I went to mass yesterday with my parents (yes, I do go, but only for the fabulous costumes and the fantastic wine), but I remember little of it. I spent most of the mass thinking about how in a week, at that particular time, I will be running through the streets of Los Angeles, and--God-willing--I will be done by the time mass is over. I thought about actually praying for a good race, but I thought that would be self-serving. God has more important things to worry about. Instead I prayed that Emmanuel Lubezki would win the Oscar for cinematography for his astounding work in Children of Men. He didn't, so now I'm reconsidering my whole belief system.
Next Sunday will mark my third Los Angeles Marathon, fourth overall. My goal is to finish under four hours. I completed last year's race in 4 hours, 15 minutes. I've been running well this season, posting strong half marathon times at the City of Angels Half and the Pacific Shoreline Half. Really the four hours should be a given, but I'm completely scared I won't be able to. I'm a wimp when it comes to hitting the wall. The problem isn't so much physical but the psychological battle a runner goes through when they think they can't go on. I tend to buckle under. I'm hoping this won't be the case this year or else I'll feel like Peter O'Toole. Poor guy.
I also, in my opinion, ran a conservative race last year hoping to save up enough energy to run a negative split in the second half. That did not happen. This year I'm going to try and run a faster first half and hopefully I can hang on for the second half. I figure I'll be tired regardless, so I might as well rack up a time deficit in the first half while I'm fresher. Nothing crazy, I'll just try to run between 8:30 and 9 minutes per mile and maintain a 9 minute pace in the second half. I'll be taking walk breaks, too. In my halfs I've run straight through the first four miles before taking a walk break. I won't do that in the marathon. I'll take a walk break every mile, basically at the water stations.
I'm also debating whether or not to carry a bottle with me. I've been running a lot more without one and the ease and comfort of having your hands free while you run is a big relief. I can't use a case around my waist since I haven't used one, and it will most likely annoy me. The marathon will have water stations every mile and Gatorade every other mile, so I can probably go without my own bottle and be OK. A compromise would be to have a bottle in the first half and then dump it after that. I'll think about it more.
I ran my last long run on Friday, eight miles, at a nine minute pace. I kept reminding myself to take it easy, but once you get going it's tough to restrain yourself. I ran on Friday because I was going to drink on Friday night, and I knew I would not have any desire to run after a margarita-fueled night. Good decision.
Today I ran five miles on the treadmill. I set the pace at 7 miles per hour (8:34/mile), and it felt great. I could have kept going. I even threw in an incline in the last mile for the heck of it. Hopefully the feeling continues on through Sunday.