico City Marathon preparations. I'm definitely nervous about making the cut-off of 6 hours. Why? Because the race is not only at altitude (7,200 ft/2,200m) but it is also uphill. Those are two strikes against me. I've run other marathons at altitude, but they've either had a more generous time limit or an early start. I've actually trained for this race, though I don't feel as prepared as I'd like. I will need to make some tweaks to my usual race day logistics.

Wish me luck, because I'll need it!

First, I am going to adjust my run/walk intervals. I've been training with 4:1 intervals, but I know I'm going to get tired and winded in Mexico City, so it will be better for me to start off with more frequent walk breaks. I'm considering 3:1 or 2.5:1. I've used both intervals successfully when running half marathons as a pacer. The 3:1 ratio was good for the very hilly Georgia Half Marathon in Atlanta. The 2.5:1 ratio was better for the much flatter Asbury Park Half Marathon on the Jersey Shore. My first instinct is to use the latter for Mexico City. This could be a good idea because, if I can maintain my 3-hour marathon pacer pace, I know I can finish in time, and this interval will allow me to walk more frequently. But it might be smarter to start with 3:1 to bank some time. While I understand the Mexico City elevation in theory, there could still be some surprises when I actually try to run it.

Second, I am going to print out and wear a pace wristband. I only wear these when I'm pacing, because that's when it's critical to maintain even splits. But in Mexico City it will also be critical for me to keep on pace. I'll wear my Garmin, but electronic devices can fail. Besides, I can't do much math while I'm running with "marathon brain". The pace band will be my fail-safe. But in order to print the right pace band, I need to actually set a goal pace. Should I set it for 6:00, the course limit, so that I don't push myself too hard and hit a wall? Or should I set it for a little under (5:45, 5:50) to give myself a cushion? Also, should I print the band in kilometers, since that is how the course will be marked? That would probably make for a band that is longer than my small wrist's circumference. So, I'll probably stick with miles and count on my Garmin to track my approximate mileage.

Next, I am going to use my lessons learned from Tokyo. True, Mexico City isn't nearly as rough of a travel experience and is only one timezone different from home. But the altitude could play a factor. I will not be acclimated by race morning. To mitigate this, I'll prepare well in every other way I can. I'll do a great job of fueling the day before the race, and I'll try to get a good amount of sleep the two nights leading up to the marathon.

Finally, I am going to do my best to keep my head in the game mentally. I can very easily talk myself out of trying to run my best. I too often give myself permission to walk more than planned, both on training runs and in races. I cannot afford to run this race without discipline. I can only stray from my plan if I feel physically ill or sustain an injury. As of now, I'm injury-free and going into the race healthy, if not at my best level of fitness. I will need to give myself mid-race pep talks and use the mantra I once used during a race to decent success: "Be Shalane". It will help if Shalane Flanagan does well in the Olympic marathon on Sunday. In fact, if any American runner medals in the marathon, I'll channel him or her in Mexico.

So, that's my plan. Wish me "Buena Suerte" because I'll need it


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