Back to Back Racing Guest Blog by John Loxterman

“Nothing new on race day.” How many times have you heard that hoary old chestnut? I’m pretty sure I’ve said it myself more than once, perhaps even unironically. Just so you know, it is true, and it includes something as simple as drinking water.

I confirmed this classic of race wisdom at the Liberty Bell Challenge – Philadelphia Half Marathon on Saturday/Philadelphia Marathon on Sunday.

I’ve had this on my schedule before – even trained for it in years past – but life and health stuff got in the way. Coach Stacey, as always, was supportive and understanding when I bailed in previous years. To her credit, she kept it to herself if she thought I was going to do it again when I told her I registered for 2021. She came up with a training plan, and I did my best to follow it.

The crux of the plan was progressively longer runs on Saturdays with comparatively shorter runs on Sundays. This was a different strategy from years past, where the longer runs were on Sundays. That order made sense to me – it mimicked the structure of the races. I asked Stacey why we were doing it this way and (sorry Coach) didn’t get a good answer. But I trust my coach so I followed the plan.

Those of us who work with Stacey know, ”It completes the workouts on Training Peaks or else it gets the megaphone.”

When my first race day arrived I felt well prepared for the challenge. My proposed race plan was based on pace targets. Stacey recommended I go by heart rate since GPS can be wonky in the city.

It was a much better plan, but both days I spent the first five miles frustrated at trying to find the right pace. My heart rate actually increases when I try to go slow. I finally gave up, stopped obsessively checking my watch, and just settled into my training pace. Sure enough, I got into a groove and was fine for the rest of the day.

Well, I was fine other than having to stop at the port-a-potty a few times during the run. This brings me back to “Nothing new on race day.” I drank half liter of water before the start, thinking it was better not to get dehydrated than drink too much. I have never done that before a race, and I wound regretting my error. Yet not only did I make this mistake on Saturday, I repeated the same stupid thing on Sunday! About the only positive thing I can say about my bone headedness is at least I wasn’t going for a PR on either race.

Ultimately, I finished the half with plenty left in the tank (no pun intended) for the marathon.

Sunday was a great day. I felt strong enough to negative split the second 13.1, even with all the pit stops. Stacey’s training plan worked perfectly. I wasn’t even that sore on Monday!

Overall, it was a great experience – setting myself a big goal, and achieving it with the help of my coach and the support of my family. Next year I might add the 8K to the half and the full!

But I do want to leave you with this important bit of advice, fellow Hedgies.

Please, learn from my experience. Don’t do what did.

When it comes to race morning, just drink coffee!

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