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So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 5 – The Day Of the Race

Greetings and welcome to the post I have fondly titled, “So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 5  – The Day of the Race.”  This is my fifth post in a series of I don’t know how many, about preparing for your first half marathon.  How many half marathons have I run, you ask?  One so far.  So with that nugget of information, understand I’m not claiming to be a running expert.  I’m just a new runner sharing information that I wish I would have known prior to training for and running my first half.

Before composing this post, I decided to wear my coveted Half Marathon shirt so while writing, I could relive my glory days.  OK, OK, my glory day.  It was a great day indeed!  I will not go into hard core details here but feel free to read my post about surviving my first half.  It’s about things I thought I did well, things I would do differently and helpful advice I received along the way.

Oh look, here’s my shirt:halfmarathonshirt.jpg

There are a lot of things to take into consideration on race day so what helped me maintain my sanity was to make a list a day or two before the race so I was totally ready to roll when I woke up on race day.

Let me be up front with you.  I am a planner and I mean Planner with a capital P.   I’m a nut job list maker and a freaky control freak so imagine the lists I had going on for this Half Marathon.  A training list, a food list, a vitamin list, an accessories list, a to-do list, a to-don’t list, you name it.

My “Things To Do the Night Before” list looked something like this:

  • Try on clothes – (just to make sure everything is there)
  • Take clothes off and set out for morning – (keep everything together so you’re not running around the house looking for your good luck socks…trust me)
  • Pin bib to shirt – (it’s a good thing I did the night before because I fussed with it for 15 minutes…don’t ask…I had placement issues)
  • Set alarm (wake up early enough to eat, digest, do your business…if ya know what I mean, hydrate, get dressed, drive to the race, walk around, take it all in and get pumped.  You don’t want to rush around the morning of your first half)
  • Set out breakfast items
  • Pack up all accessories – (the accessories deserve a list of their own)
  • Charge iPod/phone – (race day is NOT the day you want your device to run out of juice)
  • Remember to enjoy the day – (everyone says that but around mile 11 you might not be feeling the love…just keep going.  The love will come)

My “Essential Accessories For Race Day” list looked a lot like this:

  • Fanny pack (or ‘running belt’ for those of you not stuck in the 80’s like me)
  • Water
  • Gummy candy things, energy bar, (some people bring gels (like GU).   My body says boo to goo…makes me gag)
  • Chapstick
  • Tissue (I have gnarly allergies and need tissue…lots and lots of tissue)
  • Headband
  • Sun Visor
  • Arm Warmers
  • Jacket
  • Extra Safety pins (even though I pre-pinned my bib to my shirt, I brought extras just in case…that’s the planner in me)
  • Sunglasses
  • Keys
  • ID
  • Money for a beer after (not really).  Money for a taxi, just in case.
  • Fully charged iPod/phone/electronic device that plays music in your ears.
  • Watch

I know what you’re thinking.  I’m one of those people who over packs for a weekend get away.  Yes, I am, but I only bring the essentials and all the things I listed above were essential to me on race day.

You’ll have a lot on your mind before race day, so get a list together to help keep you on track. 

Another thing that is important is to make sure you have some cheerleaders at the finish line to cheer you on.  My husband and son were there with smiles and cheers and my son made a poster that read, “Way to go Mom.  You’re Beast!”  I’m not sure what that means but I think it’s a good thing and it made me smile extra hard at the finish line. That was the best feeling…to see the faces of people I love after a grueling run.  So be sure to invite some familiar and friendly faces to meet you at the finish!

Another thing I wish I knew is how anxious I would be the night before and morning of the race.  Part of my anxiety (other than the fact that I was about to subject my body to 13.1 miles of running) had to do with the fact that I was running this unfamiliar half marathon thing alone.  I was alone in a sea of  people.  Did that line choke you up just a little? Anyone?  Anyone?  🙂  Really, I was running without a buddy so it was kind of weird to be around so many people who were running the race with a friend, partner or group.  I quickly learned (well, it took me almost 3 hours) that by the time the finish line came around, most people were crossing it solo.  I started to feel less alone when I realized that everyone out there had the same goal…to cross that finish line!  It sounds corny but there is a camaraderie thing happening out there so my advice would be to enjoy it at the beginning, middle and end of the race. 

