I am very much looking forward to running the Goodlife Fitness Victoria Marathon this weekend. As my 15th marathon (not counting having run the distance in five Ironmans and beyond it in four ultras), it's hardly new territory. I've even explored the Victoria course before, in 2008 and it is where I ran my personal record of 3:07:10 that I have since tried so hard to better.
Amid all the familiarity, experience has also taught me that no marathon is ever the same. There are so many variables, some of which we can control and yet others that we cannot, that every race is a completely fresh challenge; weather is the first one that comes to mind given the blustery conditions of the Bellingham Bay Marathon 11 days ago.
Even so, the biggest unknown for me this Sunday will be how my body has recovered from having raced the distance only two weeks earlier. There is zero doubt in my mind that I can cover the distance; the question is how fast, of course. It takes time to recover from running a marathon as fast as you can.
A typical rule of thumb if a personal best performance is your goal -- a rule I have generally followed in previous years -- is to race two marathons a year, or one about every six months. Another guideline is that recovery from a marathon takes a day for every mile, or 26 days in other words.
In 2007, I experimented by running a second marathon within three months of setting a then-PB in the Canberra marathon in April (3:08, which was a PB by 5 minutes from a race eight months earlier, which in turn had been a PB by 11 minutes from a year earlier) with the expectation to surpass that record. I ran the Gold Coast marathon in July that same year and felt good until about 25km before slowing down to finish in 3:15, a time I could hardly complain about but also was not what I had in mind.
In 2009, I ran a second marathon within five weeks; feeling I could have run better than the 3:10:19 it took me to complete the Vancouver marathon on May 2, I did the North Olympic Discovery marathon on June 7, finishing in 3:10:39 (a women's course record for this boutique race that still stands).
This year is the first time that I am running more than two marathons in one year, not considering the three Ironmans I did between April 2004 and March 2005; and the Rotterdam marathon I ran in April 2010, followed by a 50-miler in August and a 100km in November of the same year (in the latter two my main goal was to finish, as opposed to aiming for performance).
After coming the closest I have to my 2008 PB (set in Victoria) in the Vancouver marathon in May this year, only 31 seconds short, and running my fourth-fastest time ever 11 days ago in Bellingham, I will be aiming for a personal record this Sunday.
I have no reason not to do so; as far as I can tell my recovery from Bellingham has been superb. Not that I have run much, in fact I have only done one run since: a 10km easy jog on Tuesday. Tim, doggy Luka, and I spent the week after the marathon in Pacific Beach, Washington. It's a tiny and quiet town on the beautiful west coast of the Olympic Peninsula.
My recovery there consisted of two long beach walks a day, a glass of red or two at night with dinner and plenty of sleep. An active recovery without any running, as tempting as the level, wide and endless beach with hardpacked sand was.
Today I plan a 6km run, with eight 100-metre strides. Tomorrow is another rest day, while Saturday I plan to do a 10-minute jog. That will take my total distance run since Bellingham to less than 20km in two weeks, or an average of 10km over the past two weeks.
There are no guarantees that I will feel fantastic with only two weeks of recovery but I am determined to feel as good as possible for this Sunday's race; I expect to feel superb and will take the miles as they come.
When in 2008 I ran the Vancouver and Victoria marathons, (though not Bellingham in between), I went five minutes quicker in Victoria. Having said that, I did not have a good race in Vancouver that year (3:12:26) and felt superb in Victoria (3:07:10). This year, I was pleased with my race in Vancouver (3:07:41).
My race plan for Sunday is similar to the one I had for Bellingham two weeks ago; I'll aim for 4:22/km pace (a 3:04 finish) and see what happens. Most of all, despite all the numerical analysis of results, I will focus on making each step the best it can be.
Read 2008 Vancouver Marathon race report
Read pre-race mindset before 2008 Victoria Marathon
Read mini 2008 Victoria Marathon race report
2008 Victoria Marathon kilometre splits