41 days away from the first part of the LA/SF Challenge, which starts with the Honda LA Marathon. As the count down continues to the upcoming events with the Honda LA Marathon on March 17 and the Wipro San Francisco Marathon on June 16, most runners have started off their 2013 race season by pinning a race bib or two onto their running attire and gear. For those of that have committed to running a marathon or two in the first 6 month of 2013, I think taking part in a couple of races prior to the big race has it’s benefits. For me running events prior to any race I consider a focus race, such as the Honda LA Marathon, provides me with opportunities to train on different running routes I would not otherwise run, train around people that run at different paces, and most importantly provide me with and opportunity to practice my marathon day routine. I treat many of these races as “dress rehearsals” for the big day.

After taking the month of January off from any races to focus on my newest training program for the Honda LA Marathon, the first weekend of February opened up with 2 opportunities to practice for the big day as well as continue to get my training miles in. On Saturday February 2, I took part in the Jed Smith Ultra Classic in Sacramento, running in the 30k distance. The 18.6 miles was perfect to test out my race day gear, race day breakfast, and in race fueling. For me the race day breakfast is very similar to my pre training run breakfast. However, one of the key focuses I had outside of the actual pace and effort of my run during the 30k was the testing of fueling and hydrating while on the move.  After the race another thing I examined was my race day gear, and application of body glide. All too often I hear of people complaining about chaffing with their running gear, because they buy something new for the race, and have never worn it before in training.

For me Saturday’s race was a great day, as I learned a little bit more about when I should fuel with carbs and how often I should hydrate with water and/or a sport drink. As for the actual quality of the run, racing along side runners faster than me and slower than me allowed me to focus on my pace and my pace only. For me when it comes to the LA Marathon, I am not trying to out run the top runners, I am just trying to beat the clock and cross the finish line before it read 3:05:00. My Jed Smith Ultra 30k provided me to keep pace, and push the speed as planned for the final 4.9 miles finishing the 18.6 mile run at a total time of 2:19:16.

My second race of the year came up right away as I jumped right back into the racing crowd on Sunday February 3 at the Davis Stampede Half Marathon in Davis, CA. Along with practicing my day of a race routine of getting up, eating breakfast, fueling during the race, and race day attire, this particular half-marathon provided me with removing start line anxieties. Even after running 11 marathons, the race day morning anxieties still sometimes get to me, with the Davis Stampede being a bigger race compared to Saturday’s Jed Smith Ultras Classic, more people were at the start line. Like anything else I think showing up to a race and being able to stick to a game plan and focus on individual race day strategies takes practice, and the only way to practice this is to show up to races that draw a couple thousand runners at the start.

Sunday’s half marathon allowed me to practice focusing on the start of a race with plenty of runners around me forcing me to weave in and out of groups to be able to find a rhythm. I was able to find a decent pace and pick it up at various moments within the first mile and run smooth to the finish. Along with practicing the focus on race day, from a training standpoint, the half marathon gave me an opportunity to continue to log more training miles and complete another 80+ mile week of training miles for the second straight week. For those of you wondering I was able to complete the Davis Stampede Half Marathon at a time of 1:34:04.

41 days away and I know plenty of you have taken the first step of the LA/SF Challenge by training and preparing for the Honda LA Marathon. How is your training coming along?