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Surf City Half Marathon – Take-Aways and Happy Places

shirt medal

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: before after

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).

READY FOR HALF1BEFORE AT SUNSET  Beautiful pre-race sunrise

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:


  1. 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!FOLLOWING ANDREA1
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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?

Sometimes You Gotta Ditch the Plan

GASP!  You read correctly.  Slow Girl (the control freak, the planner to a fault, the one who should take a chill pill already), says, “Sometimes, you gotta ditch the plan.”  I never ditch the plan.  I make the plan, baby.  But a couple of weekends ago, I ditched the plan like one bad-ass plan ditcher.

You see, my half marathon is coming up this Sunday (as in three days from now) and I haven’t been following my training plan like a good obsessive planner would do.  It’s my second half marathon so it’s not like I haven’t run 13.1 miles before.  I’m sure I can do it even if  I’ve missed several mid-week runs, skipped a dozen or so cross-training workouts and missed just one long slow distance run.  Sure, it was the longest run of the training program that I missed but whatever…it was just 11 miles.  Besides, it’s not like I sat around on my butt that weekend and did nothing at all.  I did something just as challenging and strenuous as an 11 mile run.  I had a family dance off, yo!

A couple of weekends ago my youngest sister, Amy, graduated WITH HONORS from college.  Impressive, I know.  I flew to California and met up with my younger sister, Andrea, my mom, my step dad and my niece, Angela.  Since we live in different states, it’s a pretty special occasion when we are all under the same roof.  Throw in a college graduation and a good time is guaranteed!  Spending time with my family always brings me great joy and this trip did not disappoint!

On Saturday night, after all of the graduation festivities, Angela and Amy suggested we play a fun game called, “Just Dance 4.”  What?  You’ve heard of it before?  Well, apparently everyone in the universe has heard of it except for me.  It’s a Wii game and you follow the dance moves of the pretend dancer on the screen.  The better you follow the moves (using the remote thingy) the more points you get.  I’m not a dancer.  I have no rhythm, no groove, no grace, no nothing.  But when challenged to a dance off by my little sister and niece, I said, “Bring it on, you little whippersnappers.”  And so the evening began.  A snap shot of the night:

justdancedontpeepants Amy is on the left, she’s the one actually dancing.  I’m on the right, trying to not pee my pants from laughing so hard.  That was my second dance outfit of the evening.  Lesson:  Don’t ‘Just Dance’ after drinking a ton of water all day….jumping up and down does not mix well with hard-core laughter.

justdance I pulled myself together, put on my game face and danced to this fun song, “Call me Maybe.”  I lost but was given bonus points for best facial expressions.  Yay me.

justdancesister $h!t got real when the song, “Moves Like Jagger” came on.  A little dance off with Andrea was underway…I wanted to win SO bad.  I didn’t.

So you see…sometimes when you ditch the plan, there is a WAAAY better plan out there.  For me, it was dancing like a dork with my family all night long.  Did I deviate from my training plan and miss my 11 mile run?  Yep.   Did it really matter in the grand scheme of things?  Nope.  Was I sorry that my family made me laugh so hard  I peed my pants?  Not really.  Am I going to buy my own Just Dance game so I can secretly practice my moves for the next reunion/Dance Off?  Hell yeah!

As for my half marathon that’s coming up in three days…I’m feeling fine physically and great mentally/emotionally.  My head’s in a good place, I feel like I’m going to kill it.  I’ve completed a 10 mile run during my training so what’s a few more miles?  Honestly, I think spending time dancing with my family was more beneficial to my race preparation than running my scheduled 11 miles all alone.

To Sunday’s Half Marathon:  Ready or not, here I come!

Does emotional/mental preparation play a role in your training?  Do you freak if you deviate from your training plan?

We Should Use the Word “Super” More Often

I never hear anyone use the word “super.”  When I ask someone how they are doing, they never say, “I’m doing super!!”  No one ever says, “This froyo is super,” or, “I saw a super movie last night.”  I don’t know why…It’s a great word (even if it is a little on the dorky side).   It’s positive, fun to say, and you can make it sound better by adding “duper” at the end.  All I know is I’m going to start saying “super” more often and I’m starting now.


