Saturday, February 21, 2009

Marathon: are you ready?

Like we politely say in the US: that is a good question...!

With races spanning from January (e.g. the Arizona Rock 'n Roll) to December (e.g. CIM, aka California International), there is not really a marathon season and you will always find somone close to running a marathon, someone you can ask this loaded question.

Basically, the response will have to integrate many parameters such as:
  1. Physical fitness. Have you been able to perform a consistent 16-week training program?
  2. Mental. Are you bullish about your goal? Goals can vary a lot here, from completing the distance if that is your first marathon to pacing a friend, having fun, logging yet another marathon for instance for the 50-state marathon collectors, showing what you are capable of after some personal challenges, or aiming at a Personal Record. Hopefully, a reasonable and attainable goal!
  3. Logistics. Have you figured out all the pre-race details: where you are staying, how you will get to the start line, what you will wear for the race (taking into account potential different weather conditions), what your crew will be doing during the race if you have people with you. All sort of things which need to be out of the way as quickly as possible to have a clear mind on race day and reduce the stress.
Seems like marathon is a big thing, right? Well, indeed, no matter how many marathons you have run, you still need to prepare and get ready for the race and each race is different.

Napa Valley Marathon: am I ready?

Entering the tapering week (rest and/or low intensity running), I feel as much ready as I could hope for, given the circumstances and the situation, a month ago.

First, and not that it has much to see with my fitness level, I have been featured in the race press release written by Mark Winitz, along with 6 other runners. Here are Mark's words from our interview:

Jean Pommier, 45, of Cupertino, Calif. is also familiar with wine and long races. The Vice President of ILOG, a software company recently acquired by IBM, moved to the U.S. from France in 1999. He has never run the Marathon du Médoc, a marathon held in France's Médoc wine country, which is world famous for its wine tasting stands along the course.

In Napa's wine country, however, the dual citizen of France and the U.S. will contend for a specially etched bottle of Napa Valley wine. The wine bottles are awarded to the first place overall and masters (age 40 and over) runners to recognize the Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) National Marathon Champions. (The 2009 edition of the Kaiser Permanente Napa Valley Marathon has again been selected by the RRCA as its National Marathon Championship, a designation it has received since 1998.)

Pommier will compete in his first Napa Valley Marathon on his 45th birthday, an occasion he hopes to commemorate with a 2:45:00 finish. Although he's run competitively for just ten years, and sports a fine 2:37:00 marathon personal best, for the past two years Pommier has earned a reputation as a talented ultra-distance runner. Pommier has placed among the top three in a number of ultrarunning events ranging from 50 kilometers to 100 miles. In fact, recently the prolific runner received the 2008 Ultrarunner of the Year Award bestowed by the Pacific Association of USA Track & Field.

(Rectification: like I told you in my post on the 2008 PAUSATF awards, I actually got the coveted Ultra Runner of the Year award in 2007, but Eric Skaden actually got it in 2008.)

With that, you know the main thing: my goal of running in 2:45 (or under...). Based on my latest tempo runs (10 miles in 58:17 last week, and 5 miles in 28:08 this morning) Brad (Los Gatos High School Track Coach) believes I can do much better and I would be cruising at 2:45. These runs were indeed good confidence builders, showing that I have at least a good physical condition.

Mentally, I feel much better than 4 weeks ago when I was off running for a few weeks, and better than after Jed Smith 50K where I was disappointed with my time of 3:51 (against a PR of 3:44 at Ruth Anderson '08). My inflammation along the ankle is not gone yet but Brad's advice helped a lot this week, during which it did not worsen despite the numerous speed work: consistent icing 2 or 3 times a day and light strap around the ankle for support when walking during the day (a simple strap, nothing as dramatic as this serious one, look at the video!).

The logistic should be easy and stress less: driving up to St. Helena on Friday evening (Agnès' friend vacation home), picking up my bib number (245 as in... 2:45!) and visiting the expo on Saturday. I should even be able to drive on the course on Saturday to get a feel of it.

As for the weather, the thing that we really do not control, we are talking about rain coming back to the Bay Area this Sunday and early next week, but it would probably not last the entire week. Hopefully we do not get head wind on race day...

Bottom line, I feel good about the race. Not super trained with the January break, but with a reasonable physical and mental shape to attack the challenge. Counting on a perfect day and a perfect race (no asthma in particular...). And looking forward to seeing some of you over there (Rajeev Patel, Ron Duncan, Mark Lantz, likely many other local runners and, of course, my training buddy, Bob MacDonald, who got the bib #246!).


Anonymous said...

Go for it... you can push it....
I'm going for the sub-3 club I'm not sure if I can do it but we'll see...

This will only be my second marathon but I hope to have a 2 in front of my marathon PR..... No rain, No rain.....

or headwind.....


TokyoRacer said...

Jean and Ted,
Greetings from another guy enjoying his taper. I will be coming from Tokyo (daughter lives in LA). Looking to run about 3:00 and win the 60 division.
I don't mind rain (better than hot sun) but a headwind would be a drag.
See you at the starting line...I'll be wearing a shirt with Japanese kanji.
Best of luck,

Jean Pommier said...

Cool, Bob, see you in Napa Valley then! Good luck with your "2 hours + age in minutes" goal, that rings a bell! ;-) Have a safe flight in the meantime.

Good long run in the rain today (19.4 miles @ 6:52 min/mile). But still hoping for a shiny day in a week, although we indeed need as much rain as possible before the Spring.


Anonymous said...

Donc, cela s'annonce bien...
Donnes-nous les heures précises que nous pensions à toi.
(sympa ce message du Japon!)

Scott Dunlap said...

I agree with Brad. If your tempo runs are sub-1 hour, you should be in the 2:40 range assuming the weather holds. I'll send you good vibes on Sat!

A trail Runner's Blog

Jean Pommier said...

Scott, thank you in advance for the good vibes on Saturday! Hope they hold until Sunday morning, I will need them from 7 to 10am ! ;-)

In the meantime, enjoy the training for WTC.


Dave - Atlanta Trails said...

Good luck, my friend!

TokyoRacer said...

Jean and Ted,
If you read this...there will be an informal 3:00/sub-3 group meeting at the Solfage Spa sign near the start at 6:30. Please join if you want to.

Sarah Lavender Smith said...

Hi Jean,
It's 5:30 a.m. race day morning and I read your blog for inspiration as I wait to go to the start line (luckily we're staying in a motel near the start, which is why I'm online so close to start time). Thank you for inspiring me to be bullish in spite of the rain I hear outside the window. I will run harder knowing you're going for 2:45 ahead of me. I hope to see you at the finish. Great blog post -- thanks!