I will often visualize an upcoming race even as I am going through a training session. The Mt. Si course follows a river trail out and back. The first 25k leads gently upward (1000 ft - about 65 ft per mile), and then I will turn around and come back down the same path. My plan consists of running about a 9 minute/mile pace out and hopefully about an 8 or 8:15 back. That will put me in a 4:30 - 4:45 total time. Last year I ran Pemberton in 4:43.
When running, I think through these things. Sometimes I talk out the plan. (Goodness knows what people I pass think if they even hear me.) Perhaps I have read too many books about World War II or am just too anal for my own good, but I see every race as a preset plan - an assault on the course. Like on the battlefield, race day requires me to adjust to the actual conditions (weather, terrain, muscle pain, food intake) and that makes the outcome uncertain. However, I feel more confident going into an event with some sense of what to expect.
Today, I found my first few miles rather slow - north of 9 mins. After 18 minutes, I had barely covered 2 miles. So, doubts float into my head naturally. "Am I too sore after the last two marathons?" "I'm running in my trail shoes on pavement; is my body rebelling at that? Do I want to use my normal shoes on the trail instead?" "Maybe this is a good thing - keeps me from going too fast out the gate." Yet, as I loosened up, my speed increased and I ran the 5 miles at an 8:43 total pace - perfectly in the sweet spot for Sunday. That realization at the end calmed any doubts.
But my thoughts did not linger all 44 minutes on Mt. Si. My mind wandered to post-Sunday. First up will be the Fort Collins Half-Marathon on May 1. I feel that will really be much more of a casual run for me. When not in hard training mode, I try to average 30-35 miles per week. So, 13.1 miles on a Sunday is below my normal 15-17. Thinking further out, next up in my mind is the Will Rogers Palisades 5k on July 4. I ran part of that course today (it's my normal short run spot), and here I wondered if I could complete the lap in under 20 mins. I ran the 2009 5k in 19:22. With good speed training in June, I should be able to beat that. (The Will Rogers race is a 5k or a 10K. I tend to alternate, so this year is a 5k for me.) My goal for training in May is to just take it easy! June I will think about the Will Rogers race. I hope I am not planning too far ahead.
(Of course, after July 4, I ramp up for my two fall marathons in Chile and New York City! And those thoughts have started too.)