My last piece of advice would be to really do your research on preparing for your first half marathon.  There are very important factors to keep in mind:  What to eat/what not to eat, staying hydrated, cross training, stretching, the list goes on.  Here are some great websites that offer tons and tons of information:

Also search WordPress for running blogs.  There are so many bloggers out there who offer a wealth of information.   Some of my faves include:

Check them out if you are looking for interesting running experiences, knowledge, product reviews, amazing accomplishments, and difficult challenges…you name it!

Runners out there – anything you wish you would have known before running your first half marathon?

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 2 – The Training Plan

Last week I doled out some unsolicited running advice to my sister, Amy, who will be running her first half marathon next year.   Hopefully, she read it.  The post was about researching your first half marathon.  This week’s post is about coming up with your training plan.  The training plan is critical so listen up little sister.

At the start of 2012, I hated running and would laugh at the idea of going for a run.  Run?  Really?  That would make me all sweaty and gross and probably sore.  Besides, a leisurely walk is perfectly fine, thank you.  Then the half marathon idea came up in late January and I was determined to figure out how to get my sorry butt to cross a half marathon finish line in October.

I had heard of training books called, “Couch to 5K” and “Couch to 10K” which sounded really great but I decided NOT to read those because truth be told, I did not consider the ‘couch’ as my starting point.  My book would need to be called something like, “Upstairs, in bed, under the covers with the electric blanket on to 5K.”  That’s a better description of my state of mind (and body) prior to training for a half.

My sister, Andrea, who has run a couple of half marathons, recommended I look into Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method.  Well, geez, when you put the word ‘walk’ in a running training plan, count me in, sister!  I went to Jeff’s website and read up on his half marathon training plan.  I knew immediately, this was for me.  I was a new runner, a slow runner, an out of shape runner and I did not want to get injured during the training process.

Jeff, an Olympian and record-setting, world class athlete, incorporates walk breaks into the training plan.   He states that, “Most runners will record significantly faster times when they take walk breaks because they don’t slow down at the end of a long run.”  Personally, I need walk breaks.  By the time I ran my half in October, I was running 2-3 minutes then walking 1 minute.  That was my gig.  That’s what I could handle.

Jeff also breaks down the training program into 2 different categories:  1) For runners and walkers who just want to finish a half marathon and 2) For runners and walkers who are trying for a time-goal.  I fell into category #1.  I just wanted to finish the darn thing.

The schedule Jeff puts together is extremely do-able which is another reason I went with his training.  His minimum recommended training looks something like this (this is category 1):

  • Monday off
  • Tuesday run 30 minutes
  • Wednesday off
  • Thursday run 30 minutes
  • Friday easy walk
  • Saturday off
  • Sunday long run.  These long runs vary week to week and your mileage gradually builds up as the half marathon approaches.
  • During the off days, you can cross-train

You should really check out his website for the nitty gritty details which you will find immensely educational.  I pretty much followed his minimum training plan, because that’s what worked for me.  Remember, I was in this to finish the half…that’s all.  Just finish!

When I did my first timed ‘run’ on the treadmill in January, my pace was 16:08…yes, it took me 16 minutes and 8 seconds to ‘run’ a mile.   I know that’s slow  thankyouverymuch.  Then my averages started to look like this (month, avg. pace, total miles I ran for the month):

  • February – 14:35 (39.35 total miles)
  • March – 14:11 (37.81 total miles)
  • April – 13:06 (52.26 total miles)
  • May – 12:44 (37.24 total miles)
  • June – 12:42 (43.28 total miles)
  • July – 12:12 (46.01 total miles)
  • August – 11:37 (43.04 total miles)
  • September – 11:43 (45.27 total miles)

These numbers will not blow anyone away because they are not that mind-blowing…I don’t call myself  Slow Girl for nothing.   The point is, I got faster as time went on and I didn’t have to run hundreds of miles each month to make improvements.  AND, I completed months of training and a half marathon injury free!!!  AND, I could tell my body was getting stronger and stronger which was an added bonus!