I had a super duper 10 mile run yesterday!  Last week’s 9 mile run was bad and I whined about it in my last post.  I’m glad I whined about it because Kat from Travel. Garden. Eat reminded me that occasionally, a bad run is going to happen while training for a half marathon and she is right.  I did not want a repeat of my bad 9 mile run so I adjusted a few things to make sure my 10 mile run was…say it with me…super:

  • Hydration – 9 mile run:  I did not hydrate the days leading up to the run.  10 mile run:  I made sure to drink plenty of water all week long…which I should do anyway.
  • Food the night before – 9 mile run:  Pizza for dinner and a couple glasses of wine.  10 mile run:  Teriyaki chicken and rice and no tasty alcoholic beverages.  Just water.
  • Food the morning of – 9 mile run:  I tried out a new oatmeal.  It was a sample that we received in the mail…who knows how old it was or where it came from.  I think it had a bunch of sugary junk in it and it was a bad breakfast choice.  I knew better than to try something new the morning of a long run (yes, 9 miles is a long run for me).  10 mile run:  Toast with peanut butter and bananas plus a cup of coffee.  This is a breakfast I can count on.
  • Attitude – 9 mile run:  My attitude was fine until my hips and feet started to hurt.  At that point, my head just wasn’t in a good place, I didn’t feel great about the run and I was focused on the wrong things.  10 mile run:  I made sure any chatter going on in my head was positive.  I had some upbeat songs on my playlist, and when things started to hurt I just focused on putting one foot in front of the other.  I reminded myself that this is not rocket science…I am certainly capable of moving my body from Point A to Point B.
  • Post run thoughts – 9 mile run:  “This sucks.  How will I be able to continue for 4 more miles?  I’m sore.  Somebody call me a “wambulance.”  (Any Modern Family fans out there?)  10 mile run:  “This rocks!  I did great!  I feel great!  3 more miles will be a breeze!  I have enough energy to run to my car!”

There were some  big differences between my two runs and I now understand I cannot underestimate the importance of my food, water and attitude choices…especially as race day nears.  I have a feeling that May 19th is going to be a SUPER day!

The Good, the Bad & The Ugly

This picture of my dog, Theron, really sums up my feelings about these past several days…Tired, over it, sore, thankful, productive…all rolled into one.


The days have been filled with the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

First, The Good:

  • I ran a 10k race and ended up with my best time ever.   Truth be told, my best time isn’t that impressive but I was pretty darn excited about it.  It was a very chilly day at 35 degrees with brisk, annoying winds.  The best part of the day, besides finishing the run, was getting into my car and blasting the heater!

 post race warmup

  • More good news!  I figured out how to breathe!  Ok, I know how to breathe, but I have learned how to breathe while running.  I’m currently reading “Chi Running” by Danny Dreyer and he reviews some very important information about breathing.  He states, “In running, as in all other types of aerobic exercise, the breath holds the key role of providing oxygen to help fuel active muscles.  If you don’t get enough oxygen to your muscles, they will be starved of the key component needed for burning fuel.  The more efficiently your body can extract oxygen from the air and transfer it to your muscles, the easier your running will feel at any speed.”  I learned that belly breathing is key.  It’s more important to get all of the air OUT of your lungs than it is to get air INTO your lungs.  I found that breathing in sync with my steps works for me… three breaths out, two belly breaths in.   I have been practicing breathing during every run and my thoughts are occupied with the task of counting…1, 2, 3, 1, 2, repeat over and over and over.  It’s mesmerizing and relaxing in a weird way.   Here’s a link to Danny Dreyer’s blog that explains belly breathing (item B – but the whole post is very informative).
  • I’m still running with my running group.  We have been practicing drills, working on cadence, breathing techniques, hill training, speed work, and all that great stuff.  On Saturdays we run on a beautiful paved trail  along the river so it’s just a lovely way to spend the morning.  Longest run so far has been 9 miles…this Saturday will be 10.  The half marathon we are training for takes place May 19th which is right around the corner.  Yikes.

riverview Beautiful vistas!

Now for The Bad:

Last week’s 9 mile run felt horrible.  You know how at the end of the run you say to yourself, “That was AWESOME!  I’m so glad I did that!”  Yeah, I wasn’t saying that.   I was so sore I felt like I was falling apart with every step I took past mile 8.  By mile 9 I kept thinking, “Oh my gosh, I will have to run 4 more miles at the half marathon…crap.  I don’t know how I’m going to do this.”  Then I told myself to shut up and run because I was fortunate and blessed that my body was capable of running.  My thoughts turned to the victims of the Boston Marathon tragedy and remembering that there are people out there who are feeling a greater physical and emotional pain than I will ever feel quickly shushed the negative banter and whining going on in my head.  

