Sunday, April 29, 2012

Coming Up Next...

The half marathon has been the only thing on my mind since January. Now that it's done, the logical question is, "What's next?"
It seems that spring/summer is full of races, so the answer to this question is quite easy: another race.

Thinking back 2 years ago, I was just getting into running and picked a 5K to give me a goal to strive toward - the Cresson Area Heritage Days 5K. I remember working so hard to get myself to that day of my first 5K. There were several things I remember so clearly about that 1st race:
* Showing up in shorts and tee shirt - it was about 45 degrees. I was so cold, never really warming up for the duration of the race (I remember my legs were so cold, I couldn't even feel them after a bit). That's how I learned that I'm 'cold runner.'
* Meeting up with some old friends from high school and the one saying, "We're going to jog a little to get warmed up; do you want to come with us?" I remember thinking, "I've got 3.1 miles in me, I couldn't possibly include a warm up...."
*Starting out way too fast - by the 2nd mile, I was dragging and I had to include about 4 walk breaks. You get so excited and sucked into the vibes of the other runners.
*Coming across that finish line with a million feelings running through me from extreme happiness, "I stinkin' did it," to wanting to throw up. It was awesome!
I ran that 1st 5K in 30:03 and earned a 3rd place medal in my age category!

All smiles before the race. Notice the long sleeve shirt?
 I ditched it just before the race, thinking I'd warm up  (bad move).

Coming across the finish line - I just ran my first 5K!!!!!

Back to today! I'm planning on running this 5K (including the link to the race registration just in case you want it:) again in 3 weeks. I created a modified training plan (since I couldn't really find a 3-week training plan coming off of recovery week).
I'm excited.
Training starts tomorrow!
I'll post some goals closer to race day.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My First 1/2 Marathon - What I Learned

Having a little time to reflect on my first 1/2 marathon (and a little time to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment), I wanted to write a blog post about what I learned through all of this; what I did right and what I could've done better. This information is what I learned about me and what's right for me. You may find that none of this applies to you or that none of it is found in the science of running, take note. If I did gather some info, I cited the website.
So here it goes!

Things I did right:
* Training
I picked the right training program for me. I used Hal Higdon's Novice 2 plan. I stuck to it pretty closely (when I started the plan, I was running 4 milers on a regular basis, so my first long run was 5 miles and then I progressed from there. Each week my long run (LR) was a mile longer than outlined in the plan), especially the mid week run distances. I debated on whether to use Higdon's plan 1 or 2. Plan 1 was for those who were truly novices, who have never run a 1/2 before. True, this was my first 1/2 but I have trained for one before, so I went with plan 2, since it had some longer LRs included.
Take away: pick the training that is right for you. Remember that no one can run the race for you, so you have to train within your abilities and goals.

Originally, I was to run the Cook Forest 1/2m in March (an illness kept me from it - boo, hiss!). The race I ended up running was the Boston Trail Half Marathon in Boston, PA (you saw Boston and thought I went for the big one, didn't you?). There were several great things about this race:
- It was an out and back course - I like those; they work for me.
- It was on a trail - not pavement - kinder on the joints. Plus, most of my training LRs were on a similar trail, so the terrain was familiar.
- It was flat - kind for a 1st-timer.
- It was well organized - highly recommend this course, especially for a 1st 1/2M.
- There were pacers - just cool; and motivating (we wanted to stay in front of the 2:10 pacer)
- It was beautiful - the scenery was just gorgeous. River, trees, nice houses, etc. My kind of thing.
Take away: Do a little research and make sure your race, especially your first one, will be a memorable course and that it fits who you are as a runner.

*Nutrition and General Preparation
I was pretty focused on eating well and hydrating well during my training period. I tried to keep a good balance of proteins, carbs, etc in my diet. I added chia seeds into my daily foods, mainly my morning oatmeal.
I think my training period was pretty spot on. I followed the plan, I hydrated well during training, I ate well, I slept well. I didn't do anything out of the ordinary on race day - I wore clothes I was used to running in, I wore my usual shoes, I took my usual fuel source (Swedish fish and sour patch kids). Overall, I was satisfied with this (If you read on, you'll find that I could've done a bit better with nutrition on race day).
Take away: preparing for a race is holistic; you can't just focus on running.