Bottom line is – Training is crucial so it is very important to find a training plan that is a match for you, your running level and your lifestyle.  You might end up trying two or three plans before figuring out which one works for you and that’s ok.  Remember, I’m no expert.  This post is just a recap of my experiences as a novice runner and what has worked for me this past year.  If you have friends or family members who are experienced runners, you should pick their brains…like I picked my sister, Andrea’s, brain…thanks Andrea!

Experienced runners – do you have any advice for newbie runners?  If so, please share!

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon–Part 1

My youngest sister, Amy, recently announced she would be running her first half marathon in 2013.  Since I ran my first one this past October, I thought it would only be appropriate for me to offer some sisterly running advice.  After all, I have been running one whole year and I did live through my first half.   Disclaimer:  Seriously, I have only been running one year, so I only know so much.  I’m not a pro, an expert, or a genius in this field and I don’t claim to be.  If I do make that claim, it is dripping with sarcasm.   Read at your own risk.

There are a lot of topics to cover and I don’t want this to be an ultra long post so I will break this up into a little blog posts and the topics will include:

  • Researching your first half marathon
  • Getting a training plan in place
  • Acquiring the necessary gear
  • The mental stuff
  • The day of the race
  • When the race is over

Ok, here we go…………

Step 1 – Research.  Do a little research on running, races in your area, running groups in your area, that kind of thing.

RUNNING RESEARCH

Check out some books from the library about running.  One that I read and enjoyed was “The Nonrunner’s Marathon Guide for Women:  Get Off Your Butt and On With Your Training” by Dawn Dais.  She’s funny, honest and is not a runner so it was very easy for me to relate to what she was saying.  Sure she wrote about her marathon training experiences but I just took half of her advice and applied it to a half marathon. Worked beautifully.  If you’re a guy, skip this book unless you want to learn about running bras and other girly running things.

I also read some books about extreme runners because I thought their athleticism, drive, dedication and touch of insanity were very inspiring.  I would think to myself, “If these guys can run for hundreds of miles in a bazillion degree heat, I can run 13.1 in 62 degree weather.”

A couple of books I thoroughly enjoyed reading include:  “Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss” by Ultra marathoner Dean Karnazes  and “Born to Run:  A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” by Christopher McDougall.  If your running or training ever start to get you down, read these books and you will walk away inspired and ready to run!

RESEARCH RACES IN YOUR AREA

There are some great websites out there that can help you find races in your area.  I would encourage you to sign up for at least a 5K, or a 10K later in your training, so that you go through the race experience.

Here are some sites that I found helpful:  www.active.com – This site helps you find, register and learn about events in your area. www.runningintheusa.com is another good one and lets you narrow your search by region and race type.  Also, Runner’s World Race Finder is a great site and is easy to use and very helpful.

When deciding which half marathon to sign up for, read the description of the race.  If it says “For advanced runners” or something along those lines, maybe skip that race this time around.  If I read the description of my first half, I would have read the words ‘hills’ and ‘hilly’ and ‘challenging’.  But, no, I did not read the description.  I found out a month before the day of the race that I needed to incorporate some hill training in my master training plan.  Rookie move.  My next half marathon is described with these words: “Flat, scenic, fast, ideal for setting personal records.”  Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Pay attention to the date of the half marathon…don’t sign up for a race that is a month from now…give yourself time to train.

RESEARCH RUNNING GROUPS IN YOUR AREA

I will admit…I am a bit of a running loner.  I did not seek out a running group.  I was (am) so slow that I did not feel like embarrassing myself in front of strangers.  There was also the fact that after 5 minutes of “running” I would be huffing and puffing, sweating profusely and my heart rate was through the roof.  It was so pathetic I actually went to a cardiologist to make sure it was ok for me to run.  He cleared me saying my heart was fine…just a little out of shape.   Side note:  Like the pros say, if you start a new exercise program, get your doctor’s clearance.  The one thing that did for me was eliminate an excuse to not run!

Back to running groups, I think they are a great for staying motivated, being held accountable and providing running companionship.  It’s definitely worth looking into and finding out if it would be beneficial to your overall training.  Turns out, it just wasn’t my cup of tea, that’s all.

