My college coach used to say "plan the race and race the plan." Yes, you can't freak out if circumstances force you to change plans - but, you need to go into a race understanding your goal with a realistic plan of how you will get there. In some ways I've been doing this on a macro level with my training plan - and as with my training plan I've learned a few things in my four marathons that will help me on Monday.
Probably the most important part of the plan is pacing. Because of the unique elevation profile of the course, the history, and the strong fan support in places (Wellesley College, Cleveland Circle) - there is probably no other course on earth with as much thought that has gone into mileage splits than Boston. I thought about taping the splits onto my arm from one of the pacing calculators that I wrote about in a previous post - but, I'm worried that I might rely on it too much. But, I do think the calculators were helpful because they told me that even on the biggest downhill mile I shouldn't go any faster than 5:30 and that I shouldn't go any slower on the uphills than slightly over 6 minutes.
For me the biggest trick will be the first few miles. At New York in 2007 my second mile (coming down the bridge) was under 5:20 pace. I was having way too much fun - feeling the excitement of the race and I paid for it later. This time I'm planning to have the disposition of a monk. I almost want to feel groggy in the first few miles - like I'm slowly waking up as the race unfolds. The first four miles are like running down a sledding hill - in my training I sought out hills like those and concentrated on flowing down them - focusing on keeping my stride short to keep the pounding to a mininum.
Although I will be keeping mile splits - the first split that I'll really concentrate on is the 10th mile. I'm hoping to be somewhere around 57 minutes. I've heard it said that the marathon is best broken into thirds - the first ten miles, the second ten miles, and the last 10k. These are the splits where I'll really take stock of how I'm doing. I'm hoping that my second 10 miles will also be close to 57 minutes - leaving me a 36 minute 10k to break 2:30.
Another big part of "the plan" is nutrition. I discovered Roctane - which is the best gel that I've ever used. It really provides a kick - we'll probably learn that it has some illegal chemical in it and it will take 10 years off my life - but, heh, I'm trying to break 2:30! I'm going to take one Roctane 15 minutes before the race starts and three more during the race (miles 8, 16, & 22). Boston is the only race I know of that has water/gatorade stops every mile. So, there shouldn't be a problem with hydration. I'll probably take water and gatorade every 2-3 miles.
The other parts of the plan are related to pre-race. I arrive in Boston on Saturday. I plan on sleeping in on Sunday, and except for a 30 min shakeout run, the expo, and dinner - I'm going to be laying around watching TV or reading a book.
I'll have to leave for the bus at ~6am on Monday morning. I'll bring a bunch of clothing and maybe a cheap poncho. They force you to check your bag at least an hour before the start. So, I'll also bring some warm clothes that I'll just throw away at the start (they give the clothing to charity). The forcast is for low to mid 40's and a 30% chance of rain - ok for racing, but not for waiting around. In terms of the actual race the worst part of the forcast so far is a 15 mile-an-hour wind coming out of the east, which just happens to be the direction we'll be running for 26.2 miles. But, hey - it's better than 80 degrees and sunny like it has been some years.