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The Most Valuable Lessons Learned While Training for My First Half Marathon

12 weeks of training for the Rock & Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon are done. Wow. Seriously? Time flies. I’d be lying if I said it went perfectly. I had a bad cold, a few days of shin trouble, an unplanned business trip, I slacked at cross training… but still, I’m pretty satisfied. I learned a lot training for my first half marathon.

The Most Valuable Lessons I Learned While Training:

  • A training plan is just a plan.  If the plan calls for an 18 mile week and you have a 17 mile week – that’s still a great week!  I’ve caught myself thinking of that week as a failure. It’s not.
  • It is ok to miss workouts when you’re sick, tired, or sore.  Skipping one track workout because your shins ache is much smarter than working yourself into a stress fracture because you don’t want a day off.  Remember, your ultimate goal is to run a race and you can’t do that if you get hurt because you’re being stubborn.
  • Replace your shoes regularly.  Keep track of the miles you put on your shoes (DailyMile is a useful tool for this) and replace them BEFORE they blow out.  Your feet will thank you.
  • Find friends to do your long runs with.  Long runs take a lot of time and they’re a lot more pleasant when you have company.
  • Remember, most of us run because we like it NOT because we’re training to win races.  Go easy on yourself  when you have a bad run.  Loosen up on your time goals.  Most of our running goals are self imposed. We can adjust as necessary!
Week 12 Training Recap:
Monday 8/22: I got my first ever sports massage to try to work out a series of annoying knots in my butt/hamstring.  My legs are still a little sore but they’re feeling a lot better than they were pre-massage.
Tuesday 8/23: I did a 2 mile easy run around my neighborhood. My legs felt great & I kept the run feeling easy – even taking several walk breaks on a really short run.
Wednesday 8/24: My legs were totally dead and I felt totally panicked.  I went to my track workout, which was cancelled because there was a school event on the track, and badgered my coach with questions about how I should alter my last week and a half of training. We had a short hill workout where I ran about 1.5 miles. She made me promise to stretch a lot, ice bathe, and take my runs extra easy until VA Beach.
Thursday 8/25: I totally rested and sat on a tennis ball to work on the butt knot.
Friday 8/26: I went to the gym and rode about 5 miles.  Legs were feeling pretty good and I decided to go out for my long run Saturday, ahead of Irene.  I had 10 miles on the schedule but planned to cut out early if I was having any kind of tired or sore legs.
Saturday 8/27: I met Suze and our friend Suzanne for our long run.  It was so humid but I felt surprisingly good.  After a few miles I decided I’d be in for the full 10 miler.  We had a few detours due to construction and high waters from Irene but we ended up with about 9.4 miles.  We took it really slowly – stopping to walk and stretch pretty much every mile. It was exactly what I needed the week before my first half marathon.

9.4 miles around the nation's capital on a Saturday morning. It never gets old.

Stretching out on the cars after this morning's 9 miler

Today is a stretch and rest day.  I’m planning to take little Fin out for a nice long walk – though for a 7 pound dog that equals about 2 miles.

I hope everyone on the east coast survived Hurricane Irene and is safe today.  Be safe if you’re going out for a bike ride or run this afternoon – it’s still really windy in DC!

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All About Sports Massages

I had an appointment for my first sports massage earlier this week.  I’m about a week away from my first half marathon and my hamstrings and glutes have been feeling a little bit dead.  I decided to let an expert step in too reduce the risk of injury before I get to Virginia Beach and I think it turned out to be a great idea.

Massage can prevent injuries and loss of mobility and flexibility.

Sports massages are great if you have an area you know you want to work on because the therapist can focus on that area instead of providing a full body massage (1).  One session can help restore mobility and motion to the area (2).

Physiological Effects of Massage (via SportsInjuryClinic.net):

  • Pain reduction – Tension and waste products in muscles can often cause pain. Massage helps reduce this in many ways including releasing the bodies endorphins.
  • Relaxation – Muscles relax through heat generated, circulation and stretching. Mechanoreceptors which sense touch, pressure, tissue length and warmth are stimulated causing a reflex relaxation.

