The latest issue of Runner's World magazine includes an article on how to create a race-day plan ... which you're supposed to have created three weeks out.
Oops. Well, I can at least set up my race-day goals for the Des Moines Half.
Optimistic goal: Finish in 2:05 or below, meaning a 9:30-mile pace. During my nine-miler, I kept a 9:16 pace; during my 10-miler, I was at 9:29; and during my 11-miler, I did 9:18.
Given that the middle of those two runs was the hottest and hilliest, you might think I'm selling myself short in this goal. (Cory does; after my 11-miler, he told me I could maybe hit 2:00. That's a goal for later)
However, we all have to remember that I have a history of choking on race day — going out too fast and having a subsequent mental meltdown as the speedy miles wear me down physically.
While I realize that unlike during the Hy-Vee Half, the weather should be cool, and the route should be flat, that doesn't mean fierce prairie winds can't sink me.
But back to optimism: Nowadays, I'm doing a much better job of keeping a sustainable pace for the first few miles, then speeding up as my muscles warm up and the terrain flattens, and talking myself through the tougher final miles.
With that in mind, if I keep the first few miles around 9:30, I can give myself permission to let "comfortably fast" happen. That could be 8:45; that could be 9:00 — whatever. Just as long as I don't burn myself out so that the final miles creep up to 10:00.
Acceptable/realistic goal: Beat my previous PR of 2:08:32, meaning a 9:48 pace. If this doesn't happen, I'd be ... well ... as shocked and pissed as I was this spring (2:10:33). Again — flat and cool this time.
Worst-case-scenario goal: Keep it above 2:10, but more importantly, don't suffer too much.
Goal(s) not related to time: Improve the pacing over previous races — i.e., don't fly out of the starting gate, walk most of the last 5K, and/or crawl across the finish line.
Keep positive, or at least neutral. The self-talk has become more encouraging, so I hope to continue that, and I really hope there's no repeat of "where the f*** is the finish line?"
And lastly: Take advantage of the post-race massage booth.
Wish me luck!