So, there is topic one….nothing riveting but still important:  RESEARCH!

Next topic:  Getting a Training Plan in Place

Post Half Marathon Bonehead Moments

Since completing my first half marathon last week, it seems that some brain cells were damaged in the process.  Usually I would blame my “bonehead moments” on my puppy but this time I will blame it on all the extra brain activity that took place during the half marathon.  Sure, running may not seem like it requires a whole lot of thinking but believe me, a whole lot of thinking actually takes place.  It requires so much focus, in fact, that it reduces your post-race focus capacity.  I’m not sure how long this will last but I’m hoping it’s short lived.  Take a look at the bonehead moments I’ve had since finishing the half marathon (most recent bonehead moment just a couple of hours ago):

1.  FAILED TO USE CAUTION WHEN PUTTING ARM WARMERS ON.    I bought some new Brooks arm warmers which are great for running in the chilly fall temperatures.  However, when I put them on, I had to tug on the top of the arm warmer to get it high enough up my arm.  As I was tugging with all my might, my fingers slipped and I hit myself in the mouth.  Ouch. When I was done swearing and wiping the blood from my lip, I tried again.  I hit myself again.  Damn it.  The next time I tried, I turned my head toward the opposite arm and was able to successfully put the oh so dangerous arm warmers on my arms.  My advice – when putting arm warmers on, don’t look down to see what your hand is doing.  Look the other way just in case your fingers slip.

2.  NEGLECTED TO OPEN GARAGE DOOR BEFORE BACKING CAR OUT.   Yeah, I said it.  Make sure your garage door is ALL the way open BEFORE backing your car out.  As I was backing out of the garage, I heard a terrible crashing sound.  My first thought was, “Dear Lord, please tell me that wasn’t one of those little dudes from the neighborhood.  I told them about that blind spot.”  I didn’t hear any screams so my second thought was that I ran into the trashcan.  Neither had happened.  When I got out of my car to assess the situation, I saw the garage door sitting on top of the roof of my car.  Crap.  That’s not good.  Luckily, I did not break the garage door and the roof of my car was scratched but intact.  Now that I think about it, I should have taken a picture…it would have been a nice visual for this imageless blog entry.

3. FORGETTING TO PAY ATTENTION TO MEAT PACKAGING.  You know how when you buy meat at the grocery store the butchers put it in those Styrofoam trays  then Saran Wrap the crap out of it?  Well, when you buy hamburger meat for, let’s say, chili, don’t just cut open the Saran Wrap and dump the contents of the meat in your pot and start cooking.  Did you know they put a little absorbent plastic-y pad under the meat so the blood doesn’t slosh around inside the package (gag)?  Yeah, that little sponge-like item does NOT go in your pot of chili.  It will not enhance the flavor!  I unknowingly threw that little sucker into the pot of chili but luckily, was able to retrieve it before the plastic melted.

4.  FORGETTING PIN (number) AT THE GROCERY STORE.  I’ve had my PIN for how long?  There are how many digits to commit to memory?  I use it how many times a week?  That’s supreme boneheadedness right there….forgetting my PIN in the checkout line at the grocery store.  So embarrassing.  I have never forgotten my PIN before.  Why now?

5.  FAILING TO WALK GRACEFULLY ON WET, SLIPPERY SURFACES.  So a couple of hours ago I took a nice leisurely spill on the wet steps while leaving work.  My boot heel slipped under my foot, my ankle rolled, I fell on the ground, I picked my sorry ass up off the ground (mainly because I knew I could be seen on the security camera), I hobbled back inside and called out for a little help.  It was pathetic and it was painful and it made me tear up a little.  I cried not only because it hurt but because I didn’t see myself running anytime real soon (and I just bought myself some new running shoes yesterday, too Sad smile).

There you have it…the potential dangers of thinking too hard when running a half marathon.  Take heed fellow runners.  While running, make sure you don’t use up all of your brain juice…leave some so you don’t experience post-race focus capacity issues.

