Pre-race Preparations

Happy Saturday sentient beings! Tomorrow is May 4th: International Star Wars Day, and, more importantly, The Tacoma City Marathon! I started this blog to document my training and fundraising efforts for the Seattle Humane Society. The past four months of running, writing, and raising funds were all in preparation for tomorrow. The experience of using my training to fundraise has been incredible. Together we raised $730 for the animals. I am overwhelmed by the support I have received from my family and friends. There aren’t enough diamonds in the Smithsonian Museum to express my gratitude.


So I’ll give you something better: a Giant Lop.

Thank YOU

Thank you for donating, for putting up with my workout schedule, for listening to me prattle on endlessly about running. Your support gives me strength; you will be on my mind as my feet pound the pavement tomorrow. Thank you for reading my blog, for giving me feedback on my writing, and for putting up with the excessive amounts of selfies I post.

Hello, my name is Sam, I am a microbiologist and I'm addicted to selfies
Hello, my name is Sam, I am a microbiologist and I’m addicted to selfies 

I have been blogging about how I have been training for this race for the last four months. I’ve run through the rain, done Yasso 800s, progression runs, and managed not to drive myself crazy during taper week. I ran 590.77 miles over the course of my training plan: I’ve got 26.2 left.

The race starts at seven am. The course takes us over the Tacoma Narrows Bridge (a.k.a “Galloping Gertie“), through Point Defiance Park, and along the waterfront before ending in downtown Tacoma (motto: “The City of Destiny”…really).

This is going to be fun!
This is going to be fun!

The day before an endurance event is a day for carbo-loading and mental preparation. My day started with some oatmeal (surprise!) and then I headed in to the lab to analyze the results of yesterday’s survival assay, and to start some cultures of Bacillus growing.

Wow- you guys did NOT like those drugs

I always get pre-race jitters in the days leading up to an endurance event. I’m terminally overly-analytical.  If left to my own devices, I will meticulously analyze EVERY single decision in the days leading up to the big occasion:

“Should I take the bus to work today instead of biking so my legs are fresher?”

fuji bike
No- you HATE the bus

“Does this banana have enough carbohydrates to fuel my glycogen stores?”


“Did I run enough? Did I run too much?” What’s that weird feeling in my left butt-cheek?”

YES you ran enough
YES you ran enough

“What if I get lost driving to the race?” “What if suddenly everyone decides that they need to be commuting at five in the morning and there’s lots of traffic?”

Leave early, you HATE traffic more than the bus
Leave early, you HATE traffic more than the bus

“What if a meteor hits the Tacoma Dome?”

Then the world will have lost a nice dome
Then the world will have lost a nice dome



Normally when I’m feeling overwhelmed and my mind is racing I go to my default form of stress relief.


Today I chose not to go running. Most training plans agree that a short, easy workout is great the day before a marathon: it shakes out the legs and quiets the mind. However, I know myself: once I am out running, I like to KEEP running. Four easy miles could easily turn into eight, even though I KNOW that that would be a bad idea. Newton’s law of inertia holds a lot of sway in my life; once THIS body is in motion, it likes to stay in motion. I needed a way to get myself out of my own head today, and I had some time to kill at work while my cells were replicating

flask culture
Grow baby grow!

I had two options to tame my brain:

hit the pool not the bottle

I chose to hit the pool, not the bottle. While I was swimming I took some time to think about my goals for this race.

The author of one of my favorite running blogs, runeatrepeat, has a great post on setting goals for race-day. She sets three goals: an “A,” “B,” and “C” goal. The A goal is the aspirational goal: what you hope to achieve when the planets align in your favor, the running gods are smiling upon you, and the Virgin Mary is giving out holy water at the aid stations.

virgin mary
Mother Mary, full of grace and glycogen….I offer my prayers and hamstrings to thee

The B goal is your baseline: ambitious, yet attainable. The C goal is what you can still accomplish even if everything goes catastrophically–if the dome DOES get hit by a meteor, will you dodge the wreckage and finish strong?

I like this approach to goal setting. Endurance events are LONG, and there are a LOT of factors that are out of your control. In the end you have to trust your training, genuflect to an altar of energy gels and give it your best. If things start going south midway through it is better to have back up goals than be devastated because you aren’t having a Meb Keflezighi-day.

With that said, here are my goals for the Tacoma City Marathon:

A Goal: Finish in 3:45

B Goal: Finish in under 4 hours

It is REALLY important to me that I beat Paul Ryan.

I'm comin' for ya!
I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little budget-plan too!

C Goal: Finish injury free and without gastric distress!

I have learned my lesson and I will be avoiding salted caramel Gu. Luckily there are other flavors to choose from!



OK. It’s time for me to put away this blog post and put myself to bed. I’m nervous. I’m excited. I’m sleepy. I’ll be sure to write a re-cap once everything is over and done with!




4 thoughts on “Pre-race Preparations

Add yours

  1. I like the A/B/C goals. I heard a great interview with Roger Bannister on the 60th anniversary of the 4 minute mile yesterday. Just fascinating, in so many ways.

    He was a med student, and had failed to place in the 1500 at the ’52 Helsinki Olympics. If he had actually medaled, he would have retired, because keeping training up with a med student schedule is, of course, insane. So that forced him to set a new goal, which made him famous, and got him a knighthood. As he says himself, (paraphrased) “I certainly can’t list the 25 gold medal winners in the 20th century, so I’m sure if I had won in Helsinki, I would have been forgotten.”

    He broke a record that had stood since 1945, and there was a lot of pseudoscience floating around about a 4-minute mile being physically impossible. But he was a scientist, and knew that was a load of kerfuffle. As he says (paraphrased) “We were not close to physical limits, given improvements available in training, not to mention favorable conditions on race day.” (The A goal.)

    I’d add that elite running at a time was a pursuit available mostly to amateurs (read “rich guys”) and Europeans. So all the really fast guys from Kenya and Ethiopia hadn’t even got started on record breaking.

    I’ll try to find the interview and pass it along.


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