Last Sunday I had the thrill of running my third half marathon – The Surf City half marathon in Huntington Beach, CA. It was a thrill for a couple of reasons: 1) I traded in the 2 degree temperature of Eastern WA for the 68 degree temperature of the beach:
2) I ran the race with my sister, Andrea. We are both loner runners but we made an exception this time and ran together. We even came up with little hand signals to communicate with each other so we didn’t have to take out our ear buds.
Andrea was really sweet and ran at my slow pace which, at times, ended up being a fast walk. She was a great running partner and terrific cheerleader…which I really needed toward the end (as usual).
After a race, I like to think about what I did well and what I would do differently. Here are my take-aways from the Surf City half marathon:
WHAT I DID WELL
- I finished – I savored each moment of the race, enjoyed the scenery, took my time, then crossed the finish line. OK, that’s crap. I did finish but I sucked air the whole time, I whined about my toes hurting, I took lots of short walk breaks toward the end, then I did that thing I do at mile 11 – I feel like I can’t do it. Thankfully, Andrea was there doing the countdown for me, “We only have 2 more miles. We only have 1 more mile. Now only 5 more minutes. We’re almost done.” That extra encouragement really helped!
- I learned about the importance of stretching – I always stretch after a run. Short run, long run, whatever…I stretch. What I didn’t realize is that my body needs additional stretching so I have incorporated daily stretching into my hard core workout routine.
- New hard core workout routine – OK, it’s not really hard core but I did participate in a 12 week training program twice a week called Strong Runner. It focused on running drills, TRX and core strengthening. It was a great class and I learned so much about speed, form, strength (and I met some great people to boot). Unfortunately, I was a little over zealous with the speed training and hurt my foot, which was actually the result of my hips being super tight, hence the significance of item #2 above….stretching. Even though my program is over, I plan to incorporate the things I learned into my regular exercise routine.
- I can’t think of a 4th thing I did well. Oh, wait. I really enjoyed my post race beer. I think beer should be the new recovery drink. So long chocolate milk, hello brewski.
WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:
- Stick to a training plan – I’m usually pretty strict about sticking with a training plan. This time, however, I was all over the place. I started with Jeff Galloway’s Run/Walk program (which is what I always use). Then I got into Chi running and threw a bit of that in there. Then I made up my own schedule. Then I changed my schedule because I didn’t like it. Then I just did what I wanted when I wanted. Then 4 weeks before the race I hurt my foot and stopped running all together. Then I went to physical therapy for some help with my foot. Then I did some indoor cycling training since I couldn’t run. Then it was race time and I felt ultra unprepared. Next time I’m sticking to a plan (and not getting injured).
- Do not run 13 miles 2 months before the race – Why? Because deep down inside I became a little over confident of my abilities since I knew I could run the distance. The result…I did not stick to my semi-non-existent training plan. What usually works for me is to schedule my longest run at 12 miles so that there is a sense of excitement when I cross the finish line at 13.1. Running 13 miles before the half was anti-climatic for me.
- Improve my mental preparedness – I do not know how to overcome that feeling of “I can’t” toward the end of a race. It should be the time when I get excited that the end is near but my brain does not go to that happy place. When I looked over at Andrea I could tell she was a happy runner. She was running effortlessly, good form, energized, smiling. Smiling?? What the what? I have all kinds of things I say to motivate myself (“run the mile you’re in,” “if you feel pain, that means you’re alive,” “smile…look like you’re having fun.”). None of those things worked. The one thing that did work was whenever we saw a photographer, we would pick up the pace and smile so there was evidence that we were running and having a blast!
It was a great day and I really did have a blast! After we crossed the finish line, Andrea was chanting, “I feel so great,” and I was chanting, “I need to stretch.” Then we made our way to the VIP lounge, enjoyed our recovery beer, recounted the race with other runners, and BOOM, my brain found it’s happy place. I guess my endorphins kick in a little later than most (or I need a beer at mile 11). I was proud of finishing this race and proud of my sister for sticking with me. She could have left my sorry ass behind but she didn’t. What a good little sister!
So tell me, toward the end of a race, how does your brain find its happy place?