PAWS 8k Race Report & Final Preparations for Chicago

On September 25, 15 days out from the marathon, I ran the PAWS (a no-kill, no-cage animal shelter in Chicago) 8k race up at Montrose Beach.  The main reason was to try to pick up a little cash.  I got second place in 25:19, and came away with $100, so I was fairly happy with the race.  As I thought might be the case, Jeff Jonaitis (probably the best runner in Chicago, a 1:05/2:18 guy) was there, like last year.  Emisael Favela was also there, fresh off a 1:08-low PR in the Chicago Half Marathon earlier in the month.  With prize money only three deep, I knew I'd have to put forth a good effort to come away with anything.

JJ, Emisael, one other runner, and I went through the first two miles together.  By the turnaround, it was down to just JJ, Emisael, and I.  We were about 14:55 or so through three miles.  I was pretty well extended, and I could tell JJ was taking it easy for a bit.  Sure enough, at about 3 1/4 miles in, he broke it open, and the three of us strung out, with myself in third.  We were also running into a headwind and I was just holding on.  With about 3/4 of a mile to go, I was 6 or 7 seconds back of Emisael, and while I had been more or less satisfied to take third place, I started to think maybe I could come back on him.  I caught Emisael by about 400m to go, relaxed for about 20 seconds and then made a move to take it.  Emisael must have been a bit overextended at this pace as well (he's also in the middle of marathon training for Chicago), as I was able to open up 6 seconds on him by the finish.  It was a fun race, with lots of dogs around, and a decent band playing afterward.  The timing was right that I didn't really have to sacrifice any big workouts from my training for Chicago, but I'll also be able to recover fully before the marathon.

Now, with one week to go before the marathon, the hay is all in the barn.  I've learned a lot over the last few months in terms of both training theory and how my body reacts to a variety of marathon specific workouts.  I made plenty of mistakes in training, having focused too little on threshold training before the specific phase began to name one mistake.  However, I still got some very good specific work in and am certainly in shape to PR on Sunday.  I don't think I quite have a sub-2:19 in me (the Olympic Trials standard), though if I had a perfect day, it might be there.  But my plan as of right now is to go out somewhere in the 1:10-1:12 range (5:20s - 5:30s), running by feel.  I want to make sure I stay comfortable through 18 miles and then let it rip.  I'm going to do my absolute best to take whatever pace I have in me that day, and not race stubbornly.  It was doing the latter that led to a DNF and a 2:42 blow up in my last two marathons.  If all I have is a 2:23, so be it.  It would be a 3 minute PR and a big step in the right direction.  The last year has been a big learning process, and I would be happy with a PR.  That said, I think I am probably capable of a 2:20/2:21 right now.  Lastly, the weather (6 days out) is now predicted to get up to the 80s this weekend.  That is 30+ degrees too hot for a marathon and will definitely affect times.  We'll see how it is on race day, and hope for cooler than predicted temperatures.