RSS Feed

Tag Archives: running a half marathon

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:

WHAT I DID WELL

  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.

WHAT I WOULD DO DIFFERENTLY:

  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!

    HAPPY RUNNERS1

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!

AFTER HALF1

So tell me, toward the end of a race, how does your brain find its happy place?

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.

Supersource

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!

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!

Hello cemetery. So nice to see you!

Seriously.  That’s what I said as I approached the cemetery at the tail end of the longest run of my life (so far).  I thought I was going to die.  It was hot.  It was uphill.  Two hours and 15 minutes had passed since I started the run.   I saw the cemetery and was I so happy.  That cemetery marked the end of my 11 mile run and that’s one heck of an accomplishment for this slow girl.

Earlier this year I decided to finish a half marathon.   I’ve never run before (except maybe as a kid after the ice cream man).  I actually had to Google, “how many miles is a half marathon?”   For some, running a half marathon is not that big of a deal…especially if you’re athletic, in shape, healthy, enjoy sweating and like to exercise.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t any of those at the time I made the half marathon decision.

Slow Girl at the start of 2012: 

  • Athletic – No Way!
  • In shape – I wish.
  • Healthy – Eh, I’d say 50/50.
  • Enjoy sweating – Ew, gross.
  • Like to exercise – Not so much.

Slow Girl on September 3rd, 2012: 

  • Athletic – Not a chance.
  • In shape – Way more so than at the start of the year.
  • Healthy – Yes, I’d say so.  Now I know what quinoa is (and how to pronounce it).
  • Enjoy sweating – Ew, gross.
  • Like to exercise – Well, I secretly enjoy it now but I don’t admit it to myself until it’s over.

I made the half marathon decision for several reasons:

  1. It sounded challenging and I was up for a good challenge.  Can the ultimate hater of running actually run 13.1 miles?  No.  That’s why I follow Jeff Galloway’s run-walk method.  Run, then walk a little.  Run, then walk a little.  Repeat over and over and over.  Totally works for me.
  2. My sister did it and I was proud of her.  I wanted to do it to and be proud of myself.
  3. I was pretty sure some cute running clothes would be involved.
  4. I wanted to prove that I could stick to a fitness plan that would help me achieve a fitness goal.
  5. I hoped that maybe my body would morph into abs, buns, legs and arms of steel (sadly, this has not happened yet).
  6. It was a great way to be one with nature.  OK, reason 6 is crap but at least my body scored a tiny bit of a tan.
  7. I thought maybe I could learn a little something about myself.   All that alone time might give me the opportunity to be introspective.  OR  I could use that precious time trying to figure out the lyrics to all the songs on my running playlist.  Guess how I spend my time?
  8. I wanted to set a good example for my son.  I wanted to start something, work hard at it and succeed in the end.

So there we go.  Eight really compelling reasons I decided to train for and finish a half marathon, which by the way, is October 14th.  I’m actually getting a little nervous even though I ran the 11 miles with no problem (except for the part where I wanted to stop and cry a little).  Thankfully, my husband and son accompanied me (on their bikes) and cheered me on so I had to suck it up and be brave for them.  I wish they could be with me the day of the half marathon.

I’m supposed to do a couple of long runs between now and the half  but I’m having trouble convincing myself that I need to schedule a 14 mile run before the half marathon.  Seems like that would suck the thrill right out of crossing the finish line.  So, I decided to deviate from the master training plan and just do another 11 mile run.  If I can do 11, I can do 13.1, right?

I can do this.  I can do this. I can do this!