Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Marathon race plan

This coming Sunday is the Honolulu Marathon, so it is time to write out my race plan. Bottom line up front, I plan to come in just under seven hours.

A good friend who lives in Waikiki near the Hilton Hawaiian Village will be out of town and has graciously offered to allow Pattie and me to stay at his condo. About a twenty minute walk to the start area. I am going to leave earlier than last year so that I start closer to the front.

I have come to enjoy a pre-race dinner of sushi and will probably do that again. The key is to keep it light. The race starts at 5:00AM and for my pre-race breakfast I like to eat two slices of whole wheat bread with Nutella, along with some strong coffee, so I should get up by 3:00. Pattie is on the timing team and has to report in right across the street by 3:30, so I will probably get up with her.


The weather report calls for fairly warm weather and a slight chance of rain -- complete opposite of last year's race. I won't even bother with a trash bag raincoat unless things turn really nasty on Saturday. I will be extra careful with hydration. The really big question for me is which hat to wear. In the past I always wore a white runners hat, but when the wind is up, like last year, it becomes a distraction. Recently I bought a Newton branded Head Sweats visor that fits really snug. No way that thing will be blown off my head short of a hurricane. Because it fits so tight it hurts after awhile. I did wear it on at last one long run and I must say the pain kind of fades into the background. Then there is the heat debate. The visor lets heat escape from your scalp, a hat holds it in. But on hot, sunny days a white hat reflects heat, and my runners hat is well ventilated. I am not bald, so sunburn is not an issue. Maybe I'll just flip a coin that morning.

I bought new running shoes for this race. The latest iteration of Newton Gravity, the show I have been wearing for several years. I wanted to save them for the race but have been wearing them on enough runs to be sure they present no issues. I am going to use the traditional style laces that came with the shoes rather than triathlon style Yanks laces as they make the shoe feel more stable.

After some experimenting this fall I settled on snug, triathlon-style bike shorts paired with a loose fitting running singlet. I do like the matching spandex tri top, but I have had too many issues with my Garmin chest strap dropping out due to interaction with the fabic, so I decided to go traditional. The shorts I like are from Zoot. I also like my Newton kit. I do have a Pearl Izumi tri short but for some reason -- thicker padding? -- they feel uncomfortably hot in anything above 80F. I'll be wearing the Zoot shorts, same as for Honu.

I am a firm believer in compressing socks. Actually I wear calf sleeves and regular socks. Mine are from CEP. I have three pair, black, white, and blue. Not sure why but I bought the white smaller. Wore them for my last half marathon and they felt too tight and my calves were getting that twitchy almost-a-cramp feeling at much too low an effort level. I think those are just too tight, so I will wear the blue to match the rest of my kit.

I am going to carry my phone and unless there is a tropical storm I promise to take some pictures. Last year I did not get any due to rain and fatigue. I promise to do better this year. Sometimes I get too serious. Besides, watching for photo ops is a good way to distract you from your pain. Maybe a movie across the start line would be cool, for people who have never done it.


I have done a lot of experimenting during my recent long runs the result of which is a tested nutrition plan that is as reliable as any could be. Which means no guarantees.

In the past I used diluted GU gels in Fuelbelt flasks, three gels per bottle with about the same amount of water. I would sip some gel every ten minutes along with a little water from the aid station.

As much as I liked the flavor of GU tangerine gel, after a couple hours I began to dread having to take any more. I think it was too sweet. On a couple races, or long runs, I ended up on the verge of puking and what was coming up tasted like tangerine gel. Bleh.

This summer I switched to Hammer Perpetuem, mostly because of their claims of avoiding sugar. I found the dull, vaguely creamy taste much more tolerable than the GU gels. Much to my surprise I learned that Perpetuem does not have to be diluted to sports drink level, it does fine in a concentrated form. For my medium-long runs I used four scoops of Perpetuem (enough for two 20oz. bottles of sports drink) in 4oz. of water and for my twenty mile runs I used 5 scoops. At first I used a smoothie maker to mix it, but as it turns out a blender bottle works fine. What comes out is about the thickness of a milk shake. I carry this mixture in one flask and plain water in another, refilling the water flask as required at the aid stations.

More on pacing in a bit, but I will say hear that I will use a 5/1 run/walk and hit the fuel bottle roughly every other walk. There is just enough time to take in a small dribble of fuel washed down with an ounce or so of water before the minute is up. Sometimes I feel the the intake not quite settled in my stomach and wait a few seconds until it is before I start running again.

Since I will start with a five scoop flask I plan to dilute it a bit as I go, with water from the aid stations. Makes it much easier to get out. Did this on some long runs and it works fine. If I run out of fuel early I will switch to using the event sports drink -- in this case, Gatorade.

Twice I have carried a bag of Scratch Labs chews and will again this Sunday. I will eat 3-5 around the halfway point, and the rest along the return depending on how I feel.

I am not a big believer in taking salt to avoid cramps. Neither am I sure I do not need to. So, I will carry a half dozen Hammer Endurolytes caps and take one every hour. That is less than what Hammer recommends, but I think it should come out right given the conditions. I have been doing that on my long runs without any bad results.


This is the hard one. For me at least. My overall goal is to go easy for the first two miles to let my legs get fully warmed up, moderate after that until the Aloha gas station on the turn (mile 22) and from there as fast as my tired legs will go. I will use a 5/1 run/walk and not try to set any records during the walk -- that is recovery time. I anticipate crowded conditions until after Kahala, so maintaining a steady gait will be a challenge.I will be looking for runners going the same pace and hang with them rather than accelerate and slow down a lot, a mistake I have made in the past.

I ran my long runs at well below goal pace. This was to avoid beating up the legs so much that I could not do anything until the next long run. The problem is, my legs got so used to this slower pace that when I did try to finish at goal pace it felt really uncomfortable. Because of that I scheduled some goal pace or better runs during the last two weeks and made last Sunday's shorter long run a pace practice.

I think the real challenge for me will be to keep my cadence up at 80 or better after that first warm-up period. As I go from 75 to 80 my pace increases a lot more than my HR. I can cruise for a long time running at my aerobic threshold, between 1.9Z and 2.4Z. What I do not know is how well I can endure running at the higher end of that scale, because I did my long runs at the lower end. I want to feel really exhausted at the finish, but I do not want the wheels to fall off in Kahala, either. As I get fatigued my pace drops; I lose that floating sensation, that flow that makes running feel so easy. The more I drop below 80 the harder it feels to run. For this reason I will be monitoring pace and cadence more than heart rate. Focus on good form and quick, light feet.

Estimated time

Putting it all together my goal is to come in under 7:00. Last year I did 7:25, and in 2012 I did 7:50. At the start of my marathon training I was hoping to run at 14min/mile for a finish closer to 6:00, but that is still beyond my reach.

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