And finally, The Ugly:

I am a very, very, very organized person…or at least I like to think I am.  I disdain clutter and if my surroundings are cluttered, my head feels cluttered and if my head feels cluttered, I become a bit of a nut job.  However, if you made a surprise visit to my home you would probably not believe my claims because recently some of the rooms in my house were just plain messy and ugly.

Now I am going to show you a few photos, thanks for not judging.  If you are a true organization freak, you will curse me and call me a liar and say there’s no way someone who disdains clutter would let ANY room in her house get so messy.  Well, I did.  Take a look at the before and after pics of my closet and office:

Closet Collage       Office Collage

My closet got so out of hand, it seemed useless to even bother cleaning it.  It was so cluttered I did not want to go in there but all of my clean underwear and running clothes were in there.   Talk about a conundrum.   I also had the office situation to handle.  I stopped blogging for a bit because I could not stand to set foot in the office.  Both areas were horrendous.  After much sorting, tossing, cleaning and organizing, I was able to turn the closet and the office into happy places once again!

Now that the ugly in my house has been eliminated, my head is clearer.  Maybe with a clearer head I will be a better runner.  Or maybe being a better runner will give me a clearer head? 

Either way, some great lessons were learned: 

  • I’ve got to take the good with the bad with the ugly and figure out how to make it all great
  • Spend less time whining and more time being thankful
  • Relax and breathe!

If There Was A Comfort Zone Cliff, I’d Be Jumping Off It Right Now

Like many humans this time of year, I have been battling a super annoying cold these last five days.  So what productive things have I done while lying around hacking and sneezing?  Well, I lathered myself up with some Vicks VapoRub, took a deep breath and did something out of character…I signed up for a training group to prep for an upcoming half marathon this May.

I know signing up for a training group isn’t earth shattering for most people but you have to understand that I am a loner runner.  I’m not a loner in other parts of my life…just running.   I have several concerns about running/training with a group:

  • I’m slow.  What if I’m the slowest one?   Who’s the poor person that is going to get stuck ‘mentoring’ me?  I know the slow pokes will be grouped together, but what if I’m the pokiest?   I just don’t want to be the one that everyone has to wait for…Please God, please have one other person there who is as slow as I am!
  • I don’t want to talk to anyone during a run.  Sounds anti-social but I need all the oxygen I can get and a casual conversation with a fellow runner could be disastrous for me during a run.  One of my biggest challenges when I run is getting winded quickly.   If I have to engage in polite conversation, I won’t be focusing on running…I’ll be focusing on trying to catch my breath (insert  Kelly Clarkson’s “Catch my Breath” song here).
  • This goes hand in hand with not wanting to converse while running – My hearing is HORRIBLE so I wear hearing aids…except when I run which means I really can’t hear jack $h!t when I’m running.  So, I must pray that there’s not a lot of running chit chat that takes place because I won’t hear it.  As a result of my hearing issue, a great deal of my focus is devoted to being visually aware of my surroundings.  I will wear my iPod while out on a run but being the deaf and paranoid person that I am, I spend a great deal of time checking things out.  I’m always asking myself if there are cars behind me, is anyone else out running, are there any suspicious deer hanging around, is anything out of the ordinary?   I suppose these are things all runners should take into consideration, hearing impaired or not.

On the flip side, I envision a lot of positive aspects to joining a running group:

  • I’ll be dealing with people who have a great deal of knowledge and insight.  These experienced runners will be able to coach me in a hands-on way that reading a book could never accomplish.
  • I will have regularly scheduled runs twice a week with the group.  This is a great way to stay motivated and hold myself accountable.
  • I will have the opportunity to enjoy outdoor runs.  Sometimes I’m too chicken to run outside alone so it will be wonderful to know I’m running with a group…safety in numbers!
  • I will be inspired by others’ successes.
  • I will enjoy the company of other runners, which can only be a good thing!
  • I plan to set and accomplish new goals that I may not have been able to accomplish on my own.

So there I go…..Weeeeeeee!   I put my insecurities aside and jumped off the comfort zone cliff.   If I can just get the trainers to talk REALLY loud during the instruction time and make sure I don’t have to converse with anyone during the run time, then I’ve got this in the bag!


Have you jumped off your comfort zone cliff lately?  Did you land softly?

