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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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So I’m Registered For A Lot Of Races…

So I just put together my race schedule for the rest of the year and…. wow.

9/4/11: Virginia Beach Half Marathon

This is my A race. I’ve been training my butt off for this race and I can’t believe it’s here in just over a month.  I’ve felt so good about my training that I’ve stopped obsessing over a time goal, which is pretty huge for me.  I know I’m going to do the best I’m able to do – and if that day it happens that my best is a few minutes slower (or faster) that what I’ve been expecting… well I just don’t care.  Plus, I finally found the elevation for this race and man I’m excited for a nice flat run!

Flat as a pancake

9/24/11: Clarendon Day 5K

Clarendon Day was the first 5K I did last year after finishing Couch to 5K.  This year my goal is to try to break 30 minutes.  I think it might be humanly possibly as long as I stick to the shortest course distance and take that down hill as fast as I can without regard for my quads.  Last year I made it down the hill in under 9 minutes and I know I can do it faster this year.  As long as I have a good first mile I should be left with just enough time to pull it off.

10/15/11: Baltimore Half Marathon

I signed up for Baltimore on a whim after I waited to long to sign up for Hershey and it sold out.  I knew it was a hilly course, Hershey is also fully of hills, but looking at the elevation chart is pretty intimidating.  I see lots of runs up the Rosslyn Hills between now and mid-October. Even though this race will be tougher than VA Beach, I’m hoping it will still be a good time.  It’s close to home and I’ve heard good things from people who have run it before (aside from the hills).

Um... wow.

10/30/11: MCM 10K

I am pretty much running this to kill time while Suze and Laura run the full MCM.  I haven’t run a 10K this year and I’d like to beat my 10K PR from last year.  I’m not sure if I’ll be able to after running Baltimore 2 weeks earlier but either way I plan to have a good time.  I’ll probably run all of 3 times between Baltimore and this race but I love running in DC. I love the beautiful sights.

12/3/11: Hot Chocolate 15K

I saw a lot of bloggers/tweeters talking about this race and I hope everyone decides to sign up because it looks like a lot of fun.  Plus, the registration fee includes a windbreaker and chocolate. Seems like a win to me.

 

Sometimes I look at this and think it seems like a lot of races and sometimes I’m like “Oh, this is going to be so fun.” Usually the latter wins out in my mind.  🙂

What are you training for this fall and winter?

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Week 8 Training Recap – My Best Week Yet

Week 8 was a great training week for me.  I spent most of last week worried that I lost too much time being in Phoenix for work and having the worst cold for a week.  But this week, everything went so well that I’ve started to feel a lot more confident about Virginia Beach.

I needed to run 17 miles this week and I actually went over that (ok, it was only by half a mile) despite the crazy heat.  And despite the heat my pacing was faster than scheduled.  I’m feeling pretty baller just thinking about it!

On Monday, I did a “predict a pace” run around my neighborhood.  I ran 2 perfectly even miles but they were about :59/mile faster than I thought I was going.  It was nice to see that the speedwork I’ve been doing is paying off but I really do need to be more careful to run my recovery runs at a recovery pace.

Wednesday, Suze and I had a crazy good track workout. We ran 1200 repeats and they were mentally really tough but we still negative split the crap out of them.

Warmup 1 800 (.56) – 5:51 (10:25 pace)
Warmup 2 800 (.55) – 5:29 (10:03 pace)
1200 Repeat 1 (.81) – 8:11 (10:05 pace)  – 400 Walk
1200 Repeat 2 (.83) – 7:53 (9:32 pace) – 400 Walk
1200 Repeat 3 (.81) – 7:38 (9:25 pace) – 400 Walk
1200 Repeat 4 that I cut down to 800 because I totally ran out of gas (.53) – 4:40 (8:49 pace) – 400 Walk

I was completely thrilled with that workout, even thought I cut the last repeat short.  I put down more than 5 miles on the track and felt great the whole time.  Except for the parts when I wanted to puke because of the heat…You know, other than that!

Pre-track workout. The post workout picture was too scary to blog.

Friday, I had my longest long run to date and I rocked it.  I ran down the Mount Vernon trail from Crystal City to Old Town, Alexandria and then ran a few miles around there for a total of 8.11 miles.  Even though I left at 6:45 a.m. it was still brutally hot and humid out.  When I left it felt like 85 degrees and there was 90% humidity!  I took off pretty quickly and settled into a good pace by mile 3. The rolling hills in Crystal City felt much easier than I remembered.

Notice the serious lack of shade!

I stopped for my first snack at mile 3.5 – the heat & direct sunlight were draining my energy and I was really glad that I brought a big pack of Honey Stinger chews.  I had 4 chews and my energy was back half a mile later! I seriously love those things. I ate the rest of them at mile 6.  Delicious!

Best part of the run: Running through Oronoco Bay Park in Alexandria, which is where the finish line of the GW Parkway 10 Miler was.  I had such a hard race and it was nice to run through there feeling good and strong.

The brick and cobblestone sidewalks gave my ankles and calves a serious workout!

Worst parts of the run: Tie between the epic lack of shade and the brick and cobblestone sidewalks of Old Town.  It was so hot that I drank my entire CamelBak by mile 6.75! Thankfully, there was a nice little deli that I found in Old Town to stop and refill at mile 7.  They were really nice but had never seen a CamelBak before – the kid behind the counter actually shouted “Lady! You’re pouring all your water into your bag!!!!”  It was kind of hilarious.

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

I finished up strong, mile 8 one of my faster miles and headed to the King Street Metro to ride home.  I felt TERRIBLE getting on the Metro during rush hour in the stinky sweaty state that I was in.  I was completely drenched in sweat. My shorts were dripping a puddle on the ground.  Of course, I stopped a guy in a business suit and asked him to take my picture. He was nice and did and then went and stood on the opposite side of the platform haha. Thankfully, a lot of people must have taken Friday off because the Metro wasn’t too crowded and I had a seat to myself.

Tonight I’m doing a quick 2 miler once the sun goes down.  I can’t believe I just had my highest mileage week since April and felt so good the whole time.  Bring it on week 9!

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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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