Tough Workout, Two Races, and a Worrisome Hip Flexor

Tomorrow is supposed to be one of my toughest, and one of the most crucial workouts in my marathon buildup.  Goal is 24 miles at about 95% marathon pace.  I'm treating my MP as somewhere between 5:20 and 5:25 pace at the moment, so this equates to 5:35-5:40 pace.  I'll shoot for starting out at 5:40s for the first 12 miles and bringing it down if I feel good.  I'm doing it on the Lakefront Path in two equal out-and-back segments.  I'm also trying to treat it more or less like race day.  I'll wake up about 2 hours prior to running, and will skip breakfast (helps the body metabolize fat better from the start).  I'll have a coffee about 1.5 hour beforehand, warm up similarly, and take fluids throughout.  There's a crucial difference on this last one though—I'll be taking a water/electrolyte solution as opposed to Gatorade like I will on race day.  I learned from my last marathon that I really do need to practice fueling so that my stomach can handle the volume of liquid while running at MP.  I'll probably try to get about 40 oz. down over the course of a full 24 miles (assuming I make it the full distance), which should take about 2:15-2:16 total. 

When I did this workout pre-Chicago, I only made it through 19 miles at about 5:36 pace, though I had some fluid issues.  I know that I'm fitter and hopefully will be able to complete the workout in its entirety.  However, just in the last two days, my right hip flexor has gotten pretty sore for no real discernible reason.  It hasn't really been bothering me too much, but I can tell it's the exact sort of "injury" that could present a problem for sustained, quick running like tomorrow's workout.  So I'll pop some ibuprofen tonight, ice a little bit, and hope for the best.  If all goes well (i.e., I get the full 24 in), this is essentially as challenging as the marathon itself will be.  In the middle of normal training without race adrenaline... running 24 miles at 95% is about as good of an approximation of the race as you can get.

I'm also racing the Chase Corporate Challenge next Thursday night.  I should be close to recovered from the 24 miler by then, and while the 3.5 race distance is obviously short for me, I should be in the hunt for the win.  Best I can tell, the competition will be Todd Ptacek, a former Notre Dame runner and low 4:00 miler, and Lars Juhl, a 2:20 guy in the marathon.  I beat Todd by about 40 seconds in the Shamrock Shuffle a month ago, but the shorter distance will favor him and perhaps he just had an off day at Shamrock.  In any event, even without sharpening or training for the short stuff, my strength is such that I think I can probably run 4:50 pace or close to it for the race.  However, the course will slow things down a bit—it's got a lot of 90 degree turns and two 180s. 

I also made a late addition to my race calendar — the Solider Field 10 Mile.  It's a pretty big Chicago race and definitely one that I planned on doing at some point.  There's some decent prize money and solid competition.  I think I should be able to run around 52 minutes or under if I have a good day.  It will be a tough 36 hour turnaround after the Corporate Challenge, but I should still be able to compete fairly well.  I like throwing a couple of extra races in here as I near the Grandma's Marathon as well.  Helps with mental toughness and being race ready.