Things I could have done better:
* Race day fuel and hydration
This race was a 2-hour drive from home, so I got up @ 5am, we left @ 6am. I was so nervous for the race, that I didn't eat breakfast at home, as planned. I ate a banana, a few pretzels, a pack of Angry Bird gummies, and a couple of sips of water prior to the race. That's it. I know better than that! I was paying the stupid tax starting @ mile 8. My body was out-of-steam. It's not that I didn't want to go, I just felt like I couldn't. Yes, I had my Swedish fish, but I was beyond hungry at this point, my stomach was hurting and I couldn't handle more than 1 fish along the way. By mile 11, I was so dang thirsty, I almost asked an old man riding his bike on the course for some water......I should have eaten breakfast AND a snack + at least 32 oz of water prior to the race.
Take away: Take the time to properly fuel on race day. Get up earlier if that's what it takes. Don't go into your race without the fuel you'll need to get through.

*Less layering
I'm a cold runner. The forecast was calling for dropping temps and increasing rain, so I dressed accordingly. The top layer was a windbreaker/rain coat with a lining in it. By mile 2, I hung it on a post (hoping it would be there on the way back) - I was hot. I would've been fine for a 5k, not for a 1/2.
Take away: don't over dress. I read something (don't remember where, so I have no citation) that said dress as if it were 20 degrees warmer than the actual temp - that will ensure that even if you're cold in the beginning, you'll be comfortable by the end.

So there you have it - the things I learned from my first 1/2 marathon.

What's the most important thing(s) you've learned
from your first race (short or long distance)?
What's the race tip you give people most often?
What's the tip you've been given that has become part of your regular training?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Race Report

The short of the long: I did it! I'm a 1/2 Marathoner!

If you want the long of the long, continue reading.

My ultimate goal was simply to finish (running, walking, being pulled across the line, whatever).
Secretly, my goals were:
A: 2:09:59
B: 2:10:xx
C: 2:15-2:20 *
*I included this 'C' goal in case something really went in a way I wasn't planning for.

We arrived at the parking lot ~8:15ish, waited for Amy to pull in and then we
 had to find our way to the registration tents.

Hey, look what we found on our way to the registration tent!
The 13 mile marker - if only it was this easy getting to that point...

Just couldn't help having some fun with the Start Line signs.
 Here we go - packet pick up!

Race shirt - sa-weet!

Lacing the timing chips in our shoes.

Off to the start line - This is the first race I ever ran that had pacers - we got in the 2:10 pace group.
  One last hug from Jude.
 Not sure what I was thinking, but maybe something like, "Is this really going to happen?"
 Just about to start.

And then we were off.
I didn't take my iPhone (because of the strong chance of rain), which means I didn't have my Map My Run app to keep track of pace. We went retro and used our watches.
I wrote the mile split times for a 9:50 pace (even thought the 2:10 goal time would have us running 9:55 miles).

The weather was fine - cool and over cast. The first several miles flew by and we were actually keeping close to a 9:30 pace. We got water at every station (every 2 miles). The trail was beautiful and followed the Youghiogheny River - there was a lot of beauty to keep us occupied.
Amy and I chatted about a little of everything. Before we knew it, we started seeing runners coming back (meaning they hit the turn around point and were on their way back) - the leading guy was minutes ahead of the next couple of runners.
Eventually we hit the 1/2way mark, looped the trail and started our way back.

This is the point where the faster starting pace caught up with me.
I started to struggle - I had a cramp, I had to pee, it felt like I was starting to lose steam.
My favorite part of the race was when I decided I had to pee, like NOW..... somewhere around mile 8 - I know I couldn't continue for 5 more miles feeling like this, so I darted off the path, into the woods, dropped the drawers, peed, got my gear back where it needed to be (which was a struggle b/c I was so sweaty), and got back onto the trail. I know Amy probably thought I was crazy, but it had to be done :)

Miles 8-11 were hard. I mean h-a-r-d. There were quite a few walk breaks and quite a few times that I thought I was done. My head was spinning, my stomach hurt, blah, blah, blah.
Any time I stopped to walk, Amy would say something like, "Don't walk too long, it'll just be harder to get going again..." I needed that (inside I kinda wanted to slap her - don't worry, she knows this, but I knew that's exactly what I needed). Every time I slowed, Amy slowed, respected it, and motivated me to keep pushing.

At mile 11, we saw the boys and, although I wanted to climb in the car with them, it did give me a sense of motivation and we were able to continue running pretty consistently.

Here we come in our pinkies (notice that I ditched the rain coat. I hung it on a post somewhere around mile 2; Amy graciously grabbed it on the way back).