Side note:  I asked my son about the “artwork” above.  Conversation went like this:

  • Me:  “Does this look like someone jumping off a cliff?”
  • Son:  “Yes.  Who drew that?”
  • Me:  “I did.”
  • Son:  “You’re not thinking of suicide are you?”
  • Me:  “No, honey.  It’s a comfort zone cliff…I made it up.  Thanks for asking though.”

I thought it was sweet that he asked.  He was relieved that I wasn’t thinking about jumping off an actual cliff and I was relieved that the drawing was so amazing, he knew what it was.  Yes, I will keep my day job.

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 4 – The Mental Stuff

Welcome to Part 4 of my posts about prepping for your first half marathon.  My youngest sister, Amy, will be running her first half this year so I’m offering her oodles of advice since I just ran my first half last October and everything is still fresh in my mind!  Over the last few weeks I’ve covered these topics:

  1. Researching your first half marathon
  2. Getting a training plan in place
  3. Acquiring the necessary gear

Thank you to all the runners who have commented with your additional advice.  It is very much appreciated and I learn so much from you!

This week’s post is about the mental stuff.  This is the most intimidating topic for me because I don’t feel like a Mental Rock Star so this post will offer more perspective than advice.  I will save the advice for the pros whose accomplishments make them worthy of giving advice.  I’m just not there yet.  🙂

When you commit to running a half marathon, you have to mentally prepare and, like the physical preparation, it does not happen overnight.  When I decided to run a half marathon, I had a whole 2 weeks of running experience under my belt and I had to ask myself, “What is the longest race I can run that will not kill me?”  I thought that running  26.2 miles would for sure end in death so I decided not to die and went with running a half marathon.  I believed 13.1 miles surely wouldn’t kill me…and it didn’t.   So I made the decision, registered for the race, and committed to this thing called ‘training for a half marathon’. 

Truth be told, there were some things that I was not quite prepared for when it came to the mental components of my training:

  • Training time – I believe it’s very important to stick to your training schedule and sticking to a schedule takes time…A LOT of time.  It also takes a great deal of commitment so other things, like life, can get temporarily pushed aside.  Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not totally all-consuming but it can be if you let it.  Everyone’s priorities are different so before your training gets underway,  figure out how it will fit into your life and communicate that to your friends and family.  The last thing you want is for everyone to think you’re blowing them off.
  • Long runs and The Wall– As you continue to train, your long runs get…well, longer.  When I ran my first 11 mile long run there was a point when I actually wanted to stop and sit down and cry a little.  It was toward the end of the run, around mile 10, and I was ready to call it quits knowing I had only one mile to go.  I was doing okay physically but my mind kept whining, “This is hard.  I want a ride home.  I’m tired.  Why am I doing this?  This is stupid.  I’m dizzy.  My leg hurts.  I want to go home now.”   Maybe this is what ‘hitting the wall’ is about…when you get so tired and your body is so depleted of fuel that you feel like you can’t go on.   Here’s a great article from titled, “Against the Wall – How to avoid hitting the notorious roadblock—and strategies for coping if you do.”  It offers some great advice on how to cope when you ‘hit the wall.’   I wish I had known this stuff before my half.  Keep in mind that there will be days when your runs are fantastic and there will be days when your runs just suck.  It’s ok to have a bad day.  It happens to everyone!  Just don’t get hung up on it.
  • Self-Talk – We all do it.  Talk to ourselves in our head.  Some of us, myself included, talk out loud to ourselves.  That’s ok too, although we may look a little on the crazy side….which is fine with me.  During my half marathon training, I would listen to a lot of music because I found that without any noise in my ears, I would do some self-talk that was counter-productive to accomplishing my running goal.  Some people thrive on visualization, meditation, mantras, etc. and that is what keeps them motivated during their runs.  Sadly, I am not one of those people and  I need distracters – music, audio books, a friend to run and talk with, those kinds of things.  Left alone in my own head, I start to complain to myself (see above example…“This is hard.  I want a ride home.  I’m tired….”).  I find this interesting because I’m not a complainer in “real life” so something about the physical/mental discomfort that comes with a long run makes me a whiner.  I figured out a solution though…I put things into perspective and remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, I should not be complaining about ANYTHING.  Life is good and I CAN run so I should be thankful and run like the wind, not like a whiney baby.  That usually does the trick.  Switch my mental focus to all things positive, not negative.

