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To PR or not to PR, that is the question

Posted Oct 05 2012 4:54pm
For most of my years in running a race plan or strategy didn't really matter that much.  I was just lucky to be running and the reality was that whatever happened out on the course was cool with me because I felt like just the act of running was enough to concentrate on, how could I possibly try to control anything else?  Whether I had a good race or a bad race was left to be determined out on the course, you know?

This year I've been running so much more (it is my Dream Year of Racing after all!) and I feel like I am getting to the place where I don't have to just let races "happen" to me anymore, I feel like I can control my own performance a bit more.  I still have lots of work to do, but I feel like I'm getting strong enough and consistent enough that I can handle pushing more over the distance and picking up the pace.

But, I'm still nervous about the whole idea of "trying to PR".  Sure, when I ran the Kamloops Half Marathon I knew it was pancake flat and I knew it would be a likely place to PR - and I did .  But that was pretty obvious.  When it comes to whether I think I can PR on other courses, I feel unsure of how to predict whether I can or not.

For example, I had an idea of what the Surrey Half Marathon course would be like (gentle rolling hills, nothing too major) but it wasn't until I got out there and got going that I realized I probably could have easily PR'd if I had set out to do that from the start.  Now that I'm just a couple days away from the Victoria Half Marathon (which I am so excited about) I find myself wondering, "should I make an attempt to PR?"

Here are the things that factor into the decision, as I see it
  1. How am I feeling?  I'd have to say Great!  Since Goofy training began I feel stronger and fitter and just awesome-er.  Those Mojo Jar challenges have done their job, the mojo is back!
  2. How have I been training?  I've pretty much been "in training" all year but lately I've been much more focused and working harder.  I haven't exactly been doing a lot of speed training but I've been trying to just "push" more in general and add sprints to all of my runs.
  3. How've I been eating?  Just fine.  Sure I've had a few chocolate covered raisins but in general I've been eating fine and don't feel overly bloated or yucky or heavy (unlike running the Seawheeze Half Marathon in August after a couple weeks of vacation and sun, fun and booze)
  4. How've I been hydrating?  Ever since I think I slightly over-hydrated before the BMO Half Marathon in May (I felt so sloshy and disgusting) I've been careful not to go overboard.  I've been drinking lots of extra water all week as opposed to sucking it all back the day before and I feel good.
  5. What's the course like?  I must confess, I think I'm elevation-chart-challenged.  I look at them and just have a hard time telling whether those blips on the chart are big hills or little hills.  Word on the street is that Victoria is a fairly level course but when I look at the charts I go cross-eyed...

This was Surrey HM and I loved it, felt great...
This is the Victoria HM profile and I can't tell if this will be tough or not...

I'm not sure if there are other things I should be thinking about or if there are other ways I can tell if I am ready to give it a shot.  I think I am, but I'm scared to declare it in case I totally fail - what if I misinterpreted the elevation chart and those hills are super tough?  Or what if I wake up and feel like crap on race morning?  I know there are always those unknowns but I'm still trying to figure out my strategies and how to manage the risks.

Anyhow, I'm probably totally over thinking this, but it's what's on my mind today as I rest and hydrate. I know that in a few months I have a nice flat half marathon coming up that will be a good chance to PR.  But, wouldn't it be great to come home from Victoria with a shiny new PR to keep me motivated over the fall?

How do you decide when you're going to try and beat your PR?  Is there anything else I should use to help me figure out if it's a good idea to try?
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