"Now if you are going to win any battle you have to do one thing. You have to make the mind run the body. Never let the body tell the mind what to do. The body will always give up. It is always tired in the morning, noon, and night. But the body is never tired if the mind is not tired.”

- George S. Patton, U.S. Army General, 1912 Olympian

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Running The Gap--Challenges Await

2010 Pocatello Marathon -
Running The Gap
The last time (and only time) I've run a race at a significantly higher elevation than where I live and train was October 2009, when I ran the Run Like Hell half marathon in Bend, OR. At the time I had been running for all of about 4 months, but had knocked out my first half marathon a few weeks before without much difficulty. I was unconcerned with the rate I was adding miles each week, collectively and on individual runs and I didn't worry about silly things like pace. The very thought of walking was, well, an unacceptable sign of weakness--basically I knew what I was doing. 

12 miles of hills, headwinds and a lack of oxygen later, I was hunched over, hands on my knees, sucking air wondering if I was going to be walking last 1.1 miles to the finish line (I didn't, but I wouldn't call it running either).

Fast forward 10 months to today. As I prepare to leave for Idaho tomorrow morning for Saturday's Running The Gap marathon in Pocatello I look back at my 4-month old running self and cringe. So undisciplined. So stupid.

Pocatello will present a couple of challenges:

1. Elevation. The race starts at around 6000ft and heads downhill for the first 14 miles before settling around 4500ft for the remainder of the race. I've solicited advice from some of my Twitter followers and DailyMile friends (thanks jokach and Heather) and done some reading on if I should get a run in prior to Saturday or not. It seems to be split down the middle, but for different reasons. Those in favor of running on Thursday night or Friday morning seem to emphasize the psychological benefits--knowing what to expect on race day. Those against it are more concerned with the physiological effect.

Coach Roy Benson of Running Times offered this advice to a question received by another runner:

"To minimize the potential bad side effects of your late arrival, in order to spare your precious stores of glycogen during this taper period, don’t do anything hard, fast or anaerobic. Just relax and chill out. Then on race day, go out a bit slower than you’ve been planning."

I like that. It makes sense to me. I was already planning to go out slower than normal anyway. I'm still undecided though. I'm staying with my little brother on Thursday night. He lives a block away from a track. It might be too much. I'll probably sneak over and run a few laps on Thursday afternoon (after 11 hours of driving, I'm going to be itching to do something to get loose).

2. Pace. On a perfect day in a perfect world, I'd PR. I'd run the pace I've been training at, break 3:45 and shove it in the eye of all the pace calculators and coaches advising to add at least 1% in time per 1000 feet of elevation. My 4-month old running self would have hit the starting line with this attitude--and probably would have been sitting on the side of the road by mile 6. Truth be told, I don't really have a goal in mind because I don't know what it's going to be like (see challenge #1 above). My goal is simply to find a comfortable pace and settle into it.

Another brother was out visiting from Utah a few weeks ago. I asked him about the difference in running in the two locations. What he said was interesting to me (though some of you are probably going to be saying, "uhh...yeah, R, no kidding). He had just run a handful of miles (in Oregon) before stopping to wait for other family members to finish their runs. When a certain sister got lost in the park, he went back out to find her. He said his legs recovered much quicker in Oregon than after a run in Utah.

Flip that around for me this weekend. I know I need to religiously take walk breaks or I won't make it. 8 minutes on, 1 minute off. Even 2 minutes in the early going if that's what it takes. I can't let my legs get to the "tired" stage too early because they won't recover in the thin air. I've been practicing this pattern during my runs the last few weeks, but I can't just throw it to the wind on Saturday if I find myself behind my 3:45 pace. Why? Because of challenge #3:

3. It's still 26.2 miles. The distance hasn't changed. It must be respected.

With that, I'm off to pack my bags. 4am is coming early tomorrow. I appreciate the advice and encouragement that many of your have offered through various outlets. If you haven't already, you can find me on Twitter, DailyMile or on Facebook. I update each site with various information, but I use Twitter for random thoughts and things I come across, DailyMile is my main training-tracking site and Facebook is where I put the pictures. Be sure to check them out!

I'll post my results on Saturday when I can and look for a recap and a new post early next week!


Andrew Opala said...

sounds very challenging

P4 said...

My experience with Utah vs. Oregon running (keeping in mind that Utah is home and where I train). When in Oregon I feel like I can run forever. Seriously running seems simple. I feel free, fast, my body feels great, my legs aren't tired, and I can breathe so easily. I love it. Nothing quite like it. Then I return to Utah and after a couple of runs I settle back into reality. Running takes some work and I can't run so easily so far. So good luck. I hope it goes well. I have always wanted to train in Utah and run a race in Oregon!