So, as far as mental stuff goes, be prepared to learn a few things about yourself and once you do, you’ll need to figure out what you’re going to do about it.  Surprisingly, this running thing can be just as mental as it is physical and it shouldn’t be any other way!

Runners, do you have any mental obstacles that you have learned to overcome?

So You’re Going to Run a Half Marathon Part 3 – Acquiring the Gear

I’m really excited about this week’s post because it has to do with shopping for your running gear.  Keep in mind, I am a bargain shopper and love it when I score a great deal so I’ll include some money saving tips too! 

Since I had never run before, I needed EVERYTHING.  And I mean everything…Shoes, socks, clothes, music, apps, bras, a hat, sunglasses, a fanny pack (are they still called fanny packs, or is that totally ‘80’s?), a watch, and so on.  I started with nothing and by the time I ran my first half marathon, I had the perfect selection of gear that helped me cross the finish line.

Here are the prized possessions I purchased during my half marathon training journey:

  • SHOES – First things first…You need real running shoes.  The step aerobic shoes that are in your closet will not do.  When I bought my first pair of running shoes, I did everything I should not have done.   I went to a big sports outlet type store and picked out a pair of running shoes because they were deeply discounted ($69) and they seemed to feel good.   I didn’t ask for help, didn’t research the shoes, I just bought them and ran a half marathon in them.  Thankfully, it all worked out, but if I had to do it all over again (which I did after the half), I would go to a running store and have the pros assess my situation.   After the half, I rewarded myself with  new pair of running shoes.  This time I did it the right way…I went to a local running store and had the sales rep analyze my feet, my running and what shoe would work best for me.  I ended up paying more money on my second pair of shoes ($110) but it was money well spent.   The pros informed me that I actually needed shoes that were one half size larger than what I had purchased on my own!  Good info to know!  Go with the pros on this purchase.  Here’s a great article from on how to buy the right running shoes.
  • SPORTS BRAS (guys, you can skip this part) –  The sports bra is the other item I would not skimp on.  Keep the girls comfy, ladies.  Like I said, I love a great deal, but some things are worth the extra money.  The running bra that I found to be amazing and worked well for me was by Moving Comfort.  The style I picked was Fiona ($46).  I tried some cheaper brands that I found at T.J. Maxx but they did not do the job like the Moving Comfort bra did.  There were support issues, chafing issues, comfort issues, etc.  Many running stores will carry the Moving Comfort brand and the sales reps should be well educated on the various styles and what will work for you…don’t be afraid to pick their brains!
  • RUNNING SHORTS – OK, here’s where I did some bargain shopping.  I bought my shorts from the aforementioned T.J. Maxx because they have a crazy selection at decent prices.  You’ll need quite a few pairs of shorts so try out different styles to see what works for you.  There’s the underwear-built-into-the-short style, the underwear-not-built-into-the-short style, the lovely spandex short-short, mid-thigh length, capri length and full length.  Experiment during your training until you find what works great for you.  DO NOT (I repeat DO NOT) experiment the day of the half marathon.  On that day, stick with what you know works!!!  Trust me!
  • RUNNING SHIRTS – This is an item  you need to pay close attention to because there is a thing called ‘wicking’.  Moisture wicking material allows moisture to evaporate quickly.  When you run, you sweat (or you should anyway).  When you sweat, your shirt gets wet.  Wet is not good when running, it can cause chafing.  Chafing is bad and causes skin irritation.  Skin irritation is bad because it’s distracting and painful.  Moral of the story:  Buy moisture wicking shirts (and shorts and socks for that matter).  The shirt I found that I LOVE and wore during the half marathon was the Icebreaker GT 150 Ultralite which is made from Merino wool.  It’s a soft, comfortable material that keeps you cool when it’s warm and keeps you warm when it’s cool.  It’s the best!  I bought it from Title Nine but waited for it to go on sale because full price ($78 dollars or so) was out of my price range.  At the end of summer when it was 50% off, I bought two…SCORE!
  • RUNNING SOCKS –  Seems weird but not all socks are created equal.  Buy some socks that are made for runners.  That would be a lovely moisture wicking sock.  I bought an expensive pair of running socks that I ended up hating and then I bought a 12 pack of running socks from Costco that I ended up loving.  So, more expensive is not always the best bet when it comes to socks.  Again, try out different socks and stick with what works for you.  Just don’t go with 100% cotton – there’s no moisture wicking going on with cotton and you don’t want to run with wet socks…yuck.
  • HAT – Buy a hat for running.  Personally, I like to wear a hat to protect my face from the sun.  I grew up on the beaches of California and have had some skin cancer to prove it.  So, I now wear a hat all summer long when outdoors.  I know I sound like a broken record but you don’t want to wear your non-running cap because you will…say it with me…SWEAT.  A specially made running cap/hat (with lots of tiny holes in the cap) will allow your head to breathe.  You want your head to breathe, trust me.
  • OTHER STUFF – Have a pair of light-weight sunglasses that won’t slip down your nose when you SWEAT.  Make sure you have a running belt to hold your water and other essentials like snacks, tissue, chapstick and car key.  My absolute favorite is the iFitness brand which is made of neoprene so there is no slipping around with this bad boy.  I added 2 water bottle holders and I also bought the holder for my iPhone and I was ready to freakin’ rock and roll on half marathon day.   I needed a watch to time myself.  I did Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method so I wanted to keep track of my time.   Music is very important to me while I run so I searched my CD collection for some great running songs and also downloaded some songs that I would normally not download (Michael Jackson, Eminem, Kelly Clarkson, FloRida to name a few).  Running is a great way to expand your music collection!