Mile 11 was OK. After seeing the boys, I knew it was just about 20 minutes and change till I would see them again. The finish line being that close was also a tad of a motivator :)
I was totally dehydrated by this point. I've never been so thirsty in my life. The last water station was somewhere right around the 11 mile mark. Amy didn't want/need any. I stopped to get a drink. We started up again and I decided to turn around and get more water - I was a little scared too much water would give me stomach troubles, but I didn't care, I needed that water.
Amy would frequently turn around to see if she could see the 2:10 pace group. At one point,she could see them and told me that we needed to pick it up a little; no walk breaks were allowed if we were going to hit goal. I didn't look back - I didn't want to know where they were.

Here we are just about to cross the finish line.
In all my dehydration delirium, I was trying to make a 1-3 with my hands.
I look a little like dying and Amy looks like she's ready for 13 more....

We crossed that line in 2:08:50 (ish) - I'll post the official time once I get it.
We crossed the line and all I could think/speak was, "water!!" We had to walk about 2/10 mile to the tents. Now, you wouldn't think 2/10 of a mile is really anything after all that running, but it was.
We made it to the tent and I drank 3 cups of water, a cup of Gatorade, and a container of chocolate milk. Yeah, I was that thirsty.

Once I felt somewhat oriented again, we headed back to our cars. My calves were screaming.
Amy and I snuck into a banquet hall to use their bathroom to change. I put on my new race shirt that I just earned and my compression socks. My calves said, "Thank you!" for the socks.

We did it!

It's still so surreal right now. I'm a 1/2 Marathoner!
Lots of thanks to Jeremy and the boys for supporting me through this race (and what probably seemed like months and months of training) and to Amy for being a good friend to me (and a coach when I truly needed it). If it wasn't for Amy, I'd still be out on that course.

I learned a lot out on that course today and I'll be constructing a future post on that.
For now, I'm just going to cherish the fact that I finished a 1/2 (not only finished, but came in better than Goal A!)

Thanks for reading the long of the long!

Friday, April 20, 2012

'Twas the Night Before....

I promised myself I'd be in bed by 8:30 this evening, and here I am blogging away.

'Twas the night before my first 1/2  - many thoughts on my mind...
'If I can make it to the starting line, I'm sure I'll be fine!"
The table is covered with all of my gear
Clothes, shoes, water, watch; I forgot something, I fear.

It's time to bed down, a good rest is calling my name.
Fresh legs, a fresh mind - all part of the game.
5:00 am will come mighty quick,
we'll jump in the car and head out to the sticks.

The gun will go off, and we'll set out on the trail-
The pair of Amys enjoying the details..
I'm sure the time will fly and before I know we'll be done
Crossing the line of 13.1!

Here's my list for the day:

A little motivation!

Jeremy made me my own Garmin watch and a big water jug Amy and I can share........
I was laughing so hard, Jeremy couldn't get a good picture of me using my new 'gear!'


Wednesday, April 18, 2012


Dear Mother Nature,
April Fool's is over.
Is this seriously what you have for the race on Saturday?
I'm putting in a special request (pretty, pretty please) for your reconsideration.


A 1st time (hopeful)1/2 Marathoner hoping for decent weather.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I am always saying that no run is ever easy for me, whether it's 1 mile or many miles. But I just want to post this for the record - I had a fairly easy run today. Granted, it was only 2 miles, but I can tell you of quite a few times when even 2 miles seemed killer.

What was the difference this time?
What made this run different than others?
IDK (I don't know), but I'll take it :) and hope for more.

1 more 2-mile run scheduled for tomorrow and then these legs won't get a run until Saturday (for the big one)!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Kicking off Race Week with a......Race!

Hello, I'm Amy, have we met?
Seems I've been M.I.A., so I have lots to tell, but will spare all the details and give you the slimmed down version:
*I was all prepared to run the Cook Forest 1/2 marathon - 12 weeks of training (long runs, and tempos, and cross training, and tapering) and then......
I woke up the day before the race with a special gift from the stomach bug........
Ugh! Another year that 12 weeks of training went in the books with no 1/2 to show for it.
*My friend Amy, who trained the same 12 weeks and was all set to run with me went to the race, kicked its butt, and then calls me and says, "Find another 1/2; I don't care where it is, I'll come run with you." Now that's friendship.
*I found another race - a trail race- April 21 - that's Saturday!
*Yesterday officially began taper week (again), but I kicked it off with a 5k.

The Saint Francis U Relay for Life 5k - not an easy course, not at all. It's actually 3.25 miles with 4 significant hills. This is the fastest I've ever run this course. It felt good to run fast and although speed wasn't my plan, that's what happened.

Today is a 'rest' day (nice hike in the woods with the family). I'll run tomorrow and Wednesday and then let the legs rest until Saturday morning.
Thanks for following.