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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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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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A Run Without Unicorns and Sunshine

It’s been awhile since I’ve had a truly bad run – ever since I started running with Pacers it’s been all happy all the time, even on the tough runs.  But last night’s hill workout was just brutal.  No unicorns or sunshine to be found… actually, there was plenty of sunshine but absolutely no unicorns.

Notice: The Custis Trail happy unicorns have gone missing.

We ran from W&L over to the Custis trail mile 1 for warm up and then had 4×1 mile hill repeats scheduled. About half way through the first one my heart rate went crazy insanely high for the first time in a long time and I went completely mental about it.

  • WTF why did I skip my step back run last weekend? This is clearly punishment for  being lazy last week.
  • Signing up for the Baltimore Half was such a bad idea. I’m never going to be able to do Baltimore if I feel this crappy tonight.
  • Speaking of things I can’t do, I’m sure I won’t be able to run well at VA Beach either.
  • Omggggggg. I’m going to pass out if I try to do any more of these I need to stop.

Can you spot the only sane thought in that list? That would be the decision to stop this workout. So after mile one, when everyone else ran back I just jogged and walked.  And wah-wah-wahed the whole time about what a whiner I was being even though my heart was beating so fast I could feel it in my eyeballs.  When I got back to the mile 1 marker I told Zac that my heart was going to blow up and I needed to skip the next repeats. I think I scared the poor guy when I casually mentioned it was over 200.  Whoops.

Today, I feel much better and I’ve decided to just put last night behind me and have a good rest of the week.  My medicine was slightly changed last week – I get to take less because I’m looking nice and healthy – so I’m hoping last night was just a blip on the radar as I adjusted.  I still have almost a month until VA Beach and I know I will get 3 more quality long runs in and those will ease a lot of my worries.  As far as Baltimore goes… I think I need some more hill workouts added into my life but I have plenty of plans on how to incorporate them and plenty of time.

So bring it on Wednesday track work – you’re going to feel easy after last night.

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