Physical Effects of Massage (via SportsInjuryClinic.net):

  • Pumping – The stroking movements in massage suck fluid through blood vessels and lymph vessels. By increasing the pressure in front of the stroke, a vacuum is created behind. This is especially important in tight or damaged muscle tissue as a tight muscle will squeeze blood out like a sponge, depriving the tissues of vital nutrients and energy to repair.
  • Increased tissue permeability – Deep massage causes the pores in tissue membranes to open, enabling fluids and nutrients to pass through. This helps remove waste products such as lactic acid and encourage the muscles to take up oxygen and nutrients which help them recover quicker.
  • Stretching – Massage can stretch tissues that could not be stretched in the usual methods. Bundles of muscle fibres are stretched lengthwise as well as sideways. Massage can also stretch the sheath or fascia that surrounds the muscle, so releasing any tension or pressure build up.
  • Break down scar tissue – Scar tissue is the result of previous injuries or trauma and can effect muscle, tendons and ligaments. This can lead to inflexible tissues that are prone to injury and pain.
  • Improve tissue elasticity – Hard training can make tissues hard and inelastic. This is one reason why hard training may not result in improvements. Massage helps reverse this by stretching the tissues.
  • Opens micro-circulation – Massage does increase blood flow to tissues, but so does exercise. What massage also does is open or dilate the blood vessels and by stretching them this enables nutrients to pass through more easily.
When To Skip a Massage (source):
  • If you have inflammation: Massage can further irritate an area of inflammation, so you should not administer it. Inflamed conditions include anything that ends in –itis, such as phlebitis (inflammation of a vein), dermatitis (inflammation of the skin), arthritis (inflammation of the joints), and so on. In the case of localized problems, you can still massage around them, however, avoiding the inflammation itself.
  • If you have a fever:  When you have a fever, your body is trying to isolate and expel an invader of some kind. Massage increases overall circulation and could therefore work against your body’s natural defenses.
If you’re not sure if a massage would be helpful you can call a sports masseuse.  If they’re a good business they’ll be happy to answer your questions prior to an appointment.
Have you ever had a sports massage?  What did you think of it?

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Three Things Thursday – The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Edition

1) Virginia Beach Half Marathon:

The Good:  I got my bib number.  I’m #12332! Everything seems so real now! I don’t know if there’s online tracking available but if there is I’ll be sure to make good use of it.

The Bad: I’ve had a knot in my left IT band since Tuesday.  This barely qualifies as “bad” because I’ve been rolling the heck out of it (to the point of bruising my leg) and it’s already so much better.  To be extra safe, I skipped my track workout last night and booked a massage for Monday. I’m really thankful this happened 2.5 weeks prior to the race instead of the week before. Nothing is pulling and I know that an extra rest day or two won’t derail my training so I’m trying not to let this cause any stress.

The Ugly: This is my first half marathon and even though I’m not trying to be, I’m nervous!  I keep having dreams that I’ve been running for a long time and feel so good, but then I look at my watch and realize that either I’ve been running for 7 hours and the end is nowhere in sight  or I’ve went to the finish party before actually finishing the race.

2) Healthy Living Summit:

FINALLY!

The Good:There’s so much good, I don’t even know what to write here! I’m beyond excited to meet up with some of my favorite blog and twitter friends for a weekend of fun in, what is now being dubbed, the City of Bloggerly Love.

The Bad: My packing skills are seriously lacking.

How do I have so much stuff to pack for a 2 day trip?!

The Ugly:

Rain, rain go away

I think the great company will more than make up for the bad weather – and really, I know I’m going to have a great weekend if the weather is the only thing that I’m less than excited about!

3) Shopping

The Good:The Mizuno Wave Alchemy 11’s are out!  I blow through running shoes at an alarming rate and I’m looking forward to adding these into my rotation.

I shall call them fluffy and they will be mine.

The Bad: I have been shopping WAY too much lately. I’ve mentioned that I prefer to wear workout clothes to “regular” clothes but I didn’t realize how much I’m lacking in the regular clothes department until I started packing for HLS.  I’ve been buying a lot of clothes – like cocktail dresses (plural).

The Ugly: Of course I got more workout clothes too… I found a really cute jacket for winter that was on mega sale and I had to snag it.  But it’s totally unnecessary for right now when it’s so hot and humid.

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Ditching My Time Goal for My First Half Marathon

I’ve been putting off writing this post for awhile but I realized it would be the perfect topic for my 100th blog post.

Happy 100th Post to Me!

I am so excited to run my first half marathon on September 4th in Virginia Beach.  I’ve been obsessively following a training plan for the last few months in hopes I’d have a great race.  I have bee pretty diligent in following the plan – doing all of my speed work and long runs – but I have found myself totally worried my expected finish time over the last few weeks.

