Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Strategies in Preparing Mentally for Sunday's NYC Half

So last night I did 3 miles at a possible race pace to remind my body how it feels and blogged about that. Today - Sharing the list of strategies I'm employing to gain confidence in setting a new Personal Record at this Sunday's New York City Half Marathon. I used a lot of these strategies on half marathons I PRed at this winter/spring and afterward really felt they were a big reason for the PR. One reason the half marathon is my favorite distance - a giant part of the race day game is the mental side!

So here's how I prepare for my now 6th half marathon of the year:

1) Nutrition and Hydration - I am normally not great at either. Last night I threw down the gauntlet and realized I have to get serious. Keeps me optimistic about Sunday each time I make a decent decision in this realm.

2) Keep physically strong - extra stretching this week. Went to the chiropractor on Monday and will see him again Thursday afternoon (last time he's in the office before I get on a plane).

3) Review the course maps and elevation charts - I use this to develop a repeatable mantra for the week. For example, "It's completely flat the last 4 miles!" or "Can't wait to see Times Square at mile 8 1/2!"

Course Map
You spend the first 7.5 miles circling Central Park - will probably be a nice cool portion of the run with such pretty scenery. Keep in mind that miles 6-7.5 is a repeat of the first 1.5 miles of the race. Mile 8.5 is TIMES SQUARE - how often do you get to run traffic-free through Times Square?!? Use this excitement leading up to mile 8.5. It's a straight shot down along the west edge of Manhattan the remaining last 4 miles.

Elevation Chart
Max change of about 125 feet over the whole course. Next to a half marathon in Texas (which often has 300-400 feet change), that is SO flat! Little decent-sized hills but they always end QUICK! The last 4 miles are the lowest of the whole course and COMPLETELY flat.

4) Review recent runs and paces -

* Last speedwork done - In 88 degrees and 75% humidity, 2.4 miles at a 10:14 avg
* The day before that speedwork - In 90 degrees and 65% humidity, 3 miles at 10:49 pace chatting the whole way
* Looping White Rock Lake July 19 - one mile leisurely walked in the middle, remaining 8.3 miles at 11:25 pace
* 10K run on trails in Plano July 4 - 11:39 pace

I can do this! I reread a lot of my blog posts tonight, and I've been working hard!

5) Do the Math!

What if I just do 12:00s the whole way? 2:37:12 (5 minutes off PR) I'm not sure at this point that my legs will feel very comfortable at that pace, because I haven't really been running that slow of a pace much the last few months.

What if I work on 11:40 the whole way? 2:32:50 (10 minutes off PR) Hmmm, this one sounds pretty good to try.

What if I can maintain 11:30 the whole way? 2:30:39 (11 1/2 minutes off PR)

What if I start at 11:30 and by mile 9 I'm more than miserable and walk at 16 min/mi? 2:49 (no PR)
This is a silly scenario if it's an okay running day - I just looked at the past runs and did 8.3 at 11:25 pace. Looking at this option is me just being scared I'm not prepared.

What if I start at 11:30 and by mile 9 I drop down to 12:45s (remembering it's very flat terrain)? 2:35:47 (6 1/2 min off PR)

6) Run a bit this week at a possible race pace for Sunday - to see how I'm feeling and gain confidence.

So far that's working well!

Result: I'm feeling much better about Sunday and think I want to do 11:30s as long as possible and then just try to stay strong if it gets too much and not go from all to nothing (i.e. just walk the last couple miles "because I'm tired").

Thank you everyone for the encouragement you've given me, it means so much to me!


  1. Thank you for posting this and your previous post! It helps us "newbies" to all this to see the ups AND the downs. To see your struggles, let's us know its ok to have our own, as long as we press on. I'll be keeping those strategies in mind come September...good luck in NYC!!! Can't wait to hear details!

  2. Good luck Libby. I hope you have a lot of fun!

  3. I believe you're more than ready! Best of luck to you and can't wait to hear all about it!

  4. Awesome information!!! I'm gonna definitely use these strategies in 6 weeks. I can't wait to hear all about it.