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Now that August is behind us, We can look forward to cooler temperatures and the start of fall race season. That goal race that seemed so far away earlier this year? It’s just around the corner now! If you’ve been able to stick to a training plan throughout the summer, through vacation schedules and the hot, humid DC weather, kudos! You will certainly see the benefits of consistency and heat acclimation (our version of altitude training) come race day. If you haven’t quite been able to stick to your ideal training plan, you’re not alone, and it’s okay to adjust your goals. Regardless of how consistent you have been through the summer, the end of summer is a good time to do some self-assessment and plot out the final weeks of training:
Determine your realistic goals. Take an honest look at your training over the past 8-10 weeks. If you’ve been able to stay consistent with your running, and get in at least 80% of your scheduled mileage, you can rest assured that you have a solid base moving towards your fall race. Your training won’t be derailed by a few missed miles (or runs) or if you’ve had to split up some of your long runs. Stick with your training plan, including a typical taper period where you reduce your total weekly mileage but maintain some of the intensity (speed work, tempo runs) to keep your legs sharp for race day.
If your training has been less than ideal, with injury or just sporadic runs and/or several missed long runs, it’s time to adjust your goals. Be realistic about the training that you can do in the time remaining before your goal race, and resist the urge to “make up” for lost time by cramming in a lot of mileage over the next few weeks. Instead, follow a gradual progression in mileage, using the general guideline of increasing your weekly mileage no more than 10% per week. Focus your efforts on getting in time on your feet with endurance-building runs at an easy, aerobic effort, adding walk breaks if necessary. Depending on your current mileage and the distance of your goal race, you may want to defer or transfer your registration for your goal race (if allowed by the Race Director) and target a shorter distance race instead. If you are able to get up to a sufficient base of mileage before it’s time to taper for race day, adjust your finish time goals. You may not be able to set a PR, but you can enjoy the race experience and identify a later race to target for time, after you’ve had additional time to get back to consistent training.
Test your fitness with a shorter distance race. The best way to test your current level of fitness is by running a shorter distance race approximately five to seven weeks out from your goal race. If you are training for a half or full marathon, anything from the 10K to half marathon distance will help provide a data point from which you can extrapolate a realistic marathon finish time range. Try to find a race that has a similar course profile to your goal race, if possible. Plug your race results into a pace calculator like this or this (or an app like Race Pace) to get a range of likely finish times for your goal race. From this, you can plan out an appropriate pacing strategy for race day.
Start planning for race day. Plan ahead so that there are no surprises come race day. On your remaining long runs, practice with the nutrition you plan to use on race day, including the timing of that nutrition. Practice carrying and consuming nutrition and hydration. Figure out what works for your pre-race dinner and breakfast (and, more importantly, what does not). As much as possible, wear the clothes and gear that you plan to use on race day, recognizing weather conditions are likely to change between now and then. If you will need new shoes before race day, make sure to get them at least 3-4 weeks before race day so that you can put them into rotation and get a few miles on the shoes before race day. If you are traveling for the race, finalize all travel logistics, including hotel and transportation, and review the race website for information on packet pick-up, course map, start line timeframe and procedures, etc.
Trust your training. Whether you’re moving ahead with your original plan or targeting Plan B, trust your training. Even though summer training might feel slow, hard, and make you question your fitness, you may be surprised come race day to see the dividends of heat acclimation pay off with faster times.
Train with Julie and Lisa this Fall! Learn more about their 5K to 10-miler training program!