Welcome to Day 21 of the blogging streak! 10 more days!
I can just see all of you sitting in front of your computer screens, brows furrowed in confusion as you count to yourselves: “your marathon is…2…5…6 months away still? And you’re already writing about your goals??”
Yes. Yes I am. Because even though it may be too early to think about this, it doesn’t change the fact that I am thinking about it. So I might as well just bite the bullet and write about it. Also, I’d normally start talking about this stuff in November but now that I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, I’m not sure how much I’m going to be able to blog next month. I’ll try to pop in once a week but, writing 50,000 words in 30 days is kinda time-consuming, so the blog is going to get thrown on the back burner. Might as well write about it now when I have space to fill!
Pittsburgh Marathon training officially starts 2 months from today! For those of you with good memories: yes, I had originally planned to start it on the 28th and yes, I am now bumping it up a week. The reason is because I’m going to take a full week off literally right in the middle of my cycle, and I still want to get in 18 weeks of training so I’m adding a week at the beginning (as for that week off – I’m not saying why yet, you’ll just have to wait for that announcement! Don’t worry, it’s good stuff!).
It is still too far out from training to set my A, B, and C goals in stone, but I already know a couple big things I want and those things are still going to be there on December 21st no matter how my fall racing season goes. The goals I have in my head now have been there ever since I signed up and haven’t gone away yet, so I figure that unless something changes drastically in the next 2 months, that means they’re probably here to stay.
I’ve flirted with the idea of having no time goal at all, just training really hard and seeing how I do when I train and race solely by effort instead of pace. But since I already know I want to PR, which means running at least a 3:46:53, I can’t really claim that I don’t have a time goal. I still may go with my no-time-goal plan…but I know myself. I like having time goals to guide my training, so while having no goals seems like a fun idea, I don’t know if it will work out for me in such a big race. I will, however, hopefully change my attitude toward time goals and how I approach them but I’ll save that for another post.
Okay, okay. I’ve kept you in waiting long enough. Let’s get to the good stuff!
My “A” goal for this race – aka I’m in the best physical shape of my life, training went flawlessly, race day weather is PERFECT and I feel like a million bucks at the starting line – is to run a 3:36 (8:15 pace).
I pick 3:36 because it is a nice even 10 minutes off my current marathon PR of 3:46. I’m sure it seems absurd to aim for a 3:36 when it is only 2 minutes off a BQ goal of sub-3:35. But even if it’s only 2 more minutes, aiming for a BQ adds a whole other level of pressure that I don’t feel ready to take on. Plus, with the way Boston has gone in the last few years, if I want to actually get in, I pretty much need to aim for a 3:30. I am nowhere near that level yet!
Like I said, the stars would really have to align to make a 3:36 possible, considering that my current HALF marathon PR pace is 8:18, and that Pittsburgh is a challenging course. Aiming for this time at Pittsburgh is not the same thing as aiming for it at Grandma’s or Lakefront. But, if I have a perfect day, I think it can happen.
My “B” goal – aka my real and down-to-earth goal that I’ll be thrilled with and, as long as nothing drastic happens, I have a very realistic shot at – is to run a sub-3:45 and time-qualify for the 2017 Chicago Marathon. I think this is very doable for me, even on the Pittsburgh hills, because I would only need to improve my time by about 2 minutes. I would like it closer to 3:40 though, so I will probably train for that (8:23 pace). Improving my PR by 6 minutes wouldn’t be nearly as thrilling as improving it by 10 minutes, but it’d still be pretty darn cool. And the knowledge of being less than 10 minutes from a BQ would be amazing.
My “C” goal for this race – aka, I could do a lot better and I’m not thrilled about this, but it ain’t half bad, either – is to run sub-4:00. I would hate to not get a PR, but not many people can have a bad day and still run a sub-4:00 marathon, so the fact that I can have this as a C goal says a lot. While it’s nowhere near what I’m capable of, it’s still a pretty darn good time, all things considered!
So, if you want me to take all of this and drill it down to one specific number, I think it would be this: 3:40. 6 minute PR. 8:23 pace. That’s what I’ll be striving for and basing my training around. A lot can change in the next couple months and I may change my mind based on how my last half marathon goes. But I think 3:40 is a good number for me, half marathon PR or not. It’s a healthy PR but it’s also very realistic (Grandma’s was great, but it was my 2nd marathon and I can’t realistically expect to better my time by 15 minutes every time I run a marathon). It’s something I’ll still have to work hard for, since Pittsburgh will undoubtedly be the most challenging marathon I’ve run, but I really think it’s mine for the taking.
A lot of people might not set such ambitious goals on courses they know are going to be hilly and hard and maybe even hot on top of that. But the fact that this will be a challenging race just makes me MORE pumped up and inspired to have big goals. It’s one thing to get a PR on a fast flat course that works in your favor, but how cool would it be to cross the finish line saying “that course was hard, and those hills were gnarly, but I crushed my goals ANYWAY”? Pretty darn cool.
Pittsburgh 2016, here I come!