The first major step I take is to evaluate my training sequence and progress. I only had about ten weeks to gain fitness from a pretty low baseline (by my standards), so part of this is a reality check for me. I did all the workouts and aside from this week and last my mileage was what I intended it to be.
I'm fine with that because the original plan involved fairly aggressively training through this race towards a future one. The future ones will definitely happen, but I chose to back off in response to signs that I may have been overtraining and to peak a little bit for this race. Peaking means I backed off on my weekly mileage for the two weeks leading up to the race in order to have rested legs.
In taking a look at my harder workouts, I also have to admit that I am not anywhere near as comfortable with the goal race pace range I want to see. My hard runs were tempos, which are essentially half marathon race pace. While I got into the range I needed to, I was definitely working pretty hard to stay there. Whether I'll be able to translate that kind of pace into a 13.1 mile race remains to be seen, but I am best off not putting that kind of pressure on myself.
However, one of the little gems from one of my past coaches was that getting in a series of 3 or so workouts within a three week period will be particularly effective at gaining the fitness benefits of that workout. I did do that, with two sets of three tempo workouts, so I'm in the best shape I can be.
The second piece is goals. While I'd like to see my goals (link) met, it may not be possible to reach even the lower end of that. I have no intention of just giving up on them entirely, but my expectations must be tempered and my race focuses must be adjusted accordingly. Rather than focusing on a specific pace, time, or place I will adjust my race focuses. My attention will be on the process and technique of running and racing itself. I intend to make myself as comfortable and focused as I can be and see where that gets me.
One of the most helpful things to do when training for a race is to get in a race before the primary race a runner is training for. With that in mind, this race's secondary goal is to experience a race. It's so obvious that it can be easily forgotten, but the best way to prepare for a race is to race. Since I haven't raced in four years or so, Sunday will be a remembering process for me. With the lessons of that race and the lessons of all my past races refreshed back to the front of my mind, I'll be able to approach the next race far more effectively.
The third piece is preparing for the race in general. Below is the worksheets I have everyone I work with do in order to prepare properly for a race. Credit for them goes to Thomas S Miller's book Programmed to Run which I highly recommend all runners have on their bookshelves.
These worksheets force you to pause and consider the event-specific training, on-site preparation, and performance aspects of training and racing. Moreover, it gets you to plan out how the functional and physical, mental and emotional, social and logistical, and environment and technical aspects impact everything.
If you have connected with your support network and communicated how they can best help you, then there is an additional load off your mind as well as the joy and confidence from knowing you have that assistance. They can have equipment such as food, water, energy gels, extra Glide and other items you may want as well. If you clarify what your goals are (particularly process goals such as aspects of technique), then you have your focuses for the race. Those are crucial especially when the going gets tough.
Finally, I wouldn't be a whole person running coach without mentioning another piece of mental preparation- visualizing. My mental preparation article provides guidelines for this, and my sample visualization offers a template for you to follow. For me, I will be making sure to put particular focus on the pieces I am the most nervous about, imagining those going well repeatedly throughout the next several days.
I'll be anchoring myself in my body, imagining heart based running and imagining myself losing it and regaining it as I know will happen during the race itself. I'll also take time to imagine different outcomes to the race and how I will respond with empathy and pride in each one.
So I hope that helps anyone looking to race, and stay tuned for next week's recap on how my race went!