Monday, May 05, 2008

Countdown to Race Day, and Stress Levels Are High

Will more work and less running help or hinder my half marathon performance?
by Amanda MacMillan

Race week is finally here: This Saturday at 9 a.m. at Coney Island will be my first real attempt at running a half marathon.

When I began training back in November, I originally planned to be ready for a March 16 race. Then I got sick, lost a few weeks of training, and discovered the Brooklyn Half Marathon was going to be held just one month later and much closer to home.

As soon as I registered for this race, the organizers changed the date, pushing it back a week. Not that I'm complaining; I've appreciated every one of these extra training days—and just this past weekend, I actually reached my goal of an 11-mile run. (The experts say that adrenaline will carry you the last few miles, even if you haven't trained that far. I hope they're right!)

But as race day approaches, I can't decide if this is all happening at the best or worst possible time.

Even without race pressure, this would be one of the most stressful weeks of the year. We're relaunching in less than a month, and we've been working long days, late nights, and weekends. Lunch and dinner are eaten at our desks, and it's been harder and harder to sneak away for an evening run—or even an hour at the gym.

My sister, who's coming up Friday night and will run Saturday, is taking her finals for nursing school this week, working overtime at her part-time job, and trying to set up her summer internship plans. "If I can make it through exams and actually get to New York without losing my sanity, this race should be a piece of cake," she told me last week.

I'm hoping that her sentiment holds true on Saturday—that all of this week's stress and distraction will make my weekend run feel like a release of energy, a reward for my hard work, and a welcome change from sitting at my computer all week.

There is one good thing about this not-so-great timing: The week before a distance race is the perfect time to "taper," or reduce mileage and intensity, so you're recharged and feeling good for the big day. That means I'm only doing a couple of three-milers this week—and taking Thursday and Friday off completely. If nothing else, at least my legs will be well rested.

Regardless, I feel pretty well prepared. I'm drinking lots of water, checking the weather forecast obsessively (partly cloudy, high of 72, beautiful!), and planning a carb-loading pasta fest for Friday night.

I never thought that a 13-mile run would be the thing that gets me through the work week, but that's exactly what I'm looking forward to right now. Well, that and the massages we've scheduled for later Saturday afternoon.

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