Has anyone else experienced post-race focus capacity issues………or is it just me?!  Smile

Surviving My First Half Marathon

News flash…Slow Girl crosses finish line.  I did it!  I survived my first half marathon!  I’m so thrilled because earlier this year when I started running, I set what I thought was a lofty goal to finish a half marathon and I did it.  Yay me!

medalshirt2

(Note:  The race coordinators used 2011 bibs so the date is wrong…what’s up with that?)

I will spare you the minute by minute account of my day and instead provide some highlights about what I thought went well, what I could have done differently and some advice I received that was helpful.

THINGS I DID WELL

  • Set realistic goals.  My primary goal was to finish. My secondary goal was to finish under three (yes, as in three hours). My secret unrealistic goal was to finish in 2.5 hours. That was silly since I’ve never run at that pace in my life. Can’t a slow girl dream? I’m happy that I accomplished my first two goals (finish time was 2:49:28 – luckily I did not win any awards as I would have missed the awards ceremony).
  • I stuck to Jeff Galloway’s training schedule and the entire training was injury free. It was the slow and steady method of training which worked out well for this slow girl!
  • I walked up the hills like a rock star. This was a hilly course, which I didn’t quite realize when I signed up.  When I found out about the hill situation, my strategy was to walk up the hills since it sucks to run up them.  Then, at every opportunity, I would make up the lost time by running downhill, at the expense of my poor knees.  One hill, fondly known as “Doomsday Hill”  took me 10 minutes to walk up – this was at mile 9.5.  Running it was just not going to happen for me at that juncture in the race.
  • Crossed the finish line in an upright position.  No crawling involved. I made it through miles 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 (yes, I will be listing each mile for a dramatic effect), 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and of course the little pesky .1 mile at the end!

beforehalfmarathonafterhalfmarathon

THINGS I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY

  • Incorporate more hill training since after all, this was a hilly course.  The hills slowed me down but at least they didn’t stop me.
  • Drink slowly at the drink stations.  I took a swig of some refreshing water and it went down the wrong pipe so I had a choking fit…almost made me pee my pants which would have been SO not cool.
  • Relax and don’t let nerves get to me.   I found no pleasure whatsoever in dreaming about dirty toilets the night before the race which probably had something to do with the porta-potties that gross me out SO much I can not convey…my stomach is turning right now so let’s change the topic. Ick.  Think about rainbows and unicorns.
  • Don’t get light-headed.  I got light-headed around mile 10 but I don’t know why.  I drank water all along the course, I ate my energy snacks throughout the run and had a breakfast I was used to having before a long run (small bowl of oatmeal).   I haven’t figured out the problem so I don’t yet have a solution.  Maybe my brain was having a “what the hell are we doing” moment?!

HELPFUL ADVICE I RECEIVED (Not professional advice and not claiming to be professional advice)

  • Walk up to the water stations and walk while you drink, it’s gentler on your stomach and goes down easier.  Advice from: Leesa, my hair stylist and recent half marathon finisher.  Everyone has their own preference…run or walk, and  clearly I didn’t follow the walking advice because I choked on my water.
  • Stretch, stretch, stretch.  Advice from:  Andrea, younger sister and half marathon finisher.  Stretch before the race and stretch just as much after.  I did this and even threw in a couple of stretches at mile 10 and 11 when my hips were screaming…”Stop and stretch us or we will stop working for you!”  So I did and it felt good.
  • Just enjoy your first half marathon.  Advice from:  Everyone who ever finished a half marathon.   Well, that’s just dandy advice but honestly, I enjoyed it most when it started and when it ended.  Miles 1-8 flew by.  Miles 9-11 sucked and then I was so happy to see mile 12 and I made a little friend by mile 12.8 (see, I’m even slow at making friends).  It was her first half too and we were feeling the same…tired, sore, wondering how far away the finish line really was. It was nice having someone nearby who was in the same boat as me.  I didn’t catch her name but fondly refer to her as Girl in Pink #1 (she had a friend in pink too…that’s a whole other blog).  When the finish line finally came into view and I saw my husband, son and friends/fellow runners Patty and Jeff cheering me on, I was elated and completely forgot all about pesky miles 9, 10 and 11.  All in all it was a super great day!!!

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Good luck to all the future first time half marathoners out there.  You will do GREAT!

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