According to Runners World Smart Coach, I should be able to finish this race in just under 2:20. I actually tweaked my training plan quite a bit when I set it up to make sure the finish time would be under 2:20. I’m pretty sure I can finish in that time but I’m not sure if I want to finish in that time.

I’ve been running all of my long runs really slowly and comfortably, as prescribed by Smart Coach. And I’ve read a lot of blog posts and articles that say doing your long runs slowly to build endurance and speed work to build speed is the way to go.  But I’m really hesitant to go into the race and try to run 13.1 miles so much faster than I’ve run any of my training runs.

Sweaty post SLOW 8 mile picture. Ignore the fact that my hand is still moving. I was excited!

Maybe I’ll be able to, but I think I want my first half marathon to be about the excitement of a the race (that happens to have a view of the ocean for a good part of the race. Yay!) vs. pushing myself to my limit just to run a few minutes faster.

At first I was worried that if my time was really “slow” for this race, people wouldn’t understand why I spend so much time running (not that my “fast” time is particularly fast).  But you know what, forget what other people think.  I’m not running this race to win – Ryan Hall will be there and I’m pretty sure he has this race in the bag 😉  I’ve come across so many other awesome runners who run right at the same pace as me – including my awesome HLS roomie Allison who just wrote an amazing post about how she wards off injury by not focusing on times and running at a pace that she likes. Maybe I’m not as slow as I think.

So you know what… I’m ditching my time goal. I am going to have so much fun at this race with Suze and I’m going to enjoy my first half marathon.

How did you set time goals for your first race?

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Virginia Beach Training Week 10 – Getting Frost Bite from the Ice Bath

My running week got so much better after Monday’s dramatically bad run!  I feel much more confident about Virginia Beach. I can’t believe it’s in 3 weeks!

Week 10 Training:

Monday:  3.25 miles of hills that left me a little panicked.

Wednesday: 3.89 miles on the track that brought me back to reality. I can definitely run a half marathon in 3 weeks.

Warmed up with 800, ran 1600, recovered 400, then did 4 x 400 repeats with 200 rest, then 400 cool down.
warm up – .53 – 4:57 (9:23 pace)
1×1600 – 1.09 – 9:54 (9:05 pace)
recovery – .26 – 3:12 (12:10 pace)
4×400 – .27 – 2:25 (9:07 pace), .28 – 2:17 (8:18 pace), .27 – 2:09 (7:57 pace), .27 – 2:03 (7:38 pace!!)
cool down – .27 – 2:31 (9:20 pace)

Fun fact: According to my trusty Garmin, I beat my 5K PR on the track on Wednesday (walk breaks included)!  I swear I’m going to rock the 5K I’m signed up for in September.

Friday: I had a two mile shakeout run and the weather was perfect.  It was so nice to get outside and not get beat to death by oppressive humidity.  I was able to start at 9 am! I can’t even remember the last time I was able to go out for a run at 9 am and wasn’t dying from the heat.   I didn’t pay much attention to my watch and it turned out that I ran way too fast (10:30 pace) for a recovery run but at least I got it done.

Saturday: I pushed my long run up a day to make sure the nasty forecast for Sunday didn’t mess up my training.  I ended up getting out the door a little later than planned but I was still pretty excited for a nice 8 miler.   I was undecided about whether I should run back to Old Town or if I should head into DC and run around the monuments but I ended up deciding on Old Town because Metro seemed to be taking a big weekend nap and I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on a single tracking train after a long run.

So I set off and the first two miles were nice and easy.  I love the Mount Vernon Trail. It’s so pretty and it’s so much less crowded on a Saturday morning.  There were a lot more runners out than cyclists, which was nice because I always worry about getting in the way of the really fast bikers.  I felt kind of sluggish and went for my honey stingers at mile 3.5 but my stomach was not feeling like eating would be a good decision.  I thought water would be a better choice and I’d go back for the chews at mile 5.5.

I think this face says it all...

Mile 5.5 was still a no go on the snack (see my face in the above picture… really, I was trying to smile there but yet I still look so pained haha).  My energy has pretty much vanished at this point but I figured it would be better to finish up the last few miles slowly than feel pukey.  It started raining lightly and that really helped me stay cool and happy. 8 miles were done by 9:30 and I was so relieved.

After taking the Metro home (and grossing people out with my crazy sweat for the 2nd time in as many weeks) I stopped and got some ice for an ice bath. I knew that the brick & cobblestone streets in Old Town killed my ankles and shins two weeks ago so this time I was ready.

That appears to be first degre frost bite on my calves and hamstrings.

