I’ve had a few people ask me about my racing plans for the Fall/Spring, so I thought I’d write a post to list my schedule, and discuss a personal dilemma that I’m facing with regard to shoe choice – yes, these are the dilemmas that keep me awake at night!
Right now, I’m planning on running 2 marathons this Fall. The first is the Hampton Smuttynose Rockfest Marathon in Hampton, NH on October 3. This is a brand new marathon this year, and is being billed as the flattest marathon in New England (it’s right on the Seacoast of NH). I’m excited about this one particularly since a large number of runners that I have become friends with via the on-line communities on dailymile and Twitter will be running it, and there’s a good chance that I will run a significant portion of the race with my buddies Matt (@luau) and Brendan (@mainerunnah). Unfortunately, those guys are in the next age bracket up from me, so my BQ time (3:15:59), should I decide to pursue it, will require that I set a faster pace than them at some point. Although I’m running well right now, my mileage is lower than in past marathon cycles due to the difficulties imposed by having an infant in the house, and I know that my best marathon time came after my highest mileage cycle (Disney 2010). For this reason I’m not really sure what to expect or what to shoot for.
My second planned marathon is the Manchester City Marathon in Manchester, NH on November 7. This is a very difficult race due to the hilly course, but it’s as close as a hometown marathon as I can get, and I run significant portions of the course on a regular basis since it winds through the campus where I work (Saint Anselm College). I have also run the half in Manchester twice, and I ran the full marathon there last Fall, so I kind of want to keep the streak alive of running it in some form every year since it’s inception.
My third big planned race is further ahead. I’ve been convinced by another group of on-line running friends to do a 50K Ultra in March of 2011. The 2011 HAT Run 50K is held annually in Susquehanna State Park in Maryland, and is supposedly a great choice for first-time ultramarathoners. My main reason for choosing to do this is that it will allow me to meet up with some people whom I’ve come to know very well over the past year, and I’m sure the experience will be an absolute blast. It’ll also allow me to test the Ultra waters and see how I fare at that. My thinking is that doing the HAT will also help me get a real solid mileage base heading into my Spring marathon, which will likely see my return to the Vermont City Marathon in Burlington, VT in May.
Given the grand plan outlined above, my belief is that my best chance for a BQ will be in Vermont next Spring. Based upon past experience, I’m not convinced that my current mileage is sufficient to manage it this Fall, and that has lead me to reconsider my approach to my Fall races. I may run with an aim to just have fun, spend some time running with friends, and see what happens. My best marathon performance (Disney 2010) came during a race that I stressed and obsessed the least about (I barely even looked at the course map), so this approach has worked before for me. I’m notoriously bad at holding back in races, and my wife would laugh in my face if she read that I’m going to run any race just to “have fun,” but maybe a little mental trickery will do the trick. We’ll see…
My dilemma, for lack of a better description, is what to wear on my feet in the Fall marathons. Currently, my most likely shoe choices for Hampton would include the Saucony Kinvara, Nike Free Run+ (review coming soon!), Brooks Launch (which worked fantastic at Disney, but my pair is wearing down), or Brooks Green Silence (which I used for 20+ miles in the Relay for life earlier this year). I had briefly considered the Vibram Fivefingers Bikila, in which I ran a solid 15 miler a few weeks ago, but I don’t think I’m ready for a marathon distance race in them (maybe Manchester since I have no real expectation of running fast there on the hills?). Of the above, I’d say the Kinvara and Free Run+ might be my finalists right now – both would be forgiving if my form started to break down in the later miles (I like a slight heel raise and some cushion for a marathon since late-race form breakdown often leads to more pronounced heel striking). I had my best run so far of this cycle in the Free Run+ – a 13.1 mile “race pace” run that I did in 1:35, which is well below my BQ pace. I may do my final two long runs in these shoes before I make a decision. Any thoughts would be appreciated!
So that’s it for now – my big races for the next 6-9 months. I may try to fill in the gaps with a few PR attempts at the 5K as the weather cools, and I’d really like to run a 5K in my Vibrams just to see what I can manage. I’ll be sure to report back if I do.