(photos from

BlackBlack iPhone/iPod Window Armband

My best advice when acquiring your gear is to try out different things during your training and when you find something that works, STICK WITH IT  and use/wear it during your half marathon.  Do NOT try something new on your race day.  Only go with what you know!  Don’t buy a super cute, never worn before outfit because you want to look adorable crossing the finish line.  Wear what has proven to work during your training…ESPECIALLY your long runs!

Next post will be about the mental stuff.  This will be deep folks!

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!

Getting My Run Back On

2012 was the year I decided to take up running, train for a half marathon, finish the half marathon and do it all injury free.  I am proud to say I accomplished all of these goals.  However, a week after completing the half marathon and a day after purchasing my new running shoes, I was walking to my car, fell on the wet pavement and sprained my ankle.  It was one mishap in a series of many that I attributed to post-race focus capacity issues, which you can read about here.  

As it turns out, I was unable to do much of anything while my ankle healed.  I couldn’t run, couldn’t do yoga, Pilates, barre, you name it.  I was, however, able to eat so I did a lot of that.  I’m not talking healthy stuff here, folks.  This was around Halloween and Thanksgiving so the many, many temptations were….well, tempting.  I was not surprised when the few pounds and inches I lost during training found their way back to me…this was not a reunion I was excited about!

Once my ankle felt strong enough to start running again (almost 6 weeks later), I was surprised how conflicted I was about getting back out there.  On one hand I couldn’t wait to run, sweat and get my heart rate up and on the other hand, I had this lazy bones mentality.  I even considered waiting until January 2013 to pick up where I left off this fall (no pun intended). 

I spent time reading the blogs of fellow runners (Athlete in Me, quick as molasses, Confessions of a Caffeinated Mother Runner, Ch’i Journey to name a few), took some quick measurements around my waist  and was quickly inspired to make the right decision.  For the last week or two I have been back on the treadmill taking it slow (slower than my usual slow) and I’m very relieved that my ankle is feeling good.  I have been using KT Tape which is awesome for ankle stability and other types of injuries.  Not only has it helped my ankle when I run, it comes in really cool colors that match my new running shoes AND when I wear it, I look like a freaking hard core athlete! Winking smile

So, with my trusty tape and new running shoes, I’m back at it.  I have signed up for my second half marathon on May 19th, 2013 and will start working on my training plan so I can take that race by storm.  I will once again follow Jeff Galloway’s run-walk method since that was right up my alley and, I believe, the reason I remained uninjured this year (other than the falling incident).   One thing I learned this year is this:  If I have a solid training plan in place, I will stick to it and if I don’t have a plan in place, I’m screwed.  So, with that nugget of information, I will be breaking out the calendars, spreadsheets, highlighters, running apps and getting this training party started!

Other exciting news…I just found out that my youngest sister will be running her first half marathon in 2013 so I will be a good big sister and lead by example by training hard.  In fact, I think I will write my next post just for her.  Being the older, wiser sister and runner of one whole year, I will give her some unsolicited advice about training for and running a half marathon because that’s what big sisters do!  Stay tuned, Amy.  Great advice coming your way!  Actually, I don’t think she reads my blog.  Will one of my other blog-reading family members get Amy on the blog train, please?  I’d do it myself but I want to save my bossiness for my next blog post!