I think I got a little overzealous with the ice because after 15 minutes it looked like I had first degree frostbite on my calves and hamstrings.  But my muscles felt pretty good on Sunday and feel great today so I think it was worth it.

I know I keep saying that I can’t believe it’s already almost half marathon time, but I really can’t  believe how fast time has been going.  Week 11 will be a lot of fun because I get to do my long run in Philly while I’m at Healthy Living Summit.  I am so pumped to get to explore a new city on a long run and beyond excited to meet everyone at HLS!

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Can You Predict Your Running Pace?

Are you able to accurately predict your pace?  It turns out, I’m not.  Monday night’s Pacer’s workout was a predict a pace session.  Basically, we’d warm up and then predict our pace for a  2 mile run around the track.  We’d run watchless and see how close we came to our predictions.

Monday’s weather was crappy during the day and I was really not sold on the idea of driving to the track for a 2 mile workout that I could easily do from home. I figured I’d go home and just get my 2 mile run in before the 7pm track session even started.

My legs were really tired from Sunday’s 6 miles.  I thought I’d run the two miles at my easy run pace (about 12 min/miles).  I never really run by feel but I figured that was what would be natural. So  I set out and tried my hardest to ignore my watch. I was surprisingly successful at that part of the activity! I knew the route and I knew pretty much exactly where the first “mile marker” would be so I avoided looking down until I crossed it. I actually didn’t look at my watch until 1.2 miles in and the humidity must have been affecting my math skills because I didn’t realize how much I was off my goal pace.  I didn’t hit any stoplights at all – and those of you in the Pentagon/Crystal City area know there are a ton of stoplights in my neighborhood so this was crazy – so I finished up my run without much excuse to look at my watch.

I was definitely surprised to look down and see 22:06.  Whoops.  I was more surprised to look at my mile splits and see that they were both exactly 11:03.  At least when I run by feel I’m consistent?

I’m not really sure what to make of this info. I’m going to definitely make sure I do my long run this weekend at the pace Runners World Smart Coach recommends – about 12 min/mile because I don’t want to get hurt.  Maybe I can tweak some of my recovery run paces, but we’ll see.

Are you able to predict your pace without a watch? Have you ever tried a predict a pace run?

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Training Week 7 Recap

I feel like I’m perpetually late on my blog posting.  Last Wednesday, I finally shook the cold of death enough to go back to the track and get back to my half marathon training.

Good by sick week!

I probably shouldn’t have just jumped right back into my training plan, exactly as written, but I did. I’m a little more sore than normal but nothing feels more than achy.  You know you haven’t run in awhile when a 3 mile track workout leaves your legs feeling like dead weights for a few days.

Friday I did a quick 2 miler before work, and before the serious heat started. I’m glad I woke up at 6 because by 3pm it was 102 degrees, felt like 121 degrees with 46% humidity. I’ve found a “new” route around my neighborhood that’s different from the one that I used to run all the time and I’m really digging it. It’s short but can easily be switched up for longer distances.  Plus it starts with a little up hill and, weirdly, that’s kind of a nice way to get my legs moving right away.

This is how I had to hydrate for 2 miles in the heatwave. A little ridiculous.

I stretched out with some yoga on Saturday to get my legs ready for my first long run in two weeks.  Sadly, my usually awesome yoga instructor was kind of out of her mind and class was tedious and not fun… but I guess it did the job because my legs felt pretty good after.

Sunday’s long run was moved to the ungodly time of 6:30 a.m. to try to beat out the worst of the day’s heat.  The start time was definitely a little more tolerable because Victoria joined us! The miles definitely went by quickly as we chatted.  By about 7:15 we were really happy that we started at 6:30 because it was already starting to get HOT.  I know, I know… all the heat wave talk is getting old but it’s so hard for me to understand how it can be so hot while it’s so early! I went out thinking I had 7 miles on the schedule and decided to cut it to just over 6 because my legs were tired but it turned out that only 6 was scheduled so it was perfect! Coach Bridget brought watermelon for the finish area and it was such a nice end to a really hot, humid run. I think watermelon is going to have a permanent post long run fixture for me.

Now I’m starting week 8 of my training. I can’t believe it. Virginia Beach is getting so close! I am actually really excited for my upcoming 8 miler and I guess that’s a good sign.  It will be my longest run without a walk break (so long as it goes well) by about 2 miles and I’m happy I’m at a point where that’s more exciting than scary.

How are you handling your training in the summer months?

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