I previously wrote about how NCR is very different from Steamtown. This is all about how I'm going to deal with those differences.
1) Out and back course - Solution: zone out for the first third, watch the super speedy folks for the middle third, then watch the later folks at the end. You might say,"But Laurel, this so-called plan is called using your eyes, and any person with eyes would be doing this anyway!" My response: I need to be reminded to use my eyes when I'm running a marathon. Sometimes I forget.
2) On a trail - Solution: I will just take this as an advantage, and be thankful I don't have to overthink about running tangents, or running on banked roads. I will soak in the scenery and the peacefulness of running on a trail. I will probably sing to myself, count footsteps, generally let my mind wander.
3) <600 runners - Solution: WIN IT. Just kidding. If I run my goal pace, and runners are anything like they have been in previous year, I will have a slight chance of placing in my age group. This would be the biggest deal of my life, so assuming I have a good day, I'll be looking for 20-29 year old women and racing them. It will be really weird to actually race a marathon (of course, I'm saying this based on me having a really good day... really, really good). I usually only do that with the super local 5Ks. I was going to wear headphones and distract myself, but the race website very explicitly says no headphones. I would rather not be DQed on my best race ever.
4) There's a relay - Solution: Great distraction, and added motivation to make my half split speedy since I'll have people around me kicking it to the finish. Also, I'll use the fresh, quick runners who are starting up at the half as a nice distraction and a change of scenery. Again, using my eyes. I'm an innovator.
Google image searches for "innovation" are sufficient fodder for a decade of Dilbert comics. I freaking hate buzzwords and cheesy clip art. Also, you can't see the light bulb because YOU'RE SITTING ON IT, you dumb featureless goldenrod person.
5) Fewer water stops - Solution: Ugh. This is maybe the most irritating thing. I hate to sound prissy, but carrying water during races sucks. However, I don't want to deviate from my normal hydration strategy, so I'll carry my Nathan handheld with Gatorade in it, put my Gus in the pouch, and just deal with it. I have carried that bottle on all my long runs for my last 2 marathons. It's easy to carry and I'm used to it. My concern here is that during a race, especially towards the end, I get super pissy about every little thing. So if the bottle starts shifting in its holder (which it usually does) or leaking (which it also does), it is possible I will turn into a complete bitch and throw the bottle at a fellow racer. Or hopefully just a tree. I am really psyching myself out with this one.
6) I'm running with a very specific goal in mind - Solution: Change my watch to half-mile splits. Not only will this help distract me from actual running, it'll give me frequent indications of how my pace is doing and let me adjust on the fly. This means the effect of a crowded start or dropped glove or water stop will be confined to just the one split, instead of seeing it reflected in a slow mile that I then totally freak out over. Also, 4:05 for each half mile is a really easy calculation to work with.
7) (not listed on the original post, a new wrinkle I have recently discovered) It's going to be COLD. Solution: First, duh, it's late November, of course it'll be cold. Second, I am actually going to use #1 and #3 to my advantage and slightly overdress at the beginning, and shed layers when I see my dad and Nick. I get HOT when I run, so I know if I'm comfortable at the start I'll be toasty within a couple miles. Another facet to this issue is that I haven't done long runs in any of my cold weather gear. I have never run more than 5 or 6 miles in running tights, gloves, or a hat. I may or not wear tights, and I can shed gloves and a hat whenever I need to.
It'll